Friday, October 24, 2008

Random 2008 LITA National Forum Thoughts

I attended the 2008 LITA National Forum in Cincinnati the other weekend. This was my first time attending the forum. It was nice to have a conference nearby given the recent cuts in travel allocations.

I participated in my first Forum by writing a series of posts for the LITA blog including Tim Spalding's keynote, a discussion about IT Management, the implementation of Library Labs, and the development of a Homegrown CMS. I was a bit frustrated by the number of typos that got through. The spellchecker on WordPress wasn't working on my Mac (kept getting javascript error) and I am used to going back into my published posts to make minor edits. (Which I have already done three times to this post)

The conference was well run and the communications from the organizers were great. The facilities were very nice, although open wireless access was non-existent in many of the breakout rooms. The hotel also seemed to turn off the 'default' service at the end of the sessions. At least the hotel provided 'free' wired Internet to attendees.

One thing I really liked about the Forum was that the conference planners put on a fairly green event. Participants only received two handouts: a USB key containing all he conference materials (thanks to Serials Solutions) and a badge. No packets of vendor materials. No printed conference program. No bag! Almost all conference materials including schedules, handouts, and PowerPoint's were made available prior to the conference. Participants were encouraged to print off what they needed. I just downloaded the materials to my laptop or just popped in the USB key. The wiki was also very helpful! This is in stark contrast to most conferences in which one receives literally pounds of paper, much of which goes into the garbage (hoping the hotel recycles!).

The Forum is described as a "highly regarded annual event for those involved in new and leading edge technologies in the library and information technology field." There were some interesting topics presented such as the management of web site redesigns, content management systems, and IT Dept. However, based solely on what I saw and heard at this one conference, it not for technology-oriented librarians looking for leading edge innovative solutions. (I guess I have to get myself up to Access one of these years.) Instead, the conference would seem to serve a very good niche for those responsible for managing virtual public services and are looking for already emergent technology solutions.

Did I have too high of expectations for the conference content? Probably. Did I expect a higher technology level of attendees? Probably. Case in point. In one session, the speaker asked how many of the 30 people in the room heard of Joomla. Two of us raised our hands. With that said, experiencing both Tim Spalding and Michael Porter presentations for the first time was worth the price of admission.

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