As everyone in this Committee knows, the RBMS is a Section of the ACRL and is composed of many gracious volunteers. Our work on the Publications Committee is to help facilitate publication, and increasingly the communication, of the Section.
Historically, ACRL and ALA staff have assisted with many aspects of running the Section. For example, we are currently discussing these issues on a system maintained by ALA IT staff (Jenny Levine among others), ACRL/ALA provide us with listserv hosting, the ACRL maintains its own webspace (http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/index.cfm), and ACRL staff help substantially with RBM. Of course, ACRL does not help with maintaining the RBMS web server, Twitter feeds, blogs, nor many of our other initiatives. This brings us to an odd singularity-
What are the roles of our gracious volunteers and what are the roles of the ACRL/ALA staff and how do we stack-up against those roles?
Is there a line between what is appropriate for volunteers and what is appropriate for staff? What if--in these tough economic times--we want to do something as a Section that is appropriate for staff, yet there is not sufficient staff available?
I had a long discussion on this very issue with Janet Swan Hill, who has served on ALA Council for a number of years, and her sense is that the line is between intellectual effort versus regularized labor. Our volunteers ought to be involved with rewarding, intellectual, activities regarding librarianship, but that when something needs to be done that passes into regularized effort we should look towards staff. Of course, we probably don't have sufficient staff to cover all of our needs.
So what do you think? Do you have examples of working with ACRL/ALA staff that have been particularly good or bad? Do you have examples of workflows that have been regularized? Where do you think the line is between staff and volunteer labor?
So, after many online and offline discussions, it seems that the issue here is quite complicated. As we already have the institutional understanding and commitment to our own infrastructure, it would be hard to transition to something else. (nay, perhaps impossible) Yet, we are still faced with the problem that our volunteers need to advance their career and be intellectually engaged with their profession.
I've been musing on this a great deal, and last night an idea came to me- what if we emphasized innovative approaches? That is, we asked that the Publications/Communications Committee be properly concerned with assisting with innovative publication efforts, but that as something moves towards regularization we seek to shift responsibility.
An after-the-fact example of this would be the Bib. Standards Committee who continues to successfully produce excellent publications without our assistance. They know how to interface with their publisher and the methods, so their process of publishing qua publishing is essentially regularized, thus we have no role.
If we choose to emphasize innovative approaches then we have some guidance as to what is appropriate for the committee to take on.
What do people think?
Has the name of the committee been changed officially to include"communications"? I remember such a discussion but am unaware of the outcome, if any. This would seem to my "aging" mind to be where lots of "innovative approaches" could come to the fore. For example, at what point do "communications" become "publications"? When blogs, etc, are "archived"? When they are printed? After all, they are made "public" no matter what the method. Since this electronic modus operandi is now prevalent among ALA/ACRL committees, it behooves us to define this as soon as possible.
These are my thoughts on a rainy afternoon in Syracuse.
There have been some pretty awful problems over the years with having ACRL host the section's discussion list.
Part of the problem with the RBMS list and ACRL is that the IT staff are so buried that you can't find them. So I end up having to ask Adam or somebody to check things for me. Usually, that goes nowhere pretty quickly. I think at the very least ACRL should be pressed to give Moderators contact information for an ACRL IT liaison and a promise that a question will be answered in, say, 48 hours. I frankly doubt they have any IT service benchmarks. Frankly, I'd just as soon dump them and go elsewhere, but that may not be politically possible. But, yes, it should be discussed, and I've got the ammo for the discussion. If I have a question about Exlibris, for example, I get an answer within hours from Indiana's support team. The ACRL situation is aggravated by the obvious fact that they won't give moderators total control of list functions. I can't even block offending posters, a basic list moderator function.
Anyway, ACRL's record of providing actual labor and support to the RBMS list is not stellar. I don't know what their IT people are doing, but responding to their email and our issues is not one of their tasks.
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