Saturday, November 22, 2008

California Library Association Conference 2008

There are many reasons I love the fall: the first day of school, Halloween and the start of the holidays, and Satsuma tangerines (yum!). But one of my all-time favorite things is the annual California Library Association (CLA) conference, usually held in November. Not only do I look forward to seeing colleagues, former students and, yes, even favorite vendors, it’s also the time when I recharge my professional batteries.

This year’s conference was held last weekend in San Jose. Here are a few highlights:

•Online homework help provider Brainfuse has begun piloting a service that connects job-searchers with online helpers who advise on writing resumes and developing interview skills. Could this service be any more timely? premiered enhancements to its online homework help product, including color graphics, a more extensive toolbar, and stick-figure avatars that high-five each other when the student does well. Hopefully these enhancements, which are being rolled out next summer, won’t boost subscription costs during a year when most libraries will be facing budget cuts.

•Speaking of online homework help, a group of librarians offering this service convened to discuss the possibility of starting a users group. Instead, we decided to create a listserv for California librarians who want to discuss all manner of issues related to homework help, online or otherwise. The group volunteered me to moderate.

San Jose Public Library staff, who led an excellent session on customer service, noted that our professional reputation tends to hinge on our keen knowledge of the collection and how things are organized in the library. They suggested we need to expand that reputation to include expertise in providing outstanding customer service. If we build a positive customer service reputation, patrons will not only come, they’ll also return.

•Kudos to CLA president-elect Barbara Roberts for giving the most inspiring inaugural speech I’ve heard in many a year. Reflecting her theme, “Reach Out!,” she admonished the membership to carry the library message to political leaders and others who may not understand what we do. She will be convening a summit with other library organizations to consolidate and reinforce these efforts. She also encouraged us to embrace best business practices and to reach across library “types” so we can work together to strengthen the association.

•And finally, just to prove that everything isn't serious work and no play at conference, here I am with a couple of state library colleagues, dressed-up as pseudo-Star Wars characters at Infopeople’s annual photo booth!

May the Force be with all of us in what looks to be a tough year ahead.