Volume 27, Number 2, Summer 2005

How I Found My Way in ALA

by Connie Paul, Executive Director of the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative

Before becoming a regional cooperative director in 1997, my attendance at ALA had pretty much been limited to the exhibits. While packing for my first real ALA, I asked my predecessor Leslie Burger what I should do when I got there. “Go to the ASCLA programs,” she said. Not entirely sure what ASCLA was, but trusting Leslie, I headed out to do that. And I found ICAN.

ICAN is the section of ASCLA that focuses on networks and cooperatives. Because those groups deal with offering services to all kinds of libraries, their programs often have a wider appeal. Programs are good—sometimes better than good—and ICAN also has discussion groups.

There are three ICAN discussion groups: Interlibrary Cooperation, Network Management, and Virtual Libraries. They each have a chairperson and sometimes an announced topic, but they are meant to be places where members are the experts. The three ICAN discussion groups offer a non-threatening place to meet peers, ask questions, get ideas for new programs, and make friends. They are easiest to find at Midwinter because there isn’t much other programming going on.

I found the discussion groups of ICAN and they became my home in ALA. Perhaps the adage is true, that to make a friend you should ask for help. I have gotten wonderful suggestions for dealing with problems, great ideas for programs, and made terrific friends from attending the discussion groups. Jeannette Smithee, Martha Roblee, Jean Currie, and Sara Laughlin were among my mentors. I have also become involved with ICAN through my participation in the groups.

Last Midwinter in Boston, for example, the Interlibrary Cooperation Discussion Group (DG), under the leadership of Nora Blake, discussed “Models of State and Regional Cooperation.” Members from Idaho, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts, among others, shared ideas about cooperative ventures.

The Network Management DG, with chair Jean Sheviak, focused on “Recruiting for the Profession.” Members who had attended the ALA Recruitment Assembly Forum the day before reviewed some of what they learned. Brochures, DVDs, websites, internships, scholarships, and billboard campaigns were some of the methods described by other attendees.

The Virtual Library DG tackled the tough job of “Funding the Virtual Library—What Happens after the Grant Stops.” There were more questions than innovative solutions, as most attendees fund their programs from the usual sources. Everyone wanted to hear about the pot of gold under the previously undiscovered rainbow. Maybe next time.

Next time: During the Annual Conference in Chicago, the Virtual Library DG will meet on Monday, June 27th, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. with Charles Mayberry of SEFLIN as chair. The topic will be “Marketing your Virtual Library.” Plan to attend and bring along samples of marketing ideas that worked for you!

If you are a member of ASCLA/ICAN and you are interested in these kinds of topics, we hope you will join us. If you know others who would be interested, bring them along. Perhaps you will find your ALA home with us, too!