This is my first attempt at a conference blog, but I couldn’t come to NASIG this year with my brand new wi-fi enabled laptop and not blog something while here. I hope to blog again tomorrow, but that will depend on whether or not I manage to get away for an hour or so. It’s a lengthy entry.
The first night’s opening session in the Centennial Hall of the Milwaukee Public Library was pretty much like most conference opening sessions, and very much like most NASIG conference opening sessions. One difference this time was that they managed to find someone to give the history of the location (a NASIG opening session tradition) who could do so and keep my attention for 95% of the time. A historian with a sense of humor can make a slideshow 200 year history much more tolerable than the typical dry lecturer.
After the opening session, we were given free admittance to the Milwaukee Public Museum, as well as dinner buffets scattered around the building. I wish I had brought my camera just so I could get a picture of the dessert table. It was absolutely decadent! When not eating, I spend most of the time chatting with old friends and colleagues. It wasn’t until much later that I wondered around a bit and saw some of the exhibits. The live butterfly garden was a unique experience. I like to look at butterflies, but I’m glad none of them landed on me.
One of the things that NASIG lost by going from college campus meetings to hotel conference center meetings is the traditional after hours social, also known as the Beer Node. However, as we discovered last night, the after hours social this year has unofficially formed in the hotel bar. I spent the rest of the evening there with old friends. All in all, it was a pleasant way to kick off an intense conference. On the other hand, I might function better today had I chosen to sleep rather than socialize.
This morning’s first vision session was an Inside the Actor’s Studio type interview session with Matthew Battles, the author of Library: an Unquiet History, who has been described as “hunky” by Jessamyn. There were a couple of things he said that I found interesting. One is the concept of the library as a book. He said that library collections are authored by those who select and acquire them, and in that sense, they become a book as a whole. The other thing he said was that the history of libraries is bound up with the history of the destruction of libraries. His book spends a great deal of time detailing some significant biblioclasms (burning of books) in his book because he believes that it is important to also study why and how libraries were lost as well as why and how they were created in order to understand what they have become.
After the vision session we had networking nodes. Networking nodes can be anything from authorities informing interested parties to informal discussions on a particular topic. I led the electronic resources management networking node, and it was the latter type. We began by a general survey of those in attendance to see who has homegrown ERMs and who is using a commercial ERM. Since III’s ERM is the only commercial product available now, it was not surprising that most in the room were using their own homegrown systems of varying complexity. We all agreed that it was important for the ERM to interface seamlessly with the ILS, which led us to conclude that it would be best if the ILS vendors developed ERM modules, and it seems that most of the major ILS vendors are set to unveil their ERMs within the year.
The conversation then shifted to the pros and cons and difficulties of having a global knowledge base for electronic resources. Most of the important information such as pricing or licensing is specific to individual institutions or consortia, and generally that information is not made public. While the idea of a global knowledge base seemed appealing on a theoretical level, as we got into discussing the practical applications, it seemed that it would be more trouble than helpful. What we really need is a solid infrastructure that links together acquisitions, bibliographic, holdings, and use data and presents that information in a customizable format in the OPAC. We’ll see if the ERM systems set to be unveiled this year meet those needs.
After the networking nodes, we had user group lunch meetings. I met with the SFX bunch, but most of them were recent or impeding implementations, so there wasn’t much discussion on how folks are using it. By the time this was over, it was 1:15pm, and the next thing on my schedule started at 1:30. I was exhausted and needed some down-time. I decided to skip that session and go take a nap.
The nap was refreshing and when I woke up, I was ready to attend my friend Jeff’s strategy session “talk about” on librarian images and issues with perceptions of the profession. We discussed everything from the librarian action figure to faculty perception of librarians and the pros & cons of tenure. I’m not sure I’m convinced that tenure for librarians is all that it’s billed to be. If we want the respect and equal treatment of teaching faculty, it’s a given that we have to go above and beyond what is expected of them. In addition, we must build solid relationships with teaching faculty and university administrators in order for them to gain an understanding of what it is that librarians do and why we deserve equitable compensation and respect. It was a good conversation and a new format for NASIG sessions. I’m pleased to have been a part of it. I was also pleased that this was the last session of the day, leaving us the evening free to walk down to the lakefront for the arts festival and museum.