An Overview of the ALA GODORT Preconference

By Chellammal Vaidyanathan

As a newbie to the field of documents librarianship, I was excited when my immediate supervisor suggested that I attend the GODORT preconference, “International Documents in an Electronic Age,” at the 2007 ALA Annual. This was the first time I attended the ALA conference. I went with the expectation that I would gain valuable professional knowledge from the various sessions and I was not disappointed. Among all the events I attended, this preconference was my favorite one. It was held in the Eugene Black Auditorium at the World Bank on June 21.

International Focus & Coverage of Different Regions

The session began with breakfast and coffee. Before I proceeded to the auditorium, I quickly grabbed a cup of steaming hot coffee. Stimulated by the smell and taste of caffeine, I was ready to listen and take notes of the proceedings. After entering the auditorium, I found that it was filled to its maximum capacity. There were several excellent speakers who talked about sources that are available online for different regions of the world, including Africa & the Middle East, as well as Asia and the Pacific Rim. Organizations such as, the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, etc. were also discussed.

For the sake of brevity, I am focusing on a few of the speakers. Charles Eckman, the Associate University Librarian for Collections at the University of California, Berkeley, talked about international documents, their significance, and basic reference resources. Catherine Candea, the Deputy Head of Publishing from OECD showed the online publications and data available on issues such as, economy, society, biotechnology, sustainability, governance, and finance. She also mentioned that statistics are available to the subscribers.

Susan Bennett White, the U.N. Librarian from Princeton University did an excellent presentation on the electronic documents of the United Nations. Not only are UN documents and statistics available, but also research materials on the U.N. from government agencies, non-profit associations, and non-governmental organizations. The audience was spellbound by her speech. Peter Hajnal, a Research Fellow at the Munk Center for International Studies in the University of Toronto, demonstrated the resources available from the G8 countries. Last but not the least, I was fascinated about the wealth of information available for a) Asia and the Pacific Rim – from James Church’s presentation and for b) European Union countries – from Mary Gay Anderson’s presentation. The discussion on the Asia-Pacific region was relevant due to their important role in the present global economy. As I sat there listening to the speeches of my fellow colleagues, I pondered over the possibilities of using all that I learned in my course-oriented instruction sessions and research consultations.

Use for Instruction & Research

After my return from the ALA conference, I decided to make use of the new information that I acquired. This summer, I spent quite some time in e-mailing faculty members in history, political science, and international studies departments to know if they would be interested in course-oriented library sessions on international documents. The response so far has been positive and I am eagerly looking forward to the fall semester. I am sure that all the online demonstrations would be very helpful in helping students and faculty navigate through the maze of information and in locating the documents and statistics that they need for their research. To conclude, I would say that the preconference on international documents was a resounding success and I hope that similar sessions would be organized in future.