« Jim Casey's ALA Council Report | Main | Shameless begging »

January 19, 2004

ALA Technology Peeve #2: The Council Transcripts

Here's another bug up my fanny about ALA and technology, and one I've been battling for at least seven years.

We don't broadcast the ALA Council transcripts, and we don't make them available online.

Before you step up and say, "but gee--that sounds expensive," let me tell you what we do spend money on. If you stop in Council chambers during a session, you will see that we hire a highly competent transcriber who keys the discussion into a computer in near-real-time, and the transcripts are simultaneously projected on two huge screens.

So the transcripts are already keyed in, and though that's surely expensive, that's a Good Thing. We provide them for the hearing disabled, but most of us benefit from being able to read the screen during the sessions (particularly those of us who worked on airplanes in our youth and no longer do well in less-than-optimal sound settings).

We could easily and inexpensively piggyback on this technology (and on this expense), and project Council sessions in the same real-near-time, so that ALA members could follow the sessions anywhere in the world--from the exhibit floor, from a hotel room, from anywhere in the world people can access the Internet.

We could also make the transcripts available online, for later review. These are open meetings, so we have nothing to hide--right?

So why don't I propose this? I have. I proposed a resolution on this issue in my first Council session--what is that, 1996?--and I was hooted down. I don't mean I was voted down. I was laughed at, on the Council floor, as if I had proposed that, say, the earth was round. Two people voted for my resolution besides me (I had more votes on the Cuba resolution than on this issue). I remember them well--the Superintendent of Documents, and Marvin Scilken. God bless 'em both. I think Marvin was being kind, and the SuDoc was being savvy (a smart man who knows better than to go on record opposing access to information).

Still, I'm right on this issue, and time is on my side, so I keep raising it. I brought this up last year, more informally, and didn't get quite as much flack. I'd love to see more ALA members, on Council or otherwise, ask for this service. I'd like to see us go just a little bit farther, take something we already do, and make it truly accessible.

As one colleague said, watching the Council sessions in real-time may sound boring, but people do watch C-Span. I can easily see ALA junkies watching the sessions, not only from far away, but from as close as a meeting room across from Council. All it would take is a computer with Internet access. (And that's the next peeve to moan about.)

Posted by kgs at January 19, 2004 10:53 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


The excuse usually offered is that the transcripts are only a draft. That is really specious, since a) we know that and b) we allow hearing-disabled councilors to use these draft transcripts to make decisions about how they will vote. So it's o.k. to use these transcripts for decision-making, but not o.k. to make them available? Come on... in terms of labeling them so people are aware of what they are reading, have these folks never heard of a watermark?

Posted by: K.G. Schneider at January 21, 2004 01:03 PM

...and keep bringing it up Karen you are entirely correct on this issue and I will support you on it and even second it if you want to bring it to the Council floor again.
John D. Berry, ALA Councilor at Large
UC Berkeley, Ethnic Studies Library

Posted by: John D. Berry at January 21, 2004 01:12 PM

I think it may be time to try bringing this up again, Karen. I know I'd support it. Typos aside (and some are very funny), this seems like the right idea at the right time. You'd have my vote on the Council floor.

Posted by: Ellen Fader at January 21, 2004 02:41 PM