I’ve been back from Chicago for just over a week now, but still reflecting on a very successful Jane-athon pre-conference the Friday before Midwinter. And the good news is that our participant survey responses agree with the “successful” part, plus contain a lot of food for thought going forward. More about that later …

There was a lot of buzz in the Jane-athon room that day, primarily from the enthusiastic participants, working together at tables, definitely having the fun we promised. Afterwards, the buzz came from those who wished they’d been there (many on Twitter #Janeathon) and others that wanted us to promise to do it again. Rest assured–we’re planning on another one in San Francisco at ALA Annual, but it will probably be somewhat different because by then we’ll have a better support infrastructure and will be able to be more concrete about the question of ‘what do you do with the data once you have it?’ If you’re particularly interested in that question, keep an eye on the rballs.info site, where new resources and improvements will be announced.

Rballs? What the heck are those? Originally they were meant to be ‘RIMMF-balls’, but then we started talking about ‘resource-balls’, and other such wanderings. The ‘ball’ part was suggested by ‘tar-balls’ and ‘mudballs’ (mudball was a term of derision in the old MARBI days, but Jon and I started using it more generally when we were working on aggregated records in NSDL).

So, how did we come up with such a crazy idea as a Jane-athon anyway? The idea came from Deborah Fritz, who’d been teaching about RDA for some time, plus working with her husband Richard on the RIMMF (RDA In Many Metadata Formats) tool, which is designed to allow creation of RDA data and export to RDF. The tool was upgraded to version 3 for the Jane-athon, and Deborah added some tutorials so that Jane-athon participants could get some practice with RIMMF beforehand (she also did online sessions for team leaders and coaches).

Deborah and I had discussed many times the frustration we shared with the ‘sage on the stage’ model of training, which left attendees to such events unhappy with the limitations of that model. They wanted something concrete–they usually said–something they could get their teeth into. Something that would help them visualize RDA out of the context of MARC. The Jane-athon idea promised to do just that.

I had done a prototype session of the Jane-athon with some librarians from the University of Hawaii (Nancy Sack did a great job organizing everything, even though a dodgy plane made me a day late to the party!) We got some very useful evaluations from that group, and those contributed to the success of the official Chicago debut.

So a crazy idea, bolstered by a lot of work and a whole lot of organizational effort, actually happened, and was even better than we’d dared to hope. There was a certain chaos on the day, which most people accepted with equanimity, and an awful lot of learning of the best kind. The event couldn’t have happened without Deborah and Richard Fritz, Gordon Dunsire, and Jon Phipps, each of whom had a part to play. Jamie Hennelly from ALA Publishing was instrumental in making the event happen, despite his reservations about herding the organizer cats.

And, as the cherry on top: After the five organizers finished their celebratory dinner later in the evening after the Jane-athon, we were all out on the sidewalk looking for cabs. A long black limousine pulled up, and asked us if we wanted a ride. Needless to say, we did, and soon pulled up in style in front of the Hyatt Regency on Wacker. Sadly, there was no one we knew at the front of the hotel, but many looked askance at the somewhat scruffy mob who piled out of the limo, no doubt wondering who the heck we were.

What’s up next? We think we’re on the path of a new data sharing paradigm, and we’ll run with that for the next few months, and maybe riff on that in San Francisco. Stay tuned! And do download a copy of RIMMF and play–there are rballs to look at and use for your purposes.

P.S. A report of the evaluation survey will be on RDA-L sometime next week.

By Diane Hillmann, February 14, 2015, 2:43 pm (UTC-5)

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