SLA 2006: On the Horizon

Article excerpt

The crowds filtering in and out of the Baltimore Convention Center for the SLA conference held June 11-14 ferried an arsenal of necessities: SLA 2006 Conference Guides, signature totes, laptops, name tags, and comfortable shoes.

Baltimore's king-size venue served as classroom, exhibit hall, pressroom, meeting foyer, and Starbucks central for the 5,844 attendees (2,519 SLA members, 1,406 nonmembers, and 1,919 exhibitor staff). The international crowds were ready for sessions, demos, and networking and had a chance in between to sample the city's namesake crab cakes and walks along the nearby Inner Harbor. They also had invitations to at least one of the many vendor-sponsored parties at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and beyond.

On the conference exhibit floor, giveaways abounded: There were oversized faux gem rings from Alacra, twinkling star pins from Thomson, corporate gift bags, company logo pens, ice cream, wine, shoulder massages, munchables, and-yes-even parrots (for photo ops, that is, not giveaways).

The 167-page conference guide (plus four covers) detailed sessions covering a full spectrum: from science (Chemistry for the Non-Chemist Librarian) to business (Business Intelligence in a Changing World) to legal (The Global Legal Environment and You) to medical (Reporting Negative Results of Clinical Trials) to lighter fare (The Science of Chocolate and Stress Management: Laugh for the Health of It).

Session Highlights

With as many as 24 sessions being offered during any time slot, attendees sometimes had a tough time choosing which classroom door to enter. But crowds gravitated to sessions touting practical on-the-job skills-RSS feeds, added value, open access, copyright, Web tools, researching private companies, and others- judging from the standing-room-only status. In the session on How to Use RSS to Know More and Do Less, Jenny Levine (Internet development specialist of the Metropolitan Library System in Burr Ridge, Ill.), spelled out the best ways to get RSS feeds from multiple sites. One of the big advantages of RSS is that a specific site can be sent directly to the user automatically, a critical necessity for librarians so customers can use the library's content effectively. Get used to RSS feeds, she said. They are here to stay.

Perennial favorite Mary Ellen Bates offered insight into adding value to products in Becoming an Added-Value Information Professional. Among her tips were how to make the output user friendly and add value to Web content with charts, graphs, or analysis. She suggested ways to boost creativity in your own design format and the best methods to extract information from databases (instead of a single chart on one company, create a comparative analysis of several companies). Branding is key, she said: Seal the results in a PDF file with a distinctive cover that users will remember.

Copyright has also become a need-toknow topic, especially how copyright law is being applied in the digital environment, according to speaker Laura N. Gasaway, director of the law library and a professor of law at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In fact, Gasaway's book Get Copyright Right (a compilation of her past award-winning Copyright Corner columns in Information Outlook), has just been published by SLA. The 30 columns included in the book, she said, have been updated with the latest information.

New Web Tools, with the entertaining and informative duo of Gary Price (librarian, consultant, writer, and now the director of online information resources at Ask.com) and Genie Tyburski from Ballard Spahr Andrews and Ingersoll, LLP, covered the must-know sites, as well as some hot picks. (For the latest info updated daily, check out http://www.resource shelf.com and http://www.docuticker.com.) The tech-twosome provided a look at the Tool of the Year (Search Engine Ordering for Firefox), maps (Ask.com's Dynamic Map Location, Microsoft Live Local, and Terra- Fly), Weblog and feed searching (Bloglines mobile version), Web-based apps (the Zoho line), multimedia searching (Nexidia that breaks language into phonetic sounds), e-books, and, yes, even federated job searching (Simply Hired, Inc. …