So what prompted us to drive 700 miles with money scattering out the window again not half a year after New Years in NYC? Officially, the Special Libraries Association annual conference. Unofficially, another UNESCO World Heritage Site for Sweetie to tick off his list: Independence Hall. All in all, the trip was 1/3 official, 1/3 unofficial, and 1/3 travel.
On Sunday morning we loaded up a newly oiled Ellie and drove 700 miles to the City of Brotherly Love.
For lunch we stopped at a Wendy's. A bad Wendy's. A Wendy's with a dirty carpet, a dirtier bathroom, sullen employees and stone-cold fries. I ordered an apple pecan chicken salad, because you can't screw up a plastic box of vegetables, right? Well, the chicken wasn't bad, because all they had to do was microwave it. But (a) it was covered in a cheese-like substance that I'm pretty sure wasn't actual cheese, (b) it had about two slivers of apple total, and (c) the chain went out of its way to ensure that there would be no pecans in my apple pecan salad.
Since there is no rational reason to put lactose on my nuts, I swear, they must have done it on purpose. (Ironic Side Note: The slogan above the giant picture of salads adorning the wall read, "You know when it's real.")
The drive should have taken 12 hours, but just after crossing into Pennsylvania, I was cruising along surrounded by semis when a blown tire came bouncing down the highway and smacked Ellie head-on. We pulled over at the Visitor's Center and found some bits of her waaay lower than they should have been. Fortunately, there was a truck stop not a quarter mile ahead staffed by a very friendly mechanic who could give her a once-over. It turns out the tire ripped apart the plastic cover protecting Ellie's delicate parts from rocks and debris, but there was no major damage otherwise. The mechanic gave us the green light to continue on, and we'll have to look into replacing the cover when we get back to Indiana. Then, after another 5 hours, we discovered that I had written the directions incorrectly because I assumed the Pennsylvania Turnpike would remain I-76, and wrote down the wrong exit number. Thanks to our handy-dandy atlas, we were able to double back through the outskirts of Philadelphia and get back to where we were meant to be, but it added at least another hour of stress to the trip. Finally, we arrived around 11pm. We had just enough time to look around in awe at the cushiness of our pad at Embassy Suites before I crashed to get in enough ZZZ's for a 6:30 wake-up call the next morning.
Note: This hotel has ducks in the lobby. Why? Because they're ducks. In the lobby.
Monday through Wednesday I took the train in to Center City to spend my days at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. My mission: to listen to the talks and watch the walks. Since I'm still a library student, my selected program was all over the place. Some sessions were useful, and some not-so-useful, but I think I accomplished my objectives.
- Biomedical & Life Sciences Division Contributed Papers: I only caught the last one on disaster information in public libraries, and was not terribly impressed.
- CSI Philadelphia: Forensic Science Explained: I chose this one because I was interested in data/resource management in the FBI, but the other attendees were more interested in solving murders like they see on TV and monopolized the speaker's time.
- Military and Government Unconference: This "unconference" was basically a structured conversation with other attendees about trends in information/library science in government. I took away two things: (1) a lot of librarians are a tad unrealitsic about the Holy Grail that is Twitter, and (2) their perspective doesn't matter much anyway because administrators call all the shots in government entities.
- Visualizing Science: I was so tired that I couldn't concentrate during these talks, but they were mostly about existing tools for harvesting and mapping data. It's not really my area of interest.
- Military Libraries Division Networking Breakfast: Great. I got some names and some cards, and a ton of tips. If I hadn't already been considering military libraries, the attendees there would have "turned" me.
- Health Care Reform--How Is It Affecting Life Science Companies and Consumers?: This speaker, a lawyer who oversees the formation of managed care groups, was scary smart. Most of his talk flew a mile over my head. However, now I can sound mildly intelligent at parties if the subject of health care and/or REMS ever comes up.
- Designing a Physical Space in a Digital Age: I had high hopes for this one, but was sorely disappointed. The presenters were invited to describe the fancy new facilities they'd built. There were pretty pictures, but they were speaking from the perspective of having a bottomless pit of money to throw around. How many libraries have plump enough budgets to devote half the basement to giant HD TVs and gaming consoles for the students?
- Specify 6: Museums Specimen Database: This was one long advertisement for an open-source software developed by the University of Kansas. An interesting example of the types of boxed software people are developing for resource management, but I doubt I would ever use it.
- Data: The Next Generation--Sci-Tech Division Contributed Papers: This session was prompted by the new requirement for NSF grant recipients to provide data management plans. The speakers had conducted studies of their faculties on the library support required to help...it was interesting, but since I don't plan on staying in academia I didn't find it very useful to me personally.
- Coming back to the hotel on Tuesday, I was waiting for the hotel shuttle next to a man who was at the SLA conference as a vendor representative. He was one of those types who can't stand silence, so he was eager to give me tips on how to live it up in Philly, and on life in general. He asked what type of work I was interested in after graduation. When I said that after the networking session, I was leaning towards a career with the military, he said, in all seriousness, "Are you a Nazi?"
- While eating lunch outside the Convention Center on Wednesday, a lady asked to sit across from me at my tiny patio table. She said she started out as a medical librarian, but after joining the SLA learned about all the other (better paying) careers available and wanted to get over her librarians-must-be-academics bias. Now she's with a financial company in New York, managing product licenses and contracts.
After each day I made my way back to the hotel, and Sweetie and I spent the evenings lounging with cable. Cable is horrible. Why would people pay $50 every month for the privilege of watching hours of commercials? But we didn't have the Internet, because the hotel charged $10 per day for wireless, and sometimes it's nice to be mindless. Food was harder to come by than one would think, because all of the restaurants around the hotel were pretty terrible. On Monday we tried Popeye's Chicken: lots of grease, but not so bad. On Tuseday we picked up a thin-crust pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut.
Note the masterful cutting.
This pizza was cold and tough not 15 minutes after picking it up. We found out after the fact that this particular store as a 1.5 star rating on Google Businesses.
And on Wednesday, I was so tired from getting 6 hours of sleep each night and running around in heels all day that we just mustered up enough energy to get downstairs to the hotel restaurant. We were in Philadelphia, so we at least had to have one of these:
Enormous Philly Cheese Steaks. Mine was dinner on Wednesday and Thursday. One half was the size of my head:
We went swimming 20 minutes after eating these. The 100 grams of fat helped us float.
On Thursday we went out into the world. Details tomorrow at 8 (cue commercials).