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Mary Ghikas's picture

Streaming Meeting Discussion

At the Division Leadership meeting in San Diego, a discussion arose about issues related to streaming meetings (of boards, of committees).  I was asked to post a "discussion starter" to this list.  It is attached.  Please feel free to share -- and discuss.  Thank you.  Let me know where you want changes, additions or have more questions.  Thanks to LITA and to the ALA Executive Office for their help in pulling this together.  mg

streaming meetings 1.5x.pdf124.37 KB
Diana Reese's picture

Mary (and LITA),

Thank you for addressing this topic.  I believe there is some urgency to this issue, given the number of meetings that are happening virtually.  I'll share with ASCLA's board and provide this group with feedback.  In the meantime, I just wanted to say THANK YOU!  dr


Diana Reese, ASCLA Past-President

Karen Schneider's picture

This is a good thing to get going. The draft document offers some timeless insights into organizational dynamics (synthesized: don't surprise people, and don't make them feel stupid) while pointing out that streaming may have to become mainstreamed into organizational activities.

The comment that minutes are the "official" record of a meeting had me thinking. I certainly approach minutes that way. But how is that defensible?

As noted elsewhere, the Open Meetings rules need assessment and overhaul. The whole "let's make them register to virtually attend a meeting for an organization they already pay dues into" needs to be put to the test. Is that really our best revenue stream?

Regarding acting differently in front of cameras: that is exactly why I have been advocating for real-time streaming of Council, a body that does the majority of its work after most people have gone home, in a windowless room, and it shows.

Meetings! More later.


Karen G. Schneider


Jenica Rogers's picture

This concerns me.  Karen is correct; there is timeless insight into the organization's history in this document, and potential issues are laid out in detail for all stakeholders to contemplate.  But where is the recommended action plan?  I see 12 pages of description of how we got to where we are, but no recommended next steps, no possible options or potential top-level solutions, and no timeline for moving this issue forward.  Without those things, this is not a productive discussion tool -- we will simply rehash our history, explain our roadblocks, and never do anything because there will never be consensus on how to move forward.  That is particularly true if there is no proposed action plan to discuss.  And because ALA appears to believe that there is no need for centralized leadership on this issue, choosing to leave it to each committee to decide how to proceed, virtual participation will continue to vary wildly by constituency, committee, and event. Without a unified vision or decision, ALA will continue, overall, to look and feel unwelcoming to virtual participants.

I am concerned that this document will simply continue a pattern of "wait until later" and "pass it to the committees to do" that feels very alienating to meaningful progress.  I want more from ALA. I want this flagship organization to be providing streaming access to members who, particularly in our current economic climate in libraries, simply cannot afford to be physically present in order to participate in the life of the organization.  This isn't a first step that gives me any faith that we're going to get there, and that makes me sad, for all of us.

Karen Schneider's picture

To chair the Task Force!

In fairness to ALA, it is a membership organization, and we the members should be the drivers.  It would not be appropriate for the permanent staff to be telling the members how to address this issue. There's nothing preventing us from forming a Membership Interest Group to promote organization-wide recommendations on streaming. 

Besides, on page 10, there are recommendations for streaming, with 5 points. That's a start. I'd expect such a group not only to offer guidance for how to stream, but why. Additionally, we (the body politic) need to pick apart the current open meeting policy and recommend what it would look like in a streaming-friendly environment. Again, what is the strategic advantage of limiting "Librarian CSPAN" to registered meeting attendees?

The only part that feels really sketchy is on page 9, about cost/accessibility. It even feels written by a different author. That section is the usual librarian dodge where someone says "oh, we'd do this, but we can't afford it," or "oh, but that's not fully accessible." Right, because expecting librarians to fly cross-country and sit in a room is accessibility-friendly.

As for affordability, as I said on my blog, we must beware the trap where we can only make something happen if it's available to everyone as an ALA service. I can remember back to when a number of improvements were stalemated because not every ALA member chose to have an email address (and I wish I were not referring to the mid-1990s). It would be great if more units streamed more of their meetings. It would be ideal if they ALL did. But if the difference between "more" and "all" should not become the barrier to it happening. Some members will arrive at ALA conferences with MeFi routers and laptops with builtin cameras. Some will arrive with legal pads and pencils. The latter should not hold the former hostage. Furthermore, with ALA members beginning to reassess how many units they belong to (I am pondering that right now, at my own renewal time), members will be given a chance to see in advance which units are future-ready and future-friendly, and which are not, and can spend their dollars accordingly.

In the same section, there is discussion about "making the audio tape of ALA Council available to members online," noting there is minimal interest. The original conversation about this was always about making the real-time text transcripts available online, both as they are happening and later in a member-available archive. Not only that, but making this feature KNOWN is key as well. I knew nothing about it. That may betray that I'm not paying close attention, and that would be right. But there you are.

Karen G. Schneider


Jenica Rogers's picture

Karen, why you hate me? I'm in charge of enough stuff!  :)

In re: "members will be given a chance to see in advance which units are future-ready and future-friendly, and which are not, and can spend their dollars accordingly.", I love that conceptually. Sign me up for the parts that are awesome! But, again, it just makes me sad to know that our organization -- member driven or not -- is going to prove its excellence to members in some areas by offering the counterpoint of the areas which are failing.  Bummer.

Lisa Hinchliffe's picture

It may bear referring to Mary's original message that the Division Leadership meeting resulted in a request that she post a discussion starter. Let's not criticize it for not being an action plan - as a discussion starter, it appears to be working. :)

I do want to add as well that, even if ALA is not able to create this for every group, not standing in the way of it is really valuable! Within ACRL, we haven't yet discussed how we might want to engage this as a Board, but a number of our Sections have tried different approaches (I particularly remember attending the Law and Political Science Section as a candidate for president and being "on camera" as they had not just streaming but an interactive, synchronous meeting at a distance - thought it was great!). Aggregating the experiences will also be helpful with determining what the best practices (or, possible practices?) are in this area.

Roy Tennant's picture

The document seems quite thorough in identifying all of the negatives, but it fails to identify all the good reasons for doing it -- especially the tremendous benefit to allowing members who cannot travel to a meeting for whatever reason to listen and perhaps participate who could not otherwise do so. You would think a membership organization would welcome this. Boards who read this are likely to be left with the impression of this being nothing but a problem. Adding the positives, as well as a suggested strategy for going foward with it, would greatly strengthen this as a document that really wants to enable streaming, not kill it.

Mary Ghikas's picture

Thank you all for jumping into this discussion -- that's very positive. 

Karen Schneider's picture

I think it is best to think of this document as how streaming is and has been perceived in ALA, as well as its organizational context. It's evidence, not guidance, much as the Recent Unpleasantness in which a streaming incident was labeled as, well, hrm, treason. As Lisa said, it started conversation. It definitely creates historical context for decisions about access.

Jenica, I'm just thinking of you. Idle hands are playthings of the devil!

Karen G. Schneider


Alan Cornish (non-member)'s picture

The document does have value, particularly the thoughtful handling of technical issues in section 5.  At points, it seems too wrapped up in the specifics of the January 8 incident at ALA Midwinter, instead of putting forward a forward-thinking summary and proposal.  In this sense, I agree that it's basically a negative document. 

Given the technical challenges, section 4c describes what will actually happen - groups (as they are able and motivated to do so) will simply use technologies to enable their members to participate in meetings, albeit imperfectly, via a stream.  This will evolve to more complete remote participation over time, as the technologies move forward.   

As a LITA member, I urge the division's leadership to see streaming meeting content as an opportunity - not a problem.   

Andromeda Yelton's picture

My question is: there's a continuum of issues here.  What happened to it?

"Streaming" can happen through a continuum of actors, from officially sanctioned ALA AV personnel, through members of official bodies acting in a personal capacity, to third parties acting independently.  And video streaming exists on a continuum that also includes, e.g., livetweeting/liveblogging and blogging after the fact.

This document appears to assume that livestreaming is something that will be sponsored -- and controlled -- by official bodies.  That if there's concern about disconnection from parallel discussions -- and I agree that's an important concern -- the answer is some sort of officially designed feedback site, rather than people getting out there and joining the conversation while it happens.  And there's this mysterious blind spot to all those other continuum elements mentioned above.

Clearly some of those continuum elements are, and should be, out of ALA's control.  But they are already happening, and will only get easier and more prevalent.  This document reads to me as an attempt to exert control over a phenomenon that cannot, in fact, be controlled, rather than a discussion of how to live with, and within, it.  And that control comes across as a million and one ways for the perfect to be the enemy of the good but not -- as Roy notes -- any acknowledgement of the opportunities.  Cost/benefit analysis without the benefit.

I'm a fan of forethought.  I am not an early adopter.  But I'm also a fan of experimentation. After the LITA board meeting this Midwinter (which I was at) another Emerging Leader and I were talking about how desperately we wanted LITA to be engaging with us during the twitterversy, in that space (it wasn't).  I want to see an organization that gets out there where things are messy, and does things before it can be certain they'll turn out right.  When I see a document that assumes concerted official activity is the only activity in question -- and then goes on to list all the things that could go wrong and nothing that can go right -- I question whether ALA can provide support for me if I want to innovate.

Which is to say: I'm glad this document considers risks.  I'm glad ALA is helping people get up to speed on what those might be.  But I want it to be a document that, having done so, empowers people to try, and fail, and try again.

LITA Board of Directors, 2013-2019; President-Elect, 2017-2018

Mary Ghikas's picture

Andromeda and colleagues on this discussion thread: 

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.  Excuse my delay in responding, but I needed time to think about your comments -- and perhaps to recover from a slight, and temporary, discouragement.

Andromeda, your initial comment ("Streaming" can happen through a continuum of actors, from officially sanctioned ALA AV personnel, through members of official bodies acting in a personal capacity, to third parties acting independently.  And video streaming exists on a continuum that also includes, e.g., livetweeting/liveblogging, and blogging after the fact.) is correct.  It can; it does; it will.

In fact, I think that experimentation remains -- as it has been for some time now -- critical to moving forward.  From where I sit, I see a tremendous amount of experimentation by individuals and groups (official and unofficial) across the Association -- experimentation with structural changes and "spontaneous" structures, with livetweeting and liveblogging, and with streaming.  We are collectively learning from that experimentation -- learning how to do things differently while still retaining the capacity for sustained, long-term action that is essential to an association.  We're learning where the dependencies -- the if/then points -- are.  We'll keep on learning.  We'll try and fail, try and succeed.

You are correct that this document is focused on a particular point in the "continuum" -- video streaming.  The issue arose at the Midwinter Meeting in San Diego.  The question that came to me initially was "is there any ALA policy that says we cannot do this?"  The response was "no -- but there are some legal issues that need to be considered in doing it."  In subsequent discussion with division leadership, I committed to pulling together the issues for consideration by the various boards and other groups.  Summarizing those issues to be considered briefly:

  • There is no insurmountable legal or policy barrier.  There are some legal guidelines that need to be observed.  These are discussions to be had and work to be done -- which is part of moving forward.
  • In the vein of "don't just put wheels on the card catalog," it makes sense to look at the sequence of activity in which the meeting to be streamed is embedded.  Do you need to rethink the "terms and conditions" for candidates to a board?  Do you need to rethink when and how you make documents that support a board of committee discussion available to others -- so that those viewing a streamed (or liveblogged) meeting have ready access to them? 
  • The costs involved can be significant -- and resolving that may not be simple.  At the same time, evidence is that if we are willing to work "inside out" -- letting lots of "experiments" happen -- we can begin.
  • There are discussions that must occur -- within boards and committees and between boards and committees and those they represent.  These discussions relate to legal guidelines -- e.g. permission and notification -- and to shared understanding of the appropriate (and necessary) use of closed sessions.  The relationships involved are important.

While the document was crafted to support board and committee discussion, it seemed appropriate to me to post as a "public" document -- both because that is my preference whenever possible and because this was a discussion that had, from the beginning, involved members talking to each other in a variety of places.  I believe the "context" and the framing of issues is potentially useful to individual members, as well as boards and committees.  It is the conversation -- happening within boards and committees, between boards and members, between groups of members -- that is resulting in change.

Having said that, I have some concerns -- and think these concerns may be shared by others.  There are, in many cases, parallel conversations -- and we struggle to find the best way to build in loops, bridges, any mechanism for sharing that is respectful of the real pressure on time and attention.  There are interesting and often important discussions in the growing "spontaneous" parts of ALA.  When do those discussions need to be heard in or affect the formal parts of ALA -- and how do we make that bridge?  How does/how should, for instance, the growing volume of livetweeting and liveblogging affect  meetings and discussion processes?  How do we support, sustain, encourage the "spontaneous" groups, e.g. the communities of practice.  How do we recognize the significant leadership that emerges in those informal or "spontaneous" groups?

My dream -- shared, I think -- has been to significantly increase the percentage of ALA members who have an active, involved relationship with ALA.  While I'm not sure what that will ultimately look like -- or how we get there, my personal prejudice in the matter is that we'll get there collectively, each of us acting from where we are today, in a variety of roles, each with our own gifts.  I am not a board or a council.  I am a long-time ALA member, with experience as an active ALA member, now (quite happily) in an ALA staff role.  I have lots of "day jobs."  I seek to contribute to the conversation by sharing information -- possibly more information than you want -- and try, repeatedly, to organize and illustrate the complexity of interrelationships and connections.

Thank you again for being present in the conversation.


Michelle Frisque's picture

Mary, I really appreciate the document that you have created. I like knowing what issues and barriers exist. I agree with others we also need to grow a list of existing resources, experiences and expertise that can be leveraged moving forward. This begs the question though, how do we move forward? Does each division, round table, committee, etc experiment on its own? I know that LITA is discussing the issue. I have heard others are as well but I do not know to what extent. How will these discussions / experiments be shared, evaluated, built-up and improved? Is there a way to pool resources together to figure some of this out together? Do we each go ahead with those experiments knowing that some of those experiments may go against current ALA policy? Are the ALA committees (or in many cases council) that oversee these policies reviewing them for potential changes that will allow future change and growth? 

Mary Ghikas's picture

Thanks, Michelle.  You raise good questions.  You are correct that I did not propose a top-down or association-wide "solution," but a framework within which groups across the Association could -- and I assumed would -- move forward, in conversation with members.

I do not believe there is any ALA policy barrier.  ALA Council did make a number of important policy changes a couple years ago -- in response to the ALA Task Force on Electronic Member Participation, chaired by Janet Swan Hill.  While those changes were not directly relevant to -- or required by -- the current question (video or audio streaming board/committee meetings), they did substantially reposition the concept of "participation" within the Association.  The report also reiterated the importance of "transparency" as a general operating stance.  There have been, and continue to be, a number of changes -- in divisions, round tables, ALA committees -- since then.   I have attached an FAQ I did almost a year ago, when I was getting a lot of questions from groups working on changes.

Looking at this specific step (streaming), there are some legal issues.  I tried to be clear in the "framework" or discussion document that I don't see them as insurmountable barriers -- just conditions to be met, which can be met.  There are also questions to keep in mind as we move forward.

I'm happy to be helpful to this conversation and process -- but it isn't clear to me how at this point.  If you have an idea, I'm happy to volunteer. In the meantime, I'll work at keeping up with the conversation and the questions.

Thanks, again.








FAQ - E-Participation.pdf36.43 KB
Karen Schneider's picture

I think where Andromeda and others are coming from could be shaped by this thought exercise.

Imagine that the document launching this discussion came from the opposite perspective: attempting to justify meetings that did not include streaming, within the framework of "streaming is normal, not streaming is not." The document would have to explain why meeting participation needed to be limited to people attending/registered-at a physical conference.

The objections would fly thick and fast. Someone might thoughtfully point out that people behave differently when they're sharing with a limited audience (which describes ALA Council to a fare-thee-well). Others might ponder the consequences of limiting open meetings to the fiscally privileged. Still others would point out that members *attending* such conferences and these meetings were deprived of the right to a truly open meeting. The benefits of virtual participation aren't just for the distant viewers; they are also for the people attending f2f. A few might ask why if they have the personal means to stream they were not allowed to do so.

I think it would be almost impossible to meaningfully argue this position. The best you could do is point to lack of planning (inviting a consultant without first ensuring the content could be streamed or recorded, and failing to structure a meeting so its executive sessions are clearly isolated on the agenda) or lack of equipment/support (ALA can't provide it for everyone, so we're dependent on member-supported efforts, etc). The argument couldn't logically fall back on the "registered attendee" requirement without someone raising the point that it is much more expensive, and has fewer strategic advantages, to limit participation than to make it open.

Note that an ALA Edition title, "How to be a great boss," recently had organic support, with an ALA member gifting copies to people and creating a Facebook group. Did he unfairly privilege one ALA Editions title over another? Should we wait until every ALA Editions publication has its own FB group? (Or, heaven forbid, should we force the discussion to happen on Connect--nothing against Connect, just the idea of insisting on using an ALA platform, as if we had ALA planes to fly us to conferences?) I think any reasonable person would find that argument uncompelling. Yet over my 20 years in ALA I have repeatedly experienced the (unspoken) mantra that nothing can arise organically or unevenly or outside the framework of ALA-the-institution. It tends to be a squelcher.


Karen G. Schneider


Jim Kuhn's picture


Barbara Jones (OIF) forwarded this document with a request for comments to IFC. A smaller group of IFC members submitted comments between midwinter and annual 2011, on the basis of which OIF staff produced the attached document, which Barbara then forwarded to ALA staff. We are sharing that document here as well.

Thanks to all involved for your continuing work on these issues!

Jim Kuhn, IFC member