Letters from ALCTS

bruce chr. johnson, alcts president

From the President

Get Involved!

As I write this column (early December), more than ten percent of the registered participants for the upcoming ALA Midwinter meeting in Seattle will be first-time attendees. This very encouraging factoid suggests that some of our colleagues who may be newer to the library profession are seeing the value in becoming professionally involved.

I know many ALCTS members who could relate a similar experience ... “Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away ... . ” Oh yes, that is the wrong story ... or is it? My journey began in 1983 as a cataloger at the Chicago Municipal Reference Library when for some reason now lost to my dimming memory—youthful exuberance or more likely an interest in getting ahead in the profession—I filled out an RTSD (as ALCTS was called in those days) volunteer form and mailed it in. (No email, to say nothing of online forms, in those days.)

In due course, I was asked to serve on the division’s Audiovisual Committee (by the time I took my seat I was a music cataloger at the Library of Congress’ National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, so this made some sense). What a bewildering array of acronyms, committees, jargon, and people whom I did not know (though in a few cases I had read or read about in professional journals). I struggled for the first year or two just trying to figure out what the committee was supposed to accomplish and how (despite what seemed like a deck stacked heavily against it) the committee needed to work with other groups to carry out the division’s mission.

For reasons that still mystify me, I was named Chair of the AV committee in 1986. In those days we had two projects: (1) Encouraging AV producers / publishers to use a single title on each work (our brochure read “Happiness is ONE title”); and (2) Putting on a program describing what was involved in acquiring, cataloging, processing, preserving and developing collections of computer software. That may seem like a no-brainer today, but in the mid-1980s, most computers on librarians’ desks were dumb terminals, and most librarians still thought in terms of collecting books, and books, and—well, you get the picture.

Fast forward twenty years to 2007. The nature of libraries has radically changed. With this change is a parallel change in the nature of librarianship. How did this happen? In some cases the changes just sort of happened, and we came along for the ride. In other cases, ALCTS members saw what was occurring in society and in the automation marketplace and developed an infrastructure to help our members cope and get ahead. Finally, and most significantly, ALCTS members have taken leadership positions to help shape the changing nature of libraries and librarianship.

So�what should you do if you are one of the five-hundred-plus first-time attendees at the upcoming Midwinter meeting? In a couple of words, “Get involved!” You can make a difference for ALCTS—and ALCTS can make a difference for you.

  1. The ALCTS Leadership Development Committee is holding a Volunteer Forum on Saturday from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel in the Visions room. It does not matter whether you have filled out an ALCTS Volunteer Form. Betsy Simpson and her hard-working committee will help you figure out what ALCTS is and how you can get involved.
  2. Attend the ALCTS Membership Reception on Saturday evening 6-8 p.m. in the Red Lion Hotel, Emerald Ballroom. Meet your colleagues and find out why they are involved in our association.
  3. Attend any forum that interests you. In recent years ALCTS has become much better at spotting emerging issues and organizing forums that allow members to explore what they mean. At Midwinter there will be forums on Access to non-English library resources (Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Sheraton, Metropolitan B); RDA (Saturday, 4-6 p.m., Sheraton, Grand Ballroom B); the Future of cataloging (Sunday, 8-10 a.m., Grand Hyatt, Princess Ballroom); Disaster recovery (Sunday, 4-6 p.m., Westin, Grand Ballroom III); Ripped from the headlines: what will library stories be in the future? (Monday, 8-10 a.m., W Seattle Downtown, Great Room I) ; Libraries and University Presses Working Together (Monday, 8-10 a.m., WCC 201); ALCTS 50th anniversary: creating our future: the ALCTS presidential experience (Monday, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., W Seattle Downtown, Great Room I) ; Collecting E-resources Use Data (Monday, 1:30-3:30, Grand Hyatt, Princess II)
  4. Attend any committee meeting, interest group, or discussion group that interests you. Be sure to sign the group’s attendance roster. Introduce yourself to the group’s chair.
  5. Attend an ALCTS Board meeting. We have a terrific group who spend many hours looking for ways to more effectively lead our profession. Get to know the Board. They all were first-time attendees once just like you.

I look forward to seeing you in Seattle. I will attend as many meetings and forums as time permits, so if the opportunity arises, please say “Hello.” I would love to tell you a little more about the exciting things that ALCTS is doing.