2012 SLA Annual Conference – Chicago

Aug 2, 2012 by

I just came back from another excellent SLA annual conference in Chicago. I was hoping to cool off but, no luck, it hit the 100 degrees mark while I was there. However, what a beautiful city! I didn’t have much time to visit but enjoyed going up and down Michigan Ave and the view from the Willis (Sears) Tower. An architectural boat cruise should be a must on a future visit.

I’ve had the pleasure of moderating a session for the Academic Division entitled “Collections in Transition: E-Books and Collection Development”. Leslie Reynolds of Texas A&M discussed their user-driven acquisitions pilot project focusing on e-books. Rebecca Vargha of UNC-Chapel Hill traced an overview of the changes e-books bring to collection development. Finally, Krista Coulson, of the University of Chicago Press, described the challenges and opportunities of e-books from a publisher point of view.  Proprietary formats, technological lackings (ie no page numbers possible) and need for a long-term strategy for the life of the books were some of the things she commented on.

The Baseball Caucus had excellent speakers again this year: award-winning author Jonathan Eig and former Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle. Eig talked about his book Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and the meticulous research it entailed. Kittle, a former White Sox player, shared anecdotes about his colorful life in baseball during and after his playing career.  He had his book with him, Ron Kittle’s Tales from the White Sox Dugout, and said he was working on a second one.

I’ve attended other sessions, vendor updates and of course, the Info-Expo, or exhibit hall. Guy Kawasaki was the keynote speaker during the opening session; he talked about enchantment and how we can improve our relationships with our stakeholders. Chris Vestal of the DC Chapter of SLA has a very good summary of the enchantment process.

Otherwise I volunteered to help the IT Division with converting the division’s website to the new WordPress template (Project Vitality, here I come). While there is no set deadline, yet, for the conversion, updating the website and making it more dynamic can only bring good things to the Division. Although I already use WordPress for other blogs (like this one), I’m happy to improve my skills with this CMS.

Unfortunately, I found myself again in the situation of missing sessions because of scheduling conflicts, notably with board and business meetings. I have to admit, I enjoy being involved with the association and feel I get so much back in terms of professional skills development and creating relationships that I’m ok with it.

One thing I didn’t miss was the visit to the University of Chicago with the Chemistry Division. The tour started with the John Crerar Library for science and medicine. The current building, which opened in 1984, has four stories, 650 seats and holds 1.4 million volumes. A renovation of the first floor will open space for a collaborative study area. After a demonstration in the Data Visualization Lab and lunch (thank you Crerar Library), we then toured the Joe and Rita Mansueto Library. Dedicated in October 2011, the Mansueto Library contains a reading room and the Libraries’ preservation department under a stunning elliptical glass dome. Equally impressive is the automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) extending 50 feet under the ground. At capacity, it can hold 3.5 million volumes. Pictures of my visit are available.

(Some may be surprised by the presence of such ASRS installations. Shouldn’t everything be digitized by now? Not everything is, and not everything will ever be, especially in the case of a long-established academic/research library. Storing less-used materials in the ASRS permits to liberate space for new materials, new services and new usages. It can also offer better preservation conditions.  Also, an ASRS installation on-site permits quicker retrieval of materials compared to off-site storage.)

I’m already looking forward the next SLA annual conference in San Diego in June 2013. As I will be Chair of the Academic Division then, it will be an extra-special one. I may even be able to catch an extra session that time…

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