I’m back from ALA Midwinter — it was a good conference, I got to meet several twitter people IRL, and see those I already had met before! I got to perform my first professional duties as an intern of a committee and take copious notes. I also have to type those notes into official Minutes…but that can wait.
If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that I do a lot of live twitting of sessions that I’m in. That means that I don’t always get to share my thoughts/feelings on what I’m hearing beyond the occasionally editorial snark. This is probably for the best as I do not do my best reacting when off the cuff. I like to have time to reflect and percolate before giving a response.
Here now are two of those thoughts:
I heard a lot from people at the Library of Congress about the LCSH process. Not surprisingly, considering the ‘illegal aliens’ change/not-change of last year — LCSH has been thrust into a larger spotlight beyond catalogers and the people that love them.
One thing that was conspicuously absent amidst the protestations and defenses of the difficulty and care that goes into LCSH: acknowledgment that they might ever get it wrong
I hear them, and appreciate that it’s hard. Some 90 million+ headings are overseen and run by essentially 3 people. That’s ludicrous, they are underfunded, under-supported, and overwhelmed.
But even still — I heard a lot of dismissiveness that the criticisms of librarians are just grouchy griping and LC is “damned if they do and damned if they don’t” [in regards to ever changing a heading or heading pattern structure]. Critical catalogers are passionate about what we fight for not because we want be pains in LC’s side or tetchy technical services librarians — but because we’re advocating for our patrons, and often, for ourselves. I wish that our interactions with LC weren’t brushed aside as casually as I heard them being.
ALA is a giant organization with 10s of thousands of members. I know that on some level. Yet my involvement is so limited that is always feels smaller than that to me. I’m so focused on ALCTS [and let’s be honest, not just ‘on ALCTS’ but on the cataloging piece of ALCTS] that I miss a lot of Big ALA. These past few months though, even I’ve noticed. I watched along with my peers (see #NotMyALA for more) while statements were issued ostensibly on behalf of librarians offering capitulation and words of encouragement. Eagerness to work alongside this political regime made me question ALA and what they stand for.
I kept this in mind at Midwinter determined to figure out what this organization is and how to find my place within it. Attending the ALCTS Symposium, hearing Courtney Young, Hannah Buckland, Charlotte Roh, Harrison Inefuku, Paolo P. Gujilde, Emily Drabinski, Anna Marie Willer, Miriam Centeno, and Mark Puente speak — I was struck by the fact that they’re ALA too. Grappling over dinner with friends about issues we care deeply about in our profession,attending the Women’s March arm in arm with hundreds of librarians (or more? I have not seen numbers), that too is ALA. I watched live tweets from April Hathcock, Tyler Dzuba, Erin Leach, and Anastasia Chiu [among others] speak passionately and directly to ALA council. This to me, is ALA.
People who believe that libraries should and can be more and are willing to work for it — they make ALA stronger just by being members. But these people aren’t content to be members passively. They engage, they run for office, they hold positions, they agitate. To this end I’m trying to be more involved. I don’t want to be a member who flashes a card [I don’t even have an ALA card, are there cards?] and says he pays his dues. I want to be a part of the change that others are already fighting for and requires a more full vestment in the organization. I’m ready for more responsibility.