ACRL is down to its last few hours of activity. As usual it’s been a whirlwind experience. I finally did discover the link to the ACRL Conference blog. Take a look to read more about the conference and the presentations.
I can’t quite put my finger on it but the conference definitely has a different vibe this time. There are many new faces. Approximately one-third of the people here are first-time attendees. I’m hesitant to say this has added a younger demographic to the conference because some of the first-timers I’ve met are more traditional midlife career changers who are new to the profession. And while I don’t have the demographics I’m betting that the median age of the conference population is way down. Perhaps it is best to simply say this might be a watershed conference for academic librarianship because it brings with it the emergence of academic librarianship’s next generation.
In addition to the conference blog I’ve been taking a look at Twitter activity from the attendees – not all first-timers to be sure – but this is definitely one example of how the next generation is experiencing the conference and bringing a new dimension to the proceedings. Just looking at the stream of comments during the events you can get a picture of which programs are attracting the Twitter crowd. For example, in the 4:00 pm Saturday slot you can see there was lots of ongoing discussion about the paper presentations on LibGuides and student use of web 2.0 tools. What about the other programs in that time slot? Nothing.
I was chatting with a new-to-the-profession first timer, and asking how she liked the conference so far. It was clear that the new generation has little patience for speakers who simply throw up slides and talk for 20 or 30 minutes without paying attention to the audience. They want interactivity. They want to be a part of the program, and they want it to be a conversation not a lecture. That’s why they create their own conversation on Twitter. Is this a good thing for the conference? I don’t know.
To its credit ACRL continues to look for new ways to keep the conference timely, vibrant and relevant to its members – and the Cyber Zed Shed, the Virtual Conference and a conference hashtag for Twitter are all good signs. But the Philly 2011 planners have a real challenge ahead of them, and I hope they will pay attention to what’s transpired here in Seattle. It’s clear that ACRL needs to acknowledge the new generation, and give thought to how this conference needs to change to accommodate new academic librarians, new ideas, and new ways of communicating and learning. The winds of change demand a new ACRL Conference experience.