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Amazingly, Home

I was too tired to dig for my camera last night, but standing in in the baggage department of SFO, musing over the arrivals board while I waited for my bag, I felt grim satisfaction as I saw “CANCELLED” in bold yellow letters next to most of the flights out of the Northeast, including the nonstop Logan-SFO flight we were originally scheduled for.

By Wednesday we had heard of a wicked storm coming eastward, so on Friday, Sandy rebooked us on an earlier two-hop flight through Dallas and on to SFO, very strategically avoiding faster flights through Chicago (I believe most of those flights were ultimately weather-cancelled, or WX CNX, as we put it in the Air Force). Before Saturday’s session I wondered if I was being too wimpy to bail out mid-morning, but felt better to see that a third of the participants had already left and that many others were quietly getting ready to get out of Dodge (if the Charles Hotel can be compared with the Wild West). My early departure meant I missed most of the session on ethics by Dan Gillmor and Jimmy, but it also meant we were safely home by 9 p.m. last night.

I have much to report, much to ask of you, gentle readers. I have been away for ten days on a trip that started as a routine ALA conference trip and ended on a journey rich and strange. Sandy and I had long planned to spend several days vacationing post-ALA, since two days of vacation is all I had left after using most of this year’s time off moving to Palo Alto last September. Sandy greatly indulged me by allowing me to spend Friday and part of Saturday at the Webcred conference.

Thursday, my lone, truly-vacation day, was a great treat–I met my three-year-old second cousins, Sandy and I explored the amazing and bizarre Gardiner museum, we had an ecstatic hour at a 70%-off sale at the Talbots on Boylston (turtleneck, wool slacks, and cardigan: $76!), and we prowled Boston in subzero temperatures before repairing to our rooms for a picnic dinner and a long conversation.

But Friday and Saturday were also vacation days for me in the truest sense of the word, because at Webcred I went somewhere new and came back changed. Like many travel writers, I was on a quest, but did not quite know what I was looking for. I observed journalists and bloggers in their native habitat; I enjoyed their colorful costumes and quaint manner of speech; I heard both L’eminence grise and fresh-faced upstarts in both communities share their thoughts, boasts, and concerns about credibility, authenticity, and trust in the online world. I sat within pea-shooting distance of Joe Trippi, two chairs down from Rick Kaplan of MSNBC, right across the table from Jill Abramson of the NYT (hearing my reports about the day’s events, Sandy said with admiration and empathy, “She had to fight to get where she is”). Yesterday morning I was comfortably wedged between Bill Mitchell of Poynter and David “Cluetrain” Weinberger. During the entire conference I kept my eyes on and occasionally contributed to a concurrent IRC channel (IRC–haven’t used that since 1993!) where a fascinating parallel discussion went on. I spoke only once, during my introduction to Bill Mitchell’s paper (I wanted to say something during Saturday’s Wikipedia session, but tempest fugit, and being stuck in a tempest was what I was trying to avoid).

I have to write three reports before tomorrow: my report as LITA Councilor (to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkle, ALA seems like a dream to me now… did we really pass a resolution commending the Dewey Decimal System?); my observations to share with the journalists and bloggers (and stray lawyers and librarians) at Webcred; and my observations to share with you, my colleagues in Libraryland elsewhere who honor me by reading this blog. I also want to report back about the LITA Top Tech Trends session–which in some ways happened more fully on this blog than it did at the actual live panel discussion–and the PLA blog, which was a partial success and a great idea, but could use more input from the body politic before it is ported to any other division.

However, the most sparkling trinket in my travel-trunk is the idea that this blog should be more personal and less formal, not simply to make it more interesting but also to honor the obligation to my readers to let them in more about who I am and what I think. This more personal approach is part of what is called transparency.

I am uncomfortable with personal revelation on two levels. One source of my discomfort is that I feel a tad shy about sharing so much of myself in a public venue. (No reality shows for me, please.) I balance that source of squeamishness with the observation that when I do talk more about my life, more people visit this blog. Is my life interesting, or do I write about it better than I write about other issues?

I’m also uncomfortable with transparency-as-virtue because I believe it can also be an excuse for solipsism. Do you really need to know about how excited I was to buy a red turtleneck at Talbot’s for only $10, or that I live with someone who knows her cross-country travel routes, to appreciate my insights about the ALA resolution on the Salinas library crisis? If so, why does it help you to know this about me? Is this an intergenerational mystery I am but barely privy to, one I honor out of instinct but not understanding? Is it good here, on this blog, even though it would not be right in our organizational setting (it’s worthy of a New Yorker cartoon to picture a librarian saying to a confused user, “And another thing about what *I* think…”)?

Then there is the truth, the bald grinning truth, that what I really want to do today (just two days before the semester begins and I am plunged into the exhausting work-school cycle) is set up the Treo 650 that arrived while I was away and now in its silvery handsome splendor sits on our coffee-table, whispering “Forget about all those reports and set me up! Come on, you know you want it!” Oh, baby, do I!

Thanks to those who made it possible for me to attend Webcred; thanks to all of you who read this blog, whether occasionally or religiously; thanks to all of you who contribute comments, on the blog or in private conversation; thanks to all who think and care and worry and love about matters of great import, whether blogging or journalism or librarianship or the price of turtlenecks. ‘Tis a marvelous, grand, magical world we live in, and I’ll work harder to do justice to it. Expect an announcement about changes on this blog this week. After three years of literary funk, I think I got my groove back.

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