Daily Archives: September 21, 2006

ACRL Creates More Opportunity For Online Learning

At its 2005 national conference ACRL took a bold leadership role in championing the idea of online learning by offering a virtual conference that ran simultaneously with its physical conference. I had the pleasure of taking part in that virtual conference by presenting the same program we had offered the day before in front of a cavernous room. How different it was to present to a group of 50 or so dispersed across the globe (yes, we had attendees from outside the US) where none of us could see each other. In some ways the virtual program was more intimate than the physical one as the opportunities for discussion were far greater. I think that virtual conference proved there was a good market for offering online programming to librarians who are not able to travel to F2F programs. Since then ACRL has offered a variety of online learning programs, from information literacy workshops to multi-day conferences. So I was excited to see that ACRL is once again venturing into the online learning arena with a new, one-day virtual institute.

Here is what the press release had to say:

Registration is now open for the ACRL Fall Virtual Institute, “The User at the Center,” which will be held completely online on November 9, 2006. The institute will focus on how libraries can use technologies and practice to put the user at the center of the information enterprise on campus. Maximize your ability to meet your mission on campus by discovering new tools and new ways of thinking about users and their behaviors.The ACRL Fall Virtual Institute will provide participants with a framing featured speaker, Jeffrey Trzeciak, University Librarian at McMaster University, as well as concurrent sessions focusing on topics varying from vlogging to wikis to user perceptions. Complete program descriptions are online at http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlevents/fallvirtualinstitute.htm.

I’m planning to register even though I’ve already got a few hours of instruction to do that day. But that’s one of the great things about virtual conferences; unlike F2F conferences you can attend everything and miss nothing. How’s that? Virtual conferences offer archives of all the sessions so I’ll be able to review, at my own convenience, any presentations I missed – I just won’t be able to get in on the discussions. Speaking of discussions, for those who are going to attend please consider having a headset available so that you can join the discussions. It can really be a big help to the speakers to have attendees with headsets who can join in the conversation. For more thoughts on how to be a better virtual conference speaker or attendee see a previous ACRLog post on that topic. Check out this article on virtual conferencing for more insights into getting the most out of virtual conferencing – as a presenter or attendee.

And for once folks, let’s not get into that discussion about why the conference isn’t free. I think we’ve covered that territory before – and if you take a look at what you’re getting – and that you don’t have to pay out all those usual F2F conference costs – it strikes me as a pretty good professional development value.

Your Library Needs More Shush Factor

I tend to be in agreement with most of the opinion pieces that show up over at The Irascible Professor. That’s probably because most of them are written by curmudgeony old academics like myself. But even I had to raise an eyebrow when I read “You Can’t Take That Away From Me“, the latest commentary by Jane Goodwin. In essence, it’s a nostalgic tribute to the quiet library of yesteryear where “Back in the day, the librarians kicked people out if they chose to behave like barbarians.”

Granted, the noise level in many academic libraries (Goodwin is mostly reminiscing about her childhood public library) has definitely gone up a few notches, but I don’t recall having had to eject any barbarians just lately. I wonder if in fact the author is simply overreacting to the changes that libraries have experienced as we move from quiet book warehouses to places where students gather to see and be seen while they tap away on keyboards, congregate to go through presentations and occasionally annoy us with their cell phone calls. But would any of us trade our somewhat noisy but busy libraries for the silent, tomb-like library of yesteryear? Only a month ago it was one week before students returned to campus and the library was so empty and hushed as if to seem it served no purpose whatsoever. I was delighted to have the voices, cacophony and frenzied action return. There may even have been an act or two that bordered on the barbaric – but we embraced it just the same.

But let’s not overlook, in our haste to make the library more fun and exciting for the users, the value of quiet study space. For many students the library remains a solitary beacon on campus where serious study in an intellectual atmosphere is conducted. We needn’t return to the days for which Goodwin longs, when librarians mostly excelled at shushing people and maintaining a peaceful sanctuary. But we should continue to maintain a dual-purpose atmosphere in which those who want to make a little more noise, which sometimes includes librarians, can co-exist with those who seek silent space. To really serve the true meaning of “library as place” it is necessary to be equally inviting to both crowds while alienating neither of them.