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Braving the blizzard — an ALA Midwinter wrap-up

February 13th, 2015 by

Chicago is home of many great things — the best pizza in the world, lions guarding the art museum, and the American Library Association’s headquarters.

At the 2015 ALA Midwinter Conference, it was also home to a great deal of snow — the fifth-largest multi-day blizzard in city history, no less. Did that stop librarians from attending 7:30 a.m. scheduled meetings? Of course not!

So, why isn't Chicago known as the Snowy City? Picture by Galen Charlton

So, why isn’t Chicago known as the Snowy City? Picture by Galen Charlton

This year Equinox took a different approach to Midwinter — rather than staffing a booth, we sent Grace Dunbar, Shae Tetterton, and myself (Galen Charlton) to meet with customers and prospective customers and attend sessions. Besides being easier on our feet, this meant that we got to do more learning!

Here’s an impressionistic view of some of the things we learned:

  • A lot of people are interested in the intersect of patron privacy and library technology.  The first face-to-face meeting of the LITA Patron Privacy Technology Interest Group was well attended, and featured excellent presentations by Alison Macrina of the Library Freedom Project and Gary Price of INFOdocket.As current co-chair of the IG, I shall make a shameless plug and encourage folks interested in discussing patron privacy to join its mailing list.
  • Grace attended one of the BIBFRAME update sessions, and in particular was impressed the presentation given by Philip Schreur of Stanford University.  He announced that Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, and two other libraries are moving towards implementing BIBFRAME in production — not completely just yet, but definitely concretely.  He also mentioned plans to introduce BIBFRAME integration into open source systems, including Blacklight.
  • One of the sessions that Shae attended was the LITA Top Technologies Trends program. A superb panel was assembled this year.  Some of the trends of note have to do with improving access to technology.  For example, many of exciting projects have only been implemented by wealthy academic libraries, leaving the majority of libraries without the kind of bells and whistles everyone is talking about. While the infrastructure is getting better as libraries are leveraging powerful, open source, technology, there’s still the issue of many vendors marketing to the top tiers.Regarding another type of access: universal design is an approach that more libraries are starting to adopt. Rather than treat accessibility as something that is tacked on for the benefit of (for example) visually impaired patrons, we should be designing for everybody — that is, the full range of human diversity.Diversity, of course, isn’t just a matter of making sure that libraries serve everybody — it’s also a matter of ensuring that the library profession is truly diverse and inclusive.  Lack of diversity is particularly evident in programming; for example there are some statistics showing that only about 25% of coders are women.   There’s also a lack of minority women in coding which is prompting the creation of groups specifically for them — Black Girls Code as one example.  This is an area where libraries can definitely help; for example, by working with organizations such as Black Girls Code to run programs.

Despite the weather’s best efforts, we had a great time at Midwinter! Many of us at Equinox are degreed librarians, and attending conferences and learning new things is a great way for us to connect with the rest of the profession and bring back new ideas.

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It has been truly inspiring seeing libraries around the world unite in strengthening Koha and Evergreen.

Infrastructure and Added Services Manager

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