Category Archives: Conference Blogging

Includes the blogging of conference programs

Experiencing the Shift

I spent a few days last week at a fascinating conference called MobilityShifts held at The New School in NYC (full disclosure: I was also a presenter). The tagline for the conference is An International Future of Learning Summit, which I definitely found true: attendees from all over the world ranged from faculty and administrators to publishers, students, activists, and librarians, and were interested in education at all levels. It would be impossible for me to do justice to all of the great talks and panels I experienced at the conference, but here are some notes on a few that piqued my interest that seemed especially relevant to academic librarians.

John Willinsky (founder of the Public Knowledge Project which created Open Journal Systems for publishing open access journals) gave a wonderful talk about open access publishing. He made the distinction between two kinds of intellectual property: content produced by scholars and researchers, and content produced by commercial and entertainment entities (with frequent use of Lady Gaga as an example of the latter). Willinsky asked us to consider why copyright for these two types of intellectual property is treated identically. He suggested that there is a strong historical and legal basis for open access in scholarly journals: information produced by universities is a public good, as demonstrated by the tax-exempt status of academic institutions. Further, the information that researchers produce only increases in value when it circulates and is critically reviewed, and open access increases the circulation of scholarly information. With Open Access Week practically around the corner, I’m looking forward to sharing what I learned at Willinsky’s talk during the faculty workshops we’re planning at my library.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to hear Michael Wesch speak — I’ve been a big fan since seeing the video he made in 2007 with his undergraduate anthropology students at Kansas State University, A Vision of Students Today. Wesch focused his talk on student engagement, beginning by juxtaposing a photo of 400 bored-looking students in a lecture course with one of excited young people at auditions for American Idol. College students are seeking ways to create their own identities and find recognition, which the mainstream media are all too happy to provide. He noted that in the past media critics like Neil Postman criticized television for being a one-way medium, but now we have the ability to both create content and to talk back — it’s no longer just a top-down information stream. Wesch suggested that we encourage students to ask questions and talk back (both critical aspects of information literacy), and show them that these actions are relevant to creating their own identity and making meaning in their lives.

Like most conferences, the overwhelming majority of the speakers were faculty, administrators, and other professionals — that is, adults. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend a panel titled Open Education: A Student Perspective, and listen to the voices of four articulate students from The New School. Open access publishing was one dominant theme in this session. One student spoke passionately about the frustration that accompanied his inability to access scholarly information in databases when he had taken time off from his studies. Another wondered about the oxymoron of students who depend on piracy and copyright infringement to get materials that they need (or want), at the same time as the university has to take steps against it. The high prices charged by textbook publishers were also questioned, especially for materials for K-12 education. These students were an interesting counterpoint to the students Wesch discussed; they’re highly engaged in their own education, and curious about why educational policies and practices so often default to closed when arguably one of the purposes of higher education is to open and broaden knowledge and worldview.

The conference also featured “short talks,” 10 minute presentations grouped by theme. Among the many I heard, one from Xtine Burrough, Communication professor at Cal State Fullerton, stands out as particularly information literacy-friendly. She asks her students to remix and respond to the copyright infringement case Lenz v. Universal. In 2008 Stephanie Lenz was served with a takedown notice by Universal for posting a video to YouTube in which her then-toddler is shown dancing to a brief snippet of the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy,” and decided to fight back (she’s being represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation). Burrough’s students create videos using the same 29 seconds of the song and upload them to YouTube as a response to Lenz’s original post. And of course even this assignment has gone viral, and there are many video responses from people who aren’t students in Burrough’s classes.

There are so many moving parts to the education ecosystem that it’s easy to stick to just the topics we know best or spend the most time thinking about. This was the first non-library conference I’ve been to in ages, and it was fascinating to step outside of my library bubble and listen to/learn from the other presenters and attendees. It’s going to take a while for me to digest everything I’ve taken in over the past few days, but I’m finding myself with lots to think on about the place of libraries in education.

Just Connect: Getting Involved In ACRL

Editor’s Note: This is the finale of our series of posts from the ACRL Emerging Leaders Team about the upcoming ALA Conference in New Orleans. Is it hard to get involved in ACRL? Not really. But if you need some advice on how to get started Tabatha Farney, Web Services Librarian, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Elizabeth Berman, Science & Engineering Librarian, University of Vermont, have some great ideas for you. Headed to ALA? Then get yourself to the ACRL 101 program (details below) to start your path as an active, involved ACRL member. The ACRLog team wishes to thank the Emerging Leaders for all of their contributions.

One of the most popular questions asked at the ACRL 101 session held at ALA Annual is, “How can I get involved with ACRL?” Whether you are a seasoned library professional or new to the profession, the answer is simple: get connected . We asked three former ALA Emerging Leaders, Beth Kumar (EL ‘09), Maliaca Oxnam (EL ‘10), and Kim Leeder (EL ‘08), to talk about their involvement in ACRL and share their best advice to those interested in getting connected with the association.

What is the best advice you can give to a new librarian who is interested in getting involved with ACRL?

Malaica Oxnam, past Chair of the Science and Technology Section (STS), first became involved in ACRL by volunteering to serve on an STS committee. After serving on the committee for two years, she was asked to step into the chair position; from there, she became involved in STS Council and was elected as Chair of STS. She offers practical advice on getting involved: “Get involved with the conversations! Sit in on meetings that interest you. Introduce yourself to others at section social events and most importantly – have fun meeting and working with new colleagues!”

Beth Kumar, Web Editor for the Education and Behavior Science Section (EBSS), wanted to get more involved in ACRL after participating in the Emerging Leaders program. She was encouraged by her supervisor to apply for the Education and Behavioral Science Section (EBSS) Web Editor position, a position that has allowed her to work closely with all the committees and section chairs to keep the website up-to-date. Her advice? “Find a section that suits your interests. ALA can be large and overwhelming, but in a section of ACRL you’ll find other academic librarians who are in similar positions and understand your specific area. If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask, as I’ve learned much from the listserv, the meetings and programs.”

Kim Leeder, current Chair of the University Libraries (ULS) section, also had a mentor who was involved in ULS and encouraged her to take a committee position while in library school; from there, she gradually moved up the ACRL ladder, moving from committee member, to being asked to chair a committee, to being elected chair of the section. In her experience, “What you get out of ACRL is based on what you put into it, so it starts with putting yourself out there, talking to people and asking for committee appointments, and then once you’ve got one, contributing your best, regularly. If you try one and it doesn’t work, try something else. If you make the effort, it’s bound to pay off. And if you’re feeling discouraged and ready to give up, call me. I’d be happy to help.”

And it is this attitude that keeps the committee sections strong. Once you’re connected with ACRL, you’ll be introduced to new opportunities such as enlarging your professional network and engaging in innovative ideas. Kim shares, “ACRL’s infrastructure provides us with amazing opportunities all the time to meet interesting new people in our field, and to build relationships with those we’ve met before. Conferences and committees and webinars give us the chance to break out of our daily routine and see our work in new ways. It also helps us keep the big picture in mind when we might otherwise become overly focused on our specific job tasks.” Beth and Maliaca agree that by getting involved with ACRL, each have benefited by forming relations with other librarians across the nation. Maliaca believes her involvement on ACRL committees has led to “long-term professional mentorships and friendships that are particularly helpful to lean on when I want to get input from somebody outside my own institution!” So get involved with ACRL and get connected with your colleagues and profession.

Summary of Tips for Getting Involved with ACRL

* Look locally for experienced library professionals already involved with ACRL. They can help introduce to specific committees and become potential mentors.

* Find a committee that interests you. With over 30 division-level committees and over 200 section level committees, task forces, and discussion groups, there will be something for you. Appointments are typically for one or two years, beginning after ALA Annual. While it’s too late to volunteer for a committee position for 2011-2012, it’s never too early to start planning ahead. To volunteer, simply fill out the form by February 2012 and indicate your interests.

* Getting involved with ACRL does not necessitate committee work. There are other ways to get involved, including attending an ACRL conference or workshop and reading and contributing to ACRL listservs.

* Be an active participant. As the joke goes, “Show up, volunteer to do something, do it, become chair.” The more active you choose to be, the more you will get out of your experience.

* Mingle at the ACRL 101 Program at ALA Annual Conference. Stop by on Saturday, June 25th from 8 – 10AM in the Memorial Convention Center, RM 293-295. Learn how you can get involved and meet your ACRL Leadership. It is a great place to network and excellent opportunity to hand out those business cards.

Many thanks to our interviewees:
Beth Kumar (2009 ALA Emerging Leader), Electronic Resources and Serials Librarian at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and the liaison librarian for the College of Education
Maliaca Oxnam (2010 ALA Emerging Leader), Associate Librarian at the University of Arizona and part of their Digital Libraries Team.
Kim Leeder (2008 ALA Emerging Leader), Librarian/Assistant Professor in Reference and Instruction at Boise State University.

Go To ALA To Find New Ideas For Experimentation

Editor’s Note: In this next post, in a series about the upcoming ALA Conference in New Orleans, William Breitbach, a Librarian from California State University-Fullerton sponsored by CLS Section of ACRL, shares his thoughts on how to get more out of your conference experience by going to programs where one is likely to find new ideas for library experimentation. ACRLog will have one more post in this series about the ALA Conference from this year’s class of ACRL Emerging Leaders.

I generally go to ALA and other conferences to get ideas for experimenting at my library. This year’s conference schedule is packed with programs that will likely provide many interesting insights, ideas, and motivation to bring progressive change and innovation to your local campus. Although there are at least 25 sessions I would like to attend, based on my interests in instruction, library assessment, and general innovation, there are a few can’t miss sessions you will find me attending:

* Bringing the Immersion Program Back Home – ACRL’s Information Literacy Immersion Program has no doubt had an impact on countless librarians (including me). However, until now, the work of participants has largely gone unknown outside the local context. This session in bound not only to highlight the impact of ACRL Immersion, but also provide great insights and motivation for librarians wishing to improve their professional practice.

* Demonstrating the Value of the Library: Assessment Tools and Techniques – Anyone interested in implementing some of the recommendations from the ACRL Value of Academic Libraries may want to attend this session. The report identified a number of difficult challenges for libraries, so additional discussion and suggestions for realizing those recommendations will certainly be useful for many of us.

* Making Information Literacy Instruction Meaningful through Creativity – I like the sound of this session for a couple of reasons. First, it is put together by the Instruction Section Interest Group of ACRL who put on some nice programs in the past. And second, it’s objective is to help instruction librarians put a little excitement and creativity into our instruction sessions, something many of us could benefit from.

* Innovation in an Age of Limits – This program has some great speakers and will surely inspire us to be innovative in our practice and is followed by a poster session that will likely invigorate our creative energy.

These are my top picks, but whatever you decide to attend, commit to experimenting with at least one new thing when you return to your campus. Keep this personal commitment in mind as you plan your schedule for the conference. Learning about new ways of doing things, information technologies, and professional practices will help ensure that your institution remains a relevant and vital part of your campus.

Seven Tips For Highly Effective Networkers

Editor’s Note: In this third in a series of posts about the upcoming ALA Conference in New Orleans, Elizabeth Berman, Science & Engineering Librarian at the University of Vermont, and Breanne Kirsch, Evening Public Services Librarian at the University of South Carolina Upstate, provide seven useful strategies for improving your conference networking. We’ll be hearing more about the ALA Conference from our new team of ALA Emerging Leaders over the next few weeks leading up to the big event.

Attending the ALA Annual Conference can cost a chunk of change when you include registration, travel and lodging (not to mention shipping home all the swag you score at the Exhibit Hall). With library budgets tighter than ever, we are all being forced to question whether attending physical conferences is still relevant in today’s economy.

Short answer: yes! One of the greatest benefits to attending the ALA Annual Conference goes beyond the boundaries of the information that’s delivered; it is about connections you make with colleagues through the act of networking.

Networking is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the action or process of making use of a network of people for the exchange of information, etc., or for professional or other advantage.” In other words, it’s like Facebook, but in person. Networking is an advantageous skill to develop, opening you up to new information and knowledge, creating contacts and a professional support system, and improving your reputation. Here are our seven tips to help you become a networking ninja:

1. Have a plan. Are you job-hunting? Are there vendors that you would like to connect a face to? Are you looking to get more engaged with librarians in your particular field or area of specialization? Identifying who you want to engage with (be it a person or an organization) is key to making effective and meaningful connections during the short duration of a conference, especially if you are networking with a purpose. Remember to bring your business cards to hand out to others and collect their business cards as well.

2. Get social. ALA conferences are ripe with social activities, from committee breakfasts and soirees to interest group happy hours to vendor-sponsored parties. These are some of the best places to make connections because the atmosphere is more relaxed – you’re not going to interrupt a speaker.

3. Use the “power of hello”. While it may seem obvious, talk to the people around you. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Ask them questions and engage them in conversation: Where do you work? Are you involved in any committees? What interesting sessions have you attended at this conference? Not only will this help break the ice (who doesn’t like talking about themselves?), but it will also make it more comfortable to chat with them if you see them again later at that conference, or at future conferences.

4.Break out of your comfort zone. It can be easy as a new librarian to default into a passive role and wait for others to introduce themselves – they are the veterans, right? Conferences are a fantastic place for old friends and colleagues to catch-up and often times – unintentionally – librarians group together in what feels like closed circles. But by channeling your “inner social butterfly,” you will open doors that from a distance looked closed.

Elizabeth’s story: Since 2007, I have attended the Science & Technology Section’s (STS) Soiree, a casual drinks-and-appetizers affair held at a local eatery. I will be the first to admit that for the first several years, I showed up, talked to one or two people I knew from committee work, and retreated early to the safe confines of my hotel room. My tendencies are more wallflower-y, and walking into a situation where it felt like everyone already knew each other was daunting. It felt awkward inserting myself into a group situation where I knew nobody, where I felt I was interrupting conversations.

This past Midwinter in San Diego, high on the wisdom imparted at the Emerging Leaders program, I decided to change tactics – and my mindset. I realized that I wasn’t doing myself any favors sitting on the sidelines, and this pattern would only get more awkward the longer I was an STS member (can you imagine being the 10-year veteran of an organization where no one knows you?) Going against my personal level of comfort, I worked the room. I walked up to every table, every group, and introduced myself. Most of the time, people glanced at my nametag and noticed something we could talk about: I was an Emerging Leader, I was from Vermont, I worked with both the sciences and engineering. Conversation came easy. Was it difficult putting myself out there? Absolutely. But guess what? No one shunned me or laughed at me or told me to go away. In fact, I made some excellent connections that I hope to build on over the years.

5. Just connect. You will likely have distinct networks that you are familiar with at the conference – librarians you went to school with, librarians you work with, librarians you serve on committees with. Don’t be afraid to introduce others and serve as a connector. If you are talking with a co-worker and an acquaintance from one of your committees walks up, introduce them. Not only does it relieve a potentially awkward situation (no one is left staring at the ceiling or floor as you finish your conversation), but who knows what kind of connections you just helped form. And with 60,000 librarians attending these conference, small actions like this help make the community feel smaller.

6.Follow through. It is one thing to connect with people at a conference, but the more important piece is to follow up with them. A great idea, collaboration, or friendship can’t exist unless it’s acted upon. So follow up with the people you really connected with, send an email telling them you (sincerely!) enjoyed talking to them about X, Y, and Z. It makes a difference, it really does! And who knows what sort of opportunities can follow.

Breanne’s Story: At the South Carolina Library Association Conference, I had a wonderful networking experience at the exhibitors opening reception. My husband, Jonathan and I found ourselves talking with a few other librarians about current projects we were working on at our respective libraries. One of the librarians mentioned that she was coordinating a steampunk conference and encouraged Jonathan and I to submit a proposal. Our proposal was accepted and we gave a presentation on Steampunk Aesthetics and Themes in Film: A Literature-Based Approach. The conference proceedings are in the process of being published in a manuscript. This example might be a little unusual, but there are many opportunities that come about from networking at library conferences. You may meet someone that is an expert on a new technology your library is thinking of implementing or a librarian that will be your future employer.

7. Have fun. Networking shouldn’t feel (or look) like a chore. Some of the most successful networkers work the room with an ease that betrays the fact that they are working the room. So relax, be yourself, and above all, have fun with it. What’s the worst that can happen?

So as you gear up to attend ALA Annual in New Orleans this summer, think about using these seven tips. Odds are, you’ll enhance your conference experience and expand your network.

Commit To Sharing Three Things You Learn At ALA

Editor’s Note: In this second in a series of posts about the upcoming ALA Conference in New Orleans, William Breitbach, a Librarian from California State University-Fullerton sponsored by CLS Section of ACRL, shares his thoughts on how to get more out of your conference experience by sharing what you know after the conference. We’ll be hearing more about the ALA Conference from our new team of ALA Emerging Leaders over the next few months leading up to the Conference.

Just about every innovation or new project we start at our library can be traced back to something we learned at a conference. This year the instruction librarians at my library did a self assessment based on the ACRL Standards and Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians. The idea for this assessment came from a colleague who saw a presentation at LOEX by Maria Accardi. This assessment not only provided the opportunity for us to reflect on our work, but helped us chart a course for the future or our instruction program. It was all well worth the short conversation with a colleague that inspired it.

Conferences are rife with the exchange of ideas and information. We can certainly do better than simply implement something new in our own practice. We can and should continue the conversation. When you return, chances are you will have a library full of interested colleagues who were not able to attend the conference.

To continue the dialogue commit to sharing three things you will learn at ALA 2011, and discuss how each might be relevant to your library. You can share all three to a large group at your next reference team, department or unit meeting or share one or two things with a few individuals. No matter how you share, you are more likely to benefit from the learning and dialogue that goes on at a conference if you continue the conversation. Moreover, you are also more likely to experiment with new ideas/practices if you talk to people about them. A commitment to share will provide more than a personal and professional benefit. Sharing what you learn could make a great impact on your entire institution. Who knows, your dean or director may be more willing to foot the conference bill if you come back with a few new ideas and poised to share what you know.