When I Try to Pick Sessions to Attend

As I continue to stuff together my ALA schedule, I’m finding only about one time slot each on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to squeeze in anything resembling continuing education for myself. It’s a refrain I hear from many of the very ALA-engaged people I know, we have meetings on meetings or are actively presenting, and come home with heavier to do lists, hopefully refreshed from the fellowship but sometimes not. With only those scant time slots available to me, I’ve been looking through the scheduler to see what of the many things I want to go to possibly aligns with my availability.

There is a lot of stuff I want to go to that I can’t attend. Obviously there’s all of the LITA stuff–Deb Shapiro and the Program Planning Committee have put together a very nice group of programs for you all. ACRL’s Science and Technology Section always has interesting things and the federal agency update is one I try to carve time out for. There’s a newish ACRL Health Sciences IG and I’m signed up but their meetings double the LITA committee meetings. I’ve not seen much from them this year, I’m hoping to track down the convener at some point during the conference and ask what the game plan for the upcoming year is. If you make it to one of these, please take good notes and/or tweet loudly. 

Reviewing program descriptions, I noticed something about my preferences in conference speakers: I want to hear from people who are *doing* things. I think it’s one of the reasons I always enjoy hearing from Jenica Rogers, Sarah Houghton, Matt Reidsma, and many others and why I am particularly looking forward to the LITA President’s Program with Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code. These are people who are not only pushing their various envelopes and giving me the view from 50,000 feet, they are also actively in the trenches, presenting the gritty details of implementation challenges. I can point to their accomplishments and trust them to tell me if something they tried failed, so I can learn from that too. (Odd how those failures, though I’m sure they’ve mentioned them, don’t stick with me.)

A quote from Stuart Shieber caught my attention when I was reading that interview last week (yes, I did get through it):
“I’m not a futurist. As Dennis Gabor said “The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.” We who are interested in the future of open access in particular and scholarship in general are better off inventing the future than trying to predict it.”

And, if you are giving me theory, that’s the package I want to see it in, from people who have done, are doing, and continue to invent the future on the ground.

You may wonder if this means I see no value in theory or the life of the mind, which strikes me as amusing when to outsiders I am firmly locked in the ivory tower of a specialized library of a major focused research institution. I see no disconnect though, I see one step further. In the best of practical speakers, I see translation of theory and I see people willing to try, to implement, to make, and to do, in order to best achieve the goals of their library and community.

So speakers, that’s what I’m coming to hear, I look forward to what you’ll have for me.