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Friday, January 26, 2007

ala mid-winter 

My mom was in town last weekend for the American Library Association (ALA) mid-winter conference in Seattle. It was SO MUCH FUN! Primarily because I got to hang out with my mom -- but also because I got to meet all these cool librarians and get a little peak inside of their world and the world of information management. It was fascinating. Librarians are true activists. I was a little surprised by their constant activism -- it seems so natural to them that most didn't notice they were being activists! But every single one I talked to (and granted this was a skewed set as they were hanging out with my mum and she's always been an activist) was up to something to protect their library users' rights to information. They were concerned about censorship, about access to literature in book format or digital format. Across the board people were frustrated by internet laws that were trying to prohibit the content users could access.

There were a number of interesting trends:
(1) The Card Catalog is dead. Just knowing what one is dates you!
(2) Lots of questions around how to validate the source and credibility of online content. Can the internet be a resource of validated, citeable, information? There was a lot of discussion around this process of information validation online -- how do you know the quality of a source?
(3) Book length for kids has increased. This was interesting -- I heard repeatedly that kids are reading longer books post-Harry Potter. Apparently JK rowling's books showed readers that 400+ pages can be interesting!
(4) Science Fiction was huge at the conference. Everyone was talking about how they were expanding their shelf space to accomodate Sci-Fi. Particularly for teen readers. They love Sci-Fi, more so than fantasy.
(5) My Space - I met about 5 librarians who were putting their libraries up on myspace. They told me that their young readers use my space and if they can get them to use the library via my space, they have to be there. Fascinating.

The other fun thing we did? Crash parties. As with any good conference there are also a number of parties to go to! We went to one at the EMP -- the experience music project sponosored by Wiley Publishers. It was fun , I got to walk through a "history of hip hop" exhibit with my mum. The next party we went to was at the top of the space needle. However, it turned out that we had the wrong invite! They let us in anyways (it was supposed to be the Innovative party but instead we were at the Thomson Scientific party). Thomason was completely wonderful and the views from the top of the space needle were great.

All in all, I have to say that hanging out with Librarians was good times. I'd like to do it more often!