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‘Hack the Library’ the 29th Annual Computers in Libraries Conference 2014

I attended the 29th annual Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington DC. The conference itself is regarded as one of the most comprehensive; covering all aspects of library and information delivery technology. With the wide range of topics, the programs and presentation themes varied widely, with the key driver as ‘moving the library forward in the digital age.’

I had the pleasure of attending many programs during the conference, with several standouts, such as (to name a few); Super Searcher Tips, highlighted new strategies, techniques and tips for getting the most out of web research; Re-Imagining the Library Website Experience, gave insights and ideas from experienced and knowledgeable library web experts about design/redesign of engaging websites and using analytics; Weathering the Virtual Library, this session looks at virtual library’s immediate response to storms, steps taken in the following days, and addressing future challenges; Flipping Your Library, which explored ways in which librarians use technology tools and web resources to flip the library experience through websites, screencasts, blogs, and social media.

There were many other interesting topics throughout the conference, but the keynote was by far my favorite. Presented by Mike Lydon, (Principal, The Street Plans Collaborative & Author, Tactical Urbanism), he covered Hacking Library Spaces, Lessons from Tactical Urbanism. The presentation was so interesting because of its high relevancy – our society is rapidly changing – communities, campuses, the publishing industry; this naturally plays a huge impact on our libraries and also poses a challenge to our system and how we can (quickly) adapt. Mr. Lydon brought examples of how he transformed parking lots into parks and plazas, putting up informational and directional signs to encourage walking in neighborhoods, and slowing traffic by altering curbs with traffic cones. Lyon’s key components are simple. He advocates for communities to build, measure, and learn. He encouraged library institutions throughout the county to start small and get their prototype out and operating as soon as possible.

As I listened to Mr. Lydon’s keynote my mind began to think of how I can incorporate these principles into a digital services environment.  It was an exciting talk to listen to, stretching my imagination and providing lots of ideas to take back to my department. He stressed five steps in order to embed tactical urbanism into the library: pilot test, improve the interface between the library and the city, use existing initiatives, and my favorite scale down to scale up. He ended his speech by saying, “If the city is the original internet, then the library is its server.”

Outside of presentations, there was time between sessions to visit booths to view digital equipment, and learn about new innovative techniques that are being applied throughout North America. This was a valuable time to learn new practices that could be applied for better workflow or help set goals for future processes and even equipment that could one day be utilized in the WSU Libraries.

Finally, I got to participate in a luncheon hosted by the Smithsonian Institution.  It was a great opportunity to look behind the scenes of the Smithsonian exhibits and collections. Gale Cengage partnered with the Smithsonian and is digitizing primary source materials, content that is only available onsite at the Smithsonian Institution from deep within the museums, libraries, and archives of the world’s largest museum and research complex, making it available digitally, in searchable formats, and integrating it with software that aligns with scholarly workflow.

The Smithsonian’s content is centered in the world’s largest museum complexes and their Imaging Center digitizes this content with a vast array of equipment to provide high quality digital images. The digitized documents within Smithsonian Collections Online are rich in their ability to be the source of new and exciting scholarship.

I always appreciate the opportunity to step outside of a normal workday and learn more about the changes that are happening to the library system on a greater level. The conference provided great insight to how, like everything else, the library system is always evolving and it’s important to stay up on the latest technologies and practices, as we continue to ‘move the library forward in the digital age.’