Archive for the ‘ALA’ Category

Library Technology Reports and access

Monday, April 13th, 2015

I’ve just been informed that Library Technology Reports–which is sold by subscription and by individual issue, but really functions more as a brief monographic series–has moved to the OJS platform (as have several other ALA publications).

Perhaps more to the point:

  • Going forward, issues will be open access after a year. (The first chapter of each issue is usually available immediately.) Note that LTR is not a “authors submit articles for free” situation: I’ve done two issues in the past (with one in process) and been paid for each one. (It’s a single fee, not a royalty situation, if you’re interested.)
  • For the next couple of months, all of the archives are freely available. Thus, “Big-Deal Serial Purchasing: Tracking the Damage” (LTR 50:4, May/June 2014) is now fully available (and since it will be a year old in a couple of months, should remain so), as is “Policy and Library Technology” (LTR 41:2, March/April 2005).

This may be a good opportunity for some of you to explore the LTR archives. And you can back up the URL (remove the /LTR) to for a few of the other ALA-published journals such as LRTS.

Favoring the ALA Statement of Appropriate Conduct

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

It appears that there are still people coming out of the woodwork–sometimes people in high-profile situations–who are unhappy about the ALA Statement of Appropriate Conduct.

I honestly don’t understand this, except in two cases:

  1. People who themselves are guilty of conduct that is frowned on in the Statement, or who operate from such a position of privilege that they regard such conduct as acceptable.
  2. People whose understanding of free speech is seriously flawed.

I fear that my previous post on this topic in my earlier post, “Codes and levels“–a post that said I probably wouldn’t be writing more on this topic, partly because I’m not the right person to be doing so.

I think that latter clause is still true, but just so there’s no misunderstanding:

I believe the Statement of Appropriate Conduct is both appropriate and useful.

I believe it will have a good effect on ALA conferences.

I do not believe it limits free speech in any meaningful sense.

I do not believe it would hinder the speech or action of any reasonably responsible grown-up person during a conference.

I emphatically do not agree that it is a solution in search of a problem. Honestly, if you’ve been to, say, half a dozen or more library conferences (ALA or otherwise) and have never witnessed, overheard or been subject to inappropriate conduct (including unwanted attention), then I suspect you’ve avoided hotel bars, receptions, social events–and I wonder whether you’ve been paying attention during discussions and programs Q&A sessions. I’m not saying the problems are rampant; I am saying they’re frequent enough that “show us the problems!” strikes me as coming from a very sheltered perspective.

And that’s enough to say.


Codes and levels

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

I haven’t written anything about the ALA Statement of Appropriate Conduct so far. In some ways, “Freedom of speech” relates to some of the issues, but it was mostly inspired by a separate, wholly ludicrous “controversy.”

I don’t anticipate that I will write much of anything about the Statement, and I am not tagging posts and articles toward a future essay about it.

Which does not mean either that (a) I think the statement is addressing nonexistent problems or (b) I’m in fundamental disagreement with the statement. Neither of those is true.

Of course there’s a problem

ALA conferences don’t have any instances of attempted silencing, sexual and other forms of harassment (verbal and otherwise), that sort of thing? Bull. I can’t think of a medium-to-large conference I’ve been to where I didn’t see at least one or two situations that were at least borderline harassment, silencing or unwanted attention. With 12,000 to 25,000 people and a huge variety of formal and informal social events as well as sessions, it’s essentially not possible that ALA conferences would be paragons in this regard, and they’re not. (Of course they’re not as bad as a lot of tech and entertainment and other conferences. That’s a different issue.)

More to the point, perhaps, many of the more insidious and dangerous instances won’t be visible, because they’ll be one-on-one.

Hey, I’ve even been the subject of attempted silencing and unwanted attention. But I’m also…well, we’ll get to that in the next section. Let’s say the odds of my being the subject of such stuff are maybe 1% of those of, say, a 25-30 year old woman.

The Statement strikes me as a reasonable start

I wrote about a proposed Code of Conduct in June 2007 (C&I 7:6). I didn’t believe the particular code made sense. If I revisited that issue now, I still probably wouldn’t believe the code made sense. (As far as I can tell, it disappeared without a trace.)

ALA’s Statement does make sense. It isn’t a solution for which there is no problem–there is a problem, and even shining light on the problem may reduce it.

Could it be improved? I’m not the one to say, but I’m certain that there will be efforts to do so. I’m certain the people involved in crafting it put informed and intelligent effort into it.

It’s not censorship. It doesn’t attack freedom of speech. (ALA isn’t the government, and the meeting spaces, exhibit halls and social events of ALA aren’t inherently public fora. In any case, I don’t see anything forbidding specific language. Telling people it’s not OK to intimidate or harass other people is quite a different thing…and I find the argument that this somehow impinges upon free speech unconvincing, to put it mildly.)

A number of people have written about this eloquently and reasonably. I won’t give you a list, but Andromeda Yelton has at least a couple of relevant, worthwhile posts. On the more general issue of appropriate conduct and the need for codes to deal with harassers, John Scalzi has done a fair amount of writing, as have others.

Why I’m not the one to write about this

  •  I’m a middle-aged (OK, aging) straight white male of mostly Anglo-Saxon/Northern European extraction who grew up in a healthy family, never went hungry and have no obvious disabilities*. I operate at the lowest level of difficulty (or did until I turned 60 or so and ageism became a factor), so maybe I’m not the one to be arguing these things.
  • I’m no longer an active ALA participant. It’s unclear how often I’ll be attending any ALA conferences in the future (or whether, for that matter), for fiscal and other reasons, so this doesn’t affect me directly.
  • There are plenty of library folk who (a) are more directly affected, (b) operate at different levels of difficulty, (c) write and think as well as or better than I do.
  • I have no reason to believe that what I say would carry much weight.

So that’s it: Probably all I’ll say about this. Not because I don’t feel strongly about it, not because I’m not reading about it.

*Introversion may be a slight disadvantage in some work and professional areas, and may make me a bit more likely to be shouted down, but it’s far from being a disability or a real level-changer.

The secret decoder ring guide to ALA dues

Monday, December 30th, 2013

I am reliably informed that there are people claiming that they have no idea how expensive ALA dues are. (That’s the American Library Association, if you weren’t aware.)

As a bit of continuing education, I am here offering the secret decoder ring guide to finding out the cost of ALA dues:

1. Choose a web search engine. I tried Bing, Google, Blekko, DuckDuckGo and StartPage.

2. Type the highly classified supersecret search string:

ala dues

You don’t need to put quotes around it, although it won’t hurt.

3. Hit Enter or click on whatever the search icon is.

If you chose DuckDuckGo or StartPage, you may have some odd ads at the top, but–at least for me, at least today–every single search engine yielded the same page as the first non-ad result.

This page, in case choosing a search engine, typing eight characters and hitting Enter is entirely too confusing.

That page has links for the types of membership (personal, organizational, divisional).

Clicking on one of the links brings up a page (or part of a page) with, gasp, the cost of dues.

Or, if clicking seems too complicated, you can scroll down that same page and see the cost of dues.

I know this is pretty advanced stuff, but I suspect you can figure it out.

There will not be a quiz.

ITAL goes OA: Hooray

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

I tried to push this when I was LITA Publications Committee chair three years ago, and felt like I was hitting my head against a wall–one of several reasons I only served one year.

But, hey, these things take time.

I’m pleased to note that Information Technology and Libraries, LITA’s peer-reviewed journal, is going gold Open Access (and electronic-only) this year, effective with the March 2012 issue. Here’s the blog post.

I would suggest to LITA that “electronic-only” could and perhaps should have one exception: LITA could make annual print editions available for the few libraries or others who might want them, at no cost to LITA and with almost no trouble (assuming papers will appear in PDF form), using Lulu as a vendor. My new book (The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing) includes a chapter that’s mostly on this topic.

In any case:

Congratulations, LITA.

[How many more divisional refereed journals does ALA have to go before it’s a truly shining example of gold OA?]

ALA 2011 Exhibit Notes

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

I focused on exhibits during ALA Annual 2011, in addition to personal and business meetings. Given the book I’m working on, I was talking to self-publishers, small presses and distributors for independent publishers, but also noting exhibitors who seemed to have something unusual going on—and a few seeming trends in the exhibits as a whole.

Smith & Press (

This very small publisher produces new versions of very early books—the first offering being Hartmann Schedel’s Liber Chronicarum or Nuremberg Chronicle from 1493—a copy in the private collection of the publisher’s owner. They were showing all three versions being produced: A full-size facsimile limited to 100 copies, hand-bound in an astonishing binding made using the same materials and methods as the original (and costing several thousand dollars), a reference edition facsimile (85% size, 16.25×11.5″, on 70lb. paper in burgundy cloth binding, priced at $369), and an English translation with side-by-side facsimile and translation pages, issued in three volumes at $225 to $325 each (the first two volumes are currently available).

It’s clearly a labor of love, with superb handmade paper for the full-size facsimile and first-rate book paper for all three versions. Here’s the interesting part: The books are printed on…inkjet printers, namely large-format archival printers. (They’re thinking of doing a letterpress version of the full-size facsimile, but note that at that point they’ll have to use watermarks and other means to make it clear that this is a facsimile, not a forgery.)

Fascinating stuff. Beautiful paper, beautiful workmanship, an interesting blend of analog and digital tools.


I talked to a number of first-time exhibitors selling self-published books—or, in one case, selling books published by iUniverse.

I asked the iUniverse author for an honest opinion—and got it. The author would never, ever work with the company again—something I’ve heard previously from iUniverse, AuthorHouse and other similar “publishers” who charge hefty up-front fees.

On the other hand, a couple of authors using Outskirts Press were fairly happy with the services. That may not be surprising—while Outskirts is still selling packages, they’re more reasonably priced, and the company seems somewhat more upfront about what they do and don’t do.

Some self-publishers use CreateSpace or Lulu; they were uniformly positive about the experience and understood exactly what they were getting. I was informed of at least one more university press that is now using Lulu as its actual print provider, focusing the press itself on ebooks.

Then there’s PublishAmerica, which was there and whose representative made it appear to be a plausible alternative to Lulu and CreateSpace as a pure-play service provider, with no upfront costs. When I checked a little, I remembered PublishAmerica: It’s a peculiar situation, but not in any way comparable to Lulu or CreateSpace and generally, shall we say, not well-loved by its former authors. I picked up a few books at the exhibit and noted the same truly odd statement on the copyright page of each one, stating that the author’s words had not been changed at all. Since when is total lack of copy editing seen as a good thing? Yes, the author should have the final say, but as someone who’s published more than a dozen books (not including self-published books), I question whether there really are authors whose prose is so superb that it can’t benefit from judicious editing. If there are, I’m guessing they’re not publishing through PublishAmerica.

Small Publishers, Independent Publishers and Distributors

What’s an independent publisher? When I asked that of one distributor, the answer basically boiled down to “everybody but the Big Six”—or, a little more restrictively, every publisher that’s not part of a conglomerate. Chronicle Books? Yes, an independent publisher. Hyperion (part of Disney)? A tougher question.

The definition of small publisher is also getting interesting, given the growing number of publishers that rely on services like CreateSpace and Lulu for actual book production and, in many cases, fulfillment. This is, in my opinion, both a good thing and one of the trends that’s likely to grow in the mixed ebook/pbook future.

Here’s an interesting item: Boom! Studios, an independent publisher, publishes lots of Disney books (collected comic books and others). Disney itself has a Book Group, including Hyperion and several other imprints—but happily licenses some of its creations to other publishers.

Oddities and Trends

Why all the jewelry booths? For that matter, who would be buying sheets—bedsheets, that is—at an ALA annual conference? T-shirts I’m used to, and the vaguely creepy statuary, but it seemed as though there were more jewelry booths than I remember.

I was a little bemused by the Library Ideas, LLC booth. The flagship product is the Freegal Music Service—which I tend to think of as being a Sony product. Mysterious…

I was also impressed or bemused by the number of exhibitors showing book scanners (at least five, and I think that count is too low) and, a different group, book vending machines (I saw at least four, and again I think that’s a partial count). At least four exhibitors offer open-source library system support; that’s a good thing and suggests that the open-source systems (Koha, Evergreen and others) are doing well.

How many online catalogs and integrated library system vendors are out there? For many years, I’ve felt that the answer was the same as life, the universe and everything: 42 (give or take 10%). That still feels about right. Depending on how you add up numbers in the exhibitors index, there are at least 35 such vendors—and I’m pretty sure that’s not all-inclusive.

Then there’s furniture—at least 18 exhibitors—and the vast empty spaces found in so many of the furniture booths and, when I was in the exhibits (almost all day Saturday and about half of Sunday), most very large exhibit spaces (other than book publishers). I’m not sure what to make of this. Furniture vendors need to show their wares, of course. For others, perhaps some of the booths are a bit grander than they need to be.

Which brings me to the “who is this?” issue—booths that I think are badly designed for the exhibit hall. Specifically, booths where the primary or only corporate name display is on one of those really high hanging structures, signs that seem to be at least 18 feet up in the air. In the case of one furniture vendor, I could not identify the vendor when I was at the booth—I had to back away at least 20-30 feet and look up. Yes, I know, drama and all that—but perhaps self-defeating.

Closing Notes

The exhibits were an odd blend of crowded spaces and near-empty aisles, but I think that’s typical. Biggest crowds: As always, book publishers, especially those giving away advance reading copies. But there were also quite a few booths that seemed to have more booth staff than visitors, and a few where the booth staff seemed wholly engrossed in their own conversations, ignoring people passing by. (OK, if I’d been a potential customer instead of some random guy, maybe they would have snapped to attention. Maybe not.)

Trends? You want trends from a library conference exhibit hall? If so, you’ve come to the wrong place.

ALA 2011: Random Impressions

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

I think I started attending ALA conferences in 1975 and, through 2010, had missed one Annual and no Midwinters during that time. It’s likely that I’ll miss most or all Midwinters from now on, and events over the next few months should help determine whether I’ll attend future Annuals.

This post doesn’t include the “serious business”–what I saw and perceived in the exhibits. That may appear elsewhere; we’ll see. This is about the rest–noting that, for various reasons, I didn’t make it to any formal programs at all.

Digression 1: The ALA Connect Conference Scheduler is partly to blame for that, in a very indirect way. People can check off programs that they plan to attend. I went back to the scheduler two days before ALA and looked at each program I was thinking about attending, figuring that the count on the Scheduler was probably no more than 2/3 of how many would actually be there. In one case–maybe two cases–I downgraded the program because there were likely to be too many people. On the other hand, I think the scheduler is a great idea.

Almost Not Getting There: Kind Words for American Airlines

We won’t go back to pre-conference days and how I got a really good deal at the Hampton Inn Downtown (using AARP rates), which wasn’t a conference hotel. No, it wasn’t on the bedbug list (which several conference hotels were on)–I noted that none of the Hampton Inns in New Orleans, including the one that’s closer to the ALA part of the convention center than any other hotel, were on the conference hotel list, and I’m guessing Hilton didn’t offer that chain to ALA.

We go back to 90 days before the conference, when I was booking flights. I’d decided to take a red-eye from San Francisco so that I could spend Friday in NOLA without paying for a Thursday night hotel room. I’m an American flyer, so I was about to book the 11:45 p.m. red-eye through Chicago…and then said, “maybe it would make more sense to go through Dallas-Fort Worth,” and changed to the 12:30 a.m. red-eye.

Without realizing the consequences, which were certainly there on the screen, and in the confirming email: To wit, when you change from 11:45 p.m. on June 23 to 12:30 a.m. on June 23, you’re going to arrive on June 23, not June 24…

I’d planned to have my wife drive me to the Pleasanton-Dublin BART station around 3:30 p.m. (because there’s a 4 p.m. Farmers Market in Livermore), get to SFO around 5:15, check in, have a leisurely dinner, explore the brand-new Terminal 2, and read until the flight.

But when I logged on to American to check in, I found something else: A big CANCELLED next to my reservation. Why? Well, I hadn’t showed up for the 12:30 a.m. flight–that is, that flight that left six hours ago, dummy…so American properly cancelled the three other legs of the itinerary.

Panic, pounding heart, recognition that you have a $500 non-refundable plane ticket plus $135 non-refundable (this late) conference registration plus $136 first-day hotel charge (that, I might have been able to fix) plus the people you’d set up appointments with at ALA plus…

Called the AAdvantage Gold desk (I don’t fly that much these days, but after you hit a million miles, you get Gold–the first Very Frequent Flyer level–for life). Explained the situation, taking blame for it. Asked for help. Was told: “Go to the airport NOW. Get on standby. If you get on a plane, the rest of the trip will be restored.” That was at 8 a.m. “NOW” wasn’t possible–my wife was just getting up and needed breakfast, and it’s at least two hours to the airport in any case–but I did start packing right away.

Wound up at the airport around noon. Went to desk (Gold also gets you the first-class check-in and security lines). Explained the problem. The clerk said yes, I *might* be able to get on standby, although the flights are going out pretty full. I noted that I had plenty of reading and, in some ways, would just as soon go out on the 12:30 a.m. red-eye I thought I was booking originally (that is, the Friday early morning flight on 6/24). She said, “Well, there are seats, and for a $50 change fee, I can give you an actual boarding pass.” Sold, with enormous gratitude.

In both cases–on the phone and in person–the American people were gracious, efficient, helpful, and reminded me why I primarily fly American Airlines. [OK, so when I changed seats on my return flight from DFW to SFO, so that two kids flying without parents could sit together, the attendant not only thanked me, she gave me a free drink. That was nice, but I would have changed seats anyway so that the kids could be together. Wouldn’t you?]

Thought about it further. If I’d taken a standby, I would have gotten in to NOLA around 11 p.m. and had to beg for an extra night’s hotel room (my wife had said: Call the hotel as soon as you think you’re getting on a plane, and see if you can extend the reservation)–and, if a room was available, paid an extra $130 with tax. So I spent $50 for a day pass to the Admiral’s Club, a brand-new club in the brand-new terminal, including lounge chairs I could nap in and, by the way, free wine & beer (new “free drinks” policy for domestic clubs). Heck, even a shower, if I was so inclined.

So I spent all of Thursday–well, from noon to midnight, at least–at SFO, but that was OK. Flights went forward without any real hitches. Since all four flights going and returning were 100% full, I can believe waiting for standby might have been tricky…

Digression 2: I thought the new Terminal 2 would be worth an hour or two to explore. Not so much. Unlike the glorious Terminal D in American’s part of DFW, Terminal 2 doesn’t amount to all that much, although there are one or two interesting art installations and one interesting permanent interactive sculpture. Did you know SFO is actually an accredited museum?

Hampton Inn couldn’t check me in at 9:45 a.m.; I was finally able to check in, shower and change around 1 p.m. But at least I was there.

Impressions of NOLA and the Conference Center

I wore short-sleeved shirts throughout the weekend and walked everywhere, I’m guessing about 1.5 miles from the hotel to the far end of the CC where ALA always seems to be.

Digression 3: Why is ALA always in Halls G through J, half a mile down the endless Morial CC hallway? I’m sure there are good reasons…apparently, in this case, another exhibition that finished just before ALA, rather than the usual simultaneous exhibition or one coming in just afterward.

Since I went back and forth twice each day, I figure I was getting around 6 miles of walking each day. That’s a good thing.

I didn’t really feel too overchilled in Morial, and the hotel was even better, but wouldn’t it be lovely if more CCs and hotels were like DC last summer–that is, with inside temperatures in the mid-70s so your body isn’t shocked so much by transitions?

Other than registration, my only real ALA thing on Friday was the LITA Happy Hour, which was big and good. (I’m no longer in LITA, but that’s where I tend to run into people, and since LITA doesn’t pay for the drinks, I don’t feel bad about going.) Ran into several LSW folks and a bunch of LITA folks I haven’t seen in a while. Good stuff.

NOLA–New Orleans, Louisiana? Great. On Friday and Saturday we didn’t even get the usual summer afternoon showers (on Sunday, we did–and I got pretty thoroughly soaked, since my umbrella was safely back at the hotel), and Friday was even cooler than expected.

Digression 4: There’s another substantial building on the way from my hotel to Morial, at least if you walk from my hotel to the Hilton Riverside to Morial: Harrah’s. I visited Harrah’s between breakfast and exhibits each morning and for a couple hours Friday. Always played multihand double-bonus poker slots, either at $0.25 or $0.10/hand, playing at least two hands per draw. Loved it, and planned to contribute no more than $50 to NOLA’s economy through this method. In fact, it worked out the other way–but that’s another story, wholly irrelevant to the blog. Fours of a kind should occur roughly once in every 423 hands of slot draw poker, but that doesn’t mean they can’t occur considerably more often (after all, the virtual cards have no memory)–and when you’re getting anywhere from 50 to 160 payback, they can mean a lot to your bottom line.

Other Notes

I loved the dual internet cafes–for once, I was actually able to check email & FF once or twice. That’s unusual.

I was talking to a lot more exhibitors than usual, especially small publishers and independent press distributors and self-published authors. I also talked to a rep at one place that I thought might be a third “pure play” service provider similar to Lulu and CreateSpace–and didn’t realize until I came home and checked their website that, well, let’s say this is a company with a History and not really a pure play provider.

Digression 5: As I was walking by the Swets booth, a pitchman pulled me in to be part of a close-up magic act that was also a sales pitch of sort. He was a really good close magician–I will be damned if I know how he managed some of the things. (Two of them involved my direct participation, and I still haven’t the vaguest idea how he was doing this stuff.)

The one meeting I started to attend was the fledgling Retired Members Round Table. Turns out that, quite apart from the $20 dues, it probably isn’t for me–it felt like a way for Involved ALA Members to continue to be Involved ALA Members. Frankly, it made me feel old–whereas my primary professional involvement (and the only ribbon I was wearing), the Library Society of the World, makes me feel, um, less old.

I finished the conference with a really nice reception (put on by Oxford University Press) at the Louisiana State Museum–drenched, but ran into a bunch of people, heard good music and drank good (California) wine. Oh, and had some great BBQ brisket on mashed potatoes.

Digression the last: I probably had four, maybe five, different gumbos during the weekend, every one of them good. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that the best of them was…in the DFW airport at a New Orleans-style seafood restaurant.

Next year and beyond?

We shall see. Next year’s Anaheim, which is easy travel for me and a reasonably good site. 2014 is in Vegas, and I’d like to touch down there. Otherwise…we shall see. Who knows? I might even get to an ITI conference such as CiL one of these years…


Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

A non-obligatory pre-conference post. And since this is my only conference of the year, well…


I’ll be in New Orleans for ALA Annual from Friday morning (prob. around 10 a.m.) through Sunday night (Monday morning return flight assures no activities on Monday).

My so-called schedule is still too open and fluid to say where I’ll be, although I’ll certainly be spending a fair amount of time at exhibits, I’ll probably be at part of the LITA Happy Hour 5:30-8 on Friday, I’ll probably be at the OUP reception 6-8 on Sunday, and there’s at least a reasonable chance I’ll be at some of:

An 8-10 a.m. Saturday PLA program on “beautiful and cheap websites”

A 10:30-12 Saturday ACRL Copyright Discussion Group

A 4-5:30 Saturday LITA session on SF, Fantasy and Information Science

TopTechTrends 1:30-3:30 Sunday (I’ve generally sworn off TTT, but this session’s roster seems likely to shed more light than heat)

4-5:30 Sunday Retired Members Cafe

…and who knows what else?

I’m mediocre with faces and terrible with names, but say Hi anyway–if you have your badge on and visible, my ability to “remember” your name improves considerably!

Hmm. Just got a promotional email touting a new online information system that uses a product name (with qualifications) that was earlier one of my most important work projects, long since shut down. Not sure how that makes me feel. I am sure that “every Canadian provinces” is peculiar English, whether Canadian or otherwise…


So has everybody decided that whatever restrictions publishers want to place on ebooks in libraries, including charging per use, is just peachy-keen?

No, I didn’t think so. Planning to ask hard questions at exhibitors’ booths? Really?

Even though it seems to have been pretty much universally ignored (and absolutely convinced me that C&I is not designed for hot topics), I’ll still say that The Zeitgeist: 26 is Not the Problem is a worthwhile overview of what this particular dispute is/was all about. (Personally, I think it’s easier to read as part of the May 2011 issue in PDF form, but that’s me…)

Plans to improve the HTML template for C&I and include live links? Up in the air, as is everything else about C&I, including its continued existence.

In any case: Enjoy NOLA if you’re going. I’m sure you’ll be flooded with tweets, posts, status updates and whatever from the 25,000 or so who are there if you’re not. Not from me, at least not during the conference: The limits of my traveling technology are an 8GB Sansa Fuze MP3 player and a “feature phone” that’s usually off.

One interesting situation: As Livermore jumped directly from late winter to mid-summer, it looks as though I’ll be traveling to slightly cooler weather in New Orleans (if the long-term forecast holds)–but a whole lot more humid!


ALA Annual brief musings

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Yes, I’m New Orleans-bound in just about two weeks–actually a red-eye Thursday night, June 23, arriving NOLA Friday morning, June 24.

I’ll be there through Sunday evening; early Monday flight back.

So far, my schedule’s very loose–which is to say, so far I haven’t made up a schedule. Lots of exhibit time, probably a couple of programs, and with luck catching up with some folks and reminding me why it’s still worth going…if it is.


I’m open to suggestions….programs I’d particularly enjoy, receptions I should not miss (and can plausibly attend), get-togethers of one sort or another.

The fledgling 10th anniversary celebration for Cites & Insights is clearly a non-starter, since other than one person offering to help find a location, nobody expressed any interest in a get-together. And I’m not quite ready for a C&I wake just yet.

I’ll start putting together some schedule possibilities this weekend or early next week.

I know blog activity has been lax and rarely library-related for a month or so. I’m working on revisions to my micropublishing book…and beyond that (and more reading than I’d expect), there’s not a lot to say.

ALA, Annual and Midwinter, has almost always been energizing in the past–seeing lots of folks I only see once or twice a year, getting a feel for the profession, all that. I hope it will be that way in New Orleans as well. I could use some energizing…

Suggestions welcome, via email or comments.

ALA MW and learning from one another

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

I’m not on my way down to San Diego today–but in some ways I’d like to be. Meanwhile, I’ve been involved in another discussion on whether ALA should even hold Midwinter. That discussion has mostly been on Friendfeed…and, as it’s evolved, I’m sensing something that isn’t new but I always find a little distressing.

You can call it separatism; you can call it divergence; you can even call it a preferred future, if that’s your preference. “It” is a tendency for types of libraries to become less and less connected.

One proposal out there is to get rid of Midwinter…and allow divisions to hold divisional conferences every year (they’re only allowed to hold them every other year at the moment). (This comes up after it’s pointed out that members already vote with their presence: That Midwinter continues to be very well-attended, even though ALA dropped the “must be at both conferences” rule for committee membership years ago.)

Would that result in the ACRL and PLA and AASL conferences being even larger than they are now? Probably. Would that be a good thing? That’s an interesting question, and one I’m not going to deal with.

It would definitely weaken ALA’s finances (to the tune of about $700,000/year), unless ALA started taking a bigger chunk of divisional conference revenue as overhead.

It would also significantly weaken the weaker divisions within ALA, the type-of-activity divisions (LITA, LLAMA, RUSA, ALCTS)–none of which are big enough to hold true national conferences and all of which are smaller and less robust than the big type-of-library divisions.

More to the point, to me at least, it would weaken the synergy among libraries, and that’s already pretty weak. Academic librarians would find it even easier to treat public librarians (and public libraries) as irrelevant (as some already do, although many don’t); public librarians would find it even easier to dismiss academic librarians as living in ivory towers; both would find it even easier to ignore school librarians altogether (and vice-versa). I think that would be a bad thing. I think it’s unfortunate that most special librarians left ALA long ago, for that matter.

In my experience, the most exciting state library conference (of the 20-odd I’ve attended) is Texas Library Association. It’s also the world’s third largest library conference (after ALA and Midwinter). Oh, and one more thing: In Texas, the school librarians never left the state association. That’s a significant factor in the size and strength of the conference.

For that matter, I’ve consistently found that “multitype” conferences–where either the school librarians haven’t left or have rejoined (e.g., Colorado), or the various organizations have agreed to joint or overlapping conferences (e.g., COMO in Georgia, if I have that right) are stronger and more interesting than others, and that the rare cases where public and academic librarians have split are weaker than you’d expect.

I’m not the one to be making this case. I’m nearly out of the field entirely at this point; depending on what happens in the next two or three months, I might or might not be attending any more ALA conferences at all. I’ve already transitioned to lifelong/continuing ALA membership and, with some regrets, dropped out of LITA after 35 years.

But to me, there’s enormous strength in librarians of all types learning from one another, and the type-of-activity discussion groups, interest groups, and informal sessions at Midwinter have been particularly worthwhile.

Consider this the ramblings of a mostly-retired library person, one who always earned his living serving academic libraries but always had his heart largely within public libraries. And who remembers when California schools mostly had libraries with librarians, and regrets the present state…