A Not Very Social Guy In A Manically Social World
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Blogging MLA in Chicago

The Local Arrangements Committee is advertising for "Official MLA Conference Bloggers."  Selected bloggers "will receive wireless Internet access for the duration of the Annual Conference AND MLA will acknowledge your contribution to the membership on the MLA Conference pages. All Official Conference Blogs will be listed on the Blog Roll at the MLA Conference Wiki."   There's an application form, and a panel of judges will make the selections.  (I don't know who is on the panel, although I suppose I could find out.)  And I certainly hope that someone will blog the Bearded Pigs gig on Sunday night!

It's an experiment.  One of the things that makes me grateful that I ended up in medical libraries is that the notion of experimentation seems to come more easily to us than to our colleagues in academic or public libraries, particularly in regard to IT.  When I first entered librarianship in 1983, I realized fairly quickly that medical libraries were ten to fifteen years ahead of general academic libraries in their adoption of new technologies (quite unevenly distributed, of course, as the future always is).  And there was a very clear reason for that -- the Medical Library Assistance Act, inspired by Dr. Michael DeBakey, and muscled through Congress by Senator Lister Hill, namesake of my library, (with the overt and covert assistance of many others) was passed in 1965, leading to the establishment of the Regional Medical Library program and a tremendous infusion of money and technical expertise and experimentation to libraries throughout the country.  By the time I came into the profession, it was fifteen years since NLM had launched the world's first publicly available online bibliographic database, had provided funding for one of the first integrated library systems, and had sown the seeds for the developing field of medical informatics.  One of my projects as an NLM Associate in 1984 was to write (under the guidance of the inestimable Gale Dutcher) the initial users' manual for DOCLINE, an issue-based online ILL routing system that was many years in advance of anything available to libraries outside of the health sciences community.  It was simply assumed that a savvy medical librarian was technically astute and making use of the latest information technology available.

Which explains, of course, my impatience with those of my 2.0 colleagues who sometimes sound as if they think the innovative use of information technology was only discovered by librarians in 2004.   But I should be more generous.  I'd thought that by the end of the nineties, the general academic library world had caught up -- certainly there have been many pockets of innovation and excellence among ARL and ACRL libraries.  But when I read the blogs of my impatient young colleagues I have to think that maybe there still is a gap.  I sometimes feel that I'm already living in the library world they're struggling so hard to create.

No matter.  Along with signing up bloggers for the MLA Conference, I wish we'd arrange for Cindiann to come and take photos.   Last night I was browsing her stunning portraits of some of the cool kids at this week's Computers in Libraries Conference in DC.  Fabulous photos.  They give a great sense of the personalities and energy and delight that these folks have in what they're doing.  Sure, I may get impatient sometimes with their impatience, but I defy anyone to look at those faces and read what they write and follow what they're doing in their libraries and not believe that the future of librarianship is very bright indeed.


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