Internet Librarian 2007: More Stuff

I thought I was done talking about this year’s Internet Librarian, but then Meredith Farkas (who I didn’t get to hang out with nearly as much as I would’ve liked to) blogged about it, and I feel the need to comment on some things she’s said.

I really do enjoy Internet Librarian, but so much of the material covered in the conference is a review for me. While I always get some insights and inspiration from the sessions, I find that I get the most value from the conversations that take place before and after the sessions.

I feel the same way. I learned about some new software apps at IL this year, but I didn’t leave feeling we’re on the cusp on much newness. It felt more like people were hammering away on the Library 2.0 basics. Which is fine, but I think I’m ready for the more advanced courses now. But between sessions, I spent a lot of time talking with my coworkers and with other conference attendees, and those conversations really felt like something special to me. (Much like when I was an undergrad, when what I talked about with my fellow students outside the classroom was generally far more inspiring and educational than what was covered in the classroom.) (Come to think of it, grad school was mostly like that, too.)

I come back to work with a recognition that I’m not alone in this, that there is a huge network of other librarians struggling to create better subject guides, better information literacy tutorials, better communication tools. The reality though is that we shouldn’t need a conference to share that information.

Yes! And this is something I’m hoping to present on at some point. Conferences are expensive to go to, and not all librarians can take the time to attend them. The internet gives us the ability to network and engage in professional development 24/7. Does this make professional conferences obsolete, at least in some ways? I don’t know, but I believe it bears further thought.

It stands to reason that if the discussions are the best part of the conference for some people, then perhaps more of the conference should be dedicated to those informal conversations. Interested in subject guides? Get a group together to discuss that. Interested in Facebook and MySpace? Form a group to talk about that. People can submit what they would like to discuss and other people can sign up if they’re interested in talking about that. The person who proposed it isn’t the speaker or even the facilitator; it’s just a free and open discussion. Everyone is simultaneously the teacher and the learner.

This is one of the niftiest things I’ve read in a while. I’m all for looser, more free flowing conferences and gatherings.

I also would love to see conferences designed for those of us for whom Internet Librarian is a review and Code4Lib is way over our heads.

Oh boy, yes! Like I said, I’m reading for the more advanced courses. I’ve had enough theory for now. I don’t want to study blueprints, I want to start building gadgets and gizmos.

I have more to say about this, about conferences in general, but not tonight. Let me sleep on it, and I’ll get back to you later.

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5 thoughts on “Internet Librarian 2007: More Stuff

  1. I’m right there with you!

    Like I mentioned in a previous comment, I would love to see conferences offering more in terms of “classes” where those of us ready to move on can pick up some of the basics of actual applications and software. I’d especially like to see more on the different content management systems, or maybe something on creating widgets, enhancing your OPAC, and what-have-you.

    I’m all for doing this kind of thing online as well. My library does not particularly care about professional development, and provides little money for it….

  2. Just before LibraryCamp NYC, i posted briefly about my frustration with conferences and endless L2.0 cheerleading without the nuts and bolts.

    Meredith’s right on- between IL/CiL and Code4Lib. LibraryCamps have the potential to be that but run the risk of being too open-ended. Folks have talked about camp sessions that end up being dominated by people who are new to some of the technology and need hand holding. Which is fine, but can be frustrating for folks who were hoping to have a more tech-oriented conference.

    Online meetings might work, but face some of the same time difficulties that real-life conferences do. Also, I worry that there’s a cool kid component to it. Twitter is great for a lot of that networking, feeling like you’re not alone stuff, but it’s a little cliquey.

    Of course, the group that wants something more than IL/CiL/Typical Library Tech Conferences isn’t exactly a huge group. It doesn’t have to be a tent for everyone, I suppose.

  3. You said, “The internet gives us the ability to network and engage in professional development 24/7. Does this make professional conferences obsolete, at least in some ways?” and I’m going to have to agree with you – tentatively. The Internet is an amazing networking tool – but there is nothing quite like the “accidental” run-ins at a real-world conference. On the ‘net, I can filter and choose who I pay attention to, at a conference, however, it’s pretty much whoever I happen to sit next to. That’s the sort of randomness that is hard to achieve on the ‘net. On that note – it was great seeing you at IL this year!

  4. Robin, that’s an excellent point. Serendipity is an important part of the networking experience.

    And it was good to see you at IL, too.

  5. Meredith’s comments are what I think after every SLA conference. The sessions are good, but the networking — and informal conversations — are more important. The conference seems to be the excuse to get us together so we can talk, exchange ideas, etc. The conference legitimizes the expense of coming together face-to-face so we gather in hallways and over coffee, and solve whatever problems are before us.

    We’re going to do an unconference here in Syracuse in March. I think it will be interesting to see if those who attend (as well as the planners) can elevate it above the basics and get into the real “building” for the future. Do we have to meet? Couldn’t we do this virtually? Virtual doesn’t work for everyone and there is something to be said about the face-to-face conversations. However, maybe our time together at the unconference will help us continue the conversations online.

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