ASIST2012 was a conference experience like none other. I’d been so busy with my work that before I set off from Edinburgh for Baltimore last Saturday I hadn’t paid heed to the news reports of a hurricane about to hit the east coast of America. In fact, the first I heard of it was when I bumped into fellow UK academic Dr Christine Urquhart at the reception of the conference hotel. Thereafter we heard tale after tale of delegates who had abandoned their plans to come to the conference for fear of becoming stranded, and of others who had arrived, stayed a short while, then turned around again to head home before the hurricane hit. I had no option but to ride out the storm with the few delegates who actually made it to Baltimore and stuck it out.
A major impact of the extreme weather was that while those of us in Baltimore were forced into close proximity trapped in the Hilton Hotel until the storm ran its course, many of the people that I had hoped to see at ASIST2012, such as Dr Brian Detlor, Professor Carol Tenopir and Professor Blaise Cronin, were not there. While this was a minor inconvenience for me (I know that I will see them again before long) the conference organisers faced quite a challenge in running the conference programme. Not only were session audience numbers low, but in some case the few audience members who did turn up to sessions often discovered that these were missing the presenter(s) billed. I have to say that in spite of all the practical difficulties, the Hilton looked after us very well. I have never shown an interest before in whether or not my hotel has its own generator. In this case it did – phew!
My own panel session suffered from delegate absences to an extent in that our audience was small and co-presenter Dr Jutta Haider was forced to cancel her trip to Baltimore. Nevertheless, our panel session “Transformation or continuity? The impact of social media on information: implications for theory and practice” went well and we are now considering developing the ideas presented here into a full journal article.
The effort that it took to get me home from Baltimore would merit a journal article in itself. In short, my flight via Newark on Wednesday night was cancelled, but with much jiggery-pokery that involved speaking to United Airlines staff in the UK on Tuesday night from my hotel by Skype call routed by phone to my husband who held an iPad to a telephone receiver in the UK, I was able to transfer to another that would take me from Washington Dulles to London Heathrow. Once back in the UK I would travel by train back to Edinburgh. I also organised a taxi to take me from Baltimore to Washington. Unfortunately there was a road traffic accident on the freeway between Baltimore and Washington on Wednesday morning and when I arrived at Dulles just 40 minutes before take-off I was initially denied my seat on the plane. It was only after some heartfelt pleading with a supervisor that I was permitted to hand over my suitcase and race to the gate. I made it, and the rest of my return journey passed without incident.