Supporting The ALA: Worth it or not?
Here's An Interesting Post From Caveat Lector, and One More, And Another, all on the ALA's new President, Michael Gorman. The eclectic librarian and the Free Range Librarian, The Librarian In Black, TangognaT, have similar, negative, thoughts as well. They all seem to agree, Gorman is bad for the ALA.
Though Karen Says "Don't Agonize, Terrorize."
LISNewster & ALA Councilor, Rochelle Hartman Asks Is there anyone else who is not renewing ALA membership for specific reasons (besides poverty)? I'm not, and here's why:Just some quick unorganized thoughts:
Karen does make a strong case, but I just can't agree with her. From what I've seen, sane voices like Karen are in the minority at the ALA, so for me, Gorman isn't the reason I don't join again, he's just one more reason I can't support the ALA. I'm not even sure Gorman is the worst part of the ALA, unfortunately he just happens to be the president. From what I've seen many baby boomers, and much of the ALA membership, don't even think Gorman is wrong. The future is quickly rolling over the anti-digitalists and I think Gorman does librarians a huge disservice with his attitude. While his snarky attitude is probably the biggest reason I'm not currently considering joining, his ideas are somewhere else down the list, because I think they are dangerous, but much less so than his apparent love for confrontation. From what I've read his attitude would be a perfect fit for talk radio or TV punditry, but not something I'd expect from the president of an organization I feel good about supporting.
I was talking with another librarian this week and the topic of ALA came up, and we both agreed that the ALA doesn't do a very good job with promoting libraries. The ALA seems to be very good at defending against censorship, and some other legacy issues, but not very good at defending us against Google. I think Google and the web are the single most important issue facing libraries, especially public libraries, today.
Google is slowly becoming the internet. They are the way most people using the web today find what they're looking for. They're the reference desk of the web. Pew says kids today think of the web as a library. We know a library is, of course, a well organized, controlled collection of mostly useful and educational materials designed to enrich people's lives. The web is not, in it's current form a library, and Google is not, in it's current form a good reference librarian. Unfortunately they are, for most purposes, good enough. While we know a good librarian is the gold standard of information retrieval, most other people don't know, nor do they even care. What they find with Google is good enough. Until the ALA makes keeping libraries relevant, I don't see any point in joining again. And while I'd love to take Karen's advice and become an active member, I just don't have the time.
I guess I've never "got it" when it comes to the ALA. I know they do a good job promoting librarIES, but I'm not sure they do a good job promoting librarIANS as well. I can't honestly say I see the value in my membership. The loudest members of the association seem to be worried more about issues tangentially related to most of our daily job functions than things that would really impact libraries on a daily basis. The issues that receive the most attention and time don't seem to be important to keeping libraries relevant, something I think should be our primary job right now. At this point in my life I just don't have the time to become an active member of an orginazation that seems to be interested in other things.
They call themselves the "voice of Americas libraries" and their mission statement sounds nice enough, but I'm not sure I see what they are really doing. How am I missing it? Where should I be looking? I watch the lists, I read the press releases, I read the news, but I just don't see it. How are they helping libraries?
One place I always think I should be looking is in the regular folks who are vital to our survival. My in-laws, the nieces and nephews, my neighbors and friends. None of them have any idea what libraries, any kind of library, is around any more for. They have Google, and Amazon, and that's about all they need. Sadly, I can't really argue with them. I bet most people's needs are met by this combination, and they don't get it when I really explain to them what libraries are really about. Until we are able to convince them a library is more than a place to get free DVDs on Friday, we're in big trouble, and I don't see any evidence the ALA membership is at all interested.
I don't have any good answers on how to fix what I see as problems with the ALA, or even what we need to do to ensure libraries are going to be useful for people in the future. I don't know what the web or Google with look like in 5 or 10 years, but an educated guess tells me libraries are in trouble because of what's coming down the road. I've never met Gorman, and even though I hear he's a nice guy, I think he's not helping an organization that really needs it.