Last Thursday and Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Conference virtually. They had a full virtual conference track with 6 programs each day. Since the sessions were all held on EST, I was doubly thankful to have the flexibility to attend from home - Friday morning I rolled out of bed at 5:45, grabbed some coffee, and logged on for a 6AM session.
In general, the sessions I attended went off without a hitch. Any technical difficulties were minor and were mostly on the side of the attendees - some people had multiple windows open, or didn't have their volume up, etc. As an aside, I wish my fellow virtual attendees would take a little ownership of troubleshooting their own problems instead of complaining via chat - but as I said, the problems were all minor and easily solved.
I'm just going to hit what I felt were the highlights of the virtual conference for me - here are my complete notes if anyone's interested.
The session on Personal Branding didn't really tell me anything I didn't know already, but I liked their emphasis on taking control of what people will find about you online - because you will be googled. They also talked about maintaining a consistent professional presence online. That resonated with me since I have a gazillion online profiles. While I do search myself every now and then, this presentation has inspired me to take an inventory, delete obsolete profiles, and gather them all in one place - this blog, naturally (stay tuned for changes!). They also spoke a little to people's privacy concerns about being online and whether to have separate personal and professional profiles (such as on Facebook). My personal view on this is that nothing on the Internet is ever truly private - if you post something online, it will be found - mostly likely by the person you didn't want to see it. My philosophy is that, if I don't want my co-workers or supervisor to see something online, maybe I should rethink putting it up there in the first place.
I really enjoyed Depending on our Users and hearing about the Research Center at the University of Denver library - it sounds like a great service to provide, and I know I wasn't alone in wanting to try it at my library.
That Friday morning program was on project management, one of my favorite topics! I particularly liked Barbara's emphasis on how important it is to have a defined scope for a project, and a deadline, to avoid "project creep." That phrase will be entering my daily lexicon, I'm sure. She also said that "every project is worthy of being well-managed" - I completely agree! She talked about a variety of tools, but focused mostly on Basecamp.
My favorite program of the conference was Listening to Users - the presenters, Meg and Lis, did a fantastic job! Not only was their topic interesting, they also modeled perfect virtual presentation technique - they were well-prepared, smoothly handled transitions between speakers, engaged the virtual audience, and weren't boring! I will definitely be following their example when planning any future presentations. Aside from that, I felt they had a lot of great suggestions for gathering feedback from our patrons - the virtual and physical suggestion boxes, responding to suggestions, using a magnetic whiteboard, eliminating librarian-speak from the library website (including database descriptions! Amen!), and using mystery shoppers to evaluate customer service. I'm definitely bringing much of their advice to our marketing team for consideration.
As an additional benefit of registering for the virtual conference, I'll also have access to all the archived slidecasts of the rest of the conference programs. I'm looking forward to watching those that peaked my interest from the #acrl2011 twitter feed!