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Cindi Blyberg's picture

What sort of Connect posts should be private?

Preface: Cindi agreed at our April meeting to draft a list of Connect items that should be closed. This list should guide us in the decision to make our individual posts public or private.  Please make suggestions in the form of comments or below the following text. ct 7/3/12


According to ALA policy, online discussions are not meetings and therefore are not subject to ALA's open meetings guidelines (ALA Policy 7.1): “Asynchronous electronic discussions by electronic mail or other asynchronous communications methods do not constitute meetings because they are not an official assembly with a designated starting time.” 

At our May 2012 meeting, we agreed to support this statement of best practice:

"In keeping with the Guiding Principles adopted by the LITA Board in March 2011, LITA Board members will endeavor to conduct LITA business openly on ALA Connect, except where the matter at hand concerns the privacy of individuals or institutions.  Any posts, discussion topics, files, or other Connect items that are not made public will be summarized and posted to the all-LITA Connect group by the Board member who created the item."

Items, therefore, "concerning the privacy of individuals or institutions," or items concerning awards, scholarships, appointments, sponsorships, and evaluation or feedback concerning work done for LITA or its units should be posted privately.

Elizabeth Stewart-Marshall's picture

I would like to see us have the ability to use Connect as an active collaborative work space - for simplicity's sake if nothing else.  However there are times when very rough drafts or preliminary discussions are simply "not ready for prime time".  These are the types of collaborative spaces where ideas and concepts can be tried out in a safe environment and some may never see the light of day by general consensus - the "what as I thinking" moment. 

Since documents/discussions on the open web never really can go away, I would suggest that there are significant benefits to having the ability to have closed work spaces for, as Ranti put it, the "sausage making" and blue sky discussions.

Certainly anything that rises to the level of a draft proposal that is ready to go to the Board for discussion and a possible vote would be placed before the membership for their feedback.  But what I am talking about does not rise to that level of an almost finished, reasoned product.

Zoe Stewart-Marshall

LITA Past President

Cindi Blyberg's picture

At the crux of this discussion is the degree to which each of us feels comfortable with radical transparency.  Given the brainstorming nature of discussions we've had in board meetings, it seems disingenous for us to stream those meetings to the web but openly state that some idea-generating posts will be closed. 

I would argue that discussions "not ready for prime time" ARE those that should be open to the membership.  A great example of this is the recent motion to make the Board list archives public again.  That post has more than 200 views at this writing, and 17 comments, all of which are well-thought-out and which add to the discussion.  The fact that we are having that discussion in the open means we're having it in front of the membership (and everyone else), and not hiding it from them. Hiding discussions--particularly those that affect what the members can and cannot see about how we operate--leaves all of that open to interpretation.  Showing what our thought process is will be beneficial--it lays our motives bare and shows the pros and cons of each facet of the decision.  Sunshine is the best disinfectant, etc. etc.

We agreed that closed discussions would constitute those that affect the privacy of individuals and institutions.  Your second example, Zoe, of a discussion that involves other divisions or people would by definition be closed, as would discussions regarding award recipients, scholarship winners, sponors, etc.  

I am fine with someone starting a closed discussion on Connect to engage in "sausage-making" as long as that discussion is summarized for the membership afterward (or we need to amend the statement above).  I am not fine with expecting the entire body to operate this way because one or two people disagree.  We have all been engaged in electronic communications for enough years that we should be used to operating under the "New York Times rule"--don't put anything in electrons you don't want to see on the front page of the NYT.

That said, I think we can all use our good judgment, here.  This is not necessarily black and white, except where it involves privacy.  For example, I support Karen's decision to make documents regarding financial brainstorming closed.  She was not the author of much of the material, and as she was leaving the board, she had to make sure that the documents were passed on to the group.  The general content of those documents--according to our own statement above--should be summarized for the membership, but the details can remain closed until the Financial Strategic Whatsit Group (what is the official name?) does its work. 

My two cents.

Aaron Dobbs's picture

I'm all for opening what can be opened -- and everything which would fit under th eopen meetings policy *can* be opened, it's just that people are resistant to the idea. K-M the librarian has a post up about "Relentless Optimism" which has a video that keeps me saying "relentless" about just about everyting.

Especially Reletless Transparency for LITA ;)

-Aaron
:-)'

***** "Always remember everyone is working to make the organization better in their own way."
-Eli Mina, ALA Parliamentarian

Elizabeth Stewart-Marshall's picture

I can envision that there may be times when the Board would be asked to discuss a proposal brought forward by another division, ALA itself or a third party or group.  If that other group/division requests that the discussion be held confidential and private, I believe that the policy should allow for us to honor that request while still having a consistent space for the entire Board to easily discuss.

Zoe Stewart-Marshall

LITA Past President

Aaron Dobbs's picture

Here from the original post (under Board Connect Guidelines)
"except where the matter at hand concerns the privacy of individuals or institutions." 

-Aaron
:-)'

***** "Always remember everyone is working to make the organization better in their own way."
-Eli Mina, ALA Parliamentarian

Elizabeth Stewart-Marshall's picture

I guess what I was aiming for here was to make sure that in our drive for transparency we don't set up rules that don't allow us to be flexible in acknowledging that other Divisions operate within other guidelines or operating practices (other than the ALA mandated rules).

If another Division might want to share with us, for discussion purposes, something that we might normally make open, but ask us to keep it confidential, then we need to have the flexibility to accommodate that request.  Otherwise, on a practical level, we might find ourselves as a Division, not as included as we might wish to be.

If these are truly just guidelines and open to flexibility in their application, then we probably have the flexibility that we need.  For somethings it would be nice to be more explicit in advance, in this case - that we would accommodate the request, so we don't have to have an extended discussion on everything.

Zoe Stewart-Marshall

LITA Past President

Jason Griffey's picture

I read "flexibility with transparency" the same way I read "trust me, I'm with the Government." Making a judgment about whether something should be in public leads to more things being private. Having clear and limited rules about what is allowed to be private leads to an organization that defaults to operations in public.

We need to be a leader in this area.

Follow me on Twitter! http://twitter.com/griffey

Cindi Blyberg's picture

If asked to have a private discussion by a Division, we would respect that, and it would be private.  Am I missing something there?