LITA Presidential Candidate Interviews: Aaron Dobbs

With the help of some great LITA member input, I’ve put together a list of interview questions for the LITA President candidates in the upcoming ALA Election, March 19-April 27. Here are Aaron Dobbs’ answers; please see also Cindi Trainor’s. I hope this helps you make an informed decision between these outstanding candidates.

1) What is LITA?

LITA is my Tribe. We are Librarians Innovating Technology
Awesomesauce. Well, so much for glib answers :)

More seriously, LITA is LITA members. We are all doing nifty things with technology.

As an Association, our IGs put on a boatload of conference programming, including:

  • “here’s cool stuff to try”
  • “attend this pre-conference and walk out with something implemented for your library”
  • “here’s the direction we see technology in libraries is heading”

Our committees manage the programs and focus efforts to produce worthwhile educational events and content. We coordinate or co-present a bunch of awards and scholarships and we are about educating and improving libraries and library services through technology.

–What is LITA?

LITA is where the technology users, super users, administrators, and creators mingle, keep tabs on each other, and throw around ideas for improving the library experience.

Long story short: LITA is you and the awesome stuff you do.

2) LITA has the best members anywhere, but it’s struggled with retention. How will you make the members feel supported by, and connected to, LITA?

LITA has had its share of organizational challenges and we are making strides to present our efforts in a more modern wrapper; but that is not enough.

I want to radically open internal communications and push the bounds of ALA policy (which constrains and encompasses LITA policy). I will encourage interested-member participation in any conversation within LITA by pushing for posts which do not touch on issues of personal privacy (which is the main constraint applied by ALA policy) to be publicly available and pledge to follow up on discussion points raised but not satisfactorily addressed. I feel the membership *has* spoken, everything I have done on LITA Board has been informed by what I have heard from members.

When the membership speaks, LITA must listen and take appropriate action.

I invite all LITA members – past, present, and future – to let me know what you feel LITA can do for you. I will work to make it happen and I will get you into a space where you can work toward that goal with me.

3) If you could focus on one effort during your time as LITA President, what would that be? What one thing most needs your attention?

Only one thing? I see two biggies, which I will list in order of priority:

Communication:

LITA has a plethora of communication channels – LITA-L, LITAblog, lita.org, ALA Connect, IG email lists, ad nauseam – each with their own strengths and weaknesses. LITA does not have one central channel which incorporates all these other channels; how do we each know what everyone else is doing?

We need to get our organizational communication house in order, provide member-customizable ways of taming the LITA-firehose, and get the word out about the great stuff we do.

Revenue generating programming:

Yes, I said it: “revenue generating.” LITA is currently one of the smaller ALA Divisions and we cannot (and should not!) balance the finances directly through member dues. Dues are plenty high enough already.

The LITA Program Planning Committee had a banner year for program proposals this year. Several of those selected for Annual (and several of those not selected too) have been suggested as high-demand programs that would appeal both to LITA members and to librarians and library staff at large. These programs could be presented outside a traditional face to face conference (such as Midwinter or Annual) with a relatively low overhead and low cost to attendees (with a suitable discount to LITA members). Other ALA Divisions do this regularly, LITA can too.

Communication, inviting member participation by open discussion, and revenue generating programs are LITA’s big needs in the short–term.

4) Given the current financial conditions, many LITA members are unable to travel to conferences. What are your views on the use of technology to enable virtual attendance to various LITA meetings and functions?

Technology has developed enough that physical collocation is no longer required for effective presentations, discussions, and decision-making. A few years back the LITA Electronic Participation Implementation Task Force worked up an cheat-sheet suggesting possible tools for various participation scenarios, which would need just a little updating to keep up with new tools available.
LITA IGs have already had virtual meetings with good results, see the ALA Connect space for the Mobile Computing IG Virtual Meeting at #alamw12.

This spring the LITA Board has been holding semi-monthly virtual meetings to get the governance business done, allowing time for tasks which are more appropriate to face to face meetings (from brainstorming to final tweaking).

Virtual is the now and the future, LITA should jump in with both feet and virtualize or hybridize everything which makes sense.

5) What new collaborative opportunities between LITA and other divisions or round tables would you like to see happen?

LITA has always been a collaborative Division. We have had MARBI (Machine-Readable Bibliographic Information) Joint committee which spans ALCTS, LITA, & RUSA for a long time. In the last few years LITA partnered with PLA to bring a public-library flavored Top Tech Trends session to the last PLA conference.

While I was on the OITP Advisory Committee, OITP requested a formal LITA representative on the advisory committee, which is now one of the liaison duties of the LITA Councilor. This tight formal relationship between LITA and the Office for Information Technology Policy at the Washington Office puts LITA right at the forefront of IT Policy monitoring and gives us a seat at the table when federal IT policy gets wonky.

What other collaborations might be appropriate?

I would team LITA up more closely with NMRT to keep our awareness of the skills new ALA members bring to the Association – and recruit those new members whose interests include using, adapting, and building technologies to support their library services. For the leadership-inclined, LITA could easily team up with LLAMA and co-sponsor a technology leadership series. On the assistive technologies front, LITA could team up with ASCLA to bring a broader awareness of specialized technologies and how they interplay with more “traditional” library technologies.

Technology is embedded all over ALA and its Divisions, LITA is uniquely positioned to inform and educate ALA members and interested library personnel on the strengths and challenges technology can provide people as they try to improve their libraries and library services.

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For more information on Aaron, check out his Connect profile and his posts on LITAblog.