Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Secret Society Within ALA?

The runaway success of the Da Vinci Code is proof enough that we live in a world that hungers for secret societies. The American Library Association (ALA) is now apparently baking one of its own.

On the ALA Council List, they're discussing why the location of the business meeting rooms for the conference in New Orleans are kept secret. Why shouldn't anyone be told where they will be? The idea is so no one can travel to New Orleans for the purpose of sneaking into those meetings without registering for the conference!

My very limited experience with library association business meetings is that no one wants to go to them, and half the people who do are the kind of people you wish would go away.

When I first saw this story by way of Tame The Web, I laughed, of course, but I didn't doubt it because I expect this sort of thing from ALA. They think someone would go through the time and expense of going to New Orleans to not register for the conference. After thinking about that, I've decided that ALA is the only organization I've known that attracts some people who really would do that regardless of its absurdity. You know a conference is dull when the main attraction is the business meetings.

We all know the next step: ALA will stop publicizing the date and location of future annual conferences until the very last minute when everyone who wants to go has already registered without knowing in which city the conference will be held. A secret email list of those who registered would then be notified of the date and the city, and once they arrived at their hotels, further instructions would be provided on the location of meetings as well as the conference itself. A secret annual conference!

Some ALA official is now disputing this entire story and says the meeting list will soon be made public. But I couldn't help but note the plausible suggestion that small, secret groups of people at ALA are making unofficial decisions behind the scenes that somehow become official.

I don't believe the library profession has ever had a "secret society" (Gloria Steinem's "Secret Society of the Butterfly Wing" doesn't count). But in a world enthralled by the Da Vinci Code and the school of like-minded bestsellers it has engendered, ALA appears to be falling into line and creating its own secret society within itself, something like the way Opus Dei is portrayed by Dan Brown as a secret society within the Catholic Church.

The secret room directive was discovered, no doubt because this is a new secret society and the members are still learning their craft. But perhaps other secrets about the New Orleans conference remain undiscovered? I wonder what they are?

I have to admit a ghoulish fascination with all this secret talk about ALA and its business meetings. Kinda makes you want to go to one and see what up, don't it? OK, not really.

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