Annual Conference

Highlights from the LILRC 20th Annual Conference on Libraries and the Future

by: Chris Kretz, Dowling College Library, LILRC Annual Conference Committee Chair

LILRC’s Annual Conference on Libraries and the Future reached a milestone last October: twenty years of bringing engaging and thought-provoking speakers to Long Island to discuss the challenges and opportunities looming just over the horizon.  This year’s conference, held at Dowling College on October 27th and 28th, opened with the theme Extinction is Not an Option: Ensuring OUR Future. And for two days, over a hundred attendees from all across the library spectrum were able to hear four speakers elaborating on that theme.

As with most years, the event started off with a Thursday night dinner at Dowling College, filled with fine food and good conversation.  The after dinner speaker was Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF).  In a fascinating talk, he outlined the history of comic books in America, from their explosion onto newsstands in the 1930s to their rising popularity through the war years, to the outrage they inspired from psychologists and the US Congress in the 1950s. Charles detailed how comics eventually evolved to an accepted artistic medium that tackles all manner of issues, many meant for an adult audience. The CBLDF, founded in 1990, works to defend the first amendment rights of comics creators and retailers. They also aid librarians in dealing with challenges to comics in the collection. Charles’ presentation was a valuable lesson in what took place before the presence of comics on library shelves became common place.

The Conference moved into full swing on Friday morning with the first speaker, James G. Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian of Columbia College. In his talk, Virtuality-Virtuosity-Virtousness: Radicalizing the Library for Future, he documented the changing roles of the library and highlighted a number of trends effecting their development. Among other things, James called for radical collaboration between libraries and outside partners; whether they be corporate, cultural, state or national organizations. He also summed up the theme of the conference in one slide, asking: are libraries a phyletic species (evolving into something new) or a terminal species, marked for….well, termination.

The second speaker, Zeth Lietzau, picked up where James left off with his presentation, Evolving with Techology. Zeth is the Manager of the Web Information Services and Community Technology Center at the Denver Public Library. The first half of his talk went into detail on a study he had taken part in at the Library Research Service: U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies. In a data-rich presentation, he detailed public library uses of technologies ranging from social media to mobile platforms, revealing details about who were the early adopters, the level of staffing and expenditures involved, and more. He finished with a description of the Community Technology Center at the Denver Public Library where they provide patrons with a range of computer resources and training opportunities.

Eli Neiburger, Associate Director, IT and Production at the Ann Arbor District Library brought the day to a rousing conclusion with his talk: Libraries in this Century: What to do Now, What to do Later. Although laced with humor, he grounded the problem in reality. Comparing the circulating collection to outmoded technologies that once thrived (think CDs and ice houses), Eli encouraged libraries to look for new value. He reinforced the idea of developing collaborations and saw the greatest opportunities in focusing on what is unique in each community. As he concluded, “The 20th century library brought the world to its community. The 21st century library will bring its community to the world.”

LILRC’s Regional Digitization Program was also celebrating an anniversary (its tenth) at this year’s conference. Regional Archivist, Virginia Antonucci-Gibbons, presented an overview of the program and demonstrated the rich historical resources housed in the Long Island Memories collection. This collaborative project makes the materials from libraries and historical societies Island-wide available online.

The Conference concluded with the traditional poster session. Attendees were able to enjoy dessert while talking with Mercedes Youman (pictured below) as she presented her research into Information Seeking Behaviors of Nurses Using ASHR in Schools and Health Informatics and Information Seeking Behavior of Health Care Practitioners.

Conference Sponsors: Baldessari & Coster LLP, EBSCO Publishing, EnvisionWare, Gale Cengage Learning, Long Island University, Palmer School of Library & Information Science, Nassau County Library Association, and the Suffolk County Library Association.

Visit the the LILRC 21st Annual Conference post at: for additional conference materials including speaker presentations, audio and more.


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