Best in Show(case)

By Cindi Trainor |

BIGWIG PresentersThe adage, of course, is that a picture is worth a thousand words. What picture could sum up the best of ALA 2008 for me? After combing through the more than 1,400 photos I took at sessions, on the exhibit floor and inside and outside the hotels and convention center in Anaheim, one moment stood out for me: the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase. You'll notice I'm even in this photo, which means, of course, that I didn't take it--Tech Source editor Patrick Hogan was on hand for the session and was kind enough to snap us goofing around together afterwards. Read on to see why this photo encapsulates the best of ALA '08 for me.

At this year's American Library Association Annual meeting, I attended several LITA programs, met up with (and took lots of pictures of!) friends from libraries of all types, made some new friends and connections, and spent some time in the exhibits scouting for new ideas and interesting photos. What I've come back to time and again is that what makes a conference remarkable for me is making connections with other people and learning their stories. I did attend several panel sessions, at which I gleaned several ideas and generally had a nice time, but the un-conference approach to the Social Software Showcase (and to a lesser extent, the experimental technology used in the Top Tech Trends panel) went well past the "sage on the stage" approach to sharing and learning about technology. The presentations that were made available before the conference were meant to be introductions; the informal discussions that took place at the Showcase were conversations during which everyone's experiences and questions were welcome.

I wanted to highlight this program, which got a good writeup on Library Journal's LJ Insider blog recently, because it's done a bit differently, and it's not about the shiny bits, it's about people, and it's about change. Can you feel it? If you attended the BIGWIG session, what did you get out of it? Would you attend other library conference sessions set up this way? What about an entire (un-)conference, where the topics discussed are chosen after the participants show up?