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Preservation and ALA: A Primer

In the past couple weeks, I’ve fielded some great questions about ALA: when should I book travel for Annual in order to attend the PAIG meeting? What’s the preservation listserv for ALA and can anyone join? And where are the archives for that listserv?  And why is it so difficult to figure out how navigate ALA, never mind how to get involved in ALA preservation committees and activities?

It has taken me several years to unravel the mystery that is ALA, and herein (and likely in several “editions” of this post that I’ll update as more insider hints come to mind — feel free to leave your tips in the comments!) I’ll attempt to share the basics on preservation and ALA.

ALA is organized into eleven divisions. For those interested in preservation issues, there are two that you should know about in terms of regular preservation agendas and programming: Assn. for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) and Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). Within ALCTS is the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS), which focuses on the preservation and reformatting of library materials in all types of institutions and applying new technologies to assure continued access to library collections. PARS is the hub of most preservation action in ALA. In ACRL, there’s the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) which “strives to represent and promote the interests of librarians who work with rare books, manuscripts, and other types of special collections.”

Now let’s pause here and discuss the subgroups of ALA Sections: committees versus task forces versus discussion or interest groups. ALA committees are usually groups that tend to the internal and ongoing business of the Section: publications, web teams, diversity, budget, scholarships, etc.  Committees typically meet at the end of each ALA conference (there’s a specific time for “All Committee” meetings: 8:00 a.m. on Monday mornings), and these meetings of committees are usually open for any conference attendee / section member to sit in and observe.  Task Forces are dedicated to specific, short-term issues or projects.  Discussion or interest groups host meetings at ALA on a timely topic that’s specific to their area of interest (for example, the Book and Paper Interest Group may host an open meeting to discuss a development in the library binding standard, or the Digital Preservation Interest Group may host speakers to emerging digital preservation technologies).  In PARS, Interest Groups usually meet at the same time each Annual or Midwinter — i.e., count on usually getting up and out by 8:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings to catch those scintillating Digital Preservation Interest Group sessions.

Check out the complete list of committees, task forces, and discussion groups for RBMS and PARS.

Interested in getting involved in these committees, task forces, or discussion groups?  For RBMS, contact a member of the Membership and Professional Development Committee and participate in the RBMS Mentoring Program.  For PARS, contact a member of the Nominating Committee.

ALA Annual and Midwinter Conferences
The Annual conference typically occurs in late June / early July and the Midwinter Conference in January.  Want to know where conferences will be held for the next several years?  Check out the ALA website and plan to cross the nation from year to year.

At each Annual and Midwinter conference, PARS meets in a single forum as the Preservation Administrator Interest Group (PAIG).  This three to four hour long meeting usually starts off the PARS programming for each conference; PAIG meets on Friday afternoon at Annual and on Saturday morning at Midwinter … helpful info for arranging your ALA travel.  PAIG used to be called PADG back when interest groups were discussion groups.  Check our recent post for the schedule of other interest group meetings at the upcoming ALA in New Orleans in June 2011.

So when you’re arranging your ALA travel, you’ll typically want to arrive in time for PAIG and you’ll want to stay through Sunday to hit the major discussion and interest groups and forums, or Monday if you want to attend the committee meetings and the more general ALA forums and special events.

PADG: the Listserv
PADG is still the name of the ALA-hosted listserv for PARS. (Confused yet? You’re not alone, don’t worry!) Join the listserv, search the archives, or browse recent posts here.  PADG is where you’ll find interest group agendas as well as a forum of really nice preservation administrator types exchanging questions, ideas, and information.  If you’re interested in digital preservation issues, you might also consider joining DigiPres.  There’s also an RBMS discussion list.

These are just a few tips for navigating ALA from a preservation perspective.  Have any advice you’d like to share or questions you’d like to ask?  Just post in the comments!

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