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Let’s see, how many Chicago conferences is this now? There was the one with the blizzard, and the other one with the even bigger blizzard; the Midwinter when it was just rainy and foggy; the Annual when it was just rainy and foggy; the summer it was ridiculously hot; the time I had a 101 degree fever and a job interview at the same time; the time I left by way of a bus up to Madison and then drove a van full of furniture back to Seattle; the several times when conference conflicted with Taste of Chicago and Traffic. Did. Not. Move. This time? Just a really nice conference with really nice weather and no major crises (except a gridlocked taxi ride out the Kennedy to O’Hare with not many minutes* to spare.).

An awkward consequence of being a divisional leader during a period of ALA sturm und drang was that there were times when an all-hands-on-deck meeting would get called for the Friday of conference (if not Thursday evening). So you’d better have travel plans that get you there Thursday afternoon, or you might miss the big meeting on the strategic challenges of a future of shifting paradigms and fiscal responsibilities for a new generation of professional society members who…something something leadership.

Not this time, though. I guess ALA now has a handle on the strategery thing, because nothing like that got scheduled and I got a free morning to see my old neighborhood in Chicago (Rogers Park) and find a real hot dog before diving into the conference.

Chicago Dog
Sorry, Piedmont All-the-Way Dog, you’ll just never be first in my heart.

This was my last meeting that was almost all LITA all the time. I attended the division’s increasingly successful introductory session on Friday afternoon (which I recommend to anyone even semi-interested in library tech and/or looking for a way to start participating in ALA). Then it’s really just all day Saturday, Sunday afternoon and evening, and Monday afternoon. Susan already did a great job of summarizing the LITA Board meetings and the ongoing work on personas.

But I did manage to sneak in a couple of activities. Daniel Zwerdling of NPR spoke at a breakfast for Alexander Street Press. He covered the ways in which journalists and librarians share common goals (increasing the public’s access to information and made some pretty pointed commentary on the ways people in positions of authority try to control that access, and why it often puts them at odds with a free press. He illustrated this with the principal of his high school who pulled some underhanded tricks to quash a story in the school paper, where Zwerdling was editor. But you just might be able to see that anecdote as a reflection of larger scale threats to journalism and the public’s right to access information. Maybe. Possibly.

I was also able to fit in a session on Practical Privacy for the Library, sponsored by the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, and featuring a couple of regular contributors to the LITA Privacy Interest Group. Working from the idea that privacy policy continually bumps up against new issues, a lot of the program was informed by Zen master Donald Rumsfeld’s famous koan, “We know there are some things / We do not know. / But there are also unknown unknowns, / The ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

So, some of the things we should know to nail down privacy in the library: Know what personal information you store; know where you store it; know who can access it; know your options to reduce what you store; know how you exchange data; know best privacy practices; know what you monitor and log; know that this is an iterative process.

The session also included a description of the online fingerprinting that many commercial sites use to identify individuals as they navigate across sites, and tools available to minimize what sites can know about you (Need to up your browser privacy? Start with the Privacy Badger, Ghostery, and HTTPS Everywhere plugins).

As of the end of ALA Annual this year (about 4:20pm, Monday, June 26), I wrapped up my stint as part of the leadership team of the Library and Information Technology Association. I rolled on at the end of the Las Vegas conference at a moment of major staff turn-over, crumbling morale, and general churn, and leave it a more focused and energized organization. My secret: get focused, energized people working on problems and stay out of their way. Grab a piece of cake at the party.