Conference season for libraries begins sometime in April and doesn’t end for most librarians until the ALA Annual ends at the end of June. Just about every week and weekend you can find someone at your library that’s out attending a conference or meeting. In April, ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries), CIL (Computers in Libraries), and a variety of state library associations and user groups all had conferences. May means more user group meetings, NASIG, and more state library association meetings/conferences.
I have my first conference of the “season” this week. Well, it’s not really a conference, but rather a very long meeting. A meeting that lasts for 2 days. CONSER has it’s annual operations meeting the first Thursday and Friday of May each year. It’s an opportunity to throw a bunch of catalogers in a small windowless room in the middle of the Madison Building of the Library of Congress and watch us duke it out over a variety of pressing issues. Think cage match with less blood but more drama.
This year they’re adding an extra day for training on the “new” CONSER Standard Record. I say “new” because it’s been in development for over a year now. We discussed it last year at the operations meeting, only it was called the “access level record” at that point. Not everyone is particularly happy with everything about the record, but you can’t make everyone happy all the time or nothing gets done. Basically this record is the result of serials, oops, excuse me, continuing resources catalogers trying to simplify our rules and look to the future. But discussing it can be very interesting as people get very emotional. And I include myself in that statement. Don’t ever accuse a librarian of being meek or quiet or afraid of confrontation. We’re not. Just sit in on a meeting and you’ll see. We are very passionate about what we do. VERY PASSIONATE.
Fortunately, I’ve been to enough events at this point that I do know most of the people attending. And after the meetings each day, there will be much “self medicating” with a variety of adult beverages together as well as dinners at the myriad of international restaurants nearby. Well, maybe not too much “self medicating,” but there will be plenty of social time with my colleagues at a variety of institutions from all across the United States and Canada. It’s a fantastic opportunity to network, and, for my type of specialized position that like for most means I’m the only one that does what I do at my institution, that networking is priceless. It means I have faces to go with the names I see on listservs and people to contact directly for feedback or someone I can ask my questions or another head to troubleshoot/solve issues/interpret the cataloging rules with when I need it.
Since the meeting is at the Library of Congress, it means the dog goes to the kennel and I travel to Washington, D.C. For the first time, I won’t be flying. Philly is only a 2 hour train ride away from D.C., making the trip less expensive and much less stressful (I hate hate hate airport security…I have the WORST luck for always getting the “extra” screening). D.C. is an odd thing for me. I was born there, and lived in the area through most of elementary school. It always feels surreal to walk down the Mall and see the Smithsonians and the monuments. Kind of this I-know-exactly-where-I-am-but-don’t-ask-me-for-directions-’cause-I-really-don’t-know kind of thing. You know, most of the Smithsonian museums smell exactly the same as they did when I was 5 years old. It always amazes me how smell takes you back.
Happily, I’m not all on my own this trip. My good friend B (who visited E in New York with me this past February) is my counterpart at another institution. Seriously, we do pretty much the exact same job. This means we see a LOT of each other at various meetings and conferences, and end up spending way way too much time together during conference season. And lucky for us and everyone around us, we like each other and enjoy each others company and have yet to get sick of each other. Well, maybe not lucky for everyone else (peanut gallery, anyone?), but definitely lucky for us as we can be very self-entertaining if needed. Just read about the New York City trip if you don’t believe me. Given previous years and trips, this trip to D.C. should be fun.
I promise to report on our adventures searching the city for good food (Ethiopian!) and beverages, our trips to Kramerbooks, and the general entertainment I’m sure will follow us where ever we go, if we don’t create our own entertainment first.