I’m not part of WebGen: I didn’t grow up wired, online, and connected to the world 24/7, and I do appreciate moments as well as hours of solitude. But, like most people who are honest about what is most important to them, I also value, crave, and am nurtured by community. So being in Anaheim for the annual American Library Association (ALA) conference earlier this month and spending every moment I could with colleagues in the library training-teaching-learning community provided lots of food for thought on the theme of what makes communities thrive when the Web 2.0 world and the face-to-face world of conferences with thousands of onsite participants converge.


The loosely knit community of trainer-teacher-learners who work in libraries throughout the United States—and who often feel incredibly isolated from each other, as evidenced by exchanges in the LibraryLearning Google Group started by Lori Reed less than a month ago—suddenly seems incredibly intimate and welcoming when you attend an American Library Association conference.


The central point of this convergence, for me, is my membership and increasing participation in CLENE—the Continuing Library Education and Networking Exchange (CLENE) training group. Right behind it are the overlapping connections resulting from the joint memberships and associations many of us seem to share through our affiliations with groups like Infopeople and the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), and the online community of bloggers who so frequently and effectively build a sense of community where none might otherwise be found.


Although there were more than 20,000 library staff members in Anaheim for the annual conference, those of us interested in training-teaching-learning kept running into each other everywhere we went, and a large part of it was due to the community we’ve created through CLENE and its series of workshops; meetings; discussions; and its training showcase.


The group, like Infopeople, is fluid rather than rigidly structured. It’s welcoming. And it’s like being part of a large family where somebody is always bringing someone else home for dinner without bothering to phone ahead, knowing that there somehow will be enough food for everyone so no one will go to bed hungry that night. It’s the kind of group where everyone around the table jumps into the conversation, and everybody goes away enriched. It’s the kind of group where you’ll find the same sort of arguments and hurt feelings that come up whenever people let their guards down and say what they’re thinking, but we know that we’re not going to let the arguments and hard feelings go unacknowledged or unresolved. The result is that we’re always ready to get together again as soon as we possibly can to eat and talk some more.


And when we part ways, there’s already that numbing twinge of implied loss as we realize we probably won’t see each other again for at least six months—until we reconvene for the next conference which brings us all together. But what remains is the strength of collegial exchanges and the warmth we manage to create through a community of learning which benefits all of us and all we touch.


For more information about CLENE and how to join the group, please follow this link.