I’ve thought about how to handle this post–maybe in two parts? A “meat and potatoes” approach, with the conference sessions being the meat and the New Orleans vibe acting as the side dish. But then I decided to serve it up all on one plate since it is the combination of the two that created the entire experience.

I was in New Orleans for only 48 hours and able to attend the conference for only 1 day, 3 sessions. But the whirlwind trip, which came hot on the heels of a week away in the Outer Banks, was well worth the effort. Like many, I was amazed at the sheer size of the Convention Center. As if walking around New Orleans wasn’t enough, walking the Convention Center was an exercise in….well, exercise! My husband and I enjoyed the lunchtime serenade in one of the food courts, and I marveled at the expanse of the Exhibit Hall. A word about the exhibits–I’m just not that into them. While it was cool that a robot called out my name, and I could appreciate the effort that goes into the displays, I just find the whole exhibit experience over stimulating, bringing to mind a carnival-like atmosphere where the street vendors try to wheedle you into playing their games. But that’s just me.

The sessions I attended were all useful and informative. In an OCLC Creating Cataloging Efficiencies session (part of an ongoing series), “Transforming Collection Management and Technical Services Operations: the Next-Generation Technical Services  (NGTS) Initiative of the University of California Libraries, Bradford Lee Eden talked about the libraries’ recent restructuring efforts. My main takeaway from this session, as a cataloger who is not the biggest fan of cataloging, is that the trend may be moving towards less is more–a record that is “good enough”, not necessarily perfect or near perfect. Automate, streamline, simplify, and reduce redundancy wherever possible. Basically, provide the minimum needed for easy access to the traditional stuff, and focus more energy on providing better access to digital and electronic resources. Makes sense to me.

I also attended The Ultimate Debate: “Library Web Scale Discovery Services: Paradigm Shift or More of the Same?” Streaming video of this session can be found here. The “debate” was moderated by Roy Tennant and Marshall Breeding was one of the panelists. My take: the basic idea behind a “Web scale discovery service” is that it is the largest scale possible for indexing library collections and should perform a single index search for all library material—print, databases, electronic resources, etc—without regard to source. It should bring together data from the catalog, databases, etc., that is searchable through one user interface with a single point of access. It is a “deep-indexed based” discovery process and is something “better than a library catalog”. It is different from federated searching, which searches across multiple targets. I will not pretend to completely understand what this means; however, my take is that it is a library’s answer to Google and will eventually (not soon) replace traditional library ILSs. And its expensive. But I like the idea of moving away from library traditions whenever it makes sense. And a Google-like catalog makes more sense to me than a library-like catalog.

Finally, The Wikipedia Effect: How Wikipedia Has Changed the Way the World Finds and Evaluates Information.” I love Wikipedia, and I cringe when I hear librarians (particularly academic) decry its merits. I firmly believe that Wikipedia is a legitimate tool in the research tool box; however, it is a means to an end (some pretty good reference/resource lists there), but never the end and should never be cited in research (in my opinion). I was happy to hear that Wikipedia is being used in information literacy instruction. At California State University, students are being asked to evaluate the Wikipedia page for a topic they have independently researched for several weeks and to compare the content. Excellent! Some students are given assignments to create a Wikipedia article. In my first MLS program through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (before I transferred to Clarion), I had to create an article for Wikipedia. It was a great experience and  helped me to understand the behind-the-scenes activity at the world’s largest encyclopedia. Speaking of behind-the scenes activity, one of the speakers who is both on the Wikipedia editorial board and an academic librarian stated emphatically that librarians have a call–a duty–to add to and improve Wikipedia. She said that when she finds the perfect journal article for a student doing research, she makes sure to add that citation to the appropriate subject page in Wikipedia thereby improving the accuracy and authority of the Wikipedia article. Brilliant! As librarians, I firmly believe we should embrace Wikipedia because our users do. The difference is we can show them its faults, too. Embrace, but put it into a more realistic perspective.

I’m thinking now that my original meat and potatoes idea was a good one. Stay tuned for the potatoes…