by Daisy Brown

The “Cyber” Chapter of the ALA . . . sounds all techy and highfalutin, huh? And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong if you guessed that’s what we’re all about. The genesis of the Cyber Chapter dates back to 1994 when the internet was fledgling and ALA was still trying to figure out how best to take advantage of this new technology. Leave it to a group of clever legal administrators to find a way to make it work for us.

Morry Schorr and Phil Hamilton dreamed up the idea of a “virtual” ALA chapter while visiting at the national conference in San Francisco that year. (I’m not completely sure, because I wasn’t there, but there may have been some adult beverages involved.) At the time, there was a service called CompuServe and the country’s court reporters had a forum there. They allowed us to piggyback on their site, and the first Cyber Chapter meeting was held in July 1994, kicking off our now 23-year history as an ALA-sanctioned and chartered chapter.

Meetings were held by “dialing in” (remember that terminology?) and members actually had to pay by the minute to connect to CompuServe. A member would author a White Paper which would be uploaded to the library prior to the meeting. This white paper would form the basis for the meeting’s discussion segment. Members simply typed their comments back and forth and everyone could see what the others typed.

Flash forward to 2017, and the Cyber Chapter is still going strong and is more vibrant than ever, boasting nearly 100 members from all over the United States and beyond, stretching all the way to New Zealand. The Chapter “meetings” now occur 24/7 in our forums, where legal management questions, troubles, rants, personal achievements and disappointments, and everything in between is discussed. When we’re not at the office we stay connected to our forums using our new Cyber Chapter app for Apple and Android (based on Tapatalk).

Cyber is entering our fifth year hosting monthly webinars which qualify for meeting CLM certification or recertification and are free and open to all members of ALA. Using the same Anymeeting service on February 6 our president elect Shahily Negron Falcon is starting a pilot 4-week CLM exam study group for Cyber and New York Chapter members.

Starting in 2017 there is no additional fee to avail yourself of these study materials. For only $90 a year, you can get everything the Cyber Chapter has to offer – including a fun group to hang around with at the national conference and the chapter dinner to boot!

While all independent and international members are offered Cyber Chapter membership as soon as they join ALA, any one in ALA may join Cyber. Most of our members, like myself, have affiliation with both a land-based chapter and Cyber chapter.

If you can’t wait until April to learn more about Cyber at the Denver conference, please feel free to check out our website and then contact our Membership Chair, Betsy Widdop, when you’re ready to join. You’ll be glad you did!

Daisy Brown
Member of Puget Sound Chapter and Cyber Chapter of ALA