Conference dreaming

#LIDA2021: A preview of Libraries in the Digital Age

April 1, 2021
Clare Brown

Although library and information conferences have changed beyond recognition this past year, we can still get excited about their new look and feel. We recently had notifications about AALL, IFLA, and BIALL (watch this space), to name just a few. Location is no longer an obstacle, which means they are more affordable to attend. So why not consider some of the previously geographically outlying conferences?

This is why I am previewing - and going to - LIDA. Libraries in the Digital Age (18-21 April 2021) is 10 years old this year and will be discussing the theme of "Reshaping Identity in The Digital Age: People, Libraries, Data, Technology & Ethics". There is so much to unpack in this title but I am looking forward to what these scholarly speakers think about the fluid nature of the digital landscape.

How has COVID-19 changed the information world?

2010-2021: The LIDA journey

We live in strange times. The first LIDA conference way back in 2000 was “Positioning Libraries on the Internet and using the Internet in Libraries”. They aimed to “bring together researchers, educators, and practitioners from all over the world in a forum for personal exchanges, discussions, and learning, made easier by being held in memorable locations [on the Adriatic coast]”.

It seems apt that we will be thinking about reshaping identity from the comfort of our own office/kitchen/living room - a different kind of memorable location. After a year of not being in our libraries, offices and workplaces, have we transformed ourselves and our work? As LIDA says, though the tech aspect is important, central to this scholarly journey has been, and continues to be people, 

Today we are witnessing a shifting focus from the technology of the digital, to a focus on the humanity of the digital. Who are we in the digital landscape? How, if at all, are our identities being shaped and transformed in this landscape, and how are these shapings and transformations impacting the ongoing development of libraries in the digital age? Who is transforming what, and what is transforming who? The construct of identity and how individuals and groups come to define themselves is complex. Understanding and addressing this complexity is the theme of LIDA 2020.

They set out to ask interesting and valid research questions.

Keynotes of note

The role of the library and information professional is to be an intermediary to help our end-users to get the right information to the right person, at the right time and at the right price. Part of this role is to act as a filter, which can be a challenge when we face a deluge of information. Two of the keynotes investigate issues close to my heart, that is to say how librarians are the cure for an infodemic. 

  • Nicholas J. Belkin, “From LIDA to LAIU: Libraries in an Age of Information Ubiquity”
  • Diane Rasmussen Pennington, “Socially distanced selves, irate insurrectionists, and one linked library: Are librarians the cure for the infodemic?”

Go with an open mind

The joy of parallel sessions is in the surprises - you go because of one talk, and end up being captivated by something unexpected. For instance, I am looking forward to “Emerging Formats: understanding the impact of new publishing technologies on libraries’ collecting practices” but I know I’m going to enjoy “The role of Editor in Chiefs: the case of a LIS journal”.

Concepts with universal relevance

Vable brings together content sourced by information professionals. I’ve never really considered the implications of crowdsourcing so I’m interested in the paper on “To crowdsource or not to crowdsource: citizen science as a force of revealing historical evidence from Croatian Glagolitic manuscripts”. It’s a niche topic, but the crowdsourcing aspect has immediate relevance and application. 

Social media is the digital age

Social media - in all its guises - are represented at this conference, from Facebook communities, Twitter identities, to building an online identity. Although this last one is specific to, it is applicable to anyone creating an appropriate professional identity on social media channel;

  • Tali Gazit, “Online leadership in social media sites”
  • Deborah Hicks, “Twitter, professional values, and taking a stand: understanding core tensions in librarians’ professional identity construction”
  • Gary P. Radford, “Under the hood of benefits and concerns of creating an online scholarly identity”

Despite the pandemic, there continues to be many library and information conferences, webinars, and networking events from which to choose. If you are willing and able, go beyond your comfort zone, and attend something different - perhaps in a different jurisdiction. You might learn something new, and in return people will welcome your fresh ideas. One day I hope we can enjoy a return to LIDA in Dubrovnik/Zadar, Croatia so we can experience the sunset illustrated above!

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