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?


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.

Program Planning Committee Update

Looking at my archives, I see that it’s been quite a while since I gave you an update on the LITA Program Planning Committee and all the various and sundry things that go along with that.  As I actually have a couple of hours to write this afternoon before I need to shuffle off to the airport, now seemed like a good time to get that done.

In August we chose programs and in September the committee sorted things into time slots. This is far less fun than it sounds.  We have to try and meet the requests of the speakers, not conflict with similar topics or other LITA no-compete times, and still have something during every slot that we’d all like to go to.  We might have moved our committee meeting because of one of the programs that’s happening next summer…..

During the course of the fall there was some contact work that the liaisons needed to do.  I sent a fair number of reminders and when people weren’t speaking up, I sent pointed requests.  Due to work situations, two of my committee members had to excuse themselves from service, so I also need to send emails to my two new committee members this afternoon.

By the way–unless it’s a personal special request, I don’t really control who is on my committee.  When I lost a committee member over the summer, I had a name in mind because of some emails that I’d seen not too long before conference.  I knew said person had filled out the volunteer form and had other committee experience that would benefit my group.  This time around, I sent a request saying I need two more people and Colleen Cuddy made things happen.  I got the names shortly before Midwinter.

This spring, I will be hearing from/working with the VP of LITA–Zoe, to get a couple of people who are rotating off the committee replaced.  I don’t know how much influence I’ll have there either.  I think it’s a good committee to cut your teeth on, though it’s a fair amount of work in the fall.

My committee did not have a formal meeting at Midwinter ALA. I said I’d be in X space at Y time and three of my committee members happened to come by and see me and, over the course of the conference, one of them and I worked out some changes to one of the programs (I say “we”–Mike did the hard work and the talking to people, I gave him some ideas, started a couple of conversations and asked to be copied on the emails.).  I saw a few other chairs and we shared some ideas but the wifi at the conference was so weak that I couldn’t edit a GDoc while I was there.  Did I mention that 98% of my committee’s work is in a GDoc Spreadsheet?

Interestingly, several people have come to me assuming that I can put programs into the program now or that LITA PPC actually arranges the programs.  While we have the latest (last I checked) deadline for annual programs, that deadline is long past.  When we’re talking about a conference of 25K people, it’s not quite as easy to throw a program in at the last minute.  And while we select and coordinate programs, the PPC does not traditionally arrange and put on the programs.  Our work is much more behind the scenes.  That being said, the committee is responsible for the Flash Presentations.  This is a new program (it’s not about the Flash on the computer btw–someone asked) that I’ll send out a call for in April.  Six ten minute presentations about what’s going on in technology at your library RIGHT NOW.  But that was something I knew I wanted to arrange last summer and we already have our timeslot for that.

Someone else asked what if there is a cancellation?  We do not do a replacement.  Particularly this year.  Individual speakers on a panel might certainly change up until the conference but if an individual doing a presentation pulls out, I’m not going to go back to the list of suggested presentations.

That being said, I am sharing the LITA-PPC spreadsheet with LITA Education Chair Cody Hanson, who will be reviewing both the presentations that we accepted and those that we did not accept to see if there are workshops that he could create, speakers he could tap, and other opportunities that can be created out of the wealth of suggestions people put forth.  And one of our rejected proposals was handed as a suggestion name to an IG Chair who asked us for people for their panel.  So things do still happen.

Oh! I did go and talk to the LearnRT Board and they are entirely on board to take on coordinating with our programs to offer pre-program support: reviewing slides, dry run of the presentation via Skype, etc.  I’m thrilled to have their assistance and felt very welcome at their meeting.  I’m happily anticipating better programs by our presenters!

We’re under description deadline for the print this week, so it’s time to go send emails to all of my committee members again.


If there’s a question I didn’t answer, let me know…


On the Brink of Acceptances

The LITA Program Planning Committee is through it’s initial stages of review and discussion about programs for next summer’s Annual ALA meeting.  After hours of thoughtful individual review, commenting, and rating, we had an absolutely jam packed two hour discussion today.

So how did we judge a program/what were we looking for? Here are the questions I asked the committee to keep in mind during their evaluations:

  • Will this be a timely topic next summer?
  • Will it scale? Is it transferable across types/sizes of libraries?
  • Will it put backsides in chairs and keep them there?
  • Would you sit through it?

Have I mentioned how grateful I am for some of our current technologies?  We used a Doodle Poll to schedule the meeting, a Google Form to collect responses, Google Spreadsheets to organize things we were rating and make comments, Skype to get everyone together to talk. I was editing the spreadsheets live as we met with programs moving to an accepted or declined tab.  I’ve still got some notes to pull together from today’s meeting but overall, things are in pretty good shape.

Because we had so much to talk about, the meeting was a forced march at a really quick pace. I was impressed at the collaboration and consideration that I heard from the committee members. There were several programs that various committee members felt very strongly about and their arguments, examples of relevancy, and passion helped the committee create a list of programs that we are confident presenting to the ALA attendees.

If you’re waiting on notification, it’s going to be a little longer before you have an answer. There were some programs where we’re asking for clarifications, a couple that we’re asking to combine, and a few other things floating about that need to be settled before final acceptance/decline emails are sent. I promise things are moving behind the scenes, even if it may seem interminably slow on your end.




Holy Conference Proposals Batman!!

If you’re just tuning in, please check out my initial Madame Chair post.

We’re closing the LITA Program Proposal Form on Friday* and as of 5 p.m. Thursday, we were nearly to sixty proposals.  SIXTY.  That’s double what we’ve had the last two years (I checked our spreadsheets).  I’m somewhere between shock, awe, and OMGWTFBBQ-crazy. I know the Redoubtable Warmaiden and I have been blasting listservs and I’ve been yelling, begging, reminding and irritating people for four very short weeks.  Thank you for putting up with the multiple emails, tweets, blog posts and everything else. And to everyone who submitted: Thank you for sending us your proposal. You’ve given us a wealth of options to choose from and I’m grateful that you took the time, made the effort and put your ideas forward.

A skim through the spreadsheet has me already thinking about things I’d like to attend.  Obviously I can’t tell you much, but words like Mobile, E-, i-, Cloud, Data, Migration, Web Design and Training are certainly liberally sprinkled about.

With proposal numbers like that, the committee’s job just got much harder. Frankly, we can’t accept everything. Even if we wanted to, we only have about 16-19 time slots to work with (depending on how you count it, not scheduling on top of the LITA President’s Program, etc).  We’ll lose a couple of those time slots to the vendors** and we really shouldn’t try to schedule 6 LITA programs per time slot.

So what happens now?

Tomorrow I spend the day clicking over to the spreadsheet every twenty minutes to see just how many more people have submitted a proposal. After we close it, my committee members will each read, rank (1-5) and comment on what we’ve received.  We do this individually and I’ll be asking them to make a top ten list. I’ll compile their rankings and give each program an average score, to help us see any particular outliers that we want to immediately accept or turn down.

Then we have a two hour meeting scheduled to hash out what, exactly, we’re accepting. That is going to be exhausting. Ideally, I’m hoping that a few programs might be combined, so the number we have to turn down can be reduced.

Following that meeting, we should have the following

  1. A list of programs that we are definitely accepting, with PPC members assigned.
  2. A (short) list of programs where we need more information from or we’re asking if they’ll consider combining. (Please say yes!)
  3. A list of programs that we are turning down.
That short list will need to be worked through quickly so if you hear from us, please don’t sit on it. By mid-September we’ve got to be plotting things on a scheduling chart and sending out notifications of acceptance or rejection.
Interestingly, those who have expressed interest in working with the Learning Round Table on their proposal is right about 50%. I have no idea how that will translate once we get through the shuffling above, hopefully one of the accepted program proposers and/or a member of the LearnRT will give us more insight once that’s rolling along.
Good news for me! The Conference Program Coordinating Team, which does calendar tetris after the PPC does it, but on a much larger scale, will be meeting electronically! In the past they’ve met for a weekend in October and I’ve heard interesting stories about people being locked in rooms and not being allowed out until we’ve come to a consensus on the next Pope, pantones for next year, and exactly which flavor of ice cream is the best. Last year, they tried doing it electronically and that worked so well, they’re doing it again.  This makes it much easier for me, as I have travel plans in October and plane tickets to buy in the near future.
Sixty Proposals. Wow.

*Read= Or when I get up on Saturday, for those in California working til the last minute on their proposals

**Vendors are guaranteed a two hour window every day that isn’t booked with programs, only committee meetings.  Unfortunately we can’t make them always at 8:30 a.m.