Icons of people and a computer monitor representing virtual engagement

2017 Emerging Leaders Create LITA Virtual Engagement Toolkit

Note: This post was written by Catie Sahadath, LITA’s 2017 Emerging Leader.

In August 2016 I filled in some forms, held my breath, and pressed send on an application to the ALA’s Emerging Leaders program. Admittedly, I was only sort of sure that I knew what I was getting myself into, but I have been emerging since the day I was born, so what could go wrong?

The Emerging Leaders program, in a nutshell, is an incubator where new and new-ish professionals can hone and develop skills that will allow them to serve effectively in leadership roles within the ALA. The program accomplishes this by getting the different ALA units to come up with ideas for projects that can be completed within the 6-month timeframe provided to participants. The units provide guidance and support in the form of humans to help us along, and in some cases units also opt to provide some sponsorship dollars to a participant working on a project.

Emerging Leaders are expected to attend ALA Midwinter, where they participate in a day of specialized programming, and where they meet their assigned project teams. They are expected to attend ALA Annual Conference as well, where they deliver a poster presentation on their project outcomes.

I must live under some golden star, because in October of last year I received word that I was selected for the program, with a $1000 sponsorship from LITA.

I would like to add a caveat to this. I am Canadian, and to receive a sponsorship for this amount in US dollars meant that I could not only afford to attend the ALA conferences, but I could afford to fly there on my own personal flying dragon.

The project team that I worked with consisted of extraordinary library humans from across the United States. The anticipated output of our project was to develop an online toolkit for virtual engagement. The target audience for the toolkit would be the chairs of LITA’s committees, interest groups, and round-tables. It would help them out with everything from getting team members involved, to picking softwares and platforms for running meetings, and interacting with LITA. The idea was that if the Toolkit was successful, it could be repurposed for the rest of the ALA as well. In all honesty, I found the idea of this rather daunting, but I think Snoop Dogg said it best: No pressure, no diamonds.

At our first meeting in January of 2017, our team realized just how much work this was going to be. We scheduled weekly meetings, and came up with a plan:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Make a survey to find out what committee chairs are doing, what they want, and what they need
  • Keep breathing
  • Make a list of popular online collaboration tools, evaluate and assess them
  • More breathing
  • Develop content for the toolkit based on the survey results
  • Inhale, exhale
  • Revise everything until our eyeballs go numb
  • Ohm
  • Design the final online product and post it to LITA Docs
  • Design a poster presentation
  • Write a report on our project
  • Travel to Chicago, eat a deep dish pizza
  • Deliver the poster presentation at ALA Annual
  • Dance under the beaming spotlight of sweet satisfaction

The project was so meta. We had formed a geographically distributed, virtual team under the auspices of LITA, in order to develop a toolkit for geographically distributed, virtual teams under the auspices of LITA. This gave us the opportunity to actually test out the tools and practices we were writing about in the toolkit. We felt this gave us the optimal amount of street cred for the task at hand. As many of you know, street cred is of paramount importance in any professional association.

So what about that toolkit? She is alive and well, and living in the comfort of the LITA Docs page. You can check her out at http://docs.lita.org/toolkit/. If you’re chairing a committee, or are interested in virtual engagement I encourage you to check it out!

Some of the key takeaways I got from the whole process included:

  • LITA is a wholly supportive organization, and I am quite fond of its members
  • From the survey results, the one thing that stands out to me is that people really hate e-mail chains
  • The ALA is a giant organization, and without the ELs program I would likely have been lost in the cracks
  • After having a little bit of time to refresh, I am ready to dive back in and get more involved with ALA

If you or someone you know is interested in the Emerging Leaders program, encourage them to apply! Do also encourage them to talk with Emerging Leaders program alumni to get a good idea of what to expect.

Finally, our team got a ton of help from Margaret Heller, Andromeda Yelton, Jenny Levine, and Mark Beatty. We owe them each a frosty cold one!

[Editor’s Note] LITA thanks the members of Team D for all of their great work on this project:

Picture of Team D

 

 

 

 

 

Pictured: Catie Sahadath, Jennifer Shimada, Jessica Bennett, Kyle Willis, Brianna Furcron