Archive for the ‘Better Know…’ Category

Holidays, holidays!

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

All offices of the American Library Association will be closed Wednesday, December 24, and Thursday, December 25, for the Christmas holiday. All offices will also be closed Thursday, January 1, 2009, for New Year’s Day.

In addition, the Chicago office will be closed Friday, December 26, and Friday, January 2, in a cost-saving measure. The extra closing days will save approximately $15,000 in energy costs.

Regular hours (M-F, 8:30-4:30 Central Time for Chicago, and 8:30-4:30 Eastern Time for Washington Office and Choice) will be in effect December 29-31, and will resume January 5, 2009.

So, I’m going to Anaheim…

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Rumor tells me that ALA has no hotel rooms left for Annual Conference in Anaheim. Well, rumor can be a helpful source — but not this time.

So — what’s the situation? At this point (May 6th), we show 7992 sold or committed rooms on Friday night, rising to 8212 on Saturday night, with 8025 on Sunday night. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the “peak nights” — the nights when there are the highest numbers of sleeping rooms being used by people attending the ALA Annual Conference. Those figures put us right in our normal range — in a conference campus with lots of hotels. It’s still possible to get a “pending” message from the ALA’s housing bureau. (As of May 6th, there are 40 “pending” reservations.) Why? Usually it relates to the specifics of a given request — a particular arrival or departure date, a specific room type or configuration. Historically, the record is good — like 100% — on clearing any “pending” requests.

Why would rooms become available late in the advance registration period? Starting at the end of this week, ALA will confirm blocks of rooms committed to exhibitors. If, for instance, an exhibitor anticipated taking 6 staff members to Annual Conference and is actually taking 5, that 6th room goes back into “inventory” — and becomes available to someone else. Typically, exhibitors will reserve rooms for the maximum number of staff they would take — on the reasonable theory that it’s easier to cancel than to get a block of rooms later. Similarly, if two conference attendees plan to room together — but each made a separate reservation — the “extra” room reservation will eventually (usually a month before conference) be cancelled and that room also will go back into inventory. Repeat those scenarios many times — and, yes, there are rooms.

So, here are some key dates to know.

  • Friday, May 16, is that last day for pre-registration for the 2008 Annual Conference.
  • Wednesday, May 28, we close the housing reservations.

What do you do if you are unexpectedly able to attend? Register. Then, call us (800-974-9833) and we’ll do our best to get you a hotel room within the block. (How that is handled varies with the specific conference site.) But do come. The lineup of speakers is great, the exhibit floor will be bustling, and there will be a wealth of connections and conversations. See you there.

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.

Election Year

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

It’s everywhere. We are in the midst of an exciting and interesting election year. But, that means I must remind you to avoid any action that could give the impression that the American Library Association — rather than you as an individual private citizen — is engaging in “political speech” (“the support of or opposition to a candidate for public office”) or that ALA resources are being used for that purpose. ALA, because of its particular tax exempt status, is expressly, absolutely prohibited by the U.S. Internal Revenue Code from engaging in “political speech.”

What do I mean by that? “ALA resources” would include any use of ALA titles (like councilor, chair of…, president of...); ALA discussion lists, blogs or wikis (including those of ALA divisions, round tables and other groups that are part of ALA); stationery; publications or websites; headquarters or conference meeting rooms; or, staff time. And, what kinds of activities might be included in “political speech”? The law is broad — and the threshold for “political speech” is relatively low. “Political speech” includes activities such as soliciting or making campaign contributions, providing a forum for a candidate (in print or at a conference, for instance), expressing “support for or opposition to” a candidate or political party — even if that candidate is a librarian, even if that candidate is a member.

Finally, “political speech” happens within an election year — which starts January 1 of the year in which the election will be held. That’s why members often say to me, “but we had him/her speak just a few years ago.” True. Not this year, though.

The absolute prohibition on “political speech” by associations like ALA is serious — and the “zero tolerance” enforcement policy of the IRS has been upheld by the courts. It is important that the law be observed. It is also important, though, to understand that “political speech” is different from “lobbying,” which seeks to influence legislation or regulation. Even during an election year, ALA continues to lobby for legislation and regulation that will benefit libraries and the public. For instance, during recent months, you have received requests from the ALA Washington Office to contact legislators regarding appropriations, legislation in support of school libraries and other issues. There are regulations and limitations on lobbying by organizations like ALA, of course — and ALA works within the applicable laws.

Many ALA members may not be comfortable with these rules, may see them as infringements on their personal free speech. I understand that. ALA’s intent is not to limit what any individual may do personally in the public arena — but to be clear that the resources of an organization like ALA, an association tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, may not be used for that purpose. The consequence is revocation of tax exempt status. There are no “intermediate” or “warning” consequences.

Judith Krug, the long-time director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, points out that the law imposes many restrictions on speech — and these laws are one example. We — ALA staff and members — are required to comply with these laws until such time as Congress may choose to change them. In doing so, we protect the interests of the American Library Association and its members, present and future, and ALA’s ability to advocate aggressively on behalf of libraries and the public.

Want more details? Over the past several years, a number of background documents have been developed to guide ALA leaders and staff through a complex legal environment. Four such documents are available here (PDFs): ALA Legal Framework, Election Year Rules, Election Year Rules – Additional Notes, and Lobbying and ALA: Fact Sheet.

Still more? Call or email me. I may not know the answer — but I do know where and how to find out.

Electronic Mailing Lists

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Are you interested in joining one of ALA’s electronic mailing (or discussion) lists (more popularly referred to by the brand name LISTSERV®), but don’t know where to start? 

There are upwards of 150 such lists, some open to any subscriber and general in scope, others limited to a small group for the purposes of accomplishing a specific task.  Most ALA lists are run on the ALA servers and are listed on the ALA e-lists homepage.   For instructions about joining one of the lists, please visit the “lists” page of the ReadWriteConnect wiki at

The ReadWriteConnect wiki also has information on the other tools you can use for getting involved in ALA’s work electronically–blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, podcasts–and Second Life!

Note: there are a few lists that are not run from ALA servers; these will be referenced on the web pages published by the sponsoring groups or noted in their publications.


Annual Conference Housing

Friday, January 4th, 2008

The housing office for the Annual Conference at the end of June opened three days ago, at 10 a.m. on January 2, and already well over 3,500 housing reservations have been processed. There are also reports of “sold out” hotels. So, what gives?

Mary Ghikas, ALA Associate Executive Director, has prepared a conference Q & A, with housing just one of the sections (we’ll present the other portions in future posts). Here is the (slightly edited) information on conference housing:

How many rooms do we “block”? To accommodate “peak night” (Saturday-Sunday) demand, ALA typically requires 4,500 rooms for the ALA Midwinter Meeting and 8,500 rooms for the ALA Annual Conference. ALA requires fewer rooms on “shoulder” nights – Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday. Based on recent experience and hotel data, however, ALA Conference Services is currently re-evaluating (and likely increasing) the block on shoulder nights, particularly Thursday. This shift in pattern applies to both Annual Conference and the Midwinter Meeting.

10 years ago, the room block “curve” looked like this:

W    Th    F    SA    SU    M    T    W

10%    30%    90%    100%    100%    70%    30%    10%

The room block “curve” now looks like this:

W    Th    F    SA    SU    M    T    W

10%    65%    95%    100%    100%    65%    25%    8%

Is the block big enough? ALA, as with any organization planning a large conference, seeks to “block” or set aside only the number of rooms it believes will be reserved by conference participants through the official “housing bureau” or association-designated travel agent. This can be a complex decision because (a) members may share rooms, (b) groups of members sharing rooms may make individual reservations – then consolidate, and (c) exhibitors may need to reserve blocks of hotel rooms before they make booth staffing decisions.

Hotels – particularly the national chains – also maintain statistics on an association’s past volume of hotel room use (“pick up” in conference-speak). Hotels are generally unwilling to set aside a block of rooms for an association that is significantly larger than past “pick up.” Further, hotel contracts increasingly include “attrition” clauses – clauses that impose substantial financial penalties on associations for blocking rooms that are not subsequently used by its members and exhibitors. Attrition represents a serious potential liability, so we try hard to get it right–enough rooms for all–but not too many left over.

As demand meets the pre-set block, ALA Conference Services negotiates with the hotel for additional rooms, at the same negotiated rate as the original “block.” This is – and has been for many years – a standard practice, but it is more visible now that registration takes place on the web–with real time response, not through the mail, where the adjustments could be made before confirmation. It is made more complex when you consider that the “block” is a different size on different nights, based on past attendance patterns, as noted above. So, for instance, a member may want to get into Hotel X starting Friday and leaving on Tuesday. There may be space in the block Friday through Monday, but Tuesday may be sold out. ALA will go back to the hotel and try to secure additional space on Tuesday night. In many – but not all – cases, that will be possible. In the meantime, that registration will be “waitlisted,” since the housing bureau cannot confirm all nights requested.

This common “block and keep negotiating” pattern is complicated when an association – like ALA – tends to have a “rush” at the opening of housing. For that reason, many associations – including some of our sister library associations – have begun requiring members and other attendees to register for the conference before reserving hotel rooms. ===>>>Note: ALA will begin that practice with the 2009 Midwinter Meeting.

There are some things you can do. First, be patient. As noted, most waitlisted reservations are resolved. Second, if you’re sharing a room, make only one reservation. In ALA’s case, up to 20% of the rooms reserved are canceled before the conference opens. For instance, two people may both send in reservations, then one person cancels and they share the room in the “preferred” hotel; in the meantime, another member may have been “waitlisted” – causing that member unnecessary anxiety. So, if you have roommates, be kind to your fellow members and make just one single reservation.


What’s a BARC?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Find out in today’s episode of “ALA in Focus” from AL Focus, the video arm of American Libraries magazine.

Check out Rod’s announcement at 7 minutes in! Learn more about BARC on the ALA website.

Happy 131st birthday, ALA!

Monday, October 8th, 2007

On October 6, 2007, the American Library Association turned 131-years-old (and doesn’t look a day over 60)!

ALA was founded on October 6, 1876, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by Thomas W. Bicknell, C. A. Cutter, Melvil Dewey (or do you say “Melvil Dui”), Samuel S. Green, Fred B. Perkins, James L. Whitney, and Justin Winsor (see the Charter of 1879).

As noted in the “American Library Association” entry by Grace T. Stevenson in the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (Volume 1, page 267; 1968), a resolution was adopted on October 6, 1876, that read:

For the purpose of promoting the library interests of the country, and increasing reciprocity of intelligence and good will among librarians and all interested in library economy and bibliographical studies, the undersigned formed themselves into a body to be known as the “American Library Association.”

Read more about ALA at the ALA FAQ page. See the detailed ALA History prepared by ALA Librarian Karen Muller for the ALA Professional Tips Wiki.

What would you give ALA as a present, if you could? Feel free to be creative!

Travel grants for attending Annual Conference

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

It’s not too early to start thinking about next year’s Annual Conference–especially if you’re seeking some travel assistanceThousands of dollars in travel awards are available to ALA members (and interested professionals) through the generosity of vendors and other benefactors. For the most part, the deadline for applying for these travel grants is December 1, 2007. While it seems early, acting now can mean a free ticket, registration and even a per-diem. Check out the requirements for these grants … and apply! Or, if you are a supervisor and you know your travel funds won’t go as far as you’d like, nominate someone! (All URLs were checked prior to posting.)

EBSCO Sponsorship
This annual award consisting of $1,000 for actual reimbursed expenses is designed to allow librarians to attend the ALA’s Annual Conference. Requires writing an essay. Donated by EBSCO Subscription Services. Deadline: December 1st.

Penguin Young Readers Group Award
These awards, made possible by an annual gift from the Penguin Young Readers Group, are administered by a committee of the ALSC. They enable four children’s librarians to attend the ALA’s Annual Conference. Four librarians working directly with children in elementary, middle schools or public libraries will each receive $600. Deadline: December 3, 2007.

Thomson Financial Student Travel Award (BRASS)
$1,000 cash award given to a student enrolled in an ALA accredited master’s degree program to attend the ALA Annual Conference and a one-year membership in the Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA). The applicant should have demonstrated interest in a career as a business reference librarian, the award is administered by RUSA. Deadline: December 1.

Dun & Bradstreet Public Librarian Support Award
Annual award of $1,000 to support the attendance at Annual Conference of a public librarian who has performed outstanding business reference service and who requires financial assistance to attend the ALA Annual Conference, presented by the Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA). Deadline: December 1.

SAGE Support Staff Travel Grant
Library Support Staff Travel Grants (six to be awarded) make it possible for library support staff to attend the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference. The travel grants cover the expense of attending the conference, including airfare, three nights’ lodging, and conference registration; up to $1,000 for each recipient. Deadline: December 1.

First Step Award
A Wiley Professional Development GrantThis Wiley Professional Development Grant is intended to provide librarians new to the serials field with the opportunity to broaden their perspective and to encourage professional development in ALA Conference and participation in Serials Section activities. The $1,500, donated by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., cash award is applicable toward round trip transportation, lodging, registration fees, etc. Eligible applicants may apply more than once. Deadline: December 1.

The Demco New Leaders Travel Grant
The purpose of these grants is to enhance the professional development and improve the expertise of public librarians new to the field by making possible their attendance at major professional development activities.This grant has been established to enable PLA Members new to the profession and who have not had the opportunity to attend a major PLA Continuing Education Event in the last five years to do so.Eligible events include PLA Preconferences, held in conjunction with ALA Annual Conferences. A travel grant of up to $1,500 per applicant for a total not to exceed $5,000 per year and a plaque. Deadline: December 3, 2007; online submission.

3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant Application
The purpose of the 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant is to encourage professional development and participation by new ALA members in national ALA and New Members Round Table activities. Applicants must be personal ALA/NMRT members who are working within the territorial United States. The grant will help finance attendance at the ALA Annual Conference and covers round trip airfare, lodging, conference registration fees and some incidental expenses. Deadline: December 15, 2007.

AASL Frances Henne Award
Sponsored by Greenwood Publishing Group, the $1,250 award recognizes a school library media specialist with five years or less experience who demonstrates leadership qualities with students, teachers and administrators, to attend an AASL conference or ALA Annual Conference for the first time. Applicants must be AASL personal members. The application deadline is February 1, 2008; mailed applications only.

ACRL/DLS Haworth Press Distance Learning Librarian Conference Sponsorship Award
This conference sponsorship award honors any individual ACRL member working in the field of, or contributing to the success of distance learning librarianship or related library service in higher education. An Award of $1,200 to help defray the costs of travel to and participation in the ALA Annual Meeting and a citation plaque sponsored by Haworth Press is offered. Application deadline is Dec. 7, 2007.

FAFLRT Adelaide del Frate Conference Sponsorship Award
The Conference Sponsorship Award is given to a library school student who has an interest in working in a Federal Library. The student will receive an award of $1,000 for annual conference registration fee, transportation, and other expenses related to attendance at the next ALA Annual Meeting. Deadline: April (? – website not updated)

ALTA/GALE Outstanding Trustee Conference Grant
The ALTA/Gale Outstanding Trustee Conference Grant enables public library trustees to attend the ALA Annual Conference. A grant of $750 each is warded annually to two public library trustees who have demonstrated qualitative interests and efforts in supportive service of the local public library. Contact ALTA office for deadlines.

Baker and Taylor/YALSA Conference Grants
This grant is funded by the Baker and Taylor Company. The two grants of $1,000 each are awarded to librarians who work directly with young adults in a public or school library to enable them to attend the Annual Conference for the first time. Applications must be received in the YALSA office by December 1.

Diana V. Braddom FRFDS Scholarship
The goals of the scholarship program are to offer librarians and/or staff members from all types of libraries an opportunity to learn new fundraising skills enabling them to increase funding to their libraries from public, private and corporate sources. Scholarship amount will be a $1,000 stipend towards attending the LAMA Fundraising and Financial Development Section programs at the annual ALA conference. Requires essay; deadline: December 1.

LAMA/YBP Student Writing and Development Award
The LAMA/YBP Student Writing and Development Award is given to honor the best article on a topic in the area of library administration and management written by a student enrolled in a library and information studies graduate program. The purpose of this award is to enhance the professional development of students of library and information studies through publication of the winning article in Library Administration & Management, the LAMA magazine, and enabling the award recipient to attend the ALA Annual Conference. The winning article will be published in the fall issue of Library Administration & Management. The award recipient will also receive a travel grant of up to $1,000, funded by YBP, Inc., to be used to attend the ALA Annual Conference, where he/she will be recognized at the LAMA President’s Program, the first meeting of the LAMA Board of Directors, and have the opportunity to attend other conference programs. Deadline for submitting 4-6,000 word paper is March 1.–Karen and John

“… and a bazillion and two acronyms …”

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Not there yet. Whew!

Some of you may have seen the AL Focus video Wheel of Confusion 1 or played the game at the membership pavilion at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

For years we’ve published the list of acronyms used in the conference program in the program book itself. With the beginning of the conference wikis, Meredith Farkas converted the list to a wiki page, now continued on the ProfessionalTips wiki. In scanning through the list, it does look like any part of the Association has its name quickly turned into an acronym–preferably one we can pronounce.