The city of Brotherly Love. The birthplace of the United States. What
better location for the 2002 annual meeting of the American Society
for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), an organization
that values community, free speech, and information science research?
I will attempt
to give you a taste of what it was like, through the eyes of six of
the 10 or so iSchool students (by far the largest student contingent
of any university at the annual meeting) who braved the jet lag, surly
customer service, and mid-November weather to experience the adventure
of the ASIS&T 2002 annual meeting. Our panel includes:
- Steve McCann
- Maria Ovalles
(MLIS Day), recipient of the ASIS&T student chapter Annual Meeting
- Kim Prater
- Kari Holland,
- Elaine Chu
- myself, Aaron
Louie (MLIS Day).
Most of us felt
that the best part of going to the ASIS&T Annual Meeting was the
camaraderie we shared with the other students we met at the conference.
We had plenty of opportunities to socialize, both during the official
conference events and during off-hours. We spent several evenings exploring
Philadelphia's tourist sites, pubs, restaurants, and clubs with our
enjoyed hearing from other students about their programs, which often
seemed too focused on either libraries or information technology - but
not both. "It renewed my appreciation for what the iSchool is trying
to do in building an interdisciplinary faculty and set of programs,
and made me more aware of how challenging that can be," she said.
opportunities presented themselves constantly as we rubbed shoulders
with the LIS world's celebrities - including Marcia Bates, Eugene Garfield,
and Michael Buckland - and faculty and professionals from across the
globe. Copious social events, like the Newcomer's Reception, International
Reception, Student Reception, President's Reception, and the Awards
Banquet allowed us to interact with these people in an informal setting.
Our dean, Mike Eisenberg, also took a group of us to the Syracuse University
alumni reception, where we were treated to food, drinks, and good conversation
with a sizable group of faculty and students from Mike's alma mater.
The next most popular,
and probably the most well-attended, aspect of the annual meeting was
SIG/CON, the meeting of a special interest group whose mission is to
lampoon the whole conference by presenting bogus research for pure entertainment.
This year's theme was "Just-In-Time Research" and featured
abstract generation via Mad Libs (we managed to contribute "fondle"
and "cross-pollinate", among others) and psychic query prediction.
Our very own Joe Janes happens to be SIG/CON's most frequent and revered
presenter, and this year he did not disappoint, presenting on the efficacy
of such novel searching methods as throwing darts at a map of the Internet
while drunk and using dowsing rods.
Oh yes, of course,
there were also the serious presentations, which made up the bulk of
the actual conference. Kari liked the "mix of the academic and
the more pragmatic, professional presentations." The events that
garnered the most raves amongst our panelists were:
- David Snowden's
plenary session on the importance of trust, narrative, and multiple
perspectives in knowledge management
- Marcia Bates,
Michael Buckland and Anne Gilliland-Swetland's, presentations on "Conceptions
of Information as Evidence,"
- Frumkin, Bailey-Hainer,
Staples, and Calarco's presentations on open source software in digital
- Lee Strickland
and Thomas Blanton's plenary session on openness, privacy, and national
the quality of the presentations was nearly impossible to predict. Any
talk that sounded interesting had the potential to be anything but.
One panelist told me, off the record, that "some of the presentations
were not as academic or research-oriented as I expected. And to be honest,
some were boring, despite their interesting titles." Choosing good
presentations became an art, and Kim suggested jumping between the many
concurrent sessions to select the best one.
Kari, Kim, and
I all volunteered to be session monitors for the conference. As a result,
our admission fees were waived, but we had no control over which sessions
we were assigned. This meant that we had to miss some of the presentations
we wanted to see. However, there was a serendipitous aspect to the random
assignment of sessions....
Then there was
Philadelphia. The weather was blustery much of the time, but we took
that in stride. What bothered many of us was the preponderance of second-hand
smoke in nearly every public place we went. The locals, especially those
in customer service, were often brusque, rude, or unresponsive, but
I chalk that up to cultural differences, to which we eventually acclimated.
annoying aspect of the trip was a general lack of energy. This was due
to jet lag, sleep deprivation, and not having enough time to do everything.
Elaine explained, "There's a lot going on and if you try to participate
in it all, you get very little sleep." Kari would have liked more
time to go swimming in the hotel's pool. Steve found it difficult to
catch up on course work before and after the conference. Time management
and afternoon naps became essential elements of survival as the conference
Given these pitfalls,
what do our panelists suggest for those attending next year? Maria advocates
arriving a day or two before the conference in order to get acquainted
with the city, the hotel, and the event space. She and most of the others
also suggest reading up on all the sessions to be as educated as possible
on what will be presented.
In general, it's
good to be prepared. Don't forget to bring business cards and at least
eight copies of your resume - you'll have many opportunities to share
them, both with individuals you meet and at the job placement center.
And don't forget to arrange with your professors ahead of time for assignments
and classes you may miss while you're away.
You can also save
money by planning ahead. Steve got a great deal on his hotel room through
Priceline.com, Maria got a scholarship through the ASIS&T UW Student
Chapter, and Elaine, Kim, and I saved by splitting a room. Kim believes
there are other benefits to having roommates at the conference. She
notes, "I would have spent more time watching cable TV and less
time sightseeing, networking, and chatting into the wee hours without
my great roomies."
Elaine and Kari
suggest asking veteran conference-attendees for their advice, both before
and at the conference. Kari advises, "Do not be afraid to ask questions
at presentations. The presenters like talking about their work and the
best presentations are the ones with the most discussions." There
are other perks of getting acquainted with faculty members and professionals
at the conference. We all managed to find tickets to the Awards Banquet
(normally $60) by asking around.
The last bit of
advice we'll leave you with: Go! You'll learn a lot about future job
opportunities, explore new research and technologies in the field, and
meet some really interesting people. You'll arrive home exhausted, behind
in your schoolwork, and $600 poorer, but the benefits of attending the
ASIS&T Annual Meeting, according to our panelists, are definitely
worth it. See you in Long Beach, CA, next year!