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Egg on my Face

In my mind, the ASERL spring conference–which I volunteered myself for, in order that Dr. Summers wouldn’t have to drag himself several states away shortly before he hangs up his ballet shoes for the last time–would be an exercise in goodolboyism. ASERL: Association of Southeastern Research Libraries. South. Backwards. Etc. Library directors in three-piece suits a la Colonel Sanders lolling in rocking chairs spouting aphorisms, while creaky old maids in frilled high-neck blouses extolled the Good Old Days when men were men and metadata knew its place in the world.

Instead it was a conference so good, so deliciously au courant, that–in the words of our very-goodolboy electrician back home–it made me wanna slap my mama. (Sorry, Mom.) During a discussion about learning commons, directors practically clubbed one another out of the way to discuss how they made their libraries more engaging, flexible, and interactive. A presentation about the pros and cons of open source had directors pondering out loud about ROI and librarian-sustained development. And a “phoner” with Brewster Kahle of the Open Content Alliance practically brought librarians to their feet. All Power to the Networked Book!

Then two gentlemen escorted me to dinner at a lovely French cafe, where I devoured pitch-perfect pommes frites and mussels while the gents traversed the world of LibraryLand and far, far beyond. Our dinner discussion ranged from John McPhee to Hugh Atkinson, from Appilachicola oysters to German restaurants in St. Louis. It was a discussion as elegant and yet as forward-thinking as any I could have with my usual suspects. Several times I had to bite back my tongue from saying, “You dudes get it!”

(Note: a mussel, when perfectly cooked, is neither chewy nor mealy; it stands on the fork like a semicolon, firm but yielding, ready to be nipped in half by hungry teeth. The mussels were perfect, one by perfect one, each one a mouthful of garlicky aquatic essence; and my only regret was I was too shy with my dinner guests to drink the broth.)

Over dessert (lacy little crepes floating in a slightly-oversweet orange sauce), we had a spirited discussion about institutional repositories, then walked back leaning into a stiff spring breeze, suitably full of ourselves and the world.

This conference ain’t done yet, and I’ve got scads of conblogging to post, but I’m penitant. Stereotypes are for weenies. Rock on, you wild and crazy Southern research library directors!

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