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Some less-than-stellar ALA programs reminded me of a couple catch-phrases from an old music ed. professor. First, “a good example of a bad example”. Or in other words, some guaranteed ways to make people walk out of your program in droves:

  • Don’t have or follow an agenda
  • Don’t alert the incoming crowd to the fact that your session was mis-identified in the program and is not sponsored by LITA (Library and Information Technology Assn.), but by LIRT (Library Instruction Round Table).
  • Don’t ask a couple hundred people seated in an auditorium to spontaneously break up for small group exercises.
  • If you’re a vendor, do not give a sales pitch, and do not bad-mouth your competitors (ever. Evv. Verrr.).

And the other catch phrase: “There is no excuse for a media glitch.” Or in other words, if your presentation relies on technology, make sure it’s working. Make sure it continues to work after the audience comes in and takes their share of the wireless bandwidth. And make sure you have static slides on standby if it doesn’t work.

Thanks for letting me vent.

The gem of the last day of conference was a LLAMA session on surviving after a library disaster. Librarians spoke about how they got back to normal(-ish) operations following an earthquake that knocked 27,000 books to the floor (damaging about 5% of them), broke compact shelving units, and caused some structural damage to the building; a tornado that ripped the walls off a remote storage facility; a vandallism/arson attack that destroyed library staff offices and triggered the sprinkler system, with result damage to collections; and the post-Hurricane Sandy disaster in Queens, New York.

Major lessons: no disaster plan will anticipate everything, so flexibility is key. Staff morale benefits from little things ilke coffee and cupcakes. In an earthquake, an old library wing built in the 1950s may have heavy damage, while a newer wing built in the 1990s will survive better (sound familiar?). And make sure you’re up to date on required maintenance for compact shelving units. Oh, and do we have enough book trucks to hold 27,000 volumes for triage and rough re-sorting?