For those of us stressed over moving events and meetings online, it can be helpful to look to groups who have been incorporating virtual elements into their normal business for years. We talked with Michael Holt, Marketing & Assessment Coordinator Valdosta State’s Odum Library and chair of GLA’s Research and Assessment Interest Group, about how RAIG has worked over the years to bring more virtual elements into meetings – most recently with this April’s virtual meeting hosted in conjunction with the Distance Learning Interest Group.
RAIG had planned the meeting to be completely virtual even before the coronavirus pandemic began shuttering in-person events. Held on Friday, April 17th over Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, this gathering was the latest in a series of biannual RAIG meetings whose goals include “offer[ing] time, space, and a loose structure of activities to foster knowledge-sharing and spark collaborations.” RAIG’s meetings often center around a theme, such as marketing or the role of assessment in technical services. Attendance is free, and Holt notes that RAIG aims to make attendance widely available not only to GLA members, but also to a broader regional audience, by soliciting participation through the Southeastern Library Association (SELA) listserv.
For RAIG, engaging a broad audience and increasing ease of access for librarians across the southeast means not only physically hosting meetings at a variety of locations around Georgia – such as Dublin, Macon, and Valdosta – to allow more librarians to attend in-person, but also offering opportunities for virtual participation. Some RAIG meetings have been offered as hybrids – such as the April 2019 meeting centered around the intersections between marketing and assessment – while others have been fully online.
The April 2020 virtual meeting went off without a hitch, featuring the keynote Making Social Connections Through Distance Learning from Jennifer Sutcliffe of Emory University, followed by a lightning round presentation – Engaging with Faculty in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning – from Rebecca Rose of the University of North Georgia. Talks were followed by break-out sessions themed around various assessment-related topics, allowing participants to network and engage in conversations in their areas of interest.
We asked Holt for any pointers or words of advice for librarians who are considering planning virtual events and meetings for the first time. He recommended organizers to “not get hung up on platforms. First, figure out what platforms you can use that work with your budget and resources, and tailor your event to that platform and its functionality.”
RAIG uses Blackboard Collaborate Ultra because it is freely available to several of the meeting organizers through their institutions. As Blackboard makes breakout groups easy to coordinate and organize, RAIG was able to incorporate virtual breakout sessions into the agenda. However, Holt notes that institutions without access to platforms like Blackboard Collaborate have plenty of other free meeting options, which may include features that allow for other creative in-meeting activities and interactions.
If you want to get a glimpse at how the RAIG/Distance Education virtual meeting unfolded, check out the RAIG YouTube channel to view the keynote speech and Rebecca Rose’s lightning talk.
Interested to learn more about how RAIG conducts their virtual meetings? Get in touch with Michael Holt with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.