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Sponsoring an FDsys Webinar: Smooth Sailing Ahead!

The webinar as a means of teaching has been available for several years now, and most of us have attended at least one continuing education session with this medium. Of course, it has provided opportunities for staff on many levels to attend sessions, for it can be attended at your own desktop in the convenience and privacy of your own office! For many, it provides an opportunity to learn something while keeping up with other office work also. Some staff at my library are adept at hosting and participating in webinars and manipulate Web resources and other files while continuing to speak coherently with ease. Until my recent collaboration with Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) staff, my experiences with the technology have been only as a learner—I had not yet been involved in the background work for a presentation or even registration. I have conducted training on various library resources but had not ventured into the virtual realm.

Sometime in March, we learned that the folks at the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) were preparing webinars on GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys). These are conducted by GPO staff and help those of us used to the services and resources of GPO Access and wary of something new. I signed up for the first one offered. I didn't realize I would be one of the select few to get in, as the maximum capacity of 200 was reached within 24 hours. The webinars have been very popular!

Once the first webinars were underway, GPO announced more to come and indicated a willingness to reach beyond the D.C. area for presentations. Not really knowing what a sponsor would do, I wrote to Cindy Etkin to indicate an interest in this kind of partnership. I actually think I envisioned a workshop at the South Carolina State Library with a webinar on FDsys as part of it.

Cindy wrote back to pursue the offer, so I had to find out if I could indeed bring this to pass. My first question (and echoed by the administration of my library!) was, what is the cost? We all know the answer, so the people on my end breathed a sigh of relief and gave me a go-ahead for designing and scheduling. However, I still had questions. Would I be expected to take part in the webinar, even if only to introduce the GPO specialists? Would we be hosting the GPO staff in Columbia and use the State Library resources? Would we use our own programming to register participants and handle questions? How could we make it unique to South Carolina?

My anxiety was soon allayed: Cindy and Kelly Seifert were prepared to take registrations on their own platform, to conduct the webinar from GPO, and tailor the workshop to cover what I was interested in providing for librarians in South Carolina. I picked a date and time, which were reserved by GPO. Then, I wrote up the class description and news item for our own promotion. They sent me the link to their platform to include in the promotion. Our Communications Director sent out our announcement to our media outlets (public and academic libraries, South Carolina government, popular statewide news media outlets, our own Web page, and others). I added some lists of documents librarians around the state and specific state employees and researchers who may have been interested.

We allowed about three weeks for the South Carolina folk to register. Almost all the depository libraries in South Carolina registered, and other public, academic, medical, and law libraries were represented. We also had several non-profits, college students, state government employees, and individuals sign up. Then we announced the webinar through GOVDOC-L. By the day of the webinar we had more than 100 registrants.

The webinar was the first by GPO on advanced searching in FDsys and proved that the presenters were knowledgable of the resource and competent and practiced in giving the presentation. Ashley Dahlen and Heidi Ramos covered the material with ease. Amanda Colvin served in the background, answering questions and keeping things functioning smoothly. The system did not malfunction, and the presenters did not laugh nervously. Handouts were ready, and the follow-up with slides and webinar recording was done in a timely manner. I was proud to have done my little part to bring the event to pass!

As it turned out, the FDsys webinar was not part of a larger South Carolina workshop; that will have to wait for another day.

So, I learned a few things from sponsoring the webinar with GPO:

  1. It's not difficult!
  2. The staff are eager to work with you and give you a lot of credit for a little bit of partnering.
  3. Think beyond your doorstep!! Be mindful of the folks outside your state in selecting a time. I received one email from a librarian on the west coast chiding me for the morning time (10:30am Eastern Time). I had not thought about time issues in planning since most of what my library does is for South Carolina.
  4. The cost is only some time in designing a webinar and in publicizing it through your channels.
  5. I still think the webinar would be a great part of a workshop on access to Government information and viewed as a group. The gratitude of the GPO staff could be shared with the attendees!

Elaine can be reach by phone at 803-734-8625 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any follow-up questions. If you would like to coordinate a free FDsys educational webinar for your staff or patrons, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .