solidarity, virtually: my CiL2008

I’ve been watching Computers in Libraries (and Internet Librarian) from afar for three years now, starting with the OPML file Steve put together for CiL in 2006. I’ve watched the conference tags make it into Flickr’s hot tags list every year, and I’ve seen hundreds of sea lion photos from Monterey. I’ve read the complaints about internet access, read scores of blog posts about conference sessions, and I’ve watched attendees plan dinner dates via an ever-evovling series of technologies, from wikis to Twitter.

But there was something different about this year. Usually, as much as I love following the action, I get depressed looking at all the pictures of people having drinks and fun because I’m not there and I’m sure I’m missing out on things. This year, for some reason, I didn’t feel that way. Maybe it was the increased level of wifi that meant more people were Twittering. Maybe it was the back channel in the LSW Meebo Room. Maybe it was that I got to be at the conference by being in the LSW Room when Josh, Steve, and Rikhei were talking about it. Maybe it was that I got mentioned in that presentation. Maybe it was that at least one person I talked to via some medium thought I was at the conference. Whatever it was, though, it left me feeling as though I was in fact there, and today, it’s giving me that post-conference let down, where you suddenly realize that you have to take all your great ideas back home and deal with the 179 emails you’ve accumulated and the garbage you forgot to take out and making dinner instead of going out for sushi with your friends, and you’re exhausted because you haven’t slept much all week.

I’ve been trying to place the sense that I got while the conference was going on, and it finally dawned on me: it felt like the sit-in.

While we were at Weeg, we ran through Heidi’s e-mail accumulated over the past day, almost all of it from the USAS listserv. It’s not just us and Purdue, it’s all over–and spreading like wildfire. Kentucky, Tulane, Michigan, Oregon, Yale, Wesleyan–they’re all holding buidlings or camping out or hunger striking or something, and I know there are schools I’m forgetting. This movement is national, and though the national media haven’t picked up on it yet, we know it (thanks to the wonders of modern technology). But sitting there, reading all those posts from all over–somebody compiled all the letters asking for support and sent them out in one mass e-mail–we felt it. All over America right now people are sleeping, but some of those people–a critical mass of those people–are college students and supporters, camping out on lawns and in libraries, in hallways and on doorsteps, demanding change, demanding a voice, demanding a better world.

Well, not exactly like that, of course, but it had much the same energy, much the same silliness promanading with serious intent.

I’m happiest when I think I’m changing the world. I’m not certain that Information Today Inc. is changing the world, or not in exactly the ways I would like it to, but I’m certain that the people in the Library Society of the World are changing librarianship, and I like thinking that I’m a part of this amazing group of people who are all tinkering away in our own corners of the world. Someday I hope to meet more of you in person, but I think it’s a testament to the power of the intertubes that you all feel like comrades already.

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