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What Happens When a Pen and Paper Person

Goes to North America’s Largest Technology Conference for Librarians

Erica Lake
Hope Fox Eccles Health Library
Salt Lake City, Utah

I have always wanted to attend the Computers in Libraries conference in the hopes of finally getting up to speed with current technologies, and in March – thanks to the RML – I did. Information Today Inc’s 27th annual conference definitely lived up to its claim – it WAS big. But what most impressed me was that it successfully managed to offer relevant information for academic, public, and special librarians, as well as programming for both technophiles and neophytes. That’s a lot of hats to wear, but they wore them well.

This year’s theme was Creating Innovative Libraries, with speakers kicking off each day, followed by “track” programming. Attendees could stick with one track all day, or pick and choose among themes like Mobile Trends and Practices, Navigating Information Overload, eBook Revolution and Evolution, and Recreating Services.

The three speakers – a businessman, a library institute director, and a librarian (web strategy and new media director) – all addressed how to nimbly incorporate actual innovation (not just talk of innovation) into library missions and daily work flow. As one speaker stated, “Let us go boldly into the PRESENT, not the future.” In other words, don’t put off action. Think big, start small, and move fast.

I was one of those who picked and chose among the tracks, and was very satisfied with 90% of the presentations I attended. A big topic of discussion across all tracks was the capacity of libraries to cultivate engaging learning experiences through maker labs (labs where users create content) and collaborative spaces. Many presenters believed the future success of libraries hinge on supporting and promoting the ability of our users to create content. Public and academic directors, as well as librarians and support staff, shared ways to engage colleagues in the move from libraries as places users go to consume, to places users go to create.

My favorite program was Redesigning Reference Models from the University Library at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. The staff saw the two year remodeling of their library as an opportunity to re-examine how they provided reference services. Their temporary library was too small to accommodate a traditional reference desk, so they “exploded it.” Reference services happened everywhere BUT at the reference desk. They created a catchy theme – Undesk Your Library – and put together an informative YouTube video to alert their users about changes in service:

Image of "Where's the Desk?" Video

The change was so successful, they decided not to go back to their old reference service model once the remodeling project was completed.

Overall, I had a great experience. I was able to attend programs at the neophyte level, so I felt inspired rather than overwhelmed. Attending a conference with a diverse group of professionals was refreshing, and provided a great opportunity to learn how libraries outside of the health field are incorporating new technologies into revamped services, and how they are reimagining their physical spaces to cultivate cultures of innovation. Thanks for the opportunity, RML!

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