Daily Archives: March 6, 2006

Cap Times Praises UW Libraries

More mainstream press attention to libraries – this time in Madison’s Capital Times. The focus is on social spaces and the availability of food and coffee: “Libraries, once bastions of silence, are quickly becoming the academic equivalent of the student union.”

Included in the story, though, is the fact that funding isn’t keeping up with the increasing cost of materias and that circulation of books has dropped even as the number of students coming through the door has risen.

One number I’ve never seen included in these kinds of stories is the number of materials a university like UW loans through interlibrary loan. A quick check of ARL stats for Wisconsin shows that has increased signficiantly in the past ten years even though in-house circulation of books has dropped.

Questioning The Value Of ALA Membership

Once again there is discussion in the biblioblogosphere about the value of joining ALA. You can read posts about it here and here. There are good points in both of these posts – and in the comments (though I had to take issue with Meredith’s remarks about ACRL – see my comments on her post), and many of us long-time members of ALA would do well to give thought to them. It seems that most of the concern of the younger generation is that membership in ALA is too costly and that it doesn’t provide an adequate forum for information sharing and connecting with colleagues. I’m not sure what ALA can do to make membership less costly. It’s already a bargain compared to other professional associations. As I said in my comments ALA and all the sections sponsor many programs and activities that could only be paid for by additional fees (e.g., belonging to a section, participating in an online workshop, etc.).

Why aren’t more library administrators supporting their younger members involvement in ACRL? Further, more needs to be done to get new librarians involved while in library school. I’m sure many of the schools have ALA chapters but I can’t comment on how active local librarians are in working with faculty to get students engaged. We need more discussion about and support for local initiatives.

Perhaps ALA could extend low cost memberships for the first few years of a new librarian’s career. I think I’d be willing to pay more to make it easier for new members to join at an early stage in their career. After all, if we don’t get these folks involved our association might not have a future.

There also has to be greater support for ALA and ACRL at the local and regional level. Since it is less expensive to participate locally, that is how many of us first get engaged in the national organization – so let’s capitalize on the existing network. ALA may be better off to allow newer members of the profession to participate locally at a lower membership rate than to have them be unable to join at all.

And with ALA’s evolving online community, these locally-oriented members could also have a voice in national level activity without needing to pay their way to national meetings. On the ACRL College Libraries Section committee I chair we get tremendous work done by email, phone calls, and virtual chat sessions.

I think we all, veterans and newbies, get more out of our ALA membership when we are actively involved. It all comes back to getting out of it what you put into it. However, if we don’t make it easier for folks to get in the door we can’t expect them to have the chance to put themselves into being an active member.

Trying To Get The Hang Of OPML

There’s been a flurry of activity recently about using OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) editors to create what’s referred to as a “reading list.” Steven Cohen’s posts about reading lists this week reminded me that I had first heard about this in San Antonio at a RUSA program on RSS and library blogging. I had the good fortune to be speaking on the same panel as Chad Fennell from the University of Minnesota Library where they are doing lots of interesting work with blogging technology. I then saw that Stephen Downes was doing some work with OPML and reading lists – and he even created his own list generator. Downes describes the reading list as “An OPML file is a way for you to list the blogs or websites that you read regularly.” The reading list makes it easy to give a colleage a file that he or she can import into their aggregator (it works well with Bloglines) in order to quickly subscribe to a good list of blogs. Chad recommended a site with more information a video tutorial. Then StevenC pointed to Ellyssa Kroski who also had some useful information to offer.

That enabled me to begin experimenting with using the OPML Editor and Downes’ OPML Generator to create a reading list. My initial experiments worked reasonably well, but I’ve yet to achieve the level of proficiency I’d like. More practice is in order. My first project is to create a good reading list of resources for keeping up with higher education news. I hope to be able to share that sometime soon. What did I learn from all this. If you want to try building a new skill there is usually plenty of information and advice being offered in the blogosphere. You could wait for a workshop to come to your town, or you may wish to figure out on your own with some experimentation and practice. Either way, it’s always a good idea to keep up with these new technologies and their possibilities.