LITA Education: Under the High Wattage

With last week’s ALA Annual conference, I resume fully my hat of Madame Chair. It’s the hope and goal that I will be the last two year chair of the Education Committee, as we’re slowly transitioning to a Chair/Vice Chair model for LITA in order to hopefully improve communication and handoff.

Over the past six months I’ve served as the first vice chair for LITA Education, with the idea of determining where some of the challenges for the committee were and identifying what needed to be changed, where we could improve, and determining our strengths. I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my Board Liaison, Andromeda Yelton, who has been giving LITA Education and the budget for LITA a great deal of brain power.

A major challenge for LITA Education is that without much infrastructure or particularly clear expectations it has become one of the primary revenue arms for the division. Having this particular obligation with some other challenges means that there’s a sticker shock of how much money it is anticipated we will generate–especially as historically the committee has not set those numbers themselves. With this ALA came the advent of a new LITA Financial Advisory Committee and I’ll be working closely with them (and Andromeda, let’s not pretend) to determine a realistic level of budget to try and target towards–keeping in mind that this work is nearly entirely reliant on volunteers who all have full time jobs and far many other obligations.
Beyond that, though, the committee needs infrastructure rather desperately. With a group of constantly rotating volunteers, we need better documentation of process and procedures if for no other reason than it gives us a jumping off point to say “we need to change what we’re doing” Currently it’s really hard to do that because we don’t know what we’re doing.There were specific areas that I outlined for the LITA Board at their Monday session (thank you again to now-Past President Cindi Trainor for giving me time on the agenda and to the Board for listening and discussing these points with me). If you’d like to hear my presentation to the Board, it’s available here. I start speaking at about 14:30 and continue for about 9 minutes. Our entire conversation was about 30 minutes.  For those not interested in listening or w/o headphones, here’s what I brought before them:

*Overall the LITA Education is a reactive committee, waiting for presenters to come to us, lacking documentation and training, and in severe need of infrastructure to carry us through from year to year.

*I have major budget concerns. To date, the group has been given goals in terms of program numbers, not revenue or expected registration. Those program numbers have assumed registration we haven’t been meeting and yet  the financial expectations have grown greatly without any input from the committee and without giving them any feedback as to how they have been doing in meeting those goals. For example, in the budget Andromeda pointed to in June, a third preconference was added to Midwinter 2015. Those preconferences are under the LITA Education purview, but that information was never conveyed to the incoming chair.

*The committee needs more formalized relationships and communication with other revenue generating committees: Program Planning, Forum, and Publication. Right now those relationships are in place only because I know the chairs and have no problem shooting them an email and vice versa. I will rotate off, as will they, and we cannot rely on personality. Nor should that soley be the work of the chairs.

*The committee should also be soliciting education from our Interest Groups. We had one IG do a webinar earlier this spring and it was well received.  The IGs have a wealth of knowledge and capacity and education would be an additional opportunity for them beyond the meetings at Midwinter and Annual, and would probably let others participate in programming who cannot attend the in person meetings.

*It’s very unclear how we handle partnerships. I’ve been approached by a LITA member who wants to reach out to an organization. He has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do and it seems reasonable in my head, the problem is that I have no idea how much it would cost. I want an approximate checklist to start with.  [Note: one of the board members has taken on this particular task]

*We need a better marketing plan because various people tweeting about our educational programs is insufficient. Part of this must be driven by education planning more than 2-3 months in advance so we can make various deadlines that are further out but most of that shouldn’t be coming from the content generating committee.

*Infrastructure is needed to better support our presenters.  There’s always a question of money–when it’s expected speakers will be paid versus not. But beyond that, we have other things that we can offer and aren’t: feedback from post-course surveys that we’re already sending out, improved format options and a submission process, better appreciation from the committee itself.

What are my goals? 

1. Establish infrastructure and documenation of procedures

2. Formalize relationships between other key LITA committees and Interest Groups [This includes the new Communications Committee, I had a chat at Annual with the founding chair Nina McHale.]

3. Proactively align with other division offerings: this spring LITA Assessment worked with LITA Education to survey what other divisions are doing. We have the raw data, now we need analysis.

4. Identifying the needs of our community. [A survey on this is going out to the LITA members soon. I am hoping this will identify not only needs but also potential instructors.]

5. Recruit the best instructors, collaborate with other divisions, expand our partnerships.

What I asked from the board

1. What other infrastructure ideas did they have that I’m missing?

2. What partnership ideas did they have?

3. How does LITA Education fit into their strategic vision for the next couple of years?

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This generated a lot of discussion among the group and some definite tasks that other people are taking on.  It also spawned about 400 new emails for me but hey, that’s pretty standard.

Why am I telling you all of this?  My final point to the board was the need for TRANSPARENCY. No matter how much I talk to people, I am only one person and I know that the ways of committees are often too opaque. It was something I tried very specifically to work to improve for the LITA Program Planning process.I have nearly an entirely new committee serving with me for the next two years including one veteran from my PPC years who I’m thrilled to have as a partner again. I also have a vice chair who’ll be working even more closely with Andromeda and I.  I am sure that everyone will have ideas about what else education needs to do and I can’t wait to hear them.  I am hoping to build this infrastructure with them so that they can take great leaps and our educational programs can truly meet the needs of librarians wrangling technology.

If you have any input on LITA Education or are interested in teaching a web course or a webinar, please feel free to check out:  or you can send me an email [MyFirstNameMyLastName@gmail]. I may hand you off to a committee member for further details but I’m happy to be first point of contact.