Monday, November 21, 2005

California Dreamin'

I spent the last week in California, attending the Virtual Reference Desk Conference (VRDC) near San Francisco, and then doing a scan presentation as part of a library futuring program for the Metropolitan Cooperative Library System (MCLS) in Los Angeles.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must note that VRDC is part of my portfolio at OCLC, so my comments here should be seen in the prism of boosterism! That being said, VRDC was a terrific experience. I am a defrocked reference librarian who still loves the concept of being the information guru, despite the fact that I know my skills have atrophied. The enthusiasm of the participants was palpable, except for one person who hung around the registration desk to complain about everything. It was like having Statler and Waldorf wrapped up in one person.

VRDC ended on a somewhat bittersweet note. The Department of Education has pulled its funding for the Virtual Reference Desk program at Syracuse University's Information Institute, and OCLC can't manage this conference alone. So David Lankes, a.k.a. as "Virtual Dave," told the audience, "The future of the conference is in your hands." He asked for volunteers to participate in a telephone call next month about the future of the conference, and more than a dozen people volunteered. We shall see what happens.

I left San Francisco for Los Angeles, and on Wednesday morning, I was on a panel with Susan Hildreth, the state librarian of California, and Joan Frye Williams, the delightful speaker and consultant, discussing the future of libraries. The three of us had done a similar program in San Francisco in September, but we used a different format for the question and answer session. Pam Alger of MCLS gathered the questions from the audience following our morning program, and then she presented the questions to Joan, Susan and me. We were able to be much more direct in our answers, because we didn't know who we might be insulting. One of Joan's points is that part of the reference job I used to love, being the information guru, is about as dead as Elvis.

No comments: