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“Amazing Grace” at the Global Information Industry Summit

One of the activities at GIIS was “Dinner at a Medieval Castle,” and that’s where the entertainment I mentioned took place. I had wonderful dinner companions – my dear friend Janice Lachance, CEO of the Special Libraries Association, Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, and Michael Gruenberg from ProQuest. What’s so amazing about SIIA is that it enables me to make great business contacts – essential to everyone but especially to a new, small publisher – with people I enjoy and admire. And who seem to share at least some of my sensibilities (though perhaps not my love of Victorian fiction).

The medieval banquet consisted of large quantities of meat and bread served without cutlery and over far too long a time span, and there was intermittent loud entertainment. Singing and bagpipes at first, then a “witch” wearing a knobby, rubbery face mask that simulated some form of skin disease, who danced, sat on men’s laps, and eventually did a sort of striptease, revealing herself to be an attractive young woman. The bagpiper seemed to have quite a line in popular songs (I’m not sure if he got to Elvis, but that’ll give you a sense of the incongruities) and towards the end he regaled us with a version of “Amazing Grace” while the witch – now more of a gypsy – did what seemed to be medieval belly dancing. This led to some discussion of what constitutes good taste, and I admit that I was a bit snooty. I talked later to a couple who had loved everything about the evening.

Lynne Brindley had contributed some information about the British Library’s activities with the Chinese National Library during our afternoon session and picked up that I was a blogger and critical of PowerPoint. Her keynote presentation the next morning, “The British (Digital) Library adapts to Web 2.0,” did include PowerPoint, but I certainly wouldn’t dare to complain about her using slides to help tell the story of transformations and trends at the British Library! What a challenge it must be, to preserve the best of such an established and influential institution while responding to the pressures of the 21st century. I was convinced, along with other listeners I’m sure, that the world’s major research library is in good hands – and I was thrilled to hear about Lynne’s interest in and developing work with China. I’m hoping to have more information about that to write about here and include in our China-related publications and websites. We’ve started research on a white paper about library development and innovation in China, too, as comprehensive information about libraries in Chinese isn’t readily available.

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