I had a great time in Monterey at Internet Librarian this year, but boy, there sure were some aspects that I found frustrating and infuriating.
Let’s start with the internet access. Why am I blogging about the conference after the fact? Because I wasn’t able to access the free wifi at the conference, not once. Other attendees told me they also had a lot of trouble using the wifi. Apparently, the wifi couldn’t handle so many conference attendees using it at the same time. But I did see people online, and I could never get the wifi to work for me. Could it be because I was using an Ubuntu Linux-driven laptop? Maybe. But at an “Internet Librarian” conference, that shouldn’t be a reason. (Also, I was using my Ubuntu laptop last year and was able to use the conference wifi, as erratic a signal as it was.) Because I rely on my laptop to keep me connected, I missed a lot of opportunities for spontaneous socializing and conferencing; I couldn’t use Twitter, I couldn’t IM, I couldn’t keep up with other people’s blogs. The only internet access I could get around the conference area was in my hotel room (hi-speed cable access, for $10 a day), which was far from convenient and far from immediate. Frankly, I’m appalled at the internet access problems at a conference called “Internet Librarian.” It’s as if the conference organizers don’t take the name and focus of the conference seriously.
This flows nicely into my next point of frustration. Let me first say that I don’t want to harsh on the work the presenters put into their presentations. Some of the presenters are friends of mine, and all of the presenters I saw did at least a good job of presenting at a conference (and some did a great job). But…at a conference called Internet Librarian, I was surprised and frustrated at how many of the presentations were lectures based around offline Powerpoint slides. I’ve seen videos of TED presentations, and compared to that, Internet Librarian generally looks like Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs. I appreciate that the library profession as a whole isn’t rolling in money like Scrooge McDuck, but as many of the presentations I attended pointed out, even on a shoestring budget, you can make dynamic, networked presentations. If I’m attending a conference called Internet Librarian, I don’t just want to talk about the internet, as if the internet were Shangri-La, I want the conference to be a part of the internet, a part of our everyday librarian lives.
So, while I had a great time and would go back to Monterey in a heartbeat to interact with these dynamic, inspirational librarians, I’m seriously on the fence about attending the conference again until Internet Librarian really starts living up to its name.