Professional Development

During January 2014...

Kyle at ALA Midwinter 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014 4:40 pm

I was really hoping for two things to happen during my trip to Philadelphia for the 2014 ALA Midwinter conference: 1) to eat a cheesesteak on the Rocky steps with Boyz II Men, and 2) to become more involved in LITA as a 2014 Emerging Leader. The former never materialized (they never returned my phone calls, and cheesesteaks are overrated anyway), but the latter happened in a very big way. Let me tell you about it.

Emerging Leaders

Daniel, Mari, Kyle, and Annie

My EL Team: Daniel, Mari, Kyle, and Annie

I started my conference bright and early on Friday, spending all day in a session with the rest of this year’s class of ALA Emerging Leaders. This was essentially a crash course on ALA structure, leadership development, and project management. For those unfamiliar with the Emerging Leaders program, each year anywhere from 50 to 100 individuals are selected to participate, many of whom are sponsored by an ALA division, round table, or chapter. The goal is for ELs to learn more about the organization so they might seek out positions of leadership down the road. To help this along, participants are assigned to a team that spends the next six months tackling a project from a division or round table. My team has been tasked by ALCTS to evaluate their social media presence and come up with a set of recommendations for using social media to attract new members. We’ll then present our work at ALA Annual in Vegas. My team is wonderful–I’m so lucky to get to work with them.

As part of our session, we had the great opportunity to hear from current and past ALA leadership, including the entire lineup of active ALA presidents. My team couldn’t pass up this photo op:

Kyle, Barbara Stripling, Annie, Daniel, Courtney Young, Mari, and Maureen Sullivan

Kyle, Barbara Stripling, Annie, Daniel, Courtney Young, Mari, and Maureen Sullivan

LITA

I’m very fortunate to be one of the two Emerging Leaders sponsored by LITA, which I now consider my home within ALA. Some of the “other duties as assigned” that come with being a sponsored EL involve helping with those weird things that don’t really fall under any one particular committee. Among other things, I helped organize the #becauseLITA social media campaign, I monitored backchannels for questions during a LITA Board Meeting, and I helped design and run the activities for the LITA Town Meeting, all of which were a lot of fun and allowed me to see the organization from a different perspective. On top of all of that, I also got to know much of the current LITA leadership (LITAship?) and talk to them about how I might get more involved. If you want a #becauseLITA badge ribbon (for whatever reason), let me know–I still have a small handful.

Programs

I’ve never been very good at picking programs, but I did pretty well this time by sticking with the big crowds. I opted not to go to many programs that aligned closely to my work (e.g., there was a session on MOOCs that was geared toward beginners–not a bad session, just not particularly useful to me). Some highlights included #libtechgender, a LITA-sponsored panel that sparked some incredibly lively discussion around the topic of intersectionality (a new word to me) in tech-related library work, an update from Dan Cohen at the DPLA, including the results of the hackathon that bred @historicalcats, and LITA Top Tech Trends, which explored Open Educational Resources and wearable technology.

Your narrator, testing out Google Glass

Your narrator, testing out Google Glass

While the weather could have been better, and I didn’t eat any sandwiches with a Philly-based R&B group, Midwinter was full of meaningful connections and exciting discussions. I can’t wait for Annual in Vegas!

 

Molly at Midwinter 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014 10:46 am

My 2014 Midwinter conference started Friday afternoon with the ACRL Scholarly Communication Roadshow presenters meeting. We had a smaller than usual group, but productive conversation nonetheless. Although I won’t be going out on the road to present any in 2014 – I have lots of fun ZSR and local commitments this year taking priority! – I’m glad to still be part of the team revising the content.

Saturday kicked off early with a fascinating ALA Washington, D.C. office update session that featured Spencer Ackerman, National Security Editor for Guardian US, the journalist who broke the Edward Snowden NSA surveillance leak story. Ackerman made several great points during his talk and the Q&A that followed. Highlights:

  • Amount of secrecy surrounding government surveillance has increased over last several decades, in part because the ways in which laws are interpreted are becoming more secretive.
  • NSA claims no surveillance occurs until data is analyzed, not at point of collection. (Ackerman demonstrated the fallibility of this claim by asking the woman who introduced him for her wallet, then proceeded to take her credit card, make a rubbing of the numbers, then return it to her, while making the point that, ideally, he would’ve done this without her realizing. He then asked if she had something taken when collected, or not until used.)
  • In the last 8 months, we’ve learned more about the NSA than we’ve learned in the last 60 years; NSA and the government never believed such illumination would happen.

I followed this heady start to the day with the ACRL Copyright Discussion Group, in a room that was packed out. Most questions/discussion centered around streaming media rights, successful faculty outreach efforts, copyright websites, and MOOCs. None of the questions or, more importantly, answers were surprising or off the mark from what we are doing/thinking about at ZSR, which is reassuring.

Lunch was courtesy of Gale, which featured an excellent presentation on the history of the Associated Press, whose archive is a new collection available from Gale this year. (Reference colleagues: I have the new catalog for you!) My afternoon was all data, all the time. The ALCTS Scholarly Communication Interest Group featured librarians from UC San Diego and U.Va. sharing their respective libraries’ new data services. The SPARC Forum featured an editor from PLoS, a librarian from Purdue, and a researcher from UNC discussing various approaches to connecting articles and the data behind them. The Forum was moderated by Clifford Lynch, of CNI, who opened the session by making the great point that the fundamental nature of journal articles has not changed, only the delivery format; but, he posited it will in the near future, to facilitate articles linking up to data. A few points were raised that I will be reflecting upon as we continue our data conversations at Wake:

  • After a certain amount of time, datasets should be treated like any other library collection, subject to either preservation or weeding, as warranted; institutions cannot commit to keeping all datasets forever.
  • There is a long tail of “orphaned data” for which appropriate discipline repositories do not, and cannot, exist, hence the need for generalized data repositories.
  • Understanding impact of openly shared datasets, evaluating quality of datasets, determining academic credit for sharing data are some of the challenges to the broad update of data citation by scholars.

My Saturday ended at a lovely reception, courtesy Thomson Reuters, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where Carolyn and I got to meet some of Mary Beth’s and Lynn’s former Wayne State colleagues.

Sunday kicked off at 8:30 with a three-hour meeting of the ACRL Research & Scholarly Environment Committee. One thing I love about this committee is that, in addition to discussing our own business for ACRL, we also receive updates from the field, bringing in representatives of associated groups, including ARL, SPARC, SCOAP3, COAPI, and the OA Working Group. The need to address data management as a part of scholarly communication was discussed at multiple points throughout the morning, which mirrors discussions we’ve been having locally. Two field updates of note: ARL will be offering a preconference on assessing scholarly communication programs at the assessment conference in Seattle in August (Susan, Roz, and MB are planning to attend this conference, I believe), and SPARC will be launching new program areas of advocacy and education on OER and data.

Sunday afternoon found me attending programs/discussion groups on Google Books and copyright reform, ORCID, and researcher profile systems. Fred von Lohmann, formerly with EFF and now with Google, gave an overview of the Google Books ruling that was issued in November, and speculated on how the case might impact Congressional movement on revising copyright. Laura Quilter and Lisa Macklin were also part of this session, giving updates on the HathiTrust and Georgia State cases, respectively. Two key takeaways from this session:

  • Copyright laws don’t get revised when copyright is controversial; hopefully copyright will get more boring in the next 5 years, as the recent cases work their ways through the courts, which will open doors to reform.
  • Work on the 1976 Copyright Act began in 1955, so copyright reform takes a LONG TIME; must keep that perspective.

The ORCID discussion featured three librarians whose institutions are ORCID members, and therefore able to assign ORCIDs to researchers. One interesting idea that arose was to assign ORCIDs to graduate students when they submit their ETDs. The researcher profiles session featured two librarians and a faculty member sharing how their institutions are using various profile systems – including VIVO, Symplectic Elements, and SciVal Experts – to highlight faculty scholarship. These are all more powerful systems similar to Digital Measures, and made me long for a more robust system at Wake that also integrates with SHERPA/RoMEO and WakeSpace to assist in deposit decisions. A librarian can dream, right?!

Sunday night found Mary Beth, Carolyn, Steve, and I at a ProQuest dinner at the National Constitution Center, again with folks from Wayne State joining our table, and later a ZSR reunion party with Lauren Pressley on the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel, overlooking the skyline of Philadelphia all lit up at night. Monday I wrapped up Midwinter with a final walk through the Exhibits, a trip to Reading Terminal Market for an obligatory cheesesteak and Termini Bros. cannoli, and some quality time in the Philly airport as Derrik, Wanda, and I, along with several UNCG and FCPL librarians, awaited our long-delayed pilot to arrive to fly us home. It was a whirlwind, but productive, Midwinter.

Chelcie at ALA Midwinter 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 4:26 pm

This was my first ALA conference as a librarian rather than a student and my first ALA as an interest group chair. Since I was back in Philly, where I lived between college and library school, I also had the chance to catch up with one of my mentors, Elizabeth Fuller, librarian at the Rosenbach Museum & Library.

ALCTS Photo Scavenger Hunt

This year ALCTS sponsored a photo scavenger hunt on Flickr. I snapped photos of designated ALCTS programs, events, and people and Philadelphia landmarks in order to compete for great prizes such as ALA Store vouchers and ALCTS continuing education credit. The winners haven’t been announced yet, but my fingers are crossed! Below are some of my entries in the scavenger hunt.

At the ALCTS Member Reception

At the ALCTS Member Reception.

With 2013-2014 ALCTS President Genevieve Owens

With 2013-2014 ALCTS President Genevieve Owens.

Where ALCTS Executive Director, Charles Wilt, used to work in Philadelphia - The Franklin Institute

The final item on the photo scavenger hunt was where ALCTS Executive Director, Charles Wilt, used to work in Philadelphia (hint: it was featured in National Treasure). An ALCTS staff member tipped me off that the solution to the puzzle was the Franklin Institute, so luggage in hand, I trekked over to snap a photo before I caught the train back to the airport.

ALCTS PARS Preservation Metadata Interest Group

My co-chair Sarah Potvin and I developed a call for proposals that focused on involving content creators in preservation metadata. We aimed for our program to feature case studies and practical examples of how libraries are working with content creators to contribute metadata that supports long-term preservation of materials, e.g.:

  • Promoting the use of tools such as DataUp or building tools, processes, and/or policies to enable content creators to describe their content in a way that better supports preservation and re-use
  • Working with data creators to produce legible “Read Me” documentation
  • Encouraging creators to embed metadata in born-digital documents or photographs before deposit
  • Using crowd-sourcing to solicit, evaluate, and/or store additional preservation metadata
  • Developing apps or tools for users that collect preservation metadata

Our presenters were Lorraine Richards and Adam Townes (Assistant Professor and PhD candidate respectively at Drexel’s College of Computing and Informatics), part of a research team that is working directly with scientists, engineers and program managers at the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) William J. Hughes Technical Center (WJHTC) in order to understand metadata requirements for facilitating re-use of data sets. In this case study of the FAA, there are preservation metadata implications for intervening early in the lifecycle.

Our other proud accomplishment was successfully moving the ALCTS PARS Executive Board to change the name of our interest group from the unwieldy and out-of-date “Intellectual Access to Preservation Metadata” (a vestige of a time when the conversation around preservation metadata centered on particular MARC fields) to simply “Preservation Metadata.” Sometimes the simplest accomplishments are the most satisfying!

In the Exhibit Hall

I also really enjoyed meeting representatives from vendors of digitization equipment that we use—the Crowley Company, which sells Zeutschel overhead scanners, as well as Atiz, which sells the BookDrive. I brought some specific questions about workflow snafus we have encountered in the digitization lab here at ZSR, and my questions were answered.

Facility tour of George Blood Audio and Video

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 12:53 pm

On Friday, the day I arrived in Philly for the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting, I attended a facility tour of George Blood Audio and Video, an A/V digitization vendor. At their studio, we saw a range of playback machines for audio, video and film material; squeezed into their climate controlled vault; and learned a little bit about their workflows.

One of the most memorable comments that George made during our tour is that the point of quality assessment is not to correct errors, but rather to identify the source of errors upstream in order to eliminate errors and improve processes for the long term. Because of their rigorous item-level QA, as the volume of their production has dramatically increased, their error rate has actually decreased.

The staff of George Blood Audio and Video have varied backgrounds – some with an MLIS, others with audio engineering degrees, many of whom had never heard of A/V preservation & reformatting. Either way, in making hiring decisions, George says that he looks for people who recognize the artifactual value of content captured on obsolete media.

George Blood showcases the quad format

The man himself, George Blood, showcases the quad format. It was surprisingly heavy!

Quad playback equipment

Quad playback equipment. George is constantly on the hunt for playback equipment from old studios that he can purchase and incorporate into digitization workflows.

National Be Kind to Video Tape Technicians Week

National Be Kind to Video Tape Technicians Week.

Physical storage (Ampex 196 1" Master Video Tapes)

Physical storage (Ampex 196 1″ Master Video Tapes).

Head cleaners often rarer than playback equipment

Head cleaners are often rarer than playback equipment.

Quadruple styluses! (styli?)

Quadruple styluses! (Styli?) There are analog considerations when it comes to digitizing grooved disks. How well the stylus fits into the groove can impact the digital capture, so audio engineers at George Blood Audio and Video hacked a device that places four styluses on the disk at once. Then, within their software environment, they can switch between the channels associated with each stylus in order to decide which channel to digitize.

George Blood pretzels

George Blood pretzels.

Chelcie at CurateGear 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014 12:23 pm

Last Wednesday I traveled with Rebecca and Tanya to CurateGear 2014 in Chapel Hill, NC. In its third year, CurateGear is a day-long event that showcases tools that facilitate digital curation. The three tools I found most interesting were MetaArchive, a TRAC review tool, and BitCurator.

MetaArchive

MetaArchive is a co-op of university libraries and independent research libraries who work together to preserve their digital content. Each MetaArchive member institution contributes a secure, closed-access, preservation server to the MetaArchive LOCKSS network. After an institution ingests content to its own preservation server, six other servers in the MetaArchive LOCKSS network replicate that content. Servers are assigned to content in order to maximize geographic distribution.New or changed content is stored alongside the original, and in fact, this support for versioning is a huge advantage of MetaArchive’s preservation strategy. The seven servers check in with each other periodically in order to perform fixity checks and verify that all seven copies remain identical. If a mismatch is identified, the servers reach consensus about which copy is “correct” and repair the mismatch. The repair is treated as a version and stored alongside the original. The co-op model offers economies of scale, and membership in MetaArchive seems very reasonable. The knowledge community of MetaArchive strikes me as an appealing alternative to preservation-as-a-service vendors such as DuraCloud and Preservica.

TRAC review tool

Acronyms abound in our profession, and for those who aren’t familiar, TRAC refers to Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification (TRAC): Criteria and Checklist, which is now ISO 16363. Essentially, TRAC is a method for demonstrating that a digital repository meets certain criteria for trustworthiness. There are 88 criteria on the checklist, and they fall into three categories:

  • Organizational Infrastructure – e.g. mission statement, succession plans, professional development, financial stability
  • Digital Object Management – e.g. metadata templates, persistent unique identifiers, registries of formats ingested, preservation planning
  • Technologies, Technical Infrastructure, and Security – e.g. detecting bit corruption, migration processes, off-site backup

While TRAC is designed for repositories to become certified as trustworthy, many institutions simply use it as a self-assessment tool. Developed by Nancy McGovern, the Head of Curation and Preservation Services at MIT Libraries, the TRAC review tool enables the assessor to provide evidence of how well a repository meets a TRAC criterion and rate its compliance on a five-point scale:

  • 4 = fully compliant – the repository can demonstrate that has comprehensively addressed the requirement
  • 3 = mostly compliant – the repository can demonstrate that it has mostly addressed the requirement and is on working on full compliance
  • 2 = half compliant – the repository has partially addressed the requirement and has significant work remaining to fully address the requirement
  • 1 = slightly compliant – the repository has something in place, but has a lot of work to do in addressing the requirement
  • 0 = non-compliant or not started – the repository has not yet addressed the requirement or has not started the review of the requirement

Of course, knowledge of whether a repository meets all of these 88 criteria isn’t the purview of one person, and another benefit of the TRAC review tool is that it enables the lead assessor to assign certain criteria to other people (such as admin or tech team), making the whole process of assessing repository activities more transparent across an organization.

Technically speaking, the TRAC review tool is simply a Drupal instance with a page for each TRAC criterion, so it’s very lightweight and easy to begin using after download!

BitCurator

BitCurator bundles open-source digital forensics tools to help memory institutions manage born-digital materials and perform tasks such as:

  • acquiring disk images of floppies, hard drives, laptops, or desktops
  • generating technical metadata for the disk images
  • identifying and retracting sensitive information such as SSNs, credit card information, etc.

Most of the tools that BitCurator is adapting for use by memory institutions originate in the law enforcement world, whose purposes are very different from our own. BitCurator repurposes these tools for the curation tasks of special collections and archives. For example, capturing a disk image (rather than file by file by file) not only preserves the environment in which the creator worked, but also in a certain sense preserves the “original order” of the records. Last summer I attended a BitCurator hackathon hosted by the Open Planets Foundation, where my main output was a detailed draft of a workflow for ingesting born-digital materials. At CurateGear 2014, I was pleased to hear about some updates to BitCurator 0.5.8 and pleased, too, that my draft workflow doesn’t yet need revision!

Rebecca at CurateGear 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014 9:32 am

On Wednesday, I traveled to Chapel Hill with Tanya and Chelcie to attend CurateGear. It was a very enjoyable day and I learned a lot about software and services that are available. I want to add to Tanya’s post by discussing some of the most interesting things I heard about during the day.

As part of my work, I manage the web archive for ZSR. We subscribe to ArchiveIt, a service through the Internet Archive, so I was excited to see and talk with Lori Donovan. Lori has been a point person for our work. She was demoing ArchiveIt for potentially new customers, but I did have a chance to speak with her about tackling the ever changing arena of social media captures. She described that ArchiveIt is working on “headless browsers” to better capture social media sites. This was good news to me and a very exciting development for web archiving!

I also briefly sat in on a discussion of ArchiveSocial, another web archive tool. I had seen a presentation about this at SNCA and was excited to hear more. The State Archives is successfully using this tool to wholly capture social media outlets of government officials as mandated by law. This software requires the login and passwords of the social media accounts in order to capture (and display) everything related to the account, including direct messages. This tool is great for the State Archives because of the nature of public records and transparency, but I don’t believe we’ll be implementing it here anytime soon.

Finally, I was very excited to hear from Brad Westbrook about ArchivesSpace, a new software that is merging Archivists’ Toolkit and Archon. This has been a very exciting and talked about development in the archives world. Brad did a brief demo showing both the user and back end experiences of the new software. Much of it was similar to Archivists’ Toolkit, but there were certainly more changes to come and some lingering questions as the development continues.

I must say, I found CurateGear a valuable experience and it certainly stretched my understanding of some tools and technology. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend and look forward to using all that I learned here at ZSR. If anyone would like to talk more about my experience, I’m happy to!

 

CurateGear 2014 by Tanya

Thursday, January 9, 2014 5:24 pm

I was happy to have the opportunity to attend the most recent CurateGear 2014 (hosted by the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill). Held for the third year, this one-day event offers the opportunity to hear from a variety of technical gurus and to also participate in demos of various products. The majority of participants discussed digital tools of great interest for not only digital collections, but archives and electronic records as well.

I was most interested to hear Reagan Moore, who talked about iRODS, (integrated Rule Oriented Data System), which is an open source data grid to be used for organizing and managing large collections of data. Basically, when collections are submitted, the user can set up default rules and procedures which allow you to do any number of things, including validation, creating audit trails, and even extract metadata–and the system is interoperable with both Fedora and DSpace! This system is currently being used by many in the research community, such as the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) and NASA’s Center for Computational Sciences.

This was only 1 of 5 sessions I attended, and I appreciated the opportunity to just hear updates and additional information about a variety of programs which have great potential, such as the MetaArchive and ArchivesSpace. Chelcie and Rebecca will also be submitting their comments, so they will provide more information about some of the other sessions. At the end of the day, Dr. Cal Lee gave concluding remarks and he noted the increasing number of intersections between all these programs. When he asked the audience for comments and recommendations for the future, I suggested having some kind of assessment of these tools for decision-makers, such as what do they all do? How do they interact? How much do they cost? How much expertise do they need to operate? Basically, it all comes down to choice, but there is a great need for education before making these important decisions that can impact your program or library for years to come.

Fall meeting of Coalition for Networked Information

Sunday, January 5, 2014 9:01 pm

In December, Thomas and I attended the fall meeting of CNI (Coalition for Networked Information) in Washington, DC. The organization meets twice a year, in spring and fall, and is heavily attended by Library Deans and CIOs of research institutions across the nation. I go to stay up to date on innovations in digital information technology. The December meeting is often plagued by bad weather and that was again the case this year. My flight was delayed so I missed the opening keynote and the first set of concurrent sessions. Here is the video of the keynote and here are the presentation materials from the breakout sessions. I will highlight the sessions that I thought notable.

I tried to attend all the sessions I could on digital humanities, since we are trying to increase our level of support for these kinds of projects at ZSR. A team from Columbia talked about two projects: jazz and music information retrieval and a digital resource on women in silent film. Both operate out of the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, housed in the library with a staff of 15 (FIFTEEN)! The film project was really interesting as the web developer told how he had to “kill his darlings” more than once in the course of the work. In the discussion, someone observed that the purpose of digital scholarship centers is to promote partnerships between content experts, technology experts, and library experts. That is what we are trying to do at ZSR as well, with much more modest resources.

Joan Lippincott, Associate Executive DIrector at CNI, presented a study of trends in digital scholarship centers. A dozen or so exist in the US, mostly in large research libraries such as UVA, UCLA, Brown, Nebraska, Oregon, North Carolina State, Miami, Kansas, Richmond and a few in Canada. They tend to be run out of libraries, unlike digital humanities centers run by faculty, and are open to everyone in the university. They try to bring together technologies and expertise from across campus, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Common services are workshops, courses and one-on-one consultation. Harriet Hammasi from Brown and Vivian Lewis from McMaster gave presentations on their own digital scholarship centers.

I went to a session on the Digital Public Library of America, which has had a very successful launch and I believe will be a strong contributor to cultural memory in the future. Dan Cohen, the Executive Director, described DPLA as a social project, as much as a technology project. It is three things at once: a portal for discovery of all kinds of cultural heritage items, a platform to build on, and a strong public option. It launched with 2.4 million items and stands at 5.4 million only seven months later. A system of content hubs and regional service hubs distributes traffic across the system. (See Chelcie’s previous post on how ZSR can contribute content to DPLA)

Cliff Lynch, Executive Director of CNI, gave a summary of the E-book Roundtable that preceded the conference proper. You might think that e-books are old news in the library world, but there is still high interest in maximizing e-book content and little agreement on how to do so. E-journals are now routine, but the e-book industry is less well settled. Patrons don’t understand why it is not as easy as loading academic content on their Kindles, as they do for leisure reading. The Roundtable concluded that it will still take a little while to shake out all the issues involved with e-book acquisition, cataloging and incorporation into the curriculum.

I had to leave before the closing plenary to catch my flight. I came in during an ice storm and left during a snow storm. The government shut down, but luckily my flight did not! The next CNI meeting is in St. Louis in April. I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren Suffoletto attends CASE Conference, Chicago

Friday, January 3, 2014 11:25 am

Between December 14th and 17th, I attended the CASE V Regional Annual Advancement Meeting in downtown Chicago. CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, has 8 regional districts across the country, and is comprised of 70,000 professionals involved in University Advancement – (i.e. development, fundraising, alumni relations, communications, etc). I was so enthusiastic to attend my first ever professional conference, and spent hours planning my schedule in advance – determining the track sessions I would attend, the networking opportunities I would take advantage of. I wanted to maximize the learning experience, to become a sponge. Absorbing all information I could about the field of Advancement, I learned from various professionals from all over the country, with varied experience levels ranging from 2-25 years.

It all began on a 2-degree, snowy Saturday at the Sheraton Hotel, where I attended a Young Professionals Summit (best described as bootcamp). From that very first day until the last, I pondered one major question: “How can I apply what I learn about university fundraising and cultivating donor relationships to ZSR, as Wake moves into the next phase of the Capital Campaign?” Before I attempt to answer this (partially), I would like to express 10 major lessons that I learned.

Lesson 1: Network. Network. Network!

Development is a field comprised of naturally outgoing people, so it is no wonder that there were breakfast talks and lunch round tables and dinners and networking opportunities throughout the conference. On the first day alone I interacted with at least 15 fundraising professionals in a lunch round table, an afternoon coffee connect, and a happy hour for networking. It became clear that by learning how to “navigate networking ,” we were really learning how to become development officers.

Lesson 2: Development involves a complex process of building and maintaining relationships.

The field of fundraising is 100% relational, and to be successful one must understand the purpose of giving, the motivation behind it, and the importance of storytelling.

But it does not stop there. A cyclical process takes place, where one must identify the proper donor, discover their passion(s), cultivate a relationship, engage in an effective solicitation, and follow up with a proper method of stewardship. Teamwork, leadership, and effective communication play a fundamental role in this process.

Lesson 3: That true grit is necessary to fundraising success.

One must pursue goals, not just outcomes. One must cultivate habits that perfect technique. One must get serious about feedback. All of this requires true grit, which James Husson, Vice President of University Advancement at Boston College described, as a combination of urgency and humility. Three key strengths repeated throughout the conference in an ongoing conversation surrounding grit were concentration- focus- and technique.

Lesson 4: There are currently misconceptions about the alumni relations field.

Alumni relations professionals are not just “friend-raisers,” and that concept is no longer appropriate. They are not just the party planner that identifies the super fan, but the avenue or pathway that connects front line fundraisers to direct donor prospects. They are essential, and must be able to wear several hats. Which leads to lesson 5.

Lesson 5: Front line fundraisers and alumni relations professionals must engage in partnership strategies, as the future of University Advancement depends on it.

This is something that we do well here at Wake, since both of our offices work under the same umbrella. This allows for more effective communication and transparency across all outlets, helping the university effectively raise money.

Lesson 6: The way in which we interact with alumni is rapidly changing, and digital alumni engagement is the future.

Advancement professionals must recognize that technology has not only rapidly affected the student learning environment, but how we interact with those students once they graduate and leave Wake Forest. We must be adaptable, recognizing that powerful entities like LinkedIn are changing the way we connect to our alumni, and that an online community has an identity that is viable for raising money.

Lesson 7: A sales approach can be helpful for major gifts officers.

Sales is more results driven, and examines giving capacity more than giving history. Gifts are on the donors terms, and direct disclosure is present. This not only makes the process more efficient and fosters a strong business relationship between a donor and a major gifts officer, but it establishes trust early on. The more you directly listen and respect your prospect donor, the better the interaction.

Lesson 8: Prepare and Practice.

I heard people often repeat this point in several sessions. Development officers need to be prepared. They have to not only know their top 3 selling points, but they have to be willing to abandon them if they are eliminated from the conversation. They have to be prepared for rejection, and know how to tactfully respond. They need to be strategic, and be ready to listen. Practice makes intention behind delivery effortless.

Lesson 9: Patience is key.

It is no surprise that fundraising can be a difficult profession. An average development officer remains in their position for 18 months. The reasons for turnover can vary, but after many conversations, I think that countless rejection, conflict, and burnout might be among the top 3. An average fundraising professional will make 8 calls, and may reach only 4-5 of these calls. They may land 1 visit, and only schedule about 5 of these visits per month. Out of these 5 visits, they may be lucky to solicit 2 substantial gifts.

Many folks encouraged people to remain steadfast in their positions , and provided wonderful, positive ways to approach rejection. I found myself repeating, “Don’t stop, don’t give up!!

Lesson 10: Warm and competent relations can and will drive fundraising, most importantly for the Annual Fund.

There is a universal way we form relationships. Over 50% of behavior depends on warmth and competence. University Advancement teams must be aware that not all engagement involves an “ask,” and that there are unique ways to engage alumni that will appeal to their hearts before their wallets- which leads to something bigger and better later. Not only is it important to recognize different types of alumni groups, but it is important to acknowledge that these various groups have diverse interests and must be recognized for what they give and/or how they engage with the university.

 

So what does this mean for Wake Forest and ZSR? Well, to be honest, I am still trying to figure all of that out. There will likely be challenges ahead. As many professionals said at the conference, Capital Campaigns can breed campus-wide competition, as various organizations compete for the same prospect donors. However, I firmly believe that ZSR has an opportunity to remain a key stakeholder.

At ZSR, we have an opportunity to not only write “our story,” but to share it. If we can weave together a narrative that explicitly states the multitude and expansive nature of our services, as well as our relevance and importance on campus, then we can be successful at fundraising.

Al Gurganus, a recent donor to the library recently stated in a video, that the reason he and his wife chose to donate to the library was to ‘”maximize utility.” It became clear he said , “That when you help the library, you help everyone- students, faculty, and staff.”

ZSR will continue to write its narrative and find ways to tailor it to various donors depending on their interests (i.e. technology, academics, programming , etc). We are doing a superb job with digital alumni engagement through ZSRx and other methods, and will continue to expand our mission to help our alums succeed. I am confident that ZSR will shine through as the heart of our campus, and that we will raise the money needed to make our home even more excellent!


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