The Smart ALA Mob

ALA president-elect Leslie Burger (or “LB,” as I’d call her if I worked with her…which I don’t) has written in her blog about making the ALA more useful and relevant to librarians of the present and future. She also doesn’t think she has any answers (which is refreshing to see in a president-elect), but she raises some good questions to gnaw on. I made a comment in her blog, but that was only the tip of the iceberg in my head. Here’s some more of that particular chunk of ice.

I think a librarian community is a great idea. But just as we’ve learned that a network of computers works better than one big computer, I think we’re also learning that a network of smaller groups can work better than one big group. I’m wondering in what ways we could smart mob the ALA. There are already a whole host of librarian blogs (um…duh) and listservs and some library-oriented wikis. What about internet forums (or is it fora? or fauna?) devoted to librarians, where librarians could have discussions (more than commenting on and linking to blog posts) and share information. In the tabletop RPG world, there are a bunch of these places, and I’ve actively participated in two of them. They were a great way to meet likeminded people, make friends and learn new things. (I’ve also had to deal with some major lunkheads and gotten in some massively petty dustups. But doesn’t that go with the social interaction territory?)

But, y’know, online interaction is fun and exciting, no doubt about it. For me, though, it doesn’t beat the face-to-face. I’d love to have organized and spontaneous gatherings of librarians, at coffeeshops, at diners, at bars, at someone’s house, at public parks, at…hey, at libraries! Again, let’s be a smart mob of librarians. I’ve got a cell phone, I’ve got email, I’ve got a mailbox. Get a hold of me, let’s chat, let’s meet, let’s grab some other librarians and brainstorm the future of libraries!

Now, I know for a fact that there are small libraries where the staff don’t have the resources to go to ALA conferences, nor do they have the resources to participate in online communities. We can’t leave them out, though, in building a network of librarians. I think we librarians have a two-fold responsibility: to connect our patrons to information is the obvious one, but I believe we also have a responsibility to connect our fellow librarians to information. What can we do to keep these librarians in the network? Librarian ‘zines? Newsletters? Or why not take it on the road? Groups of librarians could descend on smaller libraries to spread the librarian word, engage in conversations and exchange ideas. The Librarian Road Show! The Bibliocarnival Circuit!

If anyone wants to chat online or meet me for coffee, you know where to find me.

Over in an Instant

I just took Michael Stephen’s survery on IM use in libraries, and now I’m a bit glum.

My library doesn’t use IM at all, except through the KANanswer program that we, as a Kansas library, participate in. I can’t IM coworkers, I can’t IM other library professionals, I can’t IM patrons except as an anonymous KANanswer reference librarian. It’s a bit frustrating. Reading other librarians talking about IMing each other…I feel left out.