We Are ALA: Reimagining Our Association for the Future

By Sullivan, Maureen | American Libraries, November-December 2012 | Go to article overview

We Are ALA: Reimagining Our Association for the Future


Sullivan, Maureen, American Libraries


I recently learned that another national library association has adopted the slogan "I am (my national library association)" as a means to engage its members.

My immediate reaction was to think of ALA and how, if we were to follow suit, I would want our slogan to be "We are ALA." We, the members of ALA, our libraries, our communities, and even the larger world face many challenges as we increasingly work in a global society that is rapidly becoming a digital universe. In this ever-changing and fast-paced context, ALA must strive to be the best professional association it can be. To do this requires a collaborative effort to reimagine our Association for the 21st century.

Rethink and redesign

A recent book, The Race for Relevance, calls for every association to rethink and redesign itself to meet the needs and expectations of its current and future membership. The authors, Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers, make a compelling case for recognizing that the traditional association model is not what is needed today. Professionals who join and stay with associations today want value for their investment; meaningful engagement; easy paths to active contribution; resources that are directly relevant to improving their practice; appreciation and use of their knowledge, expertise, and talents; and opportunities to contribute when they are ready.

ALA offers many opportunities and resources to our members, and yet I consistently hear about the frustrations of "getting involved in ALA" and "from where will the next generation of leaders come?" I believe it is time to ask, "If ALA did not exist today, what would we create?"

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

To begin this work, I asked the Executive Board and division leadership to work within an appreciative inquiry framework to address these questions:

* What are the collective strengths of ALA?

* In our current context, where are there opportunities for ALA? …

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