At the AMA’s Medical Communications Conference, I insisted to a communications professional from a state professional association that professional associations needed to take advantage of social Web technologies and utilize them to the benefit of their members.
When pressed to explain WHY professional associations should do this, I said that those professional associations who don’t adopt these technologies will find that their members (and potential members) will use these technologies (without assistance from their professional associations) to organize without organizations
With that in mind, here are some projects I’d love to see the MLA pursue.
1. Stop publishing books on dead trees
As I understand it, books published by the MLA are generally written by uncompensated MLA members, edited by uncompensated MLA members, and selected for publication by a committee of uncompensated MLA members. The selling of these books does not raise much (if any) money for the MLA.
Since this book publishing makes no money and the MLA members are okay with donating their time, why not post the book content online in the members-only section of MLAnet and make access to them a benefit of membership? The cost of providing this content would be reduced for the MLA and the content itself would become available to (and searchable by) all members of the MLA, regardless of their institutions’ book budgets. If any members just HAVE to have an MLA book on paper, MLA can make them available for order via Lulu, shifting the cost of print copies exclusively to the reader.
2. Make an “open source” resource to compete with Doody’s Core Titles
Alan Fricker was the first person who put this idea in my head.
Know who writes reviews for Doody’s without compensation? Largely MLA members.
Know who makes the decision to include access to DCT in their budgets? MLA members.
Why couldn’t the MLA offer a platform that accomplishes the same thing as DCT and invite all of the Doody reviewers to instead review for the MLA? The argument for both librarians and other clinical professionals would be that, if the resource is made available to all MLA members as a benefit of membership, everyone’s libraries can be better-informed and reallocate the money that used to be spent on DCT towards other needs.
Perhaps a (free) Pligg installation in the members-only section of MLAnet would do the trick?
3. Create a hedges and filters wiki
A handful of people I know have spent a good bit of time trying to convince me that librarians sometimes actually prefer to hoard their expertise and would be unwilling to share the hedges and filters they’ve spent time developing and perfecting. I prefer to hope that hoarding is on its way out and that the better model of unrestrained sharing will completely supplant it. With copy-and-paste ease, it’d be a pretty easy kind of wiki for librarians to contribute to- and the usefulness to working librarians (and to those who train new librarians) would be enormous.
These are just three ideas. Are they bad ideas? What else would be a good Web project for the MLA to take on? Let me know in the comments?