June 22, 2011

SLA Round-Up

I started my Philadelphia adventure with a trip to the Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, and I'm now enjoying a book about Masonic Washington, DC. The next day was the best part of the conference: GTRIC (the Government Transportation Research Information Committee), an all-day Sunday meeting of the Transportation Division. It was great to put faces with names I have seen on the list-serve for years, and to hear what is going on at many transportation libraries. We heard an excellent presentation about Minnesota DOT's Kindle program. We were also very fortunate to hear a presentation about Gift Management for Transportation Libraries, which is also an SLA award-winning paper by Northwestern University's Roberto Sarmiento. I was so impressed with the entire day's programming that I did not mind being in a windowless room for eight hours.

On Monday morning I attended Intentional Misinformation on the Internet. This helped me clarify some long-held ideas I have had about the internet writ large. I've long "threatened" to create a post entitled "The internet is paper" to drive home the notion that it is silly to ascribe to the internet any kind of innate qualities or moral deficiencies (it's really just people talking after all, and should not be thought of as authoritative in any sense). I still intend to write that post, but Anne Mintz challenged this idea in part by asserting, and providing persuasive evidence that, "Misinformation is not exclusively on the internet, but the internet makes it worse." I look forward to using her book Web of Deception for a presentation later this summer on cautions about online information sharing.

Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania

Meeting with the Associations Caucus was a great opportunity to follow up with some contacts I had made last winter at one of our regional brown bag lunch gatherings, and to have a candid and focused discussion about the ethical dimensions of conference behavior when your employer is paying your way. Success Stories of Solos was a chance to share some of what I have learned in the last three and a half years, and to meet other solos, including the librarian at the World's Largest Carillon! Her description of her office 'over the river, through the woods, beyond the moat, at the top of the tower' intrigued us all.

I attended a session on how health care reform will change the nature of medical information and online marketing. It was a little out of my comfort zone, but it's tangentially related to some issues I need to be aware of, and I learned some new terms and buzzwords in the debate to keep in mind while searching.

The Solo Division luncheon and Transportation Division Reception were great events with real and enjoyable networking taking place (including ghost stories late into the night at the transportation reception). And as expected, the Decemberists concert Wednesday night at the Philadelphia Academy of Music, steps from my hotel, did not disappoint (and neither did walking past Colin Meloy on Locust Street Wednesday morning).

Rox in the Box, June 15, 2011

June 8, 2011

Web Reference Desk

The work of an association can be highly specialized. If your organization has an annual conference, it is probably a meeting place for people who have complex and specific information needs and challenges. The attendees are probably members from across the country, some of whom may not frequent your office or national headquarters. Others may be representatives of organizations who want to learn more about what your employer does--whether to catch them doing something right or to report back on what you could improve.

Where I work, we focus on bus drivers, bus riders, vehicles, and policy issues related to all of the above. I have struggled to find a place for myself in the conference in general, but specifically to find a contribution to our trade show floor, which is as big and busy as anything you'd find at ALA or SLA. As you can see in this picture, there are buses--lots of them! Our staff typically has an area where we set up shop and make ourselves available for questions. In the past, this area was flanked with print materials such as our trade magazines, most of which we end up shipping back on the last day of the conference.

This year I decided that the contribution I would make was something I called Web Reference Desk. Instead of showing off just our print resources (people do like "stuff" at conferences after all), I asked if I could have a high resolution monitor, internet connection, and desk chairs so I could show attendees what we spend most of our time developing when we are not at our conference: our electronic resources.

I got a lot of support from key staff members, and I ran the desk the whole time the trade show floor was open. This was a total of eight hours over three days. I am happy to say I had eight solid conversations with people--about our own publications and about online information sharing, social media, and other related topics. It was the closest I have come to working a "real" reference desk. I also experienced some small challenges I hear from reference librarians, such as being asked a lot of logistical questions. (The hopper for a massive raffle was right behind the Web Reference Desk, so people kept coming up to me to ask when the next drawing would be held.)

It was a huge success and I have already been asked to make it a tradition and start planning for next year. Stay tuned!