"...Even librarians who try not to look like librarians look like librarians trying not to look like librarians." (Unknown)
As usual, I'm a little behind. :) I have returned from the sweltering D.C. area, full of great ideas and new contacts, with sore shoulders from carrying tote bags full of books, and a SmarTrip card still loaded with money. And in reference to the quote above, I enjoyed my game of "Let's spot the librarians (with and without ID badges in public) while roaming the streets of D.C." I can, in all honesty, say it was fairly easy. Frankly, either you were in your forties and up and dressed like a "traditional" librarian or you were young and looking very hipster (myself included although I REFUSED to wear tennis shoes and look like a tourist). I did have people actually stop and ask me for directions. I despise looking like a tourist. In this pic, I do have my comfortable Teva's on, but note the giant bag? I lived out of it during the conference since I was staying about an hour and a half away from DC. This was at the Da Vinci exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, right across from one of the conference hotels. Pretty neat exhibit. I'll post something here or on Flickr later (I'm OBVIOUSLY behind).
In summary, ALA was great! I enjoyed myself immensely, went to meetings that were chock full of information, and even managed to scope out an exhibit or two. Surrounded by my peers at the PAIG and Book and Paper Interest Group meetings, it was an exhilarating feeling to be a part of discussions that concern my own job responsibilities. I haven't felt this way since, well I would say grad school but that's not exactly true. Ha! Anyway, there was still a good bit of discussion concerning the demise of UT's MLIS Conservator program and talks of which institutions are going to pick up the reins; also, is the MLIS degree necessary for conservators wishing to do just benchwork? And are some conservators not considering circulating collections to be desirable? I certainly agree with many of the attendees that the degree is necessary. Consider how easy it is now to take classes online and how often it is hiring policy to require certain degrees. I think if the MLIS comes bundled, why not? You never know what you are going to desire to do later and it can't hurt having the degree. Then again, I could also say if it's that easy to get, just go back if you need it. It's up to the individual I suppose but I prefer to get the hard work out of the way early on and relax later. Finally, James Reilly from the Image Permanence Institute gave a presentation on new points of view concerning environmental control and monitoring, which I won't summarize. I'm sure someone else has already done a better job of that.
At the Book and Paper group, I found the Co-Chair Beth Doyle (from Duke University's Preservation Department) exceedingly helpful. She led a great session (again, talk of the conservator program) but had a lot of information that she shared concerning her own department's activities. The creation of their blog (which I had already come across) was a great talking point because (as I will be in charge of our departmental website, which has yet to exist) I've been prowling for ideas. A blog is one I've considered (considering that I already like to write one?) but I just wasn't sure that it would be worth it. Beth provided a number of points to consider, one of which being what they get out of it (hard to measure). Additionally, she shared some of the ways their department has tried to cut costs and since professional education is usually quick to go....Needless to say, ways to educate themselves was high on the list. Her idea (which I would LOVE to implement in Pittsburgh) was to gather local bookbinders together, use the lab as a free space (they buy their own supplies) and utilize each others' knowledge to learn historic book structures. I was practically drooling in my cushy seat.
Another session/tour that I ADORED was Preservation Forensics & Document Optical Archaeology at the Library of Congress. Honestly, so much information was conveyed that in my rush to explain it all, it would sound like mumbo jumbo. I'll have to find a good summary and share it. But there are just some amazing this they can do with technology and the women of the Preservation Research and Testing Division are AMAZING. Their enthusiasm for their job was obvious and infectious. A colleague and I wanted to kidnap them for dinner they were so lovely. AND (drumroll please).....guess what I stood next to?! And even accidentally brushed?! Yes, folks, that is a steel encased Declaration of Independence draft. If my colleague hadn't pointed it out, I would have been none the wiser. I could have died on the spot. AND if you saw the news article post-ALA '10 that showed the hidden word on the Declaration of Independence draft...we got to see it first! Lastly, I loved their chairs (designed to be sat on frontwards and backwards) and their scanner which scans up to 6000 dpi. Crazy.
(To be continued)