Yes, we're disappointed. When the MLA Board of Directors held its fall meeting in Chicago a few weeks ago, one of the major agenda items was to begin the process of updating the associatioin's strategic plan. We started talking about it, and about how to get member input, and somebody suggested that we put it up on the new Connections blog and let people react. Excellent idea, we agreed. Rather than a dozen people holed up in a meeting room deciding on the direction of the association, let's get the membership involved right from the very beginning.
So MLA President Mary Ryan put up the post a couple of weeks ago, asking for feedback by the end of the month. Krafty picked up on it the next day and put up a post encouraging people to get involved.
Since then, nothing. Not a comment. I know that it can't be because people don't care about the priorities and goals of the association. We have a pretty good level of involvement (as measured by the number of people on committees and task forces and serving as officers in sections) for a volunteer association. And from time to time there's a flurry of comment on MEDLIB-L suggesting that MLA should do this or do that. So here's an easy opportunity for people to provide their thoughts about the direction that the association should take and no one is taking advantage of it. Why is that?
Personally, although I am disappointed, I'm not very surprised. I've always been skeptical about the promise of online communication. Many years ago, when the type of ubiquitous communication that we have now was still just a vision, the most optimistic futurists would write in glowing terms about the dawning of a new age of participative democracy, a leveling of the playing field, the ability for everyone to have their say on any issue of importance. The elites would lose their grip on power and communities would come together to have more fruitful discussions and to make better decisions. The reality, of course, particularly as demonstrated in this election year, has been pretty ugly.
When Mark Funk chose "Only Connect" as his presidential theme, it signaled a commitment on the part of the board of directors and headquarters staff to use the new communication tools to create a broader connection among the members, and to provide opportunities for involvement at a level that we haven't had before. I think we've had some real successes, particularly among members of committees and task forces. But we're not engaging the broader membership yet the way that we'd like to. The intention of the Connections blog is to provide a forum where anybody can get their two or three cents worth in.
We're doing our part. But if the members aren't willing to take the time to participate, then what's the point? Are we just fooling ourselves? What do we need to do to make the potential of those connections a reality?