I returned to the mitten yesterday evening from America Library Association’s Midwinter conference in Seattle, WA. And it was the same temperature (don’t get me started).
While I admitted to my colleagues at work that I’m somewhat fatigued from starting a new job, being off work (and almost everything else) for about five weeks, and from East coast to West coast jet lag, I really enjoyed ALA MW.
I got to see some good friends who are awesome people. I have two friends who are in a doctoral program at U Washington. One is in the bioinformatics program and worked with me on the Open.Michigan initiative, and the other is a friend I met at a past iConference who is in the iSchool now. I also got to hang with one of my best friends in graduate school, who now works at the Timberland Regional Library in Washington. I met each of these people at different times in my life, under similar but distinct circumstances. They are all personally passionate about the work they do–researching women’s literacy, developing targeted teen programming, and researching accessibility issues. Meeting up with friends is one of the true pleasures of conference-going.
I probably had fewer obligations than most at the Midwinter meeting–right now I’m not on any committees–and so I took the time to reacquaint myself with the hub of the Library World. What I found was a good mixture of interest and action in the things I’ve found myself focused on for the last two and a halfish years: action-based discussion, critical examination of professional tracks, and not taking yourself TOO seriously (this can be hard for me, really).
I probably missed out on a lot of fun that happened offsite but I enjoyed being part of some of the fun that happened onsite: the unconference (#alamw13) and the ignite session (#igniteala) were great reminders that people who like to help, educate, support, have fun with, hang out with, and share their lives with, other people are the good ones. It was interesting to hear the themes of the unconference. Librarians are concerned with making sure their services are relevant. Lots of fretting still going on. A good reminder, that Ben Bizzle (a fellow hog!), mentioned at the unconference was:
We spend a lot of time thinking about why we can’t do something instead of what we can do.
We also ended with a conversation about Creative Spaces. I’m so happy that we didn’t go with Makerspaces. As much as I love the Maker movement (and I wrote a book on it…), I think it’s important to realize that Make and Dale and all those thinkers and doers are part of a larger movement of thinkers and doers that spans beyond a branded Faire or space. I’m super glad they’re partnering with libraries and I hope librarians remember they’ve been part of a maker movement for, oh, about 200 years now.
The ignite session was also inspiring, short, pithy, and sweet. Beth Patin‘s work at U. Washington is especially poignant considering its tangible roots in Hurricane Katrina (I saw the shockwaves of Katrina when I worked at the Fayetteville Public Library and Arkansas’ population swelled twice its normal size with refugees. We gave out library cards by the droves.). Tom Bruno’s “surround yourself with awesome people” is a good reminder that we should always seek out the things that fulfill us and make sure we’re working with people with similar drive (and maybe intersecting, but not the same, viewpoints). Those are pretty personal experiences, but it affirms the discipline and profession I’ve chosen overall.
Of course, I mailed back two boxes of galleys, saw some sights, and ate awesome food. I also attended sessions on assessment, strategic planning, and community engagement. Those things that are dear to my heart.
We’re headed in the right direction, ALA.