Thanks to all the Conference organizers, presenters, and participants for another great ACRL National Conference. My main goals were to learn and have fun. Here’s a few of my impressions.
1. Social computing dominated. Anywhere you turned folks were talking about blogging, wikis, tagging, RSS feeds etc. Many conference attendees seemed to reach their saturation point on this about midway through the conference. PennTags stood out as a well-thought out use of tagging within the catalog. Keep your eye on how this project progresses and if other libraries copy it.
2. Wikipedia may be putting the final stake through the heart of print reference books. In a panel session on Wikipedia, videotaped interviews with faculty, students, and librarians were presented. One question asked “which do you prefer, Wikipedia or a traditional encyclopedia?” A very consistent answer from the faculty and students was that they can’t even remember the last time they used a traditional encyclopedia. I’m not sure if they were thinking of Britannica in particular here, but I doubt many of these people would ever think to use a specialized encyclopedia unless directed to one by a librarian. This may be the final push for reference book publishers to switch to an e-book model and for librarians to purchase access to them. Immediately after the session I visited Who’s Who and ABC-Clio to look at their digital reference products.
3. Play well with others. Besides social computing, there were many sessions were about how to get along with colleagues. All the new ideas in the world don’t mean anything if you can’t implement them because no one talks to each other where you work. One workshop promoted the idea of group drumming to get people to work together. Another talked about emotional toxicity and the importance of toxin handlers–people who are good at dealing with difficult people.
4. Academic librarians are innovators. Elbowing your way through the poster sessions would disabuse anyone of the idea that academic librarians are not innovative. Besides feeling smushed, my main emotions when looking at the posters were pride for my profession and guilt for not implementing some of these things myself. Ooh I should be doing that. And that. And that. Don’t these people have spam to delete and meetings to go to?
5. The torch has been passed? I don’t know if this is true, but I got the feeling that there’s an entire new cohort of academic librarians who are re-energizing the profession. Not only are they new, they are bringing a new librarian personality. One talk I went to claimed that the Myers Briggs profile of librarians has changed from ISTJ (order, facts, efficiency) to INTJ (designing systems, changing the status quo). (Yeah, I’m suspicious too–how does one letter change that much?)
6. Some librarians need work on their social skills. C’mon people, this is a conference. Part of the point is to talk to other people and network. Buses, lines, conference receptions are all great places to spark up conversations with semi-strangers and learn something new. You can’t talk to anyone, however, if your head is buried in a paperback or if you are listening to your ipod.
7. Charm City lived up to its name. Everyone loved Baltimore and John Waters.