Friday, August 8, 2008

Reference Renaissance in the Mile High City

I just attended the 1st Reference Renaissance conference in Denver, CO -organizers plan to add Power Point presentations and other materials. I served on the Planning Group for the conference and also on the Program Committee. While RUSA was a co-sponsor, this success of the event was largely due to the work of Brenda Baily-Hainer, President of BCR, who did a fantastic job organizing the event. Attendance was even better than the Planning Committee hoped – we initially guessed that we’d have between 250-300 and actual attendance was around 500, so I’m anticipating that this conference will be held again. Attendees and presenters were a mix of public and academic librarians. Among the most pervasive themes of this conference was looking at ways to extend and improve the services we offer –and I heard lots of conversation on reevaluating services to decide what we give up in order to offer new services that better fit the current environment. David Lewis, Dean of the University Library at Indiana Univ. Purdue University Indianapolis, delivered the keynote address focusing on changes in library services brought about by various technologies - he discussed innovation and creativity as key to staying relevant.

One of the sessions I attended that gathered lots of attention was a comparison between traditional and hipster librarians with discussion of traditional, system centered librarianship and the move to user centered library systems with the future holding another shift to knowledge centered librarianship. Staffing models for reference desks with declining numbers of questions were discussed – a couple of studies were mentioned showing that most ref. desks have about 15-20% of questions that are true reference questions and presenters shared different plans of changing staffing models. I saw three sessions talking about gathering and using reference statistics, including some home grown statistics gathering programs. And I guess you have to travel to find out what is going on locally – there was a panel presentation including librarians (and one software developer with his own company) from Duke, UNC and NC State who talked about an open-source web chat system that they have developed and may soon offer to other libraries – it’s called Libraryh3lp and sounds like it has a lot of potential. I also attended interesting sessions on in house training for librarians. Very difficult to pick and choose here because so many of the sessions sounded so interesting : some of those that I wanted to see but missed included one from Yale University on a new text reference service, and another on Custom Search Engines which enhance traditional static guides. Proceedings will be published by Neal Schumann, but probably will take about a year.


Lea said...

Libraryh3lp sounds interesting. Re: traveling to find out about local projects...Steve and a few others had an informal chat with a librarian from Wake Forest U about our efforts with iMinerva and their new developments with askzak:

Lynda Kellam said...

hipster librarians? did they really use the word hipster? funny.

Pam Sessoms said...

It really was hard to pick which session to go to because there were so many great-sounding ones to pick from, wasn't it?! Thanks for mentioning LibraryH3lp -- figured I'd mention that it is currently available for anyone to play with. Several libraries (besides the ones mentioned in the session) are using it already. :)