ALA Civics Class Syllabus

Here’s what I’m thinking of for our syllabus. I’m sure we’ll meander, go on tangents, and take extra time with some of these topics, but it’ll give us a helpful foundation for explaining why some of the weird things about ALA are the way they are.

  1. What is “ALA?” – divisions, sections, round tables, member initiative groups, assemblies, and offices (oh, my)
  2. ALA governance and how it all works – ALA Board, ALA Executive Committee, Council, President, BARC, and elections
  3. ALA committees – let’s make some sense of the 1200+ committees (yeah, you read that right)
  4. How to get on committees – advice for the committeelorn
  5. Virtual participation – what does this mean, what’s happened so far, what still needs to happen, how do we get there
  6. Getting things done in ALA – underused options like membership meetings, resolutions, and subcommittees
  7. Other ways to get involved – ways to volunteer that don’t involve committee work
  8. ALA conferences
  9. ALA affiliates and other library orgs – how do they all fit together? what’s the difference between them?
  10. Why ALA? – why we need ALA and what’s in it for you

What’s missing? What do you want to add to one of the headings? Now is a good time to speak up, because we’re in the process of building something special to dive into the amorphous topic of “what is ALA.”

I think we’ll also have some conversations on Twitter using the #alacivics hashtag, which I’ll be tracking so I’ll try to close the loop and bring those discussions back to this blog so that there’s one central site for finding everything. Note, too, that all of the class material will be under the category heading “ALA Civics Class.” Watch out for pop quizzes.

5 Responses to “ALA Civics Class Syllabus”

  1. JP Says:

    The only thing I’d say that’s missing is “Why ALA?”…differences between ALA and other library associations, twitter, facebook, library publications. I’ve heard alot of people say “we don’t need ALA because we get the networking we need from twitter”. Are they right?


  2. Jenny Says:

    Excellent thought, JP. I’ve added “ALA affiliates and other library orgs” as a topic, followed by “why ALA” as a natural follow-up. Let me know if you were thinking of adding it in a different place.



    JP Reply:

    ALA is a place you can #makeithappen. If you don’t like shit in libraries, get involved in ALA.

    Twitter is just tweeting. ALA is doing.

    We all get frustrated with the state of things in libraries & the ALA, but only the people doing the work to change things are going to have an impact. This impact will be felt in a much larger scale if it comes from a 60-whatever-k member association than it will by your 3k followers on twitter, most of whom miss your tweets anyway.

    Also, nothing replaces hard work.


  3. Michael Golrick Says:

    See if some of the content which I wrote up {mumble} years ago when I was still on the Exec Board is of use to you. Here is a link to a post which has links to each of the topics I covered in that series:

    I covered some of finances and buildings which are topics which you do not have listed. At the time the ALAWash Office had not finished moving to its current location and the ACRL offices for Choice (in Middletown CT) were barely a dream.

    I would be happy to offer any other advice or comments…


  4. Julia Skinner Says:

    For students and new professionals, it might be helpful to learn more about the mission/vision of ALA both to help contextualize some of our discussions about what it is/why it’s important and to our field and to developing as a professional. I’m sure this is already in the ‘what is ALA’ section but it was the first thing that came to mind!
    One thing many people in my classes are saying is that some of the core values are very broad/general–I wonder if it might be useful to provide some examples of how ALA sees those values translating into practice both within the association and member institutions (or by actions of individuals).
    This sounds like a really cool idea–I’m definitely excited to see where it goes and to participate!


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