Daily Archives: January 22, 2007

An ACRL Research Program At ALA

Academic librarians are churning out research like never before. One problem is that there are too few venues in which that research can be presented. Our profession’s primary outlet for the presentation of research is the ACRL national conference held every other year. But is that too little, too infrequently? As it stands the number of academic librarians seeking to present at ACRL far exceeds the number of slots so the typical acceptance rate for contributed papers stands at about 20 percent. Those who get accepted love it because it raises and maintains the prestige level of acceptance at ACRL national. Those who are rejected are likely to never try again. Is there a way to give those who want to present their research to peers an opportunity to do so?

A possible solution is bubbling up in ACRL, but opinions are divided. Several ACRL sections, the disciplinary-focused ones in particular, are promoting the idea that ACRL should offer a program at each ALA annual conference that would strictly cater to research paper presentations. As it stands current ACRL programs at ALA are topical or theme based, and the speakers are recruited individually. A research paper program would follow the same proposal-peer review-accept or reject model used at the national ACRL conference.

While I like the idea of creating more opportunities for members to present research I’m concerned that ALA may not be the best place to offer such opportunities. ALA already suffers from a severe case of program glut. Can you squeeze another program into your schedule? And how far will this actually go towards creating more presentation opportunities. Perhaps a half-dozen librarians will have a chance to present while dozens more are once again rejected.

I much prefer the development of webcasted research forums. These could be monthly programs that would feature three or so presentations. The ACRL sections interesting in promoting more research presentations could create a review panel from among their members. ACRL already has great expertise in staging web-based conference events. The events will be archived so those that don’t make it to the live program always have a chance to view it. A fee? I’m not sure. Perhaps it could managed without one if the interested chapters used their budgets to fund the programs. Perhaps sponsors could be found.

But let’s be clear about our objectives. If we want to create another low acceptance rate opportunity that caters to tenure-track librarians seeking a high profile mark on their CV, a single program once a year at ALA will do just fine. But if we really want to facilitate the distribution of useful research, to give more (and newer) members better chances to make a presentation to their peers, and we want to do it in a way that makes it easy for members to participate in an anywhere, anytime mode, then a web-based approach seems the superior option. What do you think?

Posted by StevenB