ALA Annual #ala15 #alaac15

I just recently returned from San Francisco, where the ALA Annual Conference was held. This is the largest librarian conference that I’ve been to. Its easy to get overwhelmed by the selection of workshops, programs, speakers, exhibits, and vendors.

My first day consisted of attending the opening keynote, Roberta Kaplan. Kaplan represented Edie Windsor whose widow, Thea Spyer, left her as sole heir after her passing. The Kaplan’s successful court case, United States vs. Windsor, was instrumental in legalizing gay marriage. This past week, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, ending several state bans. Kaplan’s opening remarks were nothing short of timely and incredible. It was a very joyous occasion for everyone.  Following the opening keynote Enoch  Pratt Free Public Library branch manager, Melanie Townsend Diggs, was given an award for keeping her branch safe during the Baltimore riots over the murder of Freddie Gray.

I also attended the LITA Open House, where interest group (IG) chairs discussed their groups with LITA members/non-members. I am one of the outgoing 4 co-chairs for the LITA/ALCTS joint-interest group Library Code Year. IGLCY is a group that introduces computer programming to other librarians.

The second day, I attended more LITA meetings. I attended a discussion with the mobile computing IG, chaired by Laurie Bridges. We discussed different types of usability studies, the integration of mobile devices and gaming, and social media. We also talked about roving reference. One of Laurie’s friends uses balloons to signify they are a roving librarian, which I thought was a brilliant idea.

I also attended the LITA Electronic Resources Management (ERM) IG. Members of Smith College discussed using CORAL, an open-source erm, which sounds like something my institution could use. It tracks funding codes, licenses, URLs, and other data to manage eResources.

On a whim, I also attended a panel discussion on podcasting. However, to my surprise, the panel was with the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, one of my favorite podcasts! Not only did I get to hear from the creators, but I snagged some great conference swag, including a night vale poster and a CD that accompanies their debut book. I’ve talked about Welcome to Night Vale before, and this panel largely centered around the mythos of librarians in their universe. Librarians are depicted as evil, horrible entities that cause chaos!

Following the Night Vale panel, I went to the convention hall to see Nick Offerman speak. More commonly known as Ron Swanson on the television series Parks and Recreation, Offerman is also an author. He recently wrote a book called Gumption. He made several references to Wendell Berry, one of my favorite writers from Kentucky. After his talk, he was interviewed by author Sarah Vowell.

The next day, I participated in a wide variety of activities. I started the day with a breakfast with Alexander Street, where the speaker discussed biodiversity farming. Soon after, I attended the widely popular Top Tech Trends, a LITA event that focuses on new technologies in libraries. Panel speakers discussed infrastructure, RFID, broadband, podcasts, and WiFi. Although these seem like current technologies, new advances are emerging to make information more accessible for patrons.

I presented on public performances rights for the Video Roundtable. This panel discussed examined how librarians can promote such films, giving examples from librarians and vendors. It was well-attended and will soon be available.

My last day of the conference included my first invited speaking engagement with the LITA Drupal4Lib IG. I discussed how our mobile site was hacked last year due to a Drupal exploit that affected thousands of websites. I finished the day by attending the LITA usability group, where I heard of others’ work on usability testing and card sorting.

ALA can be overwhelming, but I learned a great deal about libraries. I also was able to pick up some sweet conference swag, like a Criterion Collection DVD of Roshomon, and a bunch of free pens. I even won a selfie stick from Credo, which I’ll donate to the library. The amount of bags I brought back was also insane, but I’ll toss those to my mom who loves library related totes.

If you’re ever in San Francisco for a conference, I highly suggest taking an extra day and go to Muir Woods. It’s extremely peaceful once you’re past the wooden decks and enter the more secluded trails.

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