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SLA Day 4: The End of Librarian Summer Camp

June 13, 2013

As I mentioned, got a late start for the day. Even though I’d started to feel melancholy about not wanting SLA to be over, I was a sensible bunny, and reined myself in from racing around trying to cram in librarian things, like stressing over getting to panels (though I’d still like to track down the info for the sessions that took place in the earlier part of the day, while I was being leisurely. Twitter and social media likely to be quite useful for this.)

I attended two exceedingly fun panels. Ninja Skills for Librarians was in the earlier part of the day, followed by a presentation on starting and maintaining a controversial collection.

The Ninja Skills panel was packed, as you’d expect from a panel with such a title. Two librarians discussed how the lessons of their martial arts background helped them as librarians, teaching them discipline, flexibility, balance, even skills in negotiation. And there were fun “Ninja Breaks” where they taught the audience the proper techniques for making fists and throwing punches, or gave brief demonstrations of fighting skills. My favorite aspect of the presentation was the pairing of Jennifer Doyle, who’d been taking Tae Kwon Do since she was a young girl (inspired by Buffy, hurrah) with Jill Strand, a self-proclaimed klutz who came to her own martial arts training in her 30’s finding that it teaches her things like patience with herself, and humility (her teacher/sparring partner is a 10 year-old kid.) I found it extremely heartening to listen to Jill talk about her slow progress, and the steep learning curve, and how she applied the lessons learned from her practice to doing her work and keeping that same discipline and patience with herself. Especially as a career-changing newbie librarian.

During the first part of the panel, I had guilty thoughts about maybe I should be sitting in a more technical skills based panel, learning how to create a taxonomy or plan for disaster in a library, since I came all this way to the conference and I have a lot to learn. However… I think the lessons of Ninja Librarianship are helpful: potent reminder to be patient with myself, and that people can discover passion and drive for a new project at any age. Also- a good lesson in presentation structure; combine things that apply with work with fun audience participation, personal stories, and a humorous hook. So, all in all a positive.

There was a networking box lunch afterward, during which I sat with a group of mostly science librarians, who reiterated that you don’t have to have a science background to work in a corporate or academic library that deals in physics or chemistry, just have to have solid librarian skills and a willingness to learn.

And from there, I went to a discussion about controversial collections, presented by a woman who put together a collection on Sheikh and Desert Romance novels as part of the Arab culture collection at her academic library. Again, quite fun, though I’m not sure it applies to my own future librarian life. Then again, who knows? The presenter discussed the ways to budget for a controversial collection and justify it when budgets are being slashed, how to position the exhibit and describe it so as not to be judgmental… Interesting stuff.

After that, I roved around the exhibit hall as exhibitors were packing up, finding familiar faces in the crowd and feeling pretty ready to mope about the end of a really fun conference. One last hurrah for the evening: the Military Division Open House. Having learned my lesson I do not grab dinner beforehand, instead opting to dine on their free food. It’s in one of the smaller conference rooms, and a festive affair, though most of the librarians I see are those I’ve met in other contexts, and I don’t really satisfy my curiosity about military librarianship. (Also, no librarians in uniform.) It’s definitely like the end of librarian summer camp- promises to stay in touch with new friends, a touch of melancholy at the end of all the learning and fun.

I feel fortunate that I’ve scheduled one last hurrah for myself: a field trip to tour the Qualcomm library the following day!

One Comment leave one →
  1. DonaldPeebles permalink
    June 27, 2013 8:46 pm

    I thought I heard it all: Ninja Skills For Librarians. I can just imagine librarians performing martial arts moves in librarians and making a bunch of Miss Piggy karate chop noises. I would have loved to check out the Controversial Collections with the Desert and Sheik collections (I can imagine erotic Arabian Nights and harem tales).

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