Library Technology Conference 2014

The program notes aren’t up yet, and my own notes/tweets/memories were erratic. If you were looking for a detailed reconstruction of the conference, I will be forced to crush your hopes utterly.

If this is March, there’s a Library Technology Conference, which was held on March 19 and 20 this year. I had a fine time overall, although I was disappointed that a session I’d really wanted to attend was canceled. The mysteries of library system developments will remain mysteries for now, it seems.

Each day began with a keynote speaker. Both speakers covered several topics, but I seem to have fixated on one or two for either of them, with the rest of what they spoke about evaporating from memory. What I remember from the first day’s speaker, Mita Williams, were the photos she showed us of a library in Denmark (I think it was Denmark) that has no staff and an academic library that was mainly just tables so that the students could use WiFi. She also talked about the idea of libraries as potential makerspaces. That sounded intriguing, and certainly more lively than empty computerized rooms, and I’m curious to see how that idea plays out in actual libraries.

The second keynote speaker, Barbara Fister, spoke in part about how libraries need to be less modest about their contributions to society. Not that this is a universal problem; she’d found one mission statement that just cries out to be on T-shirts and tote bags: “The purpose of the library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.” 😀 But she’d looked at several library mission statements and many of them were full of passive verbs like provide and support. I’m listening to this, thinking, aren’t those traditionally “feminine” roles? And isn’t librarianship one of the traditionally “female-dominated” professions? Hmm. I want to hear this speech again; I know there was a lot more interesting stuff than the snippet I’ve just mentioned, but I’ve forgotten so many of the details already.

At times, it felt like there were two parallel conferences going on. Call them the Patron Data Privacy Conference and the Patron Data Analytics Conference, if you will. I spent a fair chunk of the conference on Twitter, since attendees were live-tweeting sessions. At one point, several people were tweeting about preserving patron privacy. They tweeted about making private browsing the default for public library computers, securing the WiFi, avoiding adding social media sharing buttons to library websites, and resisting the gather-data-on-students trend. While I was reading all this, I was attending a session on collecting data on user behaviors so that librarians could adapt their websites to make them easier for patrons to navigate. The two “sides” both have good points. Even if a library is committed to preserving patron privacy, the library’s software may be allowing third parties access to patron data. At the same time, I admired what this presenter was showing us: a library website that can tell that a search has failed and that offers suggestions to the patron about what to do next. It can do this because it “watches” what the patron was doing and “recognizes” that the patron was searching for a journal article as if it were a book. So, reduce the amount of information gathered in the interests of preserving patron privacy? Or continue to gather as much patron data as possible to improve services and prove to higher-ups that patrons value and use the library?

And then there were the little things. Everyone got a nice reusable bag and a water bottle that folds flat when empty. Macalester is attempting to get to zero trash by 2020, and they’re well on their way. They banned sales of bottled water a few years ago (thus the water bottles in the goody bags), and all the plates, cups, plasticware, napkins, and so on was compostable. Impressive. There was an opportunity to play a bit with Google Glass, but I decided I was running out of energy to stand in line, so this will have to wait for a future opportunity. Also, I am getting way too old to spend a day in auditorium seating. Or perhaps I’ve been spoiled by ergonomic desk chairs at home and at work. You’d think all the time I spend in cafés would keep me in condition for rigid one-size-fits-all seating, but no. Ow. 😦 But slightly stiff muscles aside, it was an excellent conference, and I look forward to seeing what will be offered next year.

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4 thoughts on “Library Technology Conference 2014

    1. Silvernfire Post author

      My intro to library science textbook stated that libraries only flourish when civilization is stable, which puts the troubles libraries have faced in the past several years in an ominous light.I’m not sure I got the proper training for keeping civilization intact.

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  1. Marcia Johnson

    Thanks for your notes on the 2014 Conference. I have attended in the past and appreciated your insight into this year’s. Marcia G. J

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