I spent all day Saturday at the 2007 annual conference of the American Library Association held at the Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, D.C. As a genealogist wandering around a library convention, I found it to be an interesting experience. Many libraries with significant genealogy departments sent representatives to this conference, and several genealogy exhibitors were ready for them.
First of all, the conference was huge! I am not sure of the attendance figures, but I saw many thousands of people wandering around on the one day I was there. (It is a seven-day conference.) The exhibitors' hall was about the size of an aircraft hanger and was busy all the time. I saw a number of genealogy-related firms in the exhibitors' hall, and I snapped a few pictures that you can see at http://blog.eogn.com/photos/ala2007.
NewsBank, the parent company of GenealogyBank, was there with a big exhibit. ProQuest also had a large display and made a couple of announcements of interest to genealogists at the show that I published earlier in this newsletter. Ancestry Publishing, part of The Generations Network/Ancestry.com, had an exhibit as well.
I spent several hours Saturday at the Footnote.com exhibit. The company was there promoting the new "Institutional Subscription" aimed at libraries, schools, and other organizations that wish to provide Footnote.com's services to patrons.
Footnote.com also informally told present subscribers about a re-designed search engine for the site that is currently under development. User feedback showed a desire for a more robust search engineh. Therefore, the site's programmers are developing a new search engine that they believe will impress everyone. It won't be available for a few months yet, but the developers are quite confident that users will like the power and flexibility of the new search engine.
I also slipped out of the conference for a couple of hours to attend the Footnote.com users' group meeting. The meeting was held a few blocks away at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration's building on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Perhaps the coolest exhibit at the convention for any gadget freak was the Kirtas Technologies book scanner, which can scan up to 2400 pages per hour. Yes, that device scans one page every one and a third seconds. Place a book into the device, press a button or two, and then walk away. You can return a few minutes later to find the entire book has been scanned and the data stored on the attached Windows PC.
Robotic mechanical arms in the APT BookScan 1200 turn the book pages without damage. While I was impressed with the speed, I also was amazed to see how gentle the mechanical arm is. It turns the pages with precision using a slight vacuum. It should be possible to scan old and delicate books without inflicting any damage to the item being scanned. The mechanical arm appears to be as gentle as a human's light touch.
I stood and watched the APT BookScan 1200 in operation for several minutes and then snapped a few pictures. You can see my photos at http://blog.eogn.com/photos/ala2007. You can also learn more about the APT BookScan 1200 at the company's web site at http://www.kirtastech.com.
I want one of those book scanners! Does anyone have an extra $120,000 that I can borrow?
All in all, the conference was an eye-opener for a genealogist. While my knowledge of the library business is limited, I walked away with a lot of lasting impressions. It was a great day, although lengthy. I flew to Washington in the early morning, spent the day at the conference and at the Footnote.com's users group meeting, then flew home that evening.
You can learn more about the American Library Association's annual conference at http://www.ala.org/ala/eventsandconferencesb/annual/2007a/home.htm.