Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

ALA 2009 – Saturday

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On Saturday we started early with an OCLC-sponsored panel discussion about digital rights management (DRM). “To be or not to be… DRM free” consisted of three panelists talking about their experience and thoughts on DRM. I initially decided to attend the session because I don’t know much about DRM and thought it might give me a good introduction. I have to say I was a little bit disappointed. Although the panelists talked about some of the barriers DRM presents (including visual verification systems, printing caps, multiple levels of authentication, and software downloads), I didn’t get a sense that everyone was fully prepared. An employee from Facts on File (FoF) made a decent bookshelf analogy: When we sell you items in print, we don’t tell you what kind of bookshelves to put them on. So why is it different when we offer you content electronically? However, then he basically went on to say that FoF does require DRM measures to protect their profit margins, negating the great analogy. Psh. He did make a good point later on – that both publishers and libraries want their content to be used. It was a nice reminder that at least some of our organizational goals are similar.

There was also quite a bit of talk about how students are putting content online. Really? I know a lot of people who get music online but I haven’t know anyone who has illegally downloaded their textbook from Pirate Bay. But I guess it must be happening somewhere, because apparently companies are employing people to surf around on illegal downloading sites to track leaked books/electronic content (anti-piracy screeners). That would actually be a fun thing to do all day, and you would get to know all the good sites backwards and forwards. Errr – not that I condone illegal downloading…

I think that the OCLC representative was actually the best speaker on the panel. She called for a standardized, industry-wide set of DRM guidelines. Seems like a step in the right direction so that all of our content would be on the same playing field. It would be easier for our users to understand and utilize even when crossing over different interfaces. She also brought up the issue of the gap between a decrease in print revenue and what amounts to pennies for digital content. The gap is going to force new business models for content-providing companies in the future.

My second Saturday session was “Academic Libraries and International Librarianship,” sponsored by the ACRL International Relations Committee. Consisting of four panelists, this was the second letdown of the day. I thought that this session might give me a taste of what international librarianship might be like, along with some tips about how to get started, etc. The first speaker did not disappoint. Robert Wedgeworth is a past president of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)and a current librarian/professor emeritus at University of Illinois. Wedgeworth got involved in international librarianship not through ALA or IFLA, but while he was working in acquisitions. This was an important distinction for me, and starting off with it may have influenced my preference for his portion of the discussion over the other three panelists. I think that the most beneficial experiences are those that come organically, so I was cheered to know that his introduction to international librarianship was through personal connections rather than a structured international program. I hope that someday I am able to experience what it’s like to be a librarian outside of the United States. But back to the session, my notes are below:

  • What is international librarianship? Under the umbrella of the US foreign policy, Opportunities can be at any level – federal, institution, personal & Same issues are at hand internationally, including politics, culture, economics
  • UNESCO uses IFLA as a consulting body on library related matters
  • Lots of ways to get involved including LIS Fulbright Scholarships
  • So who pays? Governments, associations, employers, and individuals
  • Global fears and limitations include literacy, haves and have nots, intellectual freedom, copyright & intellectual property, security and filtering.
  • What are the benefits? Skills, knowledge, exposure to culture, building a global network
  • Be prepared (second language), assess all opportunities for the right one, consult experienced internationals

The second panelist was Jay Jordan, President and CEO of OCLC. I was highly unimpressed with his discussion as it was basically a big marketing pitch. Next up was Beverly Lynch, a past ALA president and Professor/Director at UCLA. Lynch is the Chair of the ACRL International Relations Committee, of which there are 65,000 members (!!!). She gave a history of ALA/IFLA and brought up the fact that University libraries abroad are fairly similar to our libraries here in the US but public libraries are in a different state altogether, sometimes even unrecognizable.

The last speaker was Winston Tabb, Dean of Libraries at Johns Hopkins University. Tabb discussed the impact of international librarianship on research institutions. One of the things he brought up really hit home for me: international recruitment. Not only would I love to be recruited for an international position, but I think it would be absolutely  amazing to bring more people abroad into our libraries here in the U.S. It’s a bit more complicated at the beginning, but I think it would be beneficial for everyone in the long run. One step towards a global community for libraries as well as their users.

Then Melissa and I met back up and has a horrible lunch in the conference center. Her sandwich was disgusting and soggy. I ate a thing of yogurt and some unripe fruit. Blech. Next on the days agenda was the Emerging Leaders Salon. The Salon is a time for members of all three years of the ALA ELs to gather and discuss the future of the program. I was surprised by the low turnout, as it was pretty packed at Denver. However, this might be because there are starting to be some more formalized ways of sharing feedback on the program. One of the 2009 EL projects was the creation of an EL Special Interest Group, which anyone can join. Another group created an EL Facebook page. There is also a sub-committee working on the program and from what I understand, anyone can attend those meetings. So there are a few ways for people to get their thoughts out there and have their questions addressed. At the Salon we worked on our personal action plans. Four priorities came out of a web survey to all ELs:

  • More transparency about the ALA structure
  • More cross-over among units; interdisciplinary sharing of work to accomplish shared goals.
  • More work would get done between conferences; ALA should not just be about the conference. More opportunities for virtual involvement in ALA.
  • More partnerships with other organizations to engage on issues of mutual interest, literacy for example.

The priority I want to work on for my personal action plan is more virtual involvement opportunities in ALA. The step I am taking to do my part is volunteering for a committee. At the conference I began my two year stint as the ACRL 2011 Virtual Conference Co-Chair. I am so excited to be in this leadership role, and hope to make 2011 the best ACRL virtual conference yet! I’ll be talking more about it in future posts, I’m sure, but if anyone has thought/experiences regarding the 2009 ACRL Virtual Conference (or any other virtual conference ideas), please contact me! I need all the feedback I can get.

My group at the Salon discussed the same priority and we came up with a few ideas on making ALA Connect a more robust toolkit as a virtual workspace. One thing I thought of was the addition of a sandbox area where members could experiment with creating their own Drupal-based modules. Hopefully I’ll be passing the idea along to Jenny Levine for further consideration. Something else that came up was the extremely positive impact of using the phrase “without the expensive travel” when soliciting virtual participation. Apparently another group/organization found that that phrasing really resonated with people, and resulted in increased interest.

After the Salon I headed to the “Leadership Development in Transition” session. Jill Canono, Leadership Program Consultant at the State Library and Archives of Florida started of the session with an overview about leadership. She recommended  a yearly purging of rules and regulations, encouraging experimentation, taking calculated risks, sharing information and plans, and breaking down your own communication barriers. Canono encouraged the audience to seek new answers. We typically approach people within our organizations who will give us the answer we want (I am guilty of this myself, in both personal and professional capacities). Instead, we should as ourselves who within our organization thinks very differently than us and try to figure out why we resist having deep discussions with them. We can’t remain comfortable if we want change.

Another great suggestion from Canono was to approach staff meetings by going in and saying “Here is the problem that we will spend today solving cooperatively” instead of just providing updates all around the table. She also brought up the question “What are you hoarding?” We need to use all of our resources, not hoard special skills and talents. We should share our knowledge, time, and expertise and encourage others to do the same.

There were a few comments in Canono’s presentation that really made me feel put off. For example she talked about learning to use wikis (aren’t we a little past that by now?) and creating a Facebook page for internal communications (probably the worst idea I have ever heard, demonstrating  huge misunderstanding about this tool). But I do have to credit her with introducing the phrase “RIP = retired in place” which got more than a few giggles out of me. I’ve seen it in action!

The next speaker was Olivia Madison, Dean of Libraries at Iowa State University and then Nanette Donohue, ALA Councilor and Technical Services Manager at the Champaign Public Library. Donohue talked about how leadership is often self-selected by those who volunteer first, that we don’t do ourselves any favors by building fortresses, and that we should be analytical rather than reactionary, making a case for the change we want to see.

After a bit of relaxing, we headed off to the ALA/ProQuest Scholarship Bash at The Art Institute of Chicago. I have to agree with librarychan; it felt a bit stuffy in there. But we met up with Janie from Library Garden and saw some famous paintings:

Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884"

Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884"

Monet's "Water Lilies"

Monet's "Water Lilies"

O'Keeffe's "Sky Above Clouds IV"

O'Keeffe's "Sky Above Clouds IV"

I also bought some postcards for postcrossing, my favorite new game. We ate some gross overpriced food at the restaurant in our hotel lobby once we got home from the Proquest Bash. All in all, a busy day.


Written by Erin Dorney

July 20, 2009 at 7:41 PM

2 Responses

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  1. Suggestion noted! I’m going to start digging deep into Drupal myself this fall, so how about if I do install a sandbox and give out passwords to anyone who wants to play with it? Or are you asking for a sandbox for folks who want to create modules for Connect?

    Either way, email your ideas to me at jlevine [at] and we’ll figure out how to implement them. 🙂


    Jenny Levine

    July 20, 2009 at 8:03 PM

  2. Great post, Erin! I’m glad we went our separate ways for most of the day… It’s like we went to double the presentations!

    And even though I already told you, it was great rooming with you for the conference.


    July 20, 2009 at 10:27 PM

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