written by Carolyn Cain, President, 1988-1990
WEMA's fifth decade began in 1988 with membership at an all time high of 750. Under the leadership of Carolyn Cain, WEMA's first woman President, the association developed a strategic plan, with a mission statement, goals, and yearly action plans. Members helped lobby Wisconsin legislators to garner more funds for school media centers, against cost controls for schools, and for an exemption for libraries in the new obscenity bill. Another successful Wisconsin Study Tour was led by Ralph Whiting, and Co-chairs Vonna Pitel and Anne Wolter led WEMA's efforts to promote the new AASL/AECT national guidelines entitled Information Power. The theme of the spring conference in 1989 was "Curriculum: the Main Event" and featured Mike Eisenberg as keynoter. A record attendance of over 500 people filled the Chula Vista conference center in Wisconsin Dells.
Other projects that were carried out during this time included the completion of a report on teacher competencies, regional workshops in place of a fall conference, the adoption of non-voting Board positions called AASL Advocate and AECT Advocate, and the start of a new award called "Media Professional of the Year". The association also studied the need for administrative help, which resulted in the establishment of a database manager position.
WEMA continued to be active in AECT and AASL, and hosted an AECT Region VI leadership conference in Wisconsin. The last action of the 1988-90 Board of Directors was a vote to administer an APPLE Computer promotion for educators called the Wisconsin Advantage. Working with a vendor in this way was a new experience for WEMA, but one that helped many Wisconsin media specialists and teachers become computer leaders in their schools.
"Converging on 2000--Leading the Future" was the theme of the 1990 spring conference in Oconomowoc when Jim Klein took over as president. The Wisconsin Advantage was promoted during the spring and WEMA sold over 1,000 computers in this program, which included training for educators as well as good discounts. Thanks to the diligent work of treasurer Mary Klein and President Jim, WEMA netted nearly $50,000 from the project. A committee was established to determine what to do with this large windfall, and after much deliberation the Board decided to establish an Endowment Trust Fund and use the income for special projects of the association.
Other activities occurring during Jim's term included the use of ECB's Learning Link for online communication among members and the Board, a similar purchase program with IBM, various publications including a popular one on Information Literacy, and the sale of copyright stickers for computers. DPI continued to hold its State Conference for District Media Directors and published the Report of the Task Force on School Library Media Program Leadership for the 90's. Membership was up to 817 and WEMA realigned its regional "satellite" groups to closely parallel the state's new CESA structure. Nels Aakre took over as President in the spring of 1992. The association continued to gain members, approved a secretarial position, and increased dues by $10. A major legislative effort was undertaken to keep Common School Funds for school libraries. A research committee was also established during this time, and a bibliography was published to support the Information Literacy Position Paper. WEMA continued to be involved in AECT and AASL activities, both regional and nationally. By the time Terri Iverson took over as President in the spring of 1994, WEMA had over 950 members and the spring conference had 683 people in attendance. Under Terri's leadership WEMA continued to set strategic goals, including more collaboration with other professional groups and the extensive use of electronic communication. In the fall, workshops dealing with the internet and networking were popular and Intellectual freedom issues were of concern.
The 1995 Spring Conference in Madison focused on the importance of Partnerships and Planning. Mike Eisenberg returned as keynoter to challenge media specialists with a look at the many exciting new technologies for learning. The conference drew nearly 1,000 participants and WEMA membership tops the1,000 mark as well. The first silent auction is held for the Endowment Trust. Free student memberships in WEMA were instituted in 95-96, and a program to handle orders of Alpha Smart computers earned additional funds for the Endowment Trust. CCBC publications, equipment for a WEMA office, and the development of photographic kits by the State Historical Society received some of the funds. WEMA received an ABC-CLEO Leadership award to enhance its regional groups, and restructured its membership committee around the regional. AASL and AECT Advocate positions are added to the Board as voting members. WEMA takes over the Archer Award where children vote for their favorite children's title of the year. And under the capable work of Dean Markwardt, WEMA establishes both a listserve and a Web page.
Helen Adams became President at the 1996 spring conference in La Crosse. She continued a WEMA tradition of a Board Planning Retreat, setting 12 major goals for WEMA including active promotion of intellectual freedom, an expanded legislative effort based on grassroots involvement, and a planning committee for the implementation of the forthcoming AASL/AECT revision of Information Power.
During 1996-97 WEMA was involved in many legislative activities, including meetings with DPI and the governor's office on budget concerns, technology initiatives, and the common school funding. WEMA members serve on the task force developing a Wisconsin Educational Technology Plan PK-12. The importance of cooperative efforts and collaboration with other groups becomes more and more evident, and WEMA participates with the School Board Association in a Legislative Day. Other WEMA activities during 1996 and 1997 include the development of new guidelines for the Media Grant Award , promotion of AASL's Count on Reading and I-Connect initiatives, planning for AECT Region VI Leadership conferences, and an excellent curriculum-focused Spring Conference in Green Bay with Dr. Jamie McKenzie and other national speakers. WEMA members vote in 1998 to affiliate with ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, and an ISTE Advocate position to the Board.
Under the capable guidance of Mary Lou Zeige, Legislative Chair and conference Co-Chair, the 1998 conference was held for the first time in many years in Milwaukee. It was an outstanding conference with many people in attendance. WEMA celebrated its 50 years with a wonderful video highlighting the people and events of those years, a champagne awards banquet, and a display of pictures, publications and equipment from our history. With a membership of over 1100, paid staff and an office, nearly 30 active committees, a broadly conceived strategic plan, and able, committed member leaders, the association seems well prepared for its next fifty years of media and technology leadership in Wisconsin.
All past and present WEMA leaders offer the association best wishes for its next fifty years.