No State Funds Were Expended to Bring Me here

I’ve been coming to the Charleston Conference since 1989. That first year, the only reason I was able to attend was because Katina waived my registration. Since I was moving from one institution to another that year, no one would fund me. This act of kindness and opportunity on Katina’s part is something that I always have appreciated. I have since been inspired to help others in need when possible. For example, at ECU recently, a number of library faculty chipped in to help 12 staff members attend at least one day of the NC Library Association conference (which was being held in Greenville for the 1st time ever). I was pleased to add my donation to that cause.
So now it’s twenty years later. For 19 years I have received funding (not ever 100%, but still) to come to the Charleston Conference which has always been a major learning experience for me. But this year is different. This year I am footing the bill all myself. Every bit, not even bringing a state vehicle, although I suppose I could have asked for that.
I am OK with this, considering the many years that the State of North Carolina did add funds to this experience for me. But it makes me a little sad, and I know that this is the end of an era. Even during the lean years, we had travel money. This is now a luxury. The happy news is that we are getting a little travel money this year but I will need to spend mine on obligations later on. I had to make my commitment early on to Charleston, prior to really knowing if there would be any travel funding at all. I simply could not imagine not coming.
Another way this year will be different is that my regular hotel roommate is not attending. Lauren and I have been bunking together at Charleston now for probably 10 years. I have lost count. I will miss our annual pilgrimage to Garibaldi’s for crispy flounder and our Saturday lunch at Justine’s. I’ll probably skip Garibaldi’s altogether this year which saddens me. Hopefully I can still make Justine’s.
This is also the first Charleston Conference where I did not contribute a “Drinking from the Firehose” column to the November issue of Against the Grain. I’ve always tried to make sure I had one in that issue, along with one or two others if possible during the year. This year I just could not pull this off.
The seasons change. We all get older. I still love Charleston, but when I review the myriad concurrent sessions and Lively Lunches I grow weary. There are too many to choose from. I have to be selective.
The plenary sessions are still awesome and hold my interest. These are important people saying important things. I won’t miss these. I still have fun coordinating the silly skits on Thursday and Friday. Yet every year (how long have we been doing these anyway?), I ask myself if we should continue. Maybe this will be the last year for skits. I don’t know.
One of the great things about the Charleston Conference is that it is always the same yet it is always different. Like Charleston itself, the complexion is ever changing but traditions live on. There are people who used to be regulars who I find myself missing. Deanna Astle, Sandy Paul, Corrie Marsh (I suspect she will be back soon), Dan Halloran, Barry Fast, John Secor, Lyman Newlin, Charles Germain, Lenore Dudley. Some of these folks are still out there enjoying their lives (some in retirement or on to other projects) and some have gone on to the greener pastures of eternity.
What has stayed the same is the sense of community, the creativity of programming and the ability to capture what’s new and what’s coming. None of us have a crystal ball and many times the prognosticators get it wrong. But it’s always fun guessing what will be the next big thing.
I hope to have the opportunity this year to “blog the conference” in a way I have never have had the time or inclination before. That should be fun and I hope it will add something to the experience for others.
And now, time to start packing …

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