Saturday, January 27, 2007

ALA Council and transcripts

One of the ongoing discussions among some of my friends (a couple of them now former Councilors, unfortunately) is about the ability to follow ALA Council proceedings from afar. Jessamyn West commented on one of my Flickr photos to this effect. Unfortunately, Jessamyn was not in Seattle and had absolutely no opportunity to follow the discussion.

As I drove back, through the dark, from the airport I began thinking about this issue. I'm not really sure how I got to thinking about it, but there was some strange mental connection as I saw a couple of planes beginning their descent. The road I drive (I-94) heads due east from the Twin Cities, and one of the landing patterns has planes fly over Eau Claire, and descend to the airport in a straight run.

I have been one of those reluctant to endorse having the transcripts fed to a site on the web. Karen Schneider considers this a simple technological task, and I have no reason to disagree with that. [Karen, if you post a link to your past comments, I'll edit and put it here!] The more I think about it, the more I am coming around to the view which Karen and Jessamyn have expressed, that in order to make ALA governance even more open, we should try doing this.

One of the concerns used to support the status quo is that the transcription is not perfect, there are sometimes amusing errors in both people's names and in some of the technical terms. One of the captionists has told me that ALA is the toughest assignment not only because of the amount of jargon we use, but the level of language we use is higher. (Librarians are educated and have larger vocabularies than the general population, and we like to show that off!) The transcripts or captions are not official. One concern is that if left on the web, they could be taken out of context. At the same time, I am becoming less convinced about the importance of these arguments, and think that we should just do it.

Karen and Jessamyn, you have convinced me. I hope that others are willing to join me as I try to make the association more accessible and governance more transparent.


  1. Hey great! One of the problems with ALA governance in my opinion is that there are processes to make things sort of open -- mailing lists that anyone can join, open meetings at conferences -- while at the same time not really seeming open to those who might want to actually participate. It's very hard to determine how to get on (or off) the ALACOUN listserv, or even to figure out where and when the meetings are if you're AT the conference.

    If we don't go to the conference, we often have to wait MONTHS for basic information like the text of resolutions that were passed and other information that really shoudl be up on the web someplace almost immediately. I know that ALA is a big boat that is I many ways pretty tough to steer, but we shoudl really try to take advatage of some of the affordances technology brings us and consider it outreach to a younger savvier librarian population.

  2. While I'm not familiar with the content of these council proceedings, it seems that there isn't a system in place to preserve the content in the first place; neither folks who did attend nor the folks who did not have a reliable hard-copy of the content.

    Maybe that system should exist first, and then figure out if the content is useful for folks who couldn't attend. Alternatively, an audio transcript as a podcast might be useful.

  3. Actually, the captions projected form the basis of the minutes. They are preserved by staff who use them regularly.

    I'm not sure how many want a 3 or 4 hour podcast of Council II or III. This Midwinter, Council III began at 8:15 or so, and ran until noon.

  4. ...and then there is the whole issue of how ALA is a paper based organization and half of the discussion done in meetings could easily and more efficiently be done online.

    *sigh* sometimes my organization makes me want to poke my eyes out.

    Also, I still owe you a drink! ;)