I wanted to write this as a comment on the blog Marcus’ World, but it requires an account to TypeKey, which I did not want to set up for one comment. I also wanted to email Marcus to let him know I responded to his post. Alas, he has no email or other contact information that I could find on his site. I could have spent time Googling him, but I decided a response here would have to do.
Marcus took from my post about virtual meetings and ALA that I hate all F2F meetings and think physical conferences are not worthwhile. That is completely not the case. I do not like F2F meetings that are a waste of time. I do owe a huge amount of my success to friends I have made at physical conferences. The other 70% * of my success comes from my virtual network of peers and blogging, but that is a different post altogether.
I think that most F2F meetings are a waste of time because we spend time reporting and discussing things that are best left to email or chat. We travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles**, to talk about something in a formal meeting that would have been fine translated to email. Sometimes we hear reporting on things that have already been sent out in email, double jeopardy. Instead of doing the majority of our organization’s work virtually and using ALA Midwinter and Annual to make major decisions (after all the angles have already been discussed online) or to have wider membership discussions, we meet to talk about committee reports, committee updates, and plan the upcoming year’s projects. All these things could happen more efficiently over email or IM.
The major benefit to F2F conferences, regardless of the organization or venue, is the people***, not the meetings. Marcus is right when he says that the interactions and networking are what make an in person conference worth attending. I did notice that Marcus was not touting the great experiences he has in meetings. It is the after meeting discussions in bars and over lunch that make a difference. Those things can never be replaced completely with virtual means.
What I am really arguing for is the ability for people to participate in a meaningful and principle way virtually in our organization. It is an argument for efficient use of my time in between meetings. It is an argument for ALA to formally allow their members to participate without going to two costly meetings a year.
It is a plea for ALA to stop living in the pre-Internet days and start living in this century. A fervent wish for our organizations, ALA and libraries alike, to realize that we already live online and we expect for you to as well. That means we expect to be able to participate virtually with all the benefits (voting rights) of members fortunate enough to be able to travel.
–Jane, has thus far been blessed to be able to travel often
*Numbers should be believed even if they are totally fictional.
**In the past year I have traveled 5,027 miles to 3 ALA conferences. Based on actual calculations and travel distance.
***Picture of actual people at Annual not in a meeting and having fun.