So, I am back from the ALA Midwinter in Seattle and like Beth stated in her entry, this “little” conference was indeed overwhelming, especially for a first time ALA conference attendee. If it wasn’t for the fact that Beth and some of the other LSO and SIRLS students were there to guide me, I would have probably spent my time staring at the tall buildings and trying to decipher the Midwinter schedule in an effort to select which events to attend and what exhibits to see.
Though they didn’t have a whole lot of exhibits geared specifically towards students, they offered a look into some of the different things that are being touted to libraries right now. Gaming is huge with young adult/teen users so something that must be mentioned (I know Beth loves ‘em) are DDR and Guitar Hero, two hot market items that some public libraries are adding to their teen media centers.
As for the sessions, what really stood out for me was the OCLC panel discussion on social software. They discussed the implications of social software for the profession and emphasized the need for librarians to embrace digital networking tools so that they can use these tools to better serve their users. David Lee King talked about the way digital tools can really help libraries that are outgrowing their physical space by giving them “digital space”. He has already put this in to practice by creating a digital library for the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. He’s very emphatic about librarians using social software to their advantage and basically said that rather than libraries waiting for users to show up, librarians can market their libraries to their communities via social software. I can see his point too: if teenagers are spending most of their time on myspace, flickr, and second life, what better way for a library to reach them than on their own turf! Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe mentioned the way that, at least within her library, on-line encounters with users last longer than what she calls the “one off encounter”, those that occur face to face at the reference desk. She said many online patrons will carry on lengthy dialogues with a librarian via computer; whereas most patrons physically present at the library will usually just ask a specific question of the person at the reference desk, and that would be the extent of the interaction. She uses myspace and second life to market her library to undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Check out their myspace here. It was interesting to me to listen to these librarians talk in such an enthusiastic and positive way about technologies that make it easier for users to avoid the physical library. I think it just goes to show that the profession really is evolving to a more tech driven one. Social software tools are definitely some of the cooler ways for librarians to interact with, and provide information to, their users
Going along with the discussion of technology, Jenny Levine emphasized the importance of gaming to reach teen users, and how she and other librarians are implementing such tools into the library’s collections. Speaking of which, while wondering through the exhibits we suddenly lost our webmaster, Beth Hoffman, to a DDR dance off against non other than Jenny Levine herself; followed by some wicked shredding on Guitar Hero. You are MY guitar HERO, BETH!