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Getting Virtual: ALA Works to Increase Electronic Member Participation

Submitted by Cindi Trainor on June 17, 2009 - 7:55am

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 Hoffman.  Jonathan Blackburn, Aaron Dobbs, Kenley Neufeld and Jason Griffey also contributed.

Comments (3)

Thank you for the detailed

Thank you for the detailed information on many valuable options.

There is purchasing power in numbers. This appears to be an ideal opportunity for ALA to add value to membership and even present much of the annual conference online. ALA should negotiate with one of the leading vendors - Cisco, GoToMeeting, etc. for a significant discount for secure multiple-user audio and video conferencing by ALA, ALA chapters and ALA members.

I am sure Cisco Telepresence is out of ALA's price range, how about WebEx?

Hi Sara - thanks for the

Hi Sara - thanks for the suggestion! We didn't opt to use Second Life, as it's not really a tool that connects people not physically attending a conference to the actual conference - SL is more useful for meetings if everyone attending the meeting is in SL - then it's great.

Also, SL has a pretty steep learning curve for those starting out, system requirements are upper-end, and it's a bandwidth hog.

We were looking for tools that connect virtual and physical attendees of a conference, and conference reporting tools.

that said, we're certainly open to new tools that help connect ALA members to the conference - bring em on!

I congratulate the Task Force

I congratulate the Task Force for their efforts. However in looking over the decision tree I see that there are several different products listed for various tasks. Why not just use Second Life? SL does all those things, and the software is free and easy to use. It's also widely used in other countries, so makes collaboration with our international colleagues much easier. Keep up the good work, and please consider the addition of Second Life in your future documents.