Hybrid Conference?: The Ohio Chapter's Decision
By Gerald Natal, ALAO President
As a result of the pandemic, library conference planning committees had to scramble to figure out ways to provide equivalent experiences online. Within the Academic Library Association of Ohio (ALAO), although there were trials to making the shift online, there was also the realization that virtual conferences provide solutions to many of the barriers to inclusiveness and equal access that are common to library events, such as lack of travel funds. Yet many still longed for the benefits of meeting colleagues in person.
After two years virtual, ALAO returned to an in-person conference in 2022, but continued to discuss future hybrid conferences. For an organization of ALAO’s size, putting on a hybrid event is challenging. Yet the leadership recognizes the benefits of hybrid. To that end, a task force convened to consider the pros and cons of hybrid. They considered the barriers to in-person attendance and best practices for equity and inclusion. Options discussed included having an in-person event with virtual sessions on a different day, having alternating conferences (in- person one year, virtual the next), and using a third-party vendor to broadcast live sessions. Costs for technology, an appropriate revenue/fee structure, management of recordings, and the appropriateness of an activity to the online format were all necessary considerations.
The task force concluded that ALAO should work towards some form of hybrid conference. The 2023 conference committee will pilot hybrid features such as live simulcast on a small scale. A working group is discussing necessary technology, fee structure, and balancing in-person and online sessions. As a plus, this structure may provide a solution to the ongoing issue of how attract more attendees from access and technical services, by holding a targeted online event on a separate day.
Chapters Council Roster
Alison Marie Larsen