When I was teaching my RDA course this past Spring, with my virtual students so very present in my thoughts for that time period, I found myself trying to explain to them why I still go to Dublin Core conferences, after all these years. I am one of those people who was around at the birth of DC, back in the dark ages of 1995, and aside from the conferences added retrospectively to the series and the one in Seoul last year, I’ve been to every one. This year, I’m co-chair of the program, something I’ve not done before, and more involved in the internal workings of the conference than ever. I’m sure that I didn’t make much sense to those students, who likely ascribed my long tenure to habit, loyalty, or some other factor.

This year the conference is finally back in the US after many years absence, and the program is looking pretty good, if I do say so myself. As usual there’s a mix of tutorials, papers, and working meetings, and this year the conference is a bit shorter than usual, in an attempt to keep costs down in these hard financial times. It’s also being held in conjunction with ASIS&T, which is being held in the same hotel right after DC-2010.

So why do I keep going? The other conferences I go to as a participant (as differentiated from the ones where I’m an invited speaker) are really down now to two: ALA Annual and ALA Midwinter. They’re big, sprawling, every-librarian-for-her/himself, with thousands and thousands of librarians taking over some hapless city, every restaurant in town, and just about every hotel. DC is a very different kind of thing—it’s small (usually no more than 200 people), generally not more than 50% librarians, if that, and the rest a mix of researchers, implementers and software folks. Quite a few people straddle more than one category, and the group provides an experience that I’ve never found anyplace else. The conference is very international in flavor, and the focus is metadata, and more metadata, unlike, say, JCDL or other conferences with a computer science or web focus, where metadata is a very small part of the program. It’s a place where the metadata geeks at the edges of other communities can feel at home, even when they feel marginalized in their own home communities. I remember one year when a guy I know who had never attended a DC conference before buttonholed me in a corridor to tell me this was the best metadata conference he’d ever attended. It still is.

I always learn new things at the DC conference, always meet a least one new and interesting person (and usually more than one), and there’s more good talk in the hallways and bars than can possibly be taken in. I’m an extrovert, so conferences jazz me up—I relish the intensity, the ongoing conversations from year to year, and the real sense of community, no matter the strong differences of opinion and approach.

I’ll be in Pittsburgh this year, and am hoping to blog a few times while I’m there, if I can manage to find time for it. I hope I’ll see a few of you there too.

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By Diane Hillmann, October 5, 2010, 12:49 pm (UTC-5)

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  1. Comment by Diane Hillmann

    Dan, thanks for your comment. I remember the meeting in Finland, too–it was great, and really intense … As for the revisionist history, the second and third meetings were actually organized as separate workshops, then added to the workshop series retroactively, so that ‘DC Down Under’ was #4.

  2. Comment by Dan Brickley

    ‘conferences added retrospectively to the series ‘ – I’m intrigued? Which were these? Anything in dublincore.org/workshops/ ? Is history changing under our feet…?

    I’ve always enjoyed DC events. There was a big shift in tone as things moved from gatherings full of people who wanted to tell you how it should work, to gatherings full of people who wanted to find out how it all should work. But in both cases, people came together with some sense of cause – something missing from other more ‘scholarly’ or industry-oriented events. I wish plane tickets grew on trees…

    DC-5 in Finland was my first DC Workshop. As you mention extroversion, I’ll offer the flipside. Even back then as a ridiculously shy 20-something, I got a lot out of DC. You say “It’s a place where the metadata geeks at the edges of other communities can feel at home” and that’s absolutely true. It was a relevation that there were so many other people who cared about these arcane topics enough to sit up around laptops into the early hours debating things. While some of the early intensity of DC might have cooled, the scale of opportunity with metadata has correspondingly grown, and we can get our hands on datasets today which would have seemed like a dream in 1995-7.

    I’m left wondering what to do about the travel problem. Maybe the main conference series could be complemented by a few more DC-themed barcamps closer to people’s homes?

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