Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Events aplenty - doing the professional development thing - a Conference Corps?

It seems ironic to me that now that we librarians need professional development opportunities more than ever - e.g., attending conferences & trainings - we are less supported than ever to do so. We could do so much for our patrons, couldn't we, if we librarians could only take better advantage of emerging technologies? If we could share ideas and pass on developments...

I think that we should get a pool of funding for a "conference corps" that rotated among librarians (who would have to be capable of - at the very least, live blogging the event) & gave them opportunities to attend emerging tech / cutting edge ideas conferences. (For example, the people who post to ALA TechSource are pretty clued & could do a good job with the live blogging, maybe they could be the first group - or maybe the "emerging leaders" group from ALA, though I hate to limit it to ALA, since that org doesn't have the most thought-leading record at this point... also, we need to make it less exclusive - there should be people involved in the corps who might not otherwise be able to get out of their little pond for a while, who may not already be among the "big names" in today's library world). I'm not just talking about library conferences, either - we need to think much larger. Here's some examples:
  • MacWorld
  • Web2.0 Expo
  • SXSWI (South by Southwest Interactive)
  • CES (Consumer Electronics Show)
  • Burning Man? that one would be pretty cool - has anyone gone there & set up a
    "library" for attendees during the festival?
  • WordCamp (for Wordpress); similar for Drupal, other open source CMS'
And there must be dozens of others - but wherever thought leaders in the web world are congregating, librarians should be there, too, then share those thoughts with their colleagues. So much work that's being done out there can help us adapt to better serve our patrons - heck maybe we could get into the game again and become tech thought leaders ourselves? or at least be a bigger part of the conversation?

On that front, a gentle nudge & reminder - unconferences coming up (even those whose registration is filled up may have wait lists) include Code4Lib (already full, @Brown Univ. Feb. 23-26), DrupalCamp for libraries (full up, Feb. 27th, Darien Library, CT), LitaCamp (still open, it looks like, May 7-8, OCLC, Dublin, Ohio); conferences include (no, not gonna to mention ALA midwinter, nope, not gonna do it) Computers In Libraries (March 30-April 1, Arlington, VA). CT librarians whose libraries are members of CLC can get a discounted rate for CIL registration.

I loved this posting from a recent LIS student who insisted that all library school students should have to take a computer programming class (at least one!) - see I agree wholeheartedly. Two of my favorite, most useful LIS classes were database design & systems analysis. To this day, I grok the relational aspect of the RDBMS - I heart normalizing data (yes, I am an uber-geek) - and as a result, have helped a lot of colleagues who never grasped the use of Access as more than a glorified version of a spreadsheet. This makes me a much better library webmaster. As does the understanding (however rudimentary it may be) of systems analysis and design concepts. It's at least as key to our mastery of library science today as the understanding of classification systems has been in the past. (yes, I also liked that I had to take a cataloging course that covered classification systems, as well, though I was not great at it). For those of us who didn't have the opportunity (nor did they really talk much about PHP or Ruby on Rails back then) to take a course on a specific programming language, we should be encouraged by our administrators to get this training now.

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