ALA Annual 2007 Reflections or Where is my next meeting?

Window of Books

Originally uploaded by Wandering Eyre

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

LITA BIGWIG Social Software Showcase: It was wonderful.

My ALA posts are coming in late because I was so happy to be home with Mr. Rochester and my slobbery puppy, that I ignored all else for a few days. It was heaven.

The big buzz at Annual was a little program that could, The Social Software Showcase. My goal for this new program was to get people in a room together and let them talk about technology. The leaders of LITA BIGWIG, Jason Griffey, Karen Coombs, and myself, got the discussion going by having 11 people we respect present on technology topics. To date, the wiki has been viewed over 7,000 times. I count that as a success for the online content.

Empty Head Table at Showcase

But what of my original goal? The picture in this post is of the head table in our room at the Mayflower hotel. This was not a program of talking heads. This was a program about people, where everyone was able to converse and ask questions. It was exhilarating. It was fun. People joked and learned. It was, without a doubt, the best thing I did at ALA this year.

Thank you to everyone that gave us shout outs, support, and high fives. Thanks to Cindi’s belly, our shirt also made the latest edition of ALA Direct! It was nice to know that something new and different can be successful in the lumbering whale that is ALA. In case you are wondering, and I know that you must be, we are already making plans for next year. The LITA PPC was very kind to us at our meeting last week and is giving us flexibility with our “program” to get the Showcase listed in the official ALA schedule. We have some fun ideas on what to do better to increase the participation for those not at ALA during the actual discussion time. Meebo chat room on the wall of the room, anyone? Stay tuned. You have not seen the last of BIGWIG or the Showcase.

–Jane, pleased to be able to be official next year but had way to much fun under the radar

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Session


Originally uploaded by griffey

Jason and Karen have already posted their thoughts on why we, BIGWIG leadership, chose to plan a program for ALA Annual outside of the normal operating procedure. It all started over pizza and beer the last night of ALA Midwinter.

Program planning that requires a topic set a year in advance automatically ensures that the technology presented will be old news. It is impossible to present on any cutting edge topic, technology related or not, with this structure. There is no way to plan a session that can be responsive to the needs of engaged professionals if you have to plan it a year in advance.

In order to get around this, BIGWIG reserved a “Discussion Time” at Annual, which only requires that your organization promise to use the room for something. I know that there are many groups that do this in order to create a program with less red tape. Discussion times exist outside of the realm of the normal program planning committee structure.

We wanted to create something that was engaging and allowed participation from “off site.” We decided that we should have an online conference and made a list of people we thought would enjoy participating in something off the radar, people who loved technology, and people we trusted to be creative. We gave our presenters free reign to talk about almost anything they wanted in regards to technology. We asked them to talk about something totally new or a novel way to use something “old.”

We also told the speakers their “presentation” could look however they wished. In a couple of emails, I told them they could make a screencast, record an MP3, make a collage, write a poem, draw a picture, or sing a song. We trusted our presenters to do something fun and convey whatever information they deemed important. It is all about trust.

The timeline we have is very short. I am not sure, even at this time, exactly what topic all of the presenters have chosen. I am not sure what kind of formats we are going to receive from them. We did not ask for their final content until June 11th, a mere 8 working days until ALA. We want them to have time to change their minds at the last minute should they so choose. They are adults, who are smart, creative, and fun and we trust them as such.

A lot of this project is about trust. Who we trust and who we do not. We do not trust ALA to provide official channels that can be responsive to our needs, so we created our own. We, BIGWIG, trust each other to pull this together. BIGWIG trusts the people we have asked to contribute to give us thought provoking work.

I trust that you, dear readers (if you are an ALA member or not), will find this content delivery enticing and exciting. I am trusting that at least some of you will come and talk to our presenters in person on Saturday, June 23rd from 1:30-2:30 in the Renaissance Mayflower Cabinet Room or on the Social Software Showcase wiki in the talk pages.

Come help us try something new in ALA.

–Jane, a brave new world

Collaborating, Hearing Voices, and Participating from Afar

Memorial Day Weekend was very soggy in Texas. Fortunately for me, most of my planned activities translated well to the covered porch at the family lakehouse. I was not able to get sunburned or swim, but that can be savored another time.

Last week, after completing my third meeting over chat, I came to the conclusion that I like collaborating online better then I do face to face in most instances. I have yet, in my career (a short but busy career so far), to present or collaborate on a major project with someone in my same library or in my same town. I would much rather have a meeting over IM then a conference call on the phone. I do like to talk on the phone, but for business, I prefer IM. I think the transcripts are what attract me to IM. However, I know it exposes my inability to type dreadfully. For groups, IM is still my preferred meeting style.

There are times when a voice over the phone or VoIP is a beautiful thing. I remember with clarity Jason Griffey and I testing our audio equipment for his talk on for Five Weeks to a Social Library (scroll down to Presentations). I had not seen Jason since Midwinter, a lapse of a few weeks, and hearing his voice in the OPAL room made me smile in a tooth showing I miss my friend kinda way. I had a similar experience while listening to Dave give a talk on Podcasting for ACRL.

As ALA approaches and my meeting schedule starts filling up, I am again dismayed at the number meetings for which a few emails, a blog post, and an IM chat could suffice to reduce the meeting in length or the need for it at all. It seems like we beat this poor horse every. single. year. The good news is that there are groups trying to increase the amount of online participation available to members. One of my IGs has some fun plans for Annual in this area (more coming soon), but we are no where near a critical mass for change.

If you are the chair of an ALA (or any other org for that matter) committee or interest group, what is your committee doing to decrease reporting time during meetings or conduct business online? If you have only considered making changes to your group’s workflow, make a change today. Do something different.

In BIGWIG, the Blog and Wiki IG in LITA which runs the Lita Blog, we conduct almost all of our business and planning on wikis, on blogs, and over chat. Our meetings are more for idea generating then anything else and we have beignets. I was on an ACRL committee, which I will officially be off as of this June, and I am leaving because the entire work of the committee could be done by creating a collaborative wiki.

Again, I ask: If you are the chair or member of an ALA committee how can/could you do your committee’s work differently?

–Jane, wants to build a better ALA

LITA Blog Needs Volunteers for Forum 06

LITA Forum 2005 in San Jose will always stick in my mind because it was on the opening weekend of Serenity (whose anniversary was September 30th, last Saturday, Happy Birthday, BDM).

This year, LITA Forum is in Nashville. I will not be going to Nashville because I am going instead to Internet Librarian. I am tingling with anticipation for Internet Librarian, but that excitement is best left for another post.

LITA Blog, near to my heart, is looking for volunteers again to cover Forum. This is a great way to get involved in LITA. Forum is a small conference which makes meeting people easy. If you would like to volunteer, email me. You can view our schedule here.

If you have any questions about LITA Blog, LITA in general, or how to get involved, please email me or IM me. I will do my best to give advice or send you along to someone with better advice than I.

–Jane, in volunteer wrangling mode