ALIA’s volume control
As part of my campaign for a position on the ALIA Board of Directors, @HughRundle asked me “How do you think ALIA can have a bigger voice in (inter)national conversations about information access and tech?”
I gave a simple answer at the time: partnerships. And that’s pretty much my answer.
Let’s face it – ALIA isn’t really known to many people outside of Libraryland, and there are plenty within Libraryland who’ve never heard of ALIA either. On it’s lonesome, ALIA doesn’t have a very loud voice.
I can see ALIA doing better with it’s ‘volume’. Over the last few months the media campaigns that they’ve been involved in have been stratgic and catchy. I loved the Dumb Idea campaign because it was not only striking (which helps with media attention), but it linked to the idea of libraries as intellectual powerhouses.
But I think the best thing ALIA’s done in this space is the work around internet filtering and the Safer Internet Group. This is a great example of an issue that is one of our core professional values – freedom of access to information – but one that the general public doesn’t normally associate with librarians. No one was going to come to us (i.e. ALIA) for our opinion on this – ALIA had to grab the attention. So instead of just banging on about how librarians are against internet filtering, ALIA partnered with other groups that shared the same value. That meant internet content providers, internet access providers, and organisations representing people who are trying to protect children in the most effective way.
This is how I think ALIA should keep doing things. ALIA has a policy on international relations that says ‘The Association should promote and pursue collaboration with library and information organisations throughout the world to ensure equity of access to information worldwide and to highlight the key role of library and information services and practitioners.’ Note the use of the word ‘collaboration’.
When advocacy opportunities arise, one of the first considerations should be ‘Who else does this affect, and can we partner with them?’ Partnerships increase the volume and get the issues in front of a wider and sometimes more disparate group of people. When that happens, our concerns stop being niche and start being mainstream. Which can only be good for our reputation and our impact.