I had the opportunity to both present at and attend Information Today, Inc.’s 2021 Internet Librarian Connect conference, which was held virtually Oct. 26–28. As a presenter, I was able to attend the conference for free and see much of the work that went on behind the scenes, including recording my session on Zoom and participating in a preconference technology check. There was much hard work put into the event to ensure that attendees were able to gain value from the online experience. For those who are unfamiliar with the conference, Internet Librarian describes itself as for librarians and information professionals of all types and from all settings.
I was really looking forward to seeing what kind of experience Internet Librarian would provide to virtual attendees. With PheedLoop as the main conference platform, I logged in on Oct. 26 and saw a list of options that included a session list, a virtual exhibit hall, and a networking area. Prompted to fill out a matchmaking survey with questions that asked about my role at my organization, what I was interested in learning that week, and what the view out of my window would be on a perfect vacation, I was shown a list of attendees who matched a percentage of my responses. I haven’t seen anything like this at any other virtual conference I have attended. Personally, I think this was an innovative way to get virtual attendees to connect with others who may not otherwise have had a reason to connect. Here is the survey:
One of the first talks I attended was “Search: Past, Present, and Future,” by Greg Notess (professor emeritus of librarianship at Montana State University), as part of the conference’s A track called Content: Discovery, Management & Infrastructure. There were three other sessions held at the same time:
- Library Management & Practices (B track)—“Librarians Lead in Times of Crisis: Stop, Drop, & Roll” was presented by April Hobbs (adult services librarian at Charleston County Public Library), Caroline Smith (inclusive services consultant at South Carolina State Library), Denise Lyons (library consultant), and Feili Tu-Keefner (associate professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Information Science). This session focused on how librarians stepped up to serve as leaders in their communities during the pandemic. The speakers also shared their lessons learned.
- Technology (C track)—“Designing for Delightful Experiences” was presented by Kathryn Schoutsen (manager of engagement and community development at Innisfil ideaLAB & Library) and Megan Legg (manager of programming and outreach at Innisfil ideaLAB & Library). This session focused on pandemic wins and losses experienced while trying to bring the library home to users.
- Communities: Engagement, Access & Innovation (D track)—“Beyond Engagement to Publishing Community Music!” was presented by Dan Alfano (manager of digital initiatives at Edmonton Public Library). This session focused on Edmonton’s Capital City Records project.
Session handouts and copies of slides were made available for those who were looking to further their learning. This was especially helpful, as I could learn from sessions that I missed.
An interesting feature of the conference was the social aspect: the Chat Arounds and a Meet Up. I was able to attend the Meet Up, “Digital Preservation & Transformation,” which was led by consultant Richard Hulser. After receiving a reminder via the conference platform alerting me to the start of the Meet Up, I decided to attend using my smartphone, as it already had the Zoom app installed. Hulser shared his valuable expertise on the topic of digital preservation and encouraged others to share both their experiences and questions. Here we are:
On the last day of the conference, I attended “Accessing Knowledge: Internet Librarians’ Call to Action!,” a morning keynote presented by Jean-Claude Monney (chief product officer at Keeeb). In the afternoon, I attended “Friendly-Face Marketing: Spin-Selling, Smiles, & Snacks,” a session given by Kelvin Watson (executive director of Las Vegas-Clark County Library District) and Meghan Kowalski (outreach and reference librarian at University of the District of Columbia). Although I found the title intriguing, I was also interested to see that the session dealt with the topic of library anxiety and how to use outreach to put patrons at ease. Kowalski started out the presentation stating that “it’s little things that draw people in.” She discussed how librarians and other workers in the library are perceived, and she offered tips, such as using open body language. Watson shared his background along with a recommendation for the book SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need payoff. Based on the lessons he has learned, Watson discussed his understanding of the SPIN model. I made sure to put in a request to borrow the book. Here is a glimpse of the presentation:
CLOSING AND CONCLUSION
I looked forward to the closing keynote, “Libraries’ Biggest Challenges & Opportunities for 2022+.” The multiple presenters did a good job of sharing lessons learned from projects and experiences at their organizations. In my opinion, one of the more thought-provoking comments was from Richard Huffine (chief of the Library and Public Information Center at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.), who mentioned the idea of defending the physical collection, comparing the costs of providing access to physical books to those of digital titles.
As an attendee, I was glad to be able to engage in this virtual event without having to add the costs of travel and hotel that are usually required of a traditional conference experience. I also appreciated the opportunity to engage with other attendees online from the comfort of my seat in front of the computer and my smartphone. If you were one of the attendees, I encourage you to share what you learned from the event with those you work with in order to increase the impact of the ideas discussed during Internet Librarian 2021.