Professional Development

Evolution of an ALA Attendee

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 1:26 pm

My last ALA post was about programs and how I didn’t get to see too many, so this post is about the reason why and it’s the leadership post. (One more post to go!)

One of the neatest things about ALA is that it is a conference for anyone with any interest in libraries or information. There’s something there for everyone. You can go to learn, share, network, contribute to the work of the association, and/or participate in governance.

I started going to ALA because of an interest in the work of the association. I wanted to work on committees and productively contribute to what the organization does. And I really like that work. In fact, I wrapped up service on the LITA Web Coordinating Committee at this conference.

The Emerging Leader program, as well as conversations with people I think of as role models, helped me realize that I wanted to get more into the governance side of things, and that’s what most of this ALA was about for me. For example, first thing on Monday I was in a Council meeting until noon, then after a fast lunch, I was in a LITA Board meeting until 5:00. These are seriously long meetings. And at this conference I clocked about 11 hours of Council and 9 hours of LITA Board meetings in addition toauxiliaryCouncil and LITA activities. I can totally understand that’s not for everyone, but it really is something I enjoy and feel that is a good use of my energy. So here’s the rundown:

ALA Council

ala councilThis was my second conference as a Councilor-at-Large. This means that I do not represent a specific body on Council, but rather the people who voted for me. Since I campaigned on a platform about helping ALA adapt to future expectations, I feel I represent people especially concerned with keeping ALA relevant. This conference was ripe for discussion relevant to the constituency most interested in that platform. We discusses the Future Perfect Task Force, the Task Force on Equitable Access to Electronic Content report as well as a Council Effectiveness Task Force. Despite my shyness, this was my inaugural conference for saying something from the floor and I did it twice! My comments were along these lines:

People speaking against the Future Perfect report (notice the fun name… future perfect is “will have been”) seemed to be focused a lot about how we’ve done things in the past or how our current members might not like what it proposed. I suggested that though these comments might be true, this report might have ideas that would make us more appealing to those who have chosen not to join or those who in the future would not find the current model relevant to them.

My other comment was about communicating out. There was a suggestion in the Council Effectiveness report that suggested councilors communicate more with the membership about who they are and what they find important as well as find ways to listen to their constituency. Again, completely in line with the folks who voted for me based on my video or Twitter activities. Several people were saying they didn’t want to be so public or take the time to make videos and that people knew who they were and how to get in touch with them. I suggested that we hear from people who know how to find us but we don’t hear from the many that just think of ALA as a conference for programming with no idea about who is on council, why, or what we do. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the issues. I suggested we follow the recommendations so that people can learn more about how council works and what issues we are discussing. Anything you want to know? :)

So my first foray into speaking on the floor was basically two comments on the same theme, but I was compelled to speak to the issue twice since we kept coming to the same place.

ALA Council covered a lot of other ground as well: a resolution supporting a UN Report, a resolution to share all council documents via ALA Connect (the Facebook/Acad1/wiki/discussion list/etc of ALA), and others. I was really disappointed that I had to leave early. My flight was cancelled and the only way to get out on Tuesday was to switch airlines and leave several hours early. On the upside, after this conference I feel much more confident of my role and how to function as a councilor.

LITA Board

My LITA Board terms actually begins today, so I just attended LITA Board meetings as a guest at this conference. The main distinction I picked up was that whereas ALA Council focuses on governance and policy, LITA Board appears to be more about strategy and planning. For example, there is a Treasurer of ALA and a Budget Review Committee, so anything financial that comes before Council has been thoroughly vetted and has little discussion. LITA doesn’t have these bodies, so the Board spent much of its time on topics related to budget and membership. LITA’s been working on a strategic plan since I’ve gotten involved, so in addition we’re seeing the implementation of that now.

I also learned about different roles I’ll have to take on as a board member. I’ll have to give up my seat on a committee (makes sense, it allows for broader participation), but will have to take on liaising to a committee to share information from the Board. I joined a subcommittee of the Board charged with dealing with a few issues specific to the budget as well as how to generate more revenue. So at this point I’m ready to dive in!

I think the LITA work will be a nice thing to have in parallel to Council. In LITA, we’ll see concrete results of actions–and fast–where sometimes the work of Council–though meaningful–doesn’t have the same obvious high-impact to the membership.

If you think you’d like doing any of this type of work, and don’t mind learning a few procedural/cultural ways of having conversations (we use Sturgis, for example), I’d love to talk to anyone who thinks they might want to run for office. ALA tends to propose slates of candidates, but any member can run if they get enough signatures. Those candidates are not distinguished on the ballot from slate candidates, and many times they win!

And it’s not all work. We know how to have fun, too!

ala councilors at work

(cross posted to with a few modifications)

Lauren P.’s ALA Midwinter, part III: LITA and a bit about Council

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 2:09 pm

My big lesson this ALA: conferences are for lots of things. In the beginning, for me at least, it’s a big mix. Over time, I’ve started attending a more specialized conference. ALAs can be about programs, vendors, meetings with individuals from across the country, committee work, governing work, and networking. For a few years, my ALA had evolved to primarily be about committee work. Now it’s looking like my ALA is evolving to be mostly about governance. And it’s really interesting! I’m going to do a series of posts over on my blog about council, my experience, and my votes if you’re interested in the details. We’re in the final session of Council at the moment. Today’s session is scheduled for about 4.5 hours and I’m blogging in the breaks.

As for LITA, I’ve really scaled back my LITA involvement for last annual and this conference. I’m about to ramp back up, though, as I’ll start doing conferences normally (without the family), but for now I’ve just had a few obligations. I did the panel on the first day, Sunday I participated in LITA’s Web Coordinating Committee, and yesterday I was there for most of the Town Hall Susan described.

To keep your ALA reading to a minimum, I’ll just focus on the Web Coordinating Committee. It’s sortof like the ZSR web committee for LITA. In the past year we’ve broken into two subcommittees: technical and communication. I’m on the communication end of things. We’re looking at how to redesign the site and to consolidate all of our web presences. My role is to head up a small sub group to make recommendations on how to consolidate the web site, wiki, blog, ala connect space, and all the social networks. I also am serving on a small sub group focused on redirecting the blog to be more about information sharing and less about the organization itself.

It’s really interesting to be part of the organization at a time when our web presences have matured to a sprawling organization. It’s something I think every organization will deal with at some point, but bigger ones with more web content generators will first. I also think it was brilliant to conceive of web work as two distinct roles: the technology (servers, upgrades, new tools, etc) and the communication (content generation, information architecture, etc). I look forward to where the web presence will be in a few years.

As it turns out, Council just ended! Here is the big news:

  • Resolution for encouraging job ads to specify if provide domestic partner benefits: passed
  • Resolution from COL on open access to government information: passed
  • Resolution on notifying conference participants about “do not patronize” lists: denied
  • Resolution encouraging congress to reintroduce and vote on the dream act: passed
  • Resolution on the removal and censorship of artwork from Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery: passed
  • Resolutionon Wikileaks and federal agencies: tabled
  • Resolution in Support of Wikileaks: tabled
Now, off to find the family!

Lauren P.’s ALA Midwinter, part II: All About Council

Monday, January 10, 2011 12:53 pm

Yesterday began my term on council. I really, really like it. I can see how it could be frustrating or how some people might rather spend their time elsewhere, but it is a good fit for me. Everyone in the room cares about the profession, are passionate about what they do, think about the issues presented to the body, and a lot of very smart people weigh in on the issues.

Council Begins

If you’re interested in specifics, I have pages of notes, but I thought I’d distill this down to the more generally interesting aspects of council. Yesterday included three meetings: a general membership meeting with the executive board and council, council I where business was conducted, and ALA-APA council which was more informational in nature. Today I went to council II, and tomorrow is council III (the longest of all the council meetings).

The room is huge. In the front is a podium where the president, incoming president, executive director, and parliamentarians sit. There are two large screens where text is projected for the debate. For example, a specific paragraph from a resolution might be projected, or modifications. There are two other large screens that show a live transcript of what people are saying. This is very helpful to clarify the names of the speakers or specific numbers people mention.

There are tables with outlets for the 186 members of council. There are seven microphones that people can approach to speak. Behind the tables are rows of seats for members interested in observing council. The back of the room has a very long table where all the handouts relating to the session are held, and it’s a lot of paper! Yesterday’s stack was easily over an inch tall.

The tone of council is very cordial and civil. I really appreciated this. Clearly people are of different opinions, but it did feel like people could state whatever they felt the need to state. In the first session, many were deferred to later council sessions. The one resolution that really had full discussion and came to a vote was forALA will encourage employers to list the presence or absence of domestic partner benefits. The initial version of the resolution used the word “required” which was a real sticking point for many people. The version that passed used the language “encouraged.” If you’re interested in the discussion, I am happy to chat with you to share!

Last night I went to Council Forum (until 10:30pm here!!) which is an open session with the membership where they can speak out on resolutions before council. Many of the people in the room were on council. Some of the more controversial resolutions (notably the ones relating to wikileaks and labor disputes) came to this group for discussion, which was absolutelyfascinating! Today or tomorrow we’ll address these resolutions with a lot more information about what the membership thinks.

The resolutions we’re considering for the duration include two on wikileaks, two on ALA hotels with labor disputes, supporting the DREAM Act, and one on the Smithsonian’s decision to pull controversial art.

If you’re interested, at all, in how the larger ALA organization runs, what the membership tenor is, or just how council works, I really recommend sitting in on a council meeting and/or Council Forum. It’s good stuff!

Lauren P.’s ALA Midwinter, part I

Sunday, January 9, 2011 1:46 am

This is an unusual ALA for me. Since I knew I was about to have a major life change, and was running for council, I timed a lot of my committee obligations to end before this conference. With that being the case, I haven’t been seeing as many familiar faces.

With Leif being so little and still dependent on me for certain things, John and Leif came on a vacation while I do conference business. In my spare time I catch up with them.

And with starting council, in many ways it feels like an entirely new conference: new conference culture to learn, new people, new ways of doing business. And it’s a much more diverse group in every way. I realize that to do council right I’m going to need to pay much more attention to the general field than I have been over the past few years.

So far, the highlights:

Leif's first flight

Leif did surprisingly well on the flight, though his parents were pretty exhausted by the end of it. :) We also had the fortune of taking the same flights as Lauren C., and it was nice to be able to catch up during the layover and afterwards.

Friday night was the LITA Happy Hour. It’s the one time when LITA folks get together and catch up without formal business. Some years it’s the only time that I see some colleagues from other institutions and it’s a great place to catch up on interest group information. This year John and Leif came by since several folks there had seen Leif’s photos. We just stopped by though, long enough to make contact.

The real business of the conference started first thing this morning. For me the day started with a two hour orientation to council. It was really, really good! I learned more at that two hours of ALA than any two hour block of any ALA leading up to it. They did a great job of discussing the process of policy adoption, integration into governing documents, parliamentary procedures (and how to find out more as you go), cultural issues, obligations to constituents (since I’m at large, that means my constituents are any ALA member, so let me know if there’s anything you want me to pass on/do anything about!), and connected us with many of the folks we’ll need to know. I saw a few familiar faces, which was reassuring, and the information they gave us helped me really feel like I could get involved more quickly rather than waiting for a while and just listening while I learned everything. President Roberta Stevens wrapped up her remarks saying that her time with council has been really rewarding. She was involved with legislation about the Patriot Act that had far reaching implications, and pointed out that though Council really exists for the profession, at times it can have societal impact. Really inspirational stuff!

Convention Center & Marriott

My other big event of the day was a panel for the Tech Set. Marshall Breeding and I spoke with a group primarily comprised of the LITA Publications Committee about our experiences writing for the Tech Set, our thoughts about future publication opportunities, and how writing fits into our career. It was a fun conversation and it was nice to have the opportunity to follow up on my work with Wikis for Libraries. Marshall’s doing a book for the second Tech Set. I’m not that ambitious. :)

So tomorrow starts Council! I’m off to read resolutions, study up on Council andSturgis, and get a bit of rest!

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