Lita Town Meeting 2007 Report

Lita Town Meeting 2007 Report:
Including Results from the Group Snow Card Activity.

Big huge thanks to Michelle Boule for compiling the large stack of papers and cards into something that resembled an organized mass.

LITA Town Meeting

What does success look like for LITA and it’s members? Mark Beatty, LITA Vice President, gave a quick environmental scan. Then the LITA members at the Town Meeting engaged in small group brain storming and clustered their ideas into categories. Attending members were asked to generate their ideas as a reaction to Mark’s introductory scan, their own current thoughts on the state of libraries and LITA, the LITA strategic plan and a small set of questions about LITA. Details on the group activity are below along with the results.

One of the easiest and interestingly the most significant remarks that could be made about the town meeting is that people had fun. The quite full 80 plus member meeting consisted of the full range of LITA members in length of membership. All ideas were equal. All attendees jumped in and participated equally. All worked to contribute to LITA while exchanging ideas, information, knowledge, opinions and friendship in an open and welcoming social setting. As the results below show the Town Meeting, and it’s fun, in many ways embodied what the attendees said they want LITA to be.

A 25 minute podcast of an interview with Mark Beatty and Michelle Boule after the Town Meeting can be heard at:
http://litablog.org/2007/02/02/town-hall-commentary-from-mark-beatty-and-michelle-boule/

Setting the Environment

The initial theme was ‘Delivering Value to the Membership”

We wanted to gather ideas about LITA including:
What are the indicators of success
What defines value to the membership
What environments do we need to pay attention to
To define it another way. Let’s assume that we are mostly in the business of education of one sort or another and we want to deliver true value to our members. Then what does success look like for LITA and it’s members?
What value would members be getting?
What would motivate members to volunteer?
What would keep volunteers?
What would our menu of services look like?

We want to consider any new ideas in the light of the LITA Strategic Plan:
http://www.ala.org/ala/lita/aboutlita/org/plan.htm

The LITA Vision is:
As the center of expertise about information technology, the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) leads in exploring and enabling new technologies to empower libraries. LITA members use the promise of technology to deliver dynamic library collections and services.

The LITA Mission Statement is:
LITA educates, serves and reaches out to its members, other ALA members and divisions, and the entire library and information community through its publications, programs and other activities designed to promote, develop, and aid in the implementation of library and information technology.

Here are some of the current environment variables that are being talked about for communities and libraries.

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, October 9, 2006
http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html
Most communities and volunteer organizations experience user participation at the rate of what is called the 90-9-1 rule. That is:
90% lurkers
9% occasional contributors and
1% frequent contributors who account for most of the total contributions.

The point of the Nielsen article is that the primary way to shift those percentages to fewer lurkers and more active participants is to ask and implement how can we make it easy to participate? We need to make it easier to contribute. The lower the overhead, the more people will jump through the hoop. In Nielsen’s example, Netflix lets users rate movies by clicking a star rating, which is much easier than writing a natural-language review.

If we look at the current internet usage environment not just lita or only ala, but whole world, then we can glean valuable information from resources like the OCLC environment scan and Pew Internet and American Life studies. These are specifically aimed at youth studies and how can libraries appeal to youngsters as patrons. We can look at these for what librarians and LITA members and volunteers might expect. If we can’t deliver value to this group, as well as everyone else, we’re toast as libraries and as an association.

The OCLC reports identify 4 generations. Both librarians and patrons are fully represented in this wide range.
Traditionalists, pre 1945
Baby Boomers, 1946-1964
Gen X, 1965-1980
Millennials, 1981-1999
Are our previous plans and efforts aimed at older generations and what is known about younger patrons, younger librarians and younger LITA members?

For example according to a study done at Ohio State in the early 1940’s less than 1% of patrons start with the library when looking for information. The vast majority went to friends and family first. In 2003 OCLC found that the vast majority of patrons still start research by asking friends and family members first. Only 1% start with a librarian. In 60 years we’ve made almost no progress.

Note the importance even in the 1940’s of friends, colleagues, community in information seeking. This aligns well with findings from Pew Internet and American Life 2006 Studies specifically about teens. Among the key findings:
• 55% of online teens have created a personal profile online, and
• 55% have used social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.
• 66% of teens who have created a profile limit access to their profiles.
• 48% of teens visit social networking websites daily or more often;
• 26% visit once a day
• 22% visit several times a day.
• Older girls ages 15-17 are more likely to have used social networking sites and created online profiles
• 70% of older girls have used an online social network compared with
• 54% of older boys, and
• 70% of older girls have created an online profile, while only
• 57% of older boys have done so.
MySpace dominates the social networking world
• 85% of teens who have created an online profile say the profile they use or update most often is on MySpace, while
• 7% update a profile on Facebook.
Teens and Friends on Social Networking Sites
• 91% Stay in touch with friends they see a lot
• 82% Stay in touch with friends they rarely see
• 72% Make plans with their friends

Adult librarians can follow the same patterns, just in older methods. If we are to believe anecdotal evidence and initial reports from ALA, then New Orleans Annual in 2006 was one of the most successful and satisfying conferences ever. Looking at some of the basic circumstances:
• 17,000 attendees in New Orleans v. 27,000 in Chicago the year previous
• Using the convention center for a greater number of meetings compacted the meetings sites
• How does size v. significance measure up
With lower numbers and less geographic spread the ALA population was able to form a closer and more communicative organization. They could accomplish more social networking in less time.

All these indicators start to point at the idea of 3rd Place. In his book “The Great, Good Place,” Ray Oldenburg states that third places are important for community, and establishing feelings of a sense of place. He suggested that we have 3 places to live. Home, work or school and a third place where we go to socialize. In modern North American society did we lose that 3rd space and are internet social software sites an effort to re-introduce social spaces? If parents are worried about the dangers of the world and won’t let kids out on the street on their own how do they maintain social contact with their friends. If library institutions won’t fund conference travel how do librarians establish and maintain colleague and friend relationships?

Group Activity results

With this background the Town Meeting launched into it’s Activity. Here’s what we did:
Snow card technique
• Each table had about 8-10 folks, with a wrangler
• They brain stormed as individuals, and then as a group
• 5+ ideas on above issues
• Then they grouped ideas into categories
The Snow Card technique is designed to generate a great deal of ideas and responses in a very short time. We tried to do some initial sorting into categories at the meeting but everyone was having so much fun coming up with ideas we ran out of time . Barely controlled chaos comes to mind. However Michelle and Mark applied categories and roughly looked for common ideas that were echoed in one way or another. Here’s a listing of those categories and the ideas within them. There was amazing agreement on the categories across groups.

Wifi
• Making it easy for LITA attendees to stay connected w/colleagues regardless of your or their location
Collaboration
• All part of a common theme for interaction, social working opportunities face to face and virtual
Education/Learning
• Better distribution of programs and meetings at conference
• Local regular events
• Online publications
• Timely information
• How can we build a 4 generation website
Emerging Technologies
• Leadership – for the “bleeding edge”
• Identify future trends and what to do about them
• Best practices for REALLY new technologies
Give Us Stuff Category
• t-shirts, t-shirts, t-shirts (they are proud to display LITA branding, set up Café Press and let them buy their own)
Leadership
• Provide opportunities to volunteer and contribute to the profession
• Leadership and development opportunities in LITA
LITA Member Integration
• An amazingly easy to use web interface w/LITA member contact info, committee info, etc and
• Social opportunities
Membership
• Indication of success: membership new and returning
• Never do a survey that requires a reply to the question “How long have you been a member?” — Exclusionary perhaps
• Funny story – didn’t ask length of LITA at meeting intro’s but people did it anyway, please note above 4 generations of members
• Non-intrusive tracking, easy rating stuff (Netflix) better response rate than full surveys
Networking – any venue, virtual or not
• Social networking
• Greet new members more personally
• Encourage the quiet participation
• Social opportunities at conferences
• Expand members numbers
• Social events for networking, loosely organized
Outreach
• LITA partners with state associations for programs
• LITA coordinates all other Division Tech committees
• Support divisions in technology related initiatives
• Better ways to communicate
Quality programming, online, offline, regional and national
• Regional events and online community
• Quality stimulating programming. What’s new? What’s great? What didn’t work?
Publications
• A nifty journal that shows up in my mailbox regularly, with all the latest newest ideas, electronic or print or both
Software development
• Develop open source software for libraries
• Awards for software development, like open source software
• Sponsor grants for development
• Poster sessions on what open source development they’ve done
Technology
• Technology in rooms – easy by default for everyone – full basic load of networking and display etc.
• Wikis on various themes, more collaborative opportunities, set edit levels at Committee and Interest Group members
• Virtual reality – Second Life (create IG?) can have our own LITA floor

As Michelle and Mark noted in the Podcast and general conclusions:

Here’s a story from the meeting. At one point the older hands started talking about a key moment in the history of LITA when members ran the first versions of the ALA conference internet room. From arranging with vendors to share high speed connections, to bringing in PC’s from local libraries, running schedules, creating training sessions for librarians who had never been on the internet before to showing up the day before the conference and running Cat5 cable and hubs to computers. The excitement generated by this story told and shared by many at the Town Meeting came from the shared experience. All LITA members of all sorts pitching in and working together for a common goal doing something they loved. Sharing stories, catching up with friends only seen a couple of times each year. Creating a LITA 3rd Space at conference. Capturing the imagination of new members to create their own stories.

LITA members are involved and ready to jump in and participate. They want community and as such the Happy Hour was mentioned over and over, as well as the Town Meeting breakfast. So if our associations like LITA are 3rd spaces can we deliver a LITA 365 days/year? Can we and should we extend social networking, for example creatie LITA IM chat rooms.

We had all 4 generations in the room as well as a huge range of length of participation in LITA. Fresh newbies to very old hands, all ideas were equal with instant participation, the barriers to participation were low, a flat hierarchy, we tried to make easy and fun to be involved. Modeling what the participants seemed to say they want their organization to be.

Submitted by Mark Beatty, VP/Prez Elect LITA, June 11, 2007.