At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The theme of ACRL was "Navigating the Rivers of Change," to which should have been appended "Or, How to Stave off Inevitable Obsolescence," to gauge by the subtext of many of the presentations. The opening keynote speaker, a professor of architecture from MIT, argued that wireless information technology makes the traditional library space superfluous. The founder of a small publishing company warned that academic publishers will no longer provide information, this being increasingly available for free on the internet, but will rather provide useful access and organization of information. A librarian foresaw a future in which all professional journals are open access. A Google rep assured us that the company wants to work side by side with libraries, not replace them, but his walkthrough of Google Scholar only suggested that another traditional library resource (the bibliographic index) is heading to extinction. Makes me wonder about the future of this profession I've chosen.

Now for the boring, detailed chronology. Please skip--this is very unpolished and mainly for my own future recollection....

Wed: Woke up at 4:30 am. Drove to Lubbock. Flight to Dallas. Bumpy flight to Minneapolis. Took brand-spanking-new light rail from airport to downtown. Walked about 20 mins down Nicollet to the hotel. Hmm, it's really not all that cold in Minnesota. Rested around the room for a couple of hours, then walked back up Nicollet to Sawatdee for Pad Thai and the best spring rolls I've ever had. Struck up a conversation with a librarian from Colby College (Maine, I think), who was very widely traveled. Back to the hotel for some cable TV, a rare treat for me who can't even pick up network stations here in West Texas. It's all Pope JPII, all the time, interrupted by commercials for weight loss supplements repeated ad nauseum. Saw that there's a hot new female reporter at CNN.

Thurs: Ate an expensive breakfast in the hotel restaurant. (But my library will pick up the tab!) Walked to a typically overstuffed and overpriced big city used and rare book store, and then to Borders to read Japan travel guides. Then back to the convention center for a session tailored to new attendees. We're told to skip a few sessions in order to rest or sightsee--no argument from me. Then the opening keynote address in the gigantic ballroom. Afterwards, a buffet dinner, surprisingly good (not just finger foods but sliced, roasted meat as well) in the exhibitor's hall. I bump into M.S-H., a library school chum. We agree to meet up for dinner the next evening. I think it was this night that I woke up to watch the Pope's funeral.

Fri: Slept in (just taking the advice of the ACRL itself--see above). Lunch was catered in the ballroom. I talked with a librarian at a state university in Greeley, Colorado. I told him I'd like to get out of my current position and into a research library. He told me digitization is the hot new thing, which I have no experience in, unfortunately. Leanne Hanson of NPR's Sunday Edition interviewed a racially diverse panel of female mystery writers. What this has to do with academic librarianship I don't know but it was entertaining nonetheless. The Hispanic one was especially funny. More sessions in the afternoon. Then walked to dinner with a couple of my library school cohorts. The weather was increasingly temperate. We ate at an Indian restaurant with copperware and lots of young hipsters. Pretty good chicken korma, washed down with a $6 bottle of Taj Mahal. Then to Caribou Coffee, where the staff were aggressively nonchalant. Damn Yankees. M.S-H. tells interesting stories about her hypochondria. She got a job at a fairly respectable private 4-year college in the Midwest. Lucky her.

Sat: Woke up early for sessions. Lunch at Ping's Chinese. Good spicy tofu, but the decor was modern American fusion, lots of pastels, not Chinese--plus it was underlit. The weather was positively warm. More sessions in the afternoon, including one from a guy whose raspy voice sounded damaged from throat cancer or some such ailment, and who put pointless anti-Bush propaganda in his PowerPoint presentation--the only case of in-your-face leftism I saw in the entire conference (unlike at ALA, for instance). Sushi at Ichiban for dinner (only so-so, the salmon was omninously warm, plus I had to sit in the bar because the rest of the restaurant is devoted to Teppanyaki and all-you-can-eat buffet, and anyway it was crowded with prom couples and a group of peroxide blondes with Fargo accents celebrating a friend's 21st birthday by getting drunk--not a pleasant environment). Then chartered bus ride from the hotel to the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Delicious desserts and coffee, some good Buddhist art, including creepy dark toned thangka of Tibetan wrathful deity Yamantaka, but no one to talk to--my library school friend had left the conference early.

Sun: Google talk by a youngish guy with a Hugh Grant haircut, then a boring closing keynote address about the positive effects of diversity (meaning racial diversity) on undergraduate learning. I skipped out early, packed, walked back to the light rail station. On the train a guy from a big university library was complaining about departmental infighting, while the guy he was talking to responded by lamenting the difficult tenure requirements for librarians at his institution--so maybe I don't have it so bad at my backwater, I reflected. I got off at the wrong terminal, one devoted to charter flights to the Caribbean, it seemed, so had to get back on the train and backtrack. Ate udon noodles at a Japanese fast food joint while waiting for the flight. Minneapolis-Dallas flight was fairly bumpy, Dallas-Lubbock was even more so, a couple of brief dives. Arrived in Lubbock about 10:30 pm, dead tired but still a 50 minute drive back home.

That's it!

Monday, April 11, 2005

ACRL 2005 was the best library conference I've been to. (Which isn't saying much, since the only other ones I've attended were ALA 2002, SBLA 2003, and TLA 2004). Obviously, a higher proportion of the sessions were pertinent to me as an academic librarians than at ALA, which is weighted toward public librarianship. And the keynote speakers weren't chosen on the basis of being outspoken lefties. A bonus was that the weather in Minneapolis was amazingly temperate for early April. But most importantly, the food and entertainment were excellent. On Friday we got a free catered lunch while watching Leanne Hanson of NPR fame interview three mystery writers (carefully selected for racial but not gender diversity, of course). Sat. night the attendees were invited to the Minneapolis Institute for Arts, where there was quite a spread of dainties and numerous bars. Pretty good collection of Buddhist art, including a creepy tapestry of Yamantaka, a wrathful Tibetan deity of Lovecraftian hideousness. There were a fair number of attractive young librarians in attendance, but most wearing wedding bands.

More later.