Letters from ALCTS

mary case, alcts president 2009-10

From the President

Mary Case, ALCTS President 2009–2010

The Future of ALCTS

The primary goal of ALCTS this year is to forge a common understanding of our future. Over the last several years we have surveyed members, solicited input through electronic and face-to-face forums, and shared perspectives through the ALCTS Newsletter. It is time now to try to shape these discussions into a concrete proposal for how ALCTS can organize itself to better meet the needs of its members and the profession.

We know that the world of collections and technical services has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Electronic resources, licensing, outsourcing, digitization, metadata, institutional repositories, hidden collections, and the Web have all contributed to the change in the nature of our jobs, to the creation of new jobs, and to the blurring of lines among functions. It would be fair to say that life has been disrupted for most of our members.

ALCTS is also affected by these changes in our members’ work lives. Our members need to acquire new skills and understand the value they bring in the new landscape. They increasingly have jobs that cross many ALCTS sections and must often choose among competing programs and committees. Nonmembers and new members do not readily find a home within ALCTS even though their jobs fall into collections or technical services areas at their local institutions. The profession needs its association to help us see and shape our future in the information universe, articulate the value we bring, and provide the opportunities for training, networking, and policy development that are essential to a thriving discipline.

As we heard at this summer’s ALCTS Forum “Creating Our Future,” ALCTS already has significant value for its members. It provides the opportunity to meet physically and now virtually with peers to network and share ideas, especially appreciated when there are few technical services colleagues locally. Programs, panels, and discussions help members think through problems, consider new ideas, and find new ways to articulate issues back home. ALCTS provides opportunities for participation and leadership. It provides the venue to create professional relationships with vendors. And as one attendee said, “it is re-energizing!”

Forum participants also stated that ALCTS is better than other organizations at providing continuing education opportunities, mentoring for leadership roles, developing standards, fostering a sense of community and collegiality, and being willing to change, among other things. But we can and must do better. We have heard that we need to reach out to public and health sciences librarians in collections and technical services roles. We need to make the appointments process more transparent and be clearer about the expectations for committee membership, especially when electronic tools can facilitate committee work all year and the economic environment makes physical attendance at conferences difficult. We need to make it easier for new members to feel welcome and all members to participate virtually. And we need to eliminate the redundancy in governance and programmatic structures.

During this coming year, thanks to a number of efforts begun by Dina Giambi and others, you will see progress on a number of fronts. A new Public Librarians in Technical Services Interest Group has been formed and a petition for a New Members Interest Group has been submitted to the Organization and Bylaws Committee. Mary Beth Weber has proposed profiles and columns in the newsletter featuring public librarians and new ALCTS members. Through the work of the Leadership Development Committee and newsletter columns, Charles Wilt and I will attempt to clarify what seem to be the more mystifying of ALCTS and ALA processes and structures. And most importantly, we will be working with you to articulate a proposal for a reorganized ALCTS. While that conversation is to come, I would like to leave you with an invitation to begin thinking about answers to the questions on which we will focus:

  1. What is the work that ALCTS does?
  2. How best do we organize ourselves to accomplish that work?

I look forward to the year ahead.

Contact Mary Case (marycase@uic.edu).