ALA Annual 2007 Reflections or Where is my next meeting?

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This Annual can be summarized by two things for me: not enough sleep and meetings. Not enough sleep is my own fault for enjoying the company I keep overmuch, but I am not too sad about that. I was lucky enough to see some people a care for dearly and meet some great new people as well. I was even a part of the great showercap caper of 2007. The pictures can hardly contain the hilarity. I feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the problems before me with new determination thanks to all the wonderful librarians in my life.

The meetings were sadly, beyond my control, and I went to far, far too many. It makes me question the bloated cow that is ALA. One may even call our conference operations a sacred cow. We, and I do mean we, need to figure out how to have a leaner and meaner conference with less programs. My liaison to the LITA Program Planning Committee is also the liaison to a group that plans 6 different programs at Annual. Six! Why?! That is why we are so bloated. Why do we not simply let each group do one program. One. Our programs may then have better quality. There is no reason, IMHO, that any committee should be planning more then one program for any given conference.

If we had less programming with better quality, we may be able to lure back the librarians that have abandoned us to rot in our own largess. But we would not stop there. Oh no. You also get theGinzu Knife 2000 along with an ALA that does its committee work virtually for your easy annual payment of whatever they just charged to my credit card. I am raising my voice to join the din of people calling for ALA to make its committee conduct their work virtually, in a tool that makes sense.

I have sat in on the LITA Board committee meetings for two conferences now and, as far as I can tell, the majority of the time they are cooped in that room they are discussing things. Discussing Things. You know, I may be young and crazy but there are so many tools that they could use to do that before conference. Maybe email. Maybe a bulletin board. Maybe a Basecamp site. Maybe group chat if you are feeling frisky. I am not picking on LITA. They are only conducting business the same way everyone else does. Maybe it is time we did not.

Even if the LITA Board did all its reporting and discussing virtually and then met in person only to vote (which frankly, can also be done virtually), the meetings would only be, at most, an hour. I know there are other groups that report to LITA Board during this time, but why could they not also report virtually?

BIGWIG, an IG of LITA, conducts all of our business online, over listservs, IM, Google Docs, and email. At our meeting on Sunday of Annual, we spent an hour talking about how we thought the showcase went, we explained what we do to the new people, we elected new officers, and took new volunteers. That is it, one hour. We did not discuss ad nauseum if we should or should not do X or Y. I typed an action item into the agenda to start discussions later, on our listserv. (yes, I know, I must type up my notes and post them, I know, I know) I have also heard rumors the the New Members Roundtable is pushing its members to do more work virtually. Good for you MNRT!

This post is very full, so I think I will leave Emerging Leaders to a post of its own.

–Jane, exists virtually

5 thoughts on “ALA Annual 2007 Reflections or Where is my next meeting?

  • July 2, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    That’s not a rumor at all…NMRT has been doing work virtually for years, but that’s what happens when you’ve got a group of new-ish librarians with little or no conference funding! Without working virtually, we’d never get anything done.

    NMRT will have some cool online programming coming up soon, though…it’s in the planning stages, and it should launch in September.

  • July 2, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Hey Jane, NMRT has had virtual committees for years! They’re why I’ve been so loyal to NMRT since I started getting involved since I couldn’t go to every Annual and Midwinter. I, too, think much committee work could easily be stripped down to virtual meetings. IMHO, one of the very, very few exceptions would be awards committees, especially when voting, since that’s to be by “secret ballot”.

  • July 2, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    This year’s Annual was my first ALA conference. I only attended two “traditional” programs at the conference, in addition to some first-timer programs and events. The second half of the conference consisted of business meetings and discussion/interest groups, though not by original design.

    I attended the tail end of the BIGWIG meeting, and walked away feeling like I had never been in a better-run meeting in my life. I was told that BIGWIG runs quite differently than other interest or discussion groups. This was likely due to the nature of the topic that brought the group together.

    Each of my meeting experiences was different (good and not-as-good). One discussion group was extremely structured, and always has its proceedings published in a well-respected journal 18-20 months later (which is 17-19 months too late for those who weren’t there). Another interest group was a combination of future program planning, co-chair appointing, and open discussion.

    And then there was a Round Table business and membership meeting that went on for over four hours. I left that meeting feeling that not a lot was accomplished that day, and that I could not have done much to contribute more than I did. It was obvious to me that working “virtually” was something that this group was not completely comfortable and/or familiar with doing to this point. I had planned on getting on a committee, but when that came up, I couldn’t figure out which committees needed volunteers. This never really came up on the RT’s online discussion list, either (leading up to the conference). Four hours… and they meet for the same length of time every Midwinter as well.

    In terms of groups planning conference programs, I agree. One program is a realistic expectation, and a realistic maximum. If a group wants to do more than one program, then I think that any additional programs should be in conjunction with another group (possibly with another division or round table).

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