LITA at Midwinter 2010: A Publicity Update

It’s exactly one month until the 2010 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston. This should be about the time that people start firming up plans for the meeting–and by now groups should certainly know what they’re going to be talking about.

So, as a loyal (for now) LITA member who might like to try a couple of new interest groups discussing interesting things, I started to draw up my schedule based on what people were doing.

A couple of years back, I grumbled about a certain lack of coherence in communications by LITA groups–too many channels (website, blog, wiki, list, segment of ALA’s website) and information either missing or too scattered, particularly for someone trying to get involved in the organization. As I recall, six weeks out, I could only find information on about half of the IGs, and that required going to four different sites.

I’m sure things have been improved by now. For one thing, there’s another big site (ALA Connect), for another, LITA officers have at various times talked about the need to fix this problem. So let’s have a looksee…

Who?

LITA has either 18 or 21 Interest Groups at the moment, depending on where you look. There are another 17 “inactive” IGs, most of them long since disappeared.

Where?

Ideally, any LITA channel should offer a way to get to a reasonably complete list of notes on what IGs plan to do–and that list should appear in one place.

Should that place be on one of the LITA channels? Maybe, maybe not.

Let’s see what I found as I explored the various likely channels:

ALA Connect

There’s not even a Midwinter 2010 page for LITA, and very little recent activity of any sort. There is, to be sure, a link to an overall Midwinter 2010 PDF schedule giving times and rooms, arranged by division.

LITA Wiki

I went here next because it’s a wiki, so anybody can edit it, so it’s an obvious candidate.

  • Only five IGs have pages at all. Another five have red links–that is, links to nonexistent pages.
  • There is a Midwinter 2010 page. It has times for meetings as requested, but hasn’t been updated to show actual rooms. The only real info is on the two Midwinter workshops. ($220 for a member or $495 for a nonmember for a workshop on writing for the web? OK.)
  • Otherwise, I was able to determine that Internet Resources is having a “business meeting” (with time and room) and that Digital Library Technologies is having “an informal meeting” (with time but not room). That leaves 16 up in the air, and some of the pages are now 18 months out of date.

LITA Website

There’s a Midwinter 2010 link to an ALA page showing the workshops, the town meeting in some detail, a happy hour (time but no place)…and that’s it, other than a link to an HTML schedule with times and rooms but no details.

Every IG has a page (except Drupal). Not one of those pages has anything about Midwinter 2010. Not one.

What’s astonishing is just how old the most recent items on these pages are, setting aside the fact that the Top Tech Trends page stops at Midwinter 2005…

  • Two IGs have minutes or notes from Annual 2009.
  • Four have minutes or notes from Midwinter 2009. That leaves 13 that are more than a year out of date:
  • Three have notes from Annual 2008.
  • Four have notes from Annual 2007.
  • Two have notes from Annual 2006, with one more from Midwinter 2006.
  • One has notes from Annual 2005, and another has as its most recent entry notes from Annual 1999.
  • One has no entries at all.

LITA Blog

I found two posts related to Midwinter 2010: One announcing the workshops (I gotta say, it’s easy to find out how to spend even more money on LITA!) and one offering a gCal for Midwinter 2010. As far as I can tell (not being a gCal guru), that has times and rooms but no details.

No posts announcing Midwinter IG plans. Not one.

LITA-L

It’s crazy to expect a newcomer to search through list archives to find this stuff anyway–particularly given the search engine and the way the archives are presented.

It’s also a waste of time. I found nothing going back as far as October 2009, and a search yielded nothing at all.

ALA Website

The LITA link goes to LITA’s website (already covered). Tee Midwinter event planner seems to be useless for finding out what’s actually happening, or maybe I lacked patience to keep logging in and restarting my session…

But, if you read the Midwinter page carefully, you do find a link for the 2010 Midwinter Meeting Wiki.

And there, you hit paydirt–again, if you know where to look. When I looked at it half an hour ago, there was a red link (which means “no page” in MediaWiki) for Interest Groups, and the Division Events page was no help, with LITA having nothing in it.

Ah, but on Discussion Groups…

  • Twelve of the LITA IGs have something.
  • Two are generic, essentially descriptions of the IG. Ten are more specific.
  • Being a good guy, I created an account, created the IG page with a link to the LITA section of the DG page, and added a note and link to the LITA section of he Division Events page. So, now, you have a reasonably good shot of finding this info…if you look at the wiki. Number of links to the wiki from official LITA channels, as of this writing: Zero.

Here are the ten specific writeups, in alphabetic order, noting that BCEC is the “not Hynes” convention center:

  • Authority Control, Sunday 1:30-5:30, BCEC 105: “Updates from different groups working in areas of authority control, with time for questions and discussion. Tentatively, Library of Congress, MARBI, OCLC, RDA/MARC Taskforce will be represented.”
  • BIGWIG, Sunday 4-5:30, BCEC 102A: “BIGWIG will be discussing upcoming activities, including (but not limited to) the LITA Blog, Social Software Showcase, and the election of new officers. Interested in social software or the use of new technologies in Libraries? Come join the LITA BIGWIG interest group, we will be … “
  • Distance Learning, Saturday 10:30-12, BCEC 104C: “The LITA Distance Learning Interest Group will meet at the 2010 ALA Midwinter Conference in Boston to discuss current issues in distance learning and future plans for DLIG. Topics will include learning objects and tutorials, the role of distance learning in libraries today, and economic impacts on distance learning programs”
  • Electronic Resources Management, Friday 6:30-8:30 p.m., Hyatt Duxbury: “The incoming midwinter LITA ERMIG discussion meeting will cover several hot major issues on how to manage library electronic resources under the library budget challenges, including various standards development and applications, ERM system development, and new researches and studies conducted in the areas of resources management lifecycle. The speakers will include librarians, vendors and publishers. The forum will be in a discussion format. Each talk will be followed by a Q&A session”
  • Emerging Technologies, Sunday 1:30-3:30, BCEC 258C: “This meeting will include a roundtable style discussion on Emerging Technologies in Libraries and how Libraries can utilize them. This meeting will also include discussion on potential speakers for a panel of Emerging Technology Librarians planned for ALA Annual 2010 as well as consideration of potential questions to pose to the panel.”
  • Imagineering, Monday 1:30-3:30, BCEC 152: “LITA Imagineering Interest Group will meet discuss our committee charge which is “to promote imaginative forecasting and planning for future information systems and technologies by the examination and analysis of speculative themes and works.” We will also discuss doing a second program at Annual conference on the History of Science Fiction and spend time creating a handout for the program.”
  • MARC Format, Saturday 1:30-3:30, BCEC 158: “”“Changing MARC to accommodate RDA” The MARC Formats Interest Group will discuss recent, current, and pending changes to the various MARC formats in anticipation of RDA. Speakers TBA. MFIG will also discuss all changes to the various MARC formats in the past 6 months”
  • Mobile Computing, Sunday 4-5:30, BCEC 102B: “This will be the kickoff meeting for our interest group. We’ll discuss directions for the IG, communication, and begin to share information about mobile computing projects underway at our libraries and elsewhere.”
  • Next Generation Catalog, Sunday 10:30-12, BCEC 104A/B: “Mobile Technologies and Next Generation Catalogs. We will have presentations and discussion on two examples of the development and application of mobile interfaces to catalog systems. Topics will include mobile design strategies and techniques, challenges posed by mobile devices, and illustrated with real-world examples of mobile ILS clients. A brief IG business meeting will follow the discussion. “
  • Open Source, Sunday 4-5:30, BCEC 154: “The OSS IG will be planning its ALA 2010 preconference on migrating to open source library systems, and will reserve some meeting time for IG members and visitors to share their news about open source implementations and other items of interest. All are welcome to attend!”

Conclusions?

On one hand, better than half of the IGs provide some useful preview somewhere–and that’s an improvement. Given two more that say they’re either just having a business meeting or an informal meeting with no planned topic, that’s two-thirds, and that’s not bad at all.

On the other…if I was a newcomer, I’d wonder why there were so many formal channels when all the information was actually on a non-LITA site. With no links from any of the LITA-specific channels. And with woefully outdated information on what appears to be the primary LITA site.

But as a Candide-type personality, I’ll applaud the fact that it is possible to find info on most of them. If you know where to look…

Actually, I’ll be more positive:

(Update a few minutes later:) LITA IG members who, presumably, added those writeups deserve credit for communicating their plans. (If it was the LITA Office that added the writeups, that’s great as well.)

The next step is to close the loop, by making sure that the LITA site and wiki both point to the appropriate conference wiki sites.


(So how does my schedule look? I’ll be there all day Friday through Monday, arriving on an early-morning redeye on Friday and leaving early Tuesday morning. Right now, my schedule’s open; this post might inform it somewhat. More on that later.)

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