Wanna get involved in LITA? Here’s how: your turn.

Having spent the last few years immersing myself in LITA, I’m trying to articulate things I’ve learned in case you want to get involved, too, but are looking for places to start. The whole series can be read at the how to get involved in LITA tag. Here’s the last post![ref]Unless of course I end up writing more between January 5, when I’m scheduling this post, and the end of time. Is there anything else you think I should cover?[/ref]

Your turn

So I have my way of being involved in LITA, which is basically about interest groups, Happy Hour, Twitter, LITA Forum 2013, and wonkish obsession (hey, I make my own fun).

Other people have their own ways. If you’re involved in LITA, how so? If you’re not but would like to be, what questions do you have, or what opportunities would you like to see?

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Wanna get involved in LITA? Here’s how, part VI.

Having spent the last few years immersing myself in LITA, I’m trying to articulate things I’ve learned in case you want to get involved, too, but are looking for places to start. The whole series can be read at the how to get involved in LITA tag. Stay tuned for one more tomorrow!

Formal documents: or, are you a crazy wonk like me?

So hey, this part is fun.

We have bylaws! They’re kinda broken — too many edge cases unspecified, not enough clarity — and need to be rewritten by the sorts of people who min-max their D&D characters (which is to say, not me, maybe you), but they are a pretty fascinating orientation to the moving parts that LITA has. They’re best read in the context of the ALA bylaws and the Sturgis code of parliamentary procedure, which governs the meetings of ALA and its divisions. I’ve found I often can’t get a complete answer to a governance question without consulting all three.

We also have a manual, which sets out to explain the procedures and knowledge surrounding the bylaws; i.e., what do all these moving parts do, and how? I confess, I’ve only read it piecemeal, and I’m told it’s out of date and needs to be rewritten, so that’s something I’m going to have to be learning about over the next few months. But, again, it describes a lot of the options that LITA has, in case you were wondering what they were. It may not perfectly reflect how they operate, but at least it tells you where to start.

We have a budget. I’m not aware of anywhere it’s publicly available (unlike, say, the financial report which ACRL sends to all its members yearly via C&RL News, which is also available online thanks to the magic of open access publishing). So, that’s a bug. Will you accept in lieu of it the Midwinter 2012 report of the Financial Stability Task Force? tl;dr the budget is not in awesome shape. This is also something I need to learn more about.

Wanna get involved in LITA? Here’s how, part V.

Having spent the last few years immersing myself in LITA, I’m trying to articulate things I’ve learned in case you want to get involved, too, but are looking for places to start. The whole series can be read at the how to get involved in LITA tag. Stay tuned for more over the next few days!

Informal communication channels

For me, this is Twitter (where I’m @ThatAndromeda). A lot of LITAns are there. Unsurprisingly, there are also a lot of LITAns on other social media channels. Most of the Board is on Twitter, so I made you a list. There are probably lots of other great lists to be made of LITAns in general, or other LITA subunits, or LITA people on Facebook or G+ or FriendFeed or what-have-you, but Twitter’s my space and the Board is my geekdom, so I leave the other lists to you :). Drop a link in the comments when you’ve made one!

Many of these folks of course also have blogs. Notably Cindi Trainor, the VP/President-Elect[ref]Elected LITA Board members serve 3-year terms. In the case of the President, this is a VP/President/Past President cycle, just like with big ALA. Ex officio members’ terms vary.[/ref], blogs about her role in LITA.

I’ve found the social connections to be the most powerful and rewarding part of LITA involvement. I recognize that informal structures are the hardest for newcomers to any society to navigate, and the fact that I’ve had to rely so heavily on them to learn about the organization is an indication we need to do a better job communicating.

You can totally leverage informal connections over time through involvement with the the formal structures I’ve outlined, but you can also dive right in to social-media-land and face-to-face connections. Just pick a favorite space and find a handful of names you recognize and see who talks to whom, who’s a member of what; expand from there. It’s very much worth putting in the time to cultivate informal connections.

Wanna get involved in LITA? Here’s how, part IV.

Having spent the last few years immersing myself in LITA, I’m trying to articulate things I’ve learned in case you want to get involved, too, but are looking for places to start. The whole series can be read at the how to get involved in LITA tag. Stay tuned for more over the next few days!

Meetings

ALA meetings, with only a tiny handful of exceptions, are open. You should totally exploit this fact! You do not need permission to attend just about any meeting at ALA. If you are interested in the work of the LITA Board or committees or task forces or interest groups, you should show up. (I’ve been showing up to Board meetings consistently since Midwinter 2011. Apparently this is how you end up nominated for office. Who knew.[ref]Keith Michael Fiels (Executive Director of ALA), for starters. I mean, he told us this pretty much verbatim during Emerging Leaders orientation in 2011.[/ref])

The Board typically has online meetings in the fall and spring, which are also open. If you monitor the formal communication channels above you will see announcements as to when and how they will meet. They’re often tweeted (informally, albeit mostly by Board members) under #litabd.

The Executive Committee, a subset of the Board which does a lot of the decision-making heavy lifting in between Board meetings, also has open meetings, but I’ve found I have to pay a lot more attention (often to informal channels; see next post) to find out when and where, and often they’re face-to-face between conferences, so I can’t attend. But in theory I guess one could.

You can also read past agendas and minutes of Board and Executive Committee meetings. Reports of other LITA bodies are sometimes on Connect as well.

Wanna get involved in LITA? Here’s how, part III.

Having spent the last few years immersing myself in LITA, I’m trying to articulate things I’ve learned in case you want to get involved, too, but are looking for places to start. The whole series can be read at the how to get involved in LITA tag. Stay tuned for more over the next few days!

Conferences

The LITA Program Planning Committee is an awesome force of deadline-driven productivity and puts on a good show at conferences. You should go to their stuff! You should propose stuff!

ALA Midwinter theoretically doesn’t have programs (it’s an amusing theory), so you need to be part of an interest group or committee or similar to put something on, if I understand correctly. ALA Annual has lots of programs (though fewer now than in the past), and the call for proposals will be announced via the formal communication channels mentioned in the previous post in this series. The LITA Forum 2013 call for proposals is now open (that’s the committee I’m on; please propose stuff!)

LITA Happy Hour is usually Friday evening of Midwinter and Annual, at some nice nearby bar. If you take only two things away from this series, this should be the second. It’s always a fun time and it lets you meet lots of people who are really involved with the association. This Midwinter it’s Friday, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Elephant & Castle, 1415 5th Ave.

Please come say hi to me if you’re there. I will be trying to do the social whirlwind thing of saying hi to All The People in Too Little Time, but if you are a LITAn, or prospective LITAn, I have not met I seriously want to meet you and I will also introduce you to all the fun, smart, friendly, interesting, funny people I am busy saying hi to.

I went to Happy Hour my first day of my first conference, halfway through library school, all by myself – an uncharacteristic move for this introverted, shy-in-unfamiliar-settings, no-history-of-bar-going type – and right there I met half the people who have come to be tremendously important to me in years since. A huge name, someone we’d talked about a ton in one of my classes, bought me a drink; someone else tipped me off about the Emerging Leaders program, which I subsequently did, due to that scrawled message on the back of a business card; it was a blur and I had a completely amazing time meeting people way out of my league, who were great to me. So seriously. Come to Happy Hour.

Wanna get involved in LITA? Here’s how, part II.

Having spent the last few years immersing myself in LITA, I’m trying to articulate things I’ve learned in case you want to get involved, too, but are looking for places to start. The whole series can be read at the how to get involved in LITA tag. Stay tuned for more over the next few days!

Official communication channels

LITA has official Twitter (@ALA_LITA) and Facebook accounts (mostly job listings, some association news). LITABlog echoes this content, and also includes occasional posts by LITA members (usually Board members) on other LITA-related topics. LITA-L is the official mailing list of the organization (mostly members getting tech project advice from one another, plus the content from other official channels).

All formally constituted groups of LITA (the Board, task forces, committees, interest groups) also have official ALA mailing lists and ALA Connect groups. How these are used, and how much, varies by group. Some are open for anyone to join; others are closed-membership, but have public archives; others are fully private. Mailing lists archives are either entirely public or entirely restricted to members; in Connect, individual posts can be set to be public or private. To what extent the ALA open meetings policy applies to these spaces has been a topic of lively debate in LITA these last few years.

You do not have to be a member of ALA to have an ALA Connect account and be a member of open Connect groups (though you do have to be a member of ALA to be a member of LITA).

The public content of both mailing lists and Connect groups, even ones you are not members of, can be consumed via RSS, and you can subscribe to email notifications for Connect groups. I keep up with a variety of LITA groups, including the Board, this way, and I encourage you to as well. I particularly want you to follow the Board if I get elected to it (I’m running), so you can tell me if you think it’s moving in the right direction and I’m representing you appropriately, and call me out if not.

Wanna get involved in LITA? Here’s how, part I.

A friend was saying she wanted to get more involved in LITA, but when she applied to be on a committee she hadn’t heard anything, and she wasn’t sure what to do next.

First off, I don’t think the current round of committee assignments have come out yet, so if you haven’t heard yet, don’t assume you didn’t get anything. But second, I spent my first few years in ALA kind of obsessed with how to get involved without joining committees, and it turns out there are lots of ways.[ref]While I am now on a committee — the planning committee for LITA Forum 2013 — I have high standards for joining them, and I suspect non-committee forms of LITA involvement will remain important to me for a long time.[/ref] So here you go: how to get involved in LITA, without joining a single committee!

This started out as one blog post, but then it was, like, 2000 words long, so now it’s a series. This is part I. The parts will all be posted, daily for the next few days, to the how to get involved in LITA tag.

Aw yeah interest groups

If you take only one thing away from this series, let it be this. Interest groups are lightweight, flexible, member-driven groups that, well, convene around specific interests. They have almost no prescribed activities or governance structure, but allow for formal existence within ALA (including meeting space and time at conferences, and special consideration in the program planning process). This means they can be an instrument for all sorts of things. They also have no budget, so you have to be creative, and they sunset after 3 years unless you apply to keep them going — in my opinion, a feature, not a bug, as they thrive precisely as long as people care about them, and get out of the way when they outlive their usefulness.

There are 25 interest groups in LITA right now (5 of them joint with ALCTS), spanning a wide range of interests. If none of them support what you want to do, it is easy and can even be fast to start one. (Idea-to-formal-existence of the IG I cochair, Library Code Year, was something like 24 hours.) There’s an IG formation petition form on the IGs page; collect some signatures from LITA members and submit it to the chair of the Bylaws Committee. (Contact information for LITA Board members is visible on the official Board page if you’re logged in; the chair of Bylaws is on the Board ex officio as the Parliamentarian.) Petition approval requires Bylaws approval followed by Board approval, IIRC, but both of these bodies can vote via the polling feature in ALA Connect, so you don’t have to wait for a conference for this process to resolve.

Stay tuned for future posts about how to get involved in LITA, including fun at conferences, communication channels, and how to get your super-wonk on.