Saturday, January 23, 2010

ALA Midwinter and Emerging Leaders

I wouldn't usually attend the ALA Midwinter meeting--it is committee meeting time rather than a true "conference", but this year I attended as an Emerging Leader, which meant that I participated in a day-long training session on leadership. Leslie Burger, former ALA President developed the Emerging Leader program in 2007 as a way to encourage leadership growth among newer members of the library profession and to encourage them to take active roles in ALA. Our own Mac Nelson was a member of the first cohort, and Jenny Dale was a 2008 Emerging Leader. Each EL is assigned to a project developed by an ALA organization. The groups start on the project at ALA Midwinter in January and then work towards ALA Annual where the project is presented to the group and to the wider community.

While it has had some growing pains--keep in mind how new it is--at the same time it has been a worthwhile program for many involved. The experience seems to depend partly on what people make of it, but also on the project to which you are assigned. My project is with the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), a division of ALA. LITA tends to be one of the more innovative tech groups in ALA because a large portion of its members work with emerging technologies in their libraries--so, they focus their energy on discovery and developing tools to assist with library services. As such their projects are focused on technology. Below is a description of my project:

Project Description:
There seems to be confusion about when to use the LITA website vs the wiki vs the blog and now ALA Connect. Which tool is best for what purpose? LITA is comprised of multiple committees, interest groups, and task forces; these parts communicate to members in a number of ways using various media (print, electronic, social). What information is coming from where? Which communication channel can a person follow, when, or why? Team P will survey the "parts" of LITA and summarize the ways these parts contribute to the "whole" - i.e. the purpose of the organization - and detail the communication streams from each one, along with its strengths.
Expected Outcomes:
  • Team P will identify the various communication tools currently used by LITA Members and how each is being used to do the business and marketing of the Association.
  • Make recommendations for which communication tool is best used for each purpose.
While we are working for LITA, I realized that this project is important for many ALA groups. I asked my sponsorship group, the Government Documents Round Table, about their thoughts on this project, and they were enthusiastic about hearing the outcomes. Admittedly, the proliferation of web access points is a problem not just for ALA groups, but also for any organization. We hope to disseminate our findings widely. At this point though, I’m just happy to be working on a project that has wide implications for a large number of people.

Beyond the EL program, I also participated in the GODORT education committee. The Government Information Technology Committee talked about its list of tech tools that could be useful for instruction, both within our libraries and GODORT. The list includes Skype, dimdim, jing, delicious, google wave and other tools we use at our library. We also had small group discussions to share ideas about using these tools, which was helpful. Although I hated the small group format in school, I can really appreciate the usefulness of that format when the discussion is focused and purposeful. It worked well with this project.

I also attend some general membership meetings for GODORT and the ACRL Law and Political Science Section. The discussions were mostly focused on upcoming programs at Annual. I am excited about several of the proposed topics.

The final highlight was the LITA Top Tech Trends panel. You can read my notes at my personal blog if you wish.

It was a busy weekend and I have many things to absorb, but overall Midwinter was a great experience! Can’t wait for Annual!

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