By time you’re reading this voting will have closed for the ALIA Board election – I hope you voted. The good news is that there’s double the chance that you did – or rather, the election received more than double the votes from last year (and my information is over a week old). While my ego is bruised that it wasn’t my name on the ballot that generated such a great response, I’m super pleased at the number of votes. A big thank you to all the people that contributed to getting the word out about the election, including the ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee, Hugh Rundle, and the candidates themselves.
I’ve been fairly silent throughout the election, for two reasons. The first is that I’ve just been crazy busy, with work and with the International Librarians Network (which is going great guns, by the way. You should join), and maintaining my own blog keeps falling down the priority list. The second reason was conservatism – I’m going to have to work with whoever gets elected, so I was wary of writing something that inadvertently looked like an endorsement of one candidate over another. Don’t get me wrong – I voted, and felt strongly about my vote. But I’m not going to tell you who I voted for.
What I wanted to say, and what I’ll say now, is that some of the questions asked of the candidates were really good. And not just for candidates. I kinda wanted to answer them myself. After all, while I’ve already been elected to the board, I’m still meant to be representing ALIA members, and they have a right to know, or at least ask, how I would respond. So I’m going to respond here.
(A quick note before I get into the meat of this. As an ALIA director, anyone can ask me questions at any time. I may not be able to answer them, but please don’t ever feel like you don’t have a right to ask them. I may not respond on my blog, depending on the nature of the question, but that shouldn’t stop you asking.)
What do you plan to do to make ALIA membership more attractive to library and information professionals?
I’ve been on the board for almost a year now, and I’ve got to say that our membership numbers are my biggest concern.
There’s an argument that we should expect our membership numbers to go down, because our industry is shrinking. I can see the logic in that, but I’m not entirely sold on it. And I don’t believe that our current membership represents the highest percentage that we can hope for.
This time last year I believed that an individual’s decision to join ALIA was based on two aspects: the big picture and the little picture. The big picture is the advocacy work that ALIA does, and the little picture is the direct experience of that individual, strongly determined by things like whether there are good quality, local events for them to attend. I thought it was probably an even split between big and little picture.
I’ve had to rethink that. Our member survey last year tells me that ALIA’s doing a great job with advocacy – yet our member numbers are going down. I still think that advocacy is important to members, but maybe it’s only 25% of their decision to join or remain members.
But I can’t get away from feeling that if you have frequent, good quality, affordable events near you (or online) that help you increase your professional knowledge and your professional network, that ALIA membership would look like a good deal. And, in most cases, I don’t think we’ve got that happening – my reading of the results of our member survey supports these conclusions. In the next year I’m going to push this idea, and see what can be done to make this more achievable. I’m being fairly selfish here – I’m an ALIA member, and I want these events!
What I’m not convinced of is that if we lower membership fees we’ll get more members. I don’t think lowering fees increases value, especially if, if we do lower fees, we’re going to have to stop doing some of the things we do. If we do chose to stop doing some of the things we do, I’d prefer to see that money put into supporting more events and making ALIA membership better value.
What will you do as a board member to ensure that progress is made on the establishment of professional standards that may lead to practitioner registration, including standards for proof of appropriate continuing professional development? Do you support a move to make the ALIA PD scheme compulsory for membership, as a step towards a practitioner register?
Yes. Yes I do.
I believe that all ALIA members should be able to demonstrate ongoing professional development, and that by rocking up to a job interview and saying “I’m a member of ALIA” what you’re telling the interviewer is that you have kept your knowledge up to date and that you’re aware of industry developments.
The problem is that the current PD scheme isn’t strong enough yet. As I said above, I want more and better PD opportunities, so that meeting the requirements of the PD scheme becomes a no-brainer (granted, for ALIA board members it’s pretty easy, we get bonus points).
There are two ways we could approach this. We could make the PD scheme compulsory now, and hope that this forces PD opportunities to catch up, and quickly. Or we could focus on improving the suite of PD and the recording mechanism, so it’s more attractive to be a part – once we have a majority of ALIA members enroled in the scheme, it hopefully reaches a tipping point and we can look at making it compulsory.
I had this discussion on Twitter a while ago, and while I know some people prefer the first method, I prefer the second. One of the reasons I prefer the second is that every step gives a benefit – whereas the first method has some pain before we get the benefit (making PD compulsory now would result in at the very least a temporary reduction in membership numbers). I’m as impatient as the next person (more so – ask my friends), but I don’t think that not having compulsory PD now is a good reason not to be in the PD scheme. If you believe in compulsory PD, join the scheme and help us get there.
The answer to the first question of what I will do to ensure progress is made towards standards and registration? I’ll support PD events, the PD scheme, and ALIA’s current work in developing standards. A couple of months ago the board (including me!) voted to fund research into developing VET library standards. This is how these things happen – in small steps.
One more question before this blog post gets ridiculously long:
How can ALIA better engage with other library and information organisations such as ASLA, RIMPA and ASA?
In the last few years ALIA has been quite active in establishing memoranda of understanding with various associations with which we share an agenda. I think this is a good approach because it ensures that we work with these bodies – the MOUs usually involve clauses around acting together on issues of common interest.
You may not have known about these MOUs because they were not publicly available. At a recent board meeting I argued (and voted) for making these as available as possible, subject to confidentiality clauses. I felt that it was important for members to know what we’re doing on their behalf, and for non-members to see the benefits of being a member – in some cases these MOUs allow for access to training from other associations at their member rates (cool, huh?!). I by no means wish to suggest that I was the only one taking this stand, and you’ll be pleased to hear that the motion was passed by the board. The details aren’t on the ALIA website yet, but they will be.
That’s all the questions I’m going to address now, because it’s a rainy Sunday and there’s an armchair, book, and a pot of tea calling to me. (FYI I’m reading this at the moment. It is shocking, heartbreaking, and stunningly well written.) You’ll notice that some of my responses are different to those of some of the candidates – this is a good thing. We can have different views on the board, and hopefully we’ll be able to debate topics and expand each others’ understanding, and reach better decisions as a result. My mind can be changed on any and every point above, if a good enough argument is presented.
I haven’t answered all the questions because I’m not sure I can, but as I said above, this isn’t a one-time opportunity. Is there a question you’d like me to answer? Just contact me on Twitter or through ALIA – my details are printed in the front of every issue of Incite.