NASIG and ER&L

NASIG 2011
creative serialists at the 2011 conference

I’ve been an active NASIG member since 2002, and our conference participation (as well as over-all membership) has been declining every year. I think a big part of it has to do with our identity and the shift of serials librarians to eresource librarians. I believe NASIG still has relevance, particularly as a forum for conversations between librarians and the commercial side of the continuing resources industry. However, I think our conference and membership can sometimes get mired down in 25+ years of traditions and personalities.

ER&L seems to be avoiding that so far, so I spent a good bit of time thinking about why their model is working so well for drawing new and repeat attendees. There certainly was no lack of commercial side participation, both as presenters and in session attendance. Some of that may be due to an early adoption of sponsorships and a lack of a negative knee-jerk reaction to branding by the sponsors. There is also a more prominent placement of the vendor exhibits, situated in the middle of the conference schedule, and including free food and drinks to draw in participants.

The other big thing that stood out to me is the length of the sessions. Each concurrent session was no longer than 50 min, and the last 10 min was reserved for questions. We’re experimenting with shorter sessions at NASIG this year, in part due to Program Planning Committee member suggestions based on experiences with other conferences. I am hopeful that this will result in fewer instances of time-fillers such as lengthy introductions with info about home institutions that are rarely relevant and literature reviews that would be better presented as handouts than from a podium. Sad to say, but my generation and younger are not going to want to attend your dry, academic presentation. Give me some content and context that I can’t get from reading your paper in the proceedings, or else I have no reason to listen to you.

I’m not saying that I want NASIG to become a mirror image of ER&L, but rather we need to be more brash about our relevance to the community. Let us be an “and also,” not an “either or.” I derive tremendous benefits from attending both conferences and participating in both communities, and I’m very thankful that my home institution supports this. I wish everyone else had that benefit, too.

#libday8 day 3 — never-ending powerpoint!

"PowerPoint effects" from Noise To Signal by Rob Cottingham

I had just enough time to log on and clear out the email inbox before the first team of vendor reps arrived to demonstrate their discovery service, and then it was off to the auditorium where I would spend most of the rest of the day.

These presentations are the latest iteration of our years long internal debate over whether or not the current crop of “web-scale discovery services” can fulfill an unmet need for our students (and faculty). We’ve considered several in the past, but could not get sufficient buy-in from the research & instruction librarians to request the funds to pay for them. After a cooling period, and many discussions with key individuals, we sent out an RFI to some targeted companies, and now we’re providing the opportunity for them to give live demonstrations/pitches.

It’s an unusually warm day here in Richmond, and the library’s HVAC — like most large buildings with sections of various ages and walls that didn’t exist when the building was originally designed — isn’t keeping up with the change. So, after a much-needed lunch break, I came back to the warm auditorium for rounds two and three.

I wish I could share my thoughts about the day’s presentations, but I can’t. Ultimately, there were many examples of things done well and things done not so well, both in the products and in the presentations. We know where the bar has been set, so now it’s a matter of matching our expectations to what can be delivered. There is one more presentation to go, and these have been quite valuable for clarifying what is important to us in a discovery service.

After one last pass through the email inbox, bumping most action items to tomorrow, library day in the life round eight day three has ended.

my presentation for Internet Librarian 2010

I’ve uploaded my presentation to SlideShare and will be sending it to the ITI folks shortly. Check the speaker notes for the actual content, as the slides are more for visualization.

CI 2009: Unconferences

Presenters: Steve Lawson, Stephen Francoeur, John Blyberg, and Kathryn Greenhill

KG began by asking the audience to share what questions they have about unconferences while SL took notes on a flip chart. Lots of good questions covering a variety of aspects, including all the questions I have.

Keep in mind: who ever comes are the right people; whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened; whenever it starts is the right time. Also keep in mind the law of two feet. If you are in a situation where you are neither getting nor receiving anything of value, then change that or leave.

Many people indicate that they get a lot out of the space inbetween sessions at traditional conferences, and this is what unconferences try to capture. Libraries can also host general unconferences, such as what Deschamps did in Halifax. It doesn’t have to be just library stuff.

You can’t prepare for every aspect of an unconference. You can prepare the space and request that specific people be there, but in the end, its success is based on the engagement of the participants.

Unconferences are casual. You do need to decide the level of casual, such as how much you want to borrow from traditional conference amenities and structure. Organizational sponsorships should be limited to affiliation and financial support — avoid letting them dictate what will happen.

Keynote sessions can influence the conversations that happen afterwards, so be deliberate about whether or not to have one.

The less you have to deal with money the better, and there are pros and cons to having fees. Keep the threshold low to encourage participation. Every day is a bad day for somebody, so just choose a date and time.

Tip: organize an unconference the day before or after a national conference. Folks are coming and going, and it’s easier to schedule that time in and to get institutional funding.

Make use of social software for promoting and organizing the unconference (wikis are good), and also use it for continuing the conversation.

Free as in beer, free as in kittens, and now free as in someone else is paying. Make use of the resources of the participants institutions.

Swag keeps the connection, and if you’re creative, they’re also useful. SF showed the notebooks that they handed out at LibCampNYC, which were branded versions of something like Moleskine notebooks. Hand out the swag at the beginning, along with notes about how the unconference was going to work and an outline of a schedule (if you have one).

You can build communities through unconferences that then are agile enough to continue the interaction and spontaneous gatherings.

"If you feed them they will come. If you give them liquor they will come the next time." — John Blyberg

the answer to stupid questions

I used to work at the reference desk a few hours a week. It helped reinforce my decision to stay as far away from reference work as I can. Don’t get me wrong, I like helping people with research and finding answers to questions. It was the stupid questions (and there are stupid questions) and the lazy students that really got under my skin. Oh, how many times I wished I could send them to a website like this!