I just spent five days out of Potsdam, traveling to the greater Washington DC area. Two of those days were travel days, and one and a half were spent with college friends, but one and a half were spent with librarians.
It was worth it on all counts. While my time in Falls Church and Glover Park are less relevant here than my time in Crystal City, they were both equally renewing. I spent some time with people I love, and then I spent some time talking about things I love. Some disjointed thoughts:
What an amazingly cool toy. I don’t see its valuable application in my life, but the iPad I was playing with is owned by an attorney who travels extensively and rides public transportation. She’s loving it. Better web surfing than the iPhone, the ability to play good games, nice e-reading capabilities. I get it, for her life. I also was a bit enthralled by the touch interface on the larger screen. As an iPhone user, I’m familiar with Apple’s touch interface, but the up-scaling on size with the iPad makes it feel very, very different. I suspect that this device, and its ilk, will provoke a new wave of design for user interfaces, and a new style of interacting with the technology. DOS-type text-based interface –> graphical mouse-based interface –> touch-based tablet interface. It has the potential to be the next interface revolution.
I hereby suggest that the vendor hall be open to everyone who’s interested in speaking with vendors; I refuse to pay to be an interested customer. And if an exhibits-only badge is free, why on earth would you turn people away if they don’t have the badge? Rejecting people for failing to acquire a free pass… that’s just… arcane, and dumb, and obstructionist. It also provokes hijinks among those who dislike the arcane, dumb, and obstructionist. That’s right, HIJINKS.
the Lobby Track
It’s the assertion of many of my peers that we’ve outgrown ITI’s conferences as learners. Most of the people I spend time with at Internet Librarian or Computers in Libraries are speakers, providing content, and as such are already dedicated to learning about, staying current with, and discussing these issues all year long, every day. So, in those circumstances, attending this sort of conference solely for the content becomes less valuable. This year, because of my limited free time, and my recent feeling that I’ve seen all of this before (specifically at IL in the fall), I chose not to register for the conference. And I’m certain that there were sessions this year that I would have enjoyed and learned from — the management and organization 2.0 tracks particularly — but for me, this time, I know I made a good choice. I spent my time ‘at the conference’ in the lobby of the Hyatt. Why the lobby? Because that’s where all the people I wanted to talk to were passing through. I sat in the lobby bar, drinking Diet Pepsi and talking to interesting people. I had a scheduled business meeting with Amanda Etches-Johnson about an Influx project, I grabbed Holly Blosser and made her tell me about cooperative collection development in the context of a public library system with floating collections, I talked with Laura Harris about tenure and faculty status for librarians, I talked with Meredith Farkas and Sarah Houghton-Jan about management in our generation of librarians, I talked with Krista Godfrey and Jan Dawson about leadership and management in libraries, I talked with Chadwick Seagraves about technology rollouts, I talked with Anna Creech about budgets and budget cuts in academic libraries… and a hundred other small conversations about things that I care about. And it was the most useful 24 hours of my recent professional development time. You’ll note that each of those people has a web presence, and many of them are indeed people I call on throughout the year, online. But bonds of affection, kindness, and a shared commitment to things we value and work hard to promote are only improved by the opportunity to smile at each other while we discuss them. Over beer. And karaoke.
Oh, good heavens, everyone needs to just hush about “library rockstars”. People who have become experts and speakers on topics we care about? They’re just people. Just librarians. Who do their jobs, do them well, and want to talk about what they do. They’re not better than you or me, they’re just in the public eye. If you want to be like them, or you think you could say it better, then do that. Have something to say, say it well, and promote yourself as relentlessly as they do. And then you, too, can be a Rockstar, and can be denigrated by a whole new group of people looking on from the sidelines and sniping.
my management blinders
I need to do a bit of pondering about management and myself. I had three separate conversations in which my conversational partner commented on the unusual way I interact with the world — via leadership, management, and personal presence — and how I should be helping others to emulate that model. And the thing that baffles me is that while I’m happy to talk about what I do, and why, I have a hard time thinking that it’s worth talking about or emulating. It’s just… normal. The things I do and the way I move through my career seem like complete common sense to me, so why would anyone want to hear me talk about common sense? And what I’m being told is that it’s not common sense. That it’s worth talking about. And I have a VERY hard time seeing that. I’m wearing blinders. And I need to learn to see them. I’m working on it.
And so. Now I’m home, back to work, back to the mundane of my daily job and my daily life, up to my eyeballs in email and household chores. And life goes on, but I’m a little more cheerful, having been reminded that there are dozens of great librarians out there for me to lean on when I need a little help getting over the next hurdle. Thanks for that, all of you.