LITA Board I: the Armageddon

Actually, these are generally pretty tame affairs. I just thought I’d jazz it up a little. Sadly, I won’t be attending LITA Board II: Electric Boogaloo.

Anybody can come to these, you know. And they put the agenda up in advance. To some extent, I would have just come out of habit — walk without thinking on the Saturday morning of an ALA conference, and here I am — six years’ habit dies hard. But I also knew they would be having a Board discussion, this time on LITA’s education function. And I knew they would have refreshments. What’s not to like?

By the way, the topic for discussion at Annual Conference Board I (June 24) will be membership. So you can’t complain now that you didn’t have enough advance notice.

One of the items on the agenda was LITA’s views on the proposed RFID Guidelines. The Executive Committee are concerned about the tone of the current proposal — that it goes so far in privacy protection that it may not be very realistic. The chair of Technology and Access is going to attend the session seeking feedback on the guidelines and convey LITA concerns if it seems appropriate in the context of the session.

Pat Mullin began the education discussion by noting that the involvement of LITA members who don’t attend ALA conferences is a big concern of the association, and education is a major function in that regard.

Tara Dirst, Education Committee Chair; Susan Logue, Regional Institutes Committee Chair; and Dave Bretthauer, Program Planning Committee Chair were all asked to attend the Board meeting education discussion, and they began by reporting on their committee’s current activities.

Tara noted that a major project of the Education Committee is the Clearinghouse for Professional Development. They’ve begun to include helpful Web sites on current topics, as well as available courses, etc.

Susan reported that RIC has been discussing the fact that attendance at regional institutes has seen a downturn; some institutes have had to be cancelled. Identifying new topics is a big issue. Even apparent hot-topic institutes that were planned for New York didn’t “make.” The new Web usability institute that was done as a Midwinter function was well-attended, and the feedback from attendees has been good so far. There is perhaps more need for the various program planning committees to exchange information on an ongoing basis.

The topic of online learning arose during this report. Several divisions have begun to mount online courses. The larger divisions with more resources are going outside ALA to mount these. However, ALA does have WebCT that can be used to mount courses. This may be what RUSA is using — they’re a division comparable to ours, and they’ve started to advertise courses. The learning curve for designing a course and mounting it is not inconsequential, but this is an area we need to explore further.

Back to F2F regional institutes: we license and cosponsor many institutes; that often determines where they’re held. Licensed institutes are great because an organization can pay a flat rate ($5500 currently) and have whoever they want attend. This is the least work for LITA, and many organizations have found this a good way to go. It was also noted that marketing for regional institutes could probably be improved.

Dave noted that the Program Planning Committee looks at Annual (which is its programming bailiwick) as a way to reach all members of ALA, as opposed to just LITA members. He has encouraged more interest groups to mount formal programs, because they attract more people to LITA. He noted that one interesting idea that has come up is podcasting.

This led to a discussion of the taping of Top Tech Trends that took place at Annual last year. This was a learning experience where some issues arose — it’s a panel program, but there was only one camera. Also, not all participants realized that their mikes were on and being recorded — I found this being mentioned as an issue very intriguing. You’re going to go listen to it now, aren’t you? People noted that audio was actually sufficient for this particular program.

On the other hand, the speaker at the President’s Program used lots of visuals, and they wouldn’t have come across very well. There are solutions to this, though. There was some discussion of the question of whether putting up more stuff from the conferences might affect attendance at them, but the consensus was that people don’t decide to attend or not attend based on the availability of presentation material online.

Another question asked: does anyone in LITA think first of the topics of interest, then consider what the best form is to convey it in? That is, should it be a program, a preconference, a publication, some combination of the above? Is there anyone who identifies what’s missing?

What is that LITA can do uniquely in the education area? It can’t do everything well, so what does it have to offer that can’t be found elsewhere? Two good trends that came up — offering advanced programming in technology (which is already the focus of the Forum) and being agile enough to program quickly about hot technology topics. There are some things that perhaps belong in other divisions, and maybe we should let those go.

It was noted that one increasingly successful education channel seems to be free, short Webcasts, and longer paid ones that are priced per reception point, where you can invite as many people to view it as you want in one room (or whatever). These are usually archived for later viewing, too. Lots of enthusiasm for this as a concept — but it was time for discussion to end. This just whets our appetites for the LITA Town Meeting, right?