Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dual Membership Benefits for Library Students Part 2 of 2

Vintage books

This post is the second part of a exploration of the benefits of dual memberships to professional organizations for library science students. Read the first part here.

The ACRL, a division of the ALA, is a professional association of academic librarians. Founded in 1890, it is the largest division of the ALA, with approximately 12,400 members who work in community and junior college, college, university, and research libraries. Membership includes subscriptions to College and Research Libraries and College and Research Libraries News, access to more than 20 electronic discussion lists, current job listings, discounts on ACRL publications and conferences, and many career enhancement opportunities. Similar to the ALA, the ACRL has thirty committees devoted to specific goals, as well as task forces for special projects and discussion groups to address pressing issues in an informal environment.

The mission of the ACRL is to make the organization “responsible and universally recognized for positioning academic and research librarians and libraries as indispensable in advancing learning and scholarship” (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2006). To do so, the ACRL has formulated specific areas to work on in the near future: higher education and research focusing on learning, scholarship, and advocacy, the profession focusing on continuous learning, leadership, and information technology, and the association focusing on membership and sustainability (ACRL, 2006).

This brings us to our question: should a library student interested in working in an academic or research library join the ALA, the ACRL, or both? The ALA is the largest, oldest, and most comprehensive library association. Its size grants the association the crucial power it needs to advocate and lobby the government, especially when promoting Intellectual Freedom and privacy in the age of the Patriot Act. However, the ALA’s magnitude also makes the organization bureaucratic, complex, frequently impersonal and hard-to-navigate for new members. One advantage of its size is that the ALA, by being involved in all aspects of library work, allows its members to choose to what extent they would like to participate in the association and which interests they would like to pursue through committees and Round Tables.

Inversely, the ACRL is a specialized organization, focusing on the concerns of those who work in academic and research libraries. By joining only the ACRL, members lose some of the larger opportunities offered by the ALA, as well as its advocating power. However, the ACRL’s small size, in relation to the ALA, allows members to feel more comfortable voicing their concerns and having their interests supported without much bureaucracy. As most members of the ACRL join because of professional development, they may find that their needs as library professionals are met successfully by this organization alone (Cast & Cary, 2001).

On blogs such as the ACRLog, members unhappy with the practices of the ALA have gone so far as to suggest that the ACRL should succeed from the ALA (StevenB, 2006). This would not only increase the price of membership for the ACRL because it would have to pay its own administrative costs, it might also inspire other ALA divisions to become independent, therefore greatly reducing the advocating power that the ALA holds on a national level.

Some may argue that they would rather join a division like the ACRL than the ALA because they believe that ALA membership is too costly and, other than the New Members Round Table, it does not provide enough opportunities to network and share information (StevenB, 2006). However, student memberships for both associations is $60 total, with $25 for the ALA and $35 for the ACRL, which is reasonable for those on a budget. However, improvements can be made to make dual membership more appealing to new members such as providing low-cost membership dues during a librarian’s first few years and greater support for local and state chapters of the ALA and the ACRL (StevenB, 2006). Additionally, in “Is Association Membership Worth It?,” author Rachel Singer Gordon suggests waiving conference registration fees for some members, querying new librarians on their needs, and varying conference locations (2004).

Although the ALA is large and can seem intimidating for new members such as myself, I joined the association the moment I decided to become a librarian because the gesture showed my support for the ALA’s vital, national presence. As the primary professional organization for library science, membership allows me to keep abreast of all the new developments in my field. I also joined the ALA because even though I would like to work in an academic library, I will not dismiss other library career opportunities should they arise. The ALA can provide me with a comprehensive overview of the profession, no matter where I will work in the future. I also plan to join the ACRL because the information and networking opportunities, especially on the local level, will enlighten and enhance my career path. The dual membership as a student to the ALA and the ACRL will grant me a broad-spectrum perspective of my chosen profession, as well as a concentrated view on the type of work I would like to do in the future.

Although I advocate dual membership, the choice of joining the ALA, the ACRL, both or neither associations depends on each individual and their varying needs and priorities. It is to the benefit of the profession as a whole for library students to emerge from graduate school with a clearer picture of their place in librarianship. This can be achieved relatively inexpensively by joining associations that interest them at a discounted student fee. By doing so, students are granted the opportunity to explore the associations at their own pace and interest level, even those as complex as the ALA. Increased student exposure to associations like the ALA and the ACRL will undoubtedly encourage more student participation and perhaps more student chapters of these organizations. It may also promote later membership in the associations once the students have acquired jobs. The future of the library profession rests with these new members, who will shape the policies and procedures during the coming years. Professional associations like the ALA and the ACRL must strive to encourage and welcome its new members. Dual membership in the ALA and the ACRL is an investment in the future of librarianship and library associations. I, for one, will soon become a member of both organizations, and I encourage interested library students to do so as well.

References

American Library Association. (2006). Mission. Retrieved April 25, 2006, from http://www.ala.org/ala/ourassociation/governingdocs/policymanual/mission.htm

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2006). Charting our Future: ACRL Strategic Plan 2020. Retrieved April 25, 2006, from http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/aboutacrl/whatisacrl/acrlstratplan/stratplan.htm

Cast, M., & Cary, S. (2001). Members assess ACRL: Results of the 2000 Membership Survey. College & Research Libraries News, 62 (6), 623-8.

Gordon, R. S. (2004). Is Association Membership Worth It? Library Journal, 129 (7), 56.

StevenB. (2006). Questioning the Value of ALA Membership. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from http://acrlblog.org/2006/03/06/questioning-the-value-of-ala-membership/

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dual Membership Benefits for Library Students Part 1 of 2

Book shelf 2

This post is the first part of a exploration of the benefits of dual memberships to professional organizations for library science students. Read the second part here.

Professional library associations build a network of like-minded experts in their field, provide current news and information to its members, and promote public awareness of the profession. Benefits of association membership include engaging news and views offered through publications and meetings, scholarship opportunities, continuing education courses and workshops, mentoring relationships, networking opportunities, employment insights, professional development, and resume boosting. Investing in a professional association membership grants a sense of community to those new to the profession or working in isolated environments by offering conferences, discussion boards, and chat rooms. Membership promotes professional advancement by providing circumstances for research, publication, and presentations, as well as demonstrates professional pride by developing standards, guidelines, and ethics for the profession. These, in turn, enhance the institutions that members work for and the communities they serve.

For library students who are interested in working in academic libraries, such as myself, the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) offer unique benefits to potential members who are contemplating joining both or either of the associations. After a brief survey of the individual associations, this paper discusses the benefits and disadvantages of each organization, ultimately advocating dual membership for library students interested in careers in academic or research libraries.

The ALA, founded in 1876, prides itself in being the largest and oldest library association in the world, with an astounding 64,000 members. ALA membership is available to people involved in library work in the United States and abroad, retired librarians, general supporters, libraries or other nonprofit organizations, and businesses that serve the library community. Membership benefits include a subscription to American Libraries, discounts on ALA publications, conferences, and continuing education opportunities, as well as a myriad of service discounts ranging from life insurance to credit cards.

An elected council, which sets policies and programs, and an executive board, which administers said policies and programs, govern the ALA. Association and council committees propose these policies and programs. Committees of the association include literacy, membership, and orientation, training and leadership development, among others; committees of council include groups that focus on diversity, intellectual freedom, and pay equity, to name a few. The broad scope of the ALA led to the formation of eleven membership divisions, which have their own clearly defined responsibilities, mission statements, staff, and governing board. Additionally, the ALA offers Round Tables, which are membership groups concerned with a field outside of the divisions’ scope, such as Exhibits, Library History, or New Members.

The ALA is devoted “to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all” (American Library Association, 2006). It is currently focused on six priorities: access to provide users with timely access to information, legislation/funding to strengthen services through increased aid, intellectual freedom to protect the right to uncensored materials, public awareness to promote the importance of libraries to society, personnel resources to advocate for library staff and library services, development, and technology to advance new information tools and technologies (APA, 2006).

Friday, June 15, 2007

Intranet Implementation and Improvement Part 3 of 3

Keyboard 2

This post is part of a series on intranet implementation and improvement. Please click on the links to read further:

Part 1
Part 2

Arrangement

A typical intranet has a central home page with a hierarchy of pages connected by hyperlinks. Its hierarchy surpasses the traditional linear model of information presentation because data is organized, stored, and accessed in a non-linear fashion through a network of links (Telleen, 1997). Broker pages aid users in accessing content pages, which contain useful information, as well as links to other broker and content pages. Typically, searching and browsing is restricted to hyperlinks or keyword searches. Due to the overall structure of the internet and intranets, most information is hidden unless the user knows the path or keyword to access it.

Conclusion

The purpose of this paper is to explore issues regarding the implementation and improvement of an intranet. Many simple aesthetic, formatting, and textual changes can be utilized to improve an existing intranet without a drastic redesign.

An effective intranet is not a project that ends at implementation. In fact, most of the work involved in making an intranet useful occurs long after its release. The intranet is an organization’s knowledge management tool that reflects dynamic information. To maintain an intranet’s effectiveness, an organization must continue to educate itself about user needs. The result—an intranet that increases the productivity and competitiveness of the organization—is worth it.

Works Cited

Cumming, M., & Cuthbertson, L. (2001). Wired in Whitehall: a survey of internet and intranet use in government. Aslib Proceedings, 53(1), 32-38.

Dan, V. (2002). Users continue to feel pain on navy’s intranet. Computerworld, 36(45), 22-25.

Fichter, D. ( 2006). Making your intranet live up to its potential. Online, 30(1), 51-53.

Garnik, I. (2006). Factors affecting credibility of online vendors. Doctoral dissertation, Gdańsk University of Technology. Gdańsk Wrzeszcz, Poland.

Guengerich, S., Graham, D., Miller, M., & McDonald, S. (1997). Building the corporate intranet. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Jacoby, G. A., & Luqi. (2007). Intranet models and metrics. Communications of the ACM, 50(2), 43-50.

Jen, H.W., Yi, C.C., Jack, C., & Binshan, L. (2007). Closing off the knowledge gaps in IS education. International Journal of Innovation and Learning, 4(4), 357-375.

Lai, V. S. (2001). Intraorganizational communication with intranets. Communications of the ACM, 44(7), 95-100.

Muller, J.N. (2002). Challenges of intranet management. In S. Purba (Ed.), New directions in internet management (pp. 203-221). Boca Raton, FL: Auerbach Publications.

Newell, S., Scarbrough, H., & Hilop, D. (2000). Intranets and knowledge management: De-centered technologies and the limits of technological discourse. In P. Craig, R. Hull, M. Chumer, & H. Willmott (Eds.), Managing knowledge (pp. 103-110). New York: Macmillan Business.

Pedley, P. (1999). Intranets and push technology: Creating an information sharing environment. London: Aslib.

Sherwood, G. (2001). Digital denial: managing the human element of technology. Journal of Property Management, 71-73.

Telleen, S. L. (1997). Intranet organization. New York: Wiley Publishers.

Wen, H. J. & Anandarajan, A. (1998). Intranet: a cost reduction tool for corporate publication. Industrial Management & Data Systems, 98(5), 200-2004.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Intranet Implementation and Improvement Part 2 of 3

Keyboard 3

This post is part of a series on intranet implementation and improvement. Please click on the links to read further:

Part 1
Part 3

Implementation

Intranet implementation must be viewed in the context of an organization’s culture and politics. Stemming from its democratic nature, intranets are not useful for organizations that work on a need-to-know basis. Sufficient funding and top-level commitment must be present to see the implementation process through to its conclusion. Management support and participation factor into the adoption of an intranet as the favored communication tool of the organization (Fichter, 2006).

Intranets are successful for a variety of reasons. An intranet is a cost reduction tool and lowers an organization’s paper usage significantly (Wen & Anandarajan, 1998). According to Pedley (1999), well-designed intranets are an inexpensive but powerful way to improve internal communication. (See Table 2 below for suggested intranet features.) Intranets also enable a range of programs to be linked by a single interface (Pedley, 1999).

Suggested Intranet Features (adapted from Garink, 2006)

Attractive, inviting homepage
Aesthetically and textually consistent with organization’s identity
Useful links and pages; no dead links
Easy navigation
Proficient search and browse tools
Clear language without jargon or legalese
Accurate, timely information, preferably dated and signed
Inclusive, precise information without need for other sources
Task support without need for other methods
A killer application that keep users returning
Feedback options, such as surveys or suggestion forms

Other factors should be considered when implementing an intranet. The fate of existing systems must be decided, and firewalls and desktop hardware that supports graphics and applications must be in place. Intranet connectivity increases traffic in the network, which can challenge the information management team. Although intranets are attractive to smaller organizations that cannot afford large network and IT investments, they also must be mindful of this problem (Lai, 2001). As it matures, an intranet needs to provide sufficient bandwidth to optimize its applications without delay or interruption.

Although intranets can assist an organization capably, some studies have documented implementation problems. Dan (2002) reported that the Navy’s seven billion dollar intranet has slowdowns, failed communications, and locked workstations. Sherwood (2001) studied a company whose intranet failed because its users were more comfortable with traditional means of communication, such as mailing, phoning, and faxing, than with email and other intranet applications. In a study by Cumming and Cutherbertson (2001), 60 percent of employees in United Kingdom government offices disagreed that the intranet improved their work production. These are a small sampling of the practical problems that arise with intranets that may not be suitable for their organizations or users.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Intranet Implementation and Improvement Part 1 of 3

Keyboard

This post is part of a series on intranet implementation and improvement. Please click on the links to read further:

Part 2
Part 3

Introduction

The intranet has become one of today’s most effectual and popular tools for knowledge management in organizations. Due to advances in networking and distributed computing, intranets can easily be implemented, maintained, and upgraded. Although usually associated with large companies, an intranet can be a valuable business tool for smaller organizations.

Many intranets have grown organically as features are added as needed. Unfortunately, the lack of pre-planning leads to sites that are hard to manage. Due to the amount of work involved in designing a new intranet or redesigning an existing one, many organizations, especially smaller ones, have chosen to improve their intranet incrementally.

Definition

An intranet is an open transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) based network that utilizes a browser as its interface, runs Internet applications over the local area network (LAN), and exists behind a firewall (Guengerich et al., 1997). It provides a universally common interface for diverse organizational processes, which significantly reduces training costs.

An intranet is a private network that grants access to a select group. It allows collaboration, interaction, and concurrent information sharing across departments and levels, supporting a flat organizational structure. Intranets are created for information retrieval, sharing, and management; communication and collaboration; and access to databases and applications. (See Table 1 below for a list of common intranet applications.) Muller (2002) suggests that organizations adopt intranets to assist legacy system access. Data can be stored and distributed to a large group quickly, subsequently improving an organization’s productivity and competitiveness in the world (Jen et al., 2007).

Common Intranet Applications

Task support: Workspaces, access to files, applications, rules, procedures, regulations, product guides, policy manuals

Communication: Email, chat, forums, whiteboard, teleconferencing

Self-service: Reservation applications, interactive forms, address books, calendars, calculators, directories

Human Resources: Benefits, personnel information, E-learning, development and training models, new employee information, vacancies, staff announcements

The purpose of the Internet is to attract repeat visitors in large numbers. It builds an audience that participates in a one-directional relationship of information to its users. The intranet, on the other hand, has a bi-directional course of information between creators and users, which empowers both parties (Jacoby & Luqi, 2007, Telleen, 1997).

Unlike other organizational data systems, intranets do not address specific needs, but provide universal assistance (Newell et al., 2000). They accelerate the flow of information between employees, clients, and vendors which helps the organization meet its objectives. Since the intranet infrastructure links with other information systems, a complete enterprise network is formed.