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This conference, for me, was about meetings meetings meetings. At this point, even though I’m still here tomorrow, I only have meetings left to go. I didn’t get to attend many of the types of sessions that I’ve attended on and blogged about in the past. So in thinking about how I wanted to report out what I did, I (with a bit of help from Molly) came up with a few general categories to discuss: programs, leadership, and connections. So, to kick off my posts, here’s one on programming.

A lot of people go to ALA just for programs. And programs tend to be fantastic. Many at this ALA were standing (or floor-sitting) room only, spilling out into the hallway. Until getting really involved with ALA, I didn’t realize that it’s not like most conferences. It’s rare that someone proposes their own program. Most of the time a committee, interest group, or another official body comes up with an idea, proposes it, and finds speakers. You’d think that means speakers get paid since they’re invited, but ALA does not pay members to speak, so most are still just volunteering. ALA is awesome in that there are programs aimed at every part of librarianship. Many people tell me that they attend a bunch of sessions related to their work and throw in one or two for other areas (like children’s librarianship, or something within academics but another area than they specialize in) to stay aware of the entire field.

All that being said, at this particular ALA I haven’t really been able to get to them. I did make sure to get to LITA Top Tech Trends. It’s the major LITA program, I’m an alum of it, and I wanted to be a good future-board member and show up. Susan was on the committee that put it together and it went well. It was rather theatrical, in a large, stadium-style theater with low lights. The speakers were: Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC, Clifford Lynch, CNI, Nina McHale, Univ of Colorado, Denver, Monique Sendze, Douglas Country (CO) Libraries, and Jennifer Wright, Free Library of Philadelphia. They addressed: Drupal, accessibility, apps, social reading, interfaces, cloud, repository, and mobile marketing (among others).

I was planning to attend the LITA President’s program, but got sucked into the ALA President’s program instead. The program was “Wikipedia: Past, Present, and Future.” The speaker was Sue Gardner, Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation. It was a lovely session, just Roberta Stevens and Gardner sitting on stage, doing a Q&A with questions from the audience. It was a lot of what you’d expect at this point: a general feeling that Wikipedia is a good place for certain types of research (background information, citations, etc). That there are crazy copyright issues around it (people posting copyrighted images or trying to publish Wikipedia articles for money, etc), and a sense that there’s still a lot of work to do to improve the resource. It was a great talk. Gardner is a librarian in spirit in a way: interest in open access to information, life-long learning, and an understanding of how we need to critically question things like copyright and communication in light of evolving information practices.

jesmyn ward, novelistThe last program I have to share about was a really powerful talk by author by Jesmyn Ward at a luncheon. She shared her story and it was such a compelling and challenging talk that many in the room were clearly affected. She told a story about how her author peers thought she didn’t take her characters to a dark enough place in her first novel, Where the Line Bleeds. She said she couldn’t do it to them. She felt too connected to them and loved them too much. Her new novel, Salvage the Bones, is about Katrina. She lived through Katrina and knew the dark places that people went to and this book apparently pulls no punches. Her talk was so compelling that as she spoke I checked if I could buy it from ANY ebook vendor on my phone. Towards the end of the talk I realized the book wasn’t out yet… and then we were given advanced copies that she signed!! I haven’t started the book yet. But I am going to read it, and that says something because it’s paper. 🙂

If I can swing it I’m going to try to get to something called Battledecks tonight, with is program-like. But otherwise, those are the events I saw. They’ve all been good, but as great as they were, they weren’t even the best part of the conference… more on that in the leadership and connection posts that are forthcoming!

(cross posted to laurenpressley.com)