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RUSA E-Participation Task Force Final Report

FINAL REPORT (Final as of 5/7/10)



Submitted on May 10th, 2010 to the RUSA President for inclusion in the RUSA Board Agenda for Annual (or for immediate action with followup at Annual).  Available in Connect here: http://connect.ala.org/node/101938




RUSA E-Participation Task Force Committee members:

  • Celia Ross: RUSA E-Participation Task Force Chair, BRASS Chair (Kresge Business Administration Library, University of Michigan) caross@umich.edu 
  • Elisa Addlesperger: (Loop Campus Library, DePaul University) eaddlesp@depaul.edu 
  • Shelley Arlen: shelarl@uflib.ufl.edu 
  • Jaclyn Bedoya: RSS/MARS Preconference Committee Co-Chair 2008-09, MARS User Access to Services Co-chair, 2009-11 jaclynbedoya@gmail.com 
  • Bobray Bordelon: John Sessions Memorial Award Committee, 2008-2011; Chair 2009-2010; RUSQ Task Force, 2009-2010 (Firestone Library, Princeton University)bordelon@princeton.edu 
  • Laura Jordan: MARS-L moderator and "Messages from MARS" editor (Library West, University of Florida) ljordan6@gmail.com 
  • James Langan: jlangan@pitt.edu 
  • Daniel Mack: Editor, RUSA Update, 2006-2009. Director ex officio, RUSA Board of Directors, 2006-2009, Member, RUSA Communications and Publications Committee, 2006-2009, Member, CODES Executive Committee, 2002-2009, Chair, CODES Communications Committee, 2007-2009 (University Libraries, The Pennsylvania State University) dmack@psu.edu 
  • Janice Schultz: History Section Genealogy Committee Chair (Mid-Continent Public Library, Independence, MO) jschultz@mcpl.lib.mo.us 
  • Erin Silva: STARS ILL Committee member (University of Nevada, Reno) essilva@unr.edu  
  • Charles Thurston: Former Chair, RUSA Standards & Guidelines Committee (Univ. of Texas at San Antonio Library) Charles.Thurston@utsa.edu



See the RUSA E-Participation Task Force's (REPTF) July 2009 Status Report for background on the Task Force and for initial recommendations: http://connect.ala.org/node/77284 and see the BRASS report reviewing that section's virtual Midwinter 2010 experiment:  http://connect.ala.org/node/100508


Primary recommendations

 The time is now for RUSA to shift towards one Annual conference and to focus on how E-participation can help to strengthen, streamline and sustain the Division.


It should be reiterated that it was *not* the charge of the REPTF to do away with Midwinter participation (see the "Midwinter Meeting" section of the REPTF Status Report: http://connect.ala.org/node/77284).  That said, over the course of the REPTF's investigation it became increasingly clear that requiring attendance at a second face-to-face conference in order for members to fully participate in section and division committee work clearly conflicts with RUSA's goals of "Seek[ing] ways to improve participation by all RUSA members."  It can be argued that Midwinter also conflicts with other goals of "Work[ing] towards equity of access" and even "Ensur[ing] the effectiveness of RUSA in meeting its and ALA’s mission"  (See the RUSA Strategic Plan for 2009-2011:  http://connect.ala.org/node/87905).  This is why our primary recommendation is that RUSA shifts to an "Annual conference only" model. 


In making this transition to one Annual conference per year, RUSA should look for ways that e-participation can be incorporated into the workflow of every section and committee so that the end result is not only greater efficiency and effectiveness of the division, but so that it also serves to draw in more members and provide both new and existing members with a more robust and worthwhile experience. 


We recognize that this is a major shift and, as is prudent when dealing with any kind of change, we recommend that additional planning and communication go into implementing the ideas we've suggested here.  See below for more on these additional guidelines and recommendations.



Impact on Midwinter & Impact on Annual

Doing away with Midwinter makes the role of Annual that much more crucial. The REPTF recognizes the value of face-to-face meetings and other "real time" communication and it should be emphasized that this shift to a one-conference model is not any kind of dismissal of this value, but rather a chance to examine how to fully capitalize on the opportunities presented by Annual.


To that end, RUSA should look into ways of streamlining meetings so that the time members do spend in meetings will be that much more effective.  If it is determined that some face-to-face meeting times at Annual can be reduced or eliminated outright, members would be able to spend more time going to programs, exhibits, discussion groups and meeting with vendors.  Reducing meetings/meeting times would also likely reduce the cost of ALA Annual for RUSA by requiring fewer meeting rooms.  One thing to look at is how many committees really feel they need any type of "face to face" since many have a particular task in which using readily available, free technology (e.g. email or Google Docs, etc.) suffices for the exchange of ideas.  Again, this committee recognizes that there are a number of committees for which the opportunity to meet face-to-face is valuable, if not critical.  We are not recommending that all face-to-face committee meetings, even at Annual, be done away with as the result of increased E-participation.  Instead, we recommend that, as part of the next Section Review process in tandem with a E-Participation Implementation Task Force (as described below), each section's committees examine their charges and their workflow and make changes as deemed appropriate in light of increasing E-participation. 


Also, if Midwinter continues to be held by the rest of ALA (as we assume it will be for the foreseeable future), RUSA will need to decide how to incorporate this into their overall E-participation plan.  Please see the BRASS report on their "virtual" Midwinter experiment from this year for more ideas on this topic:  http://connect.ala.org/node/100508 



Final Recommendations & Next Steps

 The RUSA E-Participation Task Force recommends that RUSA pursue the following:


Commit to transitioning RUSA towards an "Annual conference only" division through a Board vote to be held at or (preferably) prior to Annual 2010.

  • Recommendations:
    • Once the vote is finalized (assuming the decision is approved and/or the vote does not have to wait until next year to go on the RUSA ballot as a special item) RUSA should consider forming a "E-Participation Implementation" Task Force to help with the REPTF's final recommendations. 
      • The Implementation Task Force could perhaps work in tandem with (or be a subcommittee of) the next Section Review committee so that questions related to incorporating E-Participation across the Division and into committees and their workflow and how to successfully transition to the "One Annual Conference" model can be seamlessly addressed.
      • The Implementation Task Force should be formed immediately after Annual 2010 and should focus on Midwinter 2011 (scheduled to be held in San Diego) as the first Midwinter RUSA will be not attending.
      • As stated earlier, RUSA should remain cognizant of the fact that some members will need time to adjust to such a major shift.  An "E-Participation Implementation" Task Force could serve as a sounding board and give members an outlet to turn to with questions and concerns (see our Communication recommendations below, as well). 



Some of the same recommendations from the BRASS report are applicable here in the Task Force's final report: 

Communication is key.

Communication--between RUSA and its Sections, between RUSA and ALA and between each RUSA Section and their respective committees and members--will be key to not only implementing this change smoothly and effectively but also in increasing e-participation and overall member value.

  • Recommendations:
    • Talk to all of RUSA membership
      • The shift to one conference per year only will be a big change for many members and there will be varying levels of comfort with this decision.  Keeping communication channels open and transparent will hopefully help everyone in this transition and prevent and/or allay any kind of major negative backlash.
      • RUSA may want to focus on coming up with a clearly-defined communication protocol to ensure that they are reaching all members. 
    • Talk to section chairs and make sure information is widely disseminated
      • not every RUSA member is a section member, nor does every Section have an easy way to communicate with all of their members. 
    • Talk to vendors
      • going "virtual" may open up ways to make their presence at Annual (and perhaps "virtually" in other ways throughout the year--a few of the vendors BRASS spoke too expressed some interest in brainstorming on this) that much more impactful. 
    • Talk to ALA
      • going "virtual" could be construed as a politically-motivated move and it is imperative that the rationale behind the decision be clearly articulated to leave no room for misinterpretation--find out what the facts are--what are the hard numbers (e.g. what kind of $ is involved if a Division does not attend Midwinter)?    
      • Talk to other Divisions--PLA has not attended Annual in a few years--how did this come about and what kind of effect has it had?  Are other Divisions considering the same kind of move?  See also the planning recommendations below.


Planning is key.

  • Recommendations: 
    • Make sure to review the Midwinter schedule of non-meeting events and plan around anything that normally requires attendance--remember that rescheduling is not easy given the tight Annual timeframe (the main event that RUSA would need to reschedule is the Book & Media Awards ceremony, but this may have some impact on the awards committees themselves which may be working around the Midwinter schedule to make their selections and announcements).
    • Institute some kind of timeline that all sections and committees can follow in regards to updating RUSA on their work.  This would hopefully keep committees from falling off of the radar during the longer stretch between each Annual conference.
      • To this end, some kind of RUSA-wide timeline with any relevant deadlines and who/which committees/sections they affect would be helpful to keep everyone on track.
    • Define what "virtual" Midwinter and/or E-Participation really means for RUSA and how it will affect the overall workflow of RUSA committees and RUSA sections
      • Be mindful that not everyone will readily embrace E-participation and/or change of any kind and be careful to balance the old and the new. 
        • Emphasize the positive outcomes that will result from a shift to one conference per year and increased E-participation rather than focusing on the "loss" of Midwinter.
          • That said, acknowledge that it is a loss, or at least a change in tradition, to not go to Midwinter.  Be careful not to seem to be dismissive of this fact or that it is a mere casualty in the quest for progress and the future.  


      • Come up with some guidelines and expectations to help committees and sections make the transition
        • do this before, not after, the "virtual" Midwinter.  Keep them simple...for example, ask that committees submit an update by X date, answering Y questions, and file them in Connect following Z steps.  Think about the differences between "regular" Midwinter and "virtual" Midwinter.  What kinds of work will need to be done to keep things moving along smoothly in lieu of face-to-face meetings? 
      • Investigate how to encourage and support e-participation
        • RUSA should consider how it wishes to fully define e-participation to begin with.  Is e-participation just committees working virtually?  Does it mean expanding online seminar, courses, networking opportunities and other resources for RUSA members?   
          • Explore is the Communities of Practice model that PLA has adopted: http://pla.org/ala/mgrps/divs/pla/plagroups/placops/index.cfm
          • A LITA E-Participation Task Force last year drafted some recommendations related to technical support for committees wishing to work together virtually:  http://wikis.ala.org/lita/index.php/EParticipation_Task_Force_Recommendations  The page says that it is a work in progress and it's not clear whether final recommendations were made, but it would be worth looking into this task force and comparing notes.
          • In response to the initial Status Report of the REPTF, the RSS section has already sent out a membership survey which asks some questions related to e-participation and meeting preferences (http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22AGVNG4ZST).  The results should be reviewed (and acknowledges in future discussions about the transition so that RSS members who participated know that they were heard) and similar surveys for other sections (or all RUSA members) could be considered.  




The REPTF's recommendation that RUSA shift to one conference per year is not a radical or new idea--the writing has been on the wall for quite some time.  In the end, E-participation is not really about adopting new technologies or changing the core of how RUSA and its members and sections and committees work.  It is about making RUSA more accessible, and more valuable to, all of its members.  Increased E-participation will ideally strengthen our division and improving upon the already-great work that is going on.  It is our hope that by getting the recommendation "officially" on the books and by implementing some of these recommendations, some positive changes will result which will ultimately benefit all RUSA members and the division overall.  This is just the beginning of what will hopefully be some positive changes.