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Online Doc BRASS Report to RUSA on "virtual" Midwinter 2010 experiment

by Celia Ross on Tue, May 18, 2010 at 10:58 am

This report is respectfully submitted by Celia Ross, Chair of BRASS, 5 April 2010 (posted to Connect on 4/23/10)

 

Introduction and background

This report is respectfully submitted by Celia Ross, Chair of BRASS, 5 April 2010 (posted to Connect on 4/23/10)

 

Introduction and background

The BRASS section of RUSA went "virtual"* for the January 2010 ALA Midwinter Meeting.  Essentially, by going "virtual," BRASS simply did away with the requirement that committee members attend the Midwinter Meeting and, in effect, canceled all face-to-face committee meetings and other events normally held at Midwinter.  Committees basically went about their business as usual via email, ALA Connect, phone calls and the like. 

 

The rationale behind this decision had been a long time in the making--travel budgets for BRASS members had been steadily declining, leaving many of our members unable to attend Midwinter.  BRASS had instituted "virtual member" positions on some committees and had shifted all awards-related committees to an all-virtual makeup in an attempt to open up opportunities for those BRASS members who wanted to participate but could not travel, but in 2010 with the economic crisis leaving no member unscathed, going all-virtual was determined to be the most effective option.

 

The RUSA Board requested that BRASS report on this experiment and submit it to the RUSA E-Participation Committee in order to help inform their final recommendations (which are forthcoming).

Preparation

Once the decision (and RUSA approval) to go virtual for Midwinter 2010 was made at the Annual conference in July 2009, the BRASS Executive Committee communicated with BRASS Committee Chairs, with each other and with all BRASS members to make sure that the regular workflow of BRASS was not interrupted and that everyone was kept in the loop.  One thing that helped this communication flow was that the BRASS-L email group had been opened so that all members could sign up--while we have had some gaps in getting new member lists from RUSA and haven't necessarily got everyone signed onto the list, in the past the list was only open to those BRASS members who were on committees, so this left a large portion of our membership stranded out in the communication hinterlands.  Now we have over 400 signed on to the BRASS-L email list (of around 1000 members).  We assume most of these are, in fact, BRASS members, but the list is open, so some vendors and others who may not be members are likely part of that count.  We're still working on getting everyone signed up to ensure a comprehensive and easily accessible communication channel.

 

Emails were sent out informing BRASS members of the decision to go "virtual" for Midwinter and Chairs were encouraged to communicate with their committees to make sure that everyone knew that they were not required to attend any physical meetings in Boston.  Committee chairs were left to their own devices to determine how best to have their committees communicate and get their work done.  No one was forced to use a certain chat system or conference call or email protocol.  Instead, committee chairs were asked to be prepared to submit a status report to the BRASS Executive Committee by a deadline that fell around two weeks after Midwinter was over and to continue getting the work of their committees done in whatever way had been working for them.

 

In addition to the communication efforts noted above, BRASS also made sure to keep as many of the business database vendors apprised of our virtual Midwinter plans.  Since BRASS has strong ties to many of our vendors, we didn't want any of them to show up to Midwinter and wonder where our members were.  BRASS has a Vendor Relations committee and the Chair of BRASS sent out emails to each of the contacts we maintain through that committee.  As it turns out, many of the vendors were also facing economic hardships and were not attending Midwinter, either, as a direct result. 

 

Because we knew that some BRASS members would be attending Midwinter due to other ALA obligations, it was decided to schedule one "all-committee" meeting during the time slot when we normally would have held the Publishers' Forum.  This allowed people to get together informally for a quick discussion about current business reference topics and just to check in and say hello.  It also served as a placeholder on the Midwinter schedule for BRASS and there were a few attendees who were not BRASS members yet (and so were not aware of our experiment) but who were able to ask questions about getting involved.  No BRASS business was conducted at this meeting.  Notes were taken and a summary of the discussion was sent out after Midwinter on BRASS-L.

 

It was also determined that the BRASS Chair would attend Midwinter in order to represent BRASS at the RUSA Board meetings.  The BRASS Vice Chair, because he was able to attend, did, and went to the RUSA Finance and Budget Planning meeting as is per usual (if the Vice Chair was unable to attend, the Chair would have covered that meeting as well). 

 

Using some of the recommendations made in the RUSA E-Participation task force's status report (http://connect.ala.org/node/77284), BRASS reviewed its normal Midwinter schedule to see whether there were any events that would be impacted if the full BRASS membership was not going to be in attendance.  The one BRASS event that is usually held at Midwinter was our Publishers' Forum and this was rescheduled for Annual (after discussion and voting amongst the BRASS Executive committee and in consultation with the RUSA programming chair).  The other RUSA event that BRASS now participates in is the RUSA Book and Media awards ceremony--the BRASS Chair announced the winner of one of two awards; the other award was announced by the BRASS committee chair responsible for that award who happened to be attending Midwinter in his role as one of the RUSA Members-At-Large.

 

Assessment & Follow-up 

The full impact of having gone "virtual" for Midwinter remains to be seen at this point, but all signs point to it having been a successful experiment. 

 

Committees continued to get their work done without the somewhat artificial time-crunch of Midwinter hanging over them.   The main challenge in the immediate aftermath of "virtual" Midwinter was to keep the work of the Section moving forward without the usual collection of meeting minutes and other reports from committees that were normally held and submitted during Midwinter.  As noted before, committee chairs had been asked to be prepared to submit a status update (AKA "fake minutes") for their committees.  These were submitted via email, along with any action items that needed input from the BRASS Exec Committee, about two weeks after Midwinter.  Committees reported on their work and also made note of any impact, if any, the "virtual" Midwinter experiment had on their workflow.  Some committees made use of the update template that had been sent out by the BRASS Chair (just to give those who weren't sure how to compose "fake" minutes something to work with--see the Appendix below for the template).  This seemed to work for now and BRASS is still working on how to archive these materials within Connect.

 

Recommendations & Guidelines for other RUSA sections (and RUSA) considering a "virtual Midwinter:" 

 

Once the decision to go "virtual" has been made:    

 

  • Communication is key.
    • 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. 
      • RUSA may want to focus on coming up with a clearly-defined communication protocol to ensure that they are reaching all 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?
  • Planning is key.
    • 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 really means for RUSA and how it will affect the overall workflow of RUSA committees and RUSA sections
      • 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?

 

A few final considerations:  BRASS chose Midwinter 2010, held in Boston, to be their inaugural "virtual" Midwinter.  Midwinter 2011 is scheduled for San Diego and it may be less appealing for people to *not* go here during January.  In 2012, Midwinter is scheduled for Dallas--it hasn't been held here in a long time (ever?), and that may also be a disincentive not to go (for those that haven't already had their travel decisions made for them by budget cuts).

 

*Note:  the use of the term "virtual" is a bit of a misnomer.  To clarify, BRASS did not hold any real-time “virtual” meetings (e.g. an online meeting or conference call, etc.) during Midwinter.   See the RUSA E-Participation task force's status report (http://connect.ala.org/node/77284) for more discussion of what "virtual" can mean.

 

Appendix 1:

 

Text of the guidelines sent out to BRASS Committee Chairs to help them write their Midwinter updates:

 

Here are some questions you can answer regarding your committee (Reps to RUSA committees—if you could just alter this to answer whatever is relevant [i.e. skip the member activity part], that would be great). 

Members actively engaged in committee business:

Members who have not been actively engaged (please note reasons why if known):

Objectives of committee for this conference year:

Summary of Committee activity since last Annual (summarize projects being worked on, email/phone discussions, decisions reached, follow-up action decided):

Evaluate the committee's effectiveness in accomplishing its objectives:

Any problems/issues?

List any recommendations you have for action by the BRASS Executive Committee:

Thoughts on how “virtual” Midwinter has impacted you or your committee?  Tips for how you dealt with no face-to-face meeting?

 

 

Appendix 2:

Business Information Alert interviewed Celia Ross, BRASS Chair, at Midwinter 2010 about the virtual experiment.  That interview has now been published in Vol. 22 No. 2.  See the attachment to this online document to read the article.

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Online Doc RUSA E-Participation Task Force Final Report

by Celia Ross on Mon, May 10, 2010 at 11:22 am

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

 

 

 

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.  

 

 

Conclusion

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. 

 

 

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Online Doc RUSA E-Participation Task Force Status Report

by Celia Ross on Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 08:51 am

RUSA E-Participation Task Force Status Report

Submitted: July 2, 2009

RUSA E-Participation Task Force Committee members:

 

RUSA E-Participation Task Force Status Report

Submitted: July 2, 2009

RUSA E-Participation Task Force Committee members:

 

  • Celia Ross: RUSA E-Participation Task Force Chair, BRASS Vice Chair (Kresge Business Administration Library, University of Michigan) caross@umich.edu 
  • Elisa Addlesperger: 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 Langanjlangan@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


Summary of RUSA E-Participation Committee Charge:

  • Examine the need for all committees to meet at Midwinter, draft a recommendation concerning registering for Midwinter if attending virtually and draft a plan for implementation at both the Section and RUSA levels.
  • Explore ways that E-Participation could improve the overall efficiency of committees. 
  • Suggest tools needed to implement more electronic participation. 
  • Seek Section input.

 

Introduction

The RUSA E-Participation Task Force was formed in anticipation of a much-reduced member attendance at the 2010 ALA Midwinter meeting resulting from the current economic downturn and related budgetary cuts.  The Task Force charge, summarized above, includes a focus on this Midwinter Meeting but it should be noted that e-participation can have additional impacts on RUSA.  The Task Force defined e-participation broadly to include any kind of committee communication and collaboration that occurs through electronic means (i.e. not face-to-face).  We focused less on the technological requirements of holding "real time" virtual meetings and instead examined how committees could function effectively without requiring members to travel for face-to-face meetings twice a year and what impact this shift in workflow might have on RUSA and ultimately on ALA. 

The RUSA E-Participation Task Force has never met face-to-face.  All work was accomplished asynchronously via email and use of a pbwiki space.  Given more time, the Task Force likely would have arranged for a synchronous conference call or chat session to review progress and address future steps.  Additionally, the Task Force did not utilize the ALA Connect system which likely would have provided comparable (or better) functionality.  It is interesting to note, though, that this Task Force has thus far operated completely through e-participation of some sort or another.

 

Midwinter Meeting

The Task Force examined the impact expanding member e-participation would have on the Midwinter Meeting.

Note: It is important to understand that the Task Force was not focusing on eliminating the Midwinter conference outright.  Indeed, in the full charge of the Task Force it is noted that unless there are significant changes made involving all of the other ALA divisions, the RUSA Executive Committee will need to continue to attend Midwinter to remain active in its role in representing RUSA as part of ALA overall. Rather, the Task Force investigated ways in which most of RUSA and its sections' committee members might still be able to actively contribute without the explicit requirement that they agree to attend in person both the ALA Annual conference and the ALA Midwinter meeting.   

One potential outcome that expanded e-participation could have is that members would do committee work via electronic means throughout the year and make the need to meet face-to-face at Midwinter unnecessary.  It will be increasingly difficult to get volunteers to do the work of the organization if they must pay to travel to meetings that are, in effect, unneeded because the work of the committee has already been done.   While fewer people attending Midwinter would result in a loss of revenue for ALA and RUSA, continuing to require attendance at two meetings/conferences per year in order to serve on committees could result in not only a decrease in RUSA committee volunteers overall but also eventually a loss of RUSA membership revenue. 

Another possible outcome of expanding e-participation is that the face-to-face meetings at Midwinter would require additional software and other technology to support members who would be "attending" virtually.  This outcome would present a number of logistical, technological and financial challenges.  The Task Force reviewed and ultimately rejected the idea that committee members could pay a nominal registration fee to be allowed to "attend" Midwinter virtually.  Potential technical difficulties and other snags aside, it didn't seem right to require additional fees from committee members who are already volunteering their time and efforts.

ALA and RUSA will have to make choices.  The Task Force understands that Midwinter is an important revenue source for both ALA and RUSA, but most organizations do not have face to face meetings except for boards.  In essence, RUSA (and other ALA division) members are paying additional costs, significant ones in many cases due to the travel requirements, for the "privilege" of doing committee work.  Regardless, given the state of the global economy and its effect on library and personal budgets, many RUSA members are facing cuts that will prevent them from being able to travel, let alone pay for professional memberships.  Many people will rethink their professional memberships and their ability to commit to committee participation that requires their attendance at two conferences/meetings per year.

Accessibility should be considered, too.  Many members are eager to support their sections and divisions through committee work but are discouraged from volunteering due to a perception that to accept a committee position will require a committment to attend multiple conferences and meetings for up to two or three years.  Expanding e-participation could open up opportunities for these "shadow members" to become active participants in their professional organization and RUSA could capitalize on this new accessibility through a marketing and outreach campaign.

Midwinter was established as a business meeting before other means of communication and collaboration between members and amongst committees were readily available and the reality remains that, while there are some committees where it may be more convenient to get a portion of their work done face to face, most work will occur (and is occurring) virtually anyway.

Note: The schedule of Midwinter needs to be considered.  Here is a (partial) list of events that essentially require people in attendance to be successful as well as representatives who are required to attend both Annual and Midwinter.

Events held specifically at Midwinter

RUSA Book and Media Awards

BRASS Publishers Forum

Institutes (i.e. midwinter preconferences)

Midwinter is able to go to smaller cities so different local audiences.

Face to face meetings for Awards Committees (note all BRASS awards committees have been virtual for several years)

Events exclusively at Annual

RUSA Awards Ceremony

Section Programs

BRASS Academic/Public Libraries Forum 

Events at both Midwinter and Annual

RUSA Board

Section Executive Committees

Literary Tastes Breakfast

Discussion Groups

RUSA Organization evaluation of sections and committees (could all work be done exclusively at Midwinter; could reviews take place virtually)

Representatives required to be at both Midwinter & Annual

RUSA representatives to ALA committees

RUSA Board

Recommendations and next steps:

  1. Review all RUSA-level and RUSA section committees to determine which meetings and events require face to face meetings at Midwinter. 
  2. For those committees that believe they do require real-time and/or face-to-face meetings during Midwinter, investigate what technological solutions might be implemented that could support the portion of the work that requires "meeting".
  3. Identify some trial committees and/or sections that will be willing to test the impact of e-participation on their work.  Note:  BRASS had expressed an interest in leading these e-participation explorations.  Based on an informal survey of BRASS members, it was determined that many will not be able to attend Midwinter 2010 this year so there are already plans to have most committees meet virtually. 
  4. Consider the marketing potential of opening up e-participation options for members.
  5. While investigating the impact of e-participation was not part of the Task Force's charge, we also encourage a further look at reducing the meeting times/requirements at Annual so that members can spend more time going to programs, exhibits, discussion groups and also reduce the cost of Annual to ALA by requiring fewer meeting rooms. 

 

Improving Effeciency

The Task Force examined the impact expanding member e-participation would have on improving the overall efficiency of RUSA and RUSA section committees.

As noted above, many committees (if not all) are already incorporating e-participation into their workflow throughout the year, if not at a specific "real time" synchronous virtual meeting.  For many committees, e-participation is the de facto standard.  When the charges of committees are clearly defined and each respective committee chair is given flexibility to use the technologies and tools that will work best to support their committee's communication and collaboration needs, e-participation is the key to bringing the committee together.  With effective oversight and communication from the Section leadership, committees that involve a lot of e-participation can ultimately be more efficient because they save everyone time and money.  Working out the best modes of communicating and collaborating can be a challenge, but ALA is already providing tools like Connect that help support enhanced e-participation.  The RUSA Technology Task Force and others, including this Task Force, have investigated various software and other applications that can support real-time virtual meetings, if it's decided that additional resources are needed.  It is also feasible that committees who are not counting on a face-to-face meeting at Midwinter will, in fact, work more efficiently year round through e-participation rather than putting off tasks and then scrambling in the weeks and days before the face-to-face meeting to get everything together.

Recommendations and next steps:

  1. After identifying RUSA and RUSA section committees that are willing to test the impact of e-participation on their work, these committees should track their progress.  A questionnaire or online survey could be developed that would collect successes and failures, what worked and what didn't, and the impact, positive or negative, that e-participation has on committee workflow and deliverables.  
  2. Some committees are already operating all-virtually, all-the-time.  A list of these committees should be reviewed (BRASS Committees already meeting virtually include: All BRASS Awards committees, BRASS Nominating and BRASS Vendor Relations) and included in any surveys as well as turned to for input on best practices, tools used for e-participation and the impact on overall committee efficiency.
  3. Continue to promote and support Connect and ensure that all sections and section chairs are kept informed of training opportunities and other useful information regarding the successful incorporation of Connect into RUSA and RUSA-section workflows.
  4. Establish some general guidelines for committees, but focus on simplicity when it comes to e-participation and resist the urge to equate it with "increased technological or software needs."  Allow committee chairs to determine which tools and methods of communication and collaboration will work best for the tasks they are charged with while maintaining open communication between the entire RUSA community.

 

Support Needed

The Task Force did not spend much time investigating the support that will be needed (from RUSA and/or ALA) to implement any of the recommendations.  Rather, the Task Force is waiting to see which recommendations are chosen to be acted upon before determining what kind of support might be needed and from where it would come from.

 

Section Input

Recommendations and next steps:

  1. RUSA should survey each section about e-participation and about plans for reduced attendance at Midwinter.
  2. All RUSA sections should be coordinating with each other regarding any e-participation efforts that are already underway (like LITA's E-Participation Task Force: http://wikis.ala.org/lita/index.php/EParticipation_Task_Force_Recommendations and the RUSA Technology Task Force:  http://blogs.tametheweb.com/RUSA/2008/10/08/topic-1-podcastvideocast-conference-programs/)
  3. Consider bringing the e-participation issue to an ALA-level task force.
More...

Summary of RUSA E-Participation Committee Charge:

  • Examine the need for all committees to meet at Midwinter, draft a recommendation concerning registering for Midwinter if attending virtually and draft a plan for implementation at both the Section and RUSA levels.
  • Explore ways that E-Participation could improve the overall efficiency of committees. 
  • Suggest tools needed to implement more electronic participation. 
  • Seek Section input.
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