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ALIA election postscript

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.

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And they’re up and running

I’m so pleased that, for the second year running, we have an actual election to determine who will be on the ALIA Board of Directors. I’m pleased because it was both a personal and a professional goal. I want to see elections happen because I think that a competitive process leads to better directors; as a current director of ALIA, competitive elections are one of  the performance measures of our strategic plan. So, win!

First, a big thank you to all the nominees. Regardless of who wins, these are all individuals who are willing to donate large chunks of their time to making our professional association better. There are lots of people out there who just talk about what ALIA should be doing – these are the people who are willing to try and do it and then be held accountable for it. Congratulations to Damian Lodge and John Shipp, our next two presidents – being an ALIA president is a big job, and we’re lucky to have such dedicated members.

As a current ALIA director, I have to be really careful about saying anything that could be interpreted as favouring one candidate over another – not because ALIA told me them’s the rules, but because I’ll need to work with whoever is elected. If I indicated that person x was my favourite, and they don’t get elected, that makes it harder for me to work with person y who did get elected. So, if you’re looking to me for guidance on who to vote for, please don’t.

However I will encourage you to contact the candidates directly. The ALIA member survey last  year told us that, of those who did not vote in the board election, most of them said they didn’t vote because they didn’t know anything about the candidates. Well, you do now. There’s information there and all of them can be contacted directly. I have my fingers crossed that certain people and groups might approach these candidates with questions (I’m looking at you Hugh, ALIA Sydney and NGG), but don’t just rely on them. Contact these people yourself! Give them a chance to impress you.

Finally, and this is just the first of many times you’ll hear this from me over the next few months: VOTE! (not yet – voting’s not open yet. But plan to vote, okay? Thanks.)

My First IFLA WLIC

In August I went to my first IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC), which was a pretty interesting experience. I’m still very much digesting all the information I took in while there, but I wanted to write a reflection before it travelled too far into the past. I tweeted like made during the event, and Storified the whole thing at http://storify.com/alysondalby/my-first-ifla-wlic.

A quick beginner’s guide to the IFLA WLIC might be in order (and thanks to @katecbyrne for her help with understanding this). IFLA is like the international version of ALIA – kind of. There are some important ways in which IFLA and ALIA differ, and I’ll get to that. Their WLIC is run in a different city every year. Most of the time it’s held in places that are prohibitively expensive and time consuming for Australians to get to; the fact that it was being held in Singapore this year was probably the thing that made me determined to go.

The WLIC is like a giant cake (stick with me, this’ll work out, I promise). There are two layers of cake: one layer is a normal conference with speakers and exhibitors and poster sessions. The other layer is an event that comprises all the IFLA committee meetings. The cream in between is, um, let’s say the networking that one does while travelling from one layer to the other. And then the icing is made up of the satellite events. The thing is that when you take a slice of the cake you get all of those things at once. They all happen at the same time. So it’s a bit confusing.

IFLA, like ALIA, has lots of members that comprise the various committees that represent regions, sectors, and special interests. There’s like a gazillion committees when you add them all up, and each one has one or two meetings at the WLIC. To fit all this into one week there’s usually about six things happening at the same time. Most of these meetings are open, and they welcome observers. So even a novice like me, who until half way through the conference wasn’t even a member of IFLA, can just walk in to these meetings and find out what that particular caucus/section/special interest group does.

To be honest I found that was where a surprisingly large chunk of the value of the WLIC was, partly because it’s different from what you get at other conferences (at least in Australia). One of the other differences between IFLA and ALIA is that IFLA is the Federation of Library Associations – as in, most of it’s members are organisations (although IFLA does have individual members as well). ALIA is a member of IFLA. One of the most interesting meetings I went to was the Management of Library Associations Section (MLAS), which is where all the people who are in charge of library associations around the world get together and talk about what they want IFLA to be doing on an international level. In the meeting was a mix of staff and directors of various associations; being on the board of ALIA made this particularly relevant for me (as well as being quite the networking opportunity!).

The other layer of the cake, the bit that tasted like a normal conference, was, like any other conference, variable. Some bits were great and some bits were a bit crap, but that’s to be expected. The program works on a very distributed model – each of the aforementioned committees gets time allocated in the program to fill with whatever and whoever they want, essentially. There are some plenary sessions as well. I won’t write about every session I went to, and my Twitter feed recorded my impressions of the event in some detail, but there were some stand outs worth mentioning:

  • The opening session was a bundle of fun, with lots of music and drumming, and a  huge Chinese dragon made of reused water bottles covered in neon lights, winding it’s way around the hall. It was lively and really gave a sense of occasion. However I was fairly conflicted listening to the speech by Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large Professor Chan Heng Chee, where she romanticised the personal, print, wooden library, and described libraries as ‘sacred spaces’. I don’t feel that this kind of characterisation is helpful, as sacred things are very hard to change. A library shouldn’t be sacred. It should be used.
  • The FAIFE (Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression) conference session was probably the best chunk of sessions I attended. It included Barbara Jones from the American Library Association talking about the Snowden affair, and articulating why ALA needs to focus on the quality of the laws underpinning these and similar cases, rather than the individuals involved; Singaporean activist blogger bravely Alex Au talking about Singapore’s culture  of self-censorship; and Stuart Hamilton from IFLA talking about our personal responsibilities around campaigning for libraries as safe places. It was one of those sessions one comes away from feeling inspired.
  • The Copyright and Other Legal Matters committee had a session on international agreements, that included two excellent presentations. Harald Mueller took us through some recent court cases in intellectual property and their implications for libraries, which led to his fabulous conclusion that the best way to get some decent laws made in this area would be for librarians to start some court cases themselves. Then the wonderful Ellen Broad fed into my inner conspiracy theorist when she talked about the TPP and TTIP, two trade agreements currently being negotiated that are likely to heavily affect intellectual property and copyright laws that we rely on to do our jobs. Ellen has the power to make one really, really care about copyright law.

Cake is cake, and cake is good, but cake is great with icing. And so I can’t neglect to mention IFLAcamp2, which was the satellite unconference that I went to before the WLIC proper. Like all unconferences it was characterised by mildly controlled chaos, but in the good way. There were about 35 people there, and a very mixed bunch – new grads, big wigs, educators, vendors, students, what have you. The event was organised by the IFLA New Professionals Special Interest Group (the catchy NPSIG). We talked about all kinds of things, including international librarianship, professional development, leadership, library associations, informal learning networks, and the future of libraries. Some notes were taken and uploaded at http://npsig.wordpress.com/iflacamp2/schedule/. While this was all great, I think the most valuable part of IFLAcamp2 for me was a chance to meet and get to know some people before being thrown into the chaos of the full WLIC. It gave me connections to people that I then continued to bump into over the next week.

I would love to go to the IFLA WLIC again, but it would depend a lot on accessibility and relevance. It was interesting, but there’s no shortage of cool overseas conferences. The international nature of the WLIC is probably it’s selling point, and it was wonderful meeting people from really and truly all over the world. But given the time and cost involved in going when it’s on the other side of the world, it’s possibly of more value to people who are actually involved in the work of IFLA. If you are interested in becoming one of those people, which I am, then attending the WLIC is the best orientation session possible.

p.s. IFLA recently launched the IFLA Library, an online repository of their conference and other papers. You can find lots of the 2013 WLIC conference papers in there, and there’s lots of good reading to be had!

I’d like to thank the academy

I’ve been elected to the ALIA Board! Which I’m probably excited about beyond all reason, given the lack of actual glamour involved in the role, but apathy is not my natural state. So I’ll say this – I’m excited, and happy, and optimistic.

Thank you to everyone who voted, even if you didn’t vote for me. There aren’t any voting stats available yet, but if they are released I plan on mining them for what they can tell me about the engagement level of ALIA members in their election. The Board of Directors represents members, so I hope those that didn’t vote are happy with the choice that the rest of us made on their behalf.

Of course an extra thank you goes to those people who voted for me – I hope to repay your faith in me. I’d like to highlight the contribution to the campaign made by everyone who tweeted, retweeted, liked, commented and blogged – especially the efforts of Hugh Rundle and the ALIA Sydney group. Thank you for making an effort, and for getting us talking. As far as I’m aware this is the first ALIA election campaign that really involved social media, which might say more about the history of ALIA elections (or lack thereof).

ALIA Sydney asked me what I wanted to achieve if I’m elected to the Board. This is what I said:

I’d like to ensure that ALIA continues to maintain financial sustainability – without this we have nothing. I’d like to see a reduction in members failing to renew their membership. I’d like to see professional development events in every capital city, and I’d like to see rural and regional members participating in online events. Finally, I’d like to use this blog to continue writing about the Board, so that members get a sense of what being on the Board involves, and are attracted to it, so that next year we have an equally strong interest in nominating.

Please hold me accountable. If you want me or the Board to hear something, speak up. I’ll share everything I can (within confidentiality guidelines, of course) and I’ll tell you about the experience of being on the Board in the hopes of inspiring some of you to nominate next year.

My point, and I do have one, is thank you.

Fantasy electioneering

For my final ALIA Board of Directors election post, I’d like to answer the ‘question’ that @RogueXiphium asked me: “I’d like 3 day weekends please. And a pack of neverending TimTams. Delivered by the Old Spice Guy. On a unicorn.”

Well, Rogue my dear, this shouldn’t be too hard. Here’s my plan to make this happen.

First up, you could apply for a position as one of ALIA’s State/Territory Managers – it’s only 30 hours a month, and those hours are flexible, so three day weekends are yours! It’s also a really fun job – I did it myself for a bit and loved it. I can’t speak for whether or not it’ll give you enough income to pay the bills, but that wasn’t on your list.

Next up, Tim Tams. According to ALIA’s annual report from 2011, the ALIA House building in Canberra is worth $1,296,738. There’s probably been a change since then, but let’s pretend not. Woolies are currently selling Tim Tams for $2.50 a packet, and according to the interwebs there are 11 biscuits in a packet. So  if we sell ALIA House, we could buy 5,705,647 Tim Tams – around 5.7 million Tim Tams. It’s not neverending, but it’s a pretty big pile, and I’m not sure you’d ever reach the end of it, so it’s kinda the same thing.

I’m going to tackle the unicorn next. But I’m a bit surprised – Rogue, c’mon, if you don’t know where to find yourself a unicorn, what kind of derby girl are you?

So we have a giant pile of Tim Tams, and several unicorns. I believe that this is the appropriate bait to catch an Old Spice Guy, and I cannot help but think that a quick DM with proof of the existence of both of the above would entice him your (our?) way.

Done! Anything else, while I’m at it?

Vote! Vote! Vote!

Have you voted yet for the ALIA Board of Directors?

We’re on the home stretch now, one week until ballots close. If you’re doing a postal vote, please fill it in and post it back today, so your vote will be counted. It’s Easter this weekend – please get your ballot in the mail before the long weekend.

If you’re doing an online vote, you’ve got a bit more time, but c’mon, it’s the super-long weekend, we all have better things to be doing. Don’t leave it to the weekend – vote now!

Still not sure who to vote for? Hugh Rundle and the ALIA Sydney group both sent a bunch of questions to the candidates, which I was really pleased about. I’ve used this blog to answer any and all questions that have been sent to me, but if  you’ve got any more you can still contact me here or on Twitter.

Vote!

Have you received your ALIA election ballot?

In case you haven’t heard, there’s an election open for the ALIA Board of Directors! Yes, you are lucky I told you – you’re welcome.

I wrote a post on this blog when the ballots opened about how you can expect to receive voting information and what to do if you haven’t gotten it yet. With only a week and a half left until voting closes, I’d like to revisit this. Please follow the instructions below.

  1. Have you voted?
    • Yes – great, good on you, thank you.
    • No  – go to next question.
  2. Why haven’t you voted?
    • I don’t know who to vote for  – that’s easy, vote for me! Or see Hugh Rundle’s blog or the ALIA Sydney blog for more candidate information.
    • I don’t care – then vote for me! Or, whatever. You should care, but if you’re reading this and you still don’t care, um, why are you reading this?
    • I didn’t receive any information about voting – go to next question.
  3. Have you checked your email lately? Did you receive an email from the Australian Electoral Company? Did it go into your spam folder?
    • Oh, yes, there it is. I’ll just go and vote online then  – great, problem solved.
    • Nope, nothing – go to next question.
  4. Have you checked your mailbox for a letter from the Australian Electoral Company?
    • Oh, yes, there it is. I’ll just fill out the ballot and return it then – great, problem solved.
    • Nope, nothing – go to next question.
  5. Please call the Australian Electoral Company on 1800 224 420 or email them on help@austelect.com. It’s not too late for them to send you a ballot form.

Remember, to make your vote for Director valid you must number at least two of the boxes, and to vote for Vice President (President Elect) you must number both boxes.

Vote!