Put the world’s largest library/information conference – that of the American Library Association – in the city with the greatest concentration of skyscrapers, if not any longer the world’s tallest building – Chicago, of course – add a bit of jet-lag, and the result is a bit overwhelming. Never mind, ALA was very much worth the effort. My colleague, Lyn Robinson, has written more than adequately about the exhibition, the buildings, the food, and the handbags, so these are just some addenda.
Much of the conference material can be found here, and there was way to much to try to summarise. One highspot for me was a session with five science fiction and fantasy writers – Robert Charles Wilson, John Brown, Eric Flint, Margaret Weiss and Ken Scholes – all arguing for the value of this kind of, rather marginalised, literature in promoting literacy and sparking imagination. I was a little sorry that they didn’t do more on the stated theme of examining how SFF can promote ideas about the future of information but never mind; a bag of free books more than made up 🙂
Having an interest in the information needs and information-related behaviour of the various ‘generations’ – baby-boomers, Gen X, millenials, and the like – and having, indeed, recently given a workshop on the topic, I enjoyed to the session on supporting millenials in graduate school. Joan Lippincott, Barbara Dewey and Susan Gibbons analysed this group, finding them as a whole to be creative, highly social learners, always connected, and addicted to multimedia; though such generalisations are often nuanced by the academic discipline, which makes a big difference. One key to supporting them well seems to be to get the right balance between information spaces; physical and virtual, solitary and social.
Away from the conference, the Chicago Architecture Foundation does excellent tours, which not only show you the buildings of this city, but provide a kind of ‘Modern Architecture 101’ course. And no visitor to the city can fail to notice how much the the natural world is welcomed into what could a forbidding environment; very nicely written up in the book “Chicago’s Urban Nature” by Sally Anderson Chappell.