After long silence ..

Speech after long silence ...

... I haven't posted for a while. I have been on a trip each week for the last nine weeks or so, a schedule I don't plan to sustain ;-)

This travel heavy period prompts a more personal reflection than usual, about trips and talks, which is really a prolonged prelude to the final paragraph.

Some trips? I don't tend to go to large commercial conferences, although I was at Computers in Libraries. I was very pleased to be invited to speak to the Orbis Cascade Alliance retreat in Seattle and a meeting of the Tri-College Consortium in Bryn Mawr. Interaction in these more intimate settings is usually informative about current issues and preoccupations. The Taiga Forum was different, but again offered some sustained discussion around a particular set of issues. Individual library visits also are very useful for me, as I do not work in a library, and I was pleased to talk to staff at the University of Illinois at Springfield who were marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Brookens Library.

Business travel, as we know, has its ups and downs. Ups are good. As when Library Dean Jane Treadwell stopped so that we could visit Lincoln's tomb en route to the airport in Springfield. Or when I realised that the Bryn Mawr grounds I wandered around before breakfast where shaped by the same hands - those of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted - as Central Park which I had been wandering around the week before.

Talks too are variable. My own tend to fall into two categories. The first is descriptive, where I describe work we are doing or have done. The CIL presentation [ppt] fell into this category, as I introduced some Web 2.0 themes by way of examples based on our current work. I find these talks easier to prepare, and they are more 'finished' as the effort goes into the presentation not into thinking of what to say. The second is speculative or exploratory. I gave several versions of the talk I did in Seattle [ppt]; these fall into this category. These take longer, because they are useful occasions for working through various things in my own mind. However, this means that occasionally they are not quite 'finished', as they represent a stage in thinking about things. I suffer from (at least ;-) two disadvantages. First, I don't like doing the same talk twice; my limited sources of adrenaline get used up on the first iteration. And second, I find it hard not to think of myself as the audience and pitch the presentation accordingly. Of course, the second is related to the first: I do not want to hear the same talk twice.

What have I been talking about? Some or all of the following. Libraries and web 2.0. The ways in which the changing environment of research, learning and information use might change how libraries think about their services. Moving services to the network level. The long tail. And making data work harder in engaging services.

Interestingly, what has consistently swum to the surface are questions about the future of the catalog. Or maybe, more specifically, questions about how the catalog discovery experience is lifted out of the integrated library system and re-embedded in the multiple environments, workflows and fulfilment chains that make up our network world. More of that later.

Anyway, to the point. As a preservative measure ;-) I am noting here that I will be declining most new speaking requests for the rest of the year. Unless, of course, we are already in discussion about something. I need to spend more time at work and more time at home!

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