Saturday, March 04, 2006

On the eve of ALA elections...

I feel like I should respond to some of the discussion floating around in response to Meredith's What could ALA do? post. I'd love to be able to point to all of the reasons you should join ALA, what it can do for you, and why it's worth your time and money. Truth is, I don't have a very good answer. So, instead of trying to convince you that you should join, I'd rather give the folks on Council an earful and work on improving ALA so there are reasons why you should join. I might end up just as fed up as everyone else, but I figure I'll give it a go and bang my head against the wall a few times before trying something else.

So, if I've got your email address, I've probably bugged you in the last day or so and asked you to vote for me. (and Sam!) I've also been contacting representatives from ALA student chapters. Here's my attempt at blatant self-promotion (feel free to cut, paste, and forward willy-nilly):

Voting for ALA elections begins on March 15, and I wanted to remind you about my candidacy for ALA Council Member-at-Large. My name is Heidi Dolamore, and I'm an MLIS candidate at the University of British Columbia. I'm also writing on behalf of Samantha Schmehl Hines, another candidate for Council. Sam got her MLIS from Illinois in 2003 and is the social sciences and outreach librarian at the University of Montana. We both began our careers in libraries as paraprofessionals, and we're both from the west coast, an area that is currently underrepresented on Council.

As a soon-to-be-graduated and recent graduate of MLIS programs, we are eager to see the interests of students and recent grads represented in ALA. Students make up a significant portion of ALA personal members (fifteen percent!) and we have a lot to contribute to the profession.

Feel free to contact us with any questions you have about why we're running or to let us know what issues you'd like to see Council address. We both keep blogs (Sam's is at and mine is if you'd like to find out a little more about us.

If you're an ALA member, you should receive an email ballot between March 15 and March 17, 2006. If you're not an ALA member, you can still help by passing our names along to other library people. Make your voice heard!

What do I hope to accomplish? Though I'm tempted to just say ditto, there's an awful lot on Meredith's list. I'm a little reluctant to make a list of things I'd like to accomplish as a Councilor. I mean, things come up that nobody expected, right? I don't want to be so focused on a predetermined agenda that I'm ill-equipped to respond to new issues as they arise. And for a little while, at least, I'd rather do a lot of listening. I want to get a better sense of how things work on Council and draw attention to issues that concern me within the context of the conversations that are already happening on Council, rather than try to hijack conversation from the get-go. (I'm speaking in theoretical terms here, we'll see how long I'm able to keep my mouth shut...)

Still, you gotta give props to Meredith for being specific. When I ask people what they'd like from ALA, the usual answer is, "I dunno." Here's what I think about when I imagine a better ALA:

  • Simplifed. To me, this means make it easier to understand how the whole darn organization works. A better website is a BIG part of this, and so is mentoring new members.

  • Cheaper. Maybe this means staggered dues levels, maybe it means a discount rate for virtual members and more free online professional development opportunities. Maybe it means taking a close look at operations and identifying ways ALA can save money, or coming up with new and improved ways to generate revenue. I might even be satisfied if I just had a better understanding of where my dues money goes and how much different parts of the organization cost to operate.

  • Personalized. I've got a vague sense that people have more nice things to say about their state organizations than the big national association. Maybe this is because it's easier to get involved at the state level, so there's more of a personal connection. So let's make ALA less of a faceless behemoth and more of a community.

  • More value for individuals. This really goes back to the first two points...make it easier for new members to figure out how to get something worthwhile out of ALA, and give everybody more cheap/free opportunities to build communities and social networks and engage in professional development.

So there you have it. These are the thoughts that will be in my head while I'm in Council meetings. Now go vote.


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