ALA 2011 Wrap-up

I got back from New Orleans last night, after spending five days attending ALA Annual. I decided this year that I didn’t want to haul my laptop around from session to session, so I instead took copious notes in a little steno pad, with the intention of taking some time each evening to write up those notes in some kind of meaningful way. Well, my evenings ended up being far busier than I anticipated, and of course, I didn’t find any time for writing.

This was by far the busiest conference I’ve attended yet; I had meetings and sessions scheduled pretty much non-stop from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon, when I finally had to cry uncle and take a break. Despite feeling a bit exhausted, nearly every session I attended was exhilarating and thought-provoking. I left New Orleans with a renewed sense of love and passion for my chosen profession, and decidedly positive feelings about the future of libraries and librarians. Of all the conferences I’ve been to (except maybe ACRL WA/OR last fall), I saw among the librarians around me a forward-looking approach. I met people who are ready to take on the massive challenges facing our profession, and not just those related to funding and public relations (which I sometimes feel is ALA’s bread and butter). I felt like the tide is finally starting to turn regarding some of the technology and metadata issues that have seemed to me to be intractable problems since almost my first day in library school.

Most of the sessions and meetings I attended focused on the problems that arise as our collections become digital, and specifically on how we need to re-think bibliographic metadata in an increasingly digital world. In the past I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing, but not a lot of problem solving, and I’m happy to say that I felt a shift in this regard during this conference. There are still a lot of questions without ready answers, but I also heard from some people who are out there experimenting, rather than trying to wait for a perfect solution to fall into our laps.

I have many more specific notes and thoughts about the sessions I attended, and I intend to share them here, over the next few days. Overall, though, I’m pleased to say that I finally got a real sense of movement in the areas about which I care the most, and I’m even more pleased that I got a chance to meet and talk to some of the people who are beginning to push us along in the right direction (or really, in any direction at all! It might not be the right solution in the end, but at least people are trying things out). As always, there are people I wanted to meet and didn’t, and sessions I wanted to attend and couldn’t. But overall, I got on the plane out of New Orleans knowing that I learned some new things and feeling pumped to get back to work on the specific problems we’re trying to solve at the CDL.

Over the next few days, I’ll be writing up some of my thoughts on the future of tech services, library linked data, digital materials and bibliographic metadata, serials metadata, and on the role of OCLC in library land. I’m hoping I can, in some small way, continue some of the great conversations that took place last week in New Orleans.

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