by Shannon Mason
I recently attended CLA 2011 as a first-timer, where I fell into what just might be the most rewarding volunteer position possible, the assistant to Erica Penton, one of the volunteer photographers. A photographer’s assistant scurries after the photographer with a folder of papers, writing down the names of everyone in all the pictures. The photographer needs to be at every party, every awards presentation, every sit-down meal, and her assistant must be rushing behind, spelling the names right. From this vantage point I was able to see most of the major events of CLA 2011.
Events on the trade show floor were a big hit, and the vendors were very easy-going about being photographed during their sales pitches. The food and entertainment must be mentioned, as well. During the opening reception, there were live musicians. And the variety of food throughout the conference was excellent. Ottawa Public Library, in particular, had a popular collection of cupcakes next to the free internet café.
An excellent presentation from the Thursday sessions was by Allison B. Zhang, on the World Digital Library. She demonstrated many of the interesting aspects of the WDL website, such as the ability to translate each page into six different languages, and then search in these languages, or have the software read the pages out loud. There is also a fun timeline scrollbar that allows users to limit results by year.
To me, the most pleasant event was the CLA Book Awards Reception. The Book Awards were so elegant and fun, the attendees so friendly, and the speakers were very engaging. While three awards were handed out, for children’s, young adult’s, and adult’s books, only two books were given awards. In an odd twist, Kenneth Oppel’s Half Brother was independently voted to receive both the young adult and adult awards, and Oppel gamely gave a separate speech for both awards.
Friday started out with the Interest Groups Breakfast, and I encountered what was to be a recurring issue: the dissolving of the committees and groups in favour of networks, and how this was being dealt with. A number of the interest groups expressed an interest in recreating themselves as networks, but others were more interested in reassembling as issue-based networks.
The Great Debate wanted to resolve if library associations are obsolete. As a new graduate attending her first CLA conference, I was interested to hear the arguments against library associations, and Melody Burton and Dan Duda came well-prepared. It was a final round, impassioned argument from Erin Patterson about the importance of library associations for advocacy and information rights that made even Duda admit that it was hard to disagree. The room voted overwhelmingly in favour of library associations, and Patterson joined the CLA on the spot, as she had promised before the debate began.
The All-Delegate Social was definitely the event to attend. It was held in the Pier 21 immigration museum, providing an interesting spectacle to wander through, as well as a beautiful view of George’s Island through the fog. Everyone was in high spirits and a number of after-parties took place in nearby bars as the night wore on.
Saturday was relatively low-key, as the trade show was shut down and many of the attendees had already gone home. I am particularly happy to have attended the session on Educational Issues and Bill C-32, which is for now being called Bill-XX, as the government works in complicated ways. This session was about the copyright reform that will be happening in Canada, and what exactly that will mean for libraries and educational institutions. My advice to any conference attendee who finds legislation boring is to always attend the sessions about legislation, because it’s a good way to get someone to explain exactly what the legal language means and how it applies to you.
The final session I attended was from two Systemscope employees about how in today’s evolving world of an overcrowded marketplace, librarians are becoming rarer and information managers must become “information ninjas” outside of the library field. To me, it was a huge relief when one of the speakers said that, despite what new graduates are being told, the baby boomers are not retiring. I was glad someone was willing to say this, and propose strategies for moving forward in fields in less-standard information management fields.
As a new graduate and a first-timer at the CLA conference, in the unique position to see everything from the nicest receptions to the most intense AGMs, I feel qualified to give advice to any other new graduates/first-timers such as myself. Volunteer as much as possible, say yes to everything, and go to as many parties as you can. Photographer’s assistant is possibly the best volunteer position there is: you go to every party and get to talk to VIPs. It is completely worth the long hours.
Shannon and Erica
Shannon Mason is a recent graduate of Dalhousie University’s MLIS program, currently living in Halifax NS. She blogs at Whatever Shannon and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.