The Virtual Reference Summit was awesome.
The location was gorgeous and it was a stunningly beautiful day. It was great to see all the flowers in bloom, but my sinus' were not as excited as I was. Since I'm a trusting person, I dry swallowed the first little white pill one of the conference organizers handed me. Thankfully it wasn't one of those conferences, otherwise this would be a completely different blog post.....
The keynote speaker blew my mind. Vanessa Fox seems to know anything and everything there is to know about search engines. Her presentation completely illuminated how people search for information today, how it differs from information searches conducted yesterday, and how searching will be completely different tomorrow. My fellow students and I always joke about how our program director asked us in our interview if we are comfortable with ambiguity and change. Ms. Fox confirmed that we certainly have rocky waters ahead of us....
The highlight, by far, was meeting so many *relatively* local librarians and support staff and having a chance to interact with a few. PLA was great in it's magnitude, but a lot of the librarians I met were from all over (including a few from New Zealand). This time around, it was really nice to speak with people who were familiar with the program I'm enrolled in, familiar with people I work with in the medical library and even familiar with a few of my fellow students.
As you might have picked up from previous posts, I'm pretty excited about virtual reference. I think it's an excellent way to help patrons - especially younger patrons. Beyond helping them, it's a way for libraries to remain relevant, proving our usefulness and necessity (and the fact that it's not all about books....).
It was really interesting to sit in on sessions where librarians who have been working in the industry for almost as long as I have been alive engage in serious conversations about emoticons:
and my new favorite
Not to overgeneralize - but it seemed that there was a serious generation gap present at the conference, with librarians who had gotten there degree twenty years ago overwhelmed by the informality of chat reference. Although, to be fair, there were some folks who have just started experimenting with online forms of communication who are entirely comfortable with the medium. I think the secret is the ability to meet there patron on their level. Once the see a lol, brb or even a :-), then they know to leave their Hackers on the shelf and drop a ttyl or two.
Over all, I think as younger generations of librarians enter the profession, we will see a huge increase in the utilization of chat reference. Srsly.
Oh....and the Lightening Talk? Totally rocked it!
Here are a few shots from the Edgefield campus, for those who have never been there:
Quick not on the pictures - I know they are just some pretty shots of Edgefield. You might be asking why they're aren't any of the actual conference. I arrived with the intention of snapping some of the actual conference. But, believe or not, I can be a bit shy. I felt awkward taking people's pictures and then posting them online. I'm sure it would have been cool if I asked them first, but have you honestly walked up to a complete stranger and asked "Can I take your picture and put it on the internet?" No matter what you intentions are, it's weird.....