LITA National Forum

Last week I attended the LITA National Forum in Columbus, Ohio. This was by far one of the best conferences I’ve attended. It reminded me of the regional library conferences in the Northwest area that I loved so much: small scale, and very practical. I love the smaller setting of events like this, because you start to recognize the same faces in events and it is much more comfortable to start talking to stranger. I met some people who I think are going to be long-term libraryland colleagues and friends, and that is awesome.

Columbus might seem an unexpected place for a conference, but it’s a lovely little city. The hotel where the LITA event was is connected to the convention center, and is in close walking distance to a good number of restaurants. Columbus is a very pleasant place. People are friendly, and the restaurants are clearly used to dealing with convention goers: No one batted an eye when complicated split checks were requested. We had a minor reservation snafu at one restaurant, but it was easier to forgive when we realized how majorly slammed they were that night.

The keynote talks given by Eric Hellman, Ben Schneiderman, and Sarah Houghton were all thought-provoking and good, in unique ways. Eric Hellman talked about how the book model is changing, and the publishing models must change and adapt in kind. I like his ideas about a public sector for books, and looking at crowd sourcing for  getting content out to people. I think there are a lot of different ways to explore this, and am personally interested in a crowd sourced model for publishing new content. I believe this is already happening in some areas. I recently contributed to a Kickstarter project to release a fourth edition of the seminal feminist studies text “Borderlands/La Frontera” by Gloria Anzaldua. I think we’re going to start seeing these kinds of things coming up more often. We don’t need editors to be gatekeepers anymore! (Although, we really still need people who can shape, develop, and improve manuscripts before they are released to the public.)

Ben Schneiderman talked about data visualization. He showed us all kinds of visualizations of different types of data, and talked a lot about collaborative data gathering, and looking at information in different ways to draw new conclusions. It made me think about how we might look at some of the bibliographic and holdings metadata we’re working with in new ways, and to wonder how visualizations of that data might help us answer some tricky questions.

Sarah Houghton talked about the future of libraries, and how we can continue to adapt and provide the best services possible. She is an inspiring speaker (and writer), and I like how fired up she is. If there was one thing I came away with, it’s an idea to spend some time brainstorming and visualizing what I think the ideal future library would be. I love thought exercises. I do, however, think that she has some ideas about the services patrons need and want that are very firmly based in the community in which she’s working (the Bay Area) that wouldn’t necessarily serve patrons in every community the same way. I felt that she generalized a lot based on her own community needs, but still had some worthwhile ideas and points to make about library ethics in general. As she usually does.

I saw some great practical presentations on harvesting metadata for institutional repositories, participating in collaborative distributed research projects, building interfaces that can help researchers and students do their work more effectively, and transforming metadata to work in a variety of different systems (which I feel is my bread and butter these days). The best part of all of these presentations was hearing about people problem solving, implementing new tools, being unafraid to try new things, and pushing boundaries to provide better service, whatever that means in their own environments. I came away with a few new tools to research, some ideas for thought exercises, and best of all, a renewed sense of enthusiasm for librarianship, and for the kinds of things we can do if we are determined enough.

I’m eager to mess around with Drupal 7 and the new modules that support linked data. I learned some things that will expand and improve the book I’m working on right now. And I’ve met some people that I hope to collaborate with on some big library metadata problems and areas of interest. All great things, and I’m so glad I went! I’m especially grateful to CDL for making it possible for me to attend such a great conference.

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