Thursday, January 13, 2011

ALAMW11 Debriefing

by EKO

I've returned from ALA Midwinter in San Diego.

First, San Diego is warm and colorful, a place where flowers bloom in January and seagulls are pretty much tame. It's not a good place for ADD-riddled librarians who come from snowy climates. Rather, it IS a good place for said librarians, just not good for focusing on indoor events. Amazingly, I managed a respectable balance between attending committee meetings, going to hear authors, and playing outdoors in the sunshine.

Next, here's what I got from the conference:

January 7, 2011

OCLC Symposium: Transformational Literacy
Speaker: Dr. Mimi Ito
Panelists: Michael Stephens, Joanie Chavis, Jamie LaRue

I suppose I must come to terms with the fact I have become the one thing I never wanted to be, the thing I despise and view with contempt: I am a suck-up. I don't know how it happened, but there I was watching the director of my library speak on a panel. Well, that part wasn't suck-uppy - it was the part where I went into the room and sat behind him and started monopolizing his time. That was the suck-uppy part. I need to be ashamed of myself! Sheesh.

Michael Stephens was the show's MC, as it were. He started us out with a cute video about growing up. Then he introduced Dr. Mimi Ito, cultural anthropologist.

Dr. Ito quipped, early on, "Google is not making us stupid. I think we have ourselves to blame for that." She then used Pokemon to illustrate complexity and community among children, noting that the first Pokemon kids - those kids who grew up playing and understanding Pokemon - are beginning to graduate and enter the workforce.

Social media is an important aspect of our day-to-day lives and teaching children to use information via old school methods (literally) won't cut it anymore. We can incorporate 2.0 learning tools into our arsenal, giving kids who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to blossom in the tech environment the resources to do so. Regurgitation of information is not the only way to learn; we have so many other ways to make connections and synthesize the world around us - why not offer more tools to let more people explore these new paths to knowledge? The old idea that kids are too dumb to understand complex relationships was proven wrong with Pokemon, after all, so let's engage them!

Following Dr. Ito was a panel to field questions from the audience. Dr. Ito had referenced Pokemon in her presentation. Jamie LaRue mentioned capturing new library users. Joanie Chavis talked about the myriad of users who need the library. My takeaway? "Gotta catch 'em all"

Websites of interest:

Peer to Peer University
American University Center for Social Media's Codes of Best Practices for Fair Use in Online Video
Remix world

January 8, 2011

Sunrise speaker: Kathy Reichs

Honestly, I didn't really know or care much about Kathy Reichs prior to listening to her presentation (I'm banking on the fact she's too busy to be looking for her name in blogs, thus will not read that sentence). As fate would have it, personal budget constraints recently mandated I discontinue the use of Netflix at home. Internet service will follow shortly. Thus, it has become important to find movies and television shows on DVD at the library so that I have some form of affordable entertainment for my family. My most recent "find" happened to be season one of "Bones", which my household had just started watching a week before the conference. The television series, in turn, made me want to get up early and walk over to the convention center to find out what Kathy Reichs is all about.

Turns out, she's all about being a pretty cool person.

She's a forensic anthropologist (she explains her job HERE) and uses her experiences to craft the stories in her Temperance Brennan books. These books were the inspiration for the television show "Bones". (She views TV-Tempe as the young version of book-Tempe and hopes the two do not become too disparate) She is also working on the young adult series Virals, starring Temperance's grand-niece, Tory. They'll be exploring the relationship between Tory and Pirate queen Anne Bonny, whose mother's family name is Brennan, in the upcoming installment.

In addition to discussing her literary and television work, she gave us a quick rundown of what she does using slides from some of her university lectures. Because I had originally planned to become an archaeologist, I found this part of her presentation incredibly fascinating. She showcased bones (no surprise there) and an overdose victim, telling us that while she cannot show the more gruesome of her slides, she always gets complaints when she doesn't include at least one. She also ended her slideshow with a picture of her pride and joy.

The coolest part? The nifty backlit, Lucite bone-drawers in the TV show? Complete lies. BUT! 3-D holographic reconstruction does exist. She doesn't have it in her lab, but it does exist. Oh, and "Witch in the Wardrobe" is her episode; she wrote it.

Mostly, though, she's an entertaining speaker - funny, well-spoken, and has interesting topics to discuss. I enjoyed listening to her immensely. And she was nice enough to not punch me in the face when I accosted her (almost on accident!) later as she was leaving!

Websites of Interest:

Potcake Foundation

OCLC: Perceptions of Libraries 2010: Context and Community
Presenter: Cathy de Rosa

It's the sneak peek at the upcoming OCLC report, which we've all been waiting for, especially since the 2007 report took LibraryLand by storm and made many of us reinvent ourselves to some degree.

The gist is that library perception is up, library use is up (except for reference and research services. They're still used, but their use is going down instead of up) and there's a change in digital attitudes going on. Texting is super-common among pretty much everyone. First-time library users are using the library in more ways than regular users and many Americans consider themselves readers and decent judges of trustworthy information.

The takeaway: Be there.
People want their libraries and not just in the physical spaces.

Of course, this made me wonder: if libraries need to be more available both physically and in the online universe, why aren't librarians empowered to be librarians online as well as in their outside-the-job lives? Why aren't they being taught to be an expert during their daily living? I know many of us use our mad librarian skillz on Facebook or Twitter or in Second Life or wherever we lurk online, but why aren't we all being trained and encouraged to do this? It seems to me an army of information-gathering, knowledgeable librarians doing their librarian thing everywhere they go can't hurt, right?

I'm looking forward to reading the full report. Also, Cathy de Rosa is awfully nice.

And now, a message to Mister Man who was all up in arms about Google not being good enough for librarians to use, as well as Non-Librarian Guy who supported Mister Man who was up in arms: Librarians are not elite members of society. I know there are many people, librarians especially, who will argue this point, but it is true. We're not made of gold. We're just better at finding information than the average person because we've been taught how to search. Using Google as a finding aid is perfectly acceptable and, no, patrons are not going to think less of us. In fact, if they're the type of patron who likes to pay attention so they can figure it out themselves next time, they'll watch and learn and get some good searching tips. Starting a search in Google, rather than in the databases, does not make you look bad at all. In fact, Google can search your databases for you and get the job done that much more quickly. It is your job to know how to use information sources - as many as you can possibly wrap your head around - and Google is an information source. So, please, Mister Man. Stop thinking you're so great and that you have a pristine image to uphold. You are just another person, one who is supposed to help people get to information. Use Google if it gets you there.

January 9, 2011

An Afternoon with Neil Gaiman and Nancy Pearl.

Alright. I'll fess up. There were two other meetings I had slated for myself to attend in the 1:30-3:30 timeframe. But by this point, I had been in enough meetings to know that "MARC is dead" and RDA is taking its own sweet time and everything else that was said in the committees. I should have gone to one of the ALCTS things or the LLAMA thing I had scheduled, but...I really like Neil Gaiman. So I went there, instead. And I am glad I did!

A small backstory: I had been talking to an Academic reference librarian friend the night before. We'd been gushing about our favorite Neil Gaiman stories. She mentioned that she listens to him read most of his stories and I admitted the same. She said it makes her feel like she knows him personally because she's so used to hearing his voice. I admitted the same.
And it's true - the minute I heard his voice, I felt like I was listening to someone I've known for years. He just has that ability to be delightful and personable.

Back to the current story: So Nancy Pearl and Neil Gaiman walk out and sit down in the comfy chairs on stage. Nancy asks Neil about the origin of The Graveyard Book and it went from there.
My favorite NG quotes:
On the "glorious tragedy" of parenthood: "If you do your job right, they go away!"
On the (non)power of books: "A infinite potential."
On his childhood library closing at 6:30 pm: "I felt that was pretty bad form of them."
And that his favorite writers are the ones who make him forget he's a writer, the ones who make him into a reader again.

He says there's another American Gods novel coming out, but it's not really started, yet, so there's no pub date. There's a title, but he can't share it because it could get swipered. There is, he assures us, an author, though.
For "Dr. Who" fans: he did episode 3 of the upcoming season/series. So be on the look-out.

End of Conference

By the time I got home, I realized the message I kept hearing over and over and over was that libraries are changing - everything about them! - but that people want them there and we need to provide that access in as many ways as possible - through buildings and books, through social networking and e-resources, through redefinined data sets and web presences.
It's time to get into the sandbox and figure out what we can do.

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