The 2007 LITA National Forum began with a keynote speech on global warming. What does this have to do with libraries and emerging technologies? As conference planning chair Mary LaMarca explained to a packed room, LITA has a tradition of opening its annual forum with a keynote by a local speaker. Jeffrey Kiehl is a senior scientist in the Climate Change Research section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. He spoke for an hour and a half about the history of climate change science, how the climate has changed (global warming) and how it will continue to change, how humans are involved in the whole issue and, what scientists can do to communicate what’s happening more effectively to the public. It was a talk full of facts and charts but Kiehl, who has an MA in psychology, focused the end of his speech on why people interact (or not) with the environment and why the public is reluctant to accept the fact of global warming. This is a hot topic (so to speak) in public discourse today, so was timely, if not exactly what I would have chosen to kick off a technology conference to get participants in the right frame of mind for the theme of the weekend.
Two sets of concurrent sessions took place for the rest of the afternoon. It’s hard to decide what’s going to be the most valuable session to attend when you have to select from six, not knowing much more than the titles and the speakers’ names. I planned to try to find sessions that might have the most applicability to our library, so started out at a SRO presentation about WorldCat Local. I managed to find an empty spot on the floor, settled in and after about 10 minutes was saying “this sounds so familiar”! It was almost like I knew what the speaker (Jennifer Ward from University of Washington Libraries) was going to say before she clicked to the next slide. I was having such deja vu, I started digging into my userdata files and found my notes from sessions I attended at ALA in June. Sure enough, I had sat through this before! I guess I didn’t even think about the fact that some presenters may apply to present on a topic to several conferences (and for LITA you have to apply 10 months prior to the conference – for 2008, proposals are due in Dec.). But Jennifer did update her talk to report on the progress of the beta project between OCLC and UWL). Patrons are becoming more comfortable with having Local Worlcat as their primary discovery tool. You can take a look at WorldCat: University of Washington. They have made changes as a result of extensive usability studies and the catalog now includes articles along with books and has the ability to display a proper citation of the item, export it to Endnote or Refworks. It links to local holdings and availability information. There are choices offered to “get it” (ILL), “save it” (bookmark it in your browser), “add to it” (write a review), and “share it” (link it to one or several social networking sites). This collaborative effort by these two partners is impressive.
I slipped out of this session and went down a couple doors to hear the end of a presentation by two of our colleagues from UNCG’s Jackson Library. Scott Rice and Amy Harris talked about the game they created to help teach information literacy. It’s called “The Information Literacy Game” and they’ve made it available for others to use and adapt to local needs. One question that gets asked often came up in this presentation also: have they done formal assessment to see if learning is occurring? To date, their belief that the game is useful comes from anecdotal feedback from students and library faculty. That appears to be fairly typical as it is difficult and time consuming to conduct a quantitative in-depth study along with everything else a librarian has to accomplish day-to-day.
For the second round of sessions, I decided to go to for one that was more a “high level” view of emerging technologies (plus I saw Andrew Pace heading in the room and figured he might be looking for future column topics). The session was titled “Library 2023: Provoked Discussion on the Future of Libraries.” It turned out to be more of an open discussion than a presentation. The moderator was Gregg Silvis from University of Delaware Library. He posed a number of questions in relation to his assumption for 2023: There are 100,000,000 digitized full text books freely available…
What would it mean?
- To be a research library, or for that matter, a library at all?
- For scholarship?
- For the general populace?
- For cataloging?
- For Kinko’s?
The session became an idea exchange forum. For the most part, what I heard were concepts we have been discussing over the past year in relation to our strategic planning: library as place, students who want things online and now, ownership vs. access, copyright, etc. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t hear anything revolutionary that I could bring back and implement, but it was reassuring to leave the session thinking that we have been doing what needs to be done to head ZSR Library the right direction.
The afternoon sessions were followed by a sponsor reception. Free food, cash bar. What happened to vendors underwriting a librarian’s happy hour? Don’t they know we are on tight budgets? Really, it was a good chance to meet some of the folks attending LITA and I was happy to see one familiar face. I met up with Cindy Saylor, who is from the UNC Pembroke Library. I first became acquainted with Cindy way back when Roz Tedford went through the Master Trainer program and Cindy was one of her fellow master trainers. Since then Cindy went on to be Systems Librarian there and then was promoted to Assistant Dean of Systems and Public Services last year. We had a chance to catch up and then went on to view The Hollywood Librarian. I had heard somewhat harsh reviews on it from folks from ZSR who attended the UNCG screening last week, but thought I should form my own opinion. It was well done and did a mostly good job of illustrating why the typical portrayal of librarians in film short changes the profession. I did think they could have found more than one young librarian to interview (although the eyebrow ring was a nice touch). But it sort of lost me when they politicized the film through the detailed focus on the Salinas Libraries funding issue. I thought the film was about 1/2 hour too long (we were sitting in straightback conference room chairs, NOT theater stadium seating), and the desired point could have been made more succinctly. However, I was glad to have been given the chance to view this film that everyone in the profession has been talking about.