Professional Development

Thomas @ ALA Annual 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014 3:44 pm

“I want you to know that we’re on our way to Las Vegas to find the American Dream…this is a very ominous assignment-with overtones of personal danger.”
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The show so far:

It’s hot. But it’s a dry heat, you say? Shya. At 110, hot is just hot. (“Too cold, too hot – does this guy ever dummy up about temperature?”) But with all the time everyone gets to spend waiting for a bus, a taxi, or a hotel’s promised shuttle, you get a lot of opportunities to think about the heat.

Worst. Signage. Ever. I should have arrived at LITA Top Tech Trends a polite five minutes late. Instead, I spent 45 minutes walking around, because at some point the convention center just stopped putting up signs for the South Hall. Finally, knowing I was within shouting distance, I found a long hallway with no signs at all, not even visible room numbers. Just go halfway down that hallway, turn left, and go all the way to the end of another hallway. I do find it helpful, in a cautionary way, to experience such bad user design in a non-web setting. (Toaster ovens and clock radios often provide this kind of good example of a bad example.) It reminds me of the high standards we set for ourselves and mostly meet.

In 15 years we’ve gone from convention centers without wireless to convention centers without enough wireless. Ditto hotels. Check back in 2029.

The rest of the world did something about second-hand smoke. Just saying.


For me, this conference is mostly a total immersion program for winding down LITA committee work and ramping up LITA governing board work. The to-do list for an incoming vice president is a lot of fun.

I did make it to two very good programs. The LITA President’s Program featured Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code ( This non-profit organization works to address the disproportionately low number of women of color in the fields of IT, programming, web development, and related fields. Black Girls Code works in several locations in the US and a new location in South Africa, with programming for girls aged 7 to 17. It’s a pretty amazing example of what happens when you give girls (or anyone) the tools to do a job, and explicitly tell them “you can do this” (and block to too common implicit messages of “no you can’t”).

Monday morning was my one other time slot for catching a program, and almost by chance I saw Jeremy Frumkin of the University of Arizona, talking about technical solutions to address academic libaries’ online branding. Or in other words: we’re increasingly being asked to justify the money we spend, and simultaneously making ourselves invisible to usersin services like discovery and delivery of [very, very expensive] journal articles. InArizona’s case, they’re experimenting with a method that spotsPDF downloads through a campus proxy (like our EZProxy) and on the fly insertsa cover sheet to providing branding information – think “Access to this journal is provided by [Your University Library].”

A second part of this idea is maximize the amount of information a library logs in their proxy and to do more data mining there to pull out more specific answers to Who Benefits And How Much (terms like Business Intelligence and Value Proposition came up).

This is very early in the development of this service, and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

And so, off to another Board meeting, then an early dinner, and a flight home that’s so hilariously early tomorrow morning, most people in this town would call it tonight.

5 Responses to “Thomas @ ALA Annual 2014”

  1. And I thought all the signage in Europe was the worst (not even saying because it was in a different language). It was just bad. Take care traveling home, and for what it’s worth, your office temperature was a moderate 72 or so this morning.

  2. Agreed that the signage, the wifi, the smoking inside and the temperature were the worst things about the conference. I’m not even sure I can figure out which of those four annoyed me most.

  3. Thomas, I really agree with you on the signage! I think I learned my lesson with Vegas, next time I go there, I need a hotel without a casino! That would help with the smoke and the crowds! I was very worried when I saw the location for Top Tech Trends, usually it has a much better (and larger) venue, but we did make the best of it! (and had a full house!)

  4. My theory about the bad signage, at least in the casinos, is that they want you to get lost, hoping that you’ll just give up and start gambling in despair wherever you happen to be.

  5. Steve’s right about the signage in casinos – “This American Life” did a piece on gambling addiction a few years ago… – but for the life of me, I cannot figure why the dearth of signage had to spill over into the conference, too. Due to time constraints, I didn’t even attempt to make it to one session (really promising, alas) in the South Hall. Sounds like even if I had, I might’ve been wandering throughout most of it anyway.

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