Notes From The Campaign Trail: Part 5

Editor’s Note: Here is the fifth and final post in a series from Scott Walter, ex-ACRLog blog team member, in which he shares his learning experiences as a candidate for ACRL office.

When I started thinking about the most important observations I might share from the unique opportunities that I had to talk with people about the future of ACRL during my time on the campaign trail, I focused on things I had heard, issues that seemed to need to be addressed (and ways in which they might be addressed), and things I had learned. I’m going to close this series with one more nod to learning.

In a response to one of my earlier posts, Karen Schneider brought up the success that LITA had with its regional institutes. While she was commenting on new models for professional development programming, the other issue that it brought back to my mind was the critical importance of making more robust the connections between ACRL National and ACRL Chapters.

I won’t lie and say that I’ve been a long-time contributor to Chapter programs. I haven’t. I’ve been a member of ACRL Chapters in Ohio, Washington, and Kansas, and I’ve presented at Chapter programs, but “my” ACRL has always been ACRL National. To many of the people I heard from, though (yes, even those who attended Midwinter or ACRL National in Baltimore), “their” ACRL is local. I heard story after story of the vitality of local ACRL groups and programs, of the ability of ACRL Chapters to foster the personal relationships and networks that are critical to successful recruitment and induction into the profession, of frustration that many creative and active ACRL Chapter members are not being brought into discussions at the national level, and of concern about what it means for the future of ACRL National if those creative and active members don’t see themselves as part of a larger whole. This is where the “learning” part came in for me – all politics are local, all participation is local, and a member-driven organization like ACRL must find ways to engage the grassroots in support of its strategic initiatives. Moreover, those initiatives should include lessons learned from the successful programs initiated and nurtured at the grassroots.

The Regional Institute model Karen mentioned is one way of building connections between strategic priorities, “national” speakers, and local groups. As with any stand-along program, though, it’s expensive. Perhaps another approach would be for ACRL to support, for lack of a better phrase, a “speakers’ series,” i.e., a group of experts on a designated set of issues who could be supported to present at Chapter programs. Presently, ACRL supports the participation of the Vice-President, President, and Past President at Chapter meetings, and those present great opportunities for local members to interact with national leadership; could that model be expanded to bring content experts active at the national level to programs they might not otherwise be supported to attend?

The flip side of that question (and the thornier one) is how to bring local initiatives to national attention. My experience with Chapters Council being limited, I don’t even have a hat to toss into that ring, but would love to see some discussion here among people active at the Chapter level of programs they would love to see shared more broadly across the Association, and ways in which it might happen (either through existing channels, or new ones).
With that last call for discussion, I’ll close out this series of observations. I want to thank the ACRLog team again for this opportunity to reflect on my experience last year and to share with the community some of the things I heard. In the end, ACRL is our association, and it is what we make of it. I’ve met some great people on the campaign trail committed to making it better, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

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