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Information Professionals at SXSW

March 24, 2014

A few weeks ago, Austin Texas hosted South by Southwest (SXSW),  the largest music, film, and interactive festival in the world.  Beginning in 1987 with a focus on music, it has now become a place for cutting edge artists, film makers and technologists.  Like bees to honey, librarians have been attending and participating in the festival in recent years. Many find it an opportunity to forge new relationships and work with leaders outside the library to create a new vision of what we do and what we can provide.

For the past couple of years, sxswLAM (SXSW + Librarians + Archivists + Museums) has been one of the boots on the ground at the festival. Primarily attending and presenting at the Interactive festival (SXSWI), their intention is to find opportunities to put information specialists on the map and explore new ways to do our work.  The mission of sxswLAM is to forge “connections outside our traditional workspaces to bring greater awareness to our work and testing the boundaries of how a “traditional” LAMmer looks, acts, and thinks.”  LAMmers attend the festival because they believe that:

1. Library and museum professionals must pull ideas from other industries so they continue to innovate, remain relevant and move our industry forward; explore the arena of interactive technologies – where science, technology, art, commerce and the public good converge to help build our current and future experiences.

2. This is great positioning for libraries to be seen as the creative innovators and community connectors that they are. We help people connect with ideas every day, so it’s important for us to be a part of this conversation on a national stage. SXSWi is all about connections – and LAM is about ensuring libraries, archives and museums are connected.

 Read more about sxswLAM at

The impact of librarians at the festival has been recognized.  Innovative Interfaces hosted a booth in the Exhibit Hall exclusively for librarians and their partners.  The space wasn’t to just pitch Innovative products, according the Joe Murphy, Director of Library Futures at Innovative, rather “The goal of the Innovative Booth for Libraries is to amplify the visibility of librarianship and expand access for librarians into the technology fields and conversations at SXSW.”

Read more about the Innovative booth and Joe Murphy at:

Bonnie Tijerina, Head of Electronic Resources and Serials, Harvard University and founder of Electronic Resources and Libraries Conference (ER&L) discusses the importance of attending the festival at

Her organization co-sponsored with ProQuest the #ideadrop house. Its goal was to support “bringing the value of libraries to the world and learning from the best and brightest in tech, public policy, social media and creative communities to libraryland.”

Other organizations that participated and attended this year include: American Library Association, the Association of Rural and Small Libraries, the Digital Library Federation, EveryLibrary, the Freedom to Read Foundation, Urban Libraries Council, Urban Librarians Unite, among others.

Reflecting on the experience at SXSW, the “collaborative impact” was the biggest takeaway according to sxswLAM blogger sallymags. “Our most effective tool was the conversation – one-on-one advocacy with tech leaders, students, entrepreneurs, innovators, fellow librarians and even celebrities.”

Have you ever attended or presented at SXSW? Tell us about your experience. What do you think are the benefits of librarians and information professionals attending SXSW?


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