This year at CiL, while the sessions were interesting and on-point, I was underwhelmed by what I learned in formal conference contexts. And that is in no way the fault of the conference or the presenters; it’s all me. Jason Griffey and I were talking it through, expressing some of the same thoughts, and what I came down to is that I have a very specific set of interests as relate to technology in libraries — issues re: ILS development and deployment, search and discovery innovations (particularly as relate to ILS integration), and the practical application of emerging web technologies in libraries. I also have worked hard, over the past several years, to be certain that I’m taking responsibility for my own awareness of and currency on those issues. Therefore… when I come to CiL, and attend the conference tracks related to the issues that I’m interested in… no one’s saying much of anything I don’t already know. And as I said, that’s not their fault; they’re saying great things about interesting developments — which I already know about. Because I proactively educate myself on these topics.
So in one sense, I think Computers in Libraries is no longer the conference for my level of knowledge, awareness, and expertise. Griffey and Tim Spalding and I were talking briefly about that problem, and wishing there was a more mid-level, hands-on conference relating to similar content but with more of a “how do I make it work, how do I do it, how do we overcome these practical and theoretical positioning challenges” bent. Such a critter doesn’t seem to exist.
But that conversation is why, in another very real way, Computers in Libraries is exactly the conference for me for as long as the people who attend it are savvy, interesting, thoughtful, and engaging. Because that conversation with Tim and Jason in the hotel bar on Tuesday night was just as valuable and thought-provoking as any formal conference session could be, and until we enter a more fully-fledged virtual professional development environment, it’s the best resource I have for expanding my thoughts and understanding of our profession.
So here’s to the CiL Unconference experience. I’m all for it. And if someone wants to build that mid-level conference? You’ve got an audience.