what ALA is doing, from a current ALA Councilor

I have no idea how long I stay on the ALACOUN, the mailing list for Councilors, but I’m definitely not on Council anymore. Whether I’ll let my membership lapse in December is anyone’s guess. This has been a big few months for shakeups. Rory has a post over at Library Juice which has links to the sorts of reports Councilors get from the organization. If you’re ALA-curious, they’re worth a look.

Both Rory and I have been involved in working on some of the ALA-related Wikipedia articles and it’s clear that there is a small (one person? more?) and vocal (fanatical?) faction who believes that one of ALA’s primary claims to fame is as a “sexualizer of children” and other related issues based on ALA’s Library Bill of Rights which includes a statement of right of access to libraries for children as well as adults. I don’t feel the need to chime in on that particular topic, my feelings are probably obvious. However, one of the side effects of the move towards the democratization of information production of the type we see in Wikipedia, means that people with serious axes to grind, a lot of time, and ability or willingness to circumvent or constantly challenge community norms, guidelines and rules get a much larger-seeming platform for their ideas than they would have under more “traditional” publishgin methods. Whether this is the good news or the bad news depends in a large part on which side of the particular debate you’re on.

In this new world, it seems to me, we need libraries and their librarians more than ever.

presenting, computers, tech battles

I’m really happy that David had a good time at my talk at TLA. I’m glad I can get a message across that’s not just “Here’s why you should think exactly like I do.” I went a different direction with my talk this time and used images almost exclusively and then just sort of talked around them. This minimized the “Let me read you my slides” effect and also made me more comfortable ad-libbing somewhat. I’ll try to do this more in the future.

Apropos of this is The May issue of Info Career Trends (I like the text version since it’s all on one page, read the current issue in HTML here) which has lots of articles about being a good speaker and presenter, coming at the same topic from slightly differing perspectives. One of the things I enjoy about the library profession generally is the opportunity to not only give presentations for other librarians, but also to hear other librarians present. I’ve known Jenny and Michael for years and have never seen them present together. I enjoyed their presentation even though it was on a topic that I already know a fair amount about; they’re solid, engaging presenters and a good team with complementary personalities.

Rachel from LISJobs also has a blog, The Liminal Librarian, that many others have already mentioned. I’ve been reading it for a few weeks now, but particularly liked her most recent post on geeks vs. nerds which was a response to an article Rory wrote recently (more further reading in this post).

I don’t see the profession as having a huge schism, but I do see it as spawning many new and necessary sub-specialties. We’ve seen the rise of the YA librarians in the past decade, and the rise of the tech librarians is not particularly different. In some ways I think the view of the schism is a result of the dearth of print materials and the multivariate nature of tech questions and tech issues generally. If you’re refinishing a bureau, you can find a book that will tell you how to do it. The same is not at all true if you’re signing up for an email account, making an airline reservation online, or trying to print a weird-sized pdf. As libraries make their decisions to provide public access computing, they need to deal with the predictable outcomes. What happens when we offer people computers that they don’t know how to use? Or, going back to the USB drive question on web4lib, what happens when we offer people computers that don’t work like their own computers?

Jenny has a series of posts from Patron Day at Ann Arbor District Library and one little quote stood out in her recounting of Ed “Superpatron” Vielmetti’s presentation: “a friend of his said [the library] is the only place I know of where the computer is less functional with the library catalog than it is at home!” One thing about being in what John Blyberg describes as a “tech depressed” area is that I know the same is not true for many of the teeny libraries that I work with, but still, shoudln’t we be aiming higher?

rory on blogs

Rory has an essay worth reading on the blog people thing. Of particular note are two points. His quote “Library Juice is not a blog, but I will wear a “blog person” button if you send me one.” points to a certain sort of solidarity that can be useful in library and blogging communities alike. Secondly, he mentions the “blogging craze” whereby every new group with a web site decides that site must be a blog. There are many ways to put information on the web and we shouldn’t forget the Right Tool for the Right Job maxim. Blogging has brought many reluctant technology users into the world of quickly and effortlesssly shared information, let’s not bludgeon them with the term and then confuse them and mutate it to shove it in places it doesn’t belong.

[blogs] have become the default format for any new website, regardless of the appropriateness of a centrally chronological organizing principle. These days, any time a group is organized they set up a blog, as though all they can imagine offering via the web is their latest news and links. I think a blog is a logical part of a larger website, but often small organizations miss the boat when they make it their primary presence, with a single scanty page, linked only from the blog, telling us “about the organization” when information concerning the rganization could easily make up a site of its own and deserves prominence and accessibility.