Magazine article Information Today

ALA Midwinter Meeting: Reevaluating and Reenergizing

Magazine article Information Today

ALA Midwinter Meeting: Reevaluating and Reenergizing

Article excerpt

Library and information industry professionals at the American Library Association's (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Dallas discussed technologies, change, and demonstrating value, and they proved they are meeting the challenges of economic decline. Granted, there were fewer librarians at the meeting Jan. 20-24: There were only 6,200, compared to last year's 7,500 in San Diego and 8,500 in Boston in 2010. But, there were about 3,700 exhibitors, nearly 50% more than the 2,500 of the 2 previous years. Though aisles were notably empty during some of the 23 hours of exhibit time, the ratio of nearly 2-1 attendees to exhibitors meant that librarians rarely had to wait at the 425 booths, and there was plenty of time for B2B investigation and chatting.

The Conversation Starts Here

The Conversation Starts Here theme, sparked by ALA president Molly Raphael, ran throughout the conference, promoting more interactive sessions, an unconference, the inclusion of ALA member pavilions in the exhibit hall, and presidential sessions on Understanding Your Communities and Transforming Librarianship. At the ALA President's Program, Richard C. Harwood, of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, said, "We need the courage to get rid of some of the legacy partners that we have. Too many partners are holding us down and holding us back. We don't need all of them, only those who will help. We need the courage to take the piece that we can do and make that our contribution to the whole...."

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Reevaluating goals, roles, and methods played out often in the sessions I attended and the spontaneous conversations I had at programs, sponsored meal meetings, and exhibits. I often heard from librarians who had come to the conference specifically to meet with vendor representatives and their partners to deliver services to their communities (and even in an age when we can accomplish lots virtually), it still made sense to travel to Dallas to meet in person.

Top Tech Trends

Seeing new technologies and hearing stories of our colleagues adopting them are some of the best reasons to attend the conference. For those who remember when Google deigned to exhibit at library trade shows, it was a pleasure to see blekko, Inc. in the exhibit hall in 2012. Another interesting newcomer was MediaSurfer, an iPad-lending kiosk system from Tech Logic.

The Library and Information Technology Association's Top Technology Trends panel often provides a sustained conversation to focus on tech sightings. Marshall Breeding, from Vanderbilt University Libraries, noted that the ILS is no longer integrated or comprehensive and will be replaced in 10 years by the library services platform. He called for a reintegration of discovery via matched sets such as OCLC's WorldShare Management Services and WorldCat Local, or Ex Libris Ltd. …

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