It’s been a few days since I returned from my first Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, and I want to share my thoughts on what I learned while they are still fresh in my mind. First of all, I loved this conference. With approximately 1,000 attendees, it’s much smaller than ALA Annual (typically attended by closer to 25,000), which gives it a more intimate and manageable feel. Second, everything I needed (food, lodging, entertainment) was in walking distance of the conference center, which made it easy to get together with friends and colleagues during breaks and in the evenings. Third, focusing as it does on the Internet, technology, and related issues in librarianship, the conference raised lots of new and exciting ideas which have energized and inspired me. Fourth, the conference was in Monterey, just a short walk from the waterfront—need I say more?
Beautiful Monterey Bay
Here are some highlights of the conference:
Opening Keynote, 10/22/2012: Transforming Knowledge in the Age of the Net with David Weinberger
This was basically the same presentation Weinberger gave at ALA Annual in Anaheim in June 2012, but even though I’d heard it before, I still appreciated his arguments. Some of his most compelling points:
- Knowledge now lives in networks.
- The Internet is exposing a long-hidden truth: we don’t agree about anything.
- As librarians, we should not be stopping points. Rather, we should steer people to materials with opposing viewpoints.
- Everything is metadata for everything else.
- Locality enables difference.
- The library is a connected organism.
Track D, Library Issues & Challenges, 10/22/2012: Engaging & Inspiring Staff with Michelle Boule and Lisa Hardy
Boule’s presentation, entitled “Humans vs. Zombies: Organized Survivors vs. Mindless Horde,” focused on tips for success in crowdsourcing. Hardy’s presentation, entitled “Engaging Staff and Keeping Them Engaged,” focused on the Future Action Team at Calgary Public Library. I was particularly interested in Hardy’s description of how their team worked with the library board and CEO and directly informed their current strategic plan. She described their “Future Action Think Tank” event, basically a one-day conference for interested staff at all levels of the organization, and their “Dragon’s Den” event, where staff could pitch their ideas to library administration; both sounded like amazing ways to engage and inspire staff. It definitely gave me some ideas to take back to the Innovation Team at my own library!
Track D, Creative Approaches & Collaborations, 10/23/2012: Artificial Intelligence: Transforming Reference with Deeann Allison and Lorna Dawes
Allison and Dawes both work at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln Library. They described their reference chatbot, “Pixel,” a software application that simulates human conversation and answers basic inquiries. They described some of the advantages of Pixel—she answers questions 24×7 and doesn’t get paid, gives consistent answers to questions, and can multitask—and also described how they have dealt with some challenges, such as difficulties deciphering certain inquiries. I was impressed that Pixel can handle difficult patrons and even adheres to RUSA’s guidelines for reference service providers! While developing a chatbot such as Pixel requires a significant investment of time and technical expertise, I was fascinated by their experience. I’m sure this is an area of our field that will continue to develop in the coming years.
Track D, Creative Approaches & Collaborations, 10/23/2012: Library as Content Creator with Donna Feddern
I’ve previously written about Escondido Public Library’s LibraryYOU project, and you can read all about it on their blog and website, so I won’t go into detail here. I just wanted to say that Feddern was an engaging presenter and did a great job of describing the project and its impact on the local community. I’d love to see something like this implemented at my own library.
Track C, Innovative & Edgy, 10/24/2012: Makerspaces: The Transformational Power with Sue Considine, Lauren Britton and Joe Murphy
Makerspaces are such a hot topic in the library field these days, and Fayetteville Free Library’s Fab Lab has gotten so much attention that I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear directly from Considine and Britton, the FFL librarians who made it happen. I appreciated Considine’s practical suggestions for how to convince decision-makers of the value of such an undertaking and her urging of librarians to challenge traditional assumptions about the types of services we should provide. Murphy did a great job of contextualizing the library makerspace trend in the broader maker movement and movements in society as a whole.
Closing Keynote, 10/24/2012: Reinventing Spaces & Places with Erik Boekesteijn, Jaap van de Geer, Jeff Wisniewski and Paul Pival
This panel began by posing a series of questions: Do we let our spaces work hard enough for us? What are successful spaces doing? And what if I don’t have any space? They went on to describe the need to listen to users, to involve the community and to be extremely flexible as keys to success. Sharing a number of examples from both academic and public libraries throughout the world, the panel advocated moving away from spaces designed simply to manage content to those designed to facilitate creation. They posited a new mantra for the profession: “We don’t work for books; we let the stories and visitors work for us.” This was an uplifting and inspiring presentation that ended the conference on a high note!