Misadventures at CLA 2010 – Day Two

It was a long day today, what with an early start for the First-Timer's breakfast (which I like to attend even though I am slowly realising I can no longer claim “baby librarian” status and might have to shift to being a self-described “toddler librarian” ) and also because I had that second scotch late last night that I probably didn't need. 

After the breakfast, we had an amazing keynote from Sue Gardner, a Canadian who also happens to be the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.  (And on that note, I wonder if it would be possible for CLA to record – ideally all sessions but at least the “biggies” and ideally video but at least audio – and then post them to supplement the Powerpoint slides and handouts which don't always capture a session very well.) 

I'm such a hardcore dork, I teared up twice during her speech – not at the end when she shared a couple stories of how Wikipedia helped change the life of an inter-sexual person who didn't understand their life until they found the site or a young person who realised there was a much wider, educated world beyond his own narrow borders via the site. 

Nope, it was her pointing out that the cost of using the site was “$0” which made me think about how truly radical Wikipedia (and most Internet sites are.)  Families no longer feel obligated to spend hundreds of dollars on Encyclopedia Britannica to help their kids be “educated”.  Just think about how radical that is.  (I use that word twice purposely as she said she was trying out a new tactic – previously, she would promote Wikipedia as an equal of other educational/cultural resources.  Now, she's trying to shift the emphasis to exactly how radical the site is.  Good idea I think though I know that word will scare some people too.)

The other thing that got me misty was when she showed pictures of various Wikipedia users from their profile pages and talked about how it created a community for many smart but often introverted/quiet types who previously might not have had that outlet.  If the librarians in the room didn't see the parallels to many of the people we serve (and indeed many of the people we work with), they're missing the point.

After that, trade show and lunch then into sessions.   I'm not going to try to pick out the high (or low) lights – some great information, ideas and tips, some stuff I'd heard before so not necessarily bad but just nothing new – at least for me. 

I did have the thought that somebody should do a session called “All The Ways We Fucked Up” and do nothing but talk about stuff they screwed up at their library.  It's not that presenters don't share some insight into things that went wrong but I've never heard a presenter who didn't at least gloss it over or put a positive spin on things somewhat.  Or maybe you could make it an open mic thing and have attendees all share their failures?  Or put a confessional booth in the lecture hall with a separate entrance and a voice changer mic and let people broadcast their errors that way!  Okay, now I'm getting carried away.

But beyond the sessions, it's the personal interactions that I love – the students and recent grads on to the mid-career and senior librarians who make this whole crazy libraryland go round.  I was at a non-library function recently and when I told someone what I did, I got one of the greatest compliments I've ever heard.   “You know, I've never met a dumb librarian.  I've met dumb doctors.  Lawyers.  Nurses.  Teachers.  But I've never met a dumb librarian.”

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