The ALA doesn’t want me to spend a couple of weeks socializing with my librarian friends from across the country, and they’re doing everything they can to prevent it.
All during ALA, I was hearing the portents of doom. It seems next year they’re planning to shorten that Annual Conference by a day, supposedly to tempt people to run for ALA Council by saying they don’t have to spend an entire week listening to dull speakers at Council meetings. They’ll only have to spend 6 days! Good luck with that.
Or there are those people who can’t come anymore because their funding has been cut because, you know, we’re in an economic crisis. Personally I think that’s just an excuse from people who didn’t want to come to Conference in the first place. Many of those people have long wanted to become "virtual" members of ALA committees, and the ALA was all excited about it until they discovered the definition of "virtual member" was "member who doesn’t do any real work."
Then there are those "young people" who don’t do things like join organizations or go to conferences. They’re too hip for all that, and they’d rather have "virtual" conferences. I don’t know how true this is. When I walk around the convention, there seem to be a lot of young people, at least people younger than me and I’m not exactly ancient yet. Still, I can see where this might concern the ALA. They probably have access to demographic data stating the average age of ALA members is 72 or something like that. It wouldn’t surprise me. I see the younger librarians walking around on the convention floor, while the older librarians are probably wheeling their oxygen carts into ALA Council meetings.
Then there are supposedly vendor complaints. Apparently, few librarians go talk to vendors, even though they go to all the trouble to pay for booths and haul all their crap to the conference, plus host a lot of receptions and luncheons and dinners and awards and buses and stuff like that. So the vendors sit on the convention floor drinking coffee and trying to sell each other library furniture and book tape. One can see the vendor’s point on this. Most of the time it’s pointless to talk to the vendors anyway. If it’s just information you want, you can find it online, and if it’s a problem you need solved or a question you need answered it’s almost guaranteed that the rep you need to talk to just went to lunch, even though it’s 10a.m., and the person you’re talking to started at Big Library Database Corporation three weeks ago and is really still just learning the ropes.
Then there’s the "green" excuse. Oy, am I tired of hearing this one. If the ALA wants to go green, that’s fine, but can’t they quit using so much paper or turn the heat down at ALA headquarters or something like that? If they’re worried about all the wasted fuel for flights, they can just have all the conferences on the east coast and I’ll be happy to take the train. I love taking the train. I always sit in the dining car and hope Cary Grant comes in and befriends me because he’s hiding from some evil spies after being mistaken for a good spy who doesn’t really exist. Maybe not Cary Grant himself, of course, but a Cary Grant type. Then I could hide him in myPullman car and help him find out who the bad guys really are. Or something like that.
Some naysayers – and you know how I hate a naysayer – claim the problem is with ALA itself. They’re a moribund organization that hasn’t adapted much since the 1970s. The divisions and committees are dominated by librarians who are uncomfortable with change. They charge too much money for everything and don’t do anything for their members. That kind of thing.
There’s a bit of truth in this, I suppose, though I’d put the last adaptation date back to at least the 1940s. Also, the divisions and committees are dominated not by librarians uncomfortable with change, but with librarians who like to get away from their home library for a week and meet other people.
As for charging members a lot and never doing anything for them, well, yeah, that one seems to be pretty much the truth. If most members saw the skull beneath the skin at ALA, they’d probably wonder how the place functioned at all. Need some evidence of that? Take a look at the most recent ALA website. They updated it recently, and now pages have disappeared. The same thing happened three or four years ago when they last updated the website. It seems just as they get everything back online and organized they think it’s time to create a new website. A competent website is the least we should expect of ALA. If they can’t do that right, what are the chances that they’ll get anything else right?
But all these are just excuses. Shortening the conference, creating "virtual" committees, going green: I don’t believe any of it. The answer is obvious. The ALA hates me. The ALA knows I belong to the organization and come to conferences to socialize. Thus, the ALA wants to destroy that bit of enjoyment for me. Well, if they think they can shorten or eliminate some of my social life and think I’ll still be interested in them and they’re committees, then they have another think coming. It’s been long time coming, too.