Conferences, Musings, Professional organizations

It’s not to late to vote (and why more of us need to be involved with ALA!)

Polling for ALA’s annual elections closes Friday – have you voted yet?

Be honest.  Have you?

If not, you’re like many of your ALA colleagues.  Voting seems to be something “someone else” does, and certainly not something that youth services members (those of us in AASL, ALSC and YALSA) do.  Yet we love to complain that Big ALA doesn’t understand us and doesn’t help us when we need their support.

Working on ALA’s Nominating Committee this year was an eye opener.  My brief was to reach out to members of those three divisions and try to get people to run for Council and President.  Let me tell you: it was a difficult sell.  In this time of budget and staffing cuts, many people were unsure if they’d have funding, much less a job next year.  I can’t argue with their desire to sit this round out!  It’s not just attending two conferences (sorry! one conference and one working session) a year, it’s an additional day at each event… not to mention all the e-mails and discussions you’ll be having in between.  When I approached candidates for President, that was also one of the reasons most gave for not running this year (the other main reason was that they didn’t feel well-known outside their division(s) and that they didn’t want to run without a better knowledge of Big ALA and other division’s issues; again, I completely respect those reasons).

I applaud YALSA for moving to virtual committee memberships.  With the exceptions of a handful of committees and the award selection committees, no one is required to attend the physical conference.  Why can’t more divisions do that?  Of course, it will lead to even more compartmentalism by division, but it can also increase member commitment to the division’s work and draw them to a physical conference when one is nearby.  This appears in AASL’s “we’d like you to serve on ___ committee” letters:

You understand that AASL committee members are expected to participate actively by attending meetings of the committee or task force and by timely response to the chairperson’s communications.  Meetings may take the form of face to face interaction, conference calls, electronic chats or other virtual interactions. According to ALA Policy 4.5, failure to attend two meetings or groups of meetings without an explanation acceptable to the chair constitutes grounds for removal from the committee.

Here’s the thing: they still expect face-to-face interaction.  There is no push to make all the work virtual when it really could be done better and more effectively  that way..  I challenge ALA to follow YALSA’s model.  I challenge AASL to do also make that change.  If Council were more open to virtual participation, perhaps more youth services members would be willing to serve and make our voice, our positions heard.

As for being known outside our divisions, maybe we need to push for reduced multiple membership fees.  There’s much someone in a school library can learn from someone in an academic library, or someone who works in management.  One idea I heard floated was a revolving presidency – one year from this division (or group of divisions), another year from somewhere else in ALA.  Bad idea.  The reason a school librarian hasn’t won the presidential election is because we aren’t known, or valued, outside our tiny corner of the world – and our corner doesn’t vote.  Dunno why that is, but we don’t.

So, in the fewer than 48 hours remaining, please vote.  Let Big ALA know that members of YALSA, ALSC and AASL are an important voice in the organization and that our vote matters.

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