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poster session

poster session

Tuesday, 8 August 2008

The morning was spent at the GSLIS booth in the Exhibition Hall.  UIUC and San Jose State were the only schools represented, that we knew of.  Unlike the vendors, we didn’t have a lot of flashy stuff to give away … none, really, besides the light-up pens that were all given away within the first two days.  We didn’t have bags or posters or cute pins.  Yet we still managed to have our fair share of visitors.  Many were alumni, some were friends of UIUC people, and many others had questions about our programs.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many visitors had questions about the Mortenson Center, or knew of it in some way or other.

The Cataloging Librarian stopped by to say hi, and we chatted a bit about the conference.  It’s wonderful to hear about the conference from a completely different perspective, with a different emphasis.  We were both planning to visit the New Professionals Discussion Group, and decided to meet up then.

I went from the GSLIS booth to the Poster Sessions.  Several poster slots were blank – indicating that those presenters were not able to make it to the congress for some reason.  Nevertheless, there were more than enough posters to make the session a crowded cacophony of conversation.  I haven’t attended a true Pecha Kucha myself, but the poster session looked to me like a Pecha Kucha (each speaker has 20 slides, 20 seconds for each slide), but in this case, all the speakers present simultaneously and the audience is able to follow-up immediately with more questions.  Having all these visual presentations of various library projects was also a wonderful way to check the pulse of the library world, in a way.  And some posters clearly garnered more attention than others.  Sure, much of that can be the poster’s design, but I noticed people really reading the titles, not just quickly glancing over the pictures.  Posters about new libraries, or rural library projects seemed very popular from my observations.

Next up: the New Professionals Discussion Group.  This was the description in the IFLA program:

New Professionals Discussion Group

Mind the gap: bridging the inter-generational divide

Panel discussion with the following panellists:

    (Australian Library and Information Association, Australia)
    (German Library Association, Germany)
    (American Library Association, USA)

From this description, many so-called “new professionals” thought this would be a session for us, with us, and we filled up the room fairly well — this assumption is based on my own look around the room, scanning for young faces, so who knows how many “new professionals” there really were, across all ages.

But the session was a huge disappointment for me.  Even though we – the new professionals – were a clear presence in the room, the speakers had, apparently, been instructed to talk about recruitment.  So most of the presentations were not directed to us at all, but were about us, talking about us in the 3rd person as though we weren’t there.  And a couple were pretty darn patronizing to boot.   The presentation from ALIA (Austrailian Library and Information Association) was the only one to openly acknowledge that new professionals could be from any generation, often on their 2nd or 3rd career.  But that point seemed to be completely ignored by the following presenters.  Keith Fiels actually had advice for new library professionals (I think he might have been the only one to offer us any advice, in fact):

1. go to committee meetings

2. take on work

3. do the work

Between the speeches and the questions, the conversation of the session seemed to constantly go between an inclusive dialogue, in which new professionals were “us” and “you”, to an exclusive conversation where new professionals were “them”.  I very much wanted to ask “who is this session for?” but other questions were ahead of mine and no one else seemed to have the same frustration I did. In fact, the questions just emphasized the empty rhetorical nature of the session.  I left early.

library rave

library rave

That evening was the Cocktail Reception – which was enormous.  I imagine the largest of mafia weddings would look something like this reception.  A few other GSLIS folks and I went out for dessert instead.  As I’ve often found before, these simple small group conversations are often the most enlightening parts of a conference like this.  We had a long talk (over delicious sweets and lattes) about i-schools and library-schools.  One of the women from GSLIS knew some of the history behind the i-school migration in the U.S. and hearing that background was eye-opening for me.