Monday, October 29, 2007
Internet Librarians Descend Upon Monterey
My apologies that this post was so long in coming - the wireless network at the conference and hotel is spotty, at best. I can hardly believe I'm this close to Silicon Valley and yet so unconnected. Downloading the picture above took what seemed like a lifetime.
This morning, the Internet Librarian conference started in earnest. More than 1,500 techie types are here, record numbers. Consequently, and unlike most library conferences, there are lots of men amongst the attendees. The librarian profession still skews heavily female, but that is changing - technology careers skew toward the male side, but clearly that is changing, too. I’m here, along with a lot of other women, and we’re not afraid to wear our gadget-and-Web geekiness on our sleeves. And our sleeves aren't horribly unfashionable polo shirts advertising tech companies, either. :) The wi-fi connection problems may also stem from the fact that everyone is blogging and Flickring and yakking about the conference, online, while also attending it. Never has so much bandwidth been gobbled up by one ravenous pack. Wait 'til the Second Lifers get here...
Our names are around our necks, too: everywhere you look, someone’s wearing a name badge for the conference. The line up above is the queue for lunch at a tiny Italian cafe across the plaza from the conference center. Everyone in that line- up is an Internet Librarian or a speaker, vendor, organizer, as was everyone inside (which is why I felt comfortable taking pictures of complete strangers) with the exception of the very handsome owner/manager and his staff. I got my standard issue chicken caesar salad and caught up on email. Librarians are, in my opinion, endowed with some of the poorest social skills of all living beings. (Not all librarians, mind you -- what I love about my coworkers at DPPL is how outgoing and downright funny many of them are. What a refreshing change from the sad-but-true stereotype.) Suffice it to say it is not easy to strike up conversations and new friendships at these librarian gatherings. I saw someone with an Internet Librarian tote bag at the magnificient Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday, greeted her and she gave me a look that said, “Oh, they let crazy people in here, too. Lovely.” Sometimes just making eye contact sends people scurrying toward the restrooms or gazing glassy-eyed at their laptop screens. Look at the body language in the picture here - yes, it was a little chilly today, but if an image is worth a thousand words, this photo is saying, "I'd probably prefer not to talk with you" in a myriad of ways.
So thank goodness for people who aren’t afraid to say hello. I attended this morning’s keynote (more about that later, but big props to speaker Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet and American Life project for a fantastic keynote address) then a session on using Web 2.0 tools to more effectively market a public library. That session ended and as I approached the banquet room doors, someone called out my name - unusual since I didn’t think I knew anyone here. Turned out to be Debbie Baaske, from our own North Suburban Library System back in Wheeling, IL. She recognized me from my NSLS profile - now I’m glad I took the time to post a picture there. It was just nice to talk to a friendly person, and a group of us from the Chicago area are meeting for dinner tonight. Lunch brought a funnier type of encounter. I had a mouthful of romaine and processed chicken parts (the salad was less handsome than the man who took my order) when the woman eating solo at the table next to mine inquired, “Do you know who Dusty Springfield is?” Since I happen to be a singer as well as a librarian, I told her I not only knew but I admired Springfield’s singing and had just read an article about her in that MOJO magazine I brought on the plane. Turned out this Internet Librarian is a consultant from the UK, one of my favorite places on earth, and we had a nice conversation after that. She asked about Dusty Springfield because she said I reminded her of the singer, which I found quite flattering. It’s fun to be an Internet Librarian and it’s really fun to be an Internet Librarian with a resemblance to Dusty Springfield. (Don’t know Dusty Springfield? Look her up!) I"ll be humming "The Look of Love" and that duet she did with the Pet Shop Boys for weeks.
Speaking of Internet Librarians, the gentleman who opened up the conference with some introductory remarks and information had some amusing things to say about this (I believe he was Tom Hogan, president of Information Today, the company that presents this conference. He was not the keynote speaker, he got things rolling, but my entrance was somewhat flustered due to issues with registration so I missed his name) . He also told us about “retronyms,” new words that become necessary when old words fail us or when definitions change. Examples of some “retronyms:” regular coffee, classical music, bar soap, rotary telephone, dial-up Internet access. There was a time when: all coffee had caffeine, all music was what we now think of as “Classical,” all soap came in a bar, etc. etc. Then he challenged us - what do we call non-Internet Librarians? (My immediate thought: Wireless Librarians. But, that’s confusing...) In fact, he’s given us the tall order of suggesting the best options for a new name for non-Internet Librarians and is even offering a sweet prize. I’ll ponder that later, but for right now, I’m heading back for more sessions at Internet Librarian. I’ll check back in soon.