Category Archives: ACRL News

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Your ACRL Conference Planning Team

An enormous amount of work goes into planning the ACRL National Conference. No sooner does one end then the cycle of planning starts again for the next one. At ALA the 2011 conference planning committee had its first official meetings. We first met with members of the 2009 planning group for a debriefing session. Then we moved on to our first major task of identifying the conference themes and trying to come up with catchy names for them. Whereas the Seattle conference had five themes the Philadelphia conference will likely have seven. We think that will make it easier for those submitting proposals to more easily find a theme into which their idea fits.

At the end of the day loads of ACRL members will be involved in making the conference a success, from the many members of the planning committees to everyone who presents and participates. But the backbone of the conference is really three people. The chair of the conference committee and two ACRL staff members who somehow help us clueless members to pull this whole thing off. Here is your conference team for 2011:

Your ACRL 2011 Conference Team

On the far left is Margot Conahan, ACRL’s manager of professional development, to the far right you have Tory Ondrla, ACRL conference supervisor, and in the center is Pam Snelson, Library Director at Franklin & Marshall College – and the Chair of the Conference Planning Committee for 2011. Together these three will lead the conference planning committee in organizing another memorable ACRL conference.

Thinking About ACRL’s New Strategic Priorities

“Look forward to it” may not be the phrase many academic librarians would use to describe their feelings about strategic planning. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s one of my favorite activities I certainly have no personal opposition to being involved in a strategic planning process. I find it stimulating and I enjoy partnering with colleagues as we think seriously and purposefully about the future direction of the library. It’s like they say, if you don’t have a plan you can end up anywhere. And in our current atmosphere of accountability and assessment, that may not be such a good idea.

I read with interest that ACRL has issued a new set of strategic priorities for 2009-2013. Having worked on strategic plans (and doing so currently) I can appreciate the work that goes into creating one, and I even take time to read the plans of other academic libraries to get a sense of what direction academic libraries are taking. In what new directions do these priorities take ACRL? Take a look:

The ACRL strategic priorities for 2009-13 are:

Strengthening ACRL’s relationships with higher education organizations that are important to faculty and administrators in order to develop institutional understanding of librarians’ roles in enhancing teaching and learning.

Enhancing ACRL members’ understanding of how scholars work and the systems, tools and technology to support the evolving work of the creation, personal organization, aggregation, discovery, preservation, access and exchange of information in all formats.

Increasing ACRL’s influence in public policy affecting higher education.

Increasing recognition of the value of libraries and librarians by leaders in higher education, information technology, funding agencies and campus decision making.

Supporting members in their exploration, research on and implementation of new and emerging information technologies and their application for library services in educational environments.

Increasing ACRL’s membership from professionally underrepresented ethnic and racial groups.

I’m one hundred percent behind that first priority. Too often in the past I’ve seen situations where higher education organizations are developing programs, plans and publications that can impact on or discuss higher education issues that directly effect the academic library and there is absolutely no representation from our community. The annual Horizon Report comes to mind, but there are other examples where a representative from our profession is not invited to the table. I hope ACRL can do more than just create understanding. We need to be involved and well represented.

While there no dearth of activity geared toward scholarly communications issues I believe that ACRL can be doing more to ensure its members are well prepared to both be advocates for the issues on their campuses and to engage the faculty to help them become advocates in the effort to create new models of scholarly communication. I would encourage ACRL to devise tools and techniques to enable frontline librarians at every type of higher education institution to be more aware of the issues and strategies for creating change. And developing more clout in the public policy area would help ACRL and its members to make themselves heard when scholarly communication and other information policy issues are topics of discussion and action in our legislative bodies.

The goal to increase the visibility of academic libraries and librarians within the higher education enterprise seems to me a long running priority for ACRL. But it is hard to recall, in the last year or two, a specific and direct initiative to make this happen. What I can remember is the campaign that placed highly visible advertisements about academic libraries in the Chronicle of Higher Education. That effort had a good return though I’m sure it was costly to the organization. Perhaps if more progress can be made with the first priority there will be more opportunities to promote the academic library and its value to higher education in other venues. But a eye-catching, well-designed, creative ad campaign that communicates sticky messages about our value might be just the thing we need to raise our visibility level. Got academic libraries?

As an ACRL member always looking for ways to implement new technologies that can improve our outreach to the community and the quality of our resources and services, I would welcome any assistance from ACRL to support the efforts of academic librarians to leverage and possibly create their own educational technologies. I advocate that many of our resources are instructional technologies, and we need to do a better job of creating awareness about them and making sure they are well designed so as to improve their ease of use. As an advocacy organization I’d like to see ACRL partnering with vendors of library technology, technology firms such as Google, Amazon and Blackboard, and others such as Microsoft, to promote the needs of academic librarians for better information technologies that help us remove the barriers and enhance the accessibility to our great information resources.

Increasing the diversity of our profession is another ongoing priority for ACRL. Advocating for more scholarships and support to both encourage minorities to enter our profession and to become active in ACRL will only serve to make our profession stronger. Academic librarianship needs to demographically reflect the changing face of American society. While each of us needs to accept some personal responsibility in this effort, I look to ACRL for leadership and support.

Day-to-day ACRL’s strategic priorities are far from the minds of most ACRL members and academic librarians. That’s totally understandable. It’s not as if we don’t have priorities of our own these days – like making sure you do your job well so you can actually keep it. But it’s worthwhile to take time to think about and reflect on these priorities to consider how they might impact on your work, your library and your institution. While I was encouraged by the many new and younger faces of the profession I saw at the ACRL conference, I think ACRL must continue to prioritize any effort to increase membership among the newest members of academic librarianship. Without a strong member base, none of these other priorities will matter much. If these newer academic librarians fail to find relevancy in our association or they cannot afford to join, we will be weaker and less able to move strategically forward in new directions.

Congratulations To Hinchliffe On ACRL Election Victory

ACRL announced its election results. In the race for ACRL vice-president/president-elect, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe was victorious with 56% of the vote. ACRLog congratulates Hinchliffe on winning the election. Hinchliffe is no stranger to ACRLog. She is a past member of the blog team, and is the current chair of the ACRLog Advisory Board. I imagine that when Hinchliffe begins her term as ACRL president in July 2010, ACRLog will be among her top priorities. Kelly S. Janousek was Hinchliffe’s opponent in the election.

What about the voting totals? Did more ACRL members make an effort to cast their vote? Well, despite the fact that it’s fairly easy to do even with ALA’s clunky voting software, the number of ACRL members voting actually dropped. Compared to the election that ended in a tie in 2007, between Erika Linke and Scott Walter, there were 265 fewer votes cast this year. If you are an ACRL member and you voted – good for you. If you didn’t vote – hopefully you’ll make more of an effort next year.

A Guide To The “New Normal” For Academic Libraries

I was able to attend only the first half of the ACRL program at which the just released ACRL 2009 Strategic Thinking Guide for Academic Librarians in the New Economy was introduced and discussed. Four panelists representing different perspectives within the profession reacted to the new report. If you want to read more about the panel session at ACRL you can do that here and here.

Not quite an environmental scan the authors state they were going for something a bit different:

In the wake of dramatic economic developments, government action, and a flood of higher education trends reports, we felt that a strategic thinking guide would better complement the current literature. This guide considers three important drivers in the current environment and poses questions to stimulate conversations and action in your libraries and on your campuses. Along the way, we point to the work of higher education associations, private foundations, government agencies, and individual experts for further assisted reading.

What are these three drivers? Nothing that will come as a total surprise:

Driver #1: The Economy and Higher Education – you can’t read a higher education news publication or engage in a conversation with a colleague without the economic meltdown finding its way into the discussion. According to the guide the big question for libraries is “how will we afford it?” But how can we not afford to develop new organizational structures and services that will lead to “student success and faculty productivity” as the report puts it.

Driver #2: Students – No one is quite sure what our student population will look like in the fall. Even now some public universities are expecting many more students who’d normally be going to pricier private schools. The report identifies a number of student trends, and asks how we can prepare to serve a new generation of learners who are quite different from their predecessors on campus.

Driver #3: Technology – For academic libraries, a rapidly changing technology landscape seems more like the old normal than the new normal. But our need to adapt is driven by advances such as cloud computing and smartphone communication. Not surprisingly this section has more points to make than the other two. But the bottom line for academic libraries is how are we going to leverage all of these technologies in ways that enable us to connect with students and faculty, and make it easier for them to use our technology.

The new normal is a concept that signals that everything we’ve taken for granted over the last 20 years is being melted down, re-thought and cast into a new reality. The old rules are broken and new ones must replace them. And most of all individual expections have to be set to a new and lower standard. We read extensively about the need for change in academic libraries, and perhaps ACRL’s new strategic thinking guide will serve as catalyst for discussions among colleagues about what changes will enable academic libraries to be meaningful, sustainable and viable in the new economy.

Congrats To Winners Of ACRL’s Big Awards

Two of ACRL’s biggest awards are the Academic/Research Librarian of the Year and the Excellence in Academic/Research Libraries Awards. We just learned who the latest winners of those awards are, and we wanted to extend our congratulations.

Congratulations to Gloriana St. Clair, dean of university libraries at Carnegie Mellon University. St. Clair is the 2009 ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. Anyone who has met Gloriana knows what an incredible person she is. I personally recall how willing she is to help colleagues. In the early days of portal, as editor, Gloriana would provide much encouragement to potential authors, providing mentoring and support. Here is what the official press release had to say:

“Gloriana St. Clair is deserving of this award on all counts. She epitomizes the Librarian-Leader-Scholar model through her long and notable career as an academic librarian, her contributions to ACRL and other professional organizations and in particular her record of scholarship and scholarly contributions with both national and international influence and impact,” said award committee Chair Robin Wagner, director of the Gettysburg College Library.

St. Clair has a distinguished record of service to the profession. She has contributed to the body of scholarship and scholarly communication by serving as editor of three prestigious journals – College & Research Libraries (1990-96), Journal of Academic Librarianship (1996-2000) and portal: Libraries and the Academy (2000-03). St. Clair has additionally contributed to the body of scholarship as the author or co-author of numerous articles.

In addition to her work as an author, editor, and scholar, St. Clair has served as director of the Universal Digital Library Project since 1999. A broad coalition of libraries and computer scientists in the United States, India and China, the project aims to digitize one million scholarly volumes and make them freely available online. She has contributed to the future of the profession by serving as an adjunct professor in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh, teaching academic library management.

And it looks like we have another group of first-class academic libraries being added to the ranks of those recognized for their excellence. Here is the rundown on those three libraries from the official ACRL press release:

ACRL is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2009 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award – The Moraine Valley Community College Library, Palos Hills, Illinois; the Wyndham Robertson Library at Hollins University, Roanoke, Virgina; and the University of Minnesota Libraries – Twin Cities. Sponsored by ACRL and Blackwell’s Book Services, the award recognizes the staff of a college, university, and community college library for programs that deliver exemplary services and resources to further the educational mission of the institution.

The Moraine Valley Community College Library, winner of the community college category, was recognized for creating an environment that fosters numerous relationships with partners outside those traditionally associated with libraries.

The staff of the Wyndham Robertson Library at Hollins University, winner of the college category, impressed the selection committee with their “can do” attitude that has resulted in many innovative and creative programs.

The University of Minnesota Libraries, winner of the university category, was praised for developing excellent strategies to successfully transform and rebrand the libraries to secure a highly valued position on campus.

Again, congratulations to Gloriana St. Clair, and the staffs at all three Excellence in Academic Libraries award winners.