ACRL Post Conference Review

Thanks to all the Conference organizers, presenters, and participants for another great ACRL National Conference. My main goals were to learn and have fun. Here’s a few of my impressions.

1. Social computing dominated. Anywhere you turned folks were talking about blogging, wikis, tagging, RSS feeds etc. Many conference attendees seemed to reach their saturation point on this about midway through the conference. PennTags stood out as a well-thought out use of tagging within the catalog. Keep your eye on how this project progresses and if other libraries copy it.

2. Wikipedia may be putting the final stake through the heart of print reference books. In a panel session on Wikipedia, videotaped interviews with faculty, students, and librarians were presented. One question asked “which do you prefer, Wikipedia or a traditional encyclopedia?” A very consistent answer from the faculty and students was that they can’t even remember the last time they used a traditional encyclopedia. I’m not sure if they were thinking of Britannica in particular here, but I doubt many of these people would ever think to use a specialized encyclopedia unless directed to one by a librarian. This may be the final push for reference book publishers to switch to an e-book model and for librarians to purchase access to them. Immediately after the session I visited Who’s Who and ABC-Clio to look at their digital reference products.

3. Play well with others. Besides social computing, there were many sessions were about how to get along with colleagues. All the new ideas in the world don’t mean anything if you can’t implement them because no one talks to each other where you work. One workshop promoted the idea of group drumming to get people to work together. Another talked about emotional toxicity and the importance of toxin handlers–people who are good at dealing with difficult people.

4. Academic librarians are innovators. Elbowing your way through the poster sessions would disabuse anyone of the idea that academic librarians are not innovative. Besides feeling smushed, my main emotions when looking at the posters were pride for my profession and guilt for not implementing some of these things myself. Ooh I should be doing that. And that. And that. Don’t these people have spam to delete and meetings to go to?

5. The torch has been passed? I don’t know if this is true, but I got the feeling that there’s an entire new cohort of academic librarians who are re-energizing the profession. Not only are they new, they are bringing a new librarian personality. One talk I went to claimed that the Myers Briggs profile of librarians has changed from ISTJ (order, facts, efficiency) to INTJ (designing systems, changing the status quo). (Yeah, I’m suspicious too–how does one letter change that much?)

6. Some librarians need work on their social skills. C’mon people, this is a conference. Part of the point is to talk to other people and network. Buses, lines, conference receptions are all great places to spark up conversations with semi-strangers and learn something new. You can’t talk to anyone, however, if your head is buried in a paperback or if you are listening to your ipod.

7. Charm City lived up to its name. Everyone loved Baltimore and John Waters.

9 thoughts on “ACRL Post Conference Review”

  1. Thanks for this. I still feel so saturated I don’t think I could write in such an organized way about the conference. I have a question. Can someone tell me how to get to the Virtual Conference page?

  2. I agree with your socializing comment. I was extremely disappointed (this was my first conference) with the lack of excitement amongst librarians. I was also a little disappointed about the dearth of younger librarians. I am a bit sad to say that the stereotype may still exist because it is true. In all the presentations and panels, librarians talk about wanting to connect with millenials and reach out to these kids, but when I overhear you talking, I think you would rather not. I feel that you would rather just shush them and keep hiring librarians with buns and sensible shoes.

    Lighten up! Let John Waters sign your chest! (yep- that was me!)

  3. Great summary, Marc. Interesting that major threads were innovation, social networking, and getting along with colleagues – particularly when there are so many new people entering a profession that has a large cohort of near-retirement-age people in it. Jen, one reason there may be fewer of the new group than you expected is that conferences are expensive, and faculty/staff development dollars often need to be supplemented by one’s disposable income – of which there not a great deal when you’re starting out. Though it’s too bad you found a lack of excitement.

    I will say, the bloggers made me feel pleased for the profession. There seem to be a lot of innovative things going on, and so many of the bloggers were do danged entertaining about it.

  4. I have to agree with Jen. This was also my first conference, and I definitely felt the disconnect between what was said about the students we serve and what I overheard outside of the presentations and panels. Certainly the official word I got from the conference is that we need to reach out to millennials and meet them where they are, but I believe there’s a huge and divisive generation gap that also reared its head. I went to a vendor presentation where the sales rep oriented her pitch around a fake reference interview. She told us all about her interaction with a ditzy, unfocused student plugged into a multitude of electronic devices and carrying on five conversations at once while attempting to ask a clearly uninformed reference question about a project she hadn’t even started to think about yet. This might have just been broad comedy to make a point (and I can’t blame the rep – she certainly knew her audience), but I felt like the only one cringing at this disparaging sketch in a room full of librarians guffawing away. The reaction of the other librarians in the room seemed a little bit insulting to our students, and made me question whether the dedication to serve and educate college students as we find them really holds any water outside the convention center.

    I did feel excitement among librarians at ACRL – it just didn’t seem to be consistent.

  5. Don’t be so hard on your colleagues’ social skills. Not everyone can be an extrovert. Introverts need time to decompress. If you see us spending a little time by ourselves re-energizing, it probably means we just spent a lot of time networking at programs and exhibits.

  6. To Josh and Jen,
    I’m so sorry I did not hook up with either of you. Unfortunatley I am an older librarian, but new to this profession….mid-life crisis for want of excitement. And boy did I get it! I loved the conference! You are correct in saying that it was inundated with many stereotyped librarians, but I did see many younger faces which was refreshing to me. I cannot wait for the turnover, with more young, fresh librarians coming into this field.
    My favorite workshop “Reinventing Library Service for Undergraduates: Strategies for reaching Millennial Students with librarians at the Univeristy of Illinois – Urbana. When they spoke about all the great new innovations put into place, I wanted to apply for a job there!
    I had several other favorites also – Academic Success: How Library Services Make a difference with CSU-Bakersfield, CA. I was amazed that among the 10 most important things students want at their library was “QUIET.” I believe it was in the top 5 actually.
    I am disappointed that there were so many other workshops, panel discussions, etc that I did not get to attend. Looks like I’ll be researching those to cotnact the presenters to get their input via a Web2.0 tool!!
    So Josh and Jen, if you are interested, please contact me…we can discuss the conference and other professional topics of interest.
    I am still in the dark ages using e-mail, but will be setting up a facebook account shortly.

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