It's the 95th annual conference of SLA—that's the Special Libraries Association for those of you who prefer the traditional name—and several Information Today Inc. editors and writers will be there… and ready to blog. The official dates are June 5-10, 2004, but the Board of Directors holds meetings both before and after the main conference. The Live from Nashville blog (www.infotodayblog.com) will cover as many aspects of the conference as the bloggers can handle, including association business meetings, conference sessions, the exhibit floor, and social events. Plus, we'll have backup from some editors not in Nashville.
Why blog SLA? According to Tina Creguer, director, communications, ProQuest Information and Learning, "The Special Libraries Association conference is an exciting event, with news, gatherings, and an exchange of ideas that help shape the library world. The blog hastens the speed of information sharing, and we're always enthusiastic about improving access to information." ProQuest is sponsoring the ITI Live from Nashville blog.
Veteran SLA conference attendees learn to never assume there will be consistency in scheduling from one year to the next. This year continuing education seminars will be on Saturday and Sunday as usual, but the exhibit hall opens at 11 a.m. on Sunday and there's an Academic Librarians' Roundtable breakfast scheduled for 7:30 a.m., a Legal Division Tax Roundtable at 9 a.m. a Physics-Astronomy-Math Roundtable at 10 a.m., and a discussion of the Patriot Act at 10:30 a.m. A Networking Reception is scheduled on Sunday from 4 to 6 in the exhibit hall. It's been several years since SLA's exhibit hall was open all day Sunday, so it will be interesting to see how many attendees come to Nashville early and/or skip a continuing education course to see the exhibits. The exhibit hall is also open Monday and Tuesday, but not on Wednesday.
SLA is a prime venue for new product announcements. However, thus far the blogging team has received very few press releases. We'll see if this means a dearth of new products or if companies are simply playing their new product cards close to the chest and not tipping us off until the last minute. Either way, all the product news from the show will be included in ITI's blog.
Conference sessions are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, while tours happen run on Thursday. Monday's opening session will be keynoted by Novell's Carl Ledbetter and Wednesday's closing session keynoter is Vanderbilt's Bill Ivey. Tuesday we manage to start the day without a full blown gathering of the troops.
Last year in New York and the year before in Los Angeles, attendees complained about how spread out things were. Hiking between the Marriott and the Hilton in New York was no fun, I can tell you from personal experience, and in Los Angeles SLA even invested in buses to get people around. The good news is that this year the conference will all be held under one roof.
CONVERSATIONS AND CONNECTIONS
To Jane Dysart of Dysart & Jones Associates, the conference is about critical conversations. "As an active SLA member since 1972 and a past president of the association (1995-96), the most important benefit of attending an SLA conference is conversations. Networking and face-to-face interactions are so important for learning about what others are doing: The successes they've had that we can replicate in our own environments, the issues and challenges for which we should be on the look out, and the new technologies and products that will assist us in exceeding our clients' expectations."
Dysart's first SLA conference experience was 1974 in Toronto; mine was 1976 in Denver. The annual conferences can be overwhelming, since there's so much going on. If you're at the conference, take time to meet and talk with people. Reconcile yourself to the fact that you can't do everything. Even the most dedicated conference-goer can't be in multiple places at the same time. And rest assured that we'll do our best to get everything possible on the blog.
If nothing else, the program for SLA shows what a diverse group this is. A few of the topics I found interesting are: Nanotechnology, Outsourcing, West Nile Virus, Reinventing knowledge management, Dewey Decimal System, Environmental damage from factory farming, Legal research, Energy resources, Virtual reference, Data visualization, Branding, Vanishing data, and Cost recovery and cost avoidance.
Blogging is the hottest new communications medium. "We hear so much about how Weblogs have the potential to obfuscate our trade press or usurp our role as reporters," says Dick Kaser, ITI's vice president of content. Hinting at the limitations of the diary-esque blog, Kaser says, "Actually, I think their true potential is as a very interesting fast-to-press publishing platform designed to amplify our expertise as industry commentators and professional journalists."
With ITI's onsite show-blogs, he says, "I'd like to introduce two new blog concepts: team blogs and event blogs." Team blogs are organized blogs written by a team of people. This is not the equivalent of a blog with trackbacks and comments, but rather a collegial team all focused roughly on the same topic with a common mission. As an example, the Live from Nashville blog where the editorial team will focus on providing readers with a sense of the conference and insights into new ideas and new products relevant to special librarians. An Event Blog is a short-lived blog that exists for the duration of an event.
It would be nice if every SLA member had the budget, time, and inclination to attend SLA in Nashville. For those going to the conference, Jane recommends reading Dan Trefethen's updated guide. For those who can't attend or who can't find time to see and hear everything, there's the Live from Nashville blog.
(http://www.infotodayblog.com), (http://www.sla.org), (http://www.sla.org/nashville2004/savvy2004.htm)