President's Column: Greetings LITA Members and Friends!
I am very pleased to accept the challenge to continue the excellent tradition begun by Pat Ensor in the form of this column. As she discussed, it is an opportunity for the LITA president to increase communication with the membership. My vice-presidential year went quickly, and by the time you read this, my presidential year will be well underway. Thank you to all of you who offered to serve the organization through committee and representative appointments and as interest group officers.
I’d like to share with you several things in the works.
One of the responsibilities of the LITA vice-president is to plan and lead the LITA Town Meeting at the Midwinter Meeting. Last January I asked the members present to answer two questions: What do you need more of from LITA? And what do you need less of from LITA? You will probably not be surprised to hear that there were no suggestions for less. We had a lively and helpful discussion that will frame a larger discussion of strategic directions for LITA. The following categorized ideas surfaced at the Town Meeting:
Communication with membership
- Loss of awareness of what LITA is and does since loss of newsletter
- Happy Hour, social opportunities are important
- Differing views of LITA-L purpose—organizational announcements versus technology/problem discussion
- Automatic sign-up to LITA-L for membership—yes and no
- Interest groups (IGs) need to actively communicate to membership
Recruitment, retention, and focus
- More public library people needed
- More non-hardcore technical (techie) focus
- More international focus; may need financial support
- Leadership and member development activities
- Practical techie regional institutes are distinct need (e.g., XML)
- More how-to, real-life technology specifics
- National Forum is good
- List of consultants, especially pro bono
- List of people with expertise (e.g., Community of Science)
- Identification of technology-related Web sites
- Identification of resources that LITA people use to solve problems
- How to find out if publications are meeting needs
- More formalized committee transitions, especially chairs
- More continuity and transition for IGs
- Timing questions associated with transitions
- More content ideas and direction from leadership to IGs (e.g., shepherding and suggestions, not control)
- IGs need more guidance on things they might do other than programs
- More organizational orientation for committee/IG chairs than current efforts (e.g., written guidelines, checklists of activities, mentoring from past chairs)
- Need information on what IGs and committees are doing; conference reports
- Board liaisons to IGs
I hope that you will share your thoughts on these issues, and others you may have, on LITA-L in the next several months as we look to create a future together.
In a similar vein, the LITA board members participated in a lively visioning session in Toronto facilitated by Scott Muir and me. We examined our definitions of “vision” and brainstormed on what we wanted LITA to look like in five years. As a group, we played with some ideas for LITA slogans. There remains much work to consider, but our plan is to draft a statement this fall and present it to the membership at Midwinter for review and comment. There is more to come, please stayed tuned to LITA-L.
Thanks to many of you, LITA pulled off another great conference in Toronto. Although the attendance was down, the excellence in programming was up to its usual stellar quality. For one program, the Top Tech Trends, attendance was beyond belief. The audience not only filled one section of a ballroom, but when the neighboring section was opened, it, too, filled to overflowing capacity. This occurrence is just one more example of how popular LITA programs are.
The LITA board voted to approve the establishment of a new award honoring the life and contributions of Brett Butler. The LITA/Brett Butler Entrepreneurship Award, sponsored by the Gale Group, will be awarded to recognize a librarian or library who demonstrates exemplary entrepreneurship by providing an innovative product or service, designed to meet the needs of the library world through the skillful and practical application of information technology. Brett Butler represented the spirit of entrepreneurship and the accomplishment of innovation. This award will honor that spirit and accomplishment in others.
The year ahead excites me. We begin this fiscal year in good financial condition. The programming for the year looks fantastic. Keep your eyes on the LITA Web site for upcoming regional institutes. And don’t forget to attend the LITA National Forum in Norfolk, Virginia; your colleagues will be there.
As a follow up to one of the Town Meeting issues identified above, I will be appointing a task force to study the involvement of public librarians in LITA and to make recommendations to the board on how we might increase opportunities for these members and encourage other public librarians to become LITA members.
I welcome your comments and suggestions in furthering the effective reach of LITA and am honored to serve as your president.
Tom Wilson (Twilson@deans.umd.edu) is Director of Information Technology, University of Maryland Libraries, and president of LITA.