Getting Virtual: ALA Works to Increase Electronic Member Participation

By Cindi Trainor |

Hot on the heels of the latest issue of Library Technology Reports, Collaboration 2.0, is a toolkit designed to help ALA members who want to bring remote participants into a meeting or who want to stream a session’s audio or video out to a remote audience.   A group of ten LITA members has been working together for the last few months via email and on the LITA wiki to create the EParticipation Task Force Recommendations.

What’s in a Name?

The ALA Council voted to adopt several recommendations made by its Task Force on Electronic Member Participation, which, after the 2007 Annual Conference, was assigned to “examine existing documents and develop recommendations to adapt ALA policies to help
the Association move forward with effective e-participation practices.”  LITA volunteered to assist in this effort, and division President Andrew Pace appointed the LITA Electronic Participation Implementation Task Force.  The Task Force was asked to answer this question:  “if ALA provides Internet connectivity in hotels as well as the convention center for Annual Conferences and Midwinters, what can we do to help regular committees use it to connect with absent members at no additional cost?”  The provision of wireless at the hotels is proving to be cost-prohibitive, but meeting coveners in the convention center have an array of free tools to choose from.

What Do You Need?

One of the decisions that must be made by members wanting to provide e-participation opportunities is to decide whether two-way communication is necessary.  Is feedback or input required from remote participants?  In what form will that input be gathered?  Is it important to capture that feedback for later reading or replay?  If so, should the remote content be integrated with what is said and shared face-to-face?  The Task Force put together a visual decision tree that should help meeting planners make an informed choice about which tool(s) to use.

Want to share meeting happenings in real-time?  Try using Twitter or live blogging.

Have a committee member who can’t make it to Chicago?  Bring her into the room via Skype.

Want to solicit audience input at your program? Use Twitter or create a chat room with Meebo.

Want to show off your panel’s slides or workshop’s handouts?  Upload them to Slideshare.

See the entire Toolkit, which also includes options for recording audio and streaming video, on the LITA wiki.

Other Benefits

Providing members the ability to listen, watch, or chat remotely will help them immensely in these tough economic times.  Conference attendees with conflicting engagements can return to an archived meeting or program and listen in after the fact.  Presentation slide shows and workshop handouts can be provided online before or after a presentation, saving paper and the time that it takes to print and organize materials.  By putting our association’s business and conference materials online, we are creating an archive of its history and the work that we do to create it.

The LITA Electronic Participation Implementation Task Force is David Lee King (chair), Lauren Pressley, Derik Badman, Andreas Orphanides, Michele Mizejewski, Barbara Blummer, Jason Puckett, Cindi Trainor and Beth HoffmanJonathan Blackburn, Aaron Dobbs, Kenley Neufeld and Jason Griffey also contributed.