Rowdy Librarians at SXSWi - Day Three
Swag from SxSWi
Day 3. Scraggly beard. Sleep deprivation. Possible hallucinatory sighting of Willem Dafoe at a Google event…
Wait—that was real.
I thought things would calm down today, especially since I had no panels on the agenda. Instead, I ended up jumping from one fascinating conversation to another, running ragged all over town. I elected to move beyond just speaking with librarians, as the premise of SXSWi should be to stretch one’s boundaries.
I began my afternoon by meeting with Eduardo Loera for a lunch of tacos and lemonade. Ed played a huge role in organizing the Library Drinkup on Saturday night (also acting as default bouncer), so today I peppered him with questions about his work in academic libraries and at ProQuest. He offered a ton of useful tips for exploring the field, and hipped me to an event sponsored by the University of Michigan later in the day.
Next, I walked over to the convention center for an informal meetup on Social Media curation. Many of the attendees were deeply invested in how to utilize metadata to distribute messages and drive traffic to their sites. We broke into action groups, and I spent most of my time observing and filtering the various topics that are most relevant to our work.
Shortly after the event, I met Erin Anguish of GlacierWorks—“a nonprofit organization that uses art, science, and adventure to raise public awareness of climate change in the Greater Himalaya.” GlacierWorks compares modern high-resolution imagery with archival photos taken across the past century to demonstrate the dramatic impact of pollution in some of the most remote places in the world. We sat down on a park bench to chat about her organization, and she walked me through a remarkable portfolio of images taken by generations of mountaineers. I was drawn in by this carefully preserved archive, so I invited her to join the gathering of business and information students at the Michigan reception.
After we arrived at the event, Ed took me aside to introduce me to Melissa Cox, a graduate student in Michigan’s School of Information. Melissa has pursued cross-disciplinary coursework in information and business, and has collaborated with MBAs in case study competitions. Her impressively diverse background, combined with her current job in Michigan’s Office of University Development, has led to a prominent role in designing original fundraising software.
My head swimming with ideas, I said my goodbyes to Ed and Erin and started my stroll back downtown. Along the way, I bumped into Sam Burns, a doctoral candidate at UT-Austin’s School of Information, and Libby Peterek of local Austin PBS affiliate KLRU. Both Sam and Libby play significant roles in designing and developing web content, and since they’re both within shouting distance, I plan to connect with them in the upcoming weeks.
Running on fumes, I grabbed some caffeine and joined my friend Samantha Needham for a chat in one of the corridors of the Convention Center. Sam runs a renowned social media site that promotes lesbian events in an assortment of large and small cities throughout the country. She works across multiple platforms and is one of the savviest people I know with regards to branding and technology. I used this opportunity to ask her what benefit she believes libraries could play in her business. She quickly brainstormed two ideas: first, consulting archives to document the social event histories of hyperlocal LGBTQ communities; second, replicating the models of library exhibitions to showcase content and curate original events. Before I left, she told me that libraries offer a unique form of knowledge that is rooted in trust and insisted that this is “absolutely essential to your brand.”
Nap time … bear with me …
OK. Somewhat refreshed, I joined the #sxswLAM crew at a DJ party celebrating the second season of BBC’s Sherlock (second only to Downton Abbey as the favorite British TV series amongst librarians everywhere). After dancing it up for a bit, I broke away to talk at length with Jennifer Greb, a career services librarian at the Tulsa City-County Library. Jennifer showed me an awesome in-house library app which allows people to summon archival pictures of Tulsa depending on where they are situated in the city. Users can then share these photos via Facebook, Twitter, or email to offer glimpses of how the city looked then and now.
Our pack shifted to Austin’s legendary Driskill Hotel, where I happened to sit down next to Flip Kromer of Infochimps, a prominent Austin data startup. We talked at length about the art of curating metadata while trading stories about what constitutes a white elephant gift in different cultures throughout the world. Andrea made sure to brand him with a librarian tattoo before moving on, and he dished us some terrific SXSW-themed “Magic Cards” as thanks.
Nell Taylor, who knocked out her audience during her presentation on ReadWriteLibrary, joined us with her friend Clarisse Thorn. Clarisse is an emerging Chicago author who has done extensive research on the subculture of pickup artists, and she walked me through the genesis of her new book, Confessions of a PUA Chaser: Long Interviews With Hideous Men. I followed up with a few questions about her panel at SXSWi, “Sex Nets: Pickup Artists vs. Feminists,” which was a fascinating and fun way to wrap up my 20-hour day.
Before I depart, I’d like to relay a compliment that a few scholars from Yale gave our #sxswLAM crew while we were dancing up a storm: “Let us know where you’re at tomorrow—we want to party with the librarians.” Indeed.
PAUL VINELLI (@pavinelli on Twitter) is one of many librarians attending, presenting, and innovating at the South by Southwest: Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. This year, a group of librarians and other information professionals organized to work together on programming and activities at the SxSWi conference and we’re happy to be sharing reports from the field. Read his previous posts and follow along at the #sxswLAM Facebook page and Twitter feed.