Miskatonic University Press

Best Library Conference Talks of the Year 2011, with Steve Buscemi and Kate Winslet

libraries conferences theatre

Next month Adam Taves and I are doing a performance at Strange Bedfellows: IT and Reference Collaborations to Enhance User Experiences, a workshop run by RUSA, the Reference and User Services Association, the day before the huge American Library Association annual conference begins in New Orleans. It looks like the others there are a fine bunch of people and we hope it'll be a great day.

Now, what we're doing is an updated version of a staged reading we did at Access in Winnipeg in October last year: After Launching Search and Discovery, Who Is Mission Control? The audio recording, the accompanying slides, and the script for it are all available online under a Creative Commons license that allows anyone to perform the work on their own. You could perform it where you are! Or ... you could hire professional actors to do it.

The other day I was chatting with my fellow librarian Timothy Bristow, and we riffed on this and came up with an idea. Find the best conference talks of the year that are under CC licences. Get the scripts or notes, or transcribe the talk if you need to. Hire professional actors to perform the talks. Call it "Best Library Conference Talks of the Year 2011." Do it all in one day, single track, in a professional theatre with good seats and proper lighting and sound.

The talks that would benefit the most would be the ones where the content was great but the performance wasn't. Have you ever seen a talk where you knew the material was interesting but the speaker had no stage presence, spoke in a dull monotone, and sent you to sleep? Imagine if Sigourney Weaver was giving the talk! Or Michael Caine! Or — keeping our goals reasonable for the first year — some talented stage actors from whatever city the conference is in.

Even talks given by excellent speakers would probably benefit from a new staging with a new cast. I once was at an excellent talk about Blacklight by Bess Sadler, but as good as she is, I don't think she'd object if Steve Buscemi or Kate Winslet (or both) took a go at it. Roy Tennant said in 2002 that MARC Must Die, but it's still alive. Perhaps if Clint Eastwood said it, MARC really would be dead. "I know what you're thinking. 'Did he link to five URIs, or six?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kind lost track myself. But being this is a Python script, the most powerful linked data library in the world, and would ingest your data completely, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do you, punk?"

The conference in its first year would probably be heavy on scholarly communications, open access, and technology topics, three areas where speakers stand for what they believe and put their work under CC licenses. If the conference was a success, it'd drive more people to use open licenses for their talks, so that they could be considered. Everyone wins.