ALA: Day 3: Time to Slack

Yesterday I decided to take it easy. I woke up around 7, drank 2 cups of coffee and tried to figure out if I wanted to go to LITA Top Technology Trends Discussion Meeting or LITA Human/Machine Interface Interest Group. I decided to go back to sleep for another hour! If I had traveled across the country to attend the conference I probably would have pushed myself to do more on Sunday, but I was SO tired.

I ended up getting to the conference center a little late, so I decided to skip a session on project SAILS and wander around the exhibit hall instead. Those poor Elsevier people in their blue letter sweaters shilling for Scopus looked like they were part of a college glee club. I don’t think dressing like Mr. Rogers will really soften their image either. They were giving away orange pens with a beaker on top, and Scopus pens that looked like space pens, but are not as cool as a space pen.

I ate lunch and then ran into a friend of mine from a former job so I tagged along with him while he ate lunch. Really, the nicest thing about this ALA weekend was hanging out with the other librarians. I saw people I used to work with, people I worked for when I was a graduate assistant, the librarian from my old high school library, and met many fabulous library bloggers and people from metafilter.

I ended up just attending a couple programs in the afternoon. One was a discussion/brainstorming session from the Instruction Section of ACRL, which was OK. One thing that I heard repeated a few times which I am finding very old is the tired and deceptive analogy that the web is like WalMart while the library is like a high end department store. It does highlight some assumptions about class that the librarian is making — I’m not sure if they are making an assumption that none of their students come from a background/region of the country where shopping at WalMart is a necessity. Also it sets up a web=cheap, library=expensive luxury goods image that is both simplistic and not true, as there are plenty of places to get quality information for free on the web, and the use of the web or a library database should depend on a student’s particular information need.

I wound up my last day at ALA by going to a brief talk and discussion about the usability of open url link resolvers and federated search organized by the RUSA-MARS Local Systems & Services Committee. This was interesting, as we’re about to get into this where I work. I do agree that federated search isn’t the magic bullet that will solve search problems for libraries, and upper level researchers really do need to use the individual subject databases. I’m hoping that federated search will be useful for 1st and 2nd year undergrads.