Post ALA Reflection

I thought I had done a good job researching what to expect and do for a huge conference like ALA, but it did not prepare me for the reality. I had a wonderful time, meeting people and learning a few things at some of the sessions. I found that I did not make it all the sessions I had planned so carefully. One day, I only went to one because I was so exhausted, I didn’t have the brain power. Next time, I know that I need to schedule breaks in between to eat and rest; otherwise I would spend the day starving. Conference food is way overpriced and I am a broke grad student so I’m glad I at least brought snack bars with me.

I also realized that it was hard to tell what sessions would be crowded and what ones wouldn’t be. The session I wanted to attend the most was so packed, people were sitting out in the hallway and there was no way I would get in to hear what was going on. That made me realize I needed to be flexible in my plans. I also felt like I wasn’t very successful in actually going to the sessions I wanted to, because either I couldn’t get there on time, or it wasn’t what I thought it would be. My biggest success at the conference though, was meeting people. The first day I was feeling intimidated, but by the afternoon, I had found some people I follow on Twitter and hung out with them. What’s great is that I felt comfortable talking to my Twitter friends because we have already built a rapport online, so it was easy to get along in person. Additionally, they introduced me to other people that they knew, so it makes networking so much easier! Yay for the internet!

The highlights of the conference though was meeting my HackLibSchool colleagues in person and witness Daniel Ransom be entered and CHOSEN as the wild card, participant in Battle Decks 2011. The conference was a great time and I am very happy I went. I am definitely saving up for next year.

To learn programming or not? That is the question.

Last night I attended this Geek Speed Dating Night (minus the dating part) eventHeart, put together by a group called Refresh Indy. They describe themselves as “Promoting design, technology and usability, Refresh Indy is a part of the Refreshing Cities movement.” Sounds pretty cool and applicable to libraries right? I should probably back it up and explain how this Geek Night works. I got there with my library school friend (who writes at Red Lipstick Librarian) and my boyfriend (who was a web developer in a previous life). There were several round tables set up and other web developers, programmers and designers milling about. Then we all had 30 minutes at any given table to talk about topics like social media and marketing, iOS development, web design and development with these experts. It was a very low-key informal event that allowed for casual conversation on these topics.

I went into this hoping to learn about what’s going on in the web development world and wanted to see if I could bring some of what I learned into the library field. I have to say, it’s different when you work for a non-profit agency and you’re listening to marketing skills for someone with a personal business. Additionally, the only web skills I have are html and css. The first person we spoke to develops apps for iOS and I was in over my head, not to mention many of the experts leading the discussions had background knowledge in programming. I do not know how to program, I have a super basic knowledge of how it works, so at times I felt lost.

However, it was actually pretty awesome to get outside of the LIS field and see what others do. These are people who are creating web apps, building websites, they’re on the forefront of technology. There was a difference and a wake up call for me, coming from the library field. How many times have you heard the words social media and marketing or web development in the library world? I’ve heard it tossed around many times, but if you take those ideas outside of LIS, there are different trends that are emerging that libraries SHOULD be paying attention to. For example, someone was talking about how businesses don’t use social media correctly, that we have not utilized its full potential. Businesses try to tailor everything to the user based on what websites they’ve looked at, try to sell them products based on past user trends; but the users are actually using social media differently. People are more apt to purchase something if their friends recommend it, and where the real magic happens is the interaction between the people, not the business dictating what you should buy. In education, that’s called active learning, where peers are engaging with each other, exchanging information and learning in a proactive way, as opposed to passive learning. Can libraries implement this in their own marketing techniques or in other ways? Yes! I don’t have all the answers, but I just want to point out that the internet is a very helpful forum that allows for active learning to happen.

At the end of the night, I had to ask myself “is programming something that librarians should know?” My boyfriend mentioned that librarians shouldn’t have to know how to do these things but rather, work with programmers to develop the tools that we need for our own crowd. Having a familiarity with programming languages would definitely be a plus, also it would help to focus what you want out of whatever project you are working on. I think it’s quite normal for libraries to outsource this work to the IT departments, since many librarians do not have these skills. In light of people thinking that libraries should be hiring more IT professionals instead of MLIS librarians, it might be a good idea for library/ information professionals to learn about programming and web development. I’m interested in digital libraries, so this may be something I should become familiar with; whether I use it in my future profession or not.

May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture

Arbuthnot Anthology of Children's Literature

Arbuthnot Anthology of Children's Literature

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture at the St. Louis Public Library. The guest lecturer was Lois Lowry, author of famous YA titles like The Giver and Number the Stars. The lecture that she gave was really awesome. She was asked to make it “scholarly”, and she was able to do so with it being obvious or dry. It was like listening to someone tell a story about her writing career, what experiences and literature influenced her writing, and many anecdotes all wrapped up to make a speech. It’s hard to explain the way that she beautifully crafted her speech, but it was great, just take my word for it.

At the library, they were selling all of her books titles, and as I looked over them, I realized that I had forgotten how many of her books I had read as a kid. I loved the Anastasia Series and I remember going to the YA section of my library to find those books to devour. As I sat and listened to Lowry speak, I began to remember all of these wonderful memories of my childhood public library and my love of reading. I never thought that those experiences would lead me to where I am now, a student in library school; or a patron, sitting and listening to one of my favorite childhood authors speak. I think for many librarians and library school students, these sorts of memories have guided our paths to where we are now.

One of the most memorable quotes from Lowry’s lecture was “Libraries are the repository for our cultural heritage.” She told us a story about her granddaughter having a friend from Germany visiting her, and tell her that libraries were the best thing in America. It always delights me when authors advocate for the library. I know people can buy books anywhere, the internet, bookstore, garage sale, whatever; but when the authors take the time to say “Hey libraries are awesome!!” I just want to give that person a hug. We need advocates from many different arenas and authors have a very powerful voice.

Lois Lowry

She's signing books!

I do want to note that I am not really interested in being a children’s librarian or a public librarian. Why did I go? Not only was it a fun road trip for me and my library school friends, but I think going to extra events like this help make someone a well-rounded librarian. We’re usually not just librarians, we are patrons too. I also truly believe that children’s literacy is very important, and getting kids interested in reading at an early age is an investment in our future. This ties into the idea of Big Tent Librarianship, we’re really more connected than we think. Overall, this experience was great, I got a signed copy of The Giver and later saw Lois Lowry at the hotel bar, hanging out with her friends.