jan.wall's picture

I tried to post yesterday. I finally managed to find a spot where the wireless signal was strong enough to connect. But the wireless service provider evidently doesn’t support blogging, because each time I tried to "publish" (or even save), the message disappeared.

I'll have to look over my notes to see if there's any content that I should mention. But maybe that was part of my evaluation (the delta, if you will) of this conference: there was too much. Too many sessions and speakers. We were so scheduled that there was hardly time for reflection. Lots of ideas were thrown around, but we hardly had time for in-depth exploration. And because the pace seemed (to me) so frenetic, there wasn’t time to get to know anyone.

Other issues: the location wasn't conducive to any cohesiveness. There are too many places to go to in SLC, and particpants stayed in numerous hotels across the city. (But maybe cohesiveness wasn’t a part of the desired outcomes.) There wasn’t a list of participants, so it will be difficult to put names and faces together in the future. And a criticism I have of librarians in gerneral: they seemed to travel in the same herd they came with.

Perhaps one of the things that I saw as a drawback was intentional on the planner’s part. It seemed that the tone (and theme) of the conference was pre-determined. I’m not sure how to explain this. We started with Nancy Kranich, who extolled the virute (and necessity) of developing libraries as facilitators in community dialog. And we ended with Meg Wheatley, whose presentation brought it full circle, with the same theme. So is it any wonder that conversations ran along those lines? I’m not sure that anyone came away with another model than that, another role that libraries might play in the future.

Maybe that was their desired outcome. But I think we need to have more of a "blank slate" than that. (Or am I misinterpreting out intentions?) Do we have an idea of what we want the solution(s) to be? Or the role(s) we want libraries to play in the future? If so, it’s not “their” conference, it's "ours."

Okay, that’s probably enough philosophy. What worked about the conference: an impressive library, where everything worked together for the benefit of the patrons, staff, and community; a great model for community involvement; support from staff and volunteers to make the conference run smoothly; great small group discussions; excellent bibliographies and reading materials; video feeds; website; participants from all areas and library (and some non-library) positions (but no school librarians!!!); lots fo think about.

Can we build upon any of these plus/deltas? I realize that this conference is seen through my lens, so take everything I say with a grain of salt! (A feeble joke, considering where I’ve been.)

    Kay Flowers's picture

    I found several things

    I found several things interesting. The most important was the lack of spare time. I think librarians, out of guilt or necessity, feel this need to schedule every single minute at a conference. In a big city with lots of competing attractions, maybe that is needed. However, I think there is a real value to setting aside time to think and reflect. I would hope that we would leave a lot of times for small groups of mixed backgrounds to get together and brainstorm. Such interaction should be the true meat of the conference, not just listening to scifi writers and futurists.

    I was also interested that Jan felt that the conference was “staged” to come to a certain conclusion, as if the “future” of the library as a bastion of democracy was already accepted and the conference was just for coming up with details. I hope that our selection of writers will come up with several alternative futures. At an ACRL meeting several years ago, one session was devoted to alternative futures. A small group had fleshed out four possible futures and the groups worked on what they liked/disliked about each and what were the odds of each happening. That exercise was helpful in opening up folks to possibilities, including less than positive possibilities!!.

    More thoughts later. Let’s hear from some other folks.

    Jan Wall's picture

    Unaccustomed as I am to

    Unaccustomed as I am to public blogging (that sounds ominous/dangerous), I perhaps should have toned down my evaluation? It sounds like I’m ungrateful or that I didn’t get anything out of it. On the contrary, I found it extremely valuable to be included. There were a lot of ideas that were valuable for me personally and professionally. Looking at what worked and what didn’t, IMO, was colored/clouded/interpreted through what I think our Futures event is shaping up to be.

    And maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges here. I think our event has different purposes. And we are intentionally keeping it free. (As in $$). I’m sure the self-selection nature of the group (i.e. those whose budget could absorb travel costs and the $150 registration) made the composition of the group different than we envision. And thus the conversations as well.

    I’m not very comfortable taking this out to LibIdaho at this point. I had thought this would be (or stay) internal at this point, although I have included LD in the conversation as well.


    Joe Reiss's picture


    Well, moving right along…Jan, I appreciated your opinions, and do not think “toned down” comments will get us anywhere. Tell it like you see it, isn’t that what this is all about?
    I found your blogging useful and informative, and found myself in agreement with your sentiments.
    Kay, your comments are spot right on, and as perceptive as usual. Also agree with what you wrote.
    Do you guys feel there is an undercurrent to every conference that becomes either an overt or covert theme? Sometimes the theme seems to develop in an almost serendipitous fashion. Nobody sets out to establish it, but a theme underlies and/or links sessions, workshops, discussions…like a steady thrumming bass line. Perhaps that’s what happened in SLC, one presenter carooming off the position of another. Or, perhaps the conference had an intentional theme going in. Either way, it is an interesting one.
    Libraries tend to flock to the latest banner. The banner of the moment that seems to have relevance, resonance and practical application. “Hey gang, over here…DEMOCRACY MUST BE SAVED! and we’re the ones to do it. We’ll become centers of enlightened discussion, interlocutors of community communication, and maybe show a film or two. You know, that sounds just like Post Falls. We haven’t started selling popcorn yet, but video is just around the corner.
    Like Kay said, hopefully the Idaho conference will have a bit different bend. We aren’t out to explore a self-fulfilling vision, we’re out to be out. To attempt to hear the good and bad, the thrilling and the scary, the possible and the darn right challenging. Or did I get that wrong?
    Jan, I do wonder about other visions of the future you encountered at SLC aside from the conference theme song. Even a blog is no substitute for being there, and I know it’s impossible to get it all down, but let’s hear more about the other stuff.
    You seemed enthralled with the main SLC Public building. Moishe strikes again. He really has the vision of the library as a public place, the center of a forum..literally. Complete with ruins.

    Jan Wall's picture

    Joe, you’re right about

    Joe, you’re right about how a theme often seems to spontaneously evolve (or reveal itself) as a conference goes on. And I don’t know if there was an agreed-upon theme before the SLC conference.

    But here’s the difference, as I think about it. At ISL, we always counsel libraries going through strategic planning not to look at the library first. (In other words, don’t think “what services/programs can the library provide to the community?” as the first step.) It’s essential to look at the entire environment first - from the community aspect first. And that’s what I think we’re trying to do - look at future, what our communities might be like, trends etc., and THEN to look at what role libraries might play.

    Anonymous's picture

    Great Site!

    I just wanted to thank you all for this great blog! Keep up the good work!

    Eric Bryant, President Gnosis Arts