Saturday, August 21, 2010

CGSSD Lives to see another day...

I attended the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) meeting today. During the first hour, there was a civil discussion about the call for a vote to merge CGSSD with the San Diego Genealogical Society (SDGS). I posted The Proposal to merge CGSSD with SDGS - Pros and Cons and I Support the CGSSD Merger with SDGS on Thursday.

CGSSD President Del Ritchhart moderated the meeting. He opened with the statement that the CGSSD members present would vote yes or no to merge with SDGS at the end of the discussion. Del asked for a show of hands of those who had read the Pros and Cons article sent out by the CGSSD Board, and almost all in attendance had read it. Therefore, Del did not review the points in the article.

Del opened it up for discussion by the attendees. There were handouts stating opposition from two CGSSD members - Joan and Joann. They each took about five minutes to review their statements of opposition. Several others spoke up in opposition, and only two or three spoke in favor of the motion.

Several assertions were made by some of the speakers, including:

* San Diego Genealogical Society wants to take over all genealogical societies in San Diego County, and the other societies need to watch out. Pam, who is on the SDGS Board, assured the attendees that this was not the case - there is no grand plan, and SDGS is not competing with other societies. She said that SDGS wants to serve the interests of all genealogists. As a long-time Board member of one of the other societies, I have not heard of this before this week, and do not believe it to be true.

* When the British Isles Genealogical Research Association (BIGRA) merged with SDGS in late 2009, they were apparently promised a number of programs each year, a number of newsletter pages each year, and SIG group meetings. Del noted that he was told by SDGS Board members that the BIGRA members have not provided the speakers and newsletter articles requested by SDGS.

Several of the speakers noted that CGSSD is a viable and stable non-profit organization, and that the programs, user groups and membership was significantly different from SDGS programs, user groups and membership.

When the merger proposal was suggested and the Pros and Cons article was drawn up, CGSSD faced three immediate problems:

* The University of California San Diego, where CGSSD has enjoyed a free Saturday meeting venue for several years, with wireless computer access and theater-style meeting rooms, was going to start charging $9 for parking on Saturday on 1 August. The date was postponed to 1 September, and at the meeting the date was slipped again to perhaps 1 January.

* CGSSD has use of the UCSD venue because member Gary Hoffman works there. However, Gary may retire in a future year, and finding another venue with sufficient space and wireless access may be a challenge. CGSSD and SDGS have committees looking for alternative venues.

* CGSSD has had trouble finding volunteers to fill all of the Board positions, and therefore faces an uncertain future. Del passed a sign-up sheet around to determine if people who want CGSSD to remain will volunteer in order to support the society.

After a very intense hour of discussion, the vote was called for and taken. The ballots were counted and the vote for merger was YES = 26, NO = 43, with one blank ballot. So CGSSD will continue on, hopefully with a stable venue and energetic leadership.

I am glad that some of the more urgent issues facing CGSSD have been given more time to resolve, but they are all still of concern. If there will be a high parking charge in 2011, that will almost surely kill UCSD as a venue, and another venue will have to be obtained.

What would have made a difference in the outcome? I think that three things could have been offered to CGSSD members that might have resulted in a positive merger vote (these were all raised at the meeting today, but not in the Pros and Cons article):

* Have a second Saturday meeting each month devoted to computer genealogy topics, user groups, etc., like CGSSD currently has. That way, members of both societies could take advantage of all the merged society had to offer.

* Have a separate quarterly publication similar to the current CGSSD newsletter, COMPU.GEN. Perhaps send it as a PDF to the membership by email, or send it by postal mail to others for an additional fee.

* A better explanation about SDGS programs, user groups, classes and library privileges. The article mentioned these in passing, but they were not expounded upon.

I know -- that's Saturday Night Quarterbacking after losing the big game... but it is lesson for other societies considering a merger. A true merger benefits all parties - I think that many in CGSSD felt that they would lose something helpful and educational to them and that CGSSD would be submerged into a larger, more impersonal, society with fewer educational opportunities.

I thank Del ritchhart, the CGSSD Board and members, the SDGS Board and members, the proponents and the opponents for their civility and good cheer during this hour. It was handled very well. I sincerely hope that both groups will be successful beyond their dreams in future years - San Diego area genealogy researchers will benefit if they are.

1 comment:

Dona said...

Thanks, Randy, for giving a report on this meeting that I was unable to attend. I'm glad the discussion and vote was held, and I, too, hope it generates more interest in members supporting the organization by volunteering to hold an office or lead a group. It's possible this issue will come up again in the future.

And, to clarify for readers the issue of BIGRA offerings and articles for the newsletter--those require someone to volunteer to present or write, or plan for an outside speaker (all things that BIGRA was having trouble getting done BEFORE we merged with SDGS). Nothing gets accomplished without volunteer help.