Low Flying and Low Hanging MIGs

By Tom Peters |

Six months ago, if I had been playing a linguistic parlor game and had encountered the word MIG, my first and only thought would have been about Soviet/Russian military jets.  But now, thanks to the emergence of social networks, virtual worlds, and John Chrastka at ALA, I have been re-educated, Comrades.

MIG military jetNow my first thought whenever I hear or see the word MIG is of Member Initiative Groups.  The American Library Association has a wonderful process whereby any group of members interested in a professional topic can apply to the Committee on Organization (COO) to form a MIG.  Got ants in your pants?  See a need?  Form a MIG!

To form a MIG, you need to obtain 100 bona fide signatures from ALA members on your petition.  With over 64,000 ALA members roaming around, you'd think that would be easy, but it takes some time and effort.  Heck, I too am reluctant to sign a petition whenever one is stuck in front of my face.

I recently was involved in the formation of the ALA VCL MIG, a lovely acronym with a first, middle, and last name.  VCL stands for Virtual Communities and Libraries. 

The purpose of the ALA VCL MIG is to provide a group within ALA for members interested in fostering the practice of library work, the visibility of libraries and library workers, and the extension of library services within online social networks, virtual worlds, and other communities of intention.  If you think that Facebook, Ning, Second Life, LibraryThing, Entropia Universe, and the Croquet Consortium offer some interesting possibilities for creating, organizing, experiencing, and sharing information and information services, this MIG's for you.

fig, ready for the puddingThe ALA variety of MIG has several nice characteristics.  First, a MIG is open to all ALA members, so it cuts across all the organizational boundaries and balkanization.  Second, it lives for only three years.  If a MIG flourishes, it may become part of the permanent ALA organizational structure.  If it withers and dies, that's okay.  Dried MIGs are nutritious and delicious.   

Sadly, the ALA variety of MIG often flies low and keeps a low profile.  They are rare, too, with only three extant.  MIGs are a great way for ALA members who are very interested in an emerging professional opportunity or topic to create a structure within ALA to discuss, explore, and test an area of interest.  Often I hear (and sometimes say, I admit) that ALA is too slow to respond to hot topics and trends.  Usually by the time a program at an ALA Annual Conference addresses a hot topic, it's tepid. 

MIGs and "unconferences" are great tools for speeding up our collective associational adventures in pushing the profession forward. 

I am serving as one of the "designated organizers" of the ALA VCL MIG, which always makes me chuckle because it sounds similar to serving as the designated driver.  I'll try to stay sober for the next three years so I can drive my MIG colleagues home safely. 

On Friday, September 21st beginning at 3:00 p.m. EDT, 2:00 Central, 1:00 Mountain, and noon Pacific, the ALA VCL MIG will hold a one hour online online meeting.  Everyone is welcome to attend.  There's no need to register, and no direct cost.  Just show up and join the discussion about virtual communities and libraries.  My fellow designated organizers and I also are planning in-person programs at future ALA Midwinter Meetings and Annual Conferences.   

Queen for a DayWith a name like ALA VCL MIG, this new creature needs a more engaging nickname or slogan.  So, in addition to using this blog as a bully pulpit, I want to start a nicknaming contest.  Use the comments section to compose and submit your entry.  The ALA member who submits the winning entry will become the designated MIG Queen/King for a Day.  (ALA employees and their families are not eligible to win.) 

Jack Bailey, the host of the TV show Queen for a Day, which haunts my memories of my youth, was born 100 years ago in Hampton, Iowa.  I was born 50 years ago in nearby Fort Dodge, Iowa.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

In the spirit of linguistic parlor games, MIG sounds like fig, which inspires me to submit these potential nicknames:

  1. MIG Newton
  2. MIG Newman, for the discerning palate
  3. I don't give a MIG, they're too valuable
  4. Oh, Bring Us a MIGGY Pudding, and a Cup of Good Cheer (Note to Self:  Remember, I'm a designated organizer)

You can do better than that!