By Meredith Farkas | March 25, 2006
I feel like I’ve been run over by a train. In addition to being completely exhausted by the conference and waking up with a migraine, I seem to have come down with a bad cold on top of it all. But I’ll take feeling like this any day for the amazing time I had at Computers in Libraries. It was a really rewarding conference; not only for the many great sessions, but for the networking opportunities. I met so many incredible people at this conference and had plenty of inspiring conversations. It also was just a lot of fun!
Here are 10 things I learned at computers in libraries:
1. Wikis are definitely HOT this year, and not just with me! My wiki talk was packed and two other talks involved a discussion of wikis during the conference (including the double-shot of Wikis in Action). I spent around 30 minutes answering questions after my wiki talk from people who wanted to use wikis in schools, public libraries, academic libraries, and for organizations. I, myself had a revelation during Chad’s talk that wikis could be used especially for findability (particularly with software like MediaWiki) as opposed to being used for collaboration. The possibilities for what we can do with wikis are endless! It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who sees their potential anymore.
2. Tagging posts and pics is a very good thing — when it works. Tagging posts allows anyone to virtually visit the sessions they missed by visiting a single site like Technorati or del.icio.us. I got a lot out of the reportage of Internet Librarian 2005. Unfortunately, while I’ve been tagging my posts, they have not been showing up in Technorati. Maybe it’s because I haven’t upgraded my WordPress software yet, but it was working for other tags until just recently. Michael Sauers was having the same problems with Technorati not picking up his posts as well. At least all of our flickr tags work!
3. Some vendors are getting smarter. Others… not so much — yes, Stephen Abram, Paul Miller, Alane Wilson and Lorcan Dempsey work for companies that sell things to librarians. So why do we love them? Ask Dorothea. Other vendors send salespeople to conferences who don’t know their products. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense! Question: would I dislike Endeavor any less if they had someone cool going out and speaking at conferences? Answer: Probably not.
4. Meeting bloggers is like meeting cool cousins you haven’t seen in years. A lot of this trip had the feel of a family reunion. I loved meeting Dave King, Dorothea Salo, Michael Sauers, Greg Schwartz, Tom Ipri, Chad Boeninger, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Stephen Abram, Nicole Engard, Dave Hook, Karen Coombs, Geoff Harder, Jenica Rogers, Alice Yucht, Esben Fjord, Darlene Fichter, Jill Hurst Wahl, and many others! After reading their blogs and IMing with many of them, I felt like I already knew them. And it was terrific to see bloggers I’ve met before in other venues. It’s nice to be able to hang out with people who have similar interests and essentially speak the same lanauge (i.e. I don’t have to explain what RSS and wikis are). Most of these folks faithfully blogged the conference so there’s a lot of material for those who couldn’t attend.
5. Anyone can rub elbows with the library technorati. I hung out in the lobby lounge with Lorcan Dempsey, Alane Wilson, Michael Sauers, Greg Schwartz, and Stephen Abram. I stuck around after Roy Tennant and Andrew Pace’s talk, and ended up having lunch with them. It’s all about not being intimidated. They’re just people, silly! Admittedly, though, I still turn into a tongue-tied idiot around certain people (like Lorcan Dempsey and Marshall Breeding), but I’m getting better. At least I didn’t get all “7th grader with a crush” around Roy Tennant like I did at ALA. Seriously, though, if you want to talk to someone whose work you admire, just do it! Ask them questions, talk about something they’ve done or you’ve done. But don’t just tell them that “I like your blog” or “I think you’re great.” Where can the conversation go after that?
6. I hate sessions that don’t give me ideas of how to make things happen. I’m a nuts-and-bolts kind of gal. My wiki talks have been nuts-and-bolts and my book is going to be nuts-and-bolts. When I go into a session, I want to take something away that I can apply — either in my library or in my extra-curricular activities. I like how-to’s or sessions that explain what something is (ideally something I don’t already know about), or sessions designed to energize and excite me (like Roy and Andrew’s talk, or Paul Miller’s talk). Talking about how your library applied something is great, but help us to learn how we can do the same! Going through the minutae of how you structured the training sessions you had for your cool new toy is less important to me than telling me how to create a toy just like yours. Talking about the principles of the virtual reference interview is less important to me than learning how to manage a virtual reference service and concretely how to deal with patrons virtually. While most of my sessions were great (or at least 1 out of 2 presenters was great), I sometimes found myself wondering what some presenters thought they were offering attendees. If I were organizing a conference, I would require each presenter to submit a list of learning objectives. What should the attendees come out of your session knowing? Sarah Houghton talks about this as well in a rant about PLA.
7. Missing Dead Tech is bad. Michael Stephens and Aaron Schmidt kept telling me that I absolutely couldn’t miss Dead Tech. Unfortunately, I was having dinner with my editor and the folks from ITI Books. Apparently I was featured in Michael Stephens’ dead tech panel as an example of 2.0 (though I think Meredith Baxter-Birney was the example of 1.0 – ???)! Although the wonderful dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse eased my pain, I definitely won’t miss it next year. Looks like it was very funny.
8. A conference called Computers in Libraries really should have better Internet access. Hopefully next year’s location will have wireless access all over. At least I was able to get online. Poor Greg was Internetless the whole time (hence, no posts)!
9. Apparently my blog makes me seem tall. I had six people say “I thought you would be taller” or exclaimed “you’re so small!” I’m not sure why people thought I was tall (larger than life?), but for those of you who have never met me, I don’t want to mislead you. I’m pretty darn small.
10. Michael Stephens will never stop saying HOT, no matter how hard he tries. I did appreciate it when in one session he said HOT, stopped himself and said OVERDUE.
I very well might have more to say about the conference once my headache and cold go away and I can think properly. All in all, most of the sessions were thought-provoking, the social opportunities were fantastic and the food in DC rocks!