Q and A

The past two days found me at Planet Comicon. I had a great time and I’ll be writing about the entire convention on Comics Forge. But right now, I want to talk about this:

I find I’m just as frustrated with panels at conventions as I am with sessions at professional library conferences. The format of “presenters talk about a subject, the audience asks questions, the presenters answer the questions” is too much like the kind of schooling I don’t like (or get much out of). I don’t want to be lectured to, and it’s rare for my thoughts to be easily focused into one simple question. I don’t want to ask a question for the presenters to answer, I want to have a real conversation with the presenters, with questions and musings and anecdotes and data exchanged by everyone.

Or, as Jane Wiedlin talked about at last year’s Planet Comicon, I want everyone in the room to play Truth or Dare.

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The Great Comics Caper

As I said on Twitter, the two bad things about driving 3 hours to Wichita for the KLA annual conference is: 1) it’s a 3-hour drive, and 2) you end up in Wichita. The good things, though, are very good. I got to hang out with some of my library friends, I got to see my pal Bobbi Newman give an excellent presentation on transliteracy, and I got to be part of a panel discussion/presentation on comics and graphic novels with my friend Royce Kitts and Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, the two guys who do the online comic strip Unshelved.

If you read Unshelved, you’ll have the impression that Gene and Bill are very smart, very funny and very cool. In fact, they’re even smarter and funnier and cooler in person. I liked them immediately. They know more about the history of comics than I do (which, all modesty aside, is saying something), they’re quick and wickedly sarcastic. We all had a lot of fun on the panel. I’m just sorry I couldn’t stick around in Wichita (really) to see Hot Tub Time Machine with them.

The defining moment of the panel (and the conference, really) for me was while Bill was talking about the history of comics, Gene suddenly got a look of inspiration on his face and quickly scribbled something down in his notebook. He then slid the notebook over to me, grinned at me, and pointed to what he wrote: “I don’t believe a word he’s saying.” It was all I could do to not bust out laughing.

Impractical, Unfeasible, Unfundable Ideas for Libraries

Yesterday, I drove to Wichita to present at the Kansas Library Association/Mountain Plains Library Association conference on “Impractical, Unfeasible, Unfundable Ideas for Libraries.” This was a presentation based on one of the best sessions of Library Camp of the West that I participated in. I expanded the premise a bit to be: in these times of economic uncertainty and hardship, now is not the time to give in to despair or to play it safe. Libraries should be daring, bold, willing to dream big, take risks and make mistakes. Rather than stand up and babble for the entire session, with Powerpoint slides to illustrate my blather, I threw out some wild ideas I would like to see in libraries and then solicited ideas from the attendees. Which was easy, because librarians are full of wild ideas they’d like to see.

Here are the major ideas we came up with:

Libraries stop rolling over for vendors

* For ILS vendors, aren’t libraries their only customer base? They should roll over for us!
* What about database vendors? Why don’t they give us more of what we want? (And what DO we want?)?

Libraries go completely open source

* Open source software isn’t always an easy solution or an easy change
* But the ideals of OSS match librarian ideals
* Going open source could push more librarians to be computer problem-solvers

Bill Gates gives computers, software & money to libraries…

* Why not other companies, like FedEx & UPS?
* Why not other entrepreneurs who may share library values? Like Mark Shuttleworth, the sponsor of Ubuntu Linux.

Librarian travel by pneumatic tube to wherever they’re needed!

Databases controlling the space.

Hybrid engines for library vehicles! Or biodeisel engines from Willy Nelson.

Partner with Meals on Wheels.

Choose something in the catalog & the item starts blinking. Spot where item goes blinks when it needs to be reshelved.

Staff-driven climate control.

Like Loews–patrons push a button & “Help wanted!” would sound out, alerting librarians.

Abolish the reference desk! Reference staff should walk around the library, not sit at a desk.

Everything with a number & up to date.

Magic button that reorganizes furniture and puts it back where it belongs after patrons move it.

Streamlined ILL!

Librarians out of the library! Have librarians on cruise ships! in coffee shops!

Technology that decodes “I want the book with the blue cover” question patrons often have.

Flashing neon signs to direct people to restrooms.

Creating added entries in MARC records for “red book” & “blue book”–tagging items in catalog–browsing by cover.

On http://www.etsy.com, you can browse by color. Why not in library catalogs?

Abolish the Dewey Decimal System!

Culture shift to play with things that might not work.

Combine libraries with laundromats & the DMV.

Bars in libraries!

Check out an audiobook at one Kansas library & return it to any other Kansas library.

Nationwide library cards. (Or just get rid of library cards.)

Anything marked as library materials goes through the mail for free.

Heather Braum of NEKLS was one of the attendees who also tweeted during the session.  She posted great notes and got some interesting responses.

What wild, crazy, dreamy ideas do you have for libraries? And how can we make these ideas a reality?

EDIT: The notes from the LCOW session have great ideas, too.

This One Time, at Library Camp…

Yesterday was the second Library Camp Kansas. We had a slightly smaller turnout than we did last year, but everyone was just as enthusiastic and engaged, and we tweaked the format a little–for the better. And while we had attendees from out of state, just as we did last year, we also had an international attendee: my Australian friend Kathryn Greenhill, who is ferociously smart and adorably energetic.

Last year, we had three breakout session, one of them being lunch. This year, we left lunch as just lunch, and had one breakout session before lunch and two sessions after. Before the first breakout session, we had a session of “lightning talks,” where attendees could come up and talk, in 5 minutes or less, about a particular computer app or website that they really liked. The lightning talks proved to be a great icebreaker, a great way to get people talking and sharing. People liked them so much, they said they want two sessions of lightning talks next year.

The breakout sessions I attended were really good. The conversations could have gone on and on. A lot of different perspectives were shared, and I learned a lot. There was one session I was supposed to moderate, but nobody showed up for it. My feelings weren’t hurt at all, though. I spent the time chatting with my pal Bobbi Newman.

Once again, I came away feeling that I get more out of unconferences than I do from formal conferences. (Although I didn’t get an ugly totebag. Is that better or worse? You make the call.) I’m really looking forward to next year’s Library Camp Kansas.

The Return of Library Camp

In just a little over a month, the second Library Camp Kansas unconference will take place. Last year’s was such a success, I’m really looking forward to this year’s unconference.

It’s going to be in Manhattan again (that’s Kansas, not New York, dig?) at the Hale Library. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s educational. So, if you’re a library employee in Kansas (or heck, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado or Oklahoma, if you can drag yourself here), sign up and come join us for loosely-structured learning! What are you waiting for, an invitation? Oh, OK, fine.

Back in the JoCo, KS

The drive to and from Denver was long, but not as boring as I thought it would be. Western Kansas is flat as all get out, but it’s still beautiful to drive through. Denver itself is, from what I saw, a beautiful, vibrant city. The unconference was brilliant, and I’ve written about it on the LSW blog.

I had a great time hanging out with my library pals, but it’s good to be home.