Hacking the Dominant Paradigm

Here’s an assumption of mine: the majority of library professionals expect that continuing education and professional development in the field will be done through formal classes, seminars, and conferences–which cost someone (the library professional or their place of employment) money and require face-to-face, in-person attendance.

Technology and society being what they are, this isn’t as necessary as I think our profession makes it out to be. I’ve blogged before about how important I think DIY library education and development is. So, I’m seriously, monumentally impressed with the announcement of the LITA BIGWIG Social Software Showcase, a non-conference to be held during ALA’s big damn annual conference. This is exactly the kind of inventive, daredevil, democratic thing I want to (and expect to) see more of. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s a group of smart people using available technology to throw together their own educational program. Fantastic! (Note: yes, I’m mentioned in at least one of the Social Software Showcase presentations. No, that’s not why I think it’s brilliant, although I’m tickled all kinds of colors that my name is there.)

And just as I (and everyone else) was so impressed with Helene Blowers’ Learning 2.0 program, I’m equally impressed with her Learning 2.1. This is a great thing.

The free sharing of information and development is embedded in the core philosophy of libraries, so it gladdens my heart and fires my brain to see us doing more of this with each other. You really can’t stop the signal.

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DIY

On the mean streets of the ALA Techsource Blog, Tom Peters has written a spiffy post on mashups. And while I think mashups are heppy and swell, I don’t want to talk about mashups right now. I want to stump some more on the librarian community.

Talking about the MashupCamp conference, Tom writes something very profound about librarian conferences in general:

It may be time for our profession to seriously reconsider the value of the traditional conference, where a conference planning committee asks for conference proposals twelve to eighteen months in advance of the conference. How can library and information conferences–gatherings, happenings, bashes, mashupcamps–better aid and abet quality growth in the library and information science ecosystem? I feel the urge to utter a manifesto coming on:

* A conference should try to actually foster and facilitate the discipline, movement, or ecosystem it represents.
* It should be as inclusive of that community as possible. Do everything you can to get the rank and file members, as well as the leaders, of your ecosystem to attend.
* Let the registrants and attendees help decide on the content and speakers.
* Consider a combo conference, where people can attend in-person or online.
* Record the conference events, and make them available via the Web.
* Mama, don’t let your conferences grow up to be cash cows.

Meredith Farkas and ALA president-in-the-future Leslie Burger are blogging more questions about what ALA can do to change and be a more effective and grabby organization. Which is great, and as an ALA greenhorn, it’s a conversation I’m personally very interested in participating in. But reading Tom’s post, a thought about librarian communities shot through my head like a gulp of whiskey: what if we librarians started putting on our own conferences? What if we got together, sent out invitations, found somewhere we could all get together cheaply, asked each other what we wanted to have sessions about, maybe started a blog or wiki just for the makeshift conference, planned everything out democratically, and…just…threw our own conference? ALA, ShmayLA! The internet lets us interact pretty easily and democratically, networking, sharing information–why do we need organizations like ALA or PLA or the Kansas Library Association to put on conferences? What’s stopping us from doing this ourselves?

I’ve got a trunk of old costumes out in the barn. Let’s put on a show!