Sunday, June 15, 2008

SLA Seattle Diary Part 3

Opening General Session

SLA President Stephen Abram is the master of ceremonies. Awards are announced. The best article published in the last year: "How to Hire Without Regret." Leary casts his mind back and wonders if anyone was ever hired at any library while he was there "without regret." No. Not really. Leary always had "regrets," to put it mildly.

SLA has purchased carbon credits for this conference, Abram announces. Leary wrote earlier about problems with carbon credits and finds it rather absurd that so much is made of carbon credits and "green" sentiments at a conference where some 5,000 attendees are forced to jet all the way across the country to attend in person, wasting untold amounts of jet fuel, among other things. If they were serious about it all, wouldn't they just hold the conference online and save the planet a lot faster? The guilt-erasing credits wouldn't even be needed in that case, would they. Leary realizes he has an uncommon talent for posing uncomfortable, and sometimes maddening, questions.

The main event: Charlie Rose interviews Vint Cerf, "father of the internet." What about Al Gore, Rose prodded. He "deserves a lot of credit" for his advocacy of the internet through sponsoring legislation as a Senator and Vice President, Cerf says, noting also that Gore is his friend. Okay, so we have one friend praising another. Leary notices that the reaction to all this isn't as fervent as he would have expected. Exit Gore from this diary.

Mobile communication and dealing with it poses challenges. Mobile is an additional platform alongside broadband. Cert is a member of the "Geek Orthodox" religion. Yuk yuk.

Cerf worries about the consequences of most information being in digital format. Eventually it will be, since most now is digital and we are catching up with converting the old print stuff. What if we lose the necessary software to read the digital information, making it uninterpretable? We need to preserve the software to read it. People of the future might wonder what we were like because they don't have the means to read what we produced.

Information isn't power. "Information sharing is power," Cerf said. The internet will permit economies to develop and countries like Iran and China will have to accept it whether they like it or not. A democratizing agent? "I hope so."

Cerf is optimistic because the internet knows no boundaries; his fear is that it won't be as open as it has been, due to commercial, political, or social reasons.

Coda: After the session ends, Leary returns to his hotel and takes the express elevator to the top floors of the Seattle Sheraton. In yet another instance of an unexpected and unwanted "brush with greatness," somewhere along the way, Charlie Rose enters, talking with someone. Leary stands in the very back of the elevator, unnoticed by Rose who gradually backs into him closer and closer as the elevator climbs each floor. Leary and Rose apologize as Leary makes his exit, wondering if he should quickly compliment Rose on his performance but decides against it.

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