In survey after survey, ACRL members report that access to continuing professional development is the most highly valued benefit of belonging to this association. In response ACRL has moved aggresively into the e-learning environment, and now offers a regular series of programs that members can access from the desktop. About the only negative response ACRL members have had to these offerings is their cost, and ACRLog has previously contemplated the pros and cons of free webcasts.
It appears that ACRL has listened to their membership. Yesterday they announced their first free webcast event. They are calling it the ACRL Springboard Event and it will happen on Wednesday, April 2, from 11:00 a.m. â€“ 12:30 p.m. CDT. The program features a discussion about the future of higher education with Henry Jenkins, the Co-Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities. Henry will also explore the skills and fluencies students will need for the 21st century and what the library can do to prepare for the future of higher education. I applaud ACRL for delivering a program to raise awareness about higher education rather than some of the same old talk about academic librarianship. Too many of us spend too little time to understand and contemplate this industry.
It’s free but there’s just one catch. You must be an ACRL member. I know some academic librarians will complain about this, but I won’t sympathize. ACRL members expect something of value in return for their membership dues. As ACRL said in the press release announcing the program, free webcasts like this one are part of the benefits of membership. That said, at some future point, after members have had exclusive access to the live event and the archive, perhaps 6-8 weeks after the event, I’d encourage ACRL to make the webcast a freely available resource to the academic community. I know some folks will say, “well, if everyone knows it will be free two months later, what incentive is there to join ACRL in order to get access to the programs?” This rationale sounds similar to the arguments that publishers have against the deposit of published journals in repositories. People who value the content will continue to pay to gain access. And the goodwill shown in making the webcast freely available may have the intangible benefit of encouraging more academic librarians to join in order to support more free programming (like your local public broadcasting stations).
Whatever the outcome, ACRL will continue to offer Springboard events if this first one receives a good response. So if you are a member show your interest by signing up for the program.