American Libraries Covers the 2009 LITA Forum

By Daniel A. Freeman |

As many of you know, the 2009 LITA Forum took place this past weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. While we didn't have a physical presence at the conference, modern technology and networking softened this barrier a bit for us. Throughout the week, we'll providing some coverage and highlights from a number of different perspectives. To start things off, we're proud to syndicate some coverage from American Libraries' Sean Fitzpatrick, who covered the weekend like a blanket for Inside Scoop.

Sean started by summarizing the keynote address from Joan Lippincott, Associate Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information:

“80.5% percent of college students today own a laptop,” she began. She added that five years ago that number was less than 50%. “66% of them own internet-capable cell phones,” she continued. For at least a short time after Dan Brown’s new novel The Lost Symbol came out, e-book sales topped print on Amazon, she added, although admitting the statistic was problematic.

Whether they like it or not, librarians would soon have to go mobile with their library’s data. And as the functionality of mobile devices continues to converge, the need to mobilize will only increase.

He also hit on the themes of Saturday's keynote from David Weinberger:

When David Weinberger, author and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society talks, I listen up. So his opening the presentation by saying that “the Age of Information is pretty much over” was tough news to take first thing on a Saturday morning. (Although we’ve been hearing that since at least 2002, it’s still pretty shocking for those of us making a living organizing and passing around information.) But LITA Forum’s Saturday keynote speaker quickly explained himself, saying that people didn’t stop using stones when the stone age ended; the information age is over because we’ve moved beyond a time when we place so much value on a relatively small amount of data. And whatever this shift away from the Information Age means, we can be sure it’ll be interesting.

We’ve entered the age of abundance, as Weinberger calls it, where the old ways of reducing knowledge to a few data points and paring things down to, say, whatever can fit on a catalog card or even a full MARC record, have given way to an age where there is simply too much information to handle.  While a lot of that information is good, most of it is crap, he said, quickly pointing out that with sophisticated spam filters, pop-up blockers, and so forth, we’re actually better at weeding out the bad stuff than we are at dealing with the good stuff.

Sean then offered his own take on what attendees might have taken away from this year's forum:

As a deeply conservative profession, according to the presenters, librarians have been slow to react to technological change. W need to employ technologies intelligently, develop technically proficient professionals, invest more in areas of future growth while investing less in low-value functions (such as print-based processes that don’t translate well into an electronic environment), and break free from traditional organizational hierarchies and management styles thwart younger librarians’ efforts to make an impact (a few audience members were quick to point out that it’s not just the younger librarians who feel thwarted).

There's no quick solution to fix all our organizational cultures. At least the packed room of LITA attendees understood the problem; the presenters told the crowd that they get a strong reaction to their findings about future leaders' perception of IT from some crowds. “The first step is to admit you have a problem,” they said.

And finally, he offered something that no library technology conference coverage should be without--a summary of the forum in tweets.

We'll look forward to bringing you more voices from the LITA Forum as attendees return home, recover from their travel and reflect.