Seeing the Future Work: A Staff Perspective
by Liz Bezanson
The dust has almost settled and the planning group for the Living the Future 3 has almost recovered from yet another highly successful conference. At this writing, we do not yet have all of the numbers in, but we can expect a significant addition to the Library’s Staff Development endowment fund thanks to the profits from the conference – somewhere around $20,000! And this is all thanks to us, the Library staff, because we made it possible by helping with the planning, doing presentations, developing poster sessions, and supporting your colleagues who were working on it.
Planning the conference was quite different this year, and although very hectic at times, less time consuming than in the past. This is because we had two additional sponsors: the Association of Research Libraries (who handled registration and money) and the Association of College and Research Libraries. Additionally, the planning group is getting quite efficient at organizing conferences. We accomplished our work this year by meeting only three or four times, and usually only a few of us could be at any of the meetings (but everyone attended at least once). You may have noticed our now familiar conference logo, this year in vivid shades of red, beautifully designed by our graphics expert, Marty Taylor. Marty’s assistance with several aspects of the conference planning was again invaluable. Monica Silva, part of the Library's DLIG team, provided great assistance, as well! Other planning group members are Cathy Larson, Carol “Fix Anything” Friesen, Shelley Phipps, Liz Bezanson, Jeanne Voyles, Atifa Rawan, Karen Williams, and Barbara I’m not on the Planning Group Allen.
Additionally, we had corporate sponsorship in the form of generous contributions from Ebsco Subscription Services as well as from Blackwell's Book Services, Elsevier Science Direct, SilverPlatter Information, Innovative Interfaces, Inc., and NewsBank, Inc. This is a result of the tireless efforts of Steve Bosch who is our liaison with potential contributors (and fundraiser extraordinaire).
The theme of this conference was different than the last two, as our conference themes tend to evolve. The emphasis was on telling stories and sharing experiences and future plans. This theme presented itself in even more ways than we anticipated, with stories coming up unexpectedly during presentations and in casual conversations. Stories are a wonderful way to learn from one another and a nice tradition seems to be developing here.
Our attendance was slightly lower this time, with just over 120 participants. We had a great turnout from the UA Library, with lots of learning and sharing. Seventeen UA Library projects were represented in the poster sessions Saturday morning and all were very popular. We are still receiving compliments from participants and ideas for sharing them further in the Library and on the website.
There were four preconferences which some of our library staff also attended. Shelley Phipps co-presented a session on Building a Culture of Assessment in Libraries: Challenges and Opportunities and Cathy Larson presented What Your Customers Want: Service Improvement for Libraries.
The conference was structured around a keynote speaker and two theme speaker sessions. Jeremy Frumkin was one of our theme speakers, co-presenting with Sally Jackson and Barbara O’Keefe, on Creating Collaborative Relationships. They focused on the value of such partnerships, and the challenges and issues that the academic community faces. Jeremy explained the benefits of the open source community and how it can help libraries. Open source software applications are developed by the community at large; their source code is freely available and open to modification, revision, specialized applications, etc., unlike applications developed by for-profit companies. As usual, his sense of humor was a great addition to the conference and appreciated by everyone.
Carrie Russell, our friend from the past, was another of our theme speakers and her topic was Transference of Culture in the Electronic Environment. What does that mean? Well, you should have been there! Carrie talked about many threats libraries (and the rest of the world) are facing due to upcoming legislation and political movements that could, if successful, limit lots of access to information. Halfway through her talk, a revolution was taking place! People were reacting, as they should, with emotion, anger, and a commitment to take action.
We know that what you really want to know about are the parties. Thursday evening we held our traditional southwestern theme party, with a Sonoran buffet, Mariachi music with Los Changuitos Feos, and beautiful folklorico dances by Ballet Folklorico San Juan. As you might already know, one of the most fabulous dancers in that group is none other than Norma Perez’ daughter, Bernadette. It was a wonderful evening, with even more stories to share. We also had an opening reception Wednesday evening and an event on Friday that included non-UA poster sessions and cocktails and hors d’ouevres.
Saturday closed the conference. We started with the UA poster sessions (and more refreshments!). Shelley then presented a conference summary, including lots of compliments for our library staff, both present and not (we filled the front tables). Maureen Sullivan spoke of all of our accomplishments and how this conference highlights so many wonderful things that the libraries represented have achieved because of their emphasis on change in positive directions. During this part of the conference, for the third time in a row, tears were shed, I think in recognition of how hard we have all worked (or maybe sheer exhaustion!).
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