Tag Archives: ala conference

My Peeps, My Conference #acrl2017

Feeling so fortunate for the opportunity to attend ACRL in Baltimore, especially to meet my fellow ACRLoggers face-to-face!   With a plethora of conferences and development opportunities, it can be hard to justify attendance at a conference most people perceive as out of scope for a technical services librarian.  In a technical service-focused session I attended,  one librarian introduced herself by qualifying for the audience that her primary library association was ALCTS (Association of Library Collections and Technical Services).  I too have found some excellent development resources in the ALCTS community and established some professional scholarship there.  But  I’ve never felt my particular brand of technical services quite fit here.   This librarian’s certainty in her professional community had me pondering my ACRL conference experience and what sets it apart. [cue: David Byrne*]

How did I get here?
What is my conference?
Who is my community?

Most colleagues think I’m crazy, but I love ALA!  The community and the conference.  I love the size.  I love the ability to experience perspectives from all different kinds of libraries and all different parts of a library.  I love the chance to talk to vendors and (now, as a parent) the abundance of affordable souvenirs.  As a librarian responsible for budget matters, though, the timing of this conference becomes problematic, as it usually falls during our fiscal close.  So, although its provides good service opportunities, and the broadest professional network, this is not usually my conference.

NASIG (former acronym for North American Serials Interest Group) was probably the first specifically-focused professional community that really spoke my language.  I could dive deeper into world of serials librarianship, vendors, and systems in order to solve real work problems.  Similarly, as I became an e-resources librarian, ER&L was (and continues to be) one of my favorite professional communities for those same reasons.  Besides the added perk of being in beautiful Austin, TX each year, it also offers that user experience focus I am always seeking as a bridge from technical to public services. Both these communities see themselves as part of something bigger, despite the specialized name and audience they tend to attract.  Even so, the familiarity of a such specialized-focused conferences can at times be a crutch for broadening my perspective.

Hard as it may be to justify to my peeps here at home, I’m pretty sure my conference, my community is ACRL.  I say that not just because I blog here, and it’s more than just because I work in an academic library.  I do confess, it is in part resonant with Carla Hayden (ACRL Keynote and Librarian of Congress) declaring: “You all have the hippest conferences!”

ACRL Baltimore was only my second ACRL conference.  I first feel in love with ACRL 2015 in Portland, realizing it has a similar and unmistakeable “part of something big” feel as ALA, but with a greater chance of running into people I actually know.  I like ACRL because the language of research and academia is both familiar and challenging; the user focus I crave is meaningful and accessible; and I am often stretched in other areas, like leadership, political advocacy, and transforming shame into action.  I think (also like ER&L) I appreciate how this community of librarians challenge the norm.  As StevenB wrote of 2011’s conference, ACRL takes risks. Carla Hayden also recognized this, noting with appreciation that the conference was kept in Baltimore given all that was happening within this community.

ACRL librarians seem risk takers in their own right. They want to make a difference in what is otherwise perceived as an unchanging, institutionalized academia.  This year’s call for proposals asked for representation from the technical services perspective, perhaps challenging the perception that ACRL is overly-focused on scholarly communication and instruction.  Part of justifying my own attendance alongside all the other faculty who more obviously call this their conference their home means giving fresh eyes to how these issues matter in technical services and visa versa.

My strongest takeaways from this year’s conference were not scholarly community and instruction, but data analysis and visualization.  Opening keynote speaker, David McCandless, provided interactive, fun, complex, and thought-provoking data visualizations.  He explained why information is beautiful and also necessary at this particular time in our society.  I was surprised that this beauty, even in the most concerning analyses, felt primarily (and strangely) soothing.  That sense of calm resonates with McCandless’ assertion that visualizations allow you to simultaneously absorb and understand massive amounts of information, rather than become overwhelmed by it.  McCandless spoke our language when illustrating how easy and accessible the starting point is to such complex beauty — it begins with questions.  What do I want to know? What data might tell me about that?  What can it reveal?  Building on this keynote, I attended other sessions on communicating real value with data.   More than just making pictures from data we are asked to collect, I saw how concerted, beautiful design in visualization allows us to ask new questions.

I found “my peeps” are the ones always asking and welcoming questions.  ACRL allowed us to inquire a lot about equity and inclusion in our academic spaces.  Sessions and speakers offered perspective on this from the lens of scholarly access, to how we meet diverse instruction needs, to how we understand biases in our own scholarship, to service to our patrons, and in our personal and professional relationships.  Roxanne Gay, gave an amazing keynote and Q&A session to challenge my thinking on this.  Others, especially (I worried about) those chastised by #acrl2017 twitter afterwards, will hopefully see that challenge themselves and remain open to keep seeking too.

While uncomfortable, sure, that chastising (and don’t miss this other recap  too) demonstrates how the ACRL community challenges not just the institutional norm, but each other, individually.  I just find that refreshing.  It is a reminder that we definitely aren’t perfect, but we are always, must always be learning.

We do honor and openly appreciate each other publicly as well!  “Your peeps” was how final keynote speaker Carla Hayden acknowledged the various applause and shout-outs librarians received in the Q&A portion of her keynote.   So refreshingly approachable and energizing, her keynote challenged me to be more aware, to remember to explore the “more to everyone’s story”.  How she described the key factors motivating her to accept the position as Librarian of Congress reminded me of the necessity for transformation, while remaining true to ourselves and our service mission as librarians.

There is so much more to share from this conference — on technical services and public services interdependencies, on interlibrary loan and SciHub, and on important leadership and organizational management issues related to resilience, gender, and innovation. Watch for another post (either here or or on my own blog ) on these soon!

*Corrected misspelling with sincere apologies to the singer and his fans for the editorial slight.

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.

Getting Social At ALA

Editor’s Note: In this third in a series of posts about the upcoming ALA Conference in New Orleans, Megan Hodge, Circulation Supervisor at Randolph-Macon College and Adjunct Instructor at Bryant & Stratton College, reminds us that even after our long conference days we need to get social at night – and gives us a preview of the ACRL action in New Orleans. 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.

One of my favorite things about the ALA conferences is how energizing and affirming they are of my decision to become a librarian rooms full of ideas and people who are passionate about the same things. Newer librarians or extremely involved ones may be tempted (or have no choice about) to cram program after program after committee meeting into their few days at ALA Annual. After a long day of programs and committee meetings, when your feet are hurting, your shoulders are sore from carrying tote bags full of freebies and your eyelids are drooping because of jet lag, the last thing you may want to do is head out on the town for a night of socializing with strangers. So why go?

As ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels said, if you don’t come back from a conference with new ideas, you’re missing something. Sometimes those new ideas aren’t learned in the formal programs, but from simply talking to your seat mate on the Gale shuttle or neighbor at the ProQuest lunch. Many ACRL sections (and other ALA divisions and roundtables) host socials during Annual where free food is often provided and interaction with others of similar interests is guaranteed (see selected list, below). While it’s entirely possible to get a great programming idea from a public librarian you stop for a chat with in the Exhibit Hall, don’t you think it’s much more likely that you’ll learn something useful from another science librarian? If you’re shy and find making small talk with strangers difficult, these are also great because you’re guaranteed to have something in common with the other attendees.

In addition to the section/division/round table-sponsored fetes, there are also a few grassroots socials that aren’t sponsored by official ALA groups like Facebook After-Hours and the Newbie and Veteran Librarian Tweet-up. The Tweet-up, in particular, is good for newer librarians or ones who haven’t yet found a sectional home in ALA or ACRL; Bohyun Kim started it in 2009 because it would consist of totally random group of people. And there would be no pressure![1] It’s also a good idea to monitor the Twitter backchannels; you may find that someone who is in the same session or hotel as you is looking for dinner companions.

Vendors also host evening receptions. If you don’t do any purchasing for your library, you might not have received an invitation, so ask a coworker if s/he can wrangle you an invitation (or if you can tag along). You can also chat up the Exhibit Hall booth staffers of larger vendors like Gale and EBSCO whether they have any functions planned that you could attend. Creating or reinforcing relationships with vendors–even if you have no purchasing power at your present institution–can be helpful down the line. Vendor representatives, like the rest of us, may be more inclined to work extra hard to resolve problems if they already have an established relationship with you. The important thing to remember is that you needn’t wait until you’re a purchaser to attend a vendor event; vendors are just as interested as you in networking and developing connections! Today’s newly minted librarian is tomorrow’s Head of Electronic Resources.

So what do you do if you’re an introvert like me and even the idea of making small talk with strangers or talking to those rock star presenters in any environment less structured than immediately after their presentation makes you want to lie down in a darkened room? As former ALA President Leslie Burger advised the 2011 Emerging Leaders, always have a drink in your hand. It doesn’t matter whether that drink is alcoholic; just holding something in your hand will make it much more difficult to cross your arms, which signifies a reluctance to talk and engage.

Normally there are sections for events with food and parties and receptions in the Annual wiki, but the wiki will be incorporated into the Conference Planner this year (now open on ALA Connect!), according to Jenny Levine. I’ve highlighted a few below. Many thanks to all the committee chairs who so graciously responded to my requests for information!

ACRL-CLS (College Library Section) Friday Night Feast: Friday, June 24th, 6pm. Tommy’s Cuisine & Wine Bar, 746 Tchoupitoulas Street. $30. A cocktail half-hour followed by dinner; RSVPs required. Mary Heinzman says that the feast is a chance to meet with others in similar-sized organizations and learn about what is happening and what challenges they face. The other purpose is for new members to get to meet others and learn about opportunities to volunteer within CLS.
ACRL-EBSS (Educational and Behavioral Sciences Section) Social: Date and venue TBA. EBSS Membership Committee chair Scott Collard urges attendees to bring your nametag, introduce yourself to someone (maybe even before the social if possible), and just be ready to tell folks a little about yourself and what your concerns are, as EBSSers are usually really good at saying “you know who you should talk to….” and sharing from there!

ACRL-IS (Instruction Section) Soiree: Friday, June 24th, 5:30-7pm. Howlin Wolf Den, 907 S. Peters. Jambalaya (meat and vegetarian), bread, and cash bar.

ACRL-LES (Literatures in English Section) Social Hour: Date and venue TBA. Appetizers/bar food with cash bar. Primarily for socializing; newcomers are encouraged to not be shy. People have a couple of drinks, catch up, meet new people (Liorah Golomb, LES Chair).

ACRL-STS (Science and Technology Section) Dinner: Sunday, June 26th, 7-10pm. Creole Queen Cruise Ship. $25 registration (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/stscruiseneworleans) is required by May 27 and includes dinner with a cash bar. In celebration of STS 50th anniversary, they are hosting a Mardi Gras Mambo dinner cruise with cash bar. The dinner is primarily for socializing and networking; dinner planner Matt Marstellar said that his attendance at these dinners greatly helped him put together a list of external references for his promotion portfolio!

ACRL-ULS (University Library Section) Social: Saturday, June 25th, 5:30-7pm. Pirate’s Alley (622 Pirates Alley). Food served. Jason Martin, ULS Membership Committee Chair, urges first-timers to “Bring lots of business cards to hand out. Don’t be shy. Talk to as many people as you can. Also, feel free to stray from library topics. While it is a nice venue to meet other professionals and make contacts, sometimes it is nice to talk about sports, movies, books, gardening, or whatever floats your boat.

ACRL-WSS (Women’s Studies Section) Social: Saturday, June 25th, 6-8pm. Venue TBA, but professional development is often built-in by dint of the location (e.g., one year it was held at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the social included a tour). Newcomers, especially those who are FTF or SRRT members or have interest in Women and Gender Studies collections, archives or librarianship, welcome.

Facebook After-Hours Social: Saturday, June 25th, 9pm-2am. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (941 Bourbon Street). Per the social Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=209816775714013), drop by, have a drink, sit at the piano bar, and unwind following vendor parties, scholarship bash and other louder fun elsewhere on Bourbon Street.

LITA Happy Hour: Date and venue TBA. Membership Development Chair Don Lemke says, It provides an opportunity to get to know others within the organization and let those who are thinking about joining meet people in a relaxed and open environment where you aren’t expected to perform or be “professional”. Problems do get solved and ideas are shared but it is NOT a time to show how great you are. People eat and drink and talk to one another, renew old acquaintances and build new ones. Relationships happen.

Newbies and Veterans Tweet-up: Date and venue TBA, but likely to take place between NMRT Social and Facebook After-Hours Social. Begun by 2011 Emerging Leader Bohyun Kim at MW 2009 because she had no idea where to go to meet other librarians since I was a brand-new librarian who never attended any library conference before, this is an opportunity for new and experienced librarians alike to socialize and tweet in an informal setting.

RUSA Membership Social: Date and venue TBA. Free food and raffles. RUSA Membership Chair Liane Taylor recommends Introducing yourself to RUSA division and section chairs and vice-chairs, who are usually easy to identify! They’re happy to talk to you and will introduce you to others. Talking to them is a great way to meet others in RUSA, if you don’t know where to start.

RUSA-STARS (Sharing and Transforming Access to Resources Section) Happy Hour: Friday, June 24th, 6:30-9pm. It’s a very casual atmosphere & a very welcoming group, so first time attendees can feel comfortable walking in and joining any conversation, says STARS Membership Committee Chair Nora Dethloff.

Additional Resources
Montford, M. (2011, April 17). #Jobseekers: Networking 101 for Introverts [Web log post].
Retrieved from http://coachmeg.typepad.com/career_chaos/2011/04/jobseekers-networking-101-for-introverts-.html

Kim, B. (2009, December 29). Tweet-Up for Newbies at ALA MW? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bohyunkim.net/blog/archives/279

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.