Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What I Learned at SLA 2005

I've been attending the SLA 2005 conference in Toronto and I am still overwhelmed by the experience of chatting, laughing, partying, networking and schmoozing with masses of people from all over who share the same professional interests, passions, grievances, disappointments and hopes.

There are a few things I have learned, though, about conference-going. So here are the true reasons for attending conferences, according to my experience:
  • remember that project you wanted to launch, or that software you thought you wanted to test? Well, you don't want to touch any of that with a ten-foot pole: conferences are great places for finding out what to avoid and learning about disaster stories from colleagues
  • you know those things you have already been doing for so long but find boring? Well, you just may have been on the cutting edge all along without knowing it and everyone else is now copying you: conferences can be great places for finding out how good and creative your shop may actually be
  • remember all those ideas you thought were useless or a waste of time? Well, other libraries have successfully implemented many of those things you were ridiculing and they saved time or money or brain cells or their sanity: conferences can be great places for finding out how to change your thinking by taking another look at projects and ideas you had neglected or discarded too soon
  • you know that feeling that everyone else knows more than you and other libraries do things better than your place? Well, you may have stumbled across a solution to someone else's problem: conferences can be great places for finding out how bloody smart you really are in the eyes of others, and how much others recognize the value of what you do

Along the way, I also learned:

  • how to talk to vendors about what new products they can offer
  • which vendors tend to serve the best free food
  • that many colleagues are convinced that one day soon, everything in the information industry will be owned by a new global megacorporation called Reed-Thompson-Kluwers Inc. (or is it Thompson-West-Elsevier-Wolters Inc.?)
  • that news librarians have more fun than anyone else, so everyone claims to be in the News Division to go to the loudest, wildest, coolest parties
  • that half the people you meet seem to be from Texas, or to have been born in Texas, or to have family in Texas or to claim they are from Texas, so they can get invited to all the loudest...
  • that US libraries will always have way more money than we can ever dream of
  • that a huge, I mean a HUGE number of American librarians are total hockey fanatics - Art Gallery of Ontario? Eaton Centre? Toronto Islands? Yorkville boutiques? Pfffttt! Not interested. They want to know where the Hockey Hall of Fame is located.
  • that the best part of the conference is the people you find yourself talking to while waiting in line, or while hanging out in a conference hospitality suite: the former ethnomusicologist turned transportation librarian with whom I had a discussion about postmodernism, deconstructionism and the influence of Pierre Bourdieu on French sociology; the Filipino librarian blogger who knew more about American pop culture and sitcoms than I did; the two hockey-mad female librarians from Chicago who wanted to know how to emigrate to Vancouver ; the energy law resources vendor who invited my wife and I to stay at her home in Washington State because we are all avid hikers; the Massachusetts science librarian with a fascination for Québécois culture and who has read more Quebec poets and novelists than I can even name; the Washington D.C. law librarian who explained some of the finer points of U.S. copyright law to me; and many others - they're the true secret ingredient of a successful conference


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:33 pm


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I''ll be back. Later :)

2:06 pm  

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