ALA Midwinter Meeting 2011, San Diego
So I went into a shop the evening of my arrival to buy a postcard to send my Girls and the cashier suddenly exclaimed, "Ya know, we have some Specials this week for librarians." "That's nice," I thought, "how in the world does he know I'm a librarian?!" -- aside from the fact that I'm in San Diego wearing a dark green corduroy jacket. (You should have seen the reaction in Hawaii to my tweed coat.) [Just kidding.]
This was my first ALA conference.
The reason I went was to attend the bi-annual meeting of the editorial board of Information Technology and Libraries, of which I am a member. This I did.
Insofar as I'm a board newby, I was looking forward to meeting the other members, and I was really looking forward to meeting our editor, Marc Truitt of the University of Alberta. He's the guy who appointed me, he strikes me as a very wise editor, and my email exchanges with him have led me to believe he's an all around great guy. I had a nice chat with him before the meeting about a paper I'm reviewing, then the meeting began. I'm not at liberty to disclose, etc. etc.
However, at the end of the meeting Marc announced that he's stepping down. Wha? I literally just met him. "Was it something I said?!" (He's stepping down for reasons other than anti-Cyziqueian....) [Is that a Carly Simon song I hear?] He will be missed. I have to say, I've only been reviewing papers for ITAL for a matter of months and I've always felt his wise and guiding and supportive presence.
Meeting adjourned, I was then free to jaunt over to the Convention Center and spend the day at the Exhibits.
Wow. Not having attended ALA before I was astounded at the enormity of the Exhibits. I was astounded at the sheer size and complexity of some of the "booths". I took a quick run around the perimeter, then circled back to systematically pace the place. Highlights for me included some things that are really not directly related to my job as a tech guy in an academic library. Nevertheless, one of the most impressive things I saw was a display by M. Moleiro of Barcelona, Spain. This firm creates fine reproductions of manuscripts and illuminated books. I sort of wandered by their booth, their wares caught my eye, and yet I wandered on. At the end of the row, though, I whirled and returned. Their reproductions are incredibly beautiful.
I marveled at the similarly beautiful and stylish library furniture by vendors throughout the Exhibits. Likewise the variety of scanning and digitization equipment there. Likewise more mundane tools like book drops.
I am generally interested in Web-based language learning systems (similar to Rosetta Stone, but Web-based). I was happy to find three vendors present at the Exhibits, so made sure to pick up their materials.
Amazon is in the print-on-demand publishing business, and I had a chat with the guy at their booth because I actually had one of their titles in my backpack that very moment. (A buddy of mine wants me to hike the Maryland portion of the Appalachian Trail with him this spring and bought me a copy of the compelling AWOL On The Appalachian Trail by David Miller, AmazonEncore publisher.) Amazon is targeting smaller markets with important works that might not otherwise be viable in traditional publishing venues. In addition to AmazonEncore they've founded another imprint that publishes little-known foreign works. Interesting, and important. Maybe micropublishing will blossom like the microbrewing industry has in this country the past 20 years?
About 15 years ago, when I worked in the Albert S. Cook Library at Towson University, I put images of our floor plans up on the library Website. At that time I had an idea: Wouldn't it be cool if the actual locations of books were dynamically mapped to these floor plans? Well, browsing the exhibits I ran into just such a product -- StackMap.com -- the idea I had at Cook Library, realized. Cool stuff.
I had a pleasant dinner with my friends, Susan [Mower] and Stewart Burke. Susan is a friend and colleague from my days in the Cook Library. She is a retired GovDocs Librarian and now a synagogue-library-automating-librarian extraordinaire. It was great to catch up with Sue and Stew, who have long lived in the San Diego metro area.
And how did I like San Diego?
An anecdote: At age 23 I circumnavigated the northern hemisphere of this globe, first studying Mandarin for a semester in China, then returning home on the Trans-Siberian railway, through Europe, then driving that summer across the U.S. from L.A. to Baltimore, the southern route. I was privileged to visit some of the greatest cities in the world that year: Beijing, Xian, West Berlin, Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco. That was half my lifetime ago and I haven't really traveled much since, but of the cities I have lived in or visited, Philadelphia, Phoenix/Scottsdale, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Montreal, I would say that Montreal and now San Diego rank, in my opinion, as the top two most beautiful. Can Vancouver beat this???
What did I learn?
I learned that serving on the editorial board of a fine journal is a pride-inducing activity. I learned that I'm excited to participate in the full duties of members of the board. (Watch for my editorial in the upcoming June 2011 issue of ITAL.) I learned that when ALA calls it a midwinter "meeting", they mean just that: lots of meetings scheduled. I learned that the conference basically starts shutting down the day before the officially published end date. I learned that American Airlines charges twenty-five bucks just to check a bag. I learned that Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen" is a really good mnemonic if the gate of your connecting flight happens to be A19. I learned that even the far south Dallas/Ft. Worth airport has de-icing equipment at the ready. I learned that an early morning stroll on the Embarcadero listening to a random mix of the last five Bob Dylan CDs is something I hope to one day do again. I learned that drivers in San Diego stop and wait for you to cross. This threw me every time. I learned that 50 degrees in San Diego does not feel like 50 degrees in Baltimore. (I'm tempted to make the stronger claim that 50 degrees in San Diego is actually warmer than 50 degrees in Baltimore, but will refrain....)
I learned that my knees are shot.
Maybe I should rethink this Appalachian Trail thing?