MOUSS ILL Committee

Working Group on Virtual Membership
2001 Annual Meeting

Working Group members:  

Naomi Sutherland, chair
Chris Desai
Elizabeth Fox
Mary Hollerich
Melissa Jackson
Ann Jerabek
Winnie Kutchukian
Angela Wright

The Working Group on Virtual Membership was comprised of volunteers assembled by Lars Leon, chair of the MOUSS ILL Committee. The group conversed via email between February and May 2001.The chair posed several questions for group discussion.The results of the discussion follow.

1. What do you think should be the term of the virtual member?

The consensus of the group was that the terms should be the same for a virtual as for a regular committee member.

Naomi Sutherland noted that she has served for two years in this capacity as the first virtual member of the ILL Committee, with her appointment ending June, 2001.

2. What forms of communication would you consider appropriate for use inkeeping contact with a virtual member?Why?What forms would facilitate the best interaction and allow the virtual member to make the best contribution to the committee?

  • Forms of communication are many and varied.Email, phone, fax, ARIEL, Blackboard, et cetera.Deciding which of these (or others) would facilitate the best communication depends, in part, on the people doing the communicating.
  • Regular ILL Committee meetings perhaps should have the technology present to be able to include the virtual member in the discussion through meeting software, web-based communication (such as NetMeeting) or via speaker phone.
  • RUSA should evaluate and decide what software best serves its needs so that people know before meetings what software/hardware will be in place or needed on their own campuses in order to effectively communicate with the committee and vice versa. If everyone used the same hardware/software, this would cut costs and confusion.

Question 2 continued from page 1

  • We recommend that ALA make a commitment to fund conference communication through meeting software or via speakerphone if the idea of virtual committee membership is to be fully realized.
  • Email and conference calling are perhaps the easiest communication solutions, but may not always be available at the exact time of the meeting, either at the hotel or at the virtual member’s institution.
  • Also problematic are PC video hookups, particularly because some regional networks are very slow and because the time of day in both locations can impact speed greatly. Newer computers that easily transmit the images are not always available.
  • Email and phone calls after the actual committee meeting, as well as good minutes of the meeting, have all worked well in the past to keep the virtual member involved and provide a sense of connection with and contribution to the larger committee.
  • Chat is a possibility for enhancing meeting communication.
  • It would be great if the virtual member could have the opportunity to participate in person at one meeting so that they may have a better sense of whom they will be working with and also give the committee a chance to meet them. Naomi Sutherland had this opportunity for two of the four meetings during her tenure as a virtual member, and it made a very positive difference from her perspective.
  • If the virtual member is unable to be physically present at any of the meetings, it is suggested that extra effort be expended to get to know the virtual members, perhaps finding mutual acquaintances or working in smaller groups prior to the whole committee meeting.
  • Also, perhaps have a document mounted on the MOUSS website so that virtual members may become familiar with their role in the committee.

3. How do you think we can support RUSA efforts to continue integrating virtual members into committees?

  • "I think speaker phones and conference calls are necessary along with Internet access, and these should become a regular feature of conference meetings.Virtual membership is likely to grow and be with us for the foreseeable future, so we need to make permanent arrangements.We could experiment and then communicate our results to RUSA.” ~Chris Desai

comments continued on page 3

Question 3 continued from page 2

  • ". . . I think it is important to use appropriate electronic lists when recruiting.Publications are good, but electronic lists get to people who aren’t necessarily a member of the association and should be . . . This [virtual membership] may be a good recruiting tool for association members as well.” ~Elizabeth Fox
  • " . . . the most important thing RUSA/ALA can do is to provide the virtual member with some historical background on what the group has done in the past (say the past year or two) and use that to put the committee’s current work into some meaningful perspective . . . perhaps ALA or RUSA could consider pairing the virtual member with a regular committee member (not the chair) and sponsor some sort of formal introduction between the two people, e.g., a conference call to discuss the committee’s work over the past year or two and how the virtual member can best contribute to the committee’s goals.” ~ Mary Hollerich
  • “Virtual members are an excellent addition to the ILL Committee, and I believe they should become a permanent part of it. Too many libraries do not have the staff or money to spare to send people to ALA meetings, and therefore those voices are going unheard. This is a way to rectify that lack. Perhaps a chat line could be set up to allow the virtual member to interact in real time with the Committee, or some other method could be used. I agree with Chris that we should experiment with ways to make this work and send our results to RUSA.” ~ Melissa Jackson
  • “Having one or several virtual members on the Committee who actively participate while receiving Committee support is one way; that is, demonstrate the feasibility and advantages while discovering ways to deal with the disadvantages. Geographic links might be established or non-virtual members might volunteer for a sort of “one-to-one” link and see that their virtual “partner” However, virtual members also have a responsibility to stay informed and perhaps contact the chair if it seems they are “out of the loop.” ~ Ann Jerabek
  • “We can support RUSA efforts to continue integrating virtual members into committees by publicizing the success of virtual membership within the ILL Committee. I am very appreciative of the ways in which the ILL Committee, and the chair in particular, have allowed me to contribute to the meetings and to the actual work of the committee. I find that there is no substitute for good communication, whether in person, on the phone or via electronic means.I agree with Angela Wright that the virtual member should be encouraged to attend the conferences as able and particularly the ILL Committee and ILL Discussion Group meetings.” ~Naomi Sutherland

Question 3 continued from page 3

  • "Encourage the virtual member to attend conferences whenever possible.Have the ILL Committee Chair solicit participation on committees and working groups.” ~ Angela Wright