Chapter News: Looking Ahead
By Carol Reed
Our environment is constantly changing, and adapting to it is a given for any organization. We see it all the time in business: Netflix adapted; Blockbuster didn’t. IBM used to make typewriters; now it provides software cloud services.
Indexing organizations and chapters have been affected by a variety of industry and technology changes in the last decade—software and file-sharing advances, e-books, offshoring, the 2008 recession, and online educational resources, to name a few. Fortunately, these changes have not diminished the need for professional indexers; but they have definitely changed the environment in which we operate.
In particular, the increase in online resources has made it far easier for indexers to network and grow in their indexing and business skills without ever leaving the office. Chapter meetings are no longer our only option for professional development or networking, and the time and cost involved can make traveling to chapter meetings harder to justify.
However, as most Heartland members agree, online resources don’t replace the face-to-face connection that happens at chapter meetings. Last year’s survey showed that members place a high value on face-to-face relationships and programming and don’t want those things to slip away. The tricky part is that the number of attendees at our meetings doesn’t always cover speakers’ expenses, and we need to consider the long-term sustainability of what we do.
We’ve been talking about this for the last few years, and have tried some different ways of adapting. In 2014, we cancelled the fall meeting due to low attendance and held our business meeting via Skype instead; fortunately, our speaker was local and flexible enough to reschedule for the spring meeting. For our fall 2015 meeting, we brought in a well known indexing expert, Kate Mertes. Attendance was good, the program and personal interaction were great—but attendance didn’t increase like we expected.
Our next step in figuring out how to adapt is to form a strategy committee. This committee will look at our past and future programming and attendance trends. Focusing on high-quality support and long-term sustainability, the committee will recommend a strategy for moving forward. The strategy committee is currently being formed, so if you’re interested in serving, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the same time, we’ll be evaluating GoToMeeting and similar tools for hosting online events, to see whether they might be a good alternative for one of our biannual meetings, or as a backup plan if few people are able to make the drive. We'll keep you posted as these long-term items develop.
For the upcoming year, we've got some exciting plans. We’re looking forward to being involved at the ASI national conference in Chicago, June 15–18, 2016. To avoid competing with that event, we will hold our spring business meeting via Skype or GoToMeeting. As we get closer to the event, watch the Heartland email list for carpooling and room-sharing opportunities. Next fall, we’ll host a networking event at one of the Indiana locations and also encourage members to attend the Chicago/Great Lakes chapter’s fall workshops.
Of course, we also need leaders to help us make the most of our Heartland community in the coming years. Our co-president, Mary Peterson, recently resigned for personal reasons but will continue to be involved in the chapter. This means we will have at least two positions to fill in the spring elections. We’re making it easier to serve on the Executive Committee by spreading out responsibilities, which will make better use of our individual skill sets. We are currently handling programming as a volunteer position separate from the co-president position, and the strategy committee will share the task of setting a future course for the chapter, so the president and co-president will be well supported. Taking a leadership position provides opportunities to give back to the chapter, as well as building your own professional network and visibility. Email me if you have questions!
Also, watch for discussion on the Heartland email list about ways we can help support the ASI national conference. It’s a great opportunity to meet indexers from around the country and welcome them to the Midwest. We’re looking forward to your thoughts and involvement!