ALCTS Newsletter Online, June Issue 2008


From the Office

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

The Rise of the Interest Group

One of the frequent themes I hear in my travels around ALCTS is our need to be more flexible and to adapt to the constantly changing library landscape. Another is we are not getting any younger, and our need to create an association that will appeal to the younger/newer (not always the same group) people who are coming along in the profession.

Well, there is, I believe, a sometimes overlooked aspect of ALCTS that may well be part of the answer: the Interest Group. You may have noted that I did not write “Discussion Group,” and there is a reason. On the forthcoming ballot, there is a proposal to move from Discussion Groups to Interest Groups, and the reasoning behind this proposal relates directly to this article.

Discussion Groups have served ALCTS well in the past and continue to do so. However, the very nature (via ALA policy) of the DG is limiting. DGs can only hold discussions and can do nothing else. This is not a bad thing, but it does limit the number of people who can be involved and the outcomes they can generate.

On the other hand, Interest Groups (IGs) have the ability to do more. The basic function of an Interest Group is still discussion, particularly of timely topics. I cannot emphasize that enough. The fundamental purpose of the IG is discussion. However, the ancillary functions available to IGs vastly increase their appeal. IGs can create their own organizational structure, do formal programming, and produce publications. DGs cannot.

Interest Groups are not new to ALA. Several divisions have them, and ALCTS now has joint IGs with LITA. So why this new emphasis on IGs rather than DGs? In my mind, IGs provide a wealth of opportunity for exactly those members we are trying to reach. IGs can be created and go out of business as needed. But you say, so can DGs. True enough. However, remember the important difference: programs, structure and publications. These three attributes can go a long way to create timely opportunities for our members. Publications can be short web pieces. There might be a publications coordinator as part of the structure. Programs must still go through the process, but the topics can be an outgrowth of a discussion. Create a program coordinator.

So where are these opportunities? Anywhere and everywhere. ALCTS has a new IG, the FRBR IG. When looking around, there is room for a young tech services IG, a student IG, acquisitions IG, technology IG, innovation IG, tech service management IG, and that is just what I thought up in the last few minutes. That does not even get down deep into your job experiences and the need to create networking opportunities. It only takes ten people to create an IG. So I challenge you, the member, experienced, newbie, older, younger, acquisitioner, cataloger, preservationist, serialist, and collection manager, to consider the possibilities.

The library world awaits your new ALCTS Interest Group.

Contact Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director