round-table discussions

round-table discussions

Monday, 11 August 2008 – p.m.

The Library Association session continued in the afternoon with a round-table discussion.  Each of the earlier speakers sat at a table and we – the participants – were able to go around the room, sitting at different tables as often as we wished and engaging with the various conversations.  I really enjoyed the two tables I sat at, but I wish there had been time to visit with more of the speakers.

First, I sat at Stephen Abram‘s table, where we talked about the myth of bandwidth hogs, the innovation in diversity, and the handicap of legacy technologies.  Stephen’s emphasis seemed to be on the individual, the librarian.  He wants librarians to create Facebook pages with their photos, their subject specialties and maybe even some of their favorite projects or reference questions.  He stresses that we’ve been anonymous public servants too long, it’s time to be recognizable experts and specialists.

In contrast, the talk at Keith Fiel‘s table was about mentoring at the broader level of library association or even the library itself.  This is about institution mentoring institution.  Keith was fairly candid about the challenges ALA is facing in setting up the website for GLAD and figuring out how to get library associations involved.  But I noticed that the folks around his table responded to him as employees of their *library* not as members of any *library association* … but in order for ALA’s website to work, they will need people to really identify with their particular library associations.

One of the other speakers that morning was Dr. Trishanjit Kaur of Punjabi University in India.  Her presentation was not about a glowing success story, but about the rocky, difficult journey of REFSALA, the Regional Federation of South Asian Library Associations.  She listed the main barriers they faced in bringing REFSALA into existence and maintaining activity:

  • apathy
  • lack of comitment
  • lack of cooperation & communication
  • lack of leadership and empathy
  • local politics, no gov’t support
  • lack of follow-up and sustainable vision

I fear that ALA’s GLAD program and the Twinning initiative will face the exact same challenges.  But the institutions are made up of individuals, and I think this is where Stephen Abram’s push for putting personality back on the library map will make a difference.  If librarians feel personally responsible for the success of these library associations, we might see sustainable, active projects to come to fruition.