ala elections: thoughts, entreaties and warnings

Karen Schneider uploaded a picture of the postcard that ALA members willl be getting alerting them to the email that will be coming which gives them instructions for how to vote online. While I find this process cumbersome, the online voting has improved markedly in the past few years. It’s hard to get such a large bunch of non-techie people to do something online. And it’s very hard when those people are voting in different numbers and combinations of elections. Of course, if this were a Web 2.0 scenario, there would be a button on the main page of the ALA website that would say “You haven’t voted yet….” which would link directly to the balloting system and disappear once you had completed voting. Here are a few other thoughts I had about an online voting scenario in my dream world.

  • Maybe it would indicate your status if you were partiallly through voting.
  • There would be a way to get your voting password emailed to you by answering a security question online.
  • No one would even suggest that you get help with online voting via fax.
  • Candidates would campaign online and could embed URLs and photos in their profiles.
  • You would be able to sort candidates by state of residence, professional affiliation, gender, or other criteria.
  • Advocacy groups could link to profiles of their preferred candidates when picking their slates.
  • Bios would have realtime hit counts on pages.
  • You would be able to view your ballot and the candidate bios easily in separate tabs or panels of the same browser window.
  • Submitting and checking your ballots would be simple, requiring a click or at most two.
  • There would be a status page showing how many people had voted via electronic and paper ballots.
  • This page would be updated in real time and would be shown as a percentage of the eligible voters of ALA.
  • Election results would be available online as soon as polls had closed and paper ballots were tabulated.
  • Results would come with handy graphs showing percentages and total vote counts for every election, even the ones you didn’t vote in personally.
  • Results would link back to the candidate bios so you could learn about who was now in governance. Press releases anouncing winners of every election would be sent to appropriate media outlets. I could go on and on.

At some level I’m partial to the town meeting style of governance which should come as no surprise. I also know that it becomes impractical when dealing with groups the size of ALA. I just want the evolution of electronic elections at ALA to not come to a grinding halt just because we’ve got something online that works.

A membership dues increase is on the ballot, for example. There was a lot of discussion at Council meetings in Texas that Council needed to be “speaking with one voice” about the necessity of the 30% increase, to be phased in over three years. I think the idea of speaking with one voice on something we are all asked to vote on undermines the idea of why you have a representative democracy in the first place, but I’m touchy about money. At the same time, I understand why ALA needs more money. Please vote, and ask me or your favorite ALA representative if there’s something you don’t understand. You can even do it by fax.

2 Responses to “ala elections: thoughts, entreaties and warnings”

  1. Lorcan Says:

    “Of course, if this were a Web 2.0 scenario, there would be a button on the main page of the ALA website…”

    And what makes me look at the ALA website?

  2. jessamyn Says:

    Well of course. In a true Web 2.0 scenario – or I might argue a Web 1.2 scenario – there would be some reason the site existed except to be an electronic filing cabinet for documents and information that doesn’t fit elsewhere. What could go on the website?

    • A way to locate other members by affiliation, geographic location, or other affinity identifiers.
    • Breaking news areas that were actually full of news and not just press releases (I used to go there first to see if they have an announcement about the latest legislation that affects libraries and have been disappointed, now I go to EFF)
    • Customizable news feeds by vendor, type of library, type of publication (vendors would like this too I assume)
    • A way to build custom RSS feeds of ALA content [maybe a co-branded version of Bloglines or something similar that was actually a member benefit, not ALA just putting their brand on something that members would use elsewhere] where people could keep current on all the ALA news without having to click click click all over the site.
    • A way for people to browse “popular pages” on the ALA website, most recently updated pages, or subcategories of these in their areas of interest, either by keyword searches or by major division/interest area grouping
    • Project workspace where ALA groups could use ALAs server resources to collaboratively build content (presentations, papers, handouts, flyers) behind some sort of login area that they could control.
    • Materials created this way would be made available to them at the conference without them needing to schlep laptops, key drives, printers etc. Just go to the ALA offices and say “can we print the documents from the LITA workgroup community folder?” and you’re done.
    • Governannce areas of ALA could use these spaces for document repositories so that people could have electronic versions of documents available to them before the meetings. It would be an easy switch to make these documents available to the general public once they were vetted and approved by whomever
    • A way for individual members to send resolutions of interest to their local paper, elected official or interest group.
    • A customizeable calendar so that when I see items of interest on the site I can add them either to an ALA calendar OR have ther data uploaded to my iCal or Outlook calendar. I’d like a conference organizer that works as well, where I could coordinate my conference schedule with other people’s schedules and find mutually useful times and places to meet

    These are some things I’d like to see in a professional organization’s web site and things that I think would help people in the organization — even those who aren’t super tech savvy — to better do the work of the organization. As it stands I think the just-barely-there nature of the way a lot of the site works (complicated, hard to search, very bad attention to standards, confusing layout, too many cooks) is actually hindering many of us from being able to get our work done. Or maybe your question was rhetorical?