Saturday, January 15, 2005

It's Midwinter, baby!

Day One Two:

At long last, the ALA Midwinter Meeting is here, and I'm psyched as all getout.

Although I'd planned to drop in on Friday and see what was what, my daughter came down with a fever and I was obliged to stick around the house (she's fine today though!) and miss an interesting-looking symposium offered by OCLC called Gaming and the Significance for Information Literacy Learning.

This being the age of the blog, however, I was already able to get the gist of the meeting from the PLA Blog, which is being updated continuously live from the con by members of the Public Library Association. Nifty!

Today I arrived in Boston around noonish and was immediately overwhelmed by the sea of librarians and exhibits, although I regained my bearings enough to snap up some free library schwag and chew the fat with some of the vendors. I made a beeline for the Economist Intelligence Unit to thank them for putting out their unbeatable series of country profiles and reports, and found out that the CIA World Factbook - the source most reference librarians go to first - actually cribs most of their information from the EIU! They also gave me a complimentary copy of the Economist and a free mousepad. I always wondered why I liked these guys so much. Ever since my days at Dewey Library at MIT, where as the social science, economics, and management library they paid for the extremely expensive full run of the series (and kept them at the Reserve desk, where I just so happened to work!), I've been a fan of the Economist Intelligence Unit and went out of my way to push their resources to my reference classmates.

Then I stumbled upon the booth for CISTI - the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information - and again I had to offer my gratitude, as CISTI's Urgent Service saved my bacon countless times when I was working for the Countway Library of Medicine as the chief interlibrary borrower. The outstanding performance of CISTI (and the British Library's Document Supply Centre) demonstrate just how good public libraries can be when properly supported and amply funded, and lays bare the ideological insistence upon market-driven, private sector solutions for information science in the 21st Century. Would that American libraries paid closer attention to these institutions!

Next I had a chance to speak with a representative from a Belgian company called Brepolis that is digitizing Latin authors and their works from antiquity to modern times, a remarkably similar endeavor to what my employers at The Greek Institute are doing with Greek. So I got a chance to pick the guy's brain and talk up the Treasury of the Greek Language project to boot! And I thought I'd have nothing to talk about with these vendors...

I took a few hours off from the exhibits to participate in a symposium offered by Simmons' GSLIS for potential library school students who are current undergraduate scholarship recipients through the Mellon Library Recruitment Program. As I myself wouldn't be in a library science program now if not for the gentle yet persistent efforts by former bosses and other concerned librarians, I felt it would be nice to try a little recruitment for the cause. The funny thing is that I've already been doing some on my own, talking up the GSLIS program to coworkers and former classmates. It never occurred to me before that I could be a recruiter in a more official capacity, but having thoroughly enjoyed the session today I wonder if that might not be an avenue to explore further down the line.

With about forty-five minutes to go until the exhibits closed for the night, I returned to the Hynes Convention Center to snatch some preview copies of books from the various publishing houses. I hear even the good stuff goes on sale come Monday, when exhibitors are eager to shed some extra pounds before heading back home. Sounds good to me!

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