You Bet ALA is Not Your Mom

Abby (the) Librarian has a fabulous post in response to one over at Dances with Books that smokes on one particular point. I am with Abby on this one.

It is fashionable to beat ALA over the head with it's unresponsiveness; it's out-of-touchiness; the expense and "who does it really help?" trope. Abby gets right to the point...it's us kids, it's us. We are it; it is us. ALA is not mom, dad or butler. It is exactly what each of us is willing to put in to support libraries.

I've been an ALA member for over twenty years...and up until two years ago, all on my own library-salary dime. I joined long ago at the urging of mentors like Jane Botham and Ginny Moore Kruse - they encouraged me to become part of an organization that can make a difference for libraries. I started a savings account line to send myself to conferences and roomed with as many people as I could to keep costs down. With the help of colleagues like Christine Jenkins and Ruth Gordon, I learned to navigate ALSC committee work and contributed collaboratively in many ways over the years.

What have I gotten? Honed leadership skills, life-long friends and colleagues, a chance to improve librarianship for kids and libraries that work with kids. What else beyond the stuff at my fingertips has ALA provided? Just unerring championship of intellectual freedom and shining the spotlight on censorship so we face fewer of these battles (and when we do we have amazing resources to bring to bear); just incredible national lobbying efforts that have helped all types of libraries in countless ways; just efforts to keep libraries in the forefront of the news in a positive way; just financial muscle to provide Spectrum Scholarships to support diversity in our profession; just a huge umbrella to support all types of libraries. I could go on, but you get the drift.

Although I have been primarily active in ALSC, many of my youth colleagues have gone on to leadership and committee work within the larger ALA and have made change happen. It is all in what we each put in.

ALA is what we make of it. Many of the library groups I belong to give me camaraderie, support, and fun (Library Society of the World and Women Library Workers are just two), but none provide the level of support to libraries that ALA does. And I think it is because of the many people who get active and work hard to make change happen.

It's OK if this still doesn't convince you to stay a member, join or become more active. But before you start trashing', get in there, get your hands dirty and try to make a difference.


At the ALSC Institute

Here I am in lovely Atlanta Georgia with about, oh, 250-300 librarians from around the country (but mostly from surrounding southern states), soaking up information, listening to authors and meeting and networking with each other. Wow!

ALSC hosts a regional institute every two years somewhere around the country where ALA conferences seldom if ever meet: Salt Lake City; Minneapolis; here in Atlanta. It gives members from this region a chance to enjoy top-rate programming and mingling with folks from around the country. We have a plethora of programs: Digital Natives; Transforming Gamers to Readers; Creating Diversity in Collections; Creative Partnerships; Collection Development and a chance to listen to book creators talk about their work and the future of the book and print in a rapidly changing technological environment.

For me, it is like a balm. So much of my time at conferences is involved in behind-the-scenes committee work, that I seldom get to just absorb and learn. The programs here have been excellent and thought-provoking. My batteries are re-charged and I am learning lots from conversations at meals and in the hallways to take home and try.

If you start saving pennies now, you will be ready to join the next Institute crowd in two years in Indianapolis (I think). I am going to do the same. By that time, I'll be ready for another energy re-charge. I hope you can join me there!


"@^#^$^#&&$....I Mean, What the Deuce?!?!"

Kiera Parrott has a hilarious post over at the ALSC blog about one of the hidden perils of children's librarianship - keeping language squeaky clean while working around kids.  Any one who spends time in children's departments, schools, provider situations and places that children frequent know that even "mild is wild" can be the order of the day when going about daily work. Parents, co-workers and kids themselves can be taken aback by meekly disguised expletives ("Fiddlesticks"; "Rats" etc).  When something stronger rips...aieeee!

It's great when one never picked up the language of the street in one's home life.  However, even the sweetest person is sometimes pressed to the extreme: the gerbil gripping, vise-like, on a finger while cleaning the cage; the bat that comes swooping in; the trip that resounds with the crack of a bone and sharp pain following - you know the stuff that might pop out. 

What has amazed me over time, though, is how truly, remarkably creative and imaginative children's folks are.  Even in the midst of shocking surprise or pain, the things that pop out are almost always appropriately mild.  Perhaps we need to include this more often on our resumes...always language appropriate around kids and families!

Image: 'secret santa gift - woot!'  www.flickr.com/photos/33580370@N02/4208793639