Sustaining Virtual Members in Professional Associations

Rhonda Marker is Director, Shared User Services at Rutgers University Libraries. Among her responsibilities are the coordination of support and infrastructure for online information literacy and library instruction, as well as the management of digital projects and library publishing. Previous positions included Repository Collection Manager and Head of Cataloging. Rhonda has been active in ALA for more than 30 years, serving on several ALCTS committees. In that time, she was involved in the review of groups and committees that resulted in substantive changes and even the dissolution of groups that were no longer necessary. No librarians were harmed in the committee restructuring. Recently, Rhonda observed the stresses on sustaining committees and member involvement when they began meeting more often online than in person at ALA conferences.
Imagine that you are attending a library conference. You have a list of potential committees that interest you and you want to become active in one of them. If your schedule and logistics allow, you sit in on one of the committees and realize this is YOUR group. At one point, the chair says, “Would anyone like to work on this?” You raise your hand and the chair takes your name. After the meeting, you chat with a couple of other people who will be working on the task, as you exit the meeting room together.

Now imagine that the same committee meets only virtually. Can this involvement scenario be replicated in a virtual setting? What do you, the member, and the association have to change to make participation possible for you? In what ways can virtual meetings incorporate inclusive behaviors to sustain and refresh membership in a professional association?

Participants will understand the pitfalls of applying traditional meeting structures and membership development in an increasingly virtual environment. This session will invite participants to explore creative ways to encourage virtual participation in professional associations such as ALCTS/LITA/LLAMA, and make bold suggestions for our association to capitalize on the virtual environment in order to broaden participation.

The changes that we have to make in order to thrive in a virtual environment will incorporate inclusive behaviors. These might include communicating beyond our current active members to seek out potential members, reaching out to allied groups, and giving not-yet-members opportunities for meaningful participation.

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