WEMTA History 1998-2008
written by Kate Bugher and Annette Smith
WEMA's sixth decade began in 1998 under the leadership of President Sherry Freiberg and was marked by growth and change. In 1998 membership reached its peak of 1200. Many WEMA members participated in a statewide invitation-only library visioning summit sponsored by the Council of Library and Network Development (COLAND) and DPI. Of the many ideas that were generated at the two-day meeting, perhaps the most prolific was BadgerLink, a set of online databases that would be available to all citizens of the state through Wisconsin's BadgerNet network. Along with the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) and other state educational organizations, WEMA actively lobbied to secure state funding for this valuable resource. The association also worked closely with DPI to develop certification requirements for the new licensing structure for school library media specialists and to implement the newly-developed model academic standards for information and technology (ITLS). During this time period, WEMA worked very closely with the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) and the American Association for School Librarians (AASL) in the development of these standards.
Jim Bowen became president at the 2000 spring conference in Madison. During Jim's term, a major redesign of the website resulted in a decision to increase the contracted time for the association manager employed by CESA 3 to better manage website content and organization affairs. A WEMA/PET scholarship in support of licensed teachers becoming library media specialists was established in honor of Lowell Wilson, a former WEMA president and lifelong member. The Golden Archer Committee also began work on creating a video highlighting the annual award winners that would include an interview with Marion Archer, Wisconsin teacher, librarian and children's author, after whom the award is named.
Mary Lou Zuege took over leadership of the association at the 2002 conference in LaCrosse. The new board began with a weekend retreat at the Wintergreen in Wisconsin Dells where goals for the term were developed. With many school districts experiencing increased fiscal constraints, WEMA was beginning to see a decline in membership. With a goal to explore possible cost savings, an ad hoc committee, directed by President-elect Kate Bugher, was formed to analyze the internal and external management and organizational needs of the association. Upon completion of the committee's work, the board voted to end the management contract with CESA 3 and hire an independent association manager. During this time, the treasurer, Mike Weber, also realigned accounts and practices to better track association finances. Additionally, the board began the practice of holding some meetings via the Wisconsin distance education network. With board members attending at one of four designated school sites for a one-day rather than two-day meeting, travel and lodging expenses were greatly decreased. The board also reviewed the cost-benefits of affiliate relationships and recommended disaffiliation with AECT. The entire policy and procedures manual was also revised to reflect current practice and the membership voted to change the bylaws to include the use of online voting, membership renewal and conference registration, all to be implemented in 2004.
On recommendation from a joint ad hoc committee, WEMA and WLA approved in principle collaboration efforts to also begin in 2004. The board implemented a licensing contract with Adobe Software for statewide K-12 membership pricing, offered the first scholarships for attending the state library legislative day and actively lobbied in support of the hiring of a state school library media consultant at the DPI, a position that had been vacant since the retirement of Richard Sorensen in 2000.
These efforts were rewarded in October 2004 when DPI hired 2004-06 WEMA President Kate Bugher for the position. This allowed the association to strengthen its ties with not only DPI, but also the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) which manages the Common School Fund. The organization's goals during Kate's term focused on advocacy, coalition building, communication, professional development and membership. In 2005 DPI received funding from the federal LSTA grant to conduct a statewide research study of the role of K-12 school library media and technology specialists and programs and their impact on student achievement. The study, completed in 2006, was disseminated across the broad educational community in the state and generated new DPI publications and communication materials for school library media and technology specialists to use with parents, students, administrators and other key stakeholders.
Because of changing demographics and roles in school library media and technology and a desire to become a more inclusive organization, an ad hoc committee, under the direction of President-elect Annette Smith and board member Tom Ward, was formed to explore the organization's structure and ability to bring in potential new members and special interest groups, primarily in the area of educational technology. Based on input from the K-12 and higher education communities, the committee developed a restructuring plan that was unanimously accepted by the board. A new ad hoc committee was then formed to develop an implementation and communication plan to bring to the membership and an outside consultant was hired to help guide the year-long process.
In 2005, as a follow-up to WEMA's successful efforts to incorporate AASL's @your library advocacy campaign, the WEMAtter Toolkit was developed. This online resource was constructed to provide K-12 library media and technology specialists with tools and resources to better communicate, market and advocate for their roles and programs. WEMA was fortunate to be awarded the 2005 AASL ABC/CLIO Leadership Grant that provided funding for the subsequent training in the use of the toolkit to over 100 practitioners from all corners of the state. Legislative advocacy was strengthened when Bob Smiley, Legislative Chair, worked successfully with the website management company to develop a database that targets members by legislative districts with emails and alerts to pertinent issues. This allows members to quickly contact key legislators when action is needed on issues of concern to the WEMA community. With the dissolution of WLA's school library division and based on previous board action, collaboration with WLA was formalized with the implementation of an agreement providing for dual membership at reduced rates. WEMA members successfully presented programs on the role of school library media and technology programs at the annual WLA and WEAC conferences that year.
The desire for enhanced collaboration with the K-12 technology community resulted in the first-ever WEMA/Brainstorm joint conference at the Kalahari Resort and Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells. Over 1200 school library media and technology professionals, classroom teachers, administrators and exhibitors gathered to celebrate new ideas, exemplary programs, and innovative tools and resources to enhance student learning and achievement. During this 2006 conference, the WEMA membership voted to implement the association restructuring plan recommended by the board of directors which set the stage for organizational change and new membership categories effective with the 2006-08 board.
At the conclusion of the conference, the gavel was handed to 2006-08 President Annette Smith. After much discussion and debate throughout the organization, WEMA became WEMTA, the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association, as the restructuring plan began to be implemented. This included a complete rewrite of the bylaws, policies and procedures, website, logo and communications documents and resources. Membership categories were expanded to include school technology personnel and representation was added to the board of directors. To better ensure continuity and institutional knowledge and to get more members involved, it was decided to stagger board terms and hold annual elections with one-half of the board positions up for election each year. A new website company was retained to host and redesign the website and online membership database. Membership renewals, conference and other program registrations, and committee activities now take place via the website under the watchful management of Association Manager Courtney Rounds.
Under the leadership of past-president Helen Adams, a respected author and expert in intellectual freedom and privacy issues, the Intellectual Freedom Network was created with the first members trained to support school staff confronted with challenges to information access. The group works in collaboration with the CCBC in providing information, assistance and support upon request. WEMTA's ongoing legislative efforts were enhanced with participation at both the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and American Library Association (ALA) national legislative days in Washington D.C. and by joining the ISTE-sponsored ETAN Network which was introduced by ISTE Legislative Director Hillary Goldman at the 2008 spring conference in Milwaukee. Board leadership also strengthened the association's relationships with DPI and the BCPL in support of lobbying efforts to protect the Common School Fund which, due to school funding constraints, has now become the sole source of funding for print and electronic resources for the majority of the state's school libraries.
The PET Committee continues to work towards its goal of raising $210,000 by 2010. To instill a pattern of ongoing donations from members, PET created cumulative donation categories whereby individuals' donations accumulate from year-to-year. Donors will then move up the category ladder and all contributors will be recognized at the annual conference. As a follow-up to the DPI study of Wisconsin school library programs, the WEMTA Board also approved the creation of a new award: the WEMTA Linworth Forward Award recognizing exemplary school library media and technology programs. The first award will be presented at the 2009 conference to be held at Monona Terrace in Madison.