I had the good fortune to attend the Internet Librarian Conference (Internet Librarian) this year. The conference began in 1997 and is currently held every year in Monterey, CA. And, it will be in Monterey next year, too (October 27-29, 2014). Internet Librarian is organized and produced by Information Today, Inc. It bills itself as the “internet conference and exhibition for librarians and information managers.” This well-attended conference had about 1000 attendees visiting from 45 states and 6 countries.
Theme and programming
This year’s theme was “Community Engagement: Strategies, Services & Tools.” Internet Librarian has an interesting set up. There were 3 primary days of programming with a daily keynote address. Programs are divided into 5 daily tracks with each program from a track in the same conference room all day. For example, Day 1 had the following tracks: 1) Discovery, Navigation & Search, 2) Transforming Web Presence, 3) Engaging our Communities, 4) Library Issues & Challenges, and 5) Internet@Schools. And, each room has a host for the day. The host introduces the program and presenters and then facilitates questions at the end of the program. Attendees can attend all the sessions from a particular track or hop around from room to room.
Two keynote speakers addressed the state of libraries, but they seemed to contradict each other. The opening keynote speaker, Peter Morville, president of Semantic Studios, thinks libraries have a problem. He says the perception of the library as a knowledge gateway is declining. However, the perception of the library as a purchasing agent is increasing. He went on to say that the library is an idea at risk and that we need more than just information architects, we need “inspiration architects.”
On the other hand, Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center talked about how libraries are deeply important and that people love libraries and librarians. Pew research shows that even those who don’t use the library are fans. Rainie thinks we can leverage that to get involved in community issues and to become community leaders. He suggests that we should feel empowered to speak up because librarians’ voices are some of the most valued in our communities.
One of the more interesting programs was “The Next Big Thing.” As you can imagine, it involved a panel of librarians sharing what they thought was the next big thing in libraries. But, the more interesting aspect of the program was that the bulk of it was spent on audience members’ predictions. For instance, I learned that libraries are already using 3d printers to lure patrons into the library. Also, big data is big already, but one person said we’ll be using metrics even more than we are already to demonstrate how effective we are as librarians.
There were also a couple of evening programs for attendees. The Tuesday evening session was very interesting. Titled “Community Engagement Info Blitz,” 5 librarians shared innovate ways they engaged their communities. There, I learned about EveryLibrary, a political action committee dedicated to helping local library ballot measures pass. They’ve already earned local libraries millions.
Attending a non-law library conference
Often it can help to step out of the law librarianship world to see how other libraries are transforming services. Maybe a public library has created an innovative service that would be useful in a law firm. An undergraduate library could have developed a web page for video tutorials that a law school library could use to model its own web page. Also, some things are universal to libraries. For example, patrons use catalogs to locate resources in all types of libraries. A couple librarians at Creighton University shared their experiences setting up iPad kiosks stationed around the library for patron access to the catalog.
And, if you must have some law library programming, not all hope is lost. There was one law library related program. Amy Affelt at Compass Lexecon presented a program titled “Continuing the Engagement.” Her informative program discussed getting attorneys engaged through various activities such as unique book discussions where the librarian reads the book and tells others what it was about. She also maintains alert subscriber lists. She uses them to show new attorneys what their colleagues are using for current awareness to encourage them to sign up too.
While I think the overall conference is more useful for public and undergraduate academic libraries, I certainly picked up some things that I brought back to my own library. I found my Internet Librarian experience valuable and I think you will too. And, did I mention that the conference is in Monterey, CA?
Karen Skinner is a research services librarian at the USC Gould School of Law.