Decompressing Tech unConference: May 15, 2009 #techuncamp

The other morning while getting ready for work, I was thinking about the beginnings of this entry which originally started out with, “Recently, I went to my first conference…” which was not necessarily correct as I went to a student journalism conference back in the mid-’90s in D.C. and did the LinuxCon circuit across the US (San Jose -> Atlanta -> New York) in the late ’90s and early ’00s. So no, this was not my first conference. But it IS my first conference as a librarian, so we’ll begin with that.
On May 15th, Heidi1 and I went to Tech Camp unConference at Michigan State as it was local-ish, free, and the content was right up my alley. After dithering about what to bring with me and getting that all sorted, Heidi and I piled into my car and drove the 1.25 hours to E. Lansing.
Why this conference rocked:

  • The Tech unCamp was a wonderful mixture of students, new grads and established librarians who had at least one thing in common: They were all passionate about technologies and or bringing emerging and new technologies to their library. With the experience level running from neophyte to supreme geek being, the range of experience was wide open and I learned a lot.
  • Libraries should look to Ann Arbor District2 (also shout outs to Grand Rapids Public 3) on how public libraries are using existing and emerging technologies in order to do outreach and further along interaction with patrons and staff. Peeps should also look to Lawrence Tech in the academic vein about how academic libraries are using social networking and web 2.0 to the benefit of students, patrons and staff.
  • Drupal v. Joomla v. WordPress as CMS: Drupal for large enterprise sites with Joomla as it’s redheaded stepchild brother and WP coming up fast and furious on the backend as the Open Source CMS. I participated heavily in this discussion, discussing my work with Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Archives where I helped launch their WP site and how they used it. This discussion also really helped clarify why libraries are using certain technologies over others, especially why the big push towards Drupal.
  • Web 2.0: Natalie Zebula, the tech librarian at LTU, led the discussion on using Web2.0 in libraries (I was the mad secretary, partially fueled by large amounts of caffeine) where in this discussion group we talked about all things web and tech related from dragging staff and patrons into the 21st century by introducing new teaching methodologies and services to how to do outreach in the 21st century world.
  • Talks on using social web, information architecture and how to do social outreach: the final event of the day was the panel hosted by peeps in variety of capacities from social network and research to IA to using social networks in the real world. The IA stuff was huge draw for me because I started taking an IA class this summer, Heidi is also into IA (and she’s been a great resource in filling in things I’m missing tech wise) and it seems to also offer up a lot of stuff I’m heavily interested in — stuff that I did not know even had a name and now I know it does, which just proves I’m not even remotely insane! Heidi and I talked to Dan, the IA dude, after the camp for a bit in the parking lot and discovered that Dan and I moved in similar circles socially back in G-Rap in our younger years (and that he’s also nine days older than me). The world IS incredibly small.

Overall, this was a great introduction to conferencing for the newly inclined (such as myself) and was also highly informative. Not only were the discussions about the use of real world technologies in the library setting but also in other professional and personal settings. Personal experiences with social networking and web 2.0isms carried over in a lot of the talk that was going on, which isn’t surprising when you think about it. Much of what drives a lot of these technologies IS people’s curiosity and whether or not they work for them.
This explains, I think, how technology evangelism begins: All it takes is at least one person who is passionate about X, whatever X may be before it starts spreading to their circles (and so forth and so on). ExFiance #2 and I got on the TiVo bandwagon back in 2000 when his aunt and uncle had one of the first beta TiVos. The ability to PAUSE LIVE TV and the ability to record and hold hours and hours of shows for long periods of time sold us on this new fangled gadget. We were busy “young professionals” and missed a lot of what was on because we were out being busy! With TiVo, that changed the way we saw and viewed television.
Within a year, most of our local social network owned a TiVo once they saw not only how useful but also how incredibly geeky it was. Why plan your lives around a television show, TiVo tells us, when you can plan your shows around your lives. Now a decade later with knock-offs offered by cable/satellite companies, it’s almost hard to imagine a household without a DVR in some form or another. But stance on the technology revolution is for another day.

1.We met on Twitter, realized we had many of the same interests as well as we both attend Wayne State for lib school AND we both worked on campus. Tis a small world, indeed! Also, Heidi graduated from the program! Woot!
2. Eli provided his slides from the conference but part of what makes it interesting is also his speech!
3. I did various interviews months ago with peeps at GRPL and I knew that they were getting on or were driving the bandwagon with emerging tech THEN as they were one of the first libraries I knew who are active on Twitter. GRPL also blogs, games, and uses emerging tech for outreach to their patrons. Word to my old home library!