Tuesday, August 12, 2008

RBMS and the Future: Quo Vadis

Although I don't have any more detailed notes on sessions of the RBMS pre-conference, the issue of capturing the information has turned up on RBMS's email list (I've been a participant in the discussion). There are competing issues:

1. RBMS should use new technologies to extend the reach of the sessions, especially for those who can not afford to attend, and those who are not physically able to attend (e.g. web casts, pod casts, posting of slides, etc.)


2. If new technologies are used, will that reduce the number of attendees at RBMS (and reduce the value of getting vendors)?

Being a relatively new member (only about 3 years, although this was my first pre-conference) while I'm concerned about attendance, the librarian in me wants to share information with everyone. There are numerous people in the world (not just librarians) who could benefit from at least seeing the PowerPoint presentations (I already argued that all of them should be made available on Slideshare). It is my belief that RBMS (and the field) will grow if the group expands its reach.

Of course, a main problem is the attitude "we've never done this before." And "we have to ask ALA for permission to change anything." (Those of you who are avid readers of Michael Stephens' Tame The Web blog will recognize the problems with these attitudes.)

Although others on the RBMS e-mail list have formulated the second issue, I think it's more complex. For the last 2 years, RBMS has capped their attendance at about 300 people. Fortunately this year they expanded to 350. Next year they plan on 400. It sounds good, yet they are worried about losing people. What they have not addressed is that when you have more people in attendance, you need bigger spaces which cost more. So as the pre-conference grows, it's still going to wind up costing more (which potentially will alienate the "younger" people, or those with out money or subventions).

But my feeling is that the RBMS pre-conference has to evolve. So many of the presentations are "unnecessary" in the sense that they are "stand-and-deliver" papers. Why not foster more interactivity, more exchange? If it's just a one-way flow of information, isn't such information more appropriate to a publication or blog? (And it's sad that the group's publication, RBM, is issued on a yearly basis. We'll be seeing these June 2008 presentations in published form around May 2009 - an unbelievably long time.)

The Ephemeral Archives blog (to which I'm an infrequent contributor) has already taken notice in a post, Old School, New School? which characterizes the conflicting forces - those who wants a more open and transparent organization, and those who feel obliged to ask permission of the parent organization, ALA, before taken one step.

Fortunately, some of the presenters have posted their PowerPoint presentation to Slideshare:

Karen Calhoun (OCLC): Metadata 2.0, Glocalization, and Being Where Their Eyes Are: What's So Special About Special Collections?

Barbara Taranto (NYPL): Selection: It's Not Just About Curators Anymore

Kathleen Burns (Yale University): Blog Boot Camp: A Primer in Blogging for Special Collections Staff

So - three small steps at opening up the RBMS pre-conference and reaching a larger audience.

1 comment:

Helice Koffler said...

Thanks for your post, Bob. I had exactly the same experience in trying to establish a blog for the SAA Performing Arts Roundtable last year. "Going through proper channels" and asking permission got me nowhere (except frustration) for many months. Finally, inspired by the appearance of the "unofficial" SAA conference wiki last year, I went ahead and set up Ephemeral Archives about five minutes later. It may be "unofficial," but we're still one of the few SAA groups to have a blog at all.