Conferences, Rants

Things I hate about conference (pre-2009 conference season edition)

Ernie asked what great conference sessions we’ve recently been to – what worked for us. I responded that what doesn’t work – really doesn’t work – is the session that is supposedly geared to the masses, to librarians of all levels. Very few really can claim that (disaster preparation and Best New ??? are the only two that really spring to mind). Most try, but they end up catering to the lowest common attendee, the one that’s never heard of even basic tools and has no idea what to do with them.

There should be a basic assumption of competence. If a tool is older than one year, presenters should aim to show what’s a new, best practice use of the tool (and refuse to answer “how do you use it”-type questions). If a topic has been covered on any blog or professional article with in the past year, ditto. It’s our obligation as professionals to stay on top of current trends and tools; there are so many ways to build your PLN that to not have one is deriliction of duty.

When professional peers say “I don’t have time to keep up”, I wonder what they’d say to their doctor, dentist, lawyer, car mechanic or other professional that tried that. This isn’t to advocate for any one way – read journals, blogs, twitter posts, join local associations, whatever. Just keep up. Split the duty between you and a friend, you and a colleague. Just keep up.

The other thing that bothers me is the use of jargon. I read many proposals for the upcoming AASL conference – too many were couched in standards-speak and incomprehensible to the uninitiated. If I were running the proposal process, I’d insist on the following:

  • state your purpose in clear English that a non-librarian could easily understand (don’t you want your school colleagues to know what you’re doing at the conference?)
  • be realistic about your audience – are you trying to dance along the cutting edge or are you helping sweep the late adopters along?
  • any presenters that use the phrases “2.0” or “21st century skills” automatically get tossed (these are meaningless phrases – especially the latter when you think about 19th century skills)

Let’s see how the programs we’ll see at the SLJ Summit, AASL09, ALA, NECC and all the others stack up.

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