By Meredith Farkas | October 7, 2007
I didn’t end up blogging the rest of the conference, because I was too busy listening. There were some really interesting talks on topics I don’t usually hear about, like digital public history, so I kind of wanted to just take it in instead of typing out what someone was saying. It was also a great conference because I got to meet so many people. I came there knowing no one and left with some new friends in really diverse areas of the field. There are only around 30 participants in the Digital Institute, so it’s a small enough group where you can really get to know people. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together (and lots of free drinks are made available during dinner), which helps to cement that intimacy. I really wish more conferences were set up this way. Big conferences have their place, but there are too many people to really have the intimate sorts of discussions that came out of this conference. I hope I get invited to more conferences of this type in the future; it really was a special experience.
It was fascinating to see the actual digitization process at the Readex facility. I’d never even seen a Kirtas machine in action, so it was pretty cool to discover how the Serials Set goes from book form to the excellent digital product Readex puts out there. Lots of people, lots of time, lots of tech and lots of server space.
My talk went pretty well; it was on the topic of user-generated content in historical collections, which is actually something I knew very little about before I started researching it for the talk. It’s a truly fascinating topic though. I really believe that the way people view (and the stories they tell about) a historical work is just as important as the work itself. The impressions truly have historical value, and to make it easy for people to contribute those impressions gives cultural heritage organizations the opportunity to make their online collections so much richer.
I don’t remember being so nervous while giving a talk in a long time. The group was primarily made up of librarians with a lot of power from some major Universities. The average age definitely skewed a good deal older than I’m used to as well. I felt a bit out of my league, but really, everyone was so nice and open to my ideas. I think this again is a sign of the effect of the Internet on our profession; that people can be judged more for their ideas and contributions than for their fancy titles is something amazing to me. In so many professions, it’s all about the years you put in or the title you have. In those professions, I wouldn’t be taken seriously at all. It was also nice to talk to a different crowd than what I’m used to; at conferences like Internet Librarian, I sometimes feel like I’m largely preaching to the choir. Not that people don’t still benefit from the talks, but they’re coming to IL because they’re already pretty open to emerging tech.
I’d been feeling a little burnt out on speaking lately, but this talk reminded me that there are definitely some gigs out there that I can really benefit from and feel energized by. All in all, I had a lot more fun than I expected. And I even developed a new professional platonic crush. Don’t worry Roy, I’m still crushing on you too.