Wednesday, April 09, 2008

CIL2008: About conversations, people and connections

This is the last day of Computers in Libraries (CIL) and I am behind in my blogging. We are maxing out the wireless Internet in the hotel, so I am not blogging during the sessions and was not able to catch up last night. So, my blog posts about this conference will come slowly (and perhaps more thoughtfully).

This is my third CIL, which means I've gotten to know a group of people who have been here before and are here this year. I've also seen some of these people at Internet Librarian and the SLA Annual Conference. That makes this a bit like "old home week". However, I actually converse with some of these people daily/weekly using Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Here we're getting face-to-face time, but we get time with each other everyday online.

As I think about the conference so far, it is about conversations, people and connections -- both with each other as professionals and with our users/patrons.

For example, we need conversations -- face-to-face (f2f) or online -- in order to exchange information about wants and needs. With our users, we need to talk with them in order to know about to service them better. Without those conversations, we might develop a product that doesn't match what they want. With our colleagues, we need to have conversations that allow us to learn from them AND to allow them to learn from us. That exchange it vital if we are to continue to grow professionally.

The conversations about CIL actually began months ago online, as some of us exchanged information about the conference. Those conversations were enhanced through the conference wiki as well as though other social networking tools. A number of people are using Twitter to exchange information in real time. Twitter is not a tool for everyone (and you really have to try it in order to "get it"). If you look at my Twitter feed, you can see a bit of our online conversations.

Everyone at CIL is approachable, which is very cool. If you come to this conference and, want to talk to a presenter, you can do it. If you can't talk to them live here, then follow-up online afterwards (even with email). And the number of conversations that happen here is incredible!

As for the people -- CIL attracts a group that is interested in the technology that can be used in libraries, but who also understand that the technology is nothing without people. So this is a technology aware group. There are many Internet-enabled devices here (too many for the wireless network). This is also a group that believes in using what it learns as well as teaching others what it learns. Information from CIL will fan back out through the institutions that sent people here to the conference.

For me, I am thrilled with the people I am able to meet here as well as the minimal face-time I get with some of my colleagues. I guess those grand plans I had for deep, meaningful face-to-face conversation with Roy and Chadwick, for example, will have to occur online!

Finally, CIL is about connections. Like every conference, you meet people, exchange information, etc., but what you hope for are connections that last beyond the conference. Those connections can impact our professional lives in many positive ways. If you were at CIL this year, remember to follow-up with those that you want to stay connect with. Drop them an email or contact them using a social networking site. Even if it is a quick "hi...glad we met", that can be enough until you need to check-in on something specific.

While CIL is about technology in libraries, what we often do with that technology is create connections to content. As we were reminded yesterday, it is not about containers, but about the content that is in those containers. That is one message I hope everyone takes back to their institutions. Yes, the containers are important, but what is really important is the content within them. Let's build systems that connect our users efficiently and effectively to the content, no matter what the container is.

Okay...enough rambling...time for breakfast and the last day of CIL! I'll have more later...

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