Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director
Midwinter: Into the Future
The 2012 Midwinter Meeting has come and gone, but as we begin to think about Annual Conference, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect a bit upon Midwinter and its future. Over the years there has been much conversation about Midwinter’s future, what it should be, whether it even should exist, and what our role might be. If you never saw the report that ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels and Senior Associate Executive Director Mary Ghikas wrote in December 2010, you might want to read it. It’s a very good summary of how Midwinter has evolved over the years. Read the report.
I’m not going to talk that report in this article, but I thought I’d mention it.
If you didn’t notice, there were a number of changes in this year’s Midwinter; there are more to come in 2013. ALA programming is increasing, as seen by the conversations series with David Lankes, the increased authors’ series, and the continuation of the “unconference.” This may be just the beginning in ALA’s attempts to migrate Midwinter from the traditional business meeting model to a regional educational model. How will this affect us? Let’s take a look.
ALCTS has always been successful at Midwinter, sometimes to the envy of our fellow divisions. We have historically had strong symposia; 2012 saw the debut of our first virtual symposium to excellent reviews. Our interest group presentations are widely considered to be among the best, offering widely ranging topics, excellent speakers, and good discussions. This year we moved section committee meetings to free up time for members to attend interest group sessions and other programming, but retained the opportunity to meet for business in person. We added wifi to those meetings so committee members who couldn’t attend in person could still meet with the group. We altered our schedule to improve the scheduling of the interest groups and forums. We tried to eliminate or reduce the overlaps and conflicts. All in all, we made some significant adjustments to the way we “run” Midwinter, but I believe we can do even more.
In 2013, the Midwinter Meeting master schedule will be significantly different from past master schedules. Long time slots have been eliminated in favor of one-hour and one-and-one-half-hour slots. We will have to adjust and adapt accordingly. I’ll be evaluating the impact of our efforts.
ALCTS will be looking at providing access for interest groups so they can broadcast their programs over the internet via our subscription to GoToWebinar. We are limited by our license to one event at a time, but with careful planning we can accommodate a good number of events. PARS has led the way with an experiment at this past Midwinter with both virtual attendees and virtual speakers. It was quite a success. We’ll do more at Annual.
I will be working on co-locating related interest groups more aggressively, starting with this year’s Annual Conference. By colocating, we can create what is essentially a subconference. All or many of related interest groups will be assigned the same room in the same location. We may not be totally successful, but we’ll have enough to make it easy to find our groups and programs.
I believe we have opportunities for interest groups and others to be creative in presenting cooperative programs and presentation. Continuing Resources committees presented a successful joint forum in Dallas. This type of cooperation not only builds audience, but highlights the work of the committees with complementary or overlapping interests.
Alternate formats for programs, such as quick presentations, facilitated topical round tables, facilitated discussions or not, open agendas, open forums—these are all great ideas. Experimentation can bring good and surprising results.
In the end though, ALCTS needs to continue to provide the best value to and the greatest impact on attendees than any other group within ALA. We do now, but we need to build on our strengths as we move into the Midwinter future. Attendees need to leave our session awed by what they have experienced. Enlightened by they have heard. Most importantly, impressed enough to return again and again to an ALCTS event.