I got back from Columbus, OH yesterday. Truthfully, I only saw Columbus from a distance, I was actually in Dublin, OH which is in the northwest corner. It was a very interesting meeting and I learned a lot.
Anyway, I left Sunday around noon to drive up there and arrived at the hotel around 3:45pm. I got caught in some traffic on I-75 just south of Cincinnati. Apparently we've already started the highway construction to expand and repave everything before the International Equestrian Games come here in 2010.
Moving on ... I registered and got my "Observer" name badge and attended the first General Session at 5pm that evening. I could tell right away that this meeting was different from anything I had ever been to previously. The delegates (elected individuals from the regional and national network providers) all had assigned tables to sit at and each had name placards on the tables to identify them to those around them. Also, the President and CEO of OCLC was in attendance for the entire 3 day meeting!! That was impressive. The opening session was kind of a welcome, introductions, special recognitions, and some words about the rest of the conference. However, we also participated in an activity during which those of us in the audience were also assigned to tables so we could participate in the small group discussions with the delegates. My table had to discuss the values of OCLC: what should they be, basically. I discovered that the level of conversation at this meeting was at a much higher plane than I was used to thinking.
The most interesting point, I thought, that came out of my group's discussion was that we should not be in the business of keeping OCLC in business. In other words, as long as OCLC is providing us with the products we need then they'll automatically stay in business. They should be focusing on assisting us with our needs and not just be trying to make a profit. It sounds a little weird and I know a lot of business people would say that this is totally wrong, but when you're dealing with non-profits, that actually does make sense.
The dinner that night after the discussion was awesome. They definitely feed their delegates well at this meeting. I found myself at a table with several people from OCLC Western (several western US States), one person from OCLC Asia, a new VP hire at OCLC but someone who's writing I know well (Karen Calhoun), and a few other individuals. I also discovered that I was attending a conference of mostly library directors/deans or other high administrative types.
Monday morning started bright and early. We were bussed to OCLC's Conference Center on their campus for the day. We had an opening General Session where two researchers (one, again, I knew through his writings) gave presentations on the directions OCLC is looking at for the future development of their products.
Next were Interest Group meetings. I attended the Cataloging and Metadata group, which is completely packed!! It was very interesting. Karen Calhoun did a presentation on the future of bibliographic control which somewhat repeated some things in a recent report she wrote for the Library of Congress and which she talked about when she was invited to speak at UK about a year ago. There were a few new things, but I was still disappointed that she thinks there is no need for some of the things I do in my job on a daily basis. We also heard from two other OCLC employees on the issues of "next generation" cataloging and quality control.
Before lunch we heard from the President who gave an update on the state of things currently at OCLC. He also entertained questions for a little while. He's a very interesting man. I actually met him last summer and he seemed brisk and direct then, which was a little off-putting when just three of us were speaking with him. In front of a large group his demeanor actually works well for him.
Lunch was great and I was amazed at how much I learned just sitting and listening to a group of academic library directors talk about their experiences.
Our next general session dealt with the product worldcat.org. I know what this is and thought I knew what directions they were moving with this, but apparently there is a lot more to it than I knew. I am used to hearing OCLC talk about their current products and projects and what changes are expected in some of them, but this talk about some future developments was new. I also felt a slight difference in how they presented at this meeting from others I've heard. There was less of the "sales pitch" at this meeting and more of the "looking-for-approval" type talk. I guess this is the meeting where a product could get the ax if necessary.
There were also library group discussions (I went to the academic librarians group) which was just more of the values discussion.
The final general session of the day was a lot of business stuff, but then we got a presentation from the VP of the Americas and Global Vice President, Marketing. (Isn't that a cool title: VP of the Americas?). Her presentation was about an upcoming publication. She gave us some stats and shared some of what would be in the report. I'm looking forward to reading it now.
Tuesday also started fairly early and we started the morning with a presentation on Institutional Repositories. I have heard so many positive things about IRs that it was amazing to hear a presentation from a company that has their own IR software discuss why IRs don't work and all the negative sides of it. Maybe it was a marketing gimmick, because I could see why their product would actually offer more benefits than other IR software out there, despite the negatives of trying to create an IR. At least with theirs it can be in a shared database rather than everyone doing their own.
Later that morning this issue came up again during the presentations at the second Cataloging and Metadata Interest Group Discussion. I learned a lot at this session that will actually be of benefit for some projects that we need to be working on here at UK that involves my unit. So that was a good thing.
The meeting ended with a business meeting that was interesting to observe. I left right after that, but there were other things for the delegates to participate in. I didn't need to stay for that stuff though.
One of the interesting things about this was talking to a variety of people. I met the director of the public library system for Sacramento, Calif. (she has 27 libraries), I talked with the National Librarian of South Africa, I met the library director of the University of Hong Kong, I talked with people from London, Germany, and the Netherlands. I also struck up several conversations with a gentleman who was from one of the network providers (he was sitting where I was sitting instead of with the delegates), and I spoke with a guy from Rwanda. The number of accents floating around the room was quite amazing.
It was an interesting meeting and I learned a lot. I wouldn't mind going again if I had a reason to. They meet again in October, which I obviously can't go then, and then again in February. After that I'm no longer on the MOUG Board, so they wouldn't necessarily want to send me, but who knows. I may volunteer to be willing to go if they need someone to, even if I'm not on the Board.
I'm happy to be home and not traveling again until June. And my June travel will not be for work!! Yeah!! Hope everyone is doing well and I will be catching up with email and so forth again very soon. (I was disappointed that in neither hotel the past several days was I able to get Internet!) Bear with me and I'll get to any emails I need to answer very soon.