I am pleased to be able to inaugurate the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) president’s column in Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL). It is part of an ongoing effort to increase communication and a sense of community within LITA. I feel the one print publication that goes to all members, and is read by many outside of LITA, could profit by giving readers a taste of what is going on within the organization, and ITAL editor Dan Marmion graciously agreed. The timing also means that I can get the column started and then make incoming president Tom Wilson do it! There’s nothing like getting someone else to do most of the work.
LITA membership has expressed a need for greater communication in a variety of ways; I know, because I’m one of those members expressing this need for the last several years. However, I’m also part of the problem as I was on the board when some communication mechanisms, notably the LITA Newsletter, were lost! Speaking from my viewpoint only, we embraced, with the best of intentions, the potential of electronic communications, without realizing that more attention needed to be paid to organizing and conveying content. Worrying about the technical aspects, in other words, is not enough. Life is a learning process, though, and I believe that we are learning these lessons now.
I value communication highly in any organization that I am involved. The ideal I try to hold myself to is one of making communication a top priority, not an afterthought. I also try to remember that communication must be constant—it’s not something you can do once and then check off the to-do list. There are other schools of thought that certainly have some weight to them; some feel that they have so little time to accomplish everything they need to do that communication is just not a high priority. Others believe that they carry out their assigned functions without providing the details precisely because it’s their job and others don’t need to be bothered with it. They might say that the members elected the LITA board of directors, and they expect the board to carry out its job without bothering others with the details.
It is certainly true that all of us are bombarded with information, and there is only a portion of life that can be assigned to professional associations—we have day jobs, right? So I hope that LITA doesn’t end up bombarding you with useless, unwanted information. However, I think the pendulum needs to swing back toward providing more information than we have been, and I hope that I have contributed something to increasing communication. After all, if worst comes to worst, you will have the choice of deleting communications from LITA. If you don’t receive any information at all, then that choice is taken out of your hands.
The best tool that LITA has for “pushing” communication to you, especially so that you know when to check the Web site for something new, is LITA-L, our electronic discussion list. If you have not already subscribed, go to the LITA Web site at www.lita.org and look for the section titled “LITA Membership.” LITA-L is a bulleted item in that section. It is true that not just organizational news is covered there, but it is still the one list that has association business as a major part of its purpose.
The minutes of major LITA governance meetings have been appearing for a while on the LITA Web site; however, you have not always received notices when new items have been made available. In addition, agendas have not generally been published on the Web site. Notice of the availability of minutes and agendas have been something we have been trying to do more dependably; in addition, agendas are now being made available on the Web site.
The executive committee met on March 28; the minutes of the meeting should now be available through the LITA Web site. One item I would like to spotlight that also should further communication is our support of exploring a reactivation of the LITA newsletter function. This recommendation will go to the LITA board in June; if approved, appropriate groups will work out the implementation. The fact that this step is being considered now is the direct result of membership initiative, especially that of Walt Crawford, LITA past president and newsletter editor. Other members chiming in with their support also helped to bring this issue to the fore.
In fact, something that keeps LITA vital is the fact that member action can work! Communication is an area in which member leaders can also take an initiative. Send written reports about your business meetings or programs to LITA-L. If there is something your committee or interest group maintains on the Web site, send notifications to LITA-L when it is updated with new content. Genuine exchange of information is something to which we must all contribute.
I hope that you attend the ALA Annual Conference in Toronto this summer. LITA groups have worked hard to plan everything from three valuable preconferences (on e-books, technology disaster recovery, and recreating your library Web site) to fourteen different programs. LITA’s meetings and programs at the Annual Conference are further described on LITA’s Web site.
Do you want to meet more people within LITA or figure out how to get more involved? Make plans to attend the LITA Happy Hour on Friday, June 20, 5–7 p.m. You can “Grow with LITA” on Saturday, June 21, 2–4 p.m. As its sponsor, the Membership Development Committee notes, this is an “open-house networking opportunity.” The LITA Web site has information on locations for this and other programs.
Finally, for a splendid opportunity to feel part of the LITA community, join me at my president’s program on Monday, June 23, 2–4 p.m., then afterwards, make plans to attend the program reception. The president’s program is your opportunity to share in the enjoyment of scholarship and award winners, as well as a chance to hear from Brewster Kahle, digital librarian of the Internet Archive, as he talks about universal access to all human knowledge.
The goal of universal access to our cultural heritage is within our grasp. With current digital technology we can build comprehensive collections, and with digital networks we can make these available to students and scholars all over the world. The current challenge is establishing the roles, rights, and responsibilities of our libraries and archives in providing public access to this information. With these roles defined, our institutions will help fulfill this epic opportunity of our digital age. 1
I am honored to have served as the president of LITA, and I thank each and every one of you for the support you have provided. You are LITA!
1. Brewster Kahle, LITA President’s Program at 2003 Annual Conference, LITA Web site. Accessed May 20, 2003, http://www.ala.org/Content/NavigationMenu/LITA/LITA_Events_and_Programs/
Pat Ensor (Ensorp@uhd.edu) is Director of Library Services, University of Houston–Downtown, and President of LITA.