"If you want to see where the genealogy field will be in five years, look at what the library field is doing today." --Me
I get a lot of raised eyebrows and blank stares when I say this. Some people are even offended. I stand by it, however, because this has been my observation as I straddle both worlds.
Genealogists deal in information and research. They want the highest quality, the most current and the most accurate stuff. Guess what? The library field does, too. We all have the same interests and value the same things.
The difference is that both fields incorporate new ideas at different speeds. The issues the library field is talking about right now are what the genealogy field will be talking about down the road. That's not an insult, just an observation.
One of the issues where I've noticed different speeds is conference planning. Trends are changing overall, but they haven't trickled down to the genealogy world yet.
Recently I read a piece that mirrored my current feelings about genealogy conferences. I've grown tired of the standard lecture session format, many of the same subjects covered over and over again, and those horrible connected convention center chairs.
A Conference Manifesto was written by Mary Ellen Bates, one of the premier names in the information world. She speaks of the recent demise of a large conference (Online Information) and the changing ways in which we seek learning experiences. She comments:
"The traditional conference is going away, because it is no longer serving its purpose. We are no longer willing to shuffle zombie-like from one conference session to the next, passively listening to speakers talk about what they know."
Do you feel this way? I'm honestly and sincerely saying that I do. You might not, and that's ok. Keep in mind though that as the library world goes, eventually so will the genealogy world. It's only a matter of time before you tire of the zombie-like shuffle.
Many of Bates' points are spot-on and too important for the genealogy community to ignore. "How can a conference be relevant when its topics were set a year and a half ago?" Even in genealogy where we're used to looking backwards, developments are happening at a rapid pace, but scheduling is not. "Expect more from your speakers." Yes, yes and yes.
My blog post is now at the point where people are forming their rebuttals in their heads. I know conference planning is harder than it looks. The sit-and-stare-at-a-speaker format is still widely accepted and expected. If that's what the registrants desire--and you're sure of it--then by all means keep at it as you see fit. But you better be sure you know what people want because once they stop attending your conference, it's very difficult to get them back.
However, as you can see from Bates' article, the library world is getting tired of this conference format right now. At some point, genealogists will also be weary of this traditional style. The clock has started, conference planners. Be ready when it happens.