This wonderful David Foster Wallace title does not refer to my experience with the American Library Association’s Annual Conference. I’ve been to four conferences now and each time I’ve had a better experience than the last. Admittedly, I’ve not quite found my home in the organization yet. My library job has many facets (data, instruction, government info, etc); therefore, it is hard to justify concentrating on only one. I also love meeting and connecting people to each other. I probably won’t ever stick to one division (although my wallet may not like it), but it means that I will have a harder time finding my “fit”.
I will have some conference summaries soon, but my most memorable experience this year was with the Emerging Leaders Interest Group’s EL Summit headed up by the fabulous Jaime Hammond. Lisa Carlucci started off the session with an inspiring talk on Cadillac Leadership and a few of us did lightning rounds on topics related to EL-ness, such as professional development and getting onto ALA Council. I hope Lisa will post her talk somewhere because I couldn’t take notes at the time. Maybe someone in the room was taking good notes! While the EL program has room for improvement, it has been tremendously valuable both for the ‘leadership’ aspects and for new friendships, but also because I am able to learn from people I would never meet within my job-related divisions (like GODORT). Learning about life in the public library from new librarians helps to put some of the issues within ALA and the profession into much greater perspective. When I applied for EL, I listed this as one of the reasons I wanted to join and I haven’t been disappointed.
So, what is my supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again, if ALA isn’t it? When I arrived home yesterday I found a package. Inside were copies of my book, Numeric Data Services and Sources for the General Reference Librarian
the supposedly fun thing i'll never do again
I knew that writing a book would not be a fun project. Nevertheless, I am glad Katharin and I wrote it because it fills a serious gap in the market. At a RUSA data discussion session on Sunday, Michelle Hudson, the data librarian at Yale University said, “Hopefully all librarians will be data librarians someday.” The idea is that every reference/instruction librarian should feel comfortable using numeric data sources because they are information too, just like the written word. We will still rely on specialists for certain questions, but all librarians will have basic familiarity with the WIDE range of sources out there. Helping all librarians become data librarians is the goal of this book!
So, why would I think twice about writing a book? First, it takes so much of your head space. I understand now why people take writing sabbaticals. I should have thought more strategically about this when I agreed to the project and would encourage any librarian who wants to write a book to think seriously about the amount of time you have to commit to it. Unless your library can give you time away from regular duties to concentrate on writing, you are going to be struggling to use your free time. Unfortunately for most of us our time is not structured for serious writing projects.
Second, the book as a format is a bit of a letdown. There are many great tips in this book for incorporating data into instruction and reference, but I already want to update the entire thing! I’ve learned so much and so much has changed since February 2010 when I sent my final proofs to the publisher that I’m already on a second edition in my head. I’ve thought about creating a wiki or a blog for the book, of course, and I’ve been trying to figure out the best forum. I would just like the book to be more of a social experience. I am not the final word on data reference and instruction, so how do I get other people’s voices and ideas heard? How do we make the print book an ongoing organism and not stuck in a particular moment in time? Once I’ve found the ability to do that, then may be it won’t be as much of a downer.
I am excited about the book arriving. It will have a positive impact for people who are new to numeric data. It has a place in libraryland! I just would need my arm seriously twisted to take on a project like that ever again
On a final note, I received another package in the mail yesterday. It is a birthday gift from my husband and I just had to share. Those of you who know me well will know why.