To continue our coverage of the 2013 ALIA elections we have the responses from Alyson Dalby. She has also blogged her answers.
How can ALIA appeal to students and people entering the industry/profession?
Well…I’m possibly going to give a politically unwise answer to this. I
think that ALIA currently does heaps for students and new grads. If you
join up as a student, you pay just $80
– substantially less than the $310 that I pay, and less than the cost
of your average text book. Not only that, but if you graduate from an ALIA accredited course you get two years of reduced membership fees – currently $186. So there’s a financial incentive to join up early.
Students and new grads have their own conference – IMHO, ALIA’s best conference. The New Librarians Symposium
(NLS) has now been running since 2002. I know it well – I’ve attended
several and I was a Convenor for one (NLS2006 in Sydney). It’s a whole
conference aimed at people new to the profession, with the program
usually focusing on career planning, professional development, and new
ideas. It’s always full of excited new members of our profession, and
unlike most other conferences no one glares at you if you approach them
and say “Hi, I don’t know anyone here. Can I chat to you?” I’ve shown my
support for NLS on lots of occasions – by bringing it to Sydney in
2006, by attending and speaking, and by leading a review of the viability of continuing support for NLS when I sat on the New Generation Advisory Committee (NGAC). I also went to the US to tell the New Members Round Table section of the American Libraries Association all about how specialised professional development offered to new grads is a good thing.
Which brings me to governance – ALIA has a Board-appointed advisory
committee (and is the only library association to do so) and a Group,
both dedicated to new professional issues. NGAC is meant to advise the Board on issues relevant to new professionals, and the New Graduates Group
is meant to run events and other professional development activities
for members that identify as new graduates (lots of students come to
these events as well).
Finally, ALIA accredits LIS
courses – something that students probably don’t see, but which does
impact on the quality and content of the education they receive. The
point of ALIA doing this is that if a student completes an
ALIA-accredited course, they can reasonably be assumed to know certain
basic bits of information. Thus employers tend to be the people that pay
closest attention to whether an applicant has done an ALIA-accredited
course, or not.
So ALIA does heaps for new entrants to the profession – and, of
course, these people have access to all the other ALIA bits’n'bobs as
well, including other conferences, training, the LIS journals package, a
couple of advisory services. In fact, no other group that can be
identified by their career stage is as well served as students and new
graduates. Which makes me wonder why the question is being asked.
The answer, I believe, is communication. I don’t think students and
new graduates know that ALIA does all this stuff for them. The best
thing ALIA can do to appeal to new entrants to the profession is to
communicate with them. When I worked as the NSW Manager for ALIA I made
as many attempts to outreach to LIS schools as possible – I visited CSU,
UTS, Ultimo TAFE and Mt Druitt TAFE. I arranged talks to students and I
asked course coordinators to pass information on to their students (in
lieu of being able to afford as many face to face visits as I would have
liked). This kind of stuff needs to keep happening.
I like the current model of ALIA’s suite of new grad services. I like
that NGG and NLS and NGAC are all run by new grads themselves – there’s
no point in a bunch of experience people telling new grads what they
should be interested in. ALIA can improve on the current model by making
it as easy as possible for those groups to do what they do, but they
can also improve by making sure that new grads know how well served they
are by ALIA.
What are some of the advocacy issues you would like to see ALIA address?
I’d really like to see ALIA getting more aggressive in the DRM and
electronic licences debate. I’d like to see ALIA advocating for
simplified and comparable user licences on things like ebooks and
databases in the same way that companies like Choice have done for
mobile phone licences, and the government has done for mortgage interest
rates. I think that ALIA can be used to advocate on behalf of the end
users of these products (both us and our clients) because EULAs are insane,
which means no one reads them, which means we all agree to things
without reading them. When we talk about information literacy, this is a
good example of what we mean. If I can’t understand an EULA it’s either
because my information literacy is poor or the licences are too
complex. I think I’ve got great information literacy – thus I think the
problem is the EULAs, and they are pervasive in modern life.
This is a good opportunity for collaboration. Librarians
are by no means the only group that cares about this, and we could
identify other groups to partner with in this. If the end result was
that companies had to provide standard-format and comparable EULAs and
DRM information about their products, I would be a happy camper.
How can ALIA reach out and engage with people working in
special libraries or other areas where they feel better served by other
My background is in special libraries. My first library job was running Australia’s only medical history library,
and it was while working there that I joined ALIA because I realised
that if I didn’t connect with my profession I could just sit in my
office and rot away, never learning anything new.
Joining ALIA helped me to connect with other OPLs, but also helped me
bring ideas from other sectors into my own workplace. Gaining support
to attend conferences from a boss who’s not a librarian can be a
challenge for special librarians – in my case I was careful to
articulate the benefit to the organisation through an improvement in our
public profile. This also allowed me to invite ALIA groups to tour what
was (and is) an extraordinary collection.
I’m not sure we need to see other associations as competition, but at
the same time we do want to attract all sectors into ALIA. I’ve said
before that I think ALIA’s group structure is fundamentally good, but
needs to be improved. I think it’s through this structure that those
with a specialist interest can develop their networks, while connecting
to the rest of the profession through other ALIA events.
ALIA’s strength is it’s pan-professional nature. Frankly, if you work
in law libraries and you want to focus on law libraries, then ALLA
is going to be a better fit for you – but if you think that you might
be able to learn from other sectors, and might be able to offer
something to other sectors, then membership of ALIA looks pretty
My answer here probably reflects my own professional history
to a large extent – I’ve moved from specials (medical in one case,
accounting in another) to a university library via vendor land and
association. I place a huge amount of value on information that can be
used across sectors.
Is anything you would like to let our readers know about you and what you would like to accomplish as a Board member?
I’d like the ALIA Sydney blog readers to know that, with Kate Byrne,
I was instrumental in the revitalisation of ALIA Sydney in 2011. I’d
like you to know that I have completed formal study in financial
management and company law. I’d like you to know that I have a history
of using ALIA’s framework to get things done and make things happen, and
that I intend to keep doing this. I’ve been involved with ALIA as a
Group committee member, as a conference committee member, and as an
advisory committee member. I even worked for ALIA. I know the
As a Board member there are a few things I’d like to accomplish. They
may seem unambitious, but I believe strongly in fundamentals. I’d like
to ensure that ALIA continues to maintain financial sustainability –
without this we have nothing. I’d like to see a reduction in members
failing to renew their membership. I’d like to see professional
development events in every capital city, and I’d like to see rural and
regional members participating in online events. Finally, I’d like to
use this blog to continue writing about the Board, so that members get a
sense of what being on the Board involves, and are attracted to it, so
that next year we have an equally strong interest in nominating.
For more information about the ALIA 2013 elections head over to the ALIA web site