A few posts appeared in the last day or so ruminating on ALA 2.0 (as if we needed 2.0 anything else). These were mostly reactions to ALA Presidential candiate Jim Rettig’s post on ALA 2.0 – a vision for how Web 2.0 concepts could be applied to improving ALA. There’s no question that ALA needs to improve opportunities for member participation. For one thing ALA could get the online community into shape so that divisions, sections, and committees could start making use of it for online communication.
Rather than giving you a long discourse on what needs to happen for ALA or ACRL to improve I’m going to simplify it for ACRLog readers. There are three easy steps:
1. Join ALA and the division/section where you think your talents and skills best fit.
2. Join a committee and be an active participant.
3. Work with colleagues to brainstorm new ideas and solutions, and then work hard to bring them to fruition.
That’s it. Too much a simplification? Sorry to disappoint you but I think those three points are the essence of a better ALA or ACRL. If we want our professional organizations to improve it’s been my experience that it happens when members commit themselves to achieving those enhancements from the inside, not from long external essays on what needs to be improved.
As a member and chair of the ACRL College Libraries Section’s Research in College Librarianship Committee a group of us started the Your Research Coach program to directly benefit members. We didn’t wait for an ACRL or ALA staff person to tell us what to do or how to do it. We just did it – and it’s helping members. We saw that ACRL’s great InPrint publication hadn’t been updated for years. We didn’t write an essay suggesting that ACRL would improve by updating InPrint and then putting it on the web free to members. We just took it upon ourselves to get that initiative going, and now the committee is on its way to revising InPrint -with support from ACRL and lots of individual volunteers. On November 16 CLS will hold a free webcast for 100 of its members in which CLS members will share stories about successful small scale programs. We didn’t write a story in our section newsletter calling for ACRL and ALA to offer free webcasts for members; we just organized it, got people to volunteer to give the presentations, and asked ACRL to help with logistics. And guess what – all these initiatives were produced via conference phone calls, e-mail exchanges, and pre-2.0 chat rooms. Not very 2.0 I’ll admit, but certainly effective. There are plenty of other examples of member-generated programs in CLS (College Library Directors’ Mentor Program, Excellence in Academic Librarianship Award, etc) and other ACRL and ALA sections.
So if ALA 2.0 is about people working collaboratively and creatively, in and outside of the traditional hierarchy, to create new programs and bring forth new ideas, then it may be that the 2.0 spirit is already out there. We just need more people, especially our younger members, – to whom we do need to reach out to and be more inviting – to bring their ideas to the table and give their time and effort to create change. If some folks think that having wikis, blogs, IM, podcasts, etc. will help then lets use those tools – but I don’t think that’s the core of the issue. We need librarians to get off their butts and get involved. If you want change, if you want improvement, if you want ALA to be better – call it ALA 2.0 if it makes you feel trendy – but it’s up to you to make a difference.