Too Many Chefs in the Kitchen

Karen wrote this post yesterday which touches on something that has been stewing in my brain since last week. I decided it was time to stop tasting the soup and just serve it up. (Can you tell I am going to be using food as metaphor?)

Disclaimer #1 – I am a participating member of ALA
Disclaimer #2 – I am participating in the ALA Library 2.0 Bootcamp
Disclaimer #3 – This in no way represents the opinions of Jenny Levine or Michael Stephens. This is from my own observations as a participant.
Disclaimer #4 – I already think ALA wastes my dues

You are, dear reader, an intelligent human being, so you have probably guessed I am going to talk about ALA, money, and how ALA seems to take something that should be simple and cheap and turn it into a fiasco or at least the semblance of one.

Let me tell you a story.

One fine day in Chicago, some ALA muckity mucks realized that Web 2.0 exists. They decide they need to get in on the action and they look around for a couple members that have been talking about Library 2.0 until they are blue in the face. Enter in our two chefs, Jenny Levine and Michael Stephens.

Jenny and Michael are leaders in the Library 2.0 landscape so ALA asks them if they would create a class, using Web 2.0 technologies to teach a handful of key ALA members about library 2.0. They agree and there is much rejoicing.

This is the point in the story where ALA does the thing it does best, royally *%&$ things up. ALA wants to make spaghetti. It is cheap, easy, and can feed a crowd, but they do not take the time to look around and realize that anyone can make spaghetti. ALA thinks that all good things come from companies and big dysfunctional organizations, so they contract a company to create a recipe for spaghetti. ALA does not understand that it could have relied on its two chefs, Jenny and Michael, to make spaghetti on their own and thus pay an outrageous sum of money for a recipe for spaghetti which should have been, essentially, free.

The chefs, being good sports and wanting to further the cause, go with the recipe, though it is faulty. As you can imagine, there are many bumps along the way and, while the pot of spaghetti does come out resembling the pasta we love, it is not quite right. Some thing is off, but ALA pretends that all is well. How could anything be wrong? They paid an outrageous sum of money for the spaghetti so it must be good. Pass the salt.


ALA took a great idea, teaching some of its members about Library 2.0 and made it difficult. Everything we are doing could have been done with open source software, which means free minus hosting fees. Jenny and Michael could have set things up without the constraints of the Otter Group, which other people have pointed out, have us using software that is not that user friendly, does not validate, and creates podcasts without built in RSS making them plain old audio posts. The blog platform we are using, Blogware, is terrible and has an admin panel that drives me crazy. Blogware does not even have the option for alt tags to links and I spent a long time trying to figure out the way it handles pictures yesterday. I am not a newbie to the technology, so i can only imagine the hair pulling that is going on with members to whom all this stuff is shiny new. The feed reader we are using is not the best I have seen and must be downloaded to the desktop so it can not move with you which makes it impossible to access anywhere else but my office. I wish that we were using more of the open source tools that the people in the program might actually use in real life or programs many libraries are already using like Word Press, Moveable Type, Rojo, Bloglines, a podcatcher other than iTunes, etc.

Will Bootcamp be successful? Yes, to a point. It just frustrates me that ALA has this innate ability to squander my money and my time. Why is it so very hard for them to just make a pot of spaghetti with little or no fuss? Why?

–Jane, grabs a jar of Ragu