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Stephen Matthews's picture

Buckets, Branding, and Bandwidth

I have had some time to think about this whole arena of programs and how to group them and how to be sure that we not only include everything that is cogent but how do we naturally invite (attract) the new, new things as a regular function of how we put together conference in its three iterations.  Transforming libraries is a natural active designation (almost a stance in preparation for growth and change, so the categories under it become a sort of laundry list of everything we do and hope to do including concerns, services, endeavors, values, environments, and the list just grows from there.  That to me is a good thing. It is more fluid and yet provides the opportunity also for in depth consideration and developing expertise and quality measures.

As we look for ways to develop and open the stream for ideas about possible developments, speakers, innovations, social and technological developments, we need to be sure that we know and promote our "Brand"- the ALA Conference- what's in it and who is it for.  This may seem to be an obvious and already answered question, but I was quite surprised about the demographics of conference attendees, and I think more and more we can know our audience ever better  and not just market the final product but the process and possibilities for collaboration and energizing initiatives and even things that we have done for a long time but  can do in new and exciting ways.

The Bandwidth reference above isn't really about bandwidth itself but instead about building the very wide two-way mechanism that will perpetuate real exchange and trading of ideas about what should be in the constantly morphing conference container.  It seems we should be able to coordinate with chapters in more seamless way to actually start a program at a couple of chapter meetings and then continue and grow it at a midwinter and then, and then. There could be some methods/simple procedures to bring together interested parties so that we see both division and chapters becoming co-conspirators for innovation and success rather than guardians of a particular program or idea.  I know that Mary does alot of surfing the intellectual and practical landscape looking for  developments in information design, delivery, and marketing as well as how libraries are integrating into operational models in communities and institutions. While she does a remarkable job, we need to have a way to funnel a broad spectrum of ideas into the mix so we can seize what is new, enticing, and relevant to our "transformations."  I just heard on the way back to work tonight, Terry Gross interviewing Charles Duhigg about his new book  "The Power of Habit" which is a scientific look about why we do what we do.  An interesting side note was how Target gathers countless info about their shoppers to the point that they sometimes know their customers better than their families know them.  Libraries aren't going to get into the business of collecting info about people, but we certainly need to develop relationships with our users so we can understand who they are and how and why they use libraries in the varied ways that we know they do. 

I have used Google docs for several collaborative efforts, and it worked very well. There are some limitations especially if a large group is trying to use it simultaneously, but they are also trying to refine and improve it all along.  With the caveat of the new Google privacy policy, it could provide a universally interactive mechanism to share and disseminate both ideas and responses to get a more collaborative feel for possible conference speakers, programs, or events.   This is a work in progress, but it is sure fun thinking about how we can make this more spontaneous and yet more effective in ferreting out  timely and relevant ideas and developments that are being incorporated or should be incorporated in our ever evolving center ring show of transforming libraries.

I would really love to hear from other committee members about what you think might work to energize and organize/structure our process so that the greater library community would find it easy and important to participate in ALA's conference ecosystem (What would really make it happen!) and also how do we  make the point about how the connection will benefit what they do and what all of us need to keep doing.


Scott Muir's picture

I have been mulling on this for quite a while.  I am open to exploring new or different technologies and methods for improving the conference process.  One thing I think that is worth considering is that we are a large organization and our current way of operating is not always nimble.  This is not a criticism, but something to take into account.  And while we do not want to collection information on individual users, we can collect or identify information on trends based on our users.  For example we know in most academic libraries circulation has been dropping for many years, but not so at public libraries.  However, one of the things that will attract some users is getting  ahead of those trends,  forecasting what is coming and developing a service around that, becoming the leader rather than the follower.  I wonder if there is some way to set aside some space, money etc. for those more experimental topics and ideas and identifying who is doing something new and unique.  This would be something that happens very “last minute”.