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Conference View from #2605

Submitted by Patrick Hogan on June 30, 2010 - 8:49am

ALA’s sprawling conference leaves librarians dashing between hotels and meeting rooms, but I mostly stayed in one place--the ALA Publishing booth.  I let the conference come to me. My colleagues and I were there to tell people about the RDA Toolkit, Guide to Reference and of course, ALA TechSource.

ALA Editions editors used a small table for meetings with authors. The RDA Toolkit had launched only a few days before the conference, and visitors came in a steady flow. Most were familiar with RDA and had a few specific questions about functions. On the last day, folks came to gawk at the heft of the print version. Not to brag, but I’m familiar enough with any of those products to give a serviceable demo. While working on the RDA project and its RDA Vocabularies component, I learned about the
NSDL Registry managed by Diane Hillmann and Jon Phipps. Karen Coyle consulted on the project and has written a two-issue series of Library Technology Reports explaining the semantic web and how the RDA Vocabularies might be deployed with its technologies (by the way,you can get that two-issue set at 50% off at the ALA Store).

On Thursday, ALCTS hosted a sold-out preconference on Linked Data. On Friday, Karen Coyle and Corey Harper organized an
Unconference on Linked Library Data. which attracted key innovators in the field. Linked Data seems to be gaining momentum in the library community. While noting that Linked Data was not nearly hot as the the weather in Washington, Eric Hellman reported on his participation in these meetings and noted key projects to watch in a Go-to-Hellman post. Karen and I met to discuss possibilities for an ALA TechSource Workshop  and/or ALA Editons e-course on these themes.

The last couple of years, I’ve been listening to the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast to learn more about soccer. Naturally, I’ve been caught up in World Cup fever. Fortunately, our booth had a second Internet line, so I could follow gamecasts and live blogging. During the U.S. game on Saturday, crowds gathered around a TV in the main lobby of the convention center, and I found a  smaller monitor tucked away in a hallway.

The word on the floor was that a few vendors had the game on TVs in their booths. Jason Griffey actually got recognized in Saturday’s Top 10 Tweets for tweetcasting the U.S. goal Univision style (really?). Four years from now, I hope soccer will be popular enough that all World Cup games, not just the U.S. games, will be shown on convention center monitors. Librarians attend from all over the world, and the Association seeks a more global profile. The Weather Channel trumps World Cup!!? Come on.

Sunday morning’s Gadget Petting Zoo was a major success. More than a gadgetophilian festival, GPZ attracted librarians of varied experience levels with technology who came to learn, not just pet. A librarian returned on Monday, to ask about the name of a gadget that caught her eye, the
AirStash. She said that if you can learn one thing at a conference to improve your library services, it’s worth it, and that was definitely the case here. One attendee partnered in the AirStash demo by exchanging a video file with Griffey.

On Monday, I strolled the exhibit floor for an hour or two. I stopped by the Evanced booth looking for ALA Editions author Kim Bolan. She was having lunch, but I was wowed by the prototype book vending machine,
Branch Anywhere, or more specifically the industrial robot visible through the plexiglass sidewall. The vending machine concept has generated controversy, which TechSoup covers here. Aaron Schmidt has posted on low-tech library outreach ideas from outside the librarian community, like the Reading Rickshaw.

One thing I learned at Conference is that the Food Network has a baking show called Ace of Cakes that is extremely popular. Bound To Stay Bound Books celebrated its 90th birthday with a spectacular creation and librarians lined up first to be photographed with it, and again to eat it. On the last day of show, a colleague brought in a few pieces of left over Ace of Cakes cake from another event (how many promotional ALA cakes did they do??) and I got a taste.