In the April 2010 edition of The Numismatist, Q. David Bowers writes about the aging of the American Numismatic Association membership noting that 47-percent of its membership is between the ages of 50 and 60. While Bowers notes that there “are several reasons why numismatics has lost its appeal to younger people,” Bowers says that it is nothing “the ANA has done or not done.” Bowers sites studies that show that younger people have embraced technology and social media to fill their spare time. With all due respect to Mr. Bowers, then why has the ANA not embraced this new social media paradigm?
While the ANA has a Young Numismatist outreach program and a Scouts program for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, these programs end when the YN member becomes 22 years old. YN’s who go to college are beginning their careers or starting graduate school at 22. Those who do not go to college are in the beginnings of their careers and maybe beginning a family. In either case, at 22 years old, a person’s life is in transition and the least of their worries is membership or participation in the ANA. If the ANA wants to be relevant in the lives of those in the 20-something and 30-something, the organization must adapt to be where their members are or want to be.
Over the last ten years, technology has evolved to where it is more portable, more accessible, and more communal. And recent advances and other industry activity shows that this trend is unlikely to slow down. Those of us who make this technology part of our lives understands how valuable online and accessible resources can be to enhance our lives. If the ANA wants to continue to be relevant for a broader audience, it has to join the portable, communal revolution to make it more accessible to more potential members.
Did you know that the ANA has a Facebook page? Neither did I until I saw a small note about it at the bottom of the ANA monthly email newsletter. Although I will not use Facebook (for reasons other than technology), why is this not advertised on the ANA’s website? Is it mentioned in The Numismatist? It might have appeared once, but it should be repeated monthly so that people will get the message.
If the ANA is on Facebook then why are they not using Twitter? Those of us who will not use Facebook because of recent privacy concerns will use Twitter. Why is the ANA not tweeting? There must be some news coming from Colorado Springs. Were there new books for the library? Are there new exhibits in the Money Museum? Are there press releases we should know about? What about new content on the website?
The ANA website leaves much to be desired. It appears to be a combination of cobbled together download programming and a commercial markup program that does not help manage content and does not provide for ways to better organize the information. Although better looking than the original ANA website, this version has even removed wonderful content that used to be buried under various menus. Where is this content?
For the ANA website to be relevant, it must get a makeover. I am not talking about a style makeover. It needs a technology makeover. First, it must use a content management system (CMS) for being able to organize and deliver content. Even the people at whitehouse.gov figured this out when they transformed the White House’s website to use a content management system. CMS software has the capabilities to include Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds on the site that will allow people to know when content has changed rather than rely on the user to periodically check the site. CMS also has the ability to create calendars that can be a reference for numismatic events, integrate photo albums from ANA sponsored events to share with the membership, and even integrate a YouTube channel that can incorporate multimedia presentations. Even congress uses YouTube!
There is so much more that can be done if the ANA embraces the technology and adds it to their daily workflow.
After the candidates roundtable at the 2007 National Money Show in Charlotte, I walked up to several candidates and said that I had an interest in helping the ANA with the technology communications plans. I handed several candidates my business card and said that after they were elected that I want to volunteer to help. I waited until a few months after the election to remind those I spoke with and those that I did not have the opportunity to speak with that I was still interested. I am still waiting for a response.
Later in 2007, The Numismatist had an announcement for volunteers to participate in an “IT Committee.” I sent my information to the email provided. This committee had one phone call, an exchange of emails, and nothing came of it. The wasted effort is discouraging.
But I am back with a very public platform to inform the ANA that this member is ready to step in and help. Although I am now part of the 47-percent demographic I do not have the same mindset as many in my peer group. I have been in the computing business for 30 years and evolved as the technology has evolved. I am as passionate about technology as I am about collecting and would volunteer to work with the ANA to help.
However, this offer does come with conditions. Since the last effort fell short and the ANA has not shown great interest in member suggestions, my conditions require a commitment from the ANA Board of Governors that such work will be fully supported. I want a commitment from the Executive Director that he will participate with providing input regarding the daily operations of the organization and how to integrate technology into their workflow. I want a commitment of money—not for me but a budget that would be used to make the improvements necessary and any future operations and maintenance issues. Finally, I want a commitment that the group that would do this be small—limited to the Executive Director, one member from the Board of Governors, and three members at large. Two of the three members should have a technology background and the third be in the 20-something to 30-something age bracket who may or may not have a technology background. And since I am volunteering, the ANA only has to find two more members at large!
If the ANA is interested, I can write a committee charter that would propose the structure, goals, outcomes, and milestones that the Board of Governors could consider. I am also prepared to provide my own credentials to become of a member of this committee. All I would need is to start this conversation with ANA President Cliff Mishler or Executive Director Larry Shepherd. Both may contact me via email to begin the conversation. I look forward to hearing from these gentlemen.