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Month: March 2007

Doing Much Better

For some reason I didn’t stay asleep last night, so I was up and amusing myself by 5:30 this morning. Ugh. But that meant that I had no trouble getting to the conference center in time for the 8am sessions. And I’ve gotta say, today’s sessions are MUCH more interesting than yesterday’s were. Maybe I just picked the wrong sessions for my interests yesterday, or maybe I was in a bad mood or something, but today’s papers seem more carefully reasoned, more cogently presented, and generally more relevant.

Yesterday my co-workers and I came away with the sense that everyone ALMOST got around to presenting their ideas, but never actually arrived there. It was like everything was just introductions and teasers and no meat. Today’s sessions are consistently arriving at a point prior to asking “so… any questions?”

This also means that I’ll have to work a lot harder to actually write up these sessions… which I’ll try to do later because right now I’m learning about Competency Theory, Library Anxiety, and how these impact our instruction.

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A New Conference Joins the Mix

Yesterday Mary Kay began giving us all pause to wonder about our clothing and level of made-up-ness. (And how do they walk around in those shoes all day?) Today we’ve been joined by a cheer leading convention. No kidding.

So now as I walk from room to room I look around and thing “heals, suit, make-up=Mary Kay… sweats with hair in curlers=cheer leader.” It’s foolproof. Oh, and sparkles on eye lids or in hair is a dead give away, too. No librarian that I know cakes herself with sparkles.

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Of Birds, Not Seeing Posters, Not Getting Fed, Not Attending a Session

I really have been attending sessions. Really I have. And I’ve done a lot of other conference-ish things. But right now I’m taking a break, sitting on a comfy couch, and wondering how I can help the poor trapped birds.

Let me back up a little. I went to a panel presentation on the future of reference. MySpace and Facebook – yes; Second Life – no. At least according to what we heard today. I think braving the coffee lines before going to this session would have helped me get more out of that session, but it takes dedication and a good deal of time to get caffeinated here, and I wasn’t caffeinated enough to face the task this morning.

I was going to be a good girl and see the posters, but when 2000 people try to squeeze into a space the size of a large meeting room, find themselves unable to either see the posters or move toward or away from said posters, it just isn’t worth it.

Then I attended a paired session where one group presented on a research portal they’ve designed and another group presented on a survey the did to determine what would help their students actually use search systems. Interesting stuff. And both made the point that in many ways, librarians are ahead of the technology curve when compared to other parts of the academic community, including the students. It made me hope that we’re actually ahead of the curve rather than on a different hill… but it was still interesting that both the faculty and the students that they mentioned were not nearly as in to personalizing sites or RSS as the librarians thought they would be.

Then came lunch… They drastically underestimated the number of people who would be eating it. Consequently, my table waited for ages upon ages while they ran out of food and had to go make more. Most people at my table ate their dessert first (since that was at our places when we sat down), but dessert was cake, and I’m allergic to eggs, so I was out of luck. Oh, and the speaker was John Waters who did more of a stand-up routine than anything else, and not a G rated one, either. In fact, one person from my group (an IT person from my college) asked afterwards if that would go over with this crowd. Well, the conversation in the bathroom line immediately after lunch leaned strongly toward the negative. Some people found it hilarious. Others were pretty offended.

But now, after lunch, half of a pair of papers, and a successful quest for coffee, I’m sitting in the quietest corner I can find watching the sparrows who’ve inadvertently come into the building chirp in confusion and consternation as they gaze out of the glass walls. These sparrow and I will not be braving the poster session that’s going on right now. These sparrows and I will sit here and amuse ourselves by differentiating between the ACRL attendees and the attendees of the Mary Kay convention that’s going on in the same building. It ain’t hard. If you see black heals, it’s Mary Kay (Do they ever wear anything else? I’ve never seen so many black skirt-suits and heals! Do they have a uniform?).

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And It’s Begun

I’m sitting here in the hotel lobby, not quite sure where everyone else is, but happy to have free wireless. Travel was blessedly unremarkable except that this was the first time I’ve ever been on a flight where I recognized several of the passengers. That’s kind of creepy, actually. I’m used to getting onto a plane as an anonymous nobody, reading or gazing out of the window until we land, and then exiting the plane in a similarly anonymous fashion. This other way is more fun, but also way more tiring.

The strangeness continued when the first person I saw as I entered the convention center was an Immersion classmate. He’s apparently staying in the same hotel as me, so I hope we can hang out later. Then, on my way to the keynote I met one of my library school classmates. This is nuts! (But so much fun.) You’d think I’d met everyone there was to meet. I mean, two people is pretty much a record for me. But NO! Then I met up with someone from CIL06, and then went out to dinner with someone else from CIL06. Seriously. I don’t know what to do with myself. Now if I just knew where everyone is right now… Oh well.

Anyway, the opening keynote was about librarians as guides on a journey away from oppression and repression. Michael Dyson called librarians the “arbiters of humane reason in the midst of bigotry” and talked about how we “liberate the mind” by giving access to information that may not be politically correct or socially sanctioned. It was an energetic speech, and eloquent, with attention to rhythm and metaphor. There’s no doubt about it, this guy loves words and knows how to deploy them for effect and edification.

Why then, did I come away with a lingering confusion? How can I not thrill to hear that I, in my role as a librarian, have the power to create a love of learning that is “more addicting than crack cocaine” and that I can be a part of my students’ “quest for self-determination”?

Well, it could be mostly just me. Everyone else seemed to get a lot out of it, judging by the applause and ovation. But I was left wondering how this could be true when one of my primary jobs is to shepherd students into the accepted discourses of their chosen fields? How can this be true, in the way that he framed it, if I am working to teach students what does and doesn’t count as evidence in their fields, what is and is not “researchable,” or how things should and should not be framed? If the idea is that librarians provide the tools for students to break out of the oppressive, repressive, patriarchal, bigoted, racist, classist, and any-other-“ist”-you-can-think-of mindset, then my job simply does not mesh with that ideal. Access to information, yes. Lifelong learning, I sure hope so. But freedom from socially constructed ideas… not so much. Not in this lifetime.

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