This is my first time ever attending an ALA conference—not just Annual, any ALA conference. I guess if you’re going to start going to professional conferences, you might as well dive in with both feet, into the deep end.
First thing in the morning, I was faced with a question, how many librarians can crowd onto a street corner? The answer is none. Instead, they will gather and make polite inquiries about lines and wait order. I noticed some of these traits repeated throughout the day. The check in line was a breeze, and fascinating and polite conversations popped up regularly. This was one of the moments where I realized that I had found my tribe, and they welcomed me.
I spent my day focusing on cataloging and metadata sessions. I power-walked my way between sessions on digital scholarship, cataloging norms, linked data, and analyzing how instructors use media. Along the way, I gathered a pile of new ideas to take back to my library.
There are two specific presentations that I am very excited to try to replicate. “Creating the Future of Digital Scholarship Together: Collaboration from Within Your Library,” featured a presentation on a search visualization prototype being developed at the University of Michigan. Matt Caruthers, the metadata project librarian there, broke down the process that the archival and metadata teams used to convert their metadata into a format that can be read and used by visualization software. The goal is to demonstrate linkages between collections, even if they are not the typical fields that catalogers fill. The goal is to be able to offer a larger pool for contextualization for researchers.
Broader contextualization was also the theme in “What Happens to the Catalog in the Age of Linked Data.” Linked data is, on its surface, exactly what it sounds like: formatting data to allow it to be connected with other data. In a practical sense, this means opening up cataloging data to allow it to be caught up in automated crawls from web browsers and to pull their crowdsourced data into the library search results in return. It’s not without issues and concerns, but it is definitely a fascinating option that will be researched heavily after the conference wraps.
There is something comforting in knowing that neither of the projects that fascinated me are completed. This is new territory. It’s the newness of this that fascinates me so much. Librarians are experimenting, and those who view librarians as Luddites are failing to see the innovation and willingness to experiment that was present today.