Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.

Why Each Member of AALL Is Part of the Whole

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The following is the post I promised where I said I would share my ideas on what we should change to make sure that all AALL members enjoy the educational programming they need from their association.  That’s a tall order that may not be possible to achieve.  At the same time, I think it is a goal worth working towards.  My fear in missing this target is that we won’t have the skills to stay revelant in our positions.

The other statement I made at the end of the last post was that “we are the AALL.”  Since then I’ve received emails suggesting that this isn’t so.  That the AALL we have been talking about is the leadership.  Having been part of that group at one time, I learned how little the association leadership can do in achieving change if the membership is involved.

I ran for and served on the executive board because I wanted to make a difference.  At my first board meeting, I expected a them (the much aligned academic members)  against us (the disenfranchised private and state, court and county members) kind of atmosphere filled with more process and tedium then I could bear.  I went in asking myself what possessed me to think I could be part of the board.

What I found was a group of individuals who wanted the same as me without thought of what library type they came from.  I was the only private member the first year with two more privates joining during the next two years and an equal number of state, court and county members serving during that time as well.

During orientation we were reminded that we were there to serve the entire association and not to lobby for our individual library types.  While we all agreed that we would follow that model, I was surprised to be regularly asked to speak on behalf of the private members.  The other members on the board were constantly concerned about what the members of PLL would think about the various topics we discussed. 

Despite my concerns at the outset, I truly enjoyed my time on the executive board.  My term covered the years where AALL moved to a more open  and flexible schedule during the annual meeting.  We tinkered with additional parts of the meeting including moving the opening reception to Saturday from Sunday night hoping that this would work for everyone, as we heard from all library types that the meeting was too long.

We weren’t sure that all of the changes would work but we knew that some change was necessary.  I personally didn’t get everything I wanted to see changed (including doing away with the dance that followed the banquet as I do believe it serves too few members for the expense incurred), but I wasn’t there to get what I personally wanted.

What I learned during my stint on the board was that:

  • The association was no better than each individual member
  • Without the sole purpose of providing the appropriate services that would support each individual member and at the same time the group as a whole, the association had no reason to exist.
  • Meeting that one goal would be near to impossible
  • We couldn’t do it without member participation from all library types
  • We would never make every member happy with each decision made.

and, finally that it is easier to sit back and criticize “AALL” than to participate in changing what doesn’t work.

I’m guilty of falling into that trap during the last few years where I’ve been unhappy with the programming but did nothing to change it.  I’m glad that Caren Biberman started this discussion as I found while promising a “bodacious proposal” and saying “when we are talking about “AALL” we are talking about ourselves”, I had to sit back and think about why AALL is more about members than anything else and doesn’t work unless the membership sees themselves as a vital part of making necessary changes.

So with this diatribe I need to promise once more that I will come through with a proposal.  Why not now?  Because I don’t believe anyone should have to read a post that is this long and the how long the next post will be without a break.  I promise, I will get to the “bodacious proposal” where I share what “I” think we can do about improving educational programming.

One thought on “Why Each Member of AALL Is Part of the Whole

  1. Touche’ , Nina! It’s so easy (and less intimidating) to sit back and let others do the work and then complain when it doesn’t seem to fit my situation! I appreciate the inside “view” of your experience on the board. I’ve always been impressed by the energy and the willingness of so many to serve in this large organization and that despite our differences in duties and locations, we have a lot in common and we can (and do) learn from each other!
    Looking forward to your “bodacious” proposal(s)!