Librarians and Happenstance Voyagers, SXSW 2013–Day One
The concept of the book contines to loom large at SXSW, in this case through a projector filling an oversized pad of blank paper. Photo by Aspen Walker
This is my first time attending South by Southwest. Knowing how action-packed this conference is, I’ve settled on a philosophy for the trip: to be a voyager of happenstance, intent on enjoying the ride, whatever it may yield. Sure, I’ve selected all kinds of sessions in the SXSW app, but flexibility and an open mind are essential to geography, crowds, and shiny objects. Also, I came to SXSW for a cross-pollination of ideas from both outside and inside Libraryland. I’ll spend lots of time with library lovers, but also focus on things I’m not bound to run across in my workaday world. I’m pretty certain I’ll have fun and learn a lot by taking this approach, regardless of where I go. Day One proved that point.
Begin. After strolling through Austin getting the lay of the land Friday morning, I checked out the opening remarks from Bre Pettis of MakerBot. (The woman in front of me was doing a bang-up job of visual note-taking/sketchnotes during Pettis’s talk.) Pettis hailed 3D printing as the “next industrial revolution,” and provided examples of several resultant products that are making life better and/or fun, including inexpensive prosthetics for fast-growing kids, sculpture, replacements for otherwise hard-to-find parts, and dollhouse furniture. (For more examples, check out Thingiverse, a site for sharing digital designs with the world.) Not sure 3D printing is worth the hype? I recommend taking a gander at online videos (nascent organ-printing for example) and reading Cory Doctorow’s Makers. Pettit also unveiled a prototype of MakerBot’s digitizer, which scans preexisting 3D objects with lasers, catching the shape on camera, and making CAD design unnecessary.
Create. In keeping with the maker movement/creativity theme, I next headed over to the SXSW Create tents, to check out a variety of “disruptive creations, innovative tools, and unique fabrication methods.” I saw plenty of 3D printing in action, and met the good folks of Austin’s ATX Hackerspace. I created a moment of creative rejuvenation and relaxation by creating an LED-embellished textile patch with SparkFun Electronics. Got a cool library project that needs funding? AwesomeFoundation.org is giving out $1,000 grants.
Party.At the kickoff SXSW LAM (libraries, archives and museums) meetup, I saw lots of old friends and met plenty of new library lovers and a host of friendly Austin locals. We pasted library tattoos on many folks and marveled at the pedicab little libraries boxes SXSW LAM and EveryLibrary created to bring the library word to SXSW. The boxes feature print books and ebooks, and some even offer Wi-Fi.
I finished off the evening at the Interactive Opening Party. In addition to long lines, we were treated to all kinds of eye candy, including some very big books created by projecting images onto large pads of blank paper.
Sleep. Now, I am one sleepy librarian, and very pleased with today’s voyage of happenstance. Here’s to four more days of SXSW!
ASPEN WALKER is the manager of the Castle Pines and Lone Tree branches of Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries.