I am again at the Computers in Libraries Conference (CIL) in Crystal City, VA. Nearly 2,000 people are attending this year, including participants, speakers, exhibitors, and people who are coming just to visit the exhibits. People have come from 47 states and 17 countries. This is the 25th year of this conference and one person (Marshall Breeding) was honored for attending all 25! Every year, it seems like 50% of the attendees have never been to a CIL before.
I'm sure that CIL has changed over the years. Currently the speakers and audience are focused on the use of technology in libraries in order to improve library services.
By libraries I mean public, academic and special libraries of all sizes. I suspect that most participants are from public and academic libraries. Here, however, the type of library that participants are from doesn't matter, but the fact that the library is using or wants to use technology to serve its users better.
By technology, I generally mean computers, handheld and mobile devices, social media, social networking tools, databases/OPACS, and Internet technology. People here are interested in the use of technology to improve user/patron services, to connect better to user communities, to deliver library content in new ways. This is a group that has some interest in digitization, but a larger interest in how those digital materials can be used in new ways. (Think of WolfWalk and Duke Mobile.) Yes, there have been sessions here on digitization, but it is not a major focus for this conference.
What is very interesting to me is who attends CIL. This is a group that includes librarians and library workers...those with MLS degrees and those without...and here they are seen and treated as equals. In fact, academic degrees here really don't matter, but rather what you do (for real) and what you know.
Attendees are very technology savvy. They come with technology - laptops, smartphones, cameras, etc. - and they use it constantly. This is a group that networks both in person and online. This is a group that values what each person does and knows, and wants to be able to tap into it. Networking here can lead to job opportunities, project opportunities, and the sharing of cool ideas. But networking here isn't just a three-day thing...it means staying connected afterward with those you value through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and SlideShare.
For me, this is a conference full of energy from people and ideas. Everyone leaves the conference both tired and jazzed.
Finally, if you want to follow the conference, go to its new blog/content site at www.libconf.com. All of the keynotes are being screencast on that site.