≡ Menu
David Lee King

What ALA and SXSWi Could Have in Common



I read two things today (well, really lots more than that, but I digress) that come from extremely different areas of my scope, yet are related:

  1. Karen Schneider’s ALA: What is to be done post;
  2. The SXSWorld magazine’s announcement that SXSWi panel proposals will be accepted starting June 1.

So how are those two things related? One of Karen’s points was to “Make conferences greener and more lithe.” She made some good points about ALA conferences and changes that could be made to make them better.

And then, when reading the SXSWi panel application thing, here’s what they do: “As with the 2007 event, much of the 2008 programming will come directly from ideas from the SXSW Interactive community.” For the 2007 conference, SXSW collected ideas for programs, and then let visitors to the SXSW site vote on which programs they found worthy… and the conference was made up primarily of those user-chosen panels.

Generally, I think ALA programs are chosen by individual program committees (of which there are many, if I’m not mistaken). Why not ask ALA members what they want to see?

that’s just one way among decidedly many … other ideas?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • chrisk

    I agree…and wanted to say congrats on the new theme.

  • http://freerangelibrarian.com/ K.G. Schneider

    good idea!

  • http://freerangelibrarian.com K.G. Schneider

    good idea!

  • Pingback: The art of conference programming at Blisspix.net

  • http://www.davidleeking.com/ David Lee King

    Oops – once again: This comment is from Jenny Levine, via email: “So if you were fleshing out a plan, what would you do if 12 proposals got 3 or 4 votes each but you only had 5 [spaces] available? (Random numbers, but you understand what I mean, right?)”

  • http://www.davidleeking.com David Lee King

    Oops – once again: This comment is from Jenny Levine, via email: “So if you were fleshing out a plan, what would you do if 12 proposals got 3 or 4 votes each but you only had 5 [spaces] available? (Random numbers, but you understand what I mean, right?)”

  • http://wanderingeyre.com/ Michelle

    In reply to Jenny: couldn’t you have a vote off?

    Voting for sessions also means that you could have sessions that are relevant right then. One of the problems with ALA is the huge time lag between proposal submission and actual program. One year is too far in advance to be cutting edge.

  • http://wanderingeyre.com Michelle

    In reply to Jenny: couldn’t you have a vote off?

    Voting for sessions also means that you could have sessions that are relevant right then. One of the problems with ALA is the huge time lag between proposal submission and actual program. One year is too far in advance to be cutting edge.

  • http://tolibrarian.com/ Richard

    The ALA Emerging Leaders project I was assigned to was supposed to identify PLA programs that would appeal to newer, and perhaps younger, librarians. The project never really got off the ground in the way we envisioned (I won’t get into reasons), but we did create a survey asking newer librarians what topics they’d like to see in conference programs. You can view a pdf summary of the results on our project blog.

    I agree that somehow collectively voting on programs we’d like to see would be great, but I also think that the committee members who plan these huge conferences do a remarkable job of sifting through tons of program proposals (many mediocre) and choosing the best ones. I’m really new to ALA, but my understanding is that the way it’s currently set-up is that the committee members choose the best from what’s submitted to them from libraries and librarians, then they will try to fill in noticeable gaps by trying to plan programs themselves (or find people to submit a particular type of program). In the end, hopefully you have a broad collection of programs that will offer something appealing to each attendee.

    This method is good, but not perfect. I think a more transparent, quick, collective method of planning conference programs would be great.

  • http://tolibrarian.com Richard

    The ALA Emerging Leaders project I was assigned to was supposed to identify PLA programs that would appeal to newer, and perhaps younger, librarians. The project never really got off the ground in the way we envisioned (I won’t get into reasons), but we did create a survey asking newer librarians what topics they’d like to see in conference programs. You can view a pdf summary of the results on our project blog.

    I agree that somehow collectively voting on programs we’d like to see would be great, but I also think that the committee members who plan these huge conferences do a remarkable job of sifting through tons of program proposals (many mediocre) and choosing the best ones. I’m really new to ALA, but my understanding is that the way it’s currently set-up is that the committee members choose the best from what’s submitted to them from libraries and librarians, then they will try to fill in noticeable gaps by trying to plan programs themselves (or find people to submit a particular type of program). In the end, hopefully you have a broad collection of programs that will offer something appealing to each attendee.

    This method is good, but not perfect. I think a more transparent, quick, collective method of planning conference programs would be great.

  • http://ala.org/ Jenny Levine

    Michelle, ideally you could have a vote off, but I think we’d run into timing issues. The program for Annual – the one that tells you where to go and helps you plan your schedule ahead of time – is well past printed by now. To get the preliminary program out, which is often one way folks decide to attend, I think it has to be set in January.

    In order to publicize the initial vote, especially if we need to do it in print in “American Libraries” and give sufficient notice and time for voting, we’d probably have to add at least two more months. To leave time for a potential vote off, that might mean another two months. Now we’re 10 months out from conference, and that’s not even counting getting the proposals in.

    This is just my uneducated guess, as I know that there is a lot more behind-the-scenes planning required for this kind of thing. For example, how would you know what size rooms you’ll need if you don’t know the speakers and topics in enough time?

    Having just planned the gaming symposium, I know you have to plan ahead for A/V and space requirements when you book venues. And I know even ITI doesn’t leave open, unpopulated sessions, as I asked about doing that for the public library track this year.

    I’m not making excuses, just thinking out loud about the various pieces. Maybe we could try this at the division level and then see about scaling it up? (She says, thinking the messenger is going to be shot….)

  • http://ala.org/ Jenny Levine

    Michelle, ideally you could have a vote off, but I think we’d run into timing issues. The program for Annual – the one that tells you where to go and helps you plan your schedule ahead of time – is well past printed by now. To get the preliminary program out, which is often one way folks decide to attend, I think it has to be set in January.

    In order to publicize the initial vote, especially if we need to do it in print in “American Libraries” and give sufficient notice and time for voting, we’d probably have to add at least two more months. To leave time for a potential vote off, that might mean another two months. Now we’re 10 months out from conference, and that’s not even counting getting the proposals in.

    This is just my uneducated guess, as I know that there is a lot more behind-the-scenes planning required for this kind of thing. For example, how would you know what size rooms you’ll need if you don’t know the speakers and topics in enough time?

    Having just planned the gaming symposium, I know you have to plan ahead for A/V and space requirements when you book venues. And I know even ITI doesn’t leave open, unpopulated sessions, as I asked about doing that for the public library track this year.

    I’m not making excuses, just thinking out loud about the various pieces. Maybe we could try this at the division level and then see about scaling it up? (She says, thinking the messenger is going to be shot….)

  • http://www.davidleeking.com/ David Lee King

    Cool – some good discussion going on! Jenny, you’d asked a question… here’s my answer (such that it is).

    First, I think it works by first letting anyone who wants to submit their proposal. So you’d need a 1-2 months window for proposal submission. Then, “the community” votes on those. I suppose between the submitting and the voting time, you’d have the option of weeding out obviously poor programs. You could even go so far as to weed it down to the 5-10 best (depending on the conference…). SO that would hopefully cut down on all programs getting a similar number of votes.

    Next, on to your more specific thing about the same number of votes. Hmm… good question. I suppose you’d have a few options: 1. program committee gets to choose if there’s a tie; 2. let everyone talk, but give them shorter presentation times, or group some on a panel; 3. no real interest, so you cancel that part of the conference? I’d opt for #1 personally.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com David Lee King

    Cool – some good discussion going on! Jenny, you’d asked a question… here’s my answer (such that it is).

    First, I think it works by first letting anyone who wants to submit their proposal. So you’d need a 1-2 months window for proposal submission. Then, “the community” votes on those. I suppose between the submitting and the voting time, you’d have the option of weeding out obviously poor programs. You could even go so far as to weed it down to the 5-10 best (depending on the conference…). SO that would hopefully cut down on all programs getting a similar number of votes.

    Next, on to your more specific thing about the same number of votes. Hmm… good question. I suppose you’d have a few options: 1. program committee gets to choose if there’s a tie; 2. let everyone talk, but give them shorter presentation times, or group some on a panel; 3. no real interest, so you cancel that part of the conference? I’d opt for #1 personally.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com/ David Lee King

    Preliminary program – do you really have to print it? Can’t you do a PDF file, point to it many ways, and make our smart, professional librarians print it out if they want? Sure, there’d definitely be grumbling … but I think everyone has the capability to print a pdf file, and it fixes that issue.

    On the size of the rooms thing – just my guess here, but is it possible there’s an average attendance number for, say, a division program at annual? Etc etc – we’ve done ALA Annual for awhile now, so I’m guessing ALA knows approximate sizes of rooms for different meetings… ???

    I’d also agree with you that the huge behemoth ALA conference might not the best first experiment.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com David Lee King

    Preliminary program – do you really have to print it? Can’t you do a PDF file, point to it many ways, and make our smart, professional librarians print it out if they want? Sure, there’d definitely be grumbling … but I think everyone has the capability to print a pdf file, and it fixes that issue.

    On the size of the rooms thing – just my guess here, but is it possible there’s an average attendance number for, say, a division program at annual? Etc etc – we’ve done ALA Annual for awhile now, so I’m guessing ALA knows approximate sizes of rooms for different meetings… ???

    I’d also agree with you that the huge behemoth ALA conference might not the best first experiment.

  • http://ala.org/ Jenny Levine

    I’m still looking into all of this, but I just wanted to note that I shouldn’t have used the phrase “print the preliminary program,” as I’m not sure what we really do there and don’t want to speak out of turn. What I should have said is “set the preliminary program” so that folks can make decisions about attending based on the sessions, which is what we all do (I know I do that for other conferences, too).

    Plus, it’s difficult to register by the “early bird” deadline without preliminary info. So all I’m really trying to say is that even without physical “printing,” the timeline may not necessarily change if the point is advance notice.

    Hopefully more soon, and please keep the suggestions coming! Thanks for sparking the discussion, David. :)

  • http://ala.org/ Jenny Levine

    I’m still looking into all of this, but I just wanted to note that I shouldn’t have used the phrase “print the preliminary program,” as I’m not sure what we really do there and don’t want to speak out of turn. What I should have said is “set the preliminary program” so that folks can make decisions about attending based on the sessions, which is what we all do (I know I do that for other conferences, too).

    Plus, it’s difficult to register by the “early bird” deadline without preliminary info. So all I’m really trying to say is that even without physical “printing,” the timeline may not necessarily change if the point is advance notice.

    Hopefully more soon, and please keep the suggestions coming! Thanks for sparking the discussion, David. :)

  • Pingback: Aaron the Librarian » Improving the American Library Association

  • http://www.tapinformation.com/ Tom Peters

    Here’s another strategy for pursuing Karen’s idea to make ALA Annual Conferences more lithe: allow some place-shifting. I’m not talking about Gale shuttle buses (nothing against that service, however), but about experimenting with some combo in-person and online programs and events. Many ALA members rarely if ever get the opportunity to attend an ALA Annual Conference. By offering some conference programs and events online as well, ALA would be broadening its base of participants.

    I have to admit: I’m not a disinterested observer here, because I coordinate OPAL (www.opal-online.org), a collaborative effort by libraries to offer public programs and professional development opportunities to librarians and library users worldwide, using web-conferencing software. If the ALA Conference Planning team would like to beta test offering some live online events, I could do it in DC with very short notice (I’m lithe in spirit, if not in body!) for a very modest fee (well, I think it’s modest). It’s also easy to record and podcast online events, which would give people interested in ALA Annual Conference events another way to time-shift, too. Permissions, market research, revenue streams (or rivulets), and other factors are important considerations, but just trying new things on a small scale can provide useful information and knowledge.

  • http://www.tapinformation.com Tom Peters

    Here’s another strategy for pursuing Karen’s idea to make ALA Annual Conferences more lithe: allow some place-shifting. I’m not talking about Gale shuttle buses (nothing against that service, however), but about experimenting with some combo in-person and online programs and events. Many ALA members rarely if ever get the opportunity to attend an ALA Annual Conference. By offering some conference programs and events online as well, ALA would be broadening its base of participants.

    I have to admit: I’m not a disinterested observer here, because I coordinate OPAL (www.opal-online.org), a collaborative effort by libraries to offer public programs and professional development opportunities to librarians and library users worldwide, using web-conferencing software. If the ALA Conference Planning team would like to beta test offering some live online events, I could do it in DC with very short notice (I’m lithe in spirit, if not in body!) for a very modest fee (well, I think it’s modest). It’s also easy to record and podcast online events, which would give people interested in ALA Annual Conference events another way to time-shift, too. Permissions, market research, revenue streams (or rivulets), and other factors are important considerations, but just trying new things on a small scale can provide useful information and knowledge.

  • chrisk

    I agree…and wanted to say congrats on the new theme.