ALA, You Now Have No Excuses

On the heels of Meredith and Jason, I have to throw my hat in the ring.

Jason describes a conversation we had at Internet Librarian in which we hatched the most brilliant of all schemes ever. Well, we think so anyway.

Jason describes very well the meat of our plan: ALA should offer a virtual conference at the cost of the profit they would normally net from physical attendance.

One added benefit Jason did not mention would be far fewer physical rooms and hotels needed for conferences. It is possible ALA could actually have the conference someplace nice, during a nice time of year. Milwaukee in Summer or anywhere north of the Mason Dixon line for that matter when the rest of us are boiling. We might even be able to do away with Midwinter. Oh, be still my heart!

I would only add to his description this: ALA not allowing true virtual membership and using revenue as an excuse is not longer a reason. You can not hide behind money anymore. Stop trying to do it. We all know that this is simply an excuse not to look for alternative revenue streams. In less then 24 hours, you have now had three independent members offer you alternative revenue. Think out of the box and stop torturing us with F2F meetings that are unnecessary, not to mention personally, blindingly expensive.

I also would like to take the idea a step further by wedding it to Meredith’s post. She talks about online ads and sponsorships. Not only could ALA charge the amount they would normally net from physical attendance for online participation from members, they could also pimp the vendors with everything from banner ads to sponsoring talks and themes. As Meredith said, this does not mean letting the vendors talk, it means letting them be sponsors, much like NPR does on the radio with a short little commercial blurb that does not interfere with content.

Online ads are big money and so are online sponsorships. MySpace will make over a billion dollars in ads this year. Why can’t an organization of smart professionals figure out how to do what the twenty somethings have already figured out?

The great thing about a conference with virtual content is that many, many more people will have access to it and would be willing to pay for it. I know so very many librarians who can simply not afford to go to an ALA conference, but they could afford $50 of their own money to attend a virtual conference.

Bless your heart ALA, we love you, but you really need to consider these things. Seriously. And you should do that now. Not with a million committees that will mull over it for years only producing a useless report. We are asking for some action. I believe our future is riding on the decisions that get made about this issue. Please make them soon.

–Jane, please keep in mind Jane is not very patient