Maybe this is getting repetitive, but who cares. I can blame it on my GenX genes right? It is all about Me, Me, Me. So, here is this lady’s conference wrap up post.
Overall this was a much better experience for me than my last ALA. I went to DC in 2007 as a Student to Staff program participant. I enjoyed working for the Press Office (I got to meet Nancy Pearl), but my work schedule limited my program participation to the early morning (before 10 am) and late afternoon (after 3 pm). As you can imagine, I didn’t have much choice in programming. Between the limits on my hours and having to trek from nosebleed Crystal City, my actual experience was pretty dismal, and I left feeling like I still didn’t know why I would bother with ALA or Annual. Not exactly the point of the ALA Student to Staff program, I guess.
Fast forward to this year’s Midwinter and the story is entirely different. This time I had a blast. While I did overdo the scheduling (3 receptions in one night is not only a bad idea, but nearly impossible), I was able to go to almost everything I wanted or needed to attend. My Friday started with the Emerging Leaders Workshop with Peter Bromberg, Maureen Sullivan, Connie Paul and guest stars (Jenny Levine!). We had a good discussion about leadership, especially redefining it to be more inclusive. The quote “a leaders job…is not to provide energy but to release it from others” from Frances Hesselbein came up several times as a theme for redefining our notions of leadership.
My team, Project P (or the Nitty Gritty Committee), is helping LITA to create best practices for the association’s communication channels, including its website, wiki, ALA Connect as well as other forms of communication. The goal is to create best practices for business and committee work as well as for using these channels for marketing and recruitment. Although I am sponsored by GODORT, this project has implications for a large number of ALA organizations. Even the web manager for the tiny ACRL section, LPSS, was excited about the project’s results. This issue was a big theme at this conference (for example, GODORT had an entire session on same the issue).
Moreover, I like my project teammates … a lot. We are all very different and each bring unique strengths and knowledge to the experience. The important thing is that everyone seemed to be easygoing and willing to do the work. No one was unhappy about the project to which they were assigned or unclear of the expectations. I’m looking forward to working with them!
The rest of my time was spent with either GODORT or LPSS or sometimes LITA (I went to my first Top Tech Trends and it rocked!). The LITA reception was pretty swank (a dimly lit hotel bar with modern decor, fuzzy pillows, and $11.50 martinis), while the GODORT one was much more down to earth (an Irish bar with lots of fried food and draft beers). A lovely contrast for an evening out.
I also must say before wrapping up this entry–Boston is a damn fine city. I have never been in an airport where the TSA employees were so friendly. One of them even joked around with me (and I have Lauren Pressley to back me up on that!). Maybe it was an anomaly, but I met helpful people all over the place. I have to say a Big Kudos to Boston for being a great host and a fun city to play in.
If I left Midwinter and Boston with anything I wish I could improve it would be similar to what Sarah Faye Cohen has already said in her blog post, especially about virtual participation. I want to give a BIG shout-out to ACRL’s LPSS for making a strong effort to include members virtually. They used dimdim, which is a free online collaboration tool, to include people who couldn’t come. While they have a much smaller section than most and while dimdim is not the top-shelf of collaboration, they at least made that effort. I would love to see some accommodation for virtual membership, especially for Midwinter. I honestly can’t say that I would be able to attend every year because I have other conferences (state, data, ACRL) that are more useful, cheaper, and relevant.
But here is the kicker–it has to be active virtual participation. Just saying that you are “ok” with virtual participation isn’t enough. Our groups need to go the extra mile to discover software, disseminate information in advance, and troubleshoot problems on site. Having said that though it shouldn’t be all on the groups. ALA needs to step up and ensure that its divisions, sections, round tables and whatever else have the necessary tools, resources, and mandates to pull it off. ALA Connect is a great start and a useful forum, but I want to see support for real-time collaboration and virtual meetings. Because when it comes down to it, it isn’t about me. It’s about those members who don’t have the freedom or money or time or ability to travel to far flung cities twice a year. Those members need to be included too. Otherwise, what is the point of ALA, really?
There’s your charge ALA; now let’s see some action.