Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Gazing Upon Our Electronic Navels

What a long, tedious conference it has been! At this point I’ve been to so many ALA conferences that they all start to blend together. When wandering the exhibit floor I lost time and can’t remember I’m there to check out some new database interface or investigate this newfangled technology I heard about called “microfilm.”

In olden days when sitting in presentations, we unfortunates would at least have to pretend to pay attention. It was, and is, considered rude to pull out a book and start reading, though we could probably get away with some surreptitious knitting.

Fortunately, those days are over. Well, we still can’t pull out a paper book and start reading, but so far from seeming rude, it’s considered de rigueur for librarians to ignore actual presentations and focus on their various devices.

This story captures the zeitgeist well: ALA Annual Explodes with Social Media.  For those non-attendees amongst you, no need to worry. ALA Annual didn’t literally explode. That might have been a fun time, though.

Supposedly, the livebloggers and tweeters and Facebookers and lord knows what else are writing about the conference, but I’m not so sure.

Amazingly, more and more presentations are projecting tweets about a program on the screen during the program, so that people will be able to see all the irrelevant natterings of the bored audience members in real time.

Or we get just the random tweets projected to everyone at the conference. Thus, we get tweets like this: “Yay! I see myself on the huge monitors displaying tweets from #ala10.” I still stand by my claim that Twitter is mostly a wasteland of vacuity and narcissism.

Some might think I’m complaining, but really I’m not. In fact, all the vacuity and narcissism makes it easier for me to ignore my surroundings as well, and that’s usually a good thing.

I’m always having to go to programs I really don’t want to attend just to show my face. A committee I’m on planned it, or a friend is speaking on the otherwise boring panel, or a section I’m in is sponsoring it. In the past, I would have sat politely through it, staring into space and trying to remember when my dinner reservations were.

Now, I can just whip out a computer or a mobile phone and pretend to be sharing my inane insights about the program with the world, while I’m really rereading the Mapp and Lucia novels I loaded onto my phone before conference. (Thank you, Gutenberg Australia!)

Thus, I join in the inevitable frivolity that ensues whenever 300 people sit together in a room all gazing at their electronic navels. It’s a good feeling. Thus, I can’t report more about ALA, because I joined the crowd and focused all my attention on my favorite subject: me.



  1. Real Librarian says:

    I wish that anybody who attends the ALA conference is forbidden to blog about it.


  2. A Jaded Librarian says:

    I wish that people would stop attending the ALA conference. Period.

  3. Real Librarian says:

    Being annoyed is one of the problems librarians have.

    They are, in a large part, a bunch of passive-aggressive types who sit around and bitch and moan about how everything is horrible.

    They don’t do anything to proffer a solution, if it were accepted they couldn’t complain about it. They would much rather sit around and complain/blog about how terrible things are and the solutions the man is offering are just bad.

    Next time you feel like blogging about something horribly wrong in the library field, go slam down a couple of dozen martinis and go pass out so we don’t have to hear what you have to say.

    [AL: the sad thing for you is that you don’t in fact have to read this blog. Obsession can be overwhelming, I imagine. ]

  4. Agreed. People should be restricted from being able to fiddle with their devices during a presentation. If pulling out a book to read is rude, so should be reading the NYT or updating your FB during the presentation on your mobile device. You are still being rude to the presenters. Then again, I guess etiquette and common manners are something lost on twopointopians. If anything, I am always happy when ALA conference season is over, which means I am no longer exposed to inane blog posts about someone’s schedule, their Twitterings about being on X or Y session, or how they got to play DDR.

    As someone else suggested here: better yet, maybe we can get people to stop attending ALA Conference anyhow. It’s not like you are really missing anything.

  5. Real Librarian says:

    The last time I gave a presentation, I tossed out a couple of people who were “distracted”.

    If you want to hear me, fine; shut up, sit down, and pay attention.

    I will send you a tweet later if all you can understand is 150 words at a time.

  6. A Jaded Librarian says:

    Sounds to me like ‘Real Librarian” is, in fact, a real librarian, one that perpetuates the librarian stereotype as old, inflexible, and has a love for “shhhhhhh!”

  7. Entertained Lib says:

    Last conference I went to most of the sessions included tables. I was able to comfortably read my Kindle while “attending” the session. More entertaining than many of the sessions.

  8. Wow, harsh reality out there! I am still trying to figure out what percentage of the public and school professional world can afford gadgettopia, as “twopointtopians”. Most people I know are still in cheapest cellphone deal mode, pc’s or laptops. I haven’t figured out how to afford the ALA Conference yet either! I do try to drop into local Midwinters and do the low dollar or sponsored events.
    Did we go from publish or perish to see or be seen to tweet and be tweeted? Have we already gone from the renaissance of intellect to the blithering of e-mob narcissism? Let’s support our profession and model focued attention by sharing only that to which it is important to attend.

  9. Paul Celan says:

    I totally agree with Real Librarian. As far as I’m concerned, people doing anything other than looking directly and quietly at the presenter during a presentation is the height of rudeness, and represents all that is wrong not with modern technology but with modern people….

  10. ‘Real Librarian’ needs to find a new target. As is the mantra – if you don’t want to read something, don’t. Go elsewhere.

    The use of current technologies IS the death of civil — ization.

  11. Real Librarian says:

    Yeah, and I have a bun in my hair too.

    Rude is rude.

  12. Gruntled Librarian says:

    Conference sessions I’d like to see: 1) Dealing with your Machiavellian colleague(s); 2) What to do when your provost/VPAA/city council wonders why you’re still there; 3) Bullying: how to cope. These, at least, are real-world topics.

  13. Mr. Kat says:

    My FIELD agrees as well – if you’re looking at a cell phone during a presentation [we call them briefings] you’re being rude. And here we can give you all sorts of fun punishments for it, depending on what KIND of rude the highest person decides it constitutes!!!

  14. Real Librarian says:

    Irony goes over the AL’s head.

    Could be the martinis and the conference rush one gets.

  15. annoying librarian says:

    “If you want to hear me, fine; shut up, sit down, and pay attention.”

    Are we allowed to take notes? Must we use parchment and a quill pen?

  16. I just wonder why we’re still acting like every new app is the Rapture and we’re floating on that electrical current up to heaven. I mean, jeez. It’s a tool we use at work, and a toy we play with at home. Do we have seminars on how to do TiVo? Do carpenters gush about how a new wrench with a really heavy handle is going to render hammers obsolete?

  17. I Like Books says:

    In case you missed it, according to a blurb on NPR, the librarians at the conference “retained their spectacles but shed their dignity” as they raced book carts around. The winning team had dressed up their book carts and themselves as zombies.

  18. Totally agreed with you. Sounds like real librarian.

  19. I also wish that people would stop attending the ALA conference.

  20. “More entertaining than many of the sessions.”

    You’re not there to be entertained. You’re there to learn something useful and bring it back to your library.

    Not that this actually happens at ALA. But librarians are good at pretending.

  21. RE: Library Cart Drill Team

    The champs are from my “esteemed” university! (Pitt.) I’m so proud of them.

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