Sunday, August 29, 2010

Extra Aside Bar -- From the editor

The immediacy of a blog makes the subject of this post seem a little outdated, but we'd normally be addressing the SLA conference in New Orleans in the Summer issue and I didn't want it to go unmentioned.

My SLA experience was largely colored by the fact that I was wheelchair-bound thanks not to a parachuting accident but sheer clumsiness the week before. A special thanks to Amy Disch for helping me get around, as well as the random librarians I met along the way who volunteered to help push me here and there.

This year, the sessions to me seemed more informative than full of whiz-bang ideas to take back to your shop. Not that this is a bad thing; I still learned a lot.

The conference really started up Sunday night with the annual News Division Silent Auction and Networking Reception -- if you could find it. Just like rumors on the internet, news researchers had to separate tales of the real room number from the false reports. We thought we could just follow the noise, but with fewer of us present than in years past, we had to get to the right floor first. Then, the fun began and the goodies were bidded upon and won.

Bright and early on Monday, at Reality Check: Adapting to changes in media and dissemination, Angie Holan told us about and then Marcus Zillman told us about his bots and deep web research. Later, Tom Corbett, executive director of Cushing Academy's library, discussed how his facility went all-electronic at The All-Digital School Library: Managing Electronic Resources.

I moderated Evolving Roles: Conversations in the Round, a session co-sponsored with the Knowledge Management Division. Karen Huffman of the National Geographic Society, Cindy Hill of Hill Information Consulting Group, Jessica Baumgart (lately of Needle) and I all discussed how the role of librarian has changed over time and what we see for its future. We also took questions from the audience and had a great discussion. Thanks to Jane Dysart and Donna Scheeder for helping get the conversation started.

Despite the rain Monday afternoon, we were still able to celebrate our award winners that night at the News Division Banquet in the beautiful atrium of the St. Louis French Quarter Hotel. We enjoyed fabulous food and drink, networked with our colleagues and heard great speeches and stories about Linda Henderson, winner of the 2010 Joseph F. Kwapil Memorial Award, and Justin Scroggs and Jennifer Evert, winners of the 2010 Agnes Henebry Roll of Honor Award.

Tuesday morning, Brian Hamman of the New York Times taught us a little about programming and APIs at the mini-CE course, Introduction for Computer Programming for Info Pros. I would have loved to have had more time on this topic.

Next was a discussion of a newspaper digitization project at Louisiana State University in the Louisiana Newspapers: Microfilm Digitization Project session. Then, famed presenter Mary Ellen Bates shared ideas and strategies for Enabling Inherent Knowledge. I loved her descriptions of wikielves (general maintenance), wikifairies (make things pretty) and wikignomes (keep things tidy). But how about wikitrolls, who just like to post negative things?

Making us all feel old, the enthusiastic Ben Ilfield and Geoff Samek, co-founders of Sacramento Press, an all-local and all-electronic news organization, discussed how their site came to be and their methods of news-gathering. Their community presence is to be commended, even if it is a little more casual than our corporate parents would probably prefer.

New Orleans was a welcoming city, even if it rained a lot (but that is June for you). If you weren't able to attend SLA, I still suggest you visit New Orleans. I was there about a year after Katrina, and given that it's the fifth anniversary, I can tell you that the condition of the city has greatly improved. The tourist areas are fine and everyone is so friendly and happy to see you.

--Julie Domel


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