Thursday, April 29, 2010


I... am a lazy, lazy blogger.

Back in early April, I attended* the Computers in Libraries conference in Crystal City, took extensive notes, and then sat on them for the last few weeks. (Bad blogger, no cookie.) So, now that we've all had sufficient time to process, here's a quick run through of my thoughts from those two days.

CIL2010 was my first conference of any kind, and I admit that I was a bit starry eyed and excited about the whole business. I did not, however, feel out of the loop during the sessions, or as if I didn't fit in with the crowd (although the librarians who have been to a lot of these are a bit clique-ish). There were more sessions than I could manage to attend all at once (where's a time-turner when I need it?), but I got to one in every time block while I was there. In all honesty, the subject matter was a bit disappointing. I was hoping for more cutting edge stuff I'd never heard about, and instead I got... "cool blue alien hot stuff" and way too much hype about smartphones and ipads. In some ways, the conference solidified my desire to be some sort of special or academic librarian, not a public librarian. I'll try to reserve judgment on a lot of the conference on the grounds that it was my first and I don't know the presenters or the insider drama very well.

On to my notes!

The first session I went to was a presentation of a fancy, interactive, online, visual collection exploration application that was entirely fake. The Smithsonian Commons is this big idea for a way to get visitors into the collections from outside the physical museum, allowing them to develop personal collections and so on. But it's only a prototype! It's a huge project, oodles of effort and money spent on something that doesn't exist. Argh. Plus I disagree with the concept of an online version of the collection in the first place, but I'm just kind of elitist about museums and keeping things proper.

Which brings me to a question I had a lot: do people really want all this change, all this web 2.0, ebooks, mobile devices... or do they want Classic Library? It's certainly true that librarians are a bunch of geeks, and think that all this 2.0 stuff could be useful/cool/blue, but are they also forcing it down people's throats? I heard a lot about how books are dead. Well guys, personally, I can't afford a smartphone, or an ipad, I dislike reading on a screen, and I love collecting hard copies on my shelves. I'm not the only one (even if I can't find a supporting study right this second).

The counter argument is that librarians are "complacent," and are saying "we're great, why change?"

I also made long lists of things to research and understand better in the future: Drupal and OCLC, par example. I signed up for Google Analytics right away, and now I can collect ridiculous amounts of data on traffic to this very website. I'm a sucker for pretty charts and information visualizations, especially if it live-updates! Watson Library created a spiffy "dashboard" that does this kind of thing. Another neat tool I heard mentioned was the Google Public Data Explorer. (Further exploration and maybe a post on the Google tools later).

I just realised that this post will be epically long and dull if I don't cut it into bits. Consider this Part I.

*It should be noted that a very kind co-worker/mentor loaned me his conference pass for two of the three days, for which I am very grateful.

Classic library image from Trinity College Library, Dublin, by Candida Hofer.

Modern library image from Francis Martin Library, a branch of the NYPL. Design by 1100 Architect.

ps. Some of the random links in this are well-worth clicking...

EDIT/PPS: at some point the formatting got all screwy on some of my archived posts. Sorry about that, maybe I'll fix it all in the future... [9.7.2012]