Yes it's that time of year again! Voting for vacancies on the Board of the Australian Library and Information Association opens today. If you are an ALIA member and have not received an email from 'Corpvote Voting Services' I suggest you contact ALIA and/or check your spam. Once again I have asked all nominees to answer a series of questions, so that you and I can gain more insight into the views of nominees on the issues that matter (...to me). Some readers will remember that I did the same thing last year.
Four Directors? What the..?
This time around we have nine nominees for four Director positions. It may seem a little weird that we're electing four Board Directors, but no office-bearers, when last year we elected two Directors and a Vice-President. This came about due to the resignation for health reasons of Vice-President Susan Coker. ALIA elections usually alternate each year between electing three Directors and a Vice-President, or electing two Directors and Vice-President. Directors serve for two year terms and the Vice-President becomes President the next year. This results in a board of five Directors, a Vice-President and a President. Until the last few years the 'third' Director was elected by Institutional members, so individual members always elected two Directors (thanks to ALIA Director Alyson Dalby for explaining this to me). Because of Susan Coker's resignation, the ALIA Board had to appoint an interim Vice-President (Damian Lodge) until the 2014 board changes take effect in May, and we needed to elect both a Vice-President (as usual) and a President (not as usual), since Susan would normally become the President. Damian Lodge nominated for President, and John Shipp nominated as Vice-President. Since there were no other candidates, they were both declared elected. This then left a vacancy on the board, because Damian was already a Director. So instead of electing a further three Directors we are electing four.
Clear as mud? Good, let's move on.
On 16 February I scoured the web for email addresses for all the candidates. I had to do this because, bizarrely, ALIA decided not to publish email addresses for candidates this year. I did manage to get confirmation from ALIA staff later that the addresses I used were current, and an offer to pass on my email, which I believe happened with a reminder I sent last week. I then sent an email to candidates explaining what I'd done last year and asking five (six, really) questions, as follows:
ALIA's own publications indicate that less than 20% of the library & information workforce are ALIA members.
What do you plan to do to make ALIA membership more attractive to library and information professionals?
IFLA released a statement as long ago as 2004 supporting the Open Access movement and committing to work to encourage more Open Access academic journals. ALIA, a member of IFLA, represents a profession committed to enabling information to be used and shared by people regardless of their financial means or personal attributes. ALIA's Library and Information Agenda also called on members of Parliament to 'support the principle of open access'. Yet journals published by ALIA - Australian Library Journal and Australian Academic and Research Libraries - are behind a paywall for 12 months for members and two years for the wider community.
If elected, will you act to move all ALIA journals as quickly as possible (ie. without breaching any outstanding legal commitments to Taylor & Francis) to a full open access online publishing model?
There is widespread disquiet within the Library and Information sector regarding the quality of Library and Information university degrees and a perception, among many librarians,of a widening skills gap within the library workforce.
Do you have any thoughts you would like to share regarding library and information education in Australia?
ALIA's Library and Information Agenda - presented to political parties running in the 2013 Federal election - indicated that compulsory registration of Librarians was an aspiration of ALIA.
(a) What will you do as a board member to ensure that progress is made on the establishment of professional standards that may lead to practitioner registration, including standards for proof of appropriate continuing professional development?
(b) Do you support a move to make the ALIA PD scheme compulsory for membership, as a step towards a practitioner register?
The price of a standard members ticket to the ALIA 2014 conference is $1195. For a new graduate with a HELP debt earning ALIA's recommended Grade 1 Librarian pay rate this is 1.5 weeks' after-tax salary. For an early-career librarian travelling interstate without support from their workplace the total cost including flights and accommodation is likely to to be at least two to three week's salary.
What will you do as an ALIA Board member to ensure that ALIA provides affordable, high quality professional development and conference opportunities for librarians at all stages of their career, not just senior staff with generous workplaces?
I received answers from six of the nine candidates by today. They are listed below in reverse-alphabetical order, just for something different. I'll update this post in the event any more candidate responses appear.
Happy reading, and don't forget to vote.
No response received.
UPDATE WEDS 12 MARCH:
My apologies to Aileen. When I redirected my blog address I managed to break my email in a very subtle way (and therefore didn't notice). Aileen's response was sent to me well before deadline, but didn't reach me until 12 March - through no fault of Aileen's.
Although ALIA has seen a slight increase in the number of lapsed members returning to the association in the last year or so, our overall membership numbers are in decline. There are a number of factors affecting membership. Like many other professions, we are an aging workforce, with a significant proportion of our traditional membership base reaching retirement age. And, although we do quite well encouraging library school students to join, we do less well converting them to full members once they have graduated.
Encouraging students and younger professionals to retain ALIA membership as they move into the workforce is key to ensuring a vibrant and healthy association into the future. Part of the challenge is helping people following a less traditional career path to see the value of belonging to ALIA. The profession is undergoing significant change and the association must adapt accordingly. This has been a major focus in the past year through the Future of the Profession activity. In my view, ALIA needs to continue to strongly advocate to government and others outside the profession, work closely with library educators to ensure being ‘ALIA accredited’ remains meaningful, especially to employers, and promote ongoing professional development so people outside the profession see we take ourselves seriously. A key focus for the incoming Board will be expanding our role to better encompass the “I” in ALIA both to attract new members and demonstrate that our profession is evolving.
At the meeting just a few weeks ago, the Board endorsed a statement promoting the principle of open access and activities such as creating repositories for research output and developing digital archives of Australian cultural heritage. However, the Board also discussed the viability of making ALJ and AARL open access and determined that providing full open access is financially unsustainable for the association, at least at this point in time. So, although I agree in the concept of open access, especially for academic research output that has received public funding, I also acknowledge that the ALIA journals cannot be published in a way that incurs a financial loss for the association.
ALIA has responsibility for accrediting library education and reviewing the accreditation process has been a particular focus in the last year or so. We need to work with educators to streamline the process and develop criteria that ensure obtaining ‘ALIA accredited’ status remains meaningful, particularly to employers. As mentioned above, the profession is undergoing significant change and library and information education needs to adapt accordingly. It is an ongoing dialogue between educators, students, employers and the association.
This issue ties in with the previous question about library education. To be taken seriously as a profession, we need to clearly define what being a library and information professional means in today’s technological environment. Promoting the skills we bring to the digital economy and demonstrating how we continue to adapt to the fast-moving society around us through ongoing professional development helps us remain relevant.
Yes, we must demonstrate that, as a profession, we are continually monitoring and adapting our skills to meet what the information and technological environment surrounding us requires. Asking members to take responsibility for their own ongoing learning strengthens our marketability and demonstrates to others that our skills remain relevant.
ALIA provides a range of professional development opportunities, with conferences being only one component. Many activities happen at a local level, through ALIA’s wide range of groups, often at low cost or free of charge. Members can access professional reading as part of their membership fee and ALIA also offers a range of training courses and workshops that are less expensive than attending a full conference.
Conference organising committees all work hard to keep costs down, and ALIA is fortunate to receive financial support and sponsorship from many vendors and industry partners. Seeing how technology can help, such as webstreaming some conference events and encouraging people to follow the conference Twitter hashtag are other ways to reach people unable to attend in person.
Thank you for these insightful questions and the opportunity to share my views on the priorities facing the association and the actions we can collectively take should I be elected to the Board.
No response received.
Obviously our organisation needs to grow and attract as many members as possible. I would like to take some time to really study the demographics of our membership and our retention rates to try and pin point the most useful actions we could take across particularly groups. I am also interested in the motivations of why members join and what they get from being an ALIA member, could we enhance this? I would look at other successful organisations to see if some of their successful actions are transferrable to ALIA.
It is quite probable that these actions have already been taken by ALIA management but membership marketing is ongoing and has to be continually revisited. It may be that new Board members could contribute with fresh eyes and bold ideas.
Yes I am in favour of open access and would like to see ALIA take a leading role. I am also very interested in digitisation projects which I think ALIA could become involved in.
I am not sure I agree with "widespread disquiet" the new graduates I have been involved with have had good skill sets and that includes library technicians. I can't say I have noticed a great deal of change in graduates in the last 15 years. There is a big skills gap between new grads and experienced librarians but isn't that to be expected? I do think that increased workplace learning would be an advantage to both students and prospective employers and I can also see a role for ALIA in lobbying any member concerns to universities particularly if there are specific under performing universities.
I am in favour of practitioner registration with accompanying proof. I think this needs to be introduced as a planned stepped approach beginning with attracting our existing members to participate. We are in a good initial position with many employers specifying that applicants must be eligible for ALIA membership to gain employment. Employment is the key motivator to members agreeing and taking up registration.
I do not agree with compulsory PD for ALIA membership but certainly it can be linked to practitioner registration. I have been enrolled in the ALIA PD scheme since its inception and I am a keen supporter. However I do not think there is enough "reward" associated with PD achievement nor is it linked closely enough with employment. By tying it in with a practitioner register this could be achieved. But there could still be room for ALIA membership for those not ready or able to take that next step to practitioner status.
First of all I don't think that conference participation is key to PD. Conferences provide many opportunities to learn but are expensive to run and that cost has to be passed on to participants. Attendance numbers reflect the usefulness of the ALIA conferences to some of our members. Of course not everyone will be able to afford to attend or be supported by their workplace to attend. Perhaps those enrolled in the PD scheme could attract a discount or ALIA could arrange for more podcasts or video? There are many cheaper more accessible ways to gain PD points than attending large conferences and these opportunities are well promoted by ALIA. I do agree that cost is an issue not just with new graduates but with many ALIA members. I would encourage ALIA to continue promoting a variety of PD opportunities for all of our members taking into account cost and also skills so that technicians, new graduates and experienced but lower level staff all have PD opportunities.
It’s about advocacy and responsiveness, and providing opportunities for library staff to become aware and discover the benefits that ALIA as our peak professional industry body can deliver. As the first port of call for advice from government and industry ALIA will make a difference to their future. As a brand that is in competition for hard earned dollars, I would continually demonstrate the success, industry recognition and achievements ALIA has already secured and the opportunities for collaboration and professional development that are readily available.
Sounds exciting but would need to consider all obligations and I watch with interest the Board’s new statement on this topic.
ALIA is well positioned to respond to these concerns and I would be interested in this perception of increasing disquiet. As one of the largest employers of librarians in Queensland, I know a number of recently graduated staff who bring great skills and continually increase and build the capacity of our library services. My experience is our educators welcome feedback from practitioners in a number of ways and often look for opportunities to provide their students with practitioner experiences. If this is a matter of concern rather than perception, ALIA as the peak industry body is well positioned to respond appropriately, influence and advocate for a relevant and useful degree.
The Board is currently reviewing its accreditation models and I welcome this report.
I don’t believe this is something just the library and information education sector is responsible for. Each of us has a personal responsibility to ensure our skills remain relevant and suitable for the ever-evolving role that is a library professional.
A number of other professions require a professional membership and continued accreditation. If we are serious about our profession some kind of continued assessment and accreditation will stand us in good stead. This is certainly an area I am interested in and would welcome further dialogue.
I think there is an opportunity for a tiered and incentive based approach to this issue.
I suspect this is a challenging conundrum for all librarians at very stage of their career. The days of a generous workplace are rapidly disappearing with a number of my colleagues already funding or part funding their professional development. As a member of Information Online group for several years and a host and committee member of various Public Libraries conferences, the financial viability and success of many of these events is usually due to the generous support of our vendors.
ALIA is very aware of the cost of conference and has already undertaken a review of their conference model to make conferences more affordable and sustainable. There also needs to be further development of the considerable other professional development opportunities (e.g. online and sponsorships) to refine and create opportunities for new and continuing professionals to enjoy professional development opportunities. I think there will be a lot of movement in this space over the next few years.
ALIA has an already demonstrated commitment to new graduates via a reduced membership course and would I feel, continue to seek opportunities to progress affordable continuing professional education.
Increasing and enhancing membership is 'core business' for any professional association so there is no doubt that a strong/er membership base is essential for a not-for-profit organisation like ALIA to be able no only survive but also thrive in what has been a turbulent few years not just locally, but globally. I know that financial stresses have affected many organisations and individuals and this has meant that many L&I professionals have chosen not to become ALIA members as they don't see the “value” for their money.
I happen to believe that ALIA already offers attractive benefits under each of its membership categories – so is it a matter of better marketing and promotion?? Maybe/maybe not?! I do know that there has been some great work in this area over the years! I also know is that a number of L&I staff are perfectly satisfied with what they can access through their institution's membership (if they have one) and with what they can access freely through ALIA and other sources and networks. So for me what it boils down to is a matter of investment - investing in ALIA is investing in the profession....
I fully support the principles of open access and believe that having all ALIA journals openly accessible is a worthwhile goal to strive for, however making information fully and 'freely' available through open access is not without cost and therefore investment is required (as highlighted above). If ALIA membership is solid and/or growing and members were supportive of this investment then anything is possible!
Through completing my post-grad year in 1993, tutoring and lecturing in the University of Canberra's undergraduate library and information course in the early 2000s, and my industry involvement with the Canberra Institute's Certificate and Diploma library and information courses, I have seen and experienced some extensive changes in L&I education over the last two decades. Education providers have had to be attentive to student expectations but also highly responsive to employer requirements in a rapidly changing information environment. Depending on the course, L&I educators have had either one, two or three years (FTE) to impart both theoretical foundations and opportunities for practice in a diverse range of library and information specialties. I have seen over the years how ALIA is committed to working closely with the educators and the profession to ensure that both are working towards the same goals – highly competent information professionals with a solid and flexible knowledge and skill bases and a capacity to keep learning.
You may be interested in the 2011 final report: Re-conceptualising and re-positioning Australian library and information science education for the 21st century
My understanding is that we already have articulated standards and evidence provision processes in place use ALIA’s PD Scheme and that this has been strengthened by the move in July 2013 to introduce the Certified Professional membership category and specialisations through compliance with the ALIA PD Scheme.
The ALIA PD Scheme Specialisations - Health Sector specialisation is an example of how ALIA is working with its members to help them “demonstrate their specialised knowledge by complying with an additional commitment to the ALIA PD Scheme choosing their ongoing learning based on a specific set of health core competencies” (ALIA PD Scheme – Specialisation webpage – Members area). ALIA has also invited other groups to establish their own core competencies supporting their specialisations – a move that I support and value.
I do support this idea in principle (although I would appreciate more strategic level information before committing to it as a ‘matter of practice’). If it was to become mandatory I do believe that there would need to be long lead-up time to this as this is a major change within the industry.
ALIA has some very dynamic groups that provide access to a whole gamut of professional development activities (seminars, workshops, symposiums, etc.), many of which are shared on the group's and other ALIA groups' elists and through the PD Postings electronic newsletter. Many of these activities are free to members (and often non-members) or if fee-based, they are offered at very reasonable rates, often with discounts for members.
Conferences that are run over several days – like the ALIA Biennial conferences do have significant costs associated with them relating to venue and technology hire, insurances and catering costs so registration revenues need to cover these. Currently early bird and member discounts do make registration fees more affordable and there is a further reduction for students and retirees. Perhaps some consideration could be given to introducing a Reduced Fee conference option to match the membership categories as this applies to graduates for their first two years in the profession after graduating from an ALIA accredited course. Even so it can still be a significant investment for those early career librarians or those without 'generous' employers. The fact that such conferences and associated travel and accommodation costs are tax deductible for L&I workers does provide some relief/return even though it is not until tax time … but it does help!
I think it is difficult to make membership more attractive than it already is. The price of individual membership is by no means exorbitant, however many colleagues consider institutional membership sufficient for their needs, and whilst this is option is available, i think ALIA will continue to struggle for individual memberships.
The ALJ and the AARL allow for authors who publish in these journals to make their peer reviewed versions available openly in open access repositories. As the manager of an open access repository, the reality compared to the theory of open access has not reached the same point in time. Although publishing models are changing, they will take time to evolve to a point where everything is openly available to anyone, however this does not necessarily mean freely. At the end of the day, someone still needs to pay for "publishing."
I would not necessarily agree to your statement that "There is widespread disquiet within the Library and Information sector regarding the quality of Library and Information university degrees". I think we have excellent LIS educators and courses in Australia. i would however agree that there may very well be skills gaps that we could work towards addressing.
I think the idea of professional standards and proof of professional development are great initiatives. Currently we rely on individuals to keep themselves up to date, however that involves as little or as much as the individual is willing to commit to. it is certainly an idea I would like to consult others on.
I would support a scheme, not necessarily the current scheme. If we were to pursue that idea, I think it needs to be something that is less onerous and more user friendly than they current format.
I think ALIA already does a good job at ensuring the lowest costs and highest quality PD opportunities for its members. Compared to many other sectors, the price of attendance at an ALIA event is more than reasonable, and I wouldn't agree that it is only "senior staff with generous workplaces" that encourage or support attendance at these events. I have been fortunate to work in libraries of all types that support the most relevant people and positions attending events, not just the most senior, and I would hope that I contribute to this same ethos should I ever be in such a position to make similar decisions.
As President of School Library Association of NSW I have had exactly the same problem. Since I became President in October 2013 I have increased membership by 144. I have been able to do this through our new Social media strategy. I also launched a RE:Invent Library Professional Development Program. I have added to my line up of Professional Development new events. TeachMeet Library was one held at Event Cinema Bondi Junction. This year it will be held at Event Cinema George St. This type of event is free and engaging and could be replicated in local libraries. I am in negotiation with my local library network to hold a TeachMeet next term at Liverpool Local Library. I have also held Maker Evenings these events connect Librarians with Programmers and Engineers they are extremely popular.
It is important to have freedom of information and I am campaigning with other passionate librarians to see not just ALIA journals available as quickly as possible but all information available to students. On my Twitter feed you will notice that I have been Tweeting Barry O’Farrell to allow a one library card System like South Australia. #SLANSWSLD14. Working together with State, Local, University and School Librarians our voice is extremely loud. It is my MISSION to unite all Librarians and provide a seamless information flow to support LIFE LONG LEARNING! I have also mentioned in my statement as nominee that I would like to see Information Hubs in remote rural communities. Professor Sugata Mitra has shown us that if you bring the information to the people they will use it.
A degree is not the end of one’s education but a way to understand how to gain entry to a field. I see this as an opportunity for ALIA to fill this gap with targeted quality Professional Development for all career stage Librarians.
Question 4a and 4b
As a Teacher Librarian I have this described practice in place. The problem is lack of support to Teachers to understand the Standards and the process of maintaining the standards. Professionals today are extremely busy and in the instance of Teachers it has become a chore to complete the Processional Development required to keep registration and the documentation required is arduous. Again I would see this as an opportunity for ALIA to support Librarians in this process and provide comprehensive Professional Development that linked to Standards seamlessly. ALIA could provide 24/7 Professional Development courses harnessing our expertise with the web to deliver content.
As I stated above having a MENU of Professional Development is the key. Providing TeachMeet style events alongside conferences is the key. Sponsorship could be another option. It is imperative to provide quality services to all members. This is not just limited to price but includes the content delivered. Incorporating events like Maker Spaces, Gamification and Library Services content is important. I would love to see a Conference that included speakers like Peggy Sheehy who developed a reading program using online gaming software World of Warcraft.
No response received.
I think that as libraries in all sectors have to increasingly justify their value to their organisations and to society as a whole, the strategic importance of a professional organisation such as ALIA is becoming increasingly important. The key value that ALIA brings to members is its strategic leadership role, lobbying and advocacy and that it provides a united voice for all library staff in all sectors.
On a more practical level, ALIA must expand its provision of personalised services to members:
- career guidance and professional development;
- assistance with local-level lobbying;
- research, ROI submissions, marketing and promotions;
- small networking events for members.
I believe it is important to differentiate services provided through institutional membership from those provided to personal members. The high cost of professional development services also needs to be addressed.
The affordability of personal membership is an issue. Possibly different levels of membership (and associated services) can be provided to different groups at different price points.
Although I fully support Open Access and the principles underpinning it, in particular in the case of publicly-funded research, there are significant financial considerations that have to be taken into account. The value of directing a portion of membership fees to fund Open Access for all as opposed to funding additional and/or reduced-cost services for members needs to be carefully examined.
It is becoming increasingly challenging for educational institutions to include all the required knowledge and skills in the curriculum and still maintain teaching of professional fundamentals. This is reflected in the vast array of subjects offered in librarianship and information courses. I don't believe it’s realistic for a professional or para-professional qualification to cover every area of expertise. A library degree or diploma should be regarded as a first step towards professional competence and should be complemented by ongoing professional training and development. ALIA's role in this is pivotal, both in its accreditation function and as a focal point for industry consultation. Also, the growing skills gap in the workforce could at least in part be addressed by the establishment of mandatory standards, as is happening in many other professions.
I believe that the practitioner registration issue is central to growing ALIA's relevance and, as stated in my previous answer, the establishment of appropriate professional standards and processes for continuing professional development is essential. If elected, I would act to bring the setting of professional standards to the forefront of ALIA's future activities and set up a sub-committee (on a par with ALIA's three other sub-committees) tasked with achieving this in the shortest possible time. This sub-committee would be expected to work closely with, and learn from, other professions that have achieved or are working towards practitioner registration.
Yes. However, in my view relevant prior experience would need to be taken into consideration during the transition period and a way of formally recognising relevant prior learning (such the established Recognition of Prior Learning process in the VET sector).
Coming from the VET sector which has been chronically underfunded and whose library staff mostly cannot afford to attend conferences and professional development as the cost to their organisations is prohibitive, I am entirely sympathetic to this problem. If elected, I would push for additional sponsorship opportunities, bursaries, some discounted conference and professional development fees and, as the cost of accommodation can be prohibitive, encourage members to provide 'at-home' accommodation for some interstate members attending: 'members supporting members'.
I'd like to thank all of the nominees who responded. I hope this has been helpful for ALIA members when deciding how to cast your vote.