Monday, January 28, 2013

Midwinter, where the business of librarianship gets done

I think other people must also experience those flashes of doubt, moments at conferences when you wonder why you chose to leave your home, family, and its accordant comforts for the whirligig of running between meetings at far-flung hotels, surviving off overpriced yet mediocre convention center food, and breathing the stale forced air in meeting rooms and airplanes. You must run your own personal cost-benefit analysis, especially if you are paying for your own expenses. I always conclude that it is most definitely worth it to be an active participant in raising the profile and ensuring the success of the particular portion of the profession serving young people. This Midwinter meeting has left me with a feeling of sheer pride in ALA as the body of American librarianship and a real sense of optimism about its direction.

ALA is tackling difficult and important issues like equitable access to digital resources while simultaneously promoting the rich tradition of literature, be it the informational resources and literature honored at RUSA's CODES or the Youth Media Awards, like the Caldecott Medal, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The commemorative logo below is the work of the incredible Brian Selznick.

The big discussion this time centered around pegging association dues to the Consumer Price Index. It's a difficult thing given the stagnant economy and younger people in particular articulating their desire for tangible benefits from organizational membership. No ones likes price hikes, but dues have only increased twice over the past sixteen years, and this thumbnail analysis actually demonstrates that association membership has actually decreased as an expense over time, while also giving some pause about using the CPI as a trigger. Right now, there is a proposed graduated increase over five years that will then be studied to analyze its effect on overall membership and revenues. We will see how the governing body reacts to that proposal.

My job (and email) change meant I missed a lot of invitations to the fun publisher events at places like the public library and the Space Needle, but my schedule was so chockablock I'm not sure I could have squeezed in another thing. In Council, we discussed, in small groups, how to attract and retain new members, and the theme of maintaining interpersonal connections recurred. Though I had done divisional committee work, I think it was the Emerging Leaders program which really gave me confidence in working within the larger organization. And I do view so much of what I do at conference, be it livestreaming the Youth Media Awards on my phone, tweeting from Council, or typing up the minutes from a committee meeting, in terms of service to others, representing and communicating with those without the wherewithal or means to be there in person.

Personally, I figure out how to make it work. This time, I used my frequent flyer points for a ticket and stayed a bit further from the convention center to halve my conference housing costs. I have been fortunate that my school district supports my professional participation by allowing me to run off for a week at a time, after missing days here and there for other meetings and events. It makes me very sad that other schools do not see the value in it.

For me personally, Midwinter also marks the beginning of some new things, as I start member management of the YALSA blog, and the end of some other things I've worked on, particularly the Office of Information Technology Task Force on Digital Literacy, whose report on how libraries support digital skills over a lifetime was released the day I left home. It is an exciting product because it places school libraries in a complimentary continuum with public and academic library settings and illustrates how all must work in concert to promote lifelong learning.

Tomorrow, we return to Council for the third and final day, one of the last meetings after the exhibitors have left and so many people are already back at home. And of course we are already planning for the Annual Conference, in Chicago this June. See you there?

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