LIS students on the Computers in Libraries conference trip posed for a picture during their visit to NPR headquarters.

By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Fourteen School of Information Studies (iSchool) Library and Information Science graduate students attended the 29th annual Computers in Libraries conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, and an iSchool faculty member and LIS alumnus were among conference presenters.

Computers in Libraries is regarded as the most comprehensive North American conference and exhibition on all aspects of library and information delivery technology. It attracted library professionals and students from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and 13 countries.

The 2014 conference focused on “hacking” libraries, or taking a look at how changing ideas, strategies, and practices using technology and other methods of computerized information sharing can engage library communities. The students also participated in tours of the special and corporate libraries embedded at National Public Radio and The World Bank.  The tours, arranged by iSchool Executive Director of Alumni Relations Barbara Settel, provided students the chance to speak face-to-face with practicing information professionals in diverse library settings.

iSchool faculty member Jill Hurst-Wahl, associate professor of practice and director of the iSchool’s MS in Library and Information Science and School Media programs, co-moderated a conference track, titled “Enabling Innovation.” She also conducted a brainstorming session where she introduced four different brainstorming techniques to an audience of 200. (Hurst-Wahl’s presentation is available on SlideShare.)

Student Comments

Sarah Bratt, who graduates in May, said this conference was especially interesting because  aside from presentations on expected subjects, there were some on issues outside the traditional librarian realm.  She cited one speaker who discussed “tactical librarianism,” addressing how information professionals can navigate communities and make use of the information, human and political resources available to develop community knowledge systems. She also enjoyed how the event addressed all facets of librarianship by combining librarians, technology workers, and community managers into the same groups to elicit differing perspectives when brainstorming ideas for using computers in libraries. In addition, this conference provided another opportunity for her to network and to learn more about the type of non-traditional jobs that are available for LIS graduates, Sarah said.

For Kusturie Moodley, the conference provided “tons of tools and tons of ideas to take home and run with. It has opened up an entire new world for me in terms of the direction I want to go in.” The Fulbright scholar, who graduates in May, then returns to South Africa to an existing librarian position, also enjoyed discovering an array of applicable case studies and “a lot of open source software that you can use for your libraries.”

“New Librarianship” Assistance

Both students agreed that the iSchool’s support, both financial and in terms of faculty and staff presence for networking and professional development mentoring, was instrumental in helping them get the most from, and feel comfortable at, an international conference. With the iSchool paying for registrations and travel, the cost of accommodation were all that students had to fund on their own, Sarah and Kusturie noted. Without such support, which came through the iSchool’s Fall 2013 “Fuel the Future” campaign and its New Librarianship initiative, neither would have been likely to attend the event, they said.

A number of iSchool alumni also attended the event, and some also were conference speakers. They included Robert Loftus (Baldwinsville Library); Jim DelRosso (Cornell); Meg Backus (Chattanooga); and Dorotea Szkolar, ’13, (Group M). Andrew Shuping, a current Data Science student, also was a presenter.