I recently attended the 2013 Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) conference in Austin, TX. As before, the conference reinforced and solidified ideas among my fellow electronic resources librarians (ERLs), re-energized my research agenda, and reminded me that I am not alone in making wider connections out from my work as an ERL.
In fact, the “we don’t usually have a theme” theme of the conference was bridging communities and cross pollinating ideas — which led me to ask myself, Self: How do I communicate and bridge ideas across the world of ERL and the larger library mission in practice? But another subtler theme that I picked up on throughout the conference turns out to be a very reality-based response to my own question.
The keynote opening and closing speakers, as well as many presenters throughout the conference, challenged all of us to move beyond research results or the identification of problems in our communities (content) and become involved in myriad ways with solving problems and building bridges (service). Even more than my little parenthetical emphasis on service over content — this was a call to individual action.
“What are you going to do with what you now know about Google Generation users?” asked Michael Eisenbert (session notes) — Opening keynote: Listening to Users: What the “Google Generation” Says About Using Library & Information Collections, Services, and Systems in the Digital Age
“You are the Digital Library Federation” chided Rachel Frick — Closing keynote: The Courage of our Connections: Thoughts on Professional Identities, Organizational Affiliations and Common Communities)
“Are you disgruntled? Support these start-ups, your fellow Disgrunterati who are making things happen!” coined Jason Price — Lightening Talks
I attended sessions mostly focused on my passion areas, the places where I am most action-oriented — workflow and communication. I felt particularly energized by presentations from early adopters of webscale systems like Intota (session notes) and Alma (session notes). Unlike years past when new ERM systems were adopted and met with fairly wide-scale disappointment, these adopters spoke specifically to how these new ILS systems are helping them manage the complex nature of our work across the library (e and p, content and service) And they seemed so happy! They clearly demonstrated how the ability of these systems to centralize and structure key data and to bridge that data across all library service workflows enabled them to more quickly take action to address internal and external users needs.
I was also very pleased with the Project Management in Libraries (session notes) post conference workshop led by the most excellent Jennifer Vinopal (NYU). To energize my research agenda there was a welcomed talk on the importance of both Internal and External Customer Service (session notes) , especially as it relates to various organizational restructuring. Timely! These sessions helped me see where I can act by both confirming current thinking and offering new ideas to help me move forward.
Some others included Jill Emery’s and Graham Stone’s TERMS (session notes) project. I would love to become involved in extending areas of TERMS that relate to communication and information mangement, as well as key troubleshooting best practices. Another was Extreme E-resources Endeavors…(seesion notes), which included a mix of things we have already acted on (PDA, E-reserves) and things we are hoping to (renewal calendars, POOF!). Feeding one of my passions (and past professions), Instructing Future ERLs (session notes) was another inspiring call to act, although maybe further down the road with this one.
Now, strangely, and despite all Dan Tonkery’s advice to the keep emotion out of it (Improving Communication & Relationships Between Librarians & Publishers session notes), my initial overall response to the conference (after a great closing keynote) was not resolve and energy, but reservedness, fear, frustration, and believe it or not – tears! I reasoned that it was frustration with wanting to act, but not being able to due to lack of resources or, possibly, as Frick suggests, the “courage of my connections”. But I also think changes going on back at my organization may have played some subconscious role in that perhaps too — the sense of uncertainty about where these idea and action bridges will be built.
You should also probably know that I was reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking during the trip. I claim to be an ambivert, but I was operating strongly with my “I” throughout the conference. I didn’t do a lot of networking, even though I had many opportunities, and it has taken me much longer to recover my energy post-conference (also classic introvert behavior). Thankfully, some of my first tasks back were sharing project management approaches, discussing ideas for development programs, and spending most of today cleaning up my notes and summarizing my experience.
Reflecting now upon these bold calls to action and individual responsibility, I’m reminded that I begin acting within my circle of concern. My strengths in learning, strategy, analysis, and taking action with others are what help me be effective in my circle. These same strengths also enable me to see and act beyond this area by sharing ideas and bridging communities. I have always thought of myself as a bridge-builder of both ideas and communities. This conference is always great reminder of how I do that as an ERL prepares me in all sorts of ways to be a greater and broader leader in librarianship as a whole.