I returned to work last Wednesday after ALA, and, of course, it’s been one thing after another since then But I promised a conference wrap-up, so here goes!
Every time I attend ALA, I always feel like I didn’t attend enough sessions. This year, I went to six sessions. Which isn’t so bad, I guess…Most of those sessions were on the same topic – discovery layers. I’m actually really glad I went to so many discovery layer sessions. We’re considering purchasing one (still in the *very* early stages), but the mix of information covered in the sessions I attended gave me a better idea of what questions I should be asking, when we start talking to vendors.
There were two sessions I found very helpful: Usability of Next Gen Interfaces and The Age of Discovery: Understanding Discovery Services, Federated Search and Web Scale. The usability study, done by a single librarian at the University of Colorado, was very interesting. I was glad to see that he was able to test multiple products and that he wasn’t sponsored by a vendor. I felt like that gave him a better opportunity to get more useful data from the study. I look forward to reading more about this study, and I hope that he has plans to continue this type of study.
The Age of Discovery session was very helpful in giving me a better handle on what, exactly, a discovery layer is, and how it differs from federated search and web scale. It was helpful to have someone there from Deep Web Technologies as well to remind us all that federated searching can sometimes be the right tool for what we’re trying to do.
There were a couple of sessions that I attended that were not about discovery products, and those were also very useful. I attended Taking Your Workshops to the Web and Goin’ Mobile: We Did It and You Can Too. Taking Your Workshops to the Web was very helpful in giving me a better idea of what webinars, online workshops and online courses should look like. I’m currently the chair of the Workshops Committee for one of our state-wide library organizations, and I found this (and the discussion of the various products available) to be very helpful. There were lots of helpful tips for what kind of information to provide to attendees and how to help presenters . The two speakers overlapped quite a bit, but there was good information from both of them.
The Goin’ Mobile session was very good (and an excellent example of a session aimed at public libraries, but useful to all). We are just beginning to consider a mobile site at MPOW, and it was good to hear someone talk about their design process and what sorts of things were included in the mobile site (and why).
Besides conference sessions, there were lots of excellent meals and time with great friends. Also, I apparently volunteered myself for more committee work! :) (oops!) I also took some time to wander around in the French Quarter and see a bit of New Orleans. I’m glad to have finally made it to New Orleans, and will probably be going back for a short vacation in the future!
One other thing that I learned at this conference was that now that I have (finally) joined the smart phone crowd, it’s a great relief not to have to lug the laptop around all day. I was able to do nearly everything I needed to on my phone, which makes me consider not even taking the laptop to the next ALA I attend. We’ll see!