I have been away . . . I am sure any Sherlockian could deduce from reading my blog over the past week; I attended the American Library Association annual conference held in Chicago. For those did not think to infer . . . Surprise! I have been at the American Library Association conference in Chicago! Anyone who participated in a professional conference is aware how overwhelming it can be. Thousands of people and vendors from all over the world flocking to some designated metropolis for a week. The irony lies in the stereotype of the library profession; that we are not very social beings or we are socially awkward albeit superior individuals like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, and yet here we are, once a year at the mother of all assemblies of nerdy, erm–I mean “intellectual” specimens. The actual demographic of our profession goes against popular culture. There is a 60/40 split of female to male ratio (at the high end of the spectrum I would say 70/30). In Libraryland these men are referred to as “Guybrarians” (and no, I am not teasing.) The cliques follow the digital divide; the Techies and the Luddites; with the Techies far out numbering the Luddites; on the premise many a-Luddite has crossed over to the dark side. The is a noticeable and growing group of “Punks;” those with brightly dyed or shaved heads, with loads of tattoos and piercings . . . clothed in a dress shirt or vintage frock. A far cry from the preppy look, so associated with Librarians. Lastly, there is a rather large (for lack of a better descriptor) percentage of Librarians who represent the GLBT demographic. Everyone at the conference is incredibly knowledgeable in their field.
I do not know how you feel when you go to such conferences; but I am conflicted; on the one hand I am most inspired by the programs, research, and skill, on the other hand, I fill like an immiscible for not knowing the latest technology, app, or software. At some of the lectures, their answer to a common library issue is so simple and solves the problem so perfectly, the audience is berating themselves for not having thought of it in the first place. It is like “Oh, yes; a rubber band! That would hold it together, why on earth didn’t I think of that?!” This is my third Annual; so I have learned a few tricks to decipher the program and navigate the classes. I attended eight classes in the course of three days; which is a down from 12 in four days.
- Experimentation and Innovation in Libraries: What we can learn from lean start ups
- Creative Aging Tool Kit
- Humanities in the Digital Era: Mashing up public programs with MOOCs, Media, and More
- Building Your Professional Tool Kit
- Partnerships in Unlikely Places
- The End(s) of the Library
- Boomers to Seniors
- GenLit and Genre X Collections and Programming for 20 and 30 Somethings
My favorites were numbers 2 and 8. Copious amount of notes to attest to this! I feel invigorated and recharged! The other aspects aside from the teeming crowds in the conference center and packed rooms is . . . The Stacks and socializing. The Stacks is the nickname for the vendor/exhibit hall. The insanely enormous filled room that resembles a three ring circus. Vendors are on hand at their booths pitching new deals and demos on the latest offerings, chefs are cooking recipes from their latest cookbooks, authors and illustrators are signing thousands of books; taking pictures with fans, and publishers are handing out a million free pre-published books (known as Galley or Advanced Reader Copies/ARCs) and a bunch of swag. Other places in The Stacks are doing mock interviews, resume help, networking, and hiring on the spot. Somewhere in the middle, there are games, akin to Jeopardy or Toast Masters and random skits from books. At the end a large space is blocked off for the Book Cart Drill Team Competition. (It is a real thing, you can look it up on YouTube. Fun and campy). Off to the side is the store and next to it is a pop-up UPS to ship all the goodies home to your library. Book trailers run on a loop, teens are following the Young Adult Librarian like ducks, costume characters show up; Big Bird, Clifford, Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers! Everyone on the floor is geeking out! It is a very rowdy fan boy type atmosphere. The first year, I spent a day in The Stacks and filled an empty suitcase with swag and ARCs. The second year, I spent half a day, being a bit more choosey. This year, I spent a total of an hour; bought a few books at the store. I was too busy with classes. . . Every night there awards are being handed out, committees convening, and happy hour happening, sometimes on a lake cruise other times at a local dive, invites only through Twitter . . . on and on it goes.
Now, to bring this all back to the 19th century . . . I stayed at the Historic Heritage Hotel . . The Palmer House Hilton. Hence the slide show at the bottom. Absolutely divine! It was built in 1871 as a wedding gift from Potter to Bertha. A fortnight after it open it was consumed by the Great Fire of 1871. . . Soon a new and bigger version was built just across the street and has remained. So ornate! So gilded! So . . . 19th century!