Virtual AMTF Forum #saa12

This week the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting is taking place in San Diego. When participants first arrived, a Dole container ship was docked quite nearby and generated a lot of excitement. It’s departure saddened many, but last night’s arrival of the Green Bay Packers at the conference hotel livened things up again. All of this I know from Twitter. Though a member of the Annual Meeting Task Force, I was unable to make the trip this year. Still wanting to be involved, I decided that at the same time the Task Force would be holding an open forum, I would offer a way for others not on site to provide feedback on the overall structure of the annual meeting. And thus was born the SAA AMTF Google Hangout.¬† Four of us gathered around our computers¬† (one in Washington, one in Wyoming, and two in Connecticut) and discussed the four major topics of the Task Force: Social Responsibility, the Meeting Model, Meeting Content, and Online Meeting Access. As you will see from the notes below, we jumped around a bit. Not being a fantastic note taker, I hope I have done a reasonable job of relaying the following thoughts and ideas.

-Intersperse sections, sessions, and roundtables throughout the conference instead of having them in separate blocks. Could eliminate a “dead day,” making it a three day conference, which could cut the cost.

-Wondering if there would be a cost savings to meeting in smaller cities. Other thoughts were that staying in a lower tier hotel might be cheaper (including wifi cost). If we filled up blocks in more than one hotel, could possibly have a mini meeting in one.

-The city needs to be easy for everyone to get around, whether you are walking or in a wheelchair.

-Sessions are good for the blend of theory and practice, ideas you can bring back to work with you. Sections and roundtables, being smaller, tend to offer more opportunities for networking. Would prefer more emphasis on smaller groups, student meetings, alumni mixers, etc. Ways to get more people involved.

-If offering content online, should be real time. Not likely to find the time afterward to sit and watch a session plus, if watching in real time, can join in social media conversations. Willing to pay for this, too.

-People make the conference. Need to encourage unconferences, tweetups, and other participant driven activities. Make room for informal groups. Have something like a hospitality suite, but with more structure (e.g. groups can sign up to use the room).

-SAA needs to be proactive, make things (such as last year’s labor issues) public as soon as possible. Be open! SAA doesn’t necessarily need to provide a solidarity statement, but provide an avenue for people to make their positions known.

-Do not understand how the program committee works. One regional selects session topics, members submit papers, and the committee matches the two. Perhaps not feasible for SAA, but need a better way of finding out what sessions people are trying to propose/where there are openings for people to join a panel. Might want to include SNAP in this in order to involve a younger crowd. Overall, need more transparency.

There were some technical difficulties as we got the Hangout up and running, but it was great to feel like I was participating without actually being at SAA. If anyone has any further input regarding the Annual Meeting, please comment below or contact any member of the AMTF directly. I am also willing to lead another Google Hangout if there is enough interest.

You also may have noticed I only lightly touched on the wifi issue. At this point it is pretty much a dead horse. We all know we need it, we all want it, but the cost can be prohibitive. The good news is that conference rooms in New Orleans for #SAA13 will in fact have wifi!