This conference tends to be a highlight for me on an annual basis but like all events that you attend over and over, the energy and impact varies with some years being more about the brain food and others more about the socializing (or the politics). And of course my perspective from year to year has as much to do with where I am in my life and career as the nature of the conference itself–although as the event has matured the degree of competence and professionalism of its (completely unpaid!) conference planners has risen dramatically. (I like to think that we IA’s learn from our mistakes along with having boatloads of good ideas.) This year’s planners, Crystal Kubitsky, Giles Colborne & Kevin M. Hoffman outdid themselves and deserve a standing ovation.
The thing I loved best about this year’s event was how rich the IA content within the program proved to be. Over the past several years there has been a broadening of scope that I think has been positive in terms of making a larger tent and attracting people who were on the periphery but who should be in the thick of it, but the past few years sometimes left me (and others) feeling like “where is the IA at the IA summit?!” (And this is not to point fingers–I think in many ways this issue got its foothold in the summit I co-chaired*.)
Having been born there, I’m technically a Baltimore native, but we moved to Wisconsin when I was 6 or 7 and I lived in the land of dairy and progressives (well, they were famous for that before I was born), through college–so I’m inclined to say I’m “from” Wisconsin. That said, I have many lovely relatives in Maryland and the conference location afforded Niles and I the opportunity to spend nearly a week cavorting with a cadre of aunties and cousins and friends we see far too rarely. Subsequently I went into the conference in a sunny frame of mind (despite unseasonably cool weather).
It’s going to take more than one post to summarize the wonderfulness that was the conference–and I’m going to need to listen to a bunch of podcasts since there were many sessions I wasn’t able to attend. I will be sure to post the link to the podcasts here as soon as it is available. In future posts I’ll definitely comment on some of the interesting and insightful sessions I attended but my first shoutout goes to Karen McGrane’s closing keynote, which was truly masterful. (Slides here.)
I’ve seen Karen speak several times before and have found her an engaging and intelligent speaker drawing on rich experience but this talk had a different flavor to it–it just felt like she’s kicked it up a notch and has moved into a new plane. There were certainly points I might disagree with or not see from exactly the same perspective, but it feels nit-picky to quibble when the end product was the perfect balance of the kind of critique/constructive criticism of the profession/discipline we’ve come to expect from our closing speakers coupled with an uplifting, energizing quality that left me inspired to go back to my office and Be/Do BETTER.
In my next post I’ll talk about the 3 points in her talk I found the most compelling.
*I knew that chairing the event would be a lot of work, but much like parenthood you really don’t know just how hard it will be until you do it. Subsequently I have made a rule for myself of refusing to complain about “the small stuff” at the summit, not because it doesn’t matter but because being the chair is just so thankless. (And due to the happy accident of an early baby, I didn’t have to take the heat in Memphis, so I was spared more than probably any other chair in summit history.) This year’s chairs, however, raised the bar on attention to detail to a level where I suspect next year’s great lineup of chairs are probably already sweating a bit!