Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Librarians in Philadelphia

We just spent four days in Philadelphia for the librarians conference.

The first night, we got in a little late. We checked in at the hotel, and I wanted to try to go eat at Le Bar Lyonnais, the downstairs, less expensive part of the Le Bec Fin, the fanciest restaurant in Philadelphia. I called and they said they were serving until 9:00, and if we got there by 8:45, they'd seat us. We took off, and since I am map-dyslexic - I have a little bit of trouble translating the map to reality - and, to make it worse, our hotel was on Penn Square, a one-way circle that goes around City Hall in Philadelphia, so all the Google directions started off by telling you to drive the opposite direction - we started walking in the rain, exactly the wrong way. We righted ourselves, and hustled over, and got there right at 9:00. It was a little awkward at first; there were loud drunken people in the bar, making it less than pleasant for Mark, but the food was good enough to win anyone over.

I had salad Lyonnais, frisee, the tough, often bitter, wispy green that I usually pick out of the gourmet organic salad mix, with a poached egg, cubes of crispy fried potato, and lardons (sticks of fried bacon) on top, and tossed with some oil, and a mild vinegar - I bet white wine or champagne. All that cooked stuff on the frisee wilted it just enough to make it not just edible, but good. Mark had a massive crab cake, and we split an order of fries with four sauces: Dijon mustard, grainy mustard, lemon grass (that tasted more like sesame oil) and truffle (that tasted mostly like mayonaise). The only problem with the fries was they were served in a paper cone in a decorative holder, and it was too hard to reach in to get them all out. I had a nice wine, even though it was a Vin du Pays for $12 / glass, which seems a bit ironic.

The next day, we had an all-morning meeting. We got coffee and headed up. I'm trying to remember what I ate, and all I can recall is sushi for lunch from a stand in the Reading Market. We went to the OCLC symposium, where there were ice cream bars and sandwiches for the snack, but I knew I'd be going out for dinner, so I didn't take one. There was a happy hour at a bar where they said the wine choices were red or white, so I had beer. Dinner that night was at the City Tavern, colonial style. Mark thoroughly enjoyed the waitress's 18th century Bic lighter, that she used to light our candle - "they'd never do that at Colonial Williamsburg". I had a romaine and blue cheese salad, and turkey pot pie. And Thomas Jefferson's ale.

The third day I woke up with my stomach kind of upset from all the beer. I went to an 8:00 a.m. meeting, and then grabbed coffee and a giant apple-walnut-raison muffin that was not too unlike a recipe I make, from Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book, just not quite as good, to take into the all-morning Board meeting.

At 1:30, in typical ALA fashion, I had to choose between 3-5 equally interesting but non-essential things to go to. I ended up at a talk on virtual reference, because I knew that one of the speakers (Dave Lankes) was pretty dynamic, and the other two proved the point that even shy librarians can have a great online presence, and once they do that, they might even stand up in front of a bunch of their colleagues and talk about it. Then I wandered around in exhibits for a bit, watched a webcast of a group of librarians reporting on the work of a task force (the minute counter read 8:18 in by the time all the intros were done, and anything of substance was said) and got coffee, until it was time to go to an interview and finally meet friends for dinner.

I found everyone in the bar at the Loews, and watched the Packers cream the Seahawks - the last quarter they were just running around in the snow waiting for it to be over.

We ended up with a group of 6 at an Italian place called LaScala - Jones, the gourmet comfort food joint we had eaten at on prior Philadelphia visits had an hour and 45 minute wait.

Sunday morning was OCLC Update breakfast - as usual, I was not really hungry enough to take full advantage of free breakfast, I had a corm muffin and some fruit and, since the breakfast was at a Mariott, filled my travel mug up several times with the free Starbucks coffee they proudly brewed.

Later I went to a meeting to hear about the way that cataloging rules are being rewritten - it seems like a horrible mess to me; the proposed rewrite is going to have 37 chapters in 10 sections. These rules are supposed to be simpler - you know how in writing rules, there're two ways to go about it: 1) try to write a rule for every situation you can think of that might come up, and end up with a huge complex set of rules (how the cataloging rules have always been) or 2) write a set of general principles that can be applied to any situation - these rewritten rules were 'sposed to be the latter, but doesn't sound like it to me.

I went out and touristed - took some pictures of the Robert Indiana Love, and I liked how the ALA used a version for our graphic identity for the conference.

More meetings, and then got to go to a reception and hold Alice's baby (the writer of the post) - what a cutie.

On Sunday night we went to an Indian restaurant that Martin picked - the Palace at the Ben - Ben as in Ben Franklin Hotel. So from our table we looked out into the lobby of yet another historic hotel. The food was delicious, as good as the scenery, but I didn't think about how rich it was - coconut milk, and nuts and butter, even though most of what I ate was meatless - on top of two glasses of wine, and their special cocktail.
So, Monday morning when I got to our division town meeting, at which, traditionally - going back at least a few years - we've been served a full breakfast (you know if you do something more than once it's a tradition) - I sent back my plate of bacon and eggs, and made the waiters fill up two of the little coffee cups at the same time for me, and drank a lot of juice.

Usually at ALA we stay at a hotel that is a hike from the convention center, so we get to do a lot of walking - this year we were close in - so I was on time for everything. But I was sure glad to get back home last night after 4 days of the typical American life style, eating and drinking and no exercise at all.

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