With the help of some great LITA member input, I’ve put together a list of interview questions for the LITA President candidates in the upcoming ALA Election, March 19-April 27. I’ve asked the Director candidates to respond to these same questions. This is Brett Bonfield’s interview; you can find the rest of the candidates’ answers at the lita_election_2012 tag. I hope this helps you make an informed decision among these outstanding candidates.
What is LITA?
LITA is the technology division of “the oldest, largest, and most influential library association in the world.” Structurally, this is what sets LITA apart from all of the other organizations, communities, and conferences that serve those of us who are committed to libraries and to efficient and innovative uses of technology. LITA’s status within ALA means we are in a unique position, and have a unique responsibility, to encourage libraries and ALA to make wise decisions about technology and to use technology wisely when making non-technical decisions.
LITA is also an impressive assembly of people who work in and in behalf of libraries. Meeting many of you in person and following many others’ work online, as well as learning more about the people we have elected to LITA’s board, has made me eager to participate in its governance.
LITA has the best members anywhere, but it’s struggled with retention. How will you make the members feel supported by, and connected to, LITA?
When you’re given an opportunity to do work that matters and results in something tangible, you develop a sense of ownership and loyalty toward the entity that provided you with that opportunity. You also make the world a marginally better place, and you’re happier for it.
The board’s responsibility is to help LITA allocate its resources effectively, and its members’ energy and expertise are unquestionably its most valuable. There are innumerable ways in which each of us has the capacity to change libraries for the better. The more of that LITA helps us do, the more likely we’ll be to renew our memberships and recruit additional members to join us.
If you could focus on one effort during your time as LITA Director, what would that be? What one thing most needs your attention?
Two words, but it’s one effort: simplicity and transparency. That’s what makes anything more accessible, and LITA is no exception.
I think two of the most famous maxims about simplicity apply: We need to focus on making LITA as simple as possible (though no simpler), and we need to focus on explaining LITA simply (because if we can’t, it means we don’t really understand it). We also need to be willing to provide that simple explanation to anyone who’s interested in hearing it.
Given the current financial conditions, many LITA members are unable to travel to conferences. What are your views on the use of technology to enable virtual attendance to various LITA meetings and functions?
Short answer: I’m 100% in favor of enabling virtual attendance.
Real answer: I think our individual financial resources and our interest in virtual participation are separate issues, and I think it’s important to see it that way. For one thing, if you conflate these ideas then it’s almost impossible not to create a tiered membership that views virtual attendance as a sort of adjunct to “real” participation. As a librarian, I’m committed to obviating this kind of tiering, and as a technologist I love finding ways to help people get the most out of every mode of communication, including online and face-to-face.
What new collaborative opportunities between LITA and other divisions or round tables would you like to see happen?
What I would most like is for LITA to provide more opportunities for collaborative opportunities, for LITA to become the library world equivalent of Silicon Valley. We have an enormous capacity and inclination for collaborating effectively in unexpected ways. My goal is for LITA to provide the freedom and the resources that nurture the kind of activities I mentioned above, those intersections of librarianship and technology that ultimately help to make the world a better place.
For more about Brett, see his LITA election page.