Ah, good ol’ Kansas! It’s cold, gray and rainy, just like October should be. The perfect weather to reflect upon my first professional, out of state, big-time conference.
Not counting the keynote speech from J.A. Jance (which was interesting, funny and surreal), I started the conference off listening to Paul Miller from Talis talk about Library 2.0. This was one of the best sessions I went to. Not only does Paul have a great sense of humor (or “humour” as he would no doubt spell it), his talk got me absolutely feverish with ideas about where libraries could go and where they should go. Paul inspired me right out of the gate, and I’m still inspired.
Sarah Houghton-Jan‘s session on reaching patrons online was another one of the best. She gave 20 free, easy ways for libraries to reach out to patrons online. (She also gave a caveat: if you do this, you’ll be reaching out to more than just your local patrons; you’ll be reaching out to the world. If you don’t want everyone’s patrons becoming your patrons, don’t reach out online.) Solid, practical tips that I could take back to my library.
Steven M. Cohen gave a funny and informative presentation, perfect for the last afternoon of the conference (when everyone was getting tired and brain-numb…or maybe that was just me): “What’s Hot and New With Social Software.” Steven sauntered through a list of social software tools, from A-Z. Sadly, I didn’t win one of the Starbucks cards he was handing out as prizes (for guessing what social software tool he was going to talk about next). But I did learn about some websites and Firefox extensions I wasn’t all that familiar with before.
Michael Porter and Michael Sauers presented on “Flickr and Libraries” and gave an entertaining, informative and eye-opening session. I was astounded and awed to learn about PictureAustralia: the National Library of Australia is using Flickr (mashing it up with Dublin Core) to create a massive collection of pictures of Australia. (And I just learned this morning that Michael Sauers has been offered real money for one of his pictures on Flickr!)
Other really good sessions I attended: “Web-Based Experience Planning: Creating User-Centered Experience” with David Lee King, “Cultivating Tech-Savvy Library Staff: Competencies & Tips” with David King and Sarah Houghton-Jan, “MySpace & Facebook” with Aaron Schmidt and Cliff Landis, “Podcasting & Videocasting” with Greg Schwartz, Sean Cordes, Jeff Humphrey, David Free and David King, “Wikis for Libraries” with Nicole Engard, Darren Chase, Marianne Kruppa and Chad Boeninger, and “Blogging Update: Applications & Tips” with Walter Nelson, Karen Coombs and Aaron Schmidt.
There were really only two sessions that I didn’t get much out of. The session of the Second Life Library was interesting (and hilarious when Lori Bell repeatedly brought up “sex and gambling in Second Life,” and fellow panelist Michael Sauers banged his head on the table each time she did), but there wasn’t much information I can put to use in my career. (I was really excited to get involved with the Second Life Library when it was first getting set up, but I have enough going on in my first life that I just don’t have time to commit to Second Life.) The session on “Bottom-Up Web Redesign” was interesting (and we got candy!), but it was entirely focused on academic libraries, and there wasn’t as much useful content as I was hoping for (although I like the idea of “affinity mapping,” where you get staff and patrons to make a visual map of the subjects and categories they think should be on a website).
Overall, it was a great conference to attend and a great experience. I finally got to hang out with people I’ve previously only admired (and talked with) from afar.
And what general ideas have I come away with?
All library users are becoming increasingly wired, and libraries need to reach out to where the users are. We should push the library everywhere, engage people with real (and potential) services, get information to the users (not get users to the information). We should promote the library as an experience that users want to have. And we need to empower both library staff and library users. Now, I knew all of this before I went to IL, but it’s good to get hot under the collar about it all over again, with some practical ways to implement it to boot. This was time and money well-spent, and I really really hope I get to go again next year.