ACRL wrap-up, part 2 (point 0)

I went to a bunch of other ACRL sessions besides the ones I talked about in part 1 of my conference wrap-up. There were a few common threads that probably say as much about my own preoccupations as about the general tenor of the conference. I went to a mobile devices demonstration, which suggested using Twitter as a content management system for mobile versions of library websites, and a paper on Twitter,  which stressed Twitter’s mobile-device friendliness. I also went to a web-2.0-oriented session at which one of the findings, from a study at Ohio University, was that undergraduates, grad students, faculty, and staff all have their own distinct patterns of technology usage, and “only librarians use Twitter.” At which point all of the Twitter users in the audience (and there were lots of us) posted Twitter updates to that effect. For me, the most useful part of the session was the reminder that each institution’s patron base is a little different, and it’s important to know something about them rather than relying on generalities. Also, from the other paper in the session, that in some cases students will use Web 2.0 features on library pages only when required to. Not entirely surprising, but worth remembering.

And then there was the storytelling component of the program, in the form of the two keynotes by Sherman Alexie and Ira Glass. Ira Glass (who sat at a table with his CD players and mixing console, blending music into and out of his talk as he went along) talked about the story structure they use on This American Life: the narrative anecdote, with one thing leading to another and to another, with some suspense and an ending that satisfies the suspense, and a moment to consider the larger thought embedded in the anecdote. (You can see him talk about it on YouTube.)

Sherman Alexie spun out anecdotes of his own, but in a less linear format, with digressions sprouting here and there and looping back around to the main story; one of them involved his grandfather’s World War II service, catching the flu on a plane to Chicago, X-rated totem poles, and the Oprah Winfrey show. Both of them, but especially Ira Glass, made me wish I were teaching composition again so I could assign experimental anecdote/narrative formats and see what happened. Ira Glass’s talk also made me wonder if I could get away with anecdote-reflection-anecdote-reflection the next time I have to give a talk. It would beat PowerPoint, at the very least.

And then it was off to a really good lunch, and a last stroll around downtown Seattle, and then home. I’m looking forward to ACRL in Philly in 2011 already.

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