alternative chicago, four years later

Update: here’s the Google maps version of the guide.

Four years ago, the last time that ALA Annual was in Chicago, I was a baby librarian and blogger living in the ‘burbs and thrilled to be going to my very first library conference. Four years later, I can’t quite believe all the things that have happened to me, and how many of them have their roots in that first conference, where I went to the first ever blog salon, met Jenna and Jessamyn for the first time at a Radical Reference meeting, shared a cab with Walt Crawford . . . the list goes on. I missed my four-year blog anniversary back in May, but it’s really hitting me now that I’m reading tweets about #ala2009 how much has happened since then, both in the world of technology and in my life.

I’m sad that I can’t be at the conference this year, as I have many dear friends and colleagues attending, but I’m so, so grateful to the internet, which is what introduced me to most of those friends and colleagues in the first place.

I was the only local in Radical Reference in Chicago in 2005, and one of the projects I took on, with a lot of help from my good friends at Third Coast Press, was to make a guide to alternative Chicago. I’m not sure how many of these places are still around, but I thought I’d share them again. I might even make you all a Google map of them tomorrow!

[NB I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I should move the apostrophe, since the guides were really only the work of one librarian, namely me — but they’re intended for many librarians, and so I’m going to go with my original, if grammatically quirky, punctuation.]

In any case, those of you who are there, enjoy the conference and the city — and those who are not, I’ll see you online.

ms. crossett goes to washington

Tomorrow morning, at an hour far earlier than I even want to contemplate right now, I’ll be getting on the first of three airplanes on my way to Computers in Libraries (which is actually in Arlington/Crystal City, VA, not DC, but close enough), where I’ll once again be talking about how I built a library website for $16 in chocolate.

This will likely be the last big conference I go to for some time — while Wyoming is doing quite well compared to the rest of the country, these times are still tough, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of traveling in the past year. I’d like to thank, once again, Information Today, Inc., the Salt Lake City Public Library, my own library system, and my good friends for making that possible.

If your library is, like most other libraries in the country, facing severe budget shortfalls, you may well be in despair that you will never get to go to a conference and hang out with all the cool kids. While I don’t want to diminish the fun that is and the contacts it gives you, I’d like to point out as well that while I now go to library conference to talk about our website, I built it almost entirely based on virtual contacts. The Park County Library website wouldn’t exist in its current form without Twitter and the LSW Meebo Room (and, nowadays, the LSW FriendFeed Room. I’m grateful to all the support I’ve gotten from those people, many of whom are now friends, and quite a few of whom I have still never met.

I guess what I want to say is this: if you’re reading this and thinking, “I’ll never get to go to a conference. I’ll never get to know any of those people,” don’t despair. We librarians are lucky to belong to a profession that employs the most pathologically helpful people on earth. That doesn’t mean that emailing me or posting something to the WordPress for Libraries group will automatically solve all your problems. We all have to spend a certain amount of time beating things with rocks. But if you’re willing to pick up a rock, you’ll be amazed at how many other people you can find out there banging away with you.

If I don’t know you and you’re reading this and you’ll be at Computers in Libraries, please come say hi. I’m presenting on Monday afternoon and can easily be found lobbyconning with many of my fellow Library Society of the World members for much of the rest of the time.

i’ll see you on the internet: IL2008

Update: All the stuff from the presentation is really, truly online now. Slides, handouts, links, and more information than you could possibly ever want.

I’m writing this from some vast elevation on the first leg of my flight home from Internet Librarian, where I gave a little talk called How I Made a Website for $16 in Chocolate [not all the stuff is there yet; I’ll update it when next in the land of ftp]. It was a great honor to present in the same session as Sarah Houghton-Jan and to be a part of the fabulous group of speakers Aaron Schmidt put together for a track called Solving Problems. The conference as a whole was good. I particularly enjoyed hearing danah boyd, who synthesized so well so many of the things that we know, or half-know, about community and the internet but haven’t quite been able to articulate ourselves. I learned some great new tricks from Jeff Wisniewski’s Fast & Easy Site Tune-Ups, drooled over SOPAC and VuFind, and, after years of reading about them, finally got to see the Dutch boys.

As with most conferences, however, the best parts of IL this year were the unofficial ones, and about those I have much to say.

I arrived Sunday evening and headed over to the conference center to meet up with Iris, and, while sitting and waiting for her, I looked up to see a tall redhead, and I think “the shock of recognition” would be the best way to explain the look on both our faces. “I think I know you from the internet!” I said to Kate Sheehan. I used that line a lot over the next few days, because I got to meet a whole lot of people that I know from the internet. I’ll forget someone if I try to list them all, but let us just say that the LSW was well-represented (and add a shout-out to my awesome roommate and queen of Capslock Day, Meg). As I think I posted somewhere at some point, I wish the rest of you could all have joined us, although as it was we were having some difficulty getting groups of ten or twelve or fourteen people seated, and any more might have been impossible.

There were all the usual shenanigans you might expect if you are a follower of ITI conferences — beer, karaoke, rickrolling, photographing, name-calling (I’m sorry, Greg, really I am), sea lion watching, and general hanging out. I have been privileged for most of my life to be around smart, talented, creative people, and this group is one of the best. The very last session I attended at LCOW was called Impractical, Unreasonable, Unfeasable, Unfundable Ideas for Your Library, and, as I’ve noted before, despite the utter whackiness of some of the suggestions, some were things that, as Jamie Markus pointed out, we could do or even were already doing. The best parts of IL felt like that: one big, ongoing session, punctuated by sessions and meals and drinks, where it seemed as though the sky was the limit. And the best part of all is that it didn’t end there. We all took our leave of one another with the same parting phrase: “I’ll see you on the internet!” I’m glad there are so many of you out there that I see there every day, too.

report from the road

I’m still in Denver and theoretically headed back to Meeteetse tomorrow, although word has it it’s snowing there, and wyoroad.info is advising no unnecessary for several of the roads I take, so we’ll see.

Yesterday was the hugely successful (I think — people are editing the wiki on a Saturday, which must be a good sign!) Library Camp of the West. There are some photos from the event up already and a few comments in the LCOW FriendFeed room. The event would still be pie in the sky IM conversations between Steve Lawson and me were it not for Joe Kraus at DU, who really got the whole thing going. Many thanks to him, to Steve, to Josh Neff for some great last minute advice, and to everyone who came. I was sorry not to get to spend more time with Matt Hamilton (aka the Brewin’ Librarian) and K.R. Roberto, and I somehow missed meeting Jill entirely, but I hope all these problems can be rectified by making LCOW an annual event.

Last week Kaijsa (also in attendance at LCOW08) and I gave a presentation (twice!) at the Wyoming Library Association conference in Casper. Notes and a handout and a ton of links from the presentation are up online. (And why design your own stylesheet when you can steal one from Jessamyn? That’s what I always say.) It was fascinating and instructive to do the same presentation twice, especially since the audiences in question were quite different in terms of what they knew, what they were interested in, and what, if anything, they had questions about. I’m not entirely sure that standing in front of a bunch of people and showing them stuff on a big screen is the best way for them to learn about technology and its uses, although people did seem to enjoy this IM conversation. I’m thinking about how best to do my presentation on technology for Internet Librarian, and I will let you know what, if anything, I figure out.

the lis.dom fall tour

I am going to a bunch of places in the next four weeks, and only one of them has nothing to do with libraries. I’m not quite sure how this happened, but here’s the round-up of trips (all of them are also on Dopplr):

This Thursday, September 25, I’m taking four planes in order to get from Wyoming to Iowa, where I’ll be attending my best friend Sara’s ordination. The service is in West Burlington, but I’ll be staying in Iowa City for the weekend and returning to Wyoming (again on four planes) Monday, September 29.

I’ll stop long enough to pet the cats and go to work for a day and a half, and then I’m off to Casper from October 1 to 3 for the Wyoming Library Association conference. Kaijsa Calkins and I will be presenting a 2.0 Toolkit for Libraries Large and Small. I wanted to say we were from the biggest library in the state and the smallest, but believe it or not, there are in fact smaller libraries in towns smaller than mine in Wyoming.

Then I come home for the grand opening of the new Cody library on October 4. All the staff got a tour on Monday, and I got to look again on Thursday before the board meeting, and there were already books on the shelves! It is a gorgeous space and is going to be a huge, huge improvement over the extremely old, cramped quarters. The opening ceremonies start at 3, and the ribbon cutting will be at 4. At 4:30, the live auction of the grizzlies will begin, and the library will be open till 8 p.m. for the public to tour. I’ll be hanging out in the subterrannean teen room at the back of the building.

After that, I have a few days to catch my breath, and then it’s off to Denver for Library Camp of the West. I’ll be getting in on October 9 and will probably stay through the weekend.

Then I get another short break and then head out for my final stop, Monterey, California, where I’ll be from October 19 to 23 for Internet Librarian. I’ll be talking about how to make a library website on the cheap by using free software, web 2.0 tools, and the great world wide community of librarians as a support team. If you make it through my presentation, you then get to hear the wonderful Sarah Houghton-Jan, with whom I’m honored to be sharing a session.

If you can pick me out of the crowd of Mac laptop using, messanger bag carrying, Moo card bearing, sort of square glasses wearing people at any of these events, please say hi. I’m looking forward to meeting a whole bunch of LSW people and a whole lot of other people, too. Also, I love coffee and food, so if you want to meet up for either, let me know!

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.

radical thinking

I realized earlier today that although I mentioned it in passing on my other blog (which is read by about three people–what the world needs now is not another RSS feed, but I try not to let that stop me), I haven’t actually gotten around to talking about it in this rather more visited, and relevent, venue.

Tomorrow I’m flying to Salt Lake City to attend Thinking Ahead 2008, a conference put on by the Salt Lake City Public Library and the Weber County Library. I’ll be there on behalf of Radical Reference and will be one of a number of far more accomplished Topic Facilitators. My topic is Democracy in Libraries, and you can read a little about some of the things I’ll try to talk about with regard to Rad Ref, many of them suggested by other volunteers. I’m looking forward to see what develops in many of the conversations at this conference, and I’ll report as much as possible here.

If by any chance you are reading this and are going to be at the conference, please come say hello. I will be the one who sounds like she’s getting over a bad head cold/sinus infection, which, in fact, I am.

Also, can I just say that I love that I’m going to a conference whose website url is thinkinglibraries.org? I love it.

the phoenix in the gulf

Last night I went to the Bloggers Bash/Reception for Gulf Coast librarians hosted by Leslie Burger. Over the past year, blogger gatherings have been among the most vibrant and memorable (and fun) parts of conferences. Blogger gatherings are where you get to meet your imaginary friends, talk shop with people who speak your language, eat and drink courtesy of people with more money than you have, and get stars in your eyes when one of the people you most admire recognizes the name of your blog

Last night had all of those features, but it had something else, too, and that something else, of course, was the librarians from the Gulf Coast. They were there, from New Orleans, from Louisiana bayou, from Mississippi. We heard some of their stories of loss and of renewal. We heard about what they need (money) and what they don’t (1980s encyclopedias, old books). We saw them, face to face.

On Friday, thanks to the great generosity of Beth Oliver, a librarian at Delgado Community College, Heidi Dolamore and I had the opportunity to see face to face some areas of New Orleans and Slidell that were hit by hurricane and flood. I haven’t begun to digest the experience yet, but you can see some pictures (more captions to come) on Flickr under the tag damage. I had a hard time deciding how to tag the photos of the effects of the hurricane: I need a word that describes both damage and the possibility of renewal, a word that shows an embroynic phoenix, rising from the ashes.