Monday, June 30, 2008

Bringing Virtual Meetings to Oklahoma (part 1 of 2)

By Sarah Clark

If you read this blog, I’m guessing that you take an interest in library events throughout the state, and are also involved in the wider library community as much as time and finances permit. When I graduated with my MLIS and became an academic librarian, I was excited about getting involved in OK-ACRL, OLA, and any other group interested in empowering and advocating for the library community in Oklahoma. However, I quickly realized that getting involved in committee work was a lot more complicated than ticking a box on a form. My first year out of library school, I briefly got involved with the Local Arrangements committee, but soon found that a trip to Oklahoma City for meetings every month wasn’t feasible considering all of the new responsibilities I had as a young librarian. After that I decided to wait until later in my career to get involved, and didn’t do much beyond attending workshops and meetings of local groups like GC-KIP.

Then, about a year ago, I got an email about a meeting of OK-ACRL’s COIL (community of Oklahoma Instruction Librarians) interest group. However, instead of meeting face-to-face at a central location like Tulsa or Oklahoma City, they were meeting virtually, via a free web conferencing service called VYEW. I was intrigued, logged in, and found that a meeting conducted via text and voice chat could be just as effective and productive as one conducted face to face—And I saved 4 hours of drive time and 7 gallons of gas! I found myself attending meetings often, and before I knew it I was elected to the COIL board as secretary. COIL meetings are best described as “hybrid”—a core group of people who could make it would typically meet in a central location equipped with internet access, and others would “dial in” via the meeting website. As an officer I travel to meetings more often than before, but I still attend virtually as often as I do in person. It also has enabled me to make meetings that I would otherwise have to skip altogether—such as the May meeting, when I was off work, packing boxes and preparing to close on our first house, and attended the meeting in my home office between last-minute calls from our builder!

While I’m not as far off the beaten track as many of my colleagues, traveling to face-to-face committee meetings is a challenge, and I simply can’t get involved in as many things as I’d like. With gas prices the way they are, it’s a struggle to justify the gas and the time off work. COIL gave me the opportunity to get involved where I was, and because of that I’ve been able to make a greater commitment to them than to any other library committee of interest group I’ve been involved with. I quickly became a big advocate of virtual meeting technologies like VYEW—it makes barriers to entry so much lower for young librarians like me who are still focused on building their careers, but also want to get involved at a higher level. That’s why I was so thrilled (and terrified) when OLA President Kathy Latrobe approached me at the OLA conference in April, and said that I had been recommended to her by my OLA Gold “mentor” Barb Phrehm as an expert on virtual meetings. Once I picked myself off the floor, I happily accepted her invitation to present a seminar on virtual meeting technologies to the OLA executive retreat at Lake Texoma in June—as long as I could bring a *real* expert with me! Dr. Latrobe agreed, and former COIL Chair Jason Dupree, who brought web conferencing to the interest group, was more than happy to join forces with me to introduce OLA’s leadership to a new way to conduct meetings. Two months later, I packed up our presentation and my anxieties and headed out of Tulsa for the long drive to the OU Biological Station at Lake Texoma. I hoped that what we had to share would revolutionize how OLA committees did their jobs—or at least revolutionize members’ gas bills!

(To be continued…)

Sarah Clark is a tightwad, a geek, a member of Generation X or Y depending on who’s counting, Access Services and Distance Learning Librarian at Rogers State University, and a contributor to Library Stories. She is married and is owned by one cat.


Jimmie said...

I like most Liberians I have met. But it seems that most are liberals. I wonder why that is true or not as the case may be?

Adri said...

Jimmie - having just returned from the ALA national conference I can say - that yes there are a lot of liberal librarians. But there are also a lot of conservative librarians as well. Greg over at Shush is a great example of a well educated vocal conservative librarian.

I think by in large librarians just want to provide access to information - I have a very conservative librarian in my family and although we disagree on politics we agree on the importance of literacy - the right to read - and access to information.

my 2 cents

Carleen said...

I work with a pretty dynamic group of librarians that don't really fit perfectly into any "box" when it comes to political views. Sometimes their more conservative about somethings and more liberal with others. All in all, I think Adri hits the nail right on when she says that "librarians just want to provide access to information".

As for Sarah's wonderful post on virtually meetings, thank you and I can't wait to catch the second part of this. I've been wanting to get more involved in committees but don't really know how to go about it and with a baby at home, I'm hesitant to get to involved in something that would require more time away from my family. So virtual meetings seem like a wonderful option.