Active participation in the conversations that keep an association “live” have a long history at ALA. After all, “conversation” is an association “c” — along with continuity, context and community. There are approximately 5,000 people in “official” committee and board positions (i.e. listed in the ALA Handbook of Organization). That’s a good number — but there are more, many more, involved in discussion groups and interest groups (both face-to-face and electronic). Over the last few years, ALA “participation” has become increasingly varied and diverse.
Preparing to contribute to a couple of panel discussions on online communities and social networking at DigitalNow, I realized my current sense of the volume of social network and online community activity at ALA was “lots” and “more” — generally correct, but hardly specific. So, I went in search of some data. Here’s what I found — and it represents an impressive contribution from both members and staff. As of about April 22, 2008, ALA’s “footprint” in the worlds of social networking and online communities looked like this:
There were 2,671 participants in ALA’s Facebook group as of April 18 — with about 15 more joining the group every day. Four divisions and four round tables had groups in Facebook. There are ALA Students Chapters in Facebook, as is the Office for Intellectual Freedom. The Freedom to Read Foundation has a group in Facebook — with 146 members after one month — and is beginning to raise money in Facebook.
In Second Life, ALA’s National Library Week 2008 events attracted 2800 visits from around the globe (plus staff visits). ALA president Loriene Roy spoke in Second Life. AASL’s Doug Johnson gave a presentation, as did Jenny Levine (on gaming in libraries). YALSA streamed podcasts. The many contributions of Lori Bell (Alliance Library System) to ALA in Second Life were recognized. After the Banned Books Week events in Second Life, ALA had 89 people in its ALA SL Notification group; that number is now 245. (And there’s also an ALA Member Initiative Group: Virtual Communities and Libraries — which held its first face-to-face meeting at the Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.) To teleport to the ALA Island/ALA Main Stage, go to: http://slurl.com/secondlife/ALA%20Island/128/107/29/ . Also, Valerie Hawkins in the ALA Library has prepared an extensive guide to SL, at http://wikis.ala.org/professionaltips/index.php/Second_Life .
On Ning, current statistics show 357 members (most, but not all, ALA members) in an ALA-labeled group in Ning. See http://alamembers.ning.com . YALSA also has a Ning site for student members. There are other library-related, but not ALA-specific, groups in Ning, too — e.g. Second Life Librarians.
About a year ago, I asked how many blogs and wikis had been developed in “ALA space.” The answer then? More than 30 of each — and growing. The answer now? There are 70 blogs and 125 wikis that we know of — and still growing. Most of these can be accessed through the ReadWriteConnect link on the ALA home page.
Looking at “old” social networking technology, ALA has 948 active email discussion lists on Sympa (1095, counting inactive lists with available archives). There is no up-to-date count on the number of ALA email lists (lists using the name of ALA or one of its component groups) on external servers, such as campus servers. How many people participate on those lists? That, I don’t know — but we’ll add it to the list of “counting” tasks.
Several years ago, ALA implemented an Online Communities platform using DotNetNuke. There are 281 “online communities” currently. Implementation of a range of new online community/social networking features (“ALA Connect”) using Drupal, an open source platform, is underway — but that’s a future post.
Looking at social media, American Libraries‘ series of short videos for National Library Week 2008 received 78,400 views. The single most popular video in the series (The Reference Desk) received 23,530 views. These statistics do not include the views through various external blogs and websites in which they were embedded. We have no count on embeds. Comments appeared on AL Focus, Blip and YouTube. In case you missed them, catch the fun at http://alfocus.ala.org/categories/national-library-week and http://youtube.com/AmLibraryAssociation .
There are other indicators of the changes in the conversational mix. At the 2007 Annual Conference, a LITA Interest Group (BIGWIG) held an “unconference,” using a variety of social networking tools, including Twitter. As of last week, there were 45 people signed up to follow the 2008 Annual Conference on Twitter (http://twitter.com/alaannual) — and there’s a short thread there from the 2007 Annual Conference. YALSA is also on Twitter.
ALA has a 100-seat (divisible) classroom/meeting room in OPAL, an online meeting/conferencing facility for libraries, which uses a blend of VOIP and text chat. ALA president-elect Jim Rettig has met with his advisory committee in OPAL. Units can reserve space through staff in Outlook.
I know there’s more — and still more coming. If I take another “snapshot” a year from now, how much will have changed? I’m not sure I know how it will have changed — or how much — but I’m sure I’ll see change and that the path will not have been boring.
Thanks to ALA staff colleagues Matt Ivaliotes, Donavan Vicha, Tina Coleman, John Chrastka, Jenny Levine, Don Wood and Beth Yoke who did the counting and provided all the information.