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.

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Although not a member...

cause I'm a vendor, I find this very interesting. I remember posting an article previously about how turnout was low on ALA voting (maybe that was this election, but perhaps also for the Michael Gorman election)...

the lesson learned?

vote when your vote is called for.

where's the love?

Here's my reply on Karen's post.

I'm just getting in and everybody's leaving. What? I got B.O.?

Re:Although not a member...

Further to the above...it's deja vu all over again (thanks Yogi). Americans, well, 51 percent or so, elected George W. Bush twice, but now they don't seem to be too keen on what he's doing in office.

Promoting Librarians

I agree that promoting librarians more than libraries would make more sense. We certainly need it. How many minutes has is been since the last time you were asked, "Why do you need a Master's degree to say, 'The books are over there'?" How many of us, while conducting phone reference for someone, found the answer, then taught the patron who THOUGHT he was Internet literate how we did that? You can have access to the information, but not know how to USE it. That's were librarians come it. My mother told me several months ago that it had been over a year since she'd been in a library... "I have the Internet", she said. "I don't need to go to the library." But when she can't find what she needs on the Internet, which is fairly often, who does she come to for help? Me, her MLS daughter. And I find it for her and TEACH her how I did it. That should be the future we strive for... Teaching Information Literacy. Not checking out Rambo and Road Warrior videos...

Re:Promoting Librarians

Sorry for the typos in the above post, but my second-generation IMac running OS X at work just sometimes will not respond.. Or does not respond properly.

Re:Promoting Librarians

Yes, your mother and my sons, 18 and 20, who are convinced that every kernel of knowledge available to them is accessible and accurate and on the Internet.

Re:Promoting Librarians

"That should be the future we strive for... Teaching Information Literacy. Not checking out Rambo and Road Warrior videos... "


Keeping in mind that I adore popular materials, I look at them as the carrot that gets people in so that we CAN teach them information literacy. Now, if we can just switch the popular materials to the area farthest from the front door...

Google is good

"Unfortunately they are, for most purposes, good enough."Why the heck is that unfortunate?I( am a librarian. I might win a medal at the Boolean Olympics, but I go first to google, because, for most purposes, it really is good enough.Ranganathan #4: Save the time of the reader.

Re:Google is good

"Unfortunately for libraries they are, for most purposes, good enough."

Taking a Beating?

I want to hear how you've seen a strong library break thru community apathy towards libraries. If libraries are to survive, then they need to get some plans, and get them rolling. So far, even here, I've not seen it - much less at my local libraries.-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

Re:Taking a Beating?

"I want to hear how you've seen a strong library break thru community apathy towards libraries. If libraries are to survive, then they need to get some plans, and get them rolling. So far, even here, I've not seen it - much less at my local libraries."

In case anyone is wondering he's referring to the post below the one I linked to on my site (it took me a minute to figure it out and its my site). Maybe I'll explain further in a journal entry but since it involves where I work I'm not sure how much I want to say. I usually try and avoid getting that specific. The short answer is the secret to getting a community interested in the library is to get the library interested in the community.

Know when to fold 'em

I'm was a member of ALA for the last decade, but no more. I'm tired of the organization spending its financial and political capital on defending minority interest groups. ALA should focus its energy on saving libraries and re-defining librarianship. I'm frankly embarassed by the image of ALA as a defender of intellectual freedom at all costs for local libraries. Losing public support over intractable dogma isn't going to sustain libraries into the future.

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