Thursday, July 4, 2013

Opening Session

 The opening speaker for ALA Chicago 2013 was Steven Levitt, author of Freakanomics. Unfortunately, the opening was being held in a huge open hall directly behind both registration and the entrance to the exhibit hall where people were already beginning to line up even though it wasn't open yet.  All this combined to make it very hard to understand a word of what Steven Levitt was saying, despite the fact he was well miced.

The gist of what he was saying, I think, was the people need to think more and believe the data.  Two things that are near and dear to librarians, certainly.  Levitt used tax forms as an example.  Someone noticed that people were claiming suspicious "children" on their tax forms.  Children who had names like Fluffy.  This all sounded familiar.  I'm pretty sure this was in his book.  But no one wanted to go through the trouble of rewriting the tax forms.  Years later, when they finally got around to it, seven million "children" vanished without a trace saving the government millions of dollars.  You have to believe the data!

Levitt feels that everyone is so busy, no one thinks.  We don't have the time.  Levitt personally sets aside a set amount of time each week to just think and try to come up with ideas.  He admits that he's not great at it.

Levitt talked a bit about his background, saying how he was terrible at math, which is a problem for an economist.  He went back and visited his high school years later and ran into his old math teacher.  "He was in his mid 60s then and ten years later he was in his mid 80s."  The teacher specifically remember how terrible he was at math.  Levitt was in a math class in college, and the first day was trying to follow the lesson.  The was confused by the letter d the teacher kept using.  There were regular ds and also curly ds.  He didn't understand the difference.  He leaned over and asked the student next to him what the difference was.  The student just looked at him and said, "You're in trouble."  Due to a wave of suicides at MIT, the administration made it harder to fail students.  In order to fail a student the professor had to do a lot of paper work.  Levitt says this is the only reason he got through math.

So don't forget to think everyone!  And trust the data!

 Right after the opening speaker session is the opening of the exhibits.  The picture to the left is of rabid librarians waiting to be let in.  It was horribly crowded, of course, in the publisher sections with everyone trying to snatch up as many free books as fast as possible.  I got a few good ones on the first day.  I got Rae Carlson's Bitter Kingdom, the final installment of The Girl of Fire and Thrones (which I left at the hotel!  Sob!) and the second books in Maggie Stievfvater

There was a brass band wandering through the hall, which was fun, but it was all a bit too crazy plus we had a dystopia panel to get to, which wasn't in the convention center.  I don't understand why, when there's this giant convention center, they have to put events at hotels all over the city.  And also, when there are scheduled events, the shuttles don't run late enough to get you home!

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