I just came back from ALA Annual in Washington, D.C. Monday night. Due to limitations at my work I was only able to take Monday off, so I arrived in D.C. Saturday morning at 7:30AM and headed back yesterday in the late morning. Here’s how it went, starting with Saturday:
- I didn’t sleep on the redeye flight, but got two hours of sleep Saturday morning before heading off and starting my day. Amazingly the tiredness didn’t hit me until late afternoon. I trugged along with the goal of doing as much as possible without completely overdoing it.
- I went to the EBSCO Academic Luncheon, meeting a friend from UNC who I had met on the recent Prague seminar. Got a great free lunch and learned about the new EBSCO packages and interfaces. Also got a free CD to play around with and literature on their new products.
- Went to a session titled Transforming Your Library, and Your Library’s Future, with Technology. It was a panel session; the panelists discussed technologies including automation (central sorting systems, automatic retrieval systems, compact shelving, self check-out/in, etc.), new methods of delivery (North Carolina State delivers books by segway!) and evolved OPACs with features such as reviews, RSS feeds, etc. There is even a library that has links to Amazon from its OPAC, something that could be controversial. It was good and I took some notes on libraries that are doing this sort of innovation to keep an eye on them. Ones mentioned by the speakers were Plymouth State’s new beta site and Cook Memorial Library for its allowing comments and interaction between users and library staff (although on quick glance I wasn’t able to find this feature…).
- Went to the ALA Membership Forum, where the topic was “Should ALA Take a Stance on the Iraq War and other ‘non-library’ issues?” Anyone was able to speak at the “pro” or “con” mic, but nearly everyone that did was an ALA Councilor or someone holding office in ALA already. I noticed this and found it interesting today when I read John Berry’s column in Library Journal and found him questioning the same thing. It would be nice to hear more outside voices that don’t get much of another chance to speak out. Granted, I was there as a student and didn’t speak out, but to be honest I haven’t clearly defined my opinion on the issue and didn’t want to take a stance just yet. My intuition tells me yes, ALA should take a stance. While the war is considered non-library issue, think of all the libraries, librarians and information workers it’s affecting in the middle east. All the librarians and families of librarians it’s affecting here in the states. The huge war expenditures that affect federal budgets and so indirectly affect financial support of libraries. And it seems from what I gathered that historically, ALA has taken a stance on these issues. But the opposing arguments made some good points. We don’t want to alienate library users who may have a different stance on the war. We also have military libraries and have to think about the troops headed out to war; we certainly don’t want ALA’s stance to become a barrier between the information users and the information providers. One of our roles is to keep the public informed. We should carry literature on the atrocities and war crimes associated with the Bush administration, but as far as ALA taking an official opinion I have to say I really don’t know…
- Stayed for the ALA Membership Meeting. The non-library issue topic continued. Other topics raised were school libraries and how the No Child Left Behind Act is causing big issues for school librarians. Also how libraries can serve those troops coming home from Iraq. One thing I thought about bringing up but didn’t (standing up in front of ALA bigwigs is something I’m just not ready for) is the closure of military libraries. Fort Huachuca, close to home, was the first in what will be a trend. I know ALA President Leslie Burger has written an official letter of concern regarding this but is there anything else ALA can do? This could be something to address in the day of library advocacy on Capitol Hill, which I will be missing unfortunately.
- Went to the opening session where honorary members were presented, Leslie Burger gave a welcome, followed by speakers Vartan Gregorian and Bill Bradley. I met up with former classmate Coni and co-worker Wendy. The session was decent but the sleepiness was hitting me at this point, as well as being hungry.
- Met up with some other students for dinner. Followed by some drinks. At the restaurant/bar we had a good group of about 8 students, and met some other librarians in the courtyard including Jennifer from Princeton and Ken from Boston College. Both are now my MySpace and FaceBook friends, respectively.
- Although the party was continuing, I headed back for the hotel just before 2am to try to catch up on some sleep.