Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Back from safari

So I’m back from my whirlwind trip to Wisconsin, where I spoke at WLA’s annual conference. Thank you everyone for such great hospitality (especially Nichole Fromm)! The Kalahari was the most bizarre place I’ve ever stayed – I missed the live baby lions that they bring in for photo shoots ($60 to get a photo of your kid with a cub – no joke), and I never ventured into the waterpark (the biggest indoor waterpark in America!), but at least I got to see the bellhops running around in safari gear, and to eat here. And my hotel room was huge. My apartment here in Boston would have literally fit inside this suite.

I also got to hang out on State Street in downtown Madison with Jessamyn and Nichole before flying back. We visited the Madison Public Library and the University of Wisconsin Madison Memorial Library, which was great. It was nice to see more of Wisconsin then the touristy Las Vegas-y Wisconsin Dells, where the conference was.

My talk went pretty well – I tried to balance demoing all the cool things that LibraryThing is and does with talking about some of the issues LibraryThing raises in the library world.

I talked a bunch about “harnessing collective intelligence” – letting users create and upload content, and how the wisdom of the masses is pretty damn impressive. LibraryThing is so powered by users. Users – you – translate the site into a staggering number of languages, you combine author names, tags, and works, you upload author photos (and go to great lengths to obtain permissions) – you make things more findable and accessible, and you contribute your knowledge and expertise, and that’s what makes LibraryThing.

I read an article on the plane on the way to Wisconsin about why people contribute to Wikipedia – why they spend 30+ hours a week writing for something with no bylines, and where someone else can wipe out all their hard work with a single stroke. What’s the motiviation to do that? (The article talked about the connection with how scientists view their work – contributing to a greater good, and receiving credit and acknowledgment for their work). And I think it’s a lot about becoming part of the online community. The more LT grows, the more I think about it as a community. When we launched Talk and Groups this summer, there was an explosion of TALK among you all. You clearly feel connected to each other, and to the LT community. I feel like we know some of you – Tim and I refer to you by your names on LibraryThing, we say “oh, did you see what she posted yesterday? She’s right, we should really start doing that / create that / change that.” And I love that about my job – that sense of community.

All in all – it was a great trip. I even got an elevator ride with Sandy Berman,! And the library of the International Crane Foundation – I’m waiting for you to create your non-profit organizational account!

Next up – I have to figure out what I’m going to say at NELINET’s “Reinventing the Library Catalog” – the panel includes John Blyberg, Michael Kaplan (Ex Libris), Gregory Crane (Tufts), and Laurie Allen (PennTags), so it should be a lot of fun.

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