Out West

I grew up in Florida, where one old adage was that “the south is a place, the north is just a direction.” I guess the idea was that while there are regional identities, they’re much more centered on specific cities and states, and that the south, uniquely, has a wide-reaching character. And I mostly subscribed to that sentiment until I came to Colorado three years ago.

One of the first things I noticed when I got here was how my language changed. For the first time in my life, I started using the phrase “back east.” Suddenly, everything than happened in the east felt “old,” and that living “out west” was a bit like living in the future. (This feeling gets even more bizarre when one considers that the east coast is actually two hours ahead of Colorado, but we’ll leave that alone for now.) Although I wasn’t expecting it, I started to notice a distinct “western” character. A bit more untethered, maybe? More willing to take risks? It turns out that the west is a place, too, and while I’m still very much a tourist in it, it also feels much more like “home.”

The reason I bring this up is that I’ll be flying to Portland for Library Instruction West in a few days, and I’m excited to see if, and how, that western character manifests itself in a group of instruction librarians. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend national and regional conferences in the last few years, but the presentations scheduled for this one are much more applicable to how I approach my work, and I’m thrilled to get new ideas from these people and try out a few of my own.

My impression is that librarianship generally, and information literacy specifically, will face a lot of important decisions in the next few years. In more ways than one, I think the time is ripe for librarians to break free from our past and try something new. Being “out west” feeds into that. My presentation will serve as my first attempt at contributing to that process, and trying to spark some new discussions. Here’s hoping it goes well. And if not, there’s still Voodoo Doughnut, so I don’t see how this trip could be a wash.