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Summary: November 3-4 Core e-Forum, “Focus on Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures, exploring a new professional home”

Summary: November 3-4 Core e-Forum, “Focus on Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures, exploring a new professional home”

The November 3-4, 2020 e-Forum, hosted by Anne Cooper Moore (LLAMA past president) and Jennifer Bowen (ALCTS past president), elicited a thoughtful discussion of our new organization, on the interconnections between the operational areas represented by the Core sections, and on what it will take for Core to succeed. The e-Forum generated 130 posts from 32 individuals (including the moderators) over the course of two days. 

On Day 1 participants responded to questions about Core’s mission statement and what members want to see in a new professional association. To make Core welcoming, it needs to offer a space for the specific areas of specialized knowledge as well as a space for the cross-pollination of ideas. It needs to both respect its members and expect its members to respect one another. It needs to be a space in which members can see themselves: their kind of work, their personalities, their viewpoints embraced, and different viewpoints and ideas that challenge our preconceptions and open us up to  new perspectives. It needs to be a space in which members feel welcomed into existing sub-groups, in which they can acquire expertise that is new to them. For new Core members who are from under-represented groups to join us, the voices from the majority should not dominate conversations, we should welcome and amplify minority voices, and we should insist on ethical behavior. For colleagues who are new to the profession, we should encourage them to join NMRT, provide an orientation video online, and host welcome and orientation events at conferences.

Members indicated that they will engage with Core activities if those activities have clear goals, if they can be appointed to Core groups that interest them, if Core continues to have interest groups and activities at conferences, and if members receive effective communication about upcoming events and how to get involved in Core. Members want to see events scheduled at conferences that focus on their specific areas of interest, in order to commit to attending. In a virtual environment, members want a variety of professional development opportunities, including webinars, online courses, peer-reviewed journals, e-Forums, programs, topic-specific problem-solving channels (like AcqNet), updates on specific or recent areas of expertise, and training for new managers as well as in specific areas. Participants expressed interest in communicating and collaborating with other members through Slack, Remo, email, listserv, and occasional Zoom meetings. Participants want their professional organizations to provide opportunities for networking, professional service, and low-cost professional development. They want to find others with knowledge and expertise in a particular area of interest and to connect with and get involved with others who have similar goals or research interests. 

Participants envisioned how they would engage with a professional organization in a post-COVID world. Most participants believe they will travel to fewer in-person conferences although reactions were mixed about whether or not this was a desirable outcome. Some benefits of in-person events (networking and relationship-building) cannot be replicated online. Participants stated that when in-person conferences resume, they should continue with a “hybrid” model, so that some attendees can still attend virtually. 

Participants conveyed the challenge to stay fully engaged in virtual events and the inability to set aside the time at work or home without distractions or interruptions. Virtual events need to be enriched with more variety to minimize “zoom fatigue”. Such events may be more successful for focused learning on specific topics of limited duration than for an entire conference. Synchronous meeting schedulers need to consider time zones. Most participants agreed that virtual conferences are better than nothing and are likely necessary during the next couple of years. The all-virtual COVID world has created new and more equitable opportunities for those who cannot travel to participate as members and leaders of organizations such as Core. 

When further considering the value of various Core virtual events, participants were excited about the prospect of the upcoming Core Virtual Forum, but disappointed at the lack of hands-on sessions and that the program did not include sessions or tracks devoted more equally to areas of the former three divisions. 

Participants were also asked to comment on the relative value of e-Forums (questions posed on an email discussion list). While Zoom is more interactive, asynchronous, online events provide another avenue for Core to engage its membership. Since this was the first e-Forum on a new platform and the first experience with this format for some Core members, participants suggested ways to improve the e-Forum experience by posing fewer discussion questions per day and extending the questions over more days to allow for more thoughtful discussion. Others liked the faster pace and suggested that the nature of the topic might determine the pace in the future. For future e-Forums, moderators could provide guidelines and behavioral expectations.  

On Day 2 participants discussed Core’s six sections and then discussed Core’s vision!

Participants commented on which of the Core sections were most relevant to their work, with several members noting that while they might be able to identify their top area, it became difficult to prioritize the others because their work crosses multiple sections. Several people noted that while Buildings and Operations was initially near the bottom of their list, the current COVID environment has abruptly moved it to a much higher priority. 

Participants looked at a Core Overlap diagram to spur ideas for how the six initial sections of Core might overlap and members might find ways to collaborate. One idea was to offer a conference program panel discussing how leadership is the same and different across different areas of librarianship (IT, technical services, etc.). Another idea was to build conference tracks along the intersections between the Core sections rather than within the sections themselves. 

In discussing the new Access & Equity section, it was noted that the profession now needs to move from merely stating values to addressing systemic racism, making amends, and changing our behaviors and structures. Those in the Access & Equity section could help guide those in the Leadership and Technology sections toward major issues and common problems such as advocating for anti-oppressive cataloging, making catalogs better tools for everyone, and creating more equitable access to resources for all users.

One member found the description of the Metadata and Collections section on the website too narrow. The current definition emphasizes best practices and does not mention the assessment of the tools used for metadata and how to implement them in different systems, different metadata standards and encoding, project management, etc. Both leaders and members of each section should monitor and update the definitions to fit the evolving nature of our profession. 

For the Assessment section, participants noted variances in the suggested collaborations  between sections with Assessment in the overlap diagram, and suggested additional overlap areas for Metadata & Collections in addition to Altmetrics and Bibliometrics, such as assessing new tools and workflows for metadata automation, assessing the efficiency of the metadata to discovery process, or assessing vendor data for e-resources. There is also overlap between Assessment, Metadata & Collections, and Technology, for example, to inform decisions around technology for migration and termination as well as overlap between Leadership and Metadata & Collections related to project and change management. Clearly, the examples in the overlap diagram inspired participants to think of many additional ways that Core sections could collaborate.  

When asked about what inspires them about Core’s vision, participants agreed that we have a “central role in every library” and that we should advocate for the value each of our specialties contributes to the overall benefit libraries provide. 

Jennifer Bowen and Anne Cooper Moore, e-Forum moderators

Core e-Forums are two-day, moderated, electronic discussion forums that provide an opportunity for librarians and library professionals to discuss matters of interest on an email discussion list. These discussions are free of charge and available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to the email list.