Disclaimer: As most of you know, I was co-chair of the 2008 National Program Committee. I won’t pretend that I can be objective about the meeting. Nor will I imply that the meeting’s success is attributable solely to the NPC. We were lucky in many ways, including an MLA president/board liaison whose ideas about the meeting coincided with ours from the very first, and whose inaugural address at MLA’07 set the tone and expectations, rallied the membership, and generated enthusiasm for technology, openness, and participation. We had a great venue, with space large enough for posters and lots of spots for informal conversations. We had sections, SIGs, and committees who grabbed the theme and ran with it most enthusiastically, and a membership that came with extraordinary interest and curiosity. In the end, it’s all about us members, because we come to talk to each other, to share, and to learn from our colleagues informally as well as in the presentations. Thanks to everyone who attended to for making this a great meeting.
A few of my favorite things
Andrew Zolli High energy, upbeat, aware of the challenges of the future and thriving on them, inspiring us to do the same with humor and intelligence. He lived up to our hopes and expectations for the meeting keynote address.
Web 2.0 Arc The CE Committee Webcast in March, the Social Networking Task Force, the free SNTF class on social software in April and May, and the MLA’08 Wednesday Plenary Session Webcast in real time worked together as parts of a continuum. Something for everyone, whether they were able to come to Chicago in person or not.
Community Service Projects An opportunity to give back to our host city, particularly appropriate in Chicago, MLA’s headquarters city.
Open Forums on Health Literacy, Vital Pathways, Open Access, Social Networking, and Librarians without Borders. I wish I could have gone to all of them, because these were the venue for reporting out some of the association’s most vibrant and exciting initiatives and for discussing the most critical issues in our professional lives.
Blogs and Bloggers Michelle Kraft blogs that MLA needs to do more in this area. In theory, I agree with her, but in practice this conference like every other one involves trade offs. We took steps in the right direction to facilitate blogging and social networking in real time and I’m glad we did. It adds another dimension to the meeting and further extends it outside the hotel walls. I hope future meetings will extend even further.
Had I but known …
If there was one thing I would have done differently, it would have been to promote the social networking aspects of the meeting more than we did. It’s a bit of a vicious circle – until there’s a perception that the need and interest is widespread rather than the concern solely of a small (and perhaps elite) group, the motivation to expand this access and support will be limited. On the other hand, until the infrastructure makes online networking as seamless and easy as the in-person networking, only the dedicated and technologically adept will be able to participate and the grassroots demand will remain small.
What else?
I found David Rothman’s comments on Second Life during the Wednesday plenary ironic, using as he did many of the same arguments that have been marshaled against blogging, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube as professional tools. My colleague Patricia Anderson presented the opposing view during the comments segment of that session. Listen to both and join the ongoing conversation.
On a local level, I was very proud of the showing my colleagues from UM made at this meeting. We had lots of posters and papers, and I learned anew how creative and how much fun they are when we came together to present a skit on second life, complete with avatar costumes. Major kudos to the HSL Players and all my HSL colleagues for their outstanding presentation of our work.
I’ve returned from the meeting excited, energized, and full of ideas for the future. I can’t wait to work on them. I hope you all are feeling the same, and will be at MLA’09 to continue the conversation and share your year of accomplishments between now and then.