By Meredith Farkas | April 10, 2008
I had a really wonderful time at Computers in Libraries, as always. While there are always certain talks where the delivery is disappointing or where you don’t learn anything, I went to a lot of talks that were fun or educational or both. And of course half of the learning goes on when you’re not even trying, during those networking times between sessions. I had a lot of fantastic conversations with people who have the similar professional interests. While we’re not always talking about libraries, we’re making valuable connections and friendships. Never underestimate the value of networking.
Here were some of the highlights for me:
- Going Local in the Library: Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Local 2.0 – What a great session to start my conference experience with! Charles Lyons gave us some great ideas for how libraries can help to collect and disseminate local information to patrons. He actually mentioned two “local wikis” created by libraries that I hadn’t heard of: LoudonPedia and WikiNorthia (I’m a huge fan of the SCRLD Wiki, which he also mentioned) I’ve been thinking about creating a Norwich University Wiki, where the library could gather information from all different groups on campus (students, faculty, staff) to create a truly helpful resource for new students. At the moment, I don’t have time to create, market or maintain this, but it’s definitely something I’d love to work on in the future. Lyons mentioned lots of other ways to get local, such as local search/custom search, blogs like Darien Community Matters, local online communities like Skokie Talk and MyHamilton.ca, and custom maps. I have firmly believed for a long time that the future of social software is local, and it’s nice to see libraries starting to move in that direction.
- The Global Librarian: Online Social Networks – definitely the funniest presentation at the conference. I didn’t learn much from Rikhei Harris, Josh Neff and Steve Lawson’s talk about the Library Society of the World, but I had a great time while not learning. I hope that some of the people who weren’t aware of some of the alternative professional networking opportunities online got something out of it. Any presentation involving a Rickroll, is a-ok with me. The second part of the session included three of the women involved in the excellent Infodoodads blog. I learned that collaborative blogging can make you pregnant (2 out of 3 of them are) and how to best manage and market a collaborative blog. Kate Gronemyer is definitely going on my awesome list. Anyone who shares Milano cookies and loves the Chowhound community is alright with me.
- Virtual Reference: Endless Possibilites – Two excellent and informative talks in one session on virtual reference. While I knew most of what he discussed, Dan Sich gave a really solid description of the efforts at his library to implement widgetized IM reference. It was nice to hear about the limitations of Hab.la, which I’d been interested in for our library, but am definitely not using until they allow you to put widgets on more than 5 web pages. Derik Badman’s discussion about how he created virtual reading rooms of the most recent journal tables of contents from specific disciplines was of great interest to me (here’s an example of what he did for library literature). I’ve been thinking of doing the same in some of the social science disciplines, taking feeds from the most popular journals and either mashing them up and turning them into one feed or putting them into something like Grazr to display them on a web page. It was good to hear from Derik that it was a really time-consuming project, so I’ll probably just start with one subject area and see how it goes. Derik used Yahoo! Pipes to accomplish his project, but I might use something more intuitive (for me) like Feed Digest.
- 2.0 Pecha Kucha—Conversation Face-Off! – 6 presenters, 20 slides for 20 seconds each for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds per presenter. This was a real challenge for all of us, but it ended up being one of the most fun presentations I’ve ever been a part of. You can see good write-ups (a challenge in itself!) of the challenge at the Librarian in Black and Jenica Rogers-Urbanek. Greg Schwartz definitely had the most entertaining presentation (a library podcasting fable) and deserved the win. I’m just happy I remembered what I was going to say and got it out in 6 minutes 40! This is definitely something I’d like to try again and would like to see at other conferences. I’ve now given 3-hour, 2-hour, 1-hour, 30-minute, 15-minute, and 6 minute 40 second talks on wikis. What’s next?
- Collaborating with YouTubers to Enhance Library Instruction – I almost didn’t go to this one, and it ended up being one of the best. We’ve been thinking of doing some instructional videos at my library and this convinced me that involving students in it would be a very good idea. Check out Databases!, Chronicles of Libraria and more from Daabomb3018 (the college-aged son of the presenter from University of South Florida).
- Open Source Applications – another two-parter. I really liked Julian Clark’s presentation; the material wasn’t new to me, but it was an excellent introduction for people new to open source. Glen Horton gave a great talk on how librarians can give back to the open source community without necessarily knowing how to code. This includes teaching patrons about open source software, providing open source software on CD or thumb drives, writing documentation, and identifying bugs and reporting them.
I’ve been feeling a bit tired and run-down lately, so I wasn’t able to stay out as late as I usually do at these conferences, but it did result it my actually getting to the keynote presentations in the morning. I was very pleased that I made it to Liz Lawley’s keynote. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make library instruction more fun instead of making it feel like medicine students have to grudgingly take, and Liz really showed us how a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” (really!). More to the point, she showed us the elements of games that make them so satisfying and appealing to people and how those elements can be integrated into tasks people find boring/un-fun more satisfying. I am definitely going to look more into Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming (PMOG), Seriosity’s Attent, and Social Genius for ideas on how to turn basic tasks we do every day into a game. I do want to turn our library into a “happiness engine.”
I’m coming back to work tonight energized and excited about my new job and the possibility of implementing some of the things I heard about at CIL. Each of us is serving patrons in different ways (using different tools) and I love how conferences allow us to open up a little window into the work of these other libraries. Sometimes I look in and see that we’re doing the same thing. Sometimes I see tools and services that wouldn’t work in our library. But it’s those times I look in and see a fantastic new way of providing services that make me come back again and again to the Info Today conferences.