By Meredith Farkas | July 19, 2009
Adam, Reed and I have been back from Chicago for a few days, but it’s taken a while to recover, unpack, and get back into our routine. I’d been worried about traveling with an infant, and the irony was that traveling with Reed was much less a problem than traveling without the use of my dominant arm. On our first day in Chicago, I badly sprained my shoulder (you can read the whole story on my other blog) and I can barely use it even now. I can’t even lift up my son! But Reed was a great traveler and an absolute gentleman in spite of being stuck in O’Hare for many, many hours.
ALA with a baby is certainly different. I didn’t stay out late or go to as many events as I would have liked to. I felt really torn between librarian/speaker/blogger Meredith and mommy Meredith, and it felt kind of weird when those worlds collided in Chicago. There were some moments where I really felt socially awkward — especially when I got my award at the LITA reception. But it was still a lot of fun to learn things, take part in discussions, and see some people who are very dear to me. The programs I took part in all went really well and I was happy to see that I hadn’t lost my ability to give a presentation. I was on two panels about Library/Web 2.0 that both looked at the trend retrospectively in terms of what we’ve learned, what we’ve accomplished, and whether or not 2.0 has met its promise (whatever that promise was). This really meshed well with what I’ve been talking and writing about the past year (why 2.0 initiatives have failed at libraries, what institutions need to do to position themselves to implement 2.0 tools, etc.) so it was fun to take part in a discussion of these topics with some really smart people. It was obvious from the comments after both presentations that a lot of people have implemented 2.0 tools that have not had the ROI they’d hoped for, and others have implemented 2.0 tools without really considering whether they are a right fit for their intended population.
The Unconference on Friday went so well (in spite of the fact that it was planned by two women with babies)!!! Everything flowed nicely throughout the day and the discussions people had were really interesting and rich. Things just seemed to fall into place on their own and the people we had there were so interested, motivated, and fun! We got lots of positive feedback from the attendees. Jim Rettig even showed up at lunchtime to see how it was going and to say hi to the attendees. I feel grateful to have been given the chance to help blaze what will hopefully soon be a well-worn trail for ALA — it’s exciting to see the organization experimenting with new models for conference participation. Michelle and I will be doing a survey for the participants on their experience, so we’ll be sure to share those results later on. You can read coverage of the Unconference here, here and here and you can check out what was discussed in the backchannel and on Twitter here.
Other than destroying my shoulder, it was a really awesome conference, though I am definitely looking forward to putting my whole self into conferences when Reed is a bit less dependent on me. It was hard to balance the two.
And for those of you who want to see what you missed out on at the conference (whether you were there or not since no one can be everywhere!), check out this awesome project by Heather Devine at Flex Your Info. I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly on Monday and seeing a new LIS grad creating a valuable resource for the ALA Conference brings back memories of my own experience four years ago.