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So as I was pondering a theme for my ALA Midwinter, the best I could come up with was ‘skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.’ Many of my sessions, from Info Commons, to supporting distance learners, to planning building space to the vendor floor had me thinking about looking for what we want our students to be doing in our libraries and with our materials in five years and planning for that. The problem is that there is a good deal of uncertainty about what exactly we will be in five years. A new provost, capital campaign success, changing student demographics (and locations) all play into the calculations. So perhaps the best we can do is keep thinking about things and be vigilant in hearing our students out about what they want.

A couple of notes from the vendor floor. By far the sexiest thing I saw was a new (like not even available until April) machine for checking out iPads. Called MediaSurfer, it not only charges iPads between use, but it reloads them, too. Connects with your ILS for check-outs, too. Wickedly cool and sexy, also wickedly expensive ($25,000 for a 16-unit station AND you provide the iPads yourself). But still, something to keep an eye on as it does take a time-consuming task (charging and reloading iPads) and remove staff time. I worry that it is so very tied to a particular product, but I suspect the company will figure out how to do ereaders eventually.

I also stopped by the ProQuest booth twice. Once for an update on a really cool new feature of Summon that is coming – the ability to create (using a simple web form) custom searches based on discipline. These can then be embedded in LibGuides, web sites, etc. A really nice new feature that should be emerging in the next month. Come see me if you want more details. Then I stopped back by to play around with ProQuest’s new Vogue Digital Archive. A digital version of Vogue that indexes down to the image contents – so if you want to see a picture of all dresses in Vogue in 1945 you can regardless of where they appeared in the magazine – cover, ad or story. It too, is wickedly cool and wickedly expensive (maybe that should have been my theme) but there is a lower subscription fee that might be worth looking into.

Finally I had a long conversation and demo of LibAnswers and LibAnalytics from our friends at Springshare, who bring us LibGuides. I am beginning to think we need this kind of robust repository for Reference transactions as we begin to plan for online students and expanded online support we will need to provide for them. Just like LibGuides, it is an easy to use interface (provides TXT and soon Chat reference features, too) and exceptionally reasonably priced (see – that would blow the wickedly expensive theme). I will be talking to the RIS team about its potential in the coming months, but it would also be useful for Circulation and Special Collections for tracking patron interactions, etc.

All in all it was a good conference, but Dallas has a LONG way to go before people begin to look forward to going back there for a conference. The best that can be said is that January weather in Dallas does not stink. Oh, and if you want to hear about the coolest museum exhibition ever, come talk to Giz, Mary S. or I about the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. Beyond spectacular!!