Go to:
Online Doc
Meeting Request
Mary Ghikas's picture

Change in the Community, Change in ALA

Given our changing communities, what do you want from ALA?

ALA is in the midst of reimagining itself to meet the changing needs of its members.  Be part of the process by sharing your thoughts in a highly interactive session at the 2013 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Monday, January 28, 8:30-11:30, WSCC Ballroom 6A.  (Not going to Midwinter, share your thoughts here.)

We'll build on work begun in October 2012 -- see notes posted at http://connect.ala.org/node/194969 -- using Open Space Technology, a process in which participants self-organize, defining the agenda based on what matters to them in order to address complex, important issues and accomplish something meaningful.  The session will be guided by author and consultant Peggy Holman.  For more information on Peggy Holman and Open Space Technology, see http://peggyholman.com/about/ and http://peggyholman/openspace/

For Midwinter participants -- or anyone wanting to self-organize a group -- a session host report form is attached.

Constance Ghinazzi (non-member)'s picture

Open Space Discussion Monday, January 28, 2013

What Do We Want from ALA?   Ideas  & Inspiration  Connie Ghinazzi, Augustana College, Rock Island IL and Jacob Goesting? Minnesota Library System

(hi everyone, I have had a difficult time scribing from my tiny phone photos to capture all our comments. please add and/or edit any thoughts listed here to better convey the ideas we shared) Connie

The ALA Uncommons had a graffiti board where people posted ideas that inspired them; we like this idea in a virtual environment that would be searchable.

We also would like to know who we are communicating with as “uncredentialed leaders”; people with ideas but not necessarily experts in the field.

There is a desire for more communication across the silos in ALA; it was suggested that themes or questions be shared before the conference possibly through ALA Connect.

More sessions like the  unconference on the first day of midwinter. This session leant itself to the cross polination of ideas among interested individuals. We’d like to see more of these type sessions where it centers around questions or problems explored rather than an expert talking.

Librarian storytelling project; have brief clips on the ALA site and/or at conference.

“How To” Festival in our libraries where we can have “uncredentialed leaders” in our communities take on the role of instructor/mentor for others. Some libraries capture this on and post on their website as a resource. In reference to this, Peter Block’s comments on Sunday about engaging people in conversation and action not by asking what they do, but what they are good at or what are you willing to teach other people?

From ALA we would like an easier forum for access to cutting edge ideas to somehow reach a wider audience.

David Lankes as a source of ideas; Is your library FOR the people or OF the people? What steps are you taking to fulfill this goal?

The idea of common programs across our organization was explored, but in particular, the hope idea that work  in places with common demographics could be more easily shared and not get hung up in particular silos of ALA.

Celebrating our failures and identifying what we have learned and move forward from these experiences. Sometimes the things termed a failure offer the most opportunities. We want an environment that will promote sharing of ideas regardless of the result.


Geri Ingram's picture

Participants included:

Geri Ingram

Cheryl Gould

Rachel Rubin

Miguel Llanos

Laura Hollister

Clara Sitter

Lyman Drake

Deb Robertson

Peggy Barber

Examples of experiences and projects  that help librarians to leverage community assets: RSquared 2012 in Telluride, CO, "Widen the Lens" in 2012 in Bexley, OH. Entire "transforming communities" track at ALA Midwinter 2013; "How to... festivals"; "Learning Day @your library" (a la Louisville Public in 2012). Empathy Project, Capital University, Bexley, OH; NCDD National Coalition for Dialog and Deliberation's Catalyst Awards

Things to read for inspiration and ideas: Lensioni, Patrick The Advantage;Hackman, Richard[]; Lankes, David [].


  • Is ALA the right organization to do this? (professional development--YES). ALA in unique position to link people, resources.
  • Libraries may also have similar staff positions--e.g., Adult Service Coordinator engages visitors at Info Desk to inquire about passions, skills, and opportunities to contribute
  •  Also, see your local Friends of the Library.
  • MLIS programs are beginning to recognize the philosophical shift into community-sourced education, services, etc. as "participatory" librarianship  (or Civic Librarianship?) ALA could increase scholarships to students to be trained as facilitators and conversation convenors.
  • The Theme of Community Transformation might be made a permanent 'track' at Annual and Midwinter; perhaps supplemented with quarterly face-to-face regional meetings--maybe even across the ALA divisions for sponsorship
  • ALA could offer Harwood training on scholarships to practicing librarians
  • ALA could make the facilitation tools (kits?) available at no/low cost to librarians
  • ALA could sponsor competitions (and maybe $$ awards) such as the NCDD Catalyst Awards

Geri Bunker Ingram, MLIS

Melissa Behney's picture

Host: Melissa Behney

Participant List: Nani Manion, David Lev, Connie Paul

Question: How is ALA relevant in my life?

  • ALA supporting library budgets, advocacy.
  • Don’t know what ALA is, can do. My local union is more locally savvy, understanding financial climate, strategic thinking.
  • Beginning experience with ALA and trying to grasp the entirety of ALA.
    • Not sure if used to its potential
    • Uses state listserv in Oregon to look for jobs more than ALA
    • Understanding how the organization can help me, my place in the organization
    • Did not know about emerging leaders or ALA resume review/job placement services
  • ALA seems to be a big, opaque organization that constrains divisions
  • After being a member for 15 years, I still don’t know how to get involved or what transpires
  • ALA Connect doesn’t work for me
  • Involvement is through the division
  • How does ALA work? Is it a political organization?

Question: What would help you understand/connect with the organization? What do you want from ALA?

  • ALA 101 or pre-ALA (conference) orientation online – so many panels and things
  • Liaise with union leaders (Washington Office was suggested)
  • Do not understand/not aware of services available
  • Change the registration process to include areas of interest (What you most interested in with ALA?) and use that as a guide to resources rather than pointing to ALA divisions, round tables, etc.
  • Offer more issues based options
  • Community awareness
  • Learning about other states
  • ALA paraprofessionals – lower membership fee and training webinars
  • Make the website more useful – lots of dead links, trying to figure out what’s where, who’s who
  • Open up communication with members, divisions, chapters
  • Look at ways to streamline the organization, cut fat, consider less expensive office space
  • Cost of having to belong to both ALA and a division is prohibitive for many

Question: What’s our aspirational ALA? What do we want from our professional organization?

  • An organization that could more easily shepherd people into the information stream they’re looking for – “ALA needs a librarian!”
  • Peter Block said, “Don’t wait for somebody else to come rescue you.” Midwinter programming – “ALA helps the community be a better place.” Bring the community conversation across the 50 states
  • Very impressed with this conference – art of active listening; keep that tone going; ALA needs to practice active listening; listening with intent, purpose
  • Continuing work with the Harwood Institute was mentioned as something that is planned
  • Funding, training for this kind of work to strengthen the library system
  • Liaison role with the union/library system
  • Platform for discussion (trust, integrity) to create a common understanding
  • Define what would you tell your community, your role?
  • Professional development opportunities for librarians – self-scheduled webinars
  • ALA cutting across the silos, divisions to get at common interests
  • Proactively support local chapters
Mary Ghikas's picture

Posting for Marsha Iverson and Nancy Kranich:


Discussion hosted by Nancy Kranich


  • What is “Outward”? Is there a political slant? What are the implications?
  • Attracting new users? How?
  • Library organizations, roles and function
  • Change the dynamics to look outward
  • Integrating libraries’ efforts with ALA – Can they collaborate/leverage?
  • Partnerships in meaningful ways. e.g. with schools, prisons, etc.
  • Green/sustainable
  • What if we all turned our chairs around—what would we see?
  • How do we reach the underserved
  • Finding mentors, partners (make it easier to do this)
  • I.T. talks about “remote users” – it’s the LIBRARY that’s remote, not the users
  • Libraries, higher education and journalists would collaborate in communities of learning
  • Library role in ALA/lack of action re resistance (historically) to integrating libraries: We stand silent, don’t turn out on major social/cultural issues (marriage equality, etc.)
  • Silent on climate change—polarized public


We ARE ALA. What WOULD it look like?

  • Identifying as a community
  • Social justice issues—can interests permeate ALA?
  • Can we feature ‘controversial” issues, eg. LGBTQ?
  • Will ALA Back us up on taking risks?
  • Stand with someone expressing their convictions
  • Serve “Community” – but perhaps not “The Others”
  • Libraries offer a place to discover the humanness of others
  • Early Adopters! LEAD!
  • We are failing children by not being on the vanguard, modeling successes
  • The Conversation Starts Here:  Excellent motto, memorable, worthy


ALA = A place for passion and conversation?

  • We need to keep preaching to the choir, so they keep on singing.
  • We’re all in this together


What would ALA LOOK LIKE?

  • Support passion
  • Create enabling structures, create participants more than observers
  • Be the container/catalyst for conversations
  • Innovation arises from interaction between people with different interests, issues and expertise
  • Silo-mixing/bridging
  • Build diverse, interdisciplinary friendships
  • Today’s media environment enables us to hear only our own views—how do we enable interaction?
  • You quickly begin to care about the person sitting 10” away


ALA Looks like…

  • A place to meet and talk with “other” people (not like me)
  • Creates opportunity to innovate, dream, aspire, plan action
  • Transforming the world, one library conversation at a time
  • What else can we be doing?
    • Agents of change
    • Become connectors with essential information/services
    • Feature what works
      • e.g., SFPL with psychiatric social worker on staff; Nurses in libraries (public health partnerships) to meet basic needs
      • Build trust
      • Meeting basic needs
      • Strategic partnerships
        • How to get there without too much process
        • How to try something new without expected, predicted measurable outcomes?
        • Invite others—go to them, initiate conversation
        • Innovators/think-tanks


Harwood Innovations Space: Implications for ALA

  • No boxes
  • Mentoring
  • Storytelling
  • Bottom up—how to encourage innovation
  • Chapters conversations
  • Create anxiety
  • Use library role in democratic society


ALA Role  in relationship to our local communities?

  • What “communities” do we serve: those who pay vs those who care?


What can ALA DO?

  • Experiential learning—more opportunities
  • More, and more provocative speakers
    • Peter Block
    • Identify achievement blockers
    • Brokering/bridging partnerships: with Educators, agencies (American Society of Aging, etc.)
    • Interdisciplinary gatherings
    • Openness
    • Cross-ALA conversations
    • Cross-political boundaries conversations (e.g., Peggy Holman example of hosting conversation on energy security AND environmental sustainability to bring both liberal and conservatives together)
    • Mix it up at ALA: like this session!
    • Remove barriers and create opportunities
    • How do we get ‘heard”?


We’re blown away by these results.