Professional Development

In the '2011 ALA Annual' Category...

Steve at ALA Annual 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 5:33 pm

I’m a bit late in writing up my report about the 2011 ALA in New Orleans, because I’ve been trying to find the best way to explain a statement that profoundly affected my thinking about cataloging. I heard it at the MARC Formats Interest Group session, which I chaired and moderated. The topic of the session was “Will RDA Be the Death of MARC?” and the speakers were Karen Coyle and Diane Hillmann, two very well-known cataloging experts.

Coyle spoke first, and elaborated a devastating critique of the MARC formats. She argued that MARC is about to collapse due to its own strange construction, and that we cannot redeem MARC, but we can save its data. Coyle argued that MARC was great in its day, it was a very well developed code for books when it was designed. But as other materials formats were added, such as serials, AV materials, etc., additions were piled on top of the initial structure. And as MARC was required to capture more data, the structure of MARC became increasingly elaborate and illogical. Structural limitations to the MARC formats required strange work-arounds, and different aspects of MARC records are governed by different rules (AACR2, the technical requirements of the MARC format itself, the requirements of ILS’s, etc.). The cobbled-together nature of MARC has led to oddities such as the publication dates and language information being recorded in both the (machine readable) fixed fields of the record and in the (human readable) textual fields of the record. Coyle further pointed out the oddity of the 245 title field in the MARC record, which can jumble together various types of data, the title of a work, the language, the general material designation, etc. This data is difficult to parse for machine-processing. Although RDA needs further work, it is inching toward addressing these sorts of problems by allowing for the granular recording of data. However, for RDA to fully capture this granular data, we will need a record format other than MARC. In order to help develop a new post-MARC format, Coyle has begun a research project to break down and analyze MARC fields into their granular components. She began by looking at the 007/008 fields, finding that they have 160 different data elements, with a total of 1,530 different possible values. This data can be used to develop separate identifies for each value, which could be encoded in a MARC-replacement format. Coyle is still working on breaking down all of the MARC fields.

After Karen Coyle, Diane Hillmann of Metadata Management Associates spoke about the developing RDA vocabularies, and it was a statement during her presentation that really struck me. The RDA vocabularies define a set of metadata elements and value vocabularies that can be used by both humans and machines. That is, they provide a link between the way humans think about and read cataloging data and the way computers process cataloging data. The RDA vocabularies can assist in mapping RDA to other vocabularies, including the data vocabularies of record schemas other than the MARC formats. Also, when RDA does not provide enough detailed entity relationships for particular specialized cataloging communities, the RDA vocabularies can be extended to detail more subproperties and relationships. The use of RDA vocabulary extensions means that RDA can grow, and not just from the top-down. The description of highly detailed relationships between bibliographic entities (such as making clear that a short story was adapted as a radio play script) will increase the searching power of our patrons, by allowing data to be linked across records. Hillmann argued that the record has created a tyranny of thinking in cataloging, and that our data should be thought of as statements, not records. That phrase, “our data should be thought of as statements, not records,” struck me as incredibly powerful, and the most succinct version of why we need to eventually move to RDA. It truly was a “wow” moment for me. Near the end of her presentation, Hillmann essentially summed up the thrust of her talk, when she said that we need to expand our ideas of what machines can and should be doing for us in cataloging.

The other session I went to that is really worth sharing with everybody was the RDA Update Forum. Representatives from the Library of Congress and the two other national libraries, as well as the chair of the PCC (Program for Cooperative Cataloging), discussed the results of the RDA test by the national libraries. The national libraries have requested that the PCC (the organization that oversees the RDA code) address a number of problems in the RDA rules over the next eighteen months or so. LC and the other national libraries have decided to put off implementing RDA until January 2013 at the earliest, but all indications were that they plan to adopt RDA eventually. As the PCC works on revising RDA, the national libraries are working to move to a new record format (aka schema or carrier) to replace the MARC formats. They are pursuing a fairly aggressive agenda, intending to, by September 30 of this year, develop a plan with a timeline for transitioning past MARC. The national libraries plan to identify the stakeholders in such a transition, and want to reach out to the semantic web community. They plan for this to be a truly international effort that extends well beyond the library community as it is traditionally defined. They plan to set up communication channels, including a listserv, to share development plans and solicit feedback. They hope to have a new format developed within two years, but the process of migrating their data to the new format will take at least several more years after the format is developed. Needless to say, if the library world is going to move post-MARC format, it will create huge changes. Catalogs and ILS systems will have to be completely re-worked, and that’s just for starters. If some people are uncomfortable with the thought of moving to RDA, the idea of moving away from MARC will be truly unsettling. I for one think it’s an exciting time to be a cataloger.

ALA: The Long Term Impact

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 12:41 pm

This is my last ALA Conference post, and it could have just as well been called Connecting and Working.

This was the best ALA conference for me since Chicago, or maybe ever. Part of it was the chance to be involved with things I care a lot about. But a larger part was the people. I love conferences and look forward to them for the chance to see friends that only cross paths every six months. I try to catch up with folks for lunch, over dinner, in meetings, and at happy hours. I had some great conversations and some left me ready for Midwinter already.

Several of these conversations generated projects that I think will be fun to do, have direct benefits for my job, and could be useful for the field.

One of these projects will be based on web design and has been brewing since before Leif was born. Both of us are now in a place to work on the project, so we were able to hammer out a few next actions to get the ball rolling.

Another came up over coffee when I was talking about reframing how to think about reference based on experiences I’ve had as an interdisciplinary liaison. My co-conspirator agreed and had been thinking of something similar, so we’re going to do a project around it.

Several of us talked about pooling perspectives to do a piece on effective webinar design. We can tackle it from the angles of best practices, instructional design, and aspractitionerswho both have given and participated in them.

So all in all, a lot of good projects will come out of this relatively short time.

It’s something that I mulled over when I was seeing tweets from really good programs. I worried I wasn’t getting enough out of the conference for Wake Forest. But then I realized what I was getting out of this particular conference were projects that will inform the work I do at Wake just as much as if I were to sit in on a session and learn about what others have done. And the meetings that spurred these projects wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t at ALA.

The hardest thing about coming back from ALA is having a week of catch up to do, and THEN to do the ALA work. I’m going to do everything in my power not to drop the ball on these projects, though, since I feel really good about the potential outcomes.

ALA was an incredible conference for me this year, from the events I did attend to the meetings I participated in to the conversations and the long term projects that will come out of it. But for now, I have to get through this inbox so I can act on all these new ideas!

(cross posted to laurenpressley.com)

Carolyn at ALA in New Orleans

Monday, July 4, 2011 4:48 pm

As a member of ACRL’s Anthropology and Sociology Section (ANSS), I attended several ANSS sponsored events in New Orleans. The ANSS social was held at Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant where I met and dined with other anthropology and sociology librarians. I also went to the Anthropology Discussion Librarians Group where such topics as institutional repositories, open access projects, communications technology for anthropology (i.e. social networks, blogs, etc.), and ordering e-books were discussed. Many of the librarians in attendance stated that while e-books are popular with the students they serve, faculty requests for e-books are not forthcoming. Possible reasons given include some e-books don’t contain graphics and there is a lack of e-book publishing in the discipline. I have really benefited from being a member of ANSS in learning more about the discipline of anthropology, its resources and issues, and networking with other anthropology librarians.

This ALA, I also began my 2-year appointment as a member of the ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee. Each month a committee member answers a different question on cataloging issues (e.g. subject headings, name authorities, etc.) and policies, and a list of new LC subject headings in the social sciences is posted. For October, I will be writing on social tagging, their use, and whether they enhance searching in library catalogs. I am very excited to be on this committee as it is directly related to my primary work responsibility, cataloging, and that it will enhance my work and knowledge as the liaison to Wake’s anthropology department. My fellow committee members seemed excited that I am now a part of this committee as well.

RDA, Cataloging and Classification Research, Value of Grey Literature, and 21st Century Scholarly Communication were some of the other topical ALA sessions that I attended.

“Will RDA Kill MARC?” was the title of a panel discussion put together by ZSR’s Steve Kelley. Panel speakers Karen Coyle and Dianne Hill made some very philosophical and thought-provoking statements as to the benefits for catalogers and the library world to abandon MARC and embrace RDA.

Coyle stated, “RDA is a savior and an opportunity to save library data. We can’t redeem MARC, but we can rescue its content.” She pointed out that MARC contains mixed data, administrative (e.g. OCLC record number) and nonadministrative (e.g. bibliographic fields) and that the rules in MARC are not coordinated with cataloging rules. Some MARC data is in more that one place which demonstrates librarians’ ingenuity of getting around MARC’s inflexible structure by making nonreapeatable fields repeatable. The goal for library data should be data independent of its structure. We should be able to code once and display many times.

In regards to library data, Hill believes, “We need to stop trying to control it all!” We should let others do what they want to our data, but they will not be messing with the data’s integrity.

At the Cataloging and Classification Research Interest Group, UNC SILS professor Jane Greenberg discussed research blitzing as a way to share and motivate cataloging research. Her UNC SILS students meet together in a social setting and each gives a five minute presentation on their research. Afterwards, students are able to dialog with their peers about the research that is currently being conducted in the SILS program.

Because I give a lecture on grey literature in LIB210, I chose to attend the “Grey Literature in the Digital Age” session with speakers Richard Huffine, Director of the Libraries Program at the U.S. Geological Survey and Wayne Strickland of the National Technical Information Service, an agency of the Department of Commerce.

Grey Literature is information produced by government, academics, business, and industries, but it is not controlled by commercial publishing interests and publishing is not the primary activity of the organization.

Today findability is no longer the driving challenge, but reputation is the key. Is the info trustworthy, citable, peer reviewed? Is access persistent? The digital age has thrown the definition of “published” into chaos. Will what’s available today be here tomorrow? Examples of grey literature whose persistent access is questionable include: pre-prints, blogs, preliminary research results (open files), project web sites (schedules), IRs and data archives. Findability relies on cited references in journal articles, IRs, authors’ CVs, and good aggregators (of which there are few) seek it out.

Copyright of grey literature can be even more complex. Some creators want their materials used. Some sources are inherently in the public domain like materials from the U.S. federal government. If unknown, copyright should be assumed. Both authors and the organizations for whom they work can claim copyright of works. Creative Commons licenses are being used by some domains.

Grey Literature has its place, and it’s here to stay. It may not stand alone, but it can contribute substantially to understanding scientific challenges. Every source should be considered in the exploration of an issue. In some domains, the best source of information may be grey. Some grey literature goes through as stringent (or more) of a review as commercially published content. It’s value will always be a mixed bag, and there are risks involved in citing it. Libraries have to be involved in identifying and defining its value. Social tagging could be used to help people assess the validity of grey literature.

Mr. Huffine stated that HathiTrust is considering open membership. LC is a partner in the HathiTrust and is trying to get other federal agencies included. He said the USGS wants to get involved, but they also want to raise the quality of images, dpi, etc. as well. Many of their maps are multi-page foldouts and that line widths on maps are very important to geologists.

The final session I attended was a panel discussion on 21st century scholarly communication. One of the panelists discussed the role of subject liaison librarians in this area. She recommended “keeping your ear to the ground”–know your faculty, their interests and projects, tenure/promotion process at one’s university, open access policies of faculty’s professional associations and organizations. It is also important to know what one’s individual library is trying to accomplish in the area of scholarly communication. One continuing challenge pointed out by Marty Brennan of UCLA’s Copyright Office is convincing scholars that the virtue of OA publishing should outweigh their need to submit to the highest impact journal in their field. The last speaker was a grad student who talked about starting a transdisciplinary OA journal and the difficulties encountered in finding good reviewers and in receiving good scholarly paper submissions.

ALA in New Orleans was fabulous! Informative sessions, delicious food, and a great time exploring the city by bicycle and hanging out with colleagues.

Molly “Emerged” at ALA

Friday, July 1, 2011 5:05 pm

Much of my ALA experience in New Orleans can be summarized in a list of “firsts”:
- first time at an ALA Annual conference (Midwinter was my first ALA anything!);
- first time presenting at a poster presentation (which I did twice!);
- first time attending a full ACRL Scholarly Communications Committee meeting (long (4 hours) but fascinating);
- first time the ACRL Scholarly Communication 101 Road Show program presenters met in person (for a very productive day-long curriculum planning retreat);
- first time touching an alligator (just a baby one…);
- first time eating a beignet (YUM);
- first time in NOLA (amazing).
As I continue to be involved with ALA and ACRL, I know that many of these firsts will be followed by seconds, thirds and so on, but happily they all combined this year for an overwhelmingly positive conference experience!

The most important reason I attended this ALA (and no, it wasn’t food-related, Facebook photos notwithstanding) was to complete my participation in the Emerging Leaders (EL) program. On Friday, our EL class had a morning leadership training and assessment session, followed by a lunch and “graduation” ceremony, then concluded the program with our afternoon poster session. The posters were outcomes of our six months’ project work, and I thought that all 16 teams did a great job designing interesting, engaging posters. As you might expect, there were a lot of QR codes around (our team used one), as well as Mardi Gras beads, buttons and other goodies to entice people to visit teams’ posters and learn more about our projects.

My EL project team (Team L) was tasked this past winter and spring with completing a webinar series feasibility study for the ALA Learning Round Table (LearnRT) board, which is launching a new Webinar Learning Series later this year. We began our research by identifying many webinar and e-learning series currently and previously in place, and then selecting 16 to assess on a number of criteria that included cost, timing, theme, platform, and promotion. After analyzing the collected data, we contacted organizers of 10 webinar series asking them to complete a detailed webinar assessment survey. The aim of the survey was to gain insight into elements of webinar series production that are less easily quantified or not publicly available (e.g., best practices, planning timelines, number of registrants or attendees, etc.). From the data we gathered and from that provided by the survey respondents (50% response rate), we drafted a report for the LearnRT board that outlines best practices, issues and implications for success, and recommendations for the new webinar series. We submitted our report to the LearnRT board prior to ALA, and several board members came to our poster session to thank us in person for doing a great job. If interested, you can read our report at our team’s ALA Connect page (and certainly ask me questions!).

As mentioned above, the EL poster session was just one of two I co-presented at ALA, but both involved our EL project poster. On Sunday afternoon, we rolled out our poster again at the annual LearnRT training showcase. Although we had lots of traffic and interest at Friday’s EL poster session, including Lauren P. and Steve, the folks we chatted with on Sunday were a more targeted audience, asking in-depth questions about our research and findings. I was very glad that LearnRT invited us to participate in the showcase, and look forward to the launch of the Webinar Learning Series as an outgrowth of our EL work.

Much of the rest of my ALA was spent at various scholarly communication-related presentations and meetings. The Road Show planning retreat was held on Thursday, the day before the conference started, so by the time Saturday morning rolled around, I’d already had two full days of activities. I did not slow much over the weekend, but fortunately didn’t have to dash between the convention center and hotels too often. I attended sessions covering library-university press partnerships, the Berlin Declaration on Open Access and the Berlin9 conference (to be held in the US for the first time this fall), and two on how best to advance scholarly communication and open access conversations on campuses. I was *thrilled* to attend one session on these issues sponsored by someone other than SPARC, the ACRL SC Committee, or the ALCTS SC Interest Group: on Monday morning, the ACRL Women and Gender Studies Section organized a panel addressing “21st Century Scholarly Communication: Conversation for Change.” I was very impressed by one panelist who unabashedly owned the failure of an open access journal she launched as a graduate student, as I believe that success and failure must be acknowledged, as both provide learning opportunities.

I’ve returned from ALA where I “emerged” officially, ate too much phenomenal food and became smitten with NOLA, but most importantly with lots of interesting ideas bouncing around my brain, not the least of which are some programming ideas for Open Access Week in October. Stay tuned!

End of the Road

Friday, July 1, 2011 3:45 pm

My next session at ALA was titled, Making Information Literacy Instruction Meaningful through Creativity. A team of three speakers, Randy Hensley from Baruch College, City University of New York, Beth Woodard from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Dane Ward from Illinois State University took turns introducing elements which they felt impacted learning and facilitated creativity. A couple of their suggestions were:

Wonder – Try to engage the listener’s imagination. Randy Hensley advised to “start in an unusual place.” He illustrated this point by beginning this segment with a song (he CAN sing).

Empathy – Listen closely to who the listener is. It was suggested that teaching research should start with a class on Google because that’s what students use and then enhance the knowledge they already have.

Monday morning I attended, Copyright and Digital Media in a Web 2.0 World, with Dr. Rebecca Butler from Northern Illinois University. This session was packed with people looking for copyright guidance. Some of us sat on the floor and others stood. Dr. Butler suggested that copyright is the “convergence between law and ethics.” Her favorite phrase in answering copyright questions is, “it depends.” She talked about the vagaries of copyright law but used flow charts which were VERY helpful in mapping the options available for different scenarios. Dr. Butler answered many questions. Her insight and patience made for an appreciative audience. Her book, Copyright for Teachers and Librarians, is in our reference collection.

Monday afternoon I headed out with Susan, Mary Beth, Molly and Carolyn on the bike tour of New Orleans. Despite the thunder, lightning and rain, it was a great tour! Later that afternoon, Mary Beth and I headed home and again had the cooperation of the weather and automobiles until we got to North Carolina where we were greeted by a downpour. All in all it was a great adventure and a great conference.

New Orleans ALA, cont’d.

Thursday, June 30, 2011 4:27 pm

On Saturday I dropped in to see Susan take on the challenge of the Academic Librarian Lightning Round. She did a great job sharing the details of our Wake the Library 5K.

LR

Next, I attended an Ares Users Group meeting put on by Atlas Systems. The speaker was Genie Powell, the Chief Customer Officer for Atlas Systems. She highlighted some of the upcoming changes in Ares. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Ares, it is our new Course Reserves system. It’s up and running the summer semesters. Mary Reeves and I are looking forward to this fall and really putting this system to the test. Ares 4.0 (Currently Ares 3.0) will be rewritten to be more similar to its sister programs, ILLiad (Interlibrary Loan) and Aeon (for managing special collections). This will allow upgrades and add-ons to be implemented across all their products in the same manner. Another change will be the option to view a patron’s record in the web interface through the staff client. This will allow the Course Reserves staff to know what the patron is seeing and we’ll be better able to talk them through any problems they may have. Also, we had asked Atlas Systems about needing a notification when a faculty member changes a loan period or takes a book off Course Reserves. The new release of Ares will have that notification. It’s good to know they listened!

That evening Mary Beth and I attended an Ares Customer Appreciation Dinner at the Bourbon House restaurant. We had an excellent dinner and got to meet fellow Ares users as well as the Atlas Systems staff.

Sunday morning we attended the Alexander Street Customer Appreciation Breakfast and were privileged to hear Stanley Nelson speak about his latest movie, Freedom Riders. Even the 10 minute clip that was shown moved me close to tears. It’s being added to our film collection and is an important movie to see. Mr. Nelson credited his mother, a librarian, as having a great influence on his career.

Lauren C. at ALA Annual 2011, New Orleans

Thursday, June 30, 2011 12:35 pm

Like Lauren P., most of my hours in New Orleans were spent on responsibilities as an elected representative: Chair of Acquisitions Section (AS) in ALCTS.

I attended 2 programs organized by committees of AS on Saturday morning, had a quick Aramark lunch in the convention center, ran by the Serials Solutions booth to check with Mary Miller about finalizing a contract for the Summon discovery service, then spent the rest of the afternoon in the ALCTS Board meeting. Monday was very similar, right down to the fast Aramark lunch. Sunday was my big day though: I ran the AS Executive Committee meeting, pinch-hit on a panel discussion about print-on-demand after lunch, and that evening, handed a leadership award to Eleanor Cook and a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Knut Dorn.

About a week ago I was asked to substitute for librarians who had to pull out of the panel discussion, so I was prepared, but having never served on a panel outside of my own library, I was really nervous! It helped that there were only about a dozen people who attended. Also Lynn gave me good advice — to think of how calmly and slowly Dr. Ed Wilson speaks — which helped me even more for the awards ceremony, while reading the citation on the certificate for Dr. Dorn! I also announced ALCTS’ decision to rename the award to: HARRASSOWITZ Award for Leadership in Library Acquisitions, In honor of Dr. Knut Dorn, Senior Managing Partner. Dr. Dorn is retiring as the Senior Managing Partner and Director of Sales with HARRASSOWITZ, which has sponsored the award for about 15 years. I still cannot believe how smoothly my day went in spite of having to change location between each major event. I even found the earring I lost that morning in the bottom of my backpack when I got home. Good thing I didn’t throw its mate away!

I feel good about the accomplishments of the Acquisitions Section and the ALCTS division this past year. I’m happy that one particular issue will be seriously addressed in the coming year: I strongly believe that in this era, we should have one conference per year, and that governance shouldn’t be limited just to those who can afford to attend two conferences in person. Finding and implementing solutions is now in the ALCTS strategic plan and the incoming ALCTS President pledged to give her attention to this. The Board approved a strategic plan linked to ALA’s strategic plan. One major initiative of ALA’s plan is Transforming Libraries (see the picture of Lynn and the ACRL Excellence Award at a new portal, http://transforming.ala.org/ ). ALCTS’ linked strategic intitiative is Transforming Collections, with a task force to brainstorm actions. I hope Derrik forgives me that the Board extended the term of the task force, since I got him into that! In addition to strategic planning, my section caught up on getting our web pages updated, put several publications into the pipeline, participated in ALCTS 101, and held 2 well-attended programs and a successful pre-conference on patron-driven-acquisitions of e-books. Once I turn in my section’s annual report, I’ve finished my work on the ALCTS Board, but will still serve a year as Past-Chair for the Acquisitions Section.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I got from Paul Courant, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, who was the speaker for the ALCTS President’s Program:

Costs of storage:
$4.26 open stacks
$0.86 high density (but not as usable)
$0.22 HathiTrust average

Courant also said that we owe it to students and faculty to do what we do cheaper. He is an economist, and his presentation definitely connected with me, especially with my strong acquisitions focus at this conference. Another point he made that resonated with me is that we should learn to share ownership, going beyond the type of sharing that we’ve typically done via ILL. It made me feel good about our role in ASERL’s journal retention initiative, as a start.

New Orleans or Bust!

Thursday, June 30, 2011 11:32 am

ZSR’s version of Thelma and Louise headed out last Thursday for the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. The weather, the traffic, the car and the gas prices were all cooperative. Along the way we found interesting sights both large peachand small.turtle

We also stopped to dip Mary Beth’s toes in the Gulf of Mexico as they’d never been there before.

MB

We arrived just in time to attend the Opening General Session. (see Mary Beth‘s and Roz‘s posts for excellent coverage of this event)

We started the next day with beignets and coffee at Café Du Monde and then got down to business. I attended a session called ACRL 101 which provided tips for first time attendees to ALA as well as information for new members of ACRL. Suggestions for participation in ACRL were given in graduated order from those taking the least time to involvement that would require a greater commitment of time. They included reading the ACRLog, following ACRL on Twitter, attending an ACRL webcast, attending a workshop at ALA, and serving on a committee. During the session there was an ACRL representative seated at each table and later we were given the opportunity to introduce ourselves and ask questions. I was at a table with the president of ACRL, Lisa Hinchliffe, who had just recently visited ZSR to present the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award. I found the session helpful and have a better understanding of the scope of ACRL.

Next, I attended a Copyright Discussion Group sponsored by the ACRL. The discussion was led by Brandon Butler, Director of Public Policy Initiatives at the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The ARL is preparing a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. Mr. Butler reported that they will soon complete the first phase, interviewing librarians anonymously to determine, “how fair use comes into contact with practice.” He emphasized that the ARL does not seek publicity in this process and that the initial draft will not be made available for public scrutiny. The code will address fair use practices in areas such as ILL, electronic reserves, digital collections, and institutional repositories. Butler indicated that the Practices will be “affirmative”. The intent is to encourage librarians use their right to fair use and he stated that the Code’s “legal force comes from its use on the ground.” He said that there are some groups that want to “keep librarians in fear.” The ARL hopes to finish writing the Code of Best Practices by the end of 2011. It will be posted on the Center for Social Media website when it becomes available.

Susan’s ALA Annual Conference Report: Days 2-4

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 10:10 pm

This ALA Annual conference was a different experience for me. I am now on two LITA committees, Top Technology Trends and the 2012 LITA National Forum Planning Committee (which I am chairing). This means that much more of my conference time was scheduled to perform the duties this entails.

As a chair of a LITA committee, I found (thanks to Lauren P.) that I should attend a joint committee/IG chair meeting first thing Saturday morning. Because LITA holds its National Forum Conference annually, I also needed to attend, in addition to my planning committee, the one for this year’s conference so I can get up to speed on what’s planned for this year.

View Looking Down on the Crescent City Brewhouse Bar
View of the Crescent City Brewhouse Bar from Above

Much of the work for Top Technology Trends takes place throughout the year because it is a programming event that takes place at both Midwinter and Annual. Last year, we decided it would be a good idea to plan a social gathering with the committee and the “trendsters” so that they would be acquainted prior to coming to the podium the next day. My assignment was to find a restaurant to hold the “get acquainted” dinner and if you know me, you know I have “hostess anxiety.” This meant that I spend a long time finding a place that would be a good one: with New Orleans atmosphere but not priced in the stratosphere. I settled on the Crescent City Brewhouse which was reasonably priced, centrally located on the edge of the French Quarter and had a live jazz band! It turned out to be a nice networking evening. The actual event took place Sunday afternoon. We had a great venue this time with the session taking place in one of the main auditoriums. This time there were 5 trendsters, Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC; Clifford Lynch, CNI; Nina McHale, Univ of Colorado, Denver; Monique Sendze, Douglas Country (CO) Libraries; and Jennifer Wright, Free Library of Philadelphia. You might want to note that, for the first time, the female trendsters outnumbered the males. As Erik mentioned in his post, the trends included social reading, the death of the mouse, proximity marketing, “mashing down” print, and computational photography.

Top Technology Trends Panel

Top Technology Trends Panel at ALA Annual, New Orleans

This was the first time at ALA that I also had a presentation. I participated in the ULS/CLS Program with 9 other presenters. The format was a Pecha Kucha, a presentational framework where we had to do 20 slides for 15 (preprogrammed) seconds each for a total of a 5 minute talk. My topic was “From Department Director to Race Director.”

I have to admit that this was the most challenging presentation I have ever made. I am more of an ad-lib speaker. I like to make a broad outline and go from there, depending on what stories come to me in the moment and how the audience reacts. The Pecha Kucha format is very regimented. I had to know exactly what I wanted to say in the 15 seconds that each image projected. They even had a cow bell that they said they would ring if we went over. It was very intimidating, even for a seasoned pubic speaker. However, I survived and had positive feedback on my content.

I always enjoy attending the Alexander Street Press breakfast. This year, the speaker was Stanley Nelson, the award winning documentary filmmaker. HIs most recent film is Freedom Riders. After several minutes of audio technical snafus, he showed a ten-minute clip about the second wave of freedom riders. It was extremely moving. I was particularly drawn to the fact that he produced the documentary The Murder of Emmett Till. In both of my “south trip” experiences, the story of Emmett Till played a central part in starting to understand the complex issues of the black experience in the south.

Those of you who know me also know my belief in the importance of embracing the local culture of the places we go for conferences. This was not hard to do in a town like New Orleans. I’ve been there four times now, three of them post-Katrina. During our Monday French Quarter Neighborhood Bike Tour we learned that only 70% of the population from pre-Katrina is now there post-Katrina. The bike tour is an example of another belief I have about conferences. It is the perfect opportunity to make a different type of connection with your colleagues. Interacting with colleagues in a different setting is conducive to getting to know each other in a unique context. With 12 people attending ALA New Orleans from ZSR, there were plenty of chances to connect with each other in ways that resulted in higher understandings and appreciations of each other!

French Quarter Neighborhood Bike Tour

Excellent French Quarter Bicycle Tour

Evolution of an ALA Attendee

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 1:26 pm

My last ALA post was about programs and how I didn’t get to see too many, so this post is about the reason why and it’s the leadership post. (One more post to go!)

One of the neatest things about ALA is that it is a conference for anyone with any interest in libraries or information. There’s something there for everyone. You can go to learn, share, network, contribute to the work of the association, and/or participate in governance.

I started going to ALA because of an interest in the work of the association. I wanted to work on committees and productively contribute to what the organization does. And I really like that work. In fact, I wrapped up service on the LITA Web Coordinating Committee at this conference.

The Emerging Leader program, as well as conversations with people I think of as role models, helped me realize that I wanted to get more into the governance side of things, and that’s what most of this ALA was about for me. For example, first thing on Monday I was in a Council meeting until noon, then after a fast lunch, I was in a LITA Board meeting until 5:00. These are seriously long meetings. And at this conference I clocked about 11 hours of Council and 9 hours of LITA Board meetings in addition toauxiliaryCouncil and LITA activities. I can totally understand that’s not for everyone, but it really is something I enjoy and feel that is a good use of my energy. So here’s the rundown:

ALA Council

ala councilThis was my second conference as a Councilor-at-Large. This means that I do not represent a specific body on Council, but rather the people who voted for me. Since I campaigned on a platform about helping ALA adapt to future expectations, I feel I represent people especially concerned with keeping ALA relevant. This conference was ripe for discussion relevant to the constituency most interested in that platform. We discusses the Future Perfect Task Force, the Task Force on Equitable Access to Electronic Content report as well as a Council Effectiveness Task Force. Despite my shyness, this was my inaugural conference for saying something from the floor and I did it twice! My comments were along these lines:

People speaking against the Future Perfect report (notice the fun name… future perfect is “will have been”) seemed to be focused a lot about how we’ve done things in the past or how our current members might not like what it proposed. I suggested that though these comments might be true, this report might have ideas that would make us more appealing to those who have chosen not to join or those who in the future would not find the current model relevant to them.

My other comment was about communicating out. There was a suggestion in the Council Effectiveness report that suggested councilors communicate more with the membership about who they are and what they find important as well as find ways to listen to their constituency. Again, completely in line with the folks who voted for me based on my video or Twitter activities. Several people were saying they didn’t want to be so public or take the time to make videos and that people knew who they were and how to get in touch with them. I suggested that we hear from people who know how to find us but we don’t hear from the many that just think of ALA as a conference for programming with no idea about who is on council, why, or what we do. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the issues. I suggested we follow the recommendations so that people can learn more about how council works and what issues we are discussing. Anything you want to know? :)

So my first foray into speaking on the floor was basically two comments on the same theme, but I was compelled to speak to the issue twice since we kept coming to the same place.

ALA Council covered a lot of other ground as well: a resolution supporting a UN Report, a resolution to share all council documents via ALA Connect (the Facebook/Acad1/wiki/discussion list/etc of ALA), and others. I was really disappointed that I had to leave early. My flight was cancelled and the only way to get out on Tuesday was to switch airlines and leave several hours early. On the upside, after this conference I feel much more confident of my role and how to function as a councilor.

LITA Board

My LITA Board terms actually begins today, so I just attended LITA Board meetings as a guest at this conference. The main distinction I picked up was that whereas ALA Council focuses on governance and policy, LITA Board appears to be more about strategy and planning. For example, there is a Treasurer of ALA and a Budget Review Committee, so anything financial that comes before Council has been thoroughly vetted and has little discussion. LITA doesn’t have these bodies, so the Board spent much of its time on topics related to budget and membership. LITA’s been working on a strategic plan since I’ve gotten involved, so in addition we’re seeing the implementation of that now.

I also learned about different roles I’ll have to take on as a board member. I’ll have to give up my seat on a committee (makes sense, it allows for broader participation), but will have to take on liaising to a committee to share information from the Board. I joined a subcommittee of the Board charged with dealing with a few issues specific to the budget as well as how to generate more revenue. So at this point I’m ready to dive in!

I think the LITA work will be a nice thing to have in parallel to Council. In LITA, we’ll see concrete results of actions–and fast–where sometimes the work of Council–though meaningful–doesn’t have the same obvious high-impact to the membership.

If you think you’d like doing any of this type of work, and don’t mind learning a few procedural/cultural ways of having conversations (we use Sturgis, for example), I’d love to talk to anyone who thinks they might want to run for office. ALA tends to propose slates of candidates, but any member can run if they get enough signatures. Those candidates are not distinguished on the ballot from slate candidates, and many times they win!

And it’s not all work. We know how to have fun, too!

ala councilors at work

(cross posted to laurenpressley.com with a few modifications)


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