Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services


New Association: A Challenge and an Opportunity

By Jan Meadows, Bookmobile Supervisor, Pikes Peak Library District.

Welcome back to the OLOS website and 21st Century Bookmobiles. As I pondered how to write this column, a vision popped into my mind. It was of a body being driven over by a gigantic bookmobile.. Lookout, it’s backup lights are on...here it comes again!! The worst part of this vision the body and the face looked just like mine! Yikes! Dare I even think of writing about the big discussion on the listserv lately? Man, they didn’t warn me how dangerous writing this column was going to be! But my “Libra” mind and spirit (you know, the whole balanced scale thing) pushes me to write on and hope no one comes a lookin’ for me in their maim=mobile!

The much awaited Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services had it’s first meeting at the Great American Bookmobile and Outreach Services Conference Oct. 2 – 4, 2004 in Columbus, OH. The listserv messages have had a few wrong ideas of what took place at this meeting. People who did not attend the conference seem to think that the association dues was voted on and approved at the meeting. This is not so. The dues and the two level memberships were created by the steering committee in their planning meetings to establish the association. Some people still do not understand that an Associate Membership and a Full Membership can include everyone at your library being on the listserv. For example, if my library purchases a full membership in the library’s name, it will have one vote on association business and one discount to the conference, one free subscription to “Bookmobile and Outreach Services” and everyone in the entire library (if they so wish) can be on the listserv. This does not mean one vote for each staff member or one discount for each staff member but just one vote and one discount for the library as a whole. An associate membership purchased in the library’s name will also entitle everyone at that library to be on the listserv.

Also, for the record, nothing was voted on at that first meeting of ABOS except whether or not to join with the Association of Rural and Small Libraries for a joint conference in 2004. It was voted to approve a joint conference for a one-year trial. After that it would be revisited by ABOS (and I imagine ARSL) to see if it was beneficial or not.

The steering committee that worked to create ABOS was made up of bookmobile and outreach staff that have been active on the listserv and at conferences. They, along with John Philip and Dr. Bernard Vavrek, created a frame work with which the association could be launched. A slate of officers was appointed by this committee to serve until the association was organized enough to elect it’s own. It is my personal belief that they worked with the best interest of all in mind and did not intentionally exclude anyone or wish to upset anyone.

That said, I also believe that all the questions posed on the listserv are valid concerns and need to be addressed. I also believe it will take time to address them. Here is a review of questions/concerns I have gleaned from the many messages.

* How was the association dues amount arrived at – does it go to the support of the listserv only – what else does the dues need to support – what has the cost of supporting the listserv and conference been up to this point – what is the target amount needed?
* Is there a mission/vision/objectives statement created yet?
* When will an official registration/membership form be available?
* If I want to join now, where do I send my membership fee?
* Why do we have to pay anything to be on the listserv?
* Was a cost analysis done to arrive at the dues needs?
* What about people from other countries?
* What about people who cannot afford membership?

So here is my opinion, or should I say, my two cents. Both sides, and I hesitate to use that word because I don’t think it is a good way for the association to start out with “sides”, but for lack of a better term, need to give a little.

The steering committee/appointed officers need to address the questions. To remain silent, other than to defend the idea that the association needs money so it doesn’t rely on Clarion University’s generous spirit, (which I don’t think anyone disagrees with), does not generate faith in the potential members. They just want more information (nature of the librarian beast) so they can make an informed choice about joining. It is natural for the committee to think everyone knows everything because, as a committee, they have spent a good amount of time working out the details of the association and tend to forget that the rest of us out here just haven’t got all the information they have been working with. To not address the questions starts a breeding ground for ugly rumors/feelings;they think we will just follow blindly; they are using the listserv as a carrot (or was it stick); they don’t care what we think, etc. I plead to the committee to come forth and spread the knowledge so this association can start on a good note and flourish rather than flounder in a mass of hurt feelings and anger.

But remember, I am a Libra, and we have a nature that sees both sides of an argument, which I admit can be a blessing and a curse and sometimes a weakness, because we find it hard to take a side! But in this situation, I can relate to both sides, so I must also speak to the committee/officer’s defense.

The potential members need to be less accusing in their questioning. (Hmm, that sounded kind of accusing also, didn’t it!) It is natural for the committee/officers to feel defensive when it is suggested they are purposely keeping information from the masses and to be accused of using “carrots and sticks”. I know that each member freely put in a lot of work and time to get this association off the ground. Every thing was done in good faith and with no malice intended. I can say this because I know most of the people on the committee and cannot see any of them doing anything of the kind. It is impossible for a few people to think of everything that can come up in the first years of a new entity. But I believe they tried to build a framework to get it started. Next year everyone, if you join, will have the power to vote for officers and to change anything you believe isn’t working.

As many have asked, is it set in cement? The answer is no. Let’s just get started and then work out the kinks.

So, I guess my bottom line is, lets all play nice and work together! Bookmobile and Outreach people are the most flexible people on earth! Let’s try and be that way with each other, and create the best tool we can to support our work. That’s what I hope ABOS will be and I think you all want that too.

Rev your motors now and commence running over me! I’m a sitting target at jmeadows@ppld.org.

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