Conferences – Gettin’ Pushy!

So, I’ll be attending and presenting at Internet Librarian later this week which has got me thinking about the circles we, librarians, travel. It seems we’re awfully comfortable talking to each other and that’s a good thing in small doses. But, we have to ask ourselves, “Who is listening?”

What really got me thinking about this was Mark Hirschey’s piece in Lawrence Journal World questioning the need for the modern library. Sarah Houghton has responded and John Blyberg pushed her thoughts even further. The gist of John’s posting is a call to activism and engagement of citizen concerns: listen to the valid criticisms and make moves to answer them. I’m down with that, but I’m going to take this in a different direction. Part of answering citizen concerns is recognizing that the library as an organization needs to change. I’m going to throw library professional development into the mix. Talking amongst ourselves only gets us so far. It’s great for sharing knowledge but there are other opportunities here. To name a few…

  1. Show others outside of libraries what we can do for them
  2. Get conversant with the issues in the larger digital world
  3. Learn from the expertise of other professionals and bring that knowledge back to the library community

What does this have to do with conferences? I’m advocating moving outside of our various library circles. I’ve seen similar calls from other library bloggers (See Stephen Cohen’s Challenge), but it bears repeating. I can’t say it much better than Stephen:

“Remember my challenge? Present at or (at least) attend one non-librarian conference this year. Has anyone at least attempted to move beyond their comfort zone? We can speak to each other until we’re blue in the “facebook”, but we will not succeed until we expand our user base and “mashup” with other professions. Community building involves more than library communities…”

So, get out of your comfort zone. Stretch out a bit and check out how the other half lives. Here are a few tech related events to get you thinking…


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