November 2003

Michael Farrelly

library rakehell

Notes From a Librarian Conference

First of all, letís not knock Kansas City.

Itís a great town and every person Iíve encountered here has been friendly, kind and sweet as candy. Itís not Chicago, I keep telling myself. The grids of the streets are all different, the skyline isnít there and the usual hipster doofus places I call home are barred to me. But itís a beautiful city nonetheless. Thereís an air of necessary elegance to everything, as if the pioneers who founded this place way back when needed to prove themselves civilized to their eastern cousins.

I feel as though I am only seeing a drop in the bucket of this town, but thatís not why Iím here anyway.

Iím here for the American Association of School Librarians conference. AASL is a sub group of ALA and represents everybody from Kindergarten librarians to high school librarians. A broad range.

Iím not going to bore you humble reader with a litany of the conferences I attended, or the activities I took part in. Most of them were excellent and fun, and educational things rarely make for good reading. Itís complaints and gripes and whining that make the Internet spin right? An entire branch of the communications tree run on the power of negative thinking.

But first I really should be positive. Really. No, I mean that.

Pros

1: The concurrent sessions, marvelous idea here, having sessions that are on a variety of topics taking place all over the convention center. You can learn about web design or copyright law or developing your collections to better meet the interests of that elusive reader, the young male.

2: Tours of local schools, again a great idea here. The best place to learn about a library is not in a conference center or a classroom; itís in a library. Look at the practices, see the shelving, look at all the little idiosyncrasies that make a library work or not work. The best ideas in librarianship are shared most readily by a little show and tell.

3: I canít get enough of the people. Librarianship really is a female dominated profession. Women surround me, which sounds like a male fantasy till I consider two things: my lovely and brilliant girlfriend and the fact that many of these professional and wonderfully bright women are my momís age. I feel like a total newbie here, but everyone here makes me feel welcome, from the concierge at my hotel (T.J., who has the single best top hat every worn) to all the funny library ladies who piled into my hotel shuttle and told me all the best places to be and eat and go. The presenters have been wonderfully prepared as well. No staid PowerPoint presentations here, amazing knowledge shared.

Cons.

Well, that should really be only one con, not a plural.

1: Cost. Simply put, this is one expensive conference. Since this is my first I have no point of comparison, but $275 for a conference, plus lodgings, plus per diem, plus pre-conferences (running a hundred bucks a throw) plus incidentals like taxis and donít forget travel costs, this conference could easily set you back a thousand dollars.

Now, my amazing, stupendous and wonderful employers are covering the cost. But what about the independent librarian? What about the librarian from a small school who could really use this conference? A thousand dollars may not sound like a lot of money to some people for a conference, but in a profession where money is tight for things like books, itís quite steep.

I should note, Iím writing this column from the conference. Thanks to the wonders of e-mail and Ethernet and Ibook I have access to the world beyond.

Signing off, mostly positive from Kansas City Mo.