On October 14th, I attended my second Georgia COMO conference in Athens, GA. COMO is a great conference – it is the statewide library conference here in Georgia, and is co-sponsored by several state library and school media organizations.
Last year, the conference was in Columbus, which was kind of a drab city. There were little restaurants in walking distance of the conference center. This year, it was up in Athens, which is about an hour and a half from my house. It was my first visit to Athens, home of the UGA Bulldogs. I think Athens is a great city with a lot of great restaurants – it’s definitely a college town, and the conference center was right near the downtown area. It reminded me a lot of Greenville, SC, the town in which I went to college. Unfortunately, I could only attend for 1 day, but I would like to visit Athens again and see more of the town.
I had planned to go to COMO to hear my mentor present on her experience working with me, but then I was also asked to come up and present on that. It was a bit impromptu, but it all worked out. I also had volunteered to sit at the ALA/SELA membership booth in the exhibit hall for some additional exposure, all to enhance my professional development of course.
In other news, the job search is gaining momentum. A couple of my classmates have found new positions, but many are still looking. The good news is that the economy does seem to slowly continue picking up, but hiring is slow, though companies are still notoriously hoarding cash which only stalls growth.
I have also started taking continuing ed courses towards a certificate in advanced web development, where I will learn PHP and Java programming. Right now I am starting with the basics, but am excited to get into meatier stuff. I want to continue learning and growing, and not become stagnant.
The past 3 days, I was at the LITA national forum right here in downtown Atlanta. This was a much smaller conference than expected, and definitely less overwhelming than ALA. Since this was the first conference I went to where I would not have a group of my classmates already there. Thankfully, there were a few people that I knew who were presenting, so I was not completely out in the cold, plus I ran into some people that I met at ALA.
Despite not being a librarian/tech person/someone important, people were very warm and friendly. Since the conference was so much smaller than ALA, you saw the same people each day and by the 2nd or 3rd day, it’s more like one big happy family of people who share a love of sharing information and all the fun, geeky gadgets behind it. Knowing I was in the job market, people were very encouraging. The president herself mentioned to me that “dogged persistence” will pay off.
I also met some new colleagues as well, and had the pleasure of sharing meals and cards with them. I was particularly excited to spread the gospel of Willy’s to all the out-of-towners. Willy’s is one of my favorite “make-your-own-burrito” places (like Chipotle), and they only have it here in Atlanta, and everything is fresh :p. There was a Willy’s in the food court near the hotel, which was very convenient! Last night, I went with a group to dinner at Haveli Indian Cuisine, and it was very good. The vegetarian dishes are recommended (and cost less). I really enjoyed my meal and a nice warm glass of masala chai tea.
Over the last 3 days, I went to several sessions. The opening session was interesting…it was about Wikipedia culture. Apparently there is a cult of people out there who spend a lot of time editing Wikipedia articles that fascinate them. In fact, a lot of popular articles on Wikipedia were found to be more accurate and up to date than print encyclopedias because those articles were monitored so closely by devoted editors, than any misinformation was revised in a microsecond.
Roy Tennant, a progressive information professional from OCLC, delivered the keynote speech Saturday morning. I had heard that he was an excellent public speaker, and he indeed gave a very entertaining speech on the benefits of cloud computing, which has been noted by some to be “the cure for cancer.”
I also attended several concurrent sessions. Notable sessions included one on new technologies for library instruction (check out Poll Everywhere and ScreenToaster), and a presentation about digital asset management at UPS, and how they managed the hundreds of thousands of images and documents from the company’s branding and ad campaigns. Digital asset management is becoming a lucrative alternative career path for people with the MLIS background (and from what I hear from recruiters, it does not pay bad either :).
The conference venue was OK overall. Since it was a much smaller conference, we only had 1 floor of the hotel, so it was not like ALA where you had to take a shuttle to half your events. It was also near a MARTA station and a food court, and I had a very pleasant surprise with the parking. Apparently in the Courtland Street garage, if you get there before 9 AM and leave before 11 PM, the cost of parking is only $4, no matter how long. Can’t beat $4 for a day parking downtown. Plus, it was near the Peachtree Center food court, which as I mentioned before, has amazing and affordable restaurants.
The heating/cooling of the center was very imbalanced. Some of the main conference rooms were absolutely freezing, but then some of the smaller rooms were unbearably hot. One person tweeted “oom 206 is now a major contributor to global warming – hilton fail!” And a lot of the rooms had these black shades that were drawn to keep the projector screens from being backlit, but they blocked out all light so my body was thinking it was nighttime…and after only averaging 5 hours of sleep a night, it was very hard to stay awake.
Overall, I enjoyed myself, and I am glad that I went. Conferences are always a good experience, especially for networking. I do hope to be able to make it to future conferences, but I am still praying for that position that will one day offer a professional development budget. I paid out of pocket for this conference, and it was not cheap. Thank you LITA Planning committee for choosing Atlanta for this year, otherwise, I could not have afforded to attend. I would like to visit new cities sometimes, especially out West, but I must start squirreling money away for next year :).