Archive for the ‘ALA Committees’ Category

Numbers about You

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I’m the lead person on our ALA Connect project to create a collaborative, online workspace/professional network for our members, something I’ve been working on pretty intensely for the last year. One of the most difficult pieces was synchronizing the site (which uses Drupal software) with our membership database (called “iMIS”). In making that connection, we came across some interesting numbers as we figured out which pieces to synchronize.

For example, we learned that at the end of 2008, ALA members have an average of 2.1 participations, which are essentially affiliations with an official ALA group (committees, discussion groups, divisions, events, interest groups, member initiative groups, round tables, and sections). If we narrow down the scope to members who have at least one affiliation, 42,000 members have an average of 3.2 participations.

I’m heartened that the majority of members have more than one affiliation, because I think it means they’ve found at least one small slice of ALA that is relevant to them. Where the numbers get even more interesting is when we look at the full range of participations across all members. Clearly, some people have found quite a few areas of interest to them in ALA.

Participations Number of Users
30+ 21
20+ 127
10+ 1794
5+ 6956
1+ 33390
0 21821

One of our main goals with ALA Connect is to help members find the other interesting and relevant pieces of the gooey, amorphous cloud that is ALA. Personally, I hope Connect helps those 21,821 members find ways to get more involved (should they want to), because as the person categorizing the more than 1,000 active groups in the Connect subject tree, I can honestly tell you that ALA is so big that it truly does have something for everybody.

New Online Meeting Space Now Available

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

We know that several ALA-affiliated groups need an online space where they can hold meetings or give presentations, so we’re experimenting with OPAL to provide this type of resource. In case you’re not familiar with the Online Programming for All Libraries service (OPAL), you can learn more about it and view the archive to see how other organizations use it.

Basically, though, ALA has four rooms available for groups to use – two 25-seat rooms, one 50-seat room, and one 100-seat room. Because these are virtual spaces, they’re available 24/7. Any ALA unit (divisions, round tables, sections, committees, etc.) or ALA-affiliated group can use a room to hold a meeting (following existing ALA bylaws for meetings), a discussion group, or as a presentation space for up to 100 participants. OPAL rooms provide:

  • Text chat (including the ability to save the transcript);
  • Voice chat for participants with microphones and speakers (including the ability to record the conversation);
  • The ability  to display web pages or slides for presentations;
  • Co-browsing web pages;
  • The ability for participants to ask questions via text chat.

Use of the rooms is completely free for ALA units and affiliated groups to do training or other tasks related to ALA work. Even ALA staff can use it internally for virtual meetings with each other. Plus, the ability to record audio means you can also use it to record a podcast. And yes, this meeting space is also available during conferences.

So how do you use this space? The rooms can only be booked by ALA staff, so you need to contact your staff liaison to reserve space.  (ALA staff can find instructions for doing this by searching the KM system for “OPAL.”) We’ll be providing some online documentation for all of this soon but in the meantime, there are also generic instructions for getting started using these rooms on the general OPAL site.

Conversations at ALA

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

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: . Also, Valerie Hawkins in the ALA Library has prepared an extensive guide to SL, at .

On Ning, current statistics show 357 members (most, but not all, ALA members) in an ALA-labeled group in Ning. See . 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 and .

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 ( — 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.

ITTS Updates

Friday, January 4th, 2008

I won’t normally repost items here that are found on other ALA blogs, but since there are two important items over on ITTS Update and most members don’t even know the blog exists, I thought it would be good to highlight it here.

If you’re interested in tracking the various projects ALA’s IT department works on, you can stay current by reading the blog. There’s an RSS feed available, or you can sign up on the blog to receive email updates of new posts. I work half-time in that department, and I can tell you things are really hopping there these days (not that they weren’t before my arrival). If nothing else, you may find the notes from the monthly update meetings we hold for staff interesting. Having said that, I don’t think there is one scheduled for January because of the Midwinter Meeting, but we’ll resume them in February.

The other caveat is that while we do post some information about the website redesign there, the project is larger than just ITTS, so there is a separate Web Planning blog (and wiki) where you can track happenings as we start down the road of actual implementation.

Back to the two specific ITTS posts I want to note:

Happy Birthday, OIF!

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

The Office for Intellectual Freedom is 40 years old today!

The mission of the Office is to implement “ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association’s basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials … [and to] … educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries.” 

Authorization for the new Office had taken place in 1965, but funding for operations and staff was delayed. At the 1967 Midwinter Meeting Ervin J. Gaines, Chairman of the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC), noted that the office was needed “so we can have a central clearinghouse for information and assistance as needed around the country.” Getting the office started was the primary focus of the IFC that year, but the IFC also got a revised Library Bill of Rights approved by the ALA Council and presented a two-day pre-conference with the Young Adult Services Division (now YALSA) on “the special problems which influence the librarians in relationships to young people.”

Following that successful preconference, attended by 300 people, Gaines again pled the case: “The preconference also revealed that many more librarians than we ever hear about are under heavy pressure to abandon their standards and to conform to community pressures. We feel that it is time for librarians to stand together instead of huddling together, and for the American Library Association to take active steps to support librarians at the local level when they act in conformity with the principles of the Association.” 

Finally, though, “PEBCO” the Program Evaluation and Budget Committee—the BARC of its time–authorized funding for two staff and legal fees for the first year of operation.  At the November 4, 1967 meeting of the ALA Executive Board, ALA Executive Director David H. Clift announced the appointment of Judith F. Krug as Director of the new office, which officially opened on December 1, 1967. 

In 1969, the Freedom to Read Foundation was established to “promote and defend this right; to foster libraries and institutions wherein every individual’s First Amendment freedoms are fulfilled; and to support the right of libraries to include in their collections and make available any work which they may legally acquire.” In 1970, the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund was established to provide financial assistance for the support, maintenance, medical care, and welfare of librarians who, in the Trustees’ opinion, are denied employment rights or discriminated against on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, age, disability, or place of national origin, or denied employment rights because of defense of intellectual freedom; that is, threatened with loss of employment or discharged because of their stand for the cause of intellectual freedom.

Besides providing challenge support to librarians across the country, the Office also works with its committees to develop policy statements, plan programs, and prepare publications to assist librarians and library users understand the breadth of issues related to intellectual freedom in today’s world. Since 1982, the Office has worked with several other organizations to focus the public attention on the importance of reading freely with the annual Banned Books Week celebrations.

Where to Be a Virtual Committee Member

Friday, November 30th, 2007

There’s been a lot of discussion online lately about how to participate in ALA committees as a virtual member (you can find most of the links via the Improve ALA wiki, which was created by ALA members). As a result, we’ve started a new page on the Get Involved wiki for ALA committees with virtual members in order to make it easier to find those pieces of “the work of the Association” that allow for participation without necessarily requiring members to show up in person at two meetings a year. Some may still have physical attendance components, some will be completely virtual, some will be a workable mix of the two. Overall, we hope this helps you find a way to contribute that works for you.

Questions about any of the committees? Leave a comment here or use the discussion space on the wiki page. Know of a committee (or other workgroup) that’s not listed? Help us out and and add it to the wiki!

Awards and Recognition

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

In the past few days, as I scan e-list messages and blog posts, I’ve noticed numerous reminders about applying for or nominating a colleague for on of ALA’s 211 awards (if I counted correctly). That’s because most deadlines are coming up (many are stated as December 1, or more accurately Monday, December 3, 2007) so that the documentation can be assembled for committee review at the Midwinter Meeting. Alas, some have already passed.

The awards, grants, and scholarships fall into several categories:

  • Professional recognition awards honoring the recipients for achievments, sometime in a specific area, other times for a lifetime of work; the recipients may be individuals or organizations
  • Book and media awards awarded to authors, illustrators, producers, and publishers. (Note: the major children’s and youth media awards are announced on the Monday morning of Midwinter.)
  • Awards for having written an excellent article or book, or completing significant research–or grants enabling the winner to write one.
  • Various research grants, conference travel grants or fellowships; and
  • Scholarships.
  • Although there is general oversight of the whole process by the ALA Awards Committee, each award has its own procedures for identifying prospective winners, set by the sponsoring committee, office, round table, or division. Newer awards tend to follow the best practices set outlined in the Awards Manual, but like many activities of ALA, there is extensive variation. The best way to find out the procedures? Search the phrase for the award on the ALA site, or contact the sponsoring unit directly.

    So, if one of your colleagues deserves one of these awards, now is the time to act!

    Getting onto a Committee

    Monday, October 22nd, 2007

    Does your organization only pay for conference if you have a committee assignment? Do you want to join the ranks of those saying mysteriously “I have a conflict”? How do you get started, anyway?

    * Join up! First things first. You do need to be a member of ALA to be on an ALA committee (and of the division or round table where you’re seeking an appointment). So be sure your membership dues are current!

    * Bone up! Take some time to learn about the Association. Dip into the ALA Handbook of Organization, either online or in paper. The 2007-2008 edition was just published, and it will be mailed to everyone listed in it. Or surf through the various pages currently found off the “Our Association” button on the ALA home page. Spend some time with the web pages from the division or round table that interest you to see what kinds of projects are underway.

    If possible, talk with a current (or recent) member of the committee to get a sense of the type of work involved. Some committees do most of their work face-to-face at the conferences; others work extensively between conferences, using e-mail, online communities, wikis, etc.

    * Listen up! If you can get to an Annual Conference or a Midwinter Meeting, sit in on a meeting of the committee that interests you. By policy, all meetings of ALA are open, unless there is a matter of personal privacy being discussed—which mostly means that juries/award selection committees or nominating committees are the exception and are closed to observers.

    At the end of the meeting, introduce yourself to the chair of the committee. Offer to assist with a task proposed during the meeting. Leave your business card.

    * Step up! Complete the volunteer form, either for ALA, or for your division or round table. Do this in addition to volunteering in person. Indicate specifically which committees interest you and why. And don’t be afraid to volunteer for a “process” committee—Organization and Bylaws, Budget, etc. These can provide an inside understanding of how ALA or your part of it works. OTOH, while you may be interested in the premier committee in your division, don’t expect to get an appointment for it right away. Most committees are limited in size, and if half the committee have appointments continuing to next year, and the other half is mostly being reappointed, there may only be one, maybe two, spaces for new members—and probably a long list of volunteers.

    Some committees establish task forces or subcommittees chaired by a member of the committee, but staffed by volunteers who may not be. Working on a task force is a good way to get to know people and contribute your skills in a meaningful way. My first appointment was to a subcommittee of a division section committee (in other words, about as far down the hierarchy as possible), but we did some significant work, and it remains one of the most satisfying bits of work I’ve done for ALA.

    Also, look outside your home division. The “type of activity” divisions (LAMA, LITA, ALCTS, RUSA, YALSA, ALSC, ALTA) often seek out members interested in their work, but representative of different types of libraries.

    But … be honest with yourself when you volunteer. Think about what you can realistically commit to. It’s easy, really easy, to volunteer in the heat of the moment at a conference … and then get back to the office and the cold light of day on your to do list! Here’s a vignette to have in mind: As I was starting my first professional position, I was talking with F. Bernice Field, my supervisor and a past president of the division then known as RTSD—and an enormously long list of other achievements. I asked her how she got to do all of those things. She said, “Simple really. I volunteered, and then, by golly, I did what I was asked.”

    If you can’t go to conference, try for a virtual membership on a committee.

    Other options:
    Join an Interest or Discussion Group. These work differently in each of the divisions that have them. In some, it’s pretty easy to become a discussion group leader, with the primary responsibility of organizing the next meeting. In others, the interest groups have no limit to the number of members.

    Contribute in other ways. Post frequently on division email lists, blogs or wikis to get your name noticed.

    A few words about the appointment calendar. The presidents-elect (those we elected in the balloting last spring, and who will take office at the end of the 2008 Annual Conference) have just had their orientation to their leadership roles and are now beginning the process of shaping the committees which will be working during their presidencies, 2008-2009. In some divisions, and at the ALA level, the slate of proposed committee members is reviewed during the Midwinter Meeting. Letters of appointment begin to go out shortly after the Midwinter Meeting, and acceptances are due back in the late spring. This is why there is a December deadline for the ALA form—and it’s a time frame to keep in mind for all divisions and round tables, as well. But know that there may be vacancies at other times–or some committees may still have vacancies after the first round of appointments are made.

    Where to find the volunteer forms or specific information on volunteering With apologies for the “alphabet soup” – see the ALA Acronyms list, if you need to!

    ALA (Deadline: December 3, 2007)

    Round Tables also have committees; start at the main “Round Tables” page to explore these. I found volunteer forms or other significant information for the following:


    Finally, don’t just take my word for it. Check out these other blog posts with tips and links related to the committee appointment process— for example, these two:

    Molly Raphael, President-Elect of LAMA
    Sarah Kelly Johns on the AASL blog