ALA Midwinter

ALA Midwinter 2008Like many other librarians, I’m going to the ALA Midwinter conference. ALA is the American Libraries Association and its conferences are massive. I’m really excited to attend both this conference and the annual conference. I’m more excited about this conference because I’ll be there tomorrow and because the midwinter conference deals with more of the business-meeting concerns and so it’s smaller than the annual conference. For a first-time attendee and a feral librarian (who are librarians without official library training), the smaller conference size will be helpful. Even with the smaller size the conference has loads of great programs, many of which run simultaneously.
I’m hoping to attend as many of the great meetings as possible and I’ve currently narrowed my schedule to the list below. While I hope to make all of these meetings and more, I’m likely to miss many of them for other meetings or for the things that always come up at conferences like getting lost in good conversation or while searching for coffee. Despite that, I’m including my schedule below to see how my blogging during or after the conference compares to my plans.

  • 8:00-10am: NMRT: Pennsylvania Convention Center 111A/B (after check in to pick up meeting guide and badge holder, Grand Hall, Level 2, Pennsylvania Convention Center)
  • 10:30-12pm: Web 2.0, RUSA MARS: PCC (Pennsylvania Convention Center-PCC, Room: 201 B/C)
  • 12-1:30pm: E-Science@Your Library (Radisson Plaza Warwick, 11: Grand Ballroom)
  • 1:30-3:30: Digital Media Discussion Group (Sheraton Philadelphia City Center in Logans 2)
    OR: Preservation Reformatting Discussion Group (Ritz Carlton; Petite Ballroom)
    OR: Emerging Technologies (Philadelphia Convention Center-PCC, Room 108A)
  • 4-6pm: Collaborative Digitization Discussion Group; Convention Center Room 202A
    (I wish I didn’t have to miss the ALA Virtual Communities and Libraries, Member Initiative Group, in Franklin 10 Room; Philadelphia Marriott Hotel, 1201 Market Street.)
  • 5:30-7:30pm: NMRT Midwinter Social; Off-site

Sunday, January 13

  • 8-10am: PARS Digital Preservation Discussion Group (Radisson, Crystal Ballroom)
  • 10:30-1pm: LITA: Digital Library Technologies Interest Group (DLTIG); Marriot in Salon K/L.
  • 1:30-3:30pm: NMRT All-Committee Meeting
    OR: LSTA Coordinators Discussion Group, Pennsylvania Convention Center in 202
    OR: AAUP Book Selection Committee Meeting; Pennsylvania Convention Center in 309
    OR: OCLC CONTENTdm User Showcase: Digital Collections Delivered; Pennsylvania Convention Center in 307 A
    OR: University of Michigan Text Creation Partnership – Project Update; Marriott Philadelphia in Room 406
  • 2:30-4:30pm: ACRL Copyright Meeting; Loews Philadelphia in Regency BR B
    OR: ACRL Marketing Libraries; Loews Philadelphia in Regency BR C2
  • 4-6pm: Diversity Research Tea & Poster Sessions (Four Seasons, Adams Room)
    OR: PARS Preservation Forum; Pennsylvania Convention Center in 103 C
    OR: Scholarly Communication Disc. Group; Marriott Philadelphia in Franklin 11
  • 6:30-8:30pm: Ex Libris Reception; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building; 128 N. Broad Street; Philadelphia, PA 19102 (One block from the Convention Center at the corner of N. Broad St. and Cherry St.)

Monday, January 14

  • 8-10am: (Re)thinking Subject Guides: Interactivity Unbound (Loews Phil., Lescaze)
    OR: LITA Town Meeting; Pennsylvania Convention Center in 103 A
  • 10:30-12pm: LITA ITAL Editorial Committee (Loews Philadelphia in Tubman)
    OR: ALCTS Forum; Pennsylvania Convention Center in 108 A
    OR: Virtual Library; Marriott Philadelphia in Room 307
  • 12-1:30pm: Exhibit floor exploration
  • 1:30-3:30pm: LITA Emerging Technology Interest Group; Penn Convention Center in 109A
    OR: ALCTS Scholarly Communications Interest Group; Marriott Philadelphia in Franklin 6
  • Leave for airport


  1. I’m there too! I’m at the SPARC-ACRL Forum at 4-6 on Saturday, then the same Discussion Group 4-6 Sunday. I’m otherwise mostly not booked (but it looks like you are!).
    If you want to meet up for a meal or something, call me (407 929 5657; my number’s out there on the Web anyway).
    Also be sure to swing by the SPARC booth some time during the conference. There’s a ton of swag, including the hot-off-the-presses student open access brochure (which I developed + wrote). It’s in the 1700 row, with ARL. Plus, if Jennifer is there, be sure to chat with her about what kind of information you’d like to receive from SPARC (and by what means); she’s looking for ideas to improve communication to member campus librarians.

  2. I hope to see you here! I’m in the RUSA: MARS Web 2.0 room, checking email before the meeting starts at 10:30. I had hoped to catch some of the 8-10 NMRT meeting, but I had failed to factor in time for deboarding the plane, the train ride to the convention center, and my absolute need for coffee. So, I’m just now getting to my first meeting, but the conference looks very cool. I’ve already seen Denise Bennett (from the UF Libraries) rush by, but it was before I’d gotten coffee, so I didn’t manage to say hello before she was too far away.
    So far the conference is like most massive conferences–lots of people and lots of signs and stuff. I’ve only been to a few conferences that do the daily-news paper and one of them was E3. I know art and cultural events like Burning Man also do the conference/event newspapers and I would think music festivals would as well, but I’m not sure how many academic conferences do. It’s really neat to have the daily news for this during the conference and then online for after. I haven’t seen enough of them to see how they build/react to the community, but the fact that they exist and can is already really great.

  3. These are my current notes (in draft, so I will hopefully catch any errors soon, but please let me know if I miss anything) from: Tag… You’re It: A revolution in patron-library interaction
    This panel has three speakers on integrating tagging and user reviews into the catalog, Jennifer Sweda from the University of Pennsylvania Libraries was the first speaker and she’s covering PennTags. PennTags are a tagging system for the UPenn Library catalog, developed by UPenn librarians, and it is restricted to UPenn people. Sweda explained that PennTags are special because they’re one fo the few tools available for a specifically academic audience, integrated with other Penn library products, and is meant to be an experiment in tagging behavior, patron interaction, and the research process.
    In the current version, the front page for Penn Tags is a tag cloud, with a login, subscription option, search field, and small navigation bar. Another version is in development (which is version 3, version 2 had performance problems). Penn Tags allow users to collect URLs from the open Web, from links to journal articles and records in the catalog, and they can add annotations and group the tags into projects. Penn Tags also has a bookmarklet include which works best with Firefox. PennTags is built in Perl combined with AJAX and has an Oracle backend, but it is not Open Source right now.
    Sweda covered the interface and use of PennTags and then some of the benefits of adding folksonomies to authority structures. Then showed some of the annotations and tags and explained their benefits. Sweda then explained how this could be used as a pedagogical tool and as a research tool.
    My questions (some were answered already and the Q/A portion is still coming)
    How high is the usage/adoption? 1200 early adopters, but PennTags hasn’t been officially released.
    Open Source? Not what they want because they want the data mass, so they want to have all of the data go back to their database for larger data analysis.
    Will the tag information be able to be automatically exported or harvested by other groups (non- and commercial)?
    There is attribution for the annotations, but how will that be done (real name or optional real or nickname/handle)?
    Will it be able to be turned off and on for privacy or credit?
    Will users be able to export or somehow share their reviews from other sites (Amazon, LibraryThing)?
    When users leave UPenn, can they keep adding to and using PennTags?
    Will there be a validation system so that inappropriate tags can be removed?
    Kate Sheehan was the second speaker, from the Danbury public library, on their use of LibraryThing. She first introduced LibraryThing and their pricing structure (and noted that she doesn’t work for LibraryThing, but that they are here). Sheehan then explained that LibraryThing benefited patrons because it wasn’t just Amazon’s what-you-buy, but all of what-you-read. She showed the tag interface and use within the Danbury Library Catalog.
    Significantly, she noted how this added an “intelligence” to the catalog, but how this also made the catalog fun, with many users spending loads of time browsing through the catalog because it was fun. The fun level is really important and ties to a lot of the game studies scholarship (Koster, Castronova). Sheehan also noted that the installation process was extremely easy. She also noted that patrons loved it. This again connects to so much digital media scholarship in terms of how people choose to like or dislike particular interfaces and how much it matters in their use and their evaluation of system/tool success. Also noted how LibraryThing’s prefab tags appealed to the tech-savvy and tech-unsavvy because it made the system easier and better, which is an explanation of why tags through LibraryThing will have a long tail. Kate’s blog is
    Lauren Stokes, the Virtual Library Manager for the Las Vegas Library District, was the next speaker, covered how they implemented a system for patron ratings and reviews within the catalog. She began with why patrons would want to use ratings and reviews, and why to include them. She then showed the interface for the system and explained how it operated. There are a number of features available and not all are used, but there are no statistical reports available. All reviews are moderated, and the majority (44%) required no editing.

  4. I ended up staying after for the RUSA MARS meeting and would have been late to the E-Science meeting, so I decided to stay in the convention center for a bit an walk around the exhibit area. The exhibits are definitely interesting, but most aren’t really in my area so I mainly browsed before heading off to the next meeting, which was the Digital Media Discussion Group in the Sheraton, Philadelphia City Center in Logans 2. I include the room because it was extremely hot, so much so that I ended up leaving the meeting early because of it. It could have just been me, from some sort of temperature maladjustment in shifting from Florida to Pennsylvania, and I always have issues heater-heat because Florida is rarely cold enough for heaters, and it’s normally still humid when it is. Now, I’m guzzling water to get back to an equilibrium point for the next meeting which is the Collaborative Digitization Discussion Group. I wish I could have stayed longer in the Digital Media Discussion Group because the first hour and a half was a great discussion with a fairly small group. The moderator arranged the chairs in a circle and the discussion began with streaming video, one of several possible topics on the meeting agenda. The really neat part of the discussion was the mixture of participants. Some were streaming media providers who were working with content providers and customers (educational and other) to work out licensing agreements that all would agree to, others were content providers, and others were educational media consumers (like me).

    From the streaming discussion, it moved to set formats (HD lost, blu-ray won) and how to deal with getting new players and new disks and support them (what if users don’t have new players? transition issues?).
    The discussion also included gaming, with different people asking how to best provide gaming media and the focus seemed to be on providing games for game studies researcher and game development, but most of the group hadn’t yet worked with serving these groups. I didn’t chime in because I was really warm by this point and my game studies knowledge wasn’t relevant to issues of serving game studies researchers because each institution and program will have specific needs and issues (game development vs. game studies for social science simulation vs. game studies for media archaeology or artistic projects). One person (I didn’t catch his name) was from NYU and did a great job covering the primary issues, so that helped as well.

  5. After failing miserably to find all of my desired meetings in time again, I’ve revised my plan for tomorrow to be based on location. It would seem difficult to get lost in a small area with great maps and clear signs, but I’ve been living in Florida so long that I tend to navigate based on a flat plane instead of a three dimensional world (which isn’t a problem for video games, so it may be that I just don’t pay enough attention in the real world or something else bizarre). At any rate, tomorrow I’ll attend meetings in Loews and then the Pennsylvania Convention Center before leaving from the PCC to go to the airport and home (hopefully, the radar says snow, so we’ll see).
    8-10am: (Re)thinking Subject Guides: Interactivity Unbound, Lescaze
    10:30-12pm: LITA ITAL Editorial Committee; Tubman
    12-1:30pm: Lunch (let me know if anyone wants to meet me in Loews or PCC for lunch–but no where else so I don’t get lost, again)
    AS Forum: New Roles for Acquisitions: Selecting and Harvesting for Institutional Repositories; 204C
    LITA Emerging Technology Interest Group; Penn Convention Center in 109A (I’m still not sure on which one I’ll go to, but I can’t get lost in the same area of the same building.)

  6. Sunday, the first presentation was the ALCTS PARS Digital Preservation Discussion Group, co-chaired by Cathy Martyniak (University of Florida) and Becky Ryder (University of Kentucky). The program opened with a number of important announcements from people who had attended various digital curation and preservation meetings and events and then Oya Rieger (Cornell University) spoke on preservation in the age of large scale digitization. She first gave an overview of her CLIR paper and then opened the floor to questions and discussion. Rieger’s presentation was excellent as were the questions and discussion that followed, all of which spoke to the need for a formal and funded cyberinfrastructure for long-term success, as with many European initiatives.
    One interesting point was the disparity between what was being discussed and how some news articles have portrayed large scale digitization. Instead of being non-supportive of Google and Microsoft digitizing books (as some news articles have implied or stated about libraries and librarians), the group was very supportive of it and wanted to work on the next steps to ensure that the materials remained online, were quality corrected, and that other significant materials were also digitized for preservation and/or curation. The discussion also moved through the interest in digitally preserving datasets for scientific researchers. After all of this wonderful discussion, I then presented on some of the basics of file formats. The presentation was short, covering the basics and covering the way file formats are dependent on many other concerns, like color profiles, included media/bundling, interlocking components, formats that have changed, different standards, and more. After presenting, there were a number of questions and it seemed like the preservation community wants more help in working with their IT folks. One person who mentioned this (and I missed her name) said she had a meeting with her IT where they all went over their different meanings of “archive”. This was a really great example supporting the need for common ground between preservation and IT, and it’s something that IT needs to know as they have to plan for more preservation of files and usable data for all industries and for academia.
    I arrived late at the LITA: Digital Library Technologies Interest Group (DLTIG) on Digital Libraries and the presentations were already underway. The presentations I did manage to catch were excellent, but then I was off again for lunch and then the exhibit hall. Maybe there was too much walking because it was actually far from the first meeting in the Radisson Plaza Warwick to the PCC, maybe it was because I had my laptop with me and it’s heavy, or maybe it’s because I can’t navigate this area yet and walking is re-walking for me, but after the exhibit hall, I wandered around trying to find the Loews Philadelphia and trying to find a way out of the PCC. I arrived at the next meeting I wanted to attend, the ACRL meeting, at 2pm and I was very, very tired. I saw Marilyn Ochoa (University of Florida) and she explained that the meeting she was in was mainly managerial/business and not an open forum discussion sort of format. She recommended I try roundtables for the interaction I’m looking for, and I would have been too tired to participate anyways, so I came back to the PCC with its free wireless and I’ll next go to the Scholarly Communication Meeting in the Marriot, Franklin 11. I’ve already found how the PCC connects to the Marriot, so I now don’t have to leave the building and navigate from the outside (the two are connected by a bridge, which I just learned). That will be it for today and then just three sessions tomorrow (on my new list above). I was intending this to be more blog-coverage of the conference and events and it’s now turned more into a travelogue of my problems with navigation, but hopefully tomorrow will be successful and have actual information.

  7. Today, I knew how to navigate and made it to all three meetings, but I went to the Virtual Libraries meeting instead of the LITA meeting (I went to the LITA room and it was a small room with a round table, so it looked like an official business meeting instead of a general discussion). The first meeting was “(Re)thinking Subject Guides: Interactivity Unbound” discussion group and much of the discussion focused on wikis. This was a really neat discussion of what most people are doing for subject guides (wikis, blogs, traditional web pages) and how they’d like to improve them (liaising and outreach proved key; as did modular improvements like widgets and improvements to existing options with better faceting; and connections to make subject guides more useful and more dynamic or at least more current), It sounded like better examples of how this could be done, especially those that could be expressly shared with CC licensing would be very beneficial for all in creating the larger subject guides and then more detailed or more general (“starting points”) could be used to supplement/augment the new subject guides. After this meeting, I met Scott Garrison from Western Michigan and I proceeded to ask him tons of questions since he’d mentioned Ajax and Subversion for CVS in the meeting (and he had an Apple, any one of these are sure badges of “techie” in my mind). Scott’s very smart and knows Priscilla Caplan from FCLA so we had fun discussing Educause and standards and information commons (physical and virtual).
    The next meeting was the “Virtual Libraries” discussion group. This was a great meeting covering all areas of virtual libraries, from those that are more and less related to my work, but all were interesting and the discussion was great. The main areas covered were technical tools (web 2.0, wikis, blogs, flash, mashups, web log analysis), digital libraries, the changing role of physical/virtual libraries and those working in information, and lots more. In addition to the great overall discussion, a number of people mentioned “I’m not a techie” or “I don’t speak tech” and it seems like this might be a general feeling from many areas after also hearing something similar from the PARS meeting. I’m wondering what tech information would be useful to establish common ground and I’ll be posting some my thoughts and suggestions on it soon.
    The third and final meeting was the “AS Forum: New Roles for Acquisitions: Selecting and Harvesting for Institutional Repositories” with Karl Debus-Lopez and Trisha Davis. Debus-Lopez spoke on how Agspace has developed and how it will continue to grow, noting that more copyright education is needed for authors and that authors were not really interested in contributing content, so materials had to be harvested. Debus-Lopez also noted the importance of mainstreaming IRs into the workflow.
    Currently the materials collect ARS, USDA, and a General Agriculture Collection and they are interested in working with land grant institutions, so I’m sure our IR person will be working with them further, as will all of the DLC. The next speaker was Trisha Davis, who spoke about Ohio State’s IR, which is within/is their Knowledge Bank.

  8. Ex Libris had a reception at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and their pictures of UF and tons of other libraries’ folks are online.The pictures are great because they show how much fun people had at ALA and what a great bunch of people were there. The pictures are worth checking out!

  9. Glad you could make it to hear my PennTags presentation. The Q and A was pretty quiet in terms of questions for PT, but let me address your questions above.
    There is attribution for the annotations, but how will that be done (real name or optional real or nickname/handle)?
    PT usernames are not nicknames or handles, they are based on a user’s PennName, a unique identifier used within the University of Pennsylvania. The point of PT, we hope, is to be a real ‘look what we’re working on!’ type of resource for the scholarly and personal interests of the Penn community.
    Will it be able to be turned off and on for privacy or credit?
    Posts always appear together with the poster’s username.
    Will users be able to export or somehow share their reviews from other sites (Amazon, LibraryThing)?
    We have discussed this sort of sharing, and that is one of our goals (see question below).
    When users leave UPenn, can they keep adding to and using PennTags?
    The expected plan at this time is to keep posts from members who have left the Penn community online for a certain period of time (allowing users to move those posts to other social bookmarking sites like
    Will there be a validation system so that inappropriate tags can be removed?
    At this time, we have not had to remove any content from PT. Because usernames are based on actual names, and those names are linked to every post made, and because usage of PT falls under the University’s policies on appropriate use of computers, etc., and because new users will have a one-time click-through message that will highlight the fact that anything posted to PT will be viewable by anyone looking at the PT site (whew! that’s a lot of because), we hope this won’t be an issue. At this time, things go live into PT, without being vetted. Users choose their own resources and their own tags (i.e., there is no list from which they choose). As we prepare to release v. 3, I’m sure this issue will come up in our meetings more formally.
    Thanks for attending, and thanks for your interest in PennTags. We here at the Penn Libraries have been really pleased with the interest we’ve gotten.

    Jennifer Erica Sweda
  10. Thanks so much for responding to my questions! I’m sorry for not being a better blogger, because some of these were answered in the Q&A, and I’d typed the questions during the presentation and then I forgot to add in the answers after the Q&A. PennTags is a really great project, especially in terms of the attribution so that users can feel a sense of personal ownership in their library catalogs and so that instructors could create student assignments where students would need to create appropriate tags (and how to do it), which would be a great way to have students learn about the library and to learn about different ways for organizing and structuring data. It’s a great project and I hope more school’s have projects like it!

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