ALA Annual 2015 + FAST
Again with the time delay, but today is an out-of-office writing day and this blog post is my warm up.
This was my third ALA Annual Conference and I think I’m finally getting the hang of things. I chose better sessions, spent and reserved energy appropriately, and finally brought a Bluetooth iPad keyboard for effective tweeting. I always seem to attend ALA in a transitional job state, and this visit was no different. As of July 1 (during ALA mind you), I am Digital Humanities Librarian at MPOW. I’m thrilled about the change, but it meant I needed to look outside of my normal ALCTS programming to build my schedule. I concentrated on anything with “linked data” in the title. Major points to a Amber Billey and and Allison Jai O’Dell for convering the topic with enthusiasm and to Jason Clark for making a vendor session bearable. I supplemented my schedule with sessions from folks I know and trust, including Sarah Hovde talking about cataloging education (turn[s out, some people actually get on the job cataloging training, how nice for them), Annie Pho on #critlib, Erin Leach leading Creative Ideas in Technical Services” and Eric Phetteplace (okay Eric was just my LITA Happy Hour buddy). I always try to check out one or two sessions from the big name speaker series, except somehow this year I missed Gloria Steinham and Nick Offerman. It’s nice to be reminded by someone famous that the work you’re doing is important and valued, even if most of their experience is with children’s librarians. It can be hard to sustain interest and enthusiasm for Monday sessions, but they ended up being the best of the whole conference thanks to an amazing talk by Maryanne Wolf on deep reading in the digital age (for once, I was not enraged by this topic) and a stellar panel on contexutalizing Omeka exhibits by the folks behind the Lowcountry Digital History Project
Below you’ll find the slides from my presentation at the Faceted Subject Access Interest Group. It was a seven minute lightning talk and fortunately for you the slides below do not contain any of the jokes I made that fell flat in the room. The jist: we’ve spent the last two years implementing ArchivesSpace and we’ve made the decision to rely solely OCLC’s FAST headings for subject access points. The FAST headings complement ArchivesSpace’s SOLR indexing and they’re easy for Special Collections staff to apply. Since they’re available to download in several formats, it is fairly easy to get them into ArchivesSpace in batch. So far we’ve only added the topical headings. I want to add the geographic headings, but I have yet to learn enough XSLT to only pull out the Virginia headings. Because ArchivesSpace only displays subjects in the public interface when they’ve been attached to the record, it is not a problem to have 400k topical headings in the staff interface. We will delete headings that we encounter that seem totally irrelevant, though we’ve kept the “that’s what she said jokes” heading just in case. The panel went really well, the rest of the presentations can be found in ALAConnect, though the audience really only seemed concerned with the FAST headings in their OPAC (the OPAC is dead, long live the OPAC).
On location: San Francisco is amazing. I could never live there, in part because I think I’m done with urban life for now, but it was an ideal location for the conference and subsequent vacation. The convention center was easy to get around and had a lovely park on its roof, complete with fountains and ethnic fast food. There were plenty of places to eat and transportation was easy (I’m looking at you Chicago and Anaheim). I witnessed Pride and SCOTUS decision parties, again, way better than a Black Hawks rally (ahem Chicago). Brewster Kahle led a tour of the Internet Archive. Matthew Battles showed us “Toute la mémoire du monde” and Harvard verison, “Cold Storage.” There was a JMW Turner exhibit at the de Young. The weather, the parks, the plants, the food was all so great that it didn’t matter that I came down with a cold and had a terrible reaction to antibiotics.
I sometimes encounter librarians who have never been to ALA and it prompts me to consider why I continue to go. I don’t disagree that local/regional events are better in the cost/benefit department, but there is something about particpating on a national level that feels important. It gets you out of your insular library world, even if you all you do is complain about LibGuides with someone from another state. I’m not sure it shapes my professional identity so much as help it get in shape. And now that I’ve started to use a running metaphor, I think this post is over.