The first time I went to ALA Connect, I did so with some reservations. A professional social media type site? Another login and password? However, after using it, I realized ALA Connect is so much more and that there are a number of reasons it is a helpful tool for us to utilize…
- It’s the go-to place to keep all of your ALA stuff organized. In Connect, you can join or follow Committees, Communities, and Divisions…some of which are official ALA groups and some of which are less formal and open to all. By utilizing Connect, all your ALA communications and information is right here, in one place…not spread throughout work and personal email accounts.
- It’s a way to stay up-to-date on official ALA announcements and events. You probably don’t want frequent email updates of every division/roundtable/interest group, but you may still want to know what’s going on, in a more selective way. When you follow or join active groups in Connect, you get notification of news or upcoming events right there in Connect, in a social media-like feed when you login.
- ALA Connect offers tremendous opportunities to get involved for folks who aren’t able to regularly attend conferences for financial/geographic/time/work/personal reasons. As a member of ALSC, there are now a number of virtual committees I can be on without having to attend Annual and Midwinter; Connect is a useful tool to facilitate the efficient and productive functioning of these virtual committees. It’s a great way to get started and get more involved with ALA or a division or roundtable of your choice. The ALSC wiki includes information on “Best Practices for Virtual Operation” (http://bit.ly/16lv7eQ) which includes tips on using ALA Connect.
- The chat feature is excellent. It’s easy to use for meetings, and then it stays right there in the Chat folder, so you can review meetings you missed, or look back to see what you said you’d do before your next meeting.
- Using Connect is a way to track the work a committee is doing during a term and bridge transitions between committee members and chairs. Information, set-up, past meetings…those things stay with the Connect group and are accessible to a new chair instead of being lost in the outgoing chair’s inbox. This type of virtual institutional knowledge leads to more continuity and better understanding of the workings of a committee or group, rather than having to reinvent the wheel every year or two.
- It can be confidential, so groups that are working on things that shouldn’t be accessible to anyone can do so knowing their information (i.e. book awards) is private.
- You can find out about some great under-the-radar activities and ALA interest groups. In addition to the official ALA committees and divisions, it’s also for anyone who wants to set up a group and run with it. LibraryLab (aka Library Boing Boing) is a great example. As is the Children and Technology Interest Group, whose official purpose is to “provide a forum for discussion of concerns that relate to children and technology.” There isn’t one for the topic you’re interested in? You can create it.
- Connect can be a great way to meet people, particularly people who are interested in the same topics and issues you’re interested in. It’s a way to make connections (get it?) similar to in-person networking. It’s a place of discussion and sharing.
The bottom line is that the more we use it, the better it is for all of these things. The more people who use it, the better it is for networking, for virtual involvement, and for information-sharing. And using it is how we make it better. Sure, there are quirks and things that could work differently…but it’s up to us to use it and suggest improvements. Click on “Browse Groups” and search for the word “connect”. You’ll find communities called “ALA Connect Help,” “Improving ALA Connect” and one called “ALA Connect Sandbox.” This is a new group that anyone can join and play around in to figure out how Connect works, without being worried about messing anything up or posting something in the wrong place. Post, comment, add, delete, upload, explore…and see what you find.
Today’s guest contributor is Annie Kovach. Annie is a member of the ALSC Meta(morphosis) Team, a virtual team that is helping with the transition of selected ASLC committees from in-person to virtual operation. She works at Harford County Public Library in Maryland and is the branch manager of the Darlington Branch.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.