From the catalogs of babes

{January 28, 2009}   home again, home again, jiggity jig

So I am finally returned from the land of the Midwinter, where it was in fact pretty mid-winter-y when I left it.

I started early on the conference circuit, with my parents would taking me to CUE or COMDEX as a child. From a early age I was familiar with the Session Break Stampede and the Exhibit Hall Swag Bingo. I’ve been to CLA, SAA, SLA, ALA, pretty much any of the “-LA”s you can name. But this was my first Midwinter.

And I loved it.

I did feel out-of-place at first at many of the sessions: between not holding any real authority at my place of work, coming from a for-profit education institution, a trade school for fashion, no less (not an art school, not really an academic library but not really a special library either), using software that’s essentially outdated and isn’t interoperable with anything most libraries are doing/using–I often don’t feel like I have much to contribute or much to gain. I constantly have the feeling of the little girl playing dress-up in mom’s clothing–shuffling along in shoes six sizes too big, drowning in a floppy hat and boa with lipstick smeared across my face. At any time, some worldly adult could turn around and catch me red-handed, making a mess of all their stuff. I mean, who am I to be on a task force on competencies and education for a career in cataloging, or participating in a Heads of Cataloging discussion group?

But I am, and I did, and no one shunned me or laughed at me or asked me to leave. Just going by the schedule guide, I somehow kept ending up walking into sessions that I probably shouldn’t.  ALA, if you’re listening: the serious lack of session descriptions drives me nuts–I’m not even sure what all the group names mean to begin with, and even if I know I want to be there for that particular group, during that particular session they are having a speaker or disucssion on a topic that may or may not interest me, and when there are 5 things I’ve marked as potentially interesting all in the same time slot and I have to decide which to attend, a 1 or 2 sentence blurb about what exactly is being discussed at the session might be helpful, and I’m kinda surprised that a group of librarians can’t be bothered to do so. Although I suppose that if I don’t know enough to to dechipher the mysterious acronyms describing a session, it’s probably not targeted at me… I thankfully figured out some of the acronyms about halfway through, like government documents and African-American materials, so I didn’t end up at either of those cataloging sessions, whew (no offense to either of those groups, just not my cuppa).

But I have to say, no one seemed to care that I joined their groups. One of the sessions I somehow ended up in was a RUSA Catalog Use meeting: “Cool,” I thought, “A discussion group on how reference librarians use the catalog.” But it was a committee rather than a discussion group (who can keep track of the difference between “committee,” “task force,” “interest group,” “discussion group,” etc.?), and they were planning their program presentation for the Annual conference. While it wasn’t what I’d expected, it was pretty neat to see a group of people walk through all the tasks and details necessary to plan a conference session, from start to finish. And it turns out I even got to help–they needed to someone who subscribes to Autocat to post their session announcement, and none of the committee members were on that list. I ended up in some other great sessions: the FRBR interest group, How Libraries are Using Web 2.0 Tools, the RDA update forum, the Open Shelves Classification… It was a tough decision to decide between a session on shared and open community data vs. one on librarianship in for-profit institutions, but I went with the latter, because I see the topic mentioned so rarely. I was not disappointed. Finally, meeting people who understand you and your library and why you just can’t do things the same way other libraries do! Unlike Annual, where I mark a session (or two, or three, or…) for each time slot and then end up only attending about half of them, I ended up attending every session I had marked except one (the exception being the OCLC update breakfast, which I now halfway suspect they hold purposely at 7 a.m. just to deter people from coming and commenting on their proposals…).

I liked this conference so much better than Annual. I knew beforehand, with its committees and its task forces, Midwinter is more of a “business-y” meeting, but I have to say, that’s one of the things I actually ended up liking about it–so much more opportunity to sit around the table and interact and discuss, rather than being spoken/PowerPointed at from the front of the room. Plus, I liked the people who were there–I kept telling people that it felt more personal, and they would reply, “that’s because it’s half the size of Annual.” But I’ve been to a lot of smaller conferences and didn’t feel as personal. I think it’s less about the numeric amount of people and more because the people who are there are THE people, the ones who are the ones who are passionate about their profession, involved, and on the committees and making the decisions and shaping the future. And those are the type of people I want to meet, want to be around, want to be.

Holly says:

It was super awesome to meet you! I also had a very productive conference, probably my best ever. About the ALA session descriptions – I think it’s more to do with the meeting planning software ALA uses – the deadlines are ridiculously early (I just had to turn in my final meeting requests for Annual on 1/30 – it’s 6 months in advance so obviously at this point we don’t know the discussion topics yet).

Ivy says:

I did eventually find a multi-page listing of all the acronyms in the conference guide about halfway though, which saved me on a few occassions!

We should get together some time locally, you know where to find me on Facebook. :)

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