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About a week ago, Mark - of “habitually probing generalist” fame – and I tied the knot. We were married at the courthouse here on our 2-year anniversary and then out at Lake of the Woods we exchanged vows, surrounded by a few friends and family.
The honeymoon, unfortunately, will have to wait a bit. Four weeks from now, we’ll be in Sioux City, Iowa – our new home. As soon as our wedding guests left town, our nice & neat little living room turned into a maze of boxes and packing materials.
I am looking forward to a shiny new job in Sioux City – I’ll be a librarian at Briar Cliff University. In the back of my mind, I’m also having fantasies about learning new hobbies from the simple (cooking at home!) to the much more complex (sewing! with a machine!).
Between now and then, we will see Mark’s daughter get married and I will go the ALA conference in D.C. with about 18 librarians from 4 different African countries. The next four weeks will go by so very fast, I’m already feeling the whiplash.
5. you have to fight an urge to offer uninvited help when you overhear conversations at the coffee shop / post office / in line
4. you create spreadsheets / databases… at home
3. an ex has ever accused you of loving them for their books / bookcases / bookshelves
2. you wear corrective lenses (ooo, stereotype. But no really, do you?)
1. when you hear a movie based on a book is coming out, you read the book anyway
If you can think of 5 more clues to librarian-tude, please share in the comments.
Saturday, July 11th
I remember my first ALA Annual in 2007 at Washington D.C. — I went through the Exhibits in a daze, having no idea what I should be doing or looking at and consequently left within about an hour, no freebies in hand.
Then at the last Midwinter (Denver) a friend gave me the low-down on Exhibits: see a pile of books? They’re *probably* free, especially if they say “Advance Reader’s Copy” on the cover. Voila, I suddenly had my arms full in just minutes.
This year I grabbed not only books, but bags, too and immediately took advantage of the ALA Post Office to ship my heavy load back home without even taking it out of the convention center. Bliss. Now I have all sorts of interesting, fluffy / serious, free books to read as soon as my last graduate class is over!
Later in the day when I caught up with the Chinese group, a few of them said they got several vendor demos in the Exhibits. Something for everyone.
In the afternoon, I went to a session called America’s War on Sex — which was *packed!* And kept getting even more people! The speaker, Marty Klein, was terrific as a presenter – animated, enthusiastic, funny – but the content sometimes seemed to be too much “preaching to the choir”, with a big assumption that we were all liberal, left-wingers. And maybe we were. But there was just enough “us and them” kind of rhetoric to make me wish for a bit more balanced approach to the topic.
The topic centered around the fear-mongering about sexuality so popular in our culture. He talked about the “illusion of the threatening sexual other” and made two major points: 1) the illusion is partly built on lumping sex and violence together when they are actually separate; sex is consensual, violence is not, and 2) exaggerating statistics of violence to make it seem scarier.
One of my favorite quotes from his presentation was “Sexuality is one of the last human rights to enjoy the American Revolution”.
After this session of “rah, rah, rah!” I grabbed a bite to eat and headed over to the Opening Session, mainly because I heard the Gay Men’s Choir would be performing. I had no idea who the speaker would be. Well, it was Christie Hefner, former CEO of Playboy. In many ways, Christie’s talk was much like Marty’s — the emphasis on freedom of expression, the First Amendment, the role of libraries to protect our right to expression.
But I have to admit – I have very conflicted views of Playboy. On one hand, I think women should feel good about being beautiful and sexy but on the other hand, I think Playboy’s presentation of “beautiful” and “sexy” is so freaking narrow it does more of a disservice to women than a help. So I wasn’t sure what to think of her talk and I’m still not. I find it extremely ironic that I was attending these kinds of sessions while the ALA Secrets tweets were getting shut down.
After the Opening Session, I joined the Library Society of the World crowd at Giordano’s for pizza. Let’s just say… I have video. Mwah ha ha!
I read my copy of Codslap on the bus this morning and I have to say it is a sweet little publication – just like a love letter, as the intro says.
ALA Annual is coming on the heels of (and sort of overlapping with) our most recent program at work with a delightful group of Chinese public library directors. I rode the train into Chicago yesterday with them and what seemed like half the librarians in Champaign-Urbana. It was fabulous! I think almost our whole car was librarians and I had great conversations with colleagues.
Yesterday afternoon was spent in Chinatown where we saw the Chinatown branch of Chicago Public Library and had a nice big Chinese dinner at House of Fortune. I had the wonderful sensation of feeling like I was in China — Chinese jokes flying around me from all directions and Chinese food all over the table. I was delighted to find I could recoginze a few of the characters in the big calligraphy poems hanging around the restaurant. Just a very few. I wondered if this is how we start reading as kids — we see a word here and there that looks familiar (“cat” “mom”) and the rest looks like jibberish. However, I haven’t connected the sound to the characters yet, only vague meanings.
This morning we all took the very first conference shuttle to McCormick and everyone was registered in mere minutes!! It was amazing! I was so happy. They ran off to their pre-conference and I went to the Emerging Leaders session. The most interesting part of the day for me was when we broke into small groups of 3 to each talk about one specific goal we had for the next couple months. My little group of 3 had excellent recommendations and suggestions for each other.
Then followed the poster session and it was nice to see what the other teams had been working on. It was also surprising to hear that our experience with our supportive, responsive mentors was not the norm across all teams. We also had one of the few tangible projects — many teams were doing research or surveys or maybe a website. Our team had to get a commemorative booklet ready for the printers by June 1st. Done. If you’re going to the International Librarians Reception on Monday night, you might even get a copy.
After Emerging Leaders was over, I went over to the International Librarians Orientation to check on my Chinese library directors. Lo and behold two of them won door prizes! And our Fulbright Fellow from Japan won a prize, too!
Tomorrow morning bright and early I will go with them to the Exhibits Opening. I’m not exactly sure how many options they have, as far as vendors go so this might be interesting. Good night, all, and good conference!
It’s my last term in library school. It will be a term full of job hunting, packing, pre-moving, farewell-ing stress. With that in mind, I’m conflicted about which classes to take in my last semester. I will only take 2 in order to spare myself any sort of pre-graduation melt down. But …
But … which two classes? This is where your outsider / experienced / ironic perspective comes in handy.
Class: Understanding Multimedia Information: Concepts and Practices
Designed for those with an interest exploiting multimedia information in web and electronic publishing projects, students will be introduced to the theory behind, and the tools associated with, a wide variety of audio (e.g., MP3, WAV, WM9, RealAudio), graphic (JPEG, GIF, PNG, etc.), music (MIDI, GUIDO, etc.) and text information formats (e.g., PS, PDF, etc.). After completing this course students should be empowered to make intelligent choices in selecting appropriate multimedia formats to match particular design requirements. A mix of lectures, demos and hands-on work. Students should have access to a personal computer upon which they can experiment on their own with downloaded multimedia software tools. Students must be competent in basic computing including the installation and configuration of software packages. Must understand basic HTML and simple web site construction tools (e.g., FTP, text editing, etc.).
It’s on-campus! (as opposed to online classes, which drive me nuts.)
It will give lots of hands-on experience with cool stuff.
It’s visual. I definitely think visually, that’s something I’ve learned in grad school.
Seems like it would be pretty good for any future job.
It’s on-campus. If I get a great job that starts before May, and I need to move early … what do I do?
I’m a little worried about downloading lots of programs to my computer. My sole computer. My must-last-for-a-couple-more-years-at-least computer.
Class: Administration & Management of Libraries & Information Centers
Designed to explore the principles that govern how organizations and institutions work, this course provides a foundation for and introduction to the theories, practices and procedures involved in the management and administration of libraries and information centers.
It’s online, so I could move before the end of the semester if need be.
Administration is a necessary evil in libraries, apparently, so I suppose it would be good to know about it.
Other students have told me there is a grant-writing exercise involved, and that would be really, REALLY good to know, me thinks.
It’s online. Someone shoot me.
The very terms “administration” and “management” make me twitch.
Class: Document Processing
An introduction to XML-based document processing technologies and standards appropriate to electronic publishing. Leveraging descriptive encoding in standard formats (XML, SGML, HTML), industry-standard styling and transformation technologies (XSLT, CSS) can be deployed within layered systems to create and maintain formatted publications on and off the web (in HTML, PDF and print). Course participants will build such a system on an open-source platform. Issues to be covered include processing architectures (batch, server-and client-side processing); “vertical” publishing formats such as Docbook, DITA, NLM/NCBI, TEI; validation and quality-assurance methods and technologies; ancillary production pipelines (SVG graphics, RSS/Atom feeds, “galley proof” versions); document metadata and aggregation; and the role of proprietary publishing applications.
It’s online, so I could move before the end of the semester if need be.
Lot’s of techie acronyms, which come in handy for impressing people.
I’m even interested in these acronyms! I took a weekend TEI workshop and loved it, so many of these things sound really interesting and useful.
It’s online. Someone shoot me.
I know myself well enough to know that I bore easily with techie acronyms. Especially if I’m just doing the same thing with them over and over again. But if the activities in the class are varied and challenging, I’ll have a better chance of staying engaged. But I won’t know till I’m in the class, of course.
I want to work with training people more than training programs, so is a class like this really up my alley?
Class: Library Buildings
Studies the library’s physical plant in the light of changing concepts and patterns of library service; analyzes present-day library buildings (both new and remodeled) and their comparison with each other as well as with buildings of the past; examines the interrelationship of staff, collections, users, and physical plant; discussion supplemented by visits to new libraries and conference with their staffs. A two-day field trip is required.
I’ve been interested in this class since my first semester but never fit it in. I could feasibly fit in next semester.
Architecture! It doesn’t get much more visual than that. I love, love, love the nuances of buildings.
It’s on-campus. If I get a great job that starts before May, and I need to move early … what do I do?
Will I really have a need for this kind of information? I’m going into special libraries, not public or academic. Is that short-sighted of me?
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Wednesday was primarily a day of walking around and being a tourist, but I did go to two things at the conference as well. It was the last day for poster sessions and exhibitions, which created a strange atmosphere of farewells that gave the sense of the conference ending already, when in fact it was still going for another couple days. In the afternoon I went to a session on Emerging Technologies, where I heard a lot about tools I already knew, for the most part, but the presentations were valuable in that they presented case studies of these tools actually *applied* to specific library environments. Bob Glass of Manchester Metropolitan University (link opens PDF) in the U.K. showed us how his students have been using Blogger for class projects. Wun Han Chow from the National Library of Singapore (link opens PDF) walked us through their work-flow using QuestionPoint, which was actually the best demonstration I’ve seen of that service.
In the evening, I walked around a bit more but was feeling symptoms of Conference Exhaustion so I went back to the hotel early for a good night’s sleep.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
My last day at IFLA was one of the best, I’m happy to say. I attended two sessions in the morning and they were both very informative. The first:
Enabling access to the global library – small is beautiful: distributed deployment of library services for small and special libraries
- Case study: The Evergreen Open Source Integrated Library System; its origins and significant implementations in the USA and Canada
BEN HYMAN (Public Library Services Branch, Ministry of Education, Government of British Columbia, Canada, Victoria, BC, Canada) and JULIE WALKER (Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta, GA, USA)
- Archon: facilitating global access to collections in small archives
SCOTT W. SCHWARTZ, CHRISTOPHER PROM, KYLE FOX and PAUL SORENSEN
(University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, USA)
- Punching above our weight: a small Scottish Library Service joins the global community
ANTHONY BROWNE (East Renfrewshire Council, Community Services, Scotland, UK) and CHRISTINE ROONEY-BROWNE (Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
- Digital archiving of e-journals for Special libraries
EDMUND BALNAVES and MARK CHEHADE (Prosentient Systems, Sydney, Australia)
For the Evergreen case study, we actually heard from David Singleton of Georgia Public Library Service rather than Julie, as listed in the program. He went over the transition of Georgia’s public libraries to the Evergreen Open Source ILS and the reasons they chose Open Source. He had a great analogy that I hadn’t heard before (but I suspect it’s a common one) – when a library chooses an ILS, do they want to “rent an apartment” or “own the house”…? If they rent, they don’t have the responsibility of upkeep but they also don’t get any return for their investment. If they own, they do have more responsibility, but they can also customize and develop the “house” to really suit their situation.
Before Open Source, the libraries had been using a commercial ILS, but found that the “limitations of the software were determining policies” and they didn’t want that, of course. When the staff across the libraries were asked what they *wished* the software would do, they could only think in terms of what they were familiar with. David said they had to present the question in terms of “magic” … encouraging the staff to imagine that the software could do anything, anything at all. With Evergreen, they’ve been able to start tweaking and look ahead to potential … uh… tweaks.
Georgia will be having its first Evergreen conference the Spring of 2009 in Athens. Evergreen also has a group on Facebook.
Next up was my last session of IFLA:
Knowledge Management with Information Technology and Library and Research Services for Parliaments
Social computing tools and knowledge sharing
DAVID GURTEEN (Gurteen Knowledge Community)
Panel Discussion with the following panellists:
- MARY LEE KENNEDY (Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services, USA)
- MOIRA FRASER (Information and Knowledge, New Zealand Parliament, New Zealand)
- PATRICK DANOWSKI, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Germany
I had never heard of David Gurteen before this, but sort of felt like I should have. It was also the only session in which I saw an audience member twittering the presentation. His slides gave some really good illustrations of the difference between “KM 1.0″ which was techno-centric, built on command and control of information, and “KM 2.0″ which is people-centric, built on storytelling, community, and collaboration. Information about his articles and presentations is supposed to be on the IFLA KM section website at some point. I’ll be looking for them.
Moira Fraser gave a whole slew of examples of government agencies using blogs, twitter, or facebook to reach out to voters. Parliaments from New Zealand to Chile to the UK all had social networking presences of some kind. Mary Lee Kennedy also took us through some interesting sites, one of which was “Tomorrow’s Challenges” at the IMD in Switzerland. The color and size of each headline represent how “hot” that topic is, according to clicks it’s receiving.
Lastly, Patrick Denowski of Berlin had three quick tips for us when it came to choosing and using online social tools:
1. Make sure you can get out the information you put in — export options, link options, something.
2. Share it. Use a Creative Commons license. Look for existing big communities in order to have critical mass.
3. Training. Teach yourself if you have to, and then teach your colleagues or at least encourage them to play and learn, too.
Even if the tool isn’t used after all, you will have the experience of using it, which you can build on for other tools.
John Pollinger of London’s House of Commons library was in attendance and asked one of the first questions: “How do we define and measure success of these tools?”
Mary Lee: Define your idea of success beforehand, so you know what direction to take.
Moira: If you’re using it as a pilot study, then the learning is the success. Treat it like a birthday party – let it run and if good things happen, encourage more.
Patrick: If Library of Congress just has photos of its collection on the LOC website, a lot of people won’t notice or care. Now that LOC has photos on Flickr, people from all over the world are paying attention. Be open to unexpected successes.
Tuesday, 8 August 2008
The morning was spent at the GSLIS booth in the Exhibition Hall. UIUC and San Jose State were the only schools represented, that we knew of. Unlike the vendors, we didn’t have a lot of flashy stuff to give away … none, really, besides the light-up pens that were all given away within the first two days. We didn’t have bags or posters or cute pins. Yet we still managed to have our fair share of visitors. Many were alumni, some were friends of UIUC people, and many others had questions about our programs.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many visitors had questions about the Mortenson Center, or knew of it in some way or other.
The Cataloging Librarian stopped by to say hi, and we chatted a bit about the conference. It’s wonderful to hear about the conference from a completely different perspective, with a different emphasis. We were both planning to visit the New Professionals Discussion Group, and decided to meet up then.
I went from the GSLIS booth to the Poster Sessions. Several poster slots were blank – indicating that those presenters were not able to make it to the congress for some reason. Nevertheless, there were more than enough posters to make the session a crowded cacophony of conversation. I haven’t attended a true Pecha Kucha myself, but the poster session looked to me like a Pecha Kucha (each speaker has 20 slides, 20 seconds for each slide), but in this case, all the speakers present simultaneously and the audience is able to follow-up immediately with more questions. Having all these visual presentations of various library projects was also a wonderful way to check the pulse of the library world, in a way. And some posters clearly garnered more attention than others. Sure, much of that can be the poster’s design, but I noticed people really reading the titles, not just quickly glancing over the pictures. Posters about new libraries, or rural library projects seemed very popular from my observations.
Next up: the New Professionals Discussion Group. This was the description in the IFLA program:
|New Professionals Discussion Group
Mind the gap: bridging the inter-generational divide
Panel discussion with the following panellists:
From this description, many so-called “new professionals” thought this would be a session for us, with us, and we filled up the room fairly well — this assumption is based on my own look around the room, scanning for young faces, so who knows how many “new professionals” there really were, across all ages.
But the session was a huge disappointment for me. Even though we – the new professionals – were a clear presence in the room, the speakers had, apparently, been instructed to talk about recruitment. So most of the presentations were not directed to us at all, but were about us, talking about us in the 3rd person as though we weren’t there. And a couple were pretty darn patronizing to boot. The presentation from ALIA (Austrailian Library and Information Association) was the only one to openly acknowledge that new professionals could be from any generation, often on their 2nd or 3rd career. But that point seemed to be completely ignored by the following presenters. Keith Fiels actually had advice for new library professionals (I think he might have been the only one to offer us any advice, in fact):
1. go to committee meetings
2. take on work
3. do the work
Between the speeches and the questions, the conversation of the session seemed to constantly go between an inclusive dialogue, in which new professionals were “us” and “you”, to an exclusive conversation where new professionals were “them”. I very much wanted to ask “who is this session for?” but other questions were ahead of mine and no one else seemed to have the same frustration I did. In fact, the questions just emphasized the empty rhetorical nature of the session. I left early.
That evening was the Cocktail Reception – which was enormous. I imagine the largest of mafia weddings would look something like this reception. A few other GSLIS folks and I went out for dessert instead. As I’ve often found before, these simple small group conversations are often the most enlightening parts of a conference like this. We had a long talk (over delicious sweets and lattes) about i-schools and library-schools. One of the women from GSLIS knew some of the history behind the i-school migration in the U.S. and hearing that background was eye-opening for me.
Monday, 11 August 2008 – p.m.
The Library Association session continued in the afternoon with a round-table discussion. Each of the earlier speakers sat at a table and we – the participants – were able to go around the room, sitting at different tables as often as we wished and engaging with the various conversations. I really enjoyed the two tables I sat at, but I wish there had been time to visit with more of the speakers.
First, I sat at Stephen Abram‘s table, where we talked about the myth of bandwidth hogs, the innovation in diversity, and the handicap of legacy technologies. Stephen’s emphasis seemed to be on the individual, the librarian. He wants librarians to create Facebook pages with their photos, their subject specialties and maybe even some of their favorite projects or reference questions. He stresses that we’ve been anonymous public servants too long, it’s time to be recognizable experts and specialists.
In contrast, the talk at Keith Fiel‘s table was about mentoring at the broader level of library association or even the library itself. This is about institution mentoring institution. Keith was fairly candid about the challenges ALA is facing in setting up the website for GLAD and figuring out how to get library associations involved. But I noticed that the folks around his table responded to him as employees of their *library* not as members of any *library association* … but in order for ALA’s website to work, they will need people to really identify with their particular library associations.
One of the other speakers that morning was Dr. Trishanjit Kaur of Punjabi University in India. Her presentation was not about a glowing success story, but about the rocky, difficult journey of REFSALA, the Regional Federation of South Asian Library Associations. She listed the main barriers they faced in bringing REFSALA into existence and maintaining activity:
- lack of comitment
- lack of cooperation & communication
- lack of leadership and empathy
- local politics, no gov’t support
- lack of follow-up and sustainable vision
I fear that ALA’s GLAD program and the Twinning initiative will face the exact same challenges. But the institutions are made up of individuals, and I think this is where Stephen Abram’s push for putting personality back on the library map will make a difference. If librarians feel personally responsible for the success of these library associations, we might see sustainable, active projects to come to fruition.
Monday, 11 August 2008 – a.m.
Started the day at a session on Library Associations.
I take that back. I started the day on a bus ride to the convention center with Claudia, another GSLIS student who is also one of my roommates at the conference. Claudia is from Romania and she’s very motivated to see improvements in Romanian libraries, but she has seen roadblocks and stubborn administrations that we, as Americans, can’t even imagine. She’s been telling me about some of the frustrations she has in both GSLIS classes and in the sessions / speakers we see at conferences like this. In this North American context, change is trumpeted as The Way, The Hope, The Light. And we assume that change is a given, that everyone knows it should be embraced. But Claudia has to then process the recommendations and ideas from these sessions and think of a way to incorporate them into a library culture where change is not embraced at all, and the role of libraries is seen very differently… especially by the librarians themselves. Talking with Claudia has been very good for me — reminding me of the huge assumptions that are made in these speeches, posters, and presentations.
Okay, so the session on Library Associations. This topic holds a special interest for me, in fact I’m considering pursuing library associations or consortia when I’m on the job market (in May… gulp). Keith Feils of ALA spoke briefly about the Global Library Association Development (GLAD) Program of IFLA’s Management of Library Associations Section (MLAS). Keith talked about the purpose of library associations, such as mentoring (between individuals *and* institutions), advocacy, and library development. The mentoring issue was an important topic and it really intrigued me, this idea of an entire library mentoring another library, shifting the perspective of the whole level at which mentoring takes place. I wonder, how does that affect individual development? Is there a tricle-down training for staff skills? Or is it a blanket improvement? Hm.
Next up was Stephen Abram, of SirsiDynix and current president of SLA. After Stephen’s talk, I was *really* kicking myself for missing the SLA Conference in Seattle this past June. He highlighted several training and staff development tools introduced on the SLA Innovation Laboratory site. His slides should be up on his blog soon. He was motivating, entertaining, and seemed to get people engaged. I found very interesting his emphasis on encouraging librarians to work together across generations. He said something along the lines of taking the strengths of experienced librarians and combining them with the skill sets of new librarians, but that all of us, young and old need to “pull the pickle out of our butts and build a sandbox” and play.
Update: Stephen Abram’s slides are up.