Sneak Preview: Erin McKean Featured at ALCTS President’s Program

Erin McKean
CC-BY George Hall

Erin McKean, founder of and the former editor-in-chief of American Dictionaries for Oxford University Press, is the featured speaker at the ALCTS President’s Program at Annual Conference this summer.

With “Confessions of a Digital Packrat” McKean will answer these nagging questions:

  • How do you let go of digital data when every word of every book might be the one piece of evidence you need to make a dictionary entry complete?
  • What does it mean for transformative uses like lexicography when there are so many different digital storehouses available (with varying degrees of difficulty).
  • What makes a digital collection attractive to packrats like me?

Erin McKean,, likes to call herself a dictionary evangelist. She is the founder of Previously, she was the editor in chief for American Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, and the editor of the New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition.

Her books include Weird and Wonderful Words, More Weird and Wonderful Words, Totally Weird and Wonderful Words, and That’s Amore (which is also a collection of words). Find more words at her blog.

The Secret Lives of Dresses is her first novel, and, really, her first book where the words are arranged in something other than alphabetical order. Her new book, The Hundred Dresses, will be published early summer 2013 by Bloomsbury. Her dress blog, A Dress A Day (, is a must for anyone interested in dress patterns and more.

Originally from Chicago, she now lives in California south of San Francisco and spends her free time reading, sewing, blogging, roller-skating, and arguing about whether robots or zombies would win in a fight (lasers optional). She loves loud prints, quiet people, long books with happy endings, and McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Hobnobs. She has an A.B./A.M. in linguistics from the University of Chicago.

McKean has formulated “McKean's Law,” a variation on Murphy's Law: "Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error."

Until the program on Monday, July 1 at 10:30 a.m. in Chicago, follow her on Twitter: @emckean.

NOTE: This article was originally published in ALA's Cognotes, distributed at Midwinter Meeting in January 2013.