Chris Zammarelli

The Sounds of Library Science

Computers In Libraries 2016: Day Three – The Newest In New

During his Computers In Libraries presentation on podcasting, Maurice Coleman said of his podcast, “[T Is for Training] has been my professional development. It has been my advanced degree.”

I love that. It reminds me of a quote attributed to Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher: “We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.” It also dovetails nicely on Stephanie Petruso‘s advice to her staff at Anne Arundel County Public Library that if they come across a new tool or service, they should try it out on their own first to figure out if it is a good fit for the library.

It seems odd to me that my biggest takeaway from a professional conference that the best professional development often comes from just trying stuff out. But I’ve been thinking a lot about alternatives to conferences. I overheard that attendance at Computers In Libraries was down this year. That and the continuing decline of SLA makes me wonder if the conference model is still viable.

(To be fair, a sample of two conference is by no means conclusive, but bear with me here.)

SLA made a big deal in recent years about how it is your own responsibility to tend to your professional development. In other words, you shouldn’t skip the conference just because your employer won’t pay for it. But a $500+ conference, plus transportation and lodging fees and meal costs make a serious dent in any librarian’s bank account. You’re only going to save so much money sharing hotel rooms and pigging out at receptions.

If my professional development truly is my own responsibility, then I am going tend to it responsibly and look for alternatives. I will get active in local associations and leverage my social media connections. I’m going to look for new things to do and play around with them to see what I can learn from them.

I don’t mean to sound so down on Computers In Libraries: it was a terrific conference this year and I learned a lot. (See: the first sentence of this post.) I would be missing out if I found myself in a position where I couldn’t go to it. (Versus just opting not to go to it.)

But my advanced degree curriculum is all around me, not just at conferences. I just need choose my electives wisely.

1 Comment

  1. Info Today reported that the 2008 conference attendance was:
    There are 2,267 people here: 2,202 conference attendees, 283 exhibits only visitors, and 182 exhibitors.

    The 2014 attendance at CIL was:
    1349 registered for the conference
    247 signed up to visit the exhibits
    155 exhibitor personnel

    The 2016 statistics were:
    There are 1181 participants, 166 exhibits only participants, and 121 exhibitors (45 companies).

    (I likely have numbers for SLA, but won’t take the time to dig for them.)

    What has changed? First, many conferences has seen a downturn due to organizational and personal finances, especially during the recession. This includes changes with the federal budget, which has (or had) limited the attendance of government librarians at CIL. Second, I think there are more professional development opportunities. I can do things online or locally that I once had to do at a conference. And I no longer need to go to a conference to see vendor products. Third, I think people go where their “tribe” is. Is there a tribe that attends CIL (or another conference) which is large enough to create that indefinable atmosphere that we might associate with a particular conference? Is the tribe influential enough to say to others “come with me” and have those people listen? My sense is that there is still a tribe at CIL, but that it has shifted and it not the lobbycon/tablecon/ya’ll come group that used to be there. (As a side note, the pre-CIL conversations that used to exist on social media aren’t there anymore and fewer people are blogging. Are these indications of a shift in the tribe?)

    CIL remains one of my favorite conferences. This was number 11 for me (in a row). I am sensing that it needs a revitalization and am wondering how we all can help with that.

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