Posted by: Steven Harris | July 18, 2009

ALA: I’m a Creep

Millennium ParkALA Annual Conference, 2009, Chicago

Thursday and Friday (additional reports to follow)

I arrived in Chicago earlier than I really needed to on Thursday, July 10. So, I made my way  to Millennium Park before checking into the Palmer House Hotel. There is a really cool fountain there made up of glass blocks. The blocks actually have lighting elements behind them, even as water cascades over the outside. So, the blocks are like large pixels on a computer screen, a 40-foot high computer screen.  My photo doesn’t capture this, but there are interesting motion images displayed on the two fountain towers. I sat in the park with my netbook computer and broadband card catching up on email.

Palmer HouseLater in the afternoon, I was able to check into the Palmer House. This hotel has a pretty extravagant lobby, with lavishly painted ceilings. People often come in and just sit looking up at the ceiling.

My conference really began on Friday morning. I spent the morning in the conference center writing up my introduction for a panel program on Saturday. I then ran into a friend from Utah just as I was about to catch the conference shuttle to an afternoon program. We ate an expensive lunch in the overcrowded food court. We made our way to the shuttle pickup about 25 minutes before the program we both wanted to attend, an ebook standards session hosted by NISO. Big mistake. Not enough time. The shuttle attendant told us our shuttle had just left and another wouldn’t be there for 20 minutes. We decided we would ride a different shuttle and then walk over to the scheduled hotel. Another mistake. We didn’t realize there was only one stop on the alternate shuttle route. We thought we were going to a particular hotel, but the shuttle made one stop and then headed back to the conference center. Yikes! We finally got on the right shuttle and got to the program an hour late. It was a 3 hour program anyway, so we still saw a lot.

tweepsThe NISO/BISG Forum had a variety of speakers discussing ebooks. (See the slides online.) We came in during Michael Smith’s presentation about the EPUB standard developed by the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum). EPUB is interesting because it can be an end-user format, or it can be transformed into other formats like PDF or Mobipocket. EPUB is a platform agnostic, reflowable ebook format, which means that it is not designed to represent a page. The text will reflow to any page size. This was the most interesting part of the program. The other parts I saw did not present any new material. Michael Healy from BISG (Book Industry Study Group) talked about the BookDROP program (an ebook online archiving platform developed by publishers); Suzanne Kemperman of NetLibrary talked about DRM (largely from a publisher’s perspective); John Cox (John Cox Associates) talked about ebook publishing models (from a publisher’s perspective) pretty much those that already exist; and Sue  Polanka (Wright State University Library) talked about library ebook delivery models, pretty much those that already exist. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more “visioning” going on, but I suppose a program about standards will be pretty rooted in the here and now.

vandvAfter the ebook forum, I made my way to the Collection Development Committee meeting of the Greater Western Library Alliance. The discussion here was largely about how troubled these 30 university libraries were. Many places are cutting as much as 20% from their acquisitions budgets. We also discussed vendor relations and the long awaited Wiley journal offer. The alliance is also working on a distributed print repository of journals. Having worked on one of these in another consortium, I’m not all that optimistic about success.

The highlight of the day for me was the ALA Open Gaming Night held at the Chicago Hilton. There were a variety of board games and card games. But also lots of video gaming stations: Wii, Xbox and whatnot. I like a little Dance Dance Revolution, but I didn’t play that.  I was there for one thing: to sing on Rock Band, a Guitar Hero variant with guitar, bass, drums, and singer. Players are scored on their ability to hit the right “notes” at the right time. Karaoke with a whole band. They didn’t have my favorite “White Wedding” by Billy Idol available, but I had a go at a Ramone’s song. Failed miserably. Later I tried “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden and did better. I also did pretty well on “Creep” by Radiohead. Can’t hit the high notes, but it’s generally more my thing than the Ramones. I then did a duet with “Jen” on Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” We kicked it on the chorus, but didn’t do too well on the verses.

rockbandThe gaming was also a tweetup with some folks I knew on Twitter. I met Jen, Leah, and Michelle, who I had not met in real life before. I also saw lots of folks I knew from previous jobs and oodles of folks I know in Second Life, including “Veronica,” “Valibrarian,” and “Abbey Zenith.” Good times.

Rock Band photo courtesy of Valibrarian



  1. It was awesome to finally meet you Steven!!

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