As part of my job for the Library Foundation, I got to attend the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas from June 27-July 1. Today, I’m presenting in staff meeting about what I learned, so I decided to write a blog about it as as way to get organized. (Aren’t you lucky….)
First, and just to get this out of the way: Vegas in late June/July is hot, as in “welcome to hell” kind of hot. Don’t give me that “it’s a dry heat” crap. When it’s 111 in the shade, that’s just hot. Thirty seconds outside and I felt my skin turning into scales as whatever moisture existed there was instantly evaporated.
Now, to the things I learned:
Libraries can’t run away from games and gamers. The opening session featured Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality is Broken.” McGonigal cited a lot of interesting research about how games are changing our brains in good ways. I know not everyone agrees with her statistics, but it does open a door for dialogue about the effects of games. Most interesting fact to me: Gamers spend 80% of their time failing. Also, game jams are a super lot of fun and an inexpensive program for libraries to run. In one program, we were given 15 minutes with a partner to improve on a very basic board game. By the time we were done, we had a little game that involved math, number rounding, money and risk. It’s not going to win any MENSA awards, but more proof that games can be vehicles for creativity and learning.
Libraries need to be at the table in the discussion of education reform and college readiness. In some places we are, but we have so much to offer. I went to a great session about the new Aspen Institute report “Learner at the Center of a Networked World” and another good one about how school and academic libraries in Kansas City are trying to team up to help make sure that high school grads have the information literacy chops they need to succeed in post-secondary education.
The best session I attended was one on PR storytelling. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, but it’s good to be reminded of the basics. The Library’s story needs to be about the people it serves; not that the collection or the building isn’t important, but they are just the vehicle for serving people.
A session on advertising was clever as they brought in a digital content manager from the Bellagio to explain how SEO and paid ads really drive people to sites and influence their decisions. Not sure how much of that is actionable in my job (I am the digital manager and the annual fund gal and the newsletter writers and a grant proposal writer…you get the idea) but it was interesting. Also, they had free breakfast. Free anything in Vegas is stellar.
Meanwhile, wearing my Word Nerd hat, I tracked down Anthony Breznican in the exhibit hall. He was gracious enough to wait for me after I was late trying to get from one session to his signing. Andrew Mayne did close-up card tricks before signing his new book and Hank Phillippi Ryan and Deb Coonts did a great panel on the seedy sides of their cities (Boston and Vegas). Expect to see a guest something with Deb Coonts later this year and I’m definitely going to try to ask Andrew Mayne too (Maybe he’ll remember that I uncreatively drew the smiley face on the eight of hearts during his card trick? Could he have found anyone less artistic than me? Does he know that moment of panic — draw something? Draw? What? A smiley face? A heart – no not that. A flower? Should I write my name? No, he said draw. AHHHH….) A special sci-fi session with the folks from TOR netted a bag of books that I managed to get in my suitcase and still be under the weight limit. (Nobody tell my Dad that I’ve got a copy of the new Douglas Preston book for him, ok?)
Probably nobody should tell work, either, that I skipped out on a boring Sunday afternoon session so I could have time to go buy a cheap ticket to see “Million Dollar Quartet.”