Bigwigs are important people. The librarians from the Library, Information and Technology Association (LITA) division have named themselves Bigwigs as a nod to their preoccupation with Blogs, Wikis and other social media. At the ALA, they instituted a presentation format that really spoke to me: a rotating panel discussion with 5-6 participants and 1 moderator. Much like in speed dating, one heard six 15-minute presentations in 90 minutes. After three days at the conference, my attention span was taxed, so this was just my speed! Especially for a topic as rapidly changing as social media.
Bohyun "LibraryHat" Kim talked briefly about information overload and the fragmentation it creates. Good to know that others save a document in four different locations because they can’t remember where they saved it the first, second and third times! But how libraries can help manage the flood of information wasn’t exactly clear to me.
Michael “Libraryman” Porter introduced his ambitious and idealistic project to bring modern technologies – most of which, like for example iTunes, have moved users away from libraries -- back into the fold of the library. The title of his presenation was "Libraries MUST Have A New Electronic Content Access and Distribution Infrastructure". The project is due to begin at the end of the year and one can only hope it lives up to Porter’s vision and expectations!
David Lee King presented the iPad and anyone who had not yet held one could play with it. I asked him if he thought the Kindle would live on in its current form. He didn’t think so.
Erin White was next and gave a quick overview into the methodology behind website user satisfaction surveys. I listened intently. If I were to say something about the usability of Goethe’s websites, I’d go well over my allotted 15 minutes.
Rachel Vacek explained QR codes -- and for those of you that don’t know, QR stands for Quick Response. We’ll have to wait and see if they really take off. For one thing, the black and white barcoded squares can easily be defaced, leading to disappointment and frustration when links don’t work. Not to mention, one never knows where one is going to end up: on a serious website, on an advertisement or on other sites best left unmentioned.
Ellen Hampton Filgo, my last “speed panel” presenter, gave what I thought was the most interesting talk: on using twitter for instruction. But isn’t that just fun and games? No, not really – it’s a clever way to engage students’ interests, give them quick and effective service, and thereby bind them to the library in new ways. Of course this raises new challenges for librarians. Ellen coined it “Jazz Librarianship”, this ability to improvise, and it requires deftness, talent and lots of practice to harmonize this type of exchange. This wouldn’t be a bad idea for German courses at the Goethe-Institut: students could tweet in German during class! I think even beginners should be able to manage a mere 140 characters…