Rowdy Librarians at SXSWi - Day Two
Andrea Davis & Ed Loera at the SxSWLAM meet up at Skinny's in Austin (photo by Mona T. Brooks)
Whoa. Saturday is typically the most frenetic day at Interactive, as dealmakers recover from the previous night’s parties and rally for a second day of negotiations and networking.
Librarians rally just as fiercely as anyone else—only we put more heart into what we do. Today’s panelists offered new ways of thinking about the field while challenging us to take action in redefining how we serve our communities.
I kicked off my day with “Making Stories: Libraries & Community Publishing,” featuring Nate Hill, Char Booth, Michael Porter, and Amy Buckland. The panel collectively addressed how libraries can “help their communities make their own news, write their own stories, and publish their own histories.”
I took away a different tidbit from the wealth of information provided by each panelist—so what I contribute here is admittedly a small glimpse. First, Nate introduced the Library Lab—a gorgeous architectural reimagination of how we interact with audio, video, print, and a host of other crossover media. Next, Char shared a new method of encouraging undergraduates to envision themselves as scholars by requiring them to share content in a public academic forum. Michael then issued a call to action for changing solutions to our interactivity with electronic content. Finally, Amy made clear that all of us can publish our own histories, offering examples of patrons who deeply connect with researching and printing tangible copies of their own genealogies.
Thirty minutes later, Carson Block took the stage for “The Great Library Swindle: Your Rights Are at Risk.” He began by offering a series of hysterical media clips that showcased how tech pundits overtly dismiss the value of libraries given the rise of the internet. In rebuttal, Carson argued that libraries provide a unique public service given their historical commitment to providing free access to information while refusing to compromise confidentiality. To preserve this resource, he exhorts everyone to “infiltrate your local library” by joining boards and asking powerful questions.
Nell Taylor delivered an absolute tour de force in the late afternoon with her presentation, “Read/Write Library: Mapping a City Through Media.” The lifelong Chicago native called for us to “archive everything” to best grasp the historical needs of our communities and overcome giant gaps in cultural meaning. Turning to her city for examples, she displayed an image of a modern advertisement mounted on another from a previous generation—a document that can serve as a wonderful template for discussing neighborhood change. Likewise, preserving literature written by women prisoners can lead us to foster alternative perspectives on power; or, the works of Gwendolyn Brooks can become more meaningful for South Siders when they know the revered poet lived just a few blocks away. Nell introduced “controlled crowdsourcing” as a method to work through social networks to document stories, asking us to treat the city as a library and its citizens as librarians. Her call for a project that emphasizes humility and eliminates concepts of hierarchy resonated quite powerfully with me.
As day turned to night, librarians transitioned from an intimate SXSWi meetup on the UT campus to a festive #sxswLAM drinkup at Skinny’s Ballroom. Serials Solutions was kind enough to provide free libations for those in attendance, and folks from all parts of the field connected with old friends and made some new ones. I was personally thrilled to see current UT iSchool students introducing themselves to innovators in digitization, IT, consulting, reference, advocacy, graphic design, virtual services, and a host of other specialties. We ran past our allotted bar time, but a few of us hung around to casually mingle nonetheless.
At this point, my night ends—I was spent. I know of at least one group that hopped on a party bus and another that hit up the legendary Broken Spoke dance hall, but I’ll leave those stories to those with more energy. SXSW goes as late into the night (or as early into the morning) as you want it to, and since I’ll be here for the raucous insanity that is South By Music, I’ll save a bit of energy for later on.
(Photos by Mona T. Brooks)
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 blog post here and follow along at the #sxswLAM Facebook page and Twitter feed.