Annoyed Librarian
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ALA Midwinter: ALA in Beantown

Busily preparing for ALA, I find once again little old me is the subject of more bibliotek-blogland discussion. Yawn. Despite having a name – Annoyed Librarian – supposedly I’m "anonymous." Whenever someone likes the things I make fun of, but can’t actually defend those things, I can count on them to trot out the "anonymous" complaint.

It’s even funnier when they don’t like the things I make fun of. I think my favorite was when the oneohonions released that silly video. About the best the bouncy library cheerleaders could say about that was, "Oh, aren’t they enthusiastic." Yet I’m somehow the villain for pointing out the ridiculousness of considering Hulu a basic library skill.

Oh well, those who can’t talk about ideas are reduced to talking about personalities. The annoying thing for them is I don’t have a personality, and the only person with whom I can commiserate is my majordomo Chip. He doesn’t have a personality, either.

Speaking of ALA, it looks like it might be a quiet one. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the ALA Council list, but nothing’s grabbed me yet. I’ve been busy, though, so I’m skimming rather than perusing. Maybe someone can point to something juicy.

Someone was complaining about the ALA Event Planner, but apparently decided not to propose a resolution about it. If you’ve ever tried to use any of the "helpful" websites the ALA puts up for conferences, you’ve probably been annoyed before. But if Council started proposing resolutions regarding ALA annoyances, they might resolve to disband, and then what would all the ALA diehards do for four days during conferences?

The event planner is small beer, though. It’s amazing that a profession dedicated to organizing information and making it more accessible to people has a professional association that can’t put together a decent website. Every few years the ALA redesigns the website, and every time it seems to get worse instead of better. After a few years of finally getting all the links to work after the last redesign, I think they redesign on purpose to get the broken links back. Not that they have any affection for broken links, but if people can’t find out what they’re doing, they don’t look as silly.

There is a new ALA strategic plan draft going around. Maybe Council will discuss that at Midwinter. It has lines like, "ALA builds a world where libraries are central to life-long learning and where everyone is a library user." I assume that won’t make it into the final document, because it’s pretty silly. ALA doesn’t build worlds. It doesn’t even build libraries. Heck, it can’t even build a decent website.

It has a lot of grandiose rhetoric about how ALA will make the world literate, librarians valued, and information available to all. Grandiose rhetoric is the stuff strategic plans are made of, but when I hear stuff like that I feel like Brett Ashley to theALA’s Jake Barnes…"Isn’t it pretty to think so."

My absolute favorite line in the document is this one: "Goal Statement:  ALA operates effectively, efficiently, and nimbly to accomplish its mission." There doesn’t seem to be much precedent for that, but maybe they can turn it all around in the next five years. Even if the ALA staff itself could achieve this – and I see no reason they couldn’t – they’re still operating with a sluggish, enormous, fractious organization whose elected leadership changes too often to get much done.

The president changes every year, and while there’s a cohort of councilors who seem to have been on Council since the 1960s or earlier, even that changes as people try it and get fed up with the boredom. It’s one thing to be elected to the House of Representatives and get paid $174,000 a year; it’s quite another to be elected to Council and sit through all that for nothing but the satisfaction of a job not really done.

Still, Boston will be nice. I always prefer when the meetings are on the east coast so I can travel without enduring pat-downs and full cavity searches and all the other unpleasant and humiliating practices theTSA foists on us. Instead, I can board the 20th Century Limited, sit alluringly in the dining car sipping a gibson, and wait for Cary Grant to sweep me off to adventure. Ahhhh.

If you’re in Boston, look me up. Apparently, I’ll be the one without a name.


Visit LJ’s ALA Midwinter Meeting News Channel for complete coverage of the conference, and be sure to follow us on Twitter



  1. Howard Cosell says:

    Were you truly annoyed or truly a librarian, you would not be going to the ALA Mid-Winter.

    Sadly you are just a hack library writer and are always at desperate measures for a story.

  2. Jabesthelibrarian says:

    Heck, I am annoyed with library politics and I am a librarian, but I would never pass up on an opportunity to go to Boston which is approved by my library’s board of trustees. Have fun, AL and I am looking forward to hearing about the craziness!

  3. AL – As someone who, I believe, never, NEVER, has anything positive to say about the ALA, I wonder, why do you bother attending? Does the ALA provide free drinks?

  4. Dr. Brooks says:

    Please attend ALA Boston to keep us up to date on current happenings. You are the RUSH LIMBAUGH of the Library World. I don’t always agree, but I do learn.

  5. Rush Limbaugh is a perfect analogy to the AL: a lack of depth or serious research, relatively little context, snide and unconstructive remarks made solely to provoke, demagoguery, and knee-jerk reactions based on a preference for vitriol over reason or a desire to actually engage issues. Even when AL/Rush make accurate observations, the root cause they attribute to problems is either omitted or is completely off-base.

    Sorry for the harshness, but I wish the AL would be more constructive with her criticism, and less concerned with simply bashing ALA, 2.0, and librarianship generally.

  6. another f-ing librarian says:

    dear al, i wish it were not too late to send you a bunch of coffin nails and a hammer. maybe at midwinter you could finally close the coffin of ‘simpy librarianship’ once and for all.

    but never mind. if we’re not going to professionalize ourselves, how can we expect you to do it for us.

  7. CrabbyJack says:

    Skeeter are you one of those cheerleader librarians? or real new to the profession? AL tells it like it is and that’s why she’s so popular. I’m sorry but with 30 years of membership, ALA hasn’t done diddly for me. Our work is misunderstood, marginalized, etc. If you’re going to stay in the profession, get a thicker skin.

    If you want rahrahrah, read the Library Garden blog. It may suit you better.

  8. grumbly youngster says:

    What pisses off all the critics is that you probably all know each other, and you know it, but they don’t. I’m not one of the cool kids, so I don’t care that I don’t know who you are.

    Regarding ALA membership: at this tenure-track point in my career, I don’t think I really have a professional option not to be a member of ALA. It’s pretty much an obligation for some of us.

  9. AL and Rush Limbaugh both have more depth than you liberals that voted for “hope and change” -talk about a platform with no depth.
    The reason I read is because the AL sees through all the drivel, and calls it such. And she’s about the only one. Everyone else pretends to take it all seriously and give it credence.
    I’ll take a hack library writer over the establishment propaganda anyday…

  10. The Tired Librarian says:

    Like the phrase: A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country. And what many of us know — the truth is a bitter pill to swallow, especially among the arrogant. And our “profession” is often full of arrogrance. Keep it real, AL. You speak for many of us.

  11. I’d love to revisit Boston but not during Midwinter!

  12. male librarian says:

    Sadly, I don’t make enough money to be able to afford an ALA membership. I guess I could qualify for the discount membership, but sadly I can’t afford that on my librarian’s salary.

  13. Male Librarian – don’t worry about not being able to afford ALA membership I’ve been a proud non-member for several decades now. Talk about a useless organization, they fiddle while Rome burns.

  14. The AL truly does us all a service. These are tumultuous times and the AL seems to be the only one willing to take a peek at the existential void in the profession. More Nietzsche than Limbaugh I would say. Those maligning the AL are at least writing and thinking about the profession in a candid way.

  15. male librarian says:

    generic – I believe the quote you are referring to is:

    ‘Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.’

    It sounds to me like he was warning against staring into the void.

  16. I think most librarians understand that their profession is being marginalized by an incompetent organization that is incapable of governance, promotion, or activism. But, it’s not like librarians do not have choices:

    1. Maintain the status quo, letting their profession be defined by outside pressures because of a lack of understanding of marketing, salesmanship, and knowledge of who and what they have become.

    2. Attempt to regain control over the ALA – a vast and wayward, loose conglomerate of librarians – and focus its message, goals and energy into “professionalizing” librarianship and making positive and proactive changes.

    3. Let the ALA fail into obscurity and make a new organization that succeeds in achieving the goals outlined above.

    If librarians choose the first, they simply keep an ineffective national organization that serves no purpose other than being a venue for library related vendors. Some librarians are happy to pay hundreds of dollars a year to fund this service. Eventually, policies and practices will fracture along regional and state lines, where some libraries will be increasing run like businesses, entertainment centers, and bookstores. Likely, people with MLIS degrees will be passed over for cheaper alternatives as is already evidenced by current events.

    If librarians choose the latter two, as they should, they may save themselves what increasingly looks to be a humiliating ride into a future of professional uncertainty and costumer service friendly smiles – one for which a majority of us paid far too much for in tuition.

    Would you like fries with that?

  17. Display Name says:

    Sadly, it is the American LIBRARIES Association.

    Read, Management.

    The ALA doesn’t give a hoot about librarians.

  18. Display Name says:

    Sadly, it is the American LIBRARIES Association.

    Read, Management.

    The ALA doesn’t give a hoot about librarians.

  19. The only reason I join ALA is to attend the PLA convention every other year if I can afford it. And even then I avoid the “power” stuff and hang out at the exhibits and the sessions which are going to give me some practical, immediate ideas. I’ve been in this profession for 20 years and have seen “leaders” come and go (and some crash and burn). I’m doing the work that gets my library good public support. I’ve learned the hard way, and they lost a good “leader” – I am one, even if I haven’t been “annointed”.

  20. TheIlliterateLibrarian says:

    @Skeeter but knee-jerk reactions are the best kind! They have a nougaty center!

    Honestly though… I wonder if the ALA hasn’t become too big to be effective? They seem to be mired in their own bureaucracy. Not to mention legends in their own minds. I really haven’t seen the ALA be “effective” or anything in the few years I’ve been a librarian. They just seem like a gynormous institution for an instution’s sake (basically so they all can have jobs off of our dues), not to mention blowhards who believe their own press.

    I’d like to see some new organization rise up and gain steam. Perferably one that’s, um… like… effective and stuff.

  21. Post a Comment says:

    If you have to announce that you are a leader, you aren’t one.

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