Change, Change, and More Change: LTF Proceedings Now Online

The Proceedings of the most recent Living the Future (LTF) conference at Arizona are now online. The presentations embrace a variety of important issues, but, like the recent Taiga Forum, the emphasis was on change – where is it coming from, how fast is it coming, and what can we do to help manage it effectively? I didn’t make it to Arizona this year, but comments from attendees are welcome.

Reflecting On ACRL’s Virtual Conference

Overall I would say the ACRL/CNI/EDUCAUSE Virtual Conference was a successful online event. Like every conference, the keynotes and presentations were somewhat uneven. However, the technology worked quite well and made for a fairly seamless learning experience. Here are some thoughts and suggestions:

This was a joint conference between three organizations. I would question what CNI and EDUCAUSE did to market this conference to their memberships. Did their members get the request for proposals? Were they invited to register? I ask this because most of the sessions were populated by librarians. I believe we had very few information technology, instructional technology, or other academic support professionals in attendance. Don’t get me wrong. I certainly love conferencing with my fellow academic librarians, but I think having colleagues from outside the library would improve the conference experience. We can certainly benefit from professional diversity.

If you’re going to attend a virtual conference, please invest in a microphone. At F2F conferences the norm is to sit quietly in the audience while the speakers do their thing. A virtual conference is intended to be more interactive. When the speakers do get to the Q&A part of the program it works much better when attendees can grab the mic and ask their questions or make a point. Sure, the direct messenging area allows for an ongoing conversation between the participants and the speakers, but there are times when using the VoIP capability of the conferencing software is far more powerful.

And speaking of speakers, this conference experience reinforces that first-time virtual presenters need advanced training and practice, especially in the development of slides and the use of the virtual presenting tools. In one of my sessions the presenter kept asking the moderator for technical support in using the software tools. When the presenter doesn’t have a good grasp of the presenting tools, the presentation suffers and there is less interactivity. Another presenter’s slides had multiple screenshots, and they could barely be seen. If you want to show a web site try to take the attendees on a web tour. Give them the real thing. I manage a number of webcast presentations for the Blended Librarians Community throughout the year, and we take every presenter through a minimum of one hour of training before the session, and we coach them on slide preparation and the use of the software tools. When there isn’t sufficient training the presentation suffers. If the presentations suffer, ACRL members and others will leave with a bad impression of virtual conferencing – and they won’t come back again. That would make me unhappy.

And if you’re participating in a virtual conference session and there’s a problem – you can’t make out what is on the slides, the audio is fading in and out, the polling buttons aren’t working for you, or whatever – please avoid using the direct messaging area (chat box) to send messages complaining about the problem. Believe me, if there’s a technical problem the speaker and the moderator know about it already – and if it’s something happening on just your end – there’s little the presenter or moderator can do to help. Flooding the chat with messages about technical or other problems doesn’t resolve them. It just makes the chat function useless to everyone else, and it’s incredibly distracting for the presenter. At the beginning of most sessions or webcasts the moderator will provide an email address or phone number to use for reporting technical problems. And if it’s a problem with the presenter’s slides, that’s unfortunate, but usually there’s nothing that can be done once the session starts.

If this seems like some sort of semi-rant against virtual conferences, that’s not the case. I applaud ACRL for sponsoring the virtual conference, and I can’t say enough about the poster sessions and roundtable discussions – both are great learning experiences and ways to connect with colleagues. I also got the impression that newer members of the profession outnumbered the veterans. In sessions I attended many folks referred to themselves as “next-gens”. Perhaps the virtual conference is more appealing, both in its application of technology and ease on the travel budget, to our newer colleagues. This made for great conference exchanges, but I would encourage more of the veterans to give virtual conferencing a try. And the great thing about the virtual conference is that I can go back and view the archives for sessions I couldn’t attend. This is only ACRL’s second big virtual conference, and I have no doubt that the next one will be even better.

Virtual Conferencing In Full Swing

It looks like there is a great turnout for the ACRL/CNI/EDUCAUSE joint virtual conference. Yesterday afternoon I led a session on Blended Librarianship with my colleague John Shank of Penn State University. I thought we’d have about 25 attendees. At one point we had 120 individuals in our virtual presentation area which is close to the record for any virtual program in which I’ve participated. Looking over the attendee profiles on the discussion board it looks like this is the first virtual conference for many of the participants. John and I have been big supporters of virtual conferencing since we began delivering workshops in the virtual environment.

In the afternoon I joined another heavily-attended session on an information literacy collaboration at Waterloo University by Laura Briggs and James Skidmore. Briggs is the librarian and Skidmore is a German professor. Although Waterloo does not have a curriculum wide information literacy initiative at this time, Briggs and Skidmore’s collaboration was a great example of how student research skills can be improved when faculty and librarians work together. The two showed good examples of how information literacy education was integrated into the course – primarily in the course’s ANGEL site – and their attempts to assess student learning about research skills. In some ways, the were disappointed that the students didn’t learn quite as much as they had hoped. Several attendees made good comments on the chat board about how difficult it is to teach these skills in a way that students are able to retain them (in this example the students had no direct instruction from the librarian but learned mostly from canned search examples). One consideration is that in this class of juniors, the librarian and faculty member may have had high expectations, but in the absence of a tiered, curriculum-wide information literacy initiative, can you really expect the students to internalize database specifics, the searching mechanics, and strategy techniques in a single course. It really needs to be developed over time. Information literacy, from my perspective, happens over the full four years of a student’s academic career. Still, this was a great example of librarian-faculty collaboration. I was impressed that Skidmore actually got involved with Briggs because he was concerned about the poor quality of his students’ research. We need more of this type of thinking and action from our faculty.

Today looks like a great schedule of events as well. I will hope to report on a few more programs – and I hope as well, that ACRL, CNI, and EDUCAUSE will make this a regular event. One improvement that we could use – there needs to be more faculty, information technologists, and other academic support professionals in attendance. Did CNI and EDUCAUSE promote this conference to their members? If not, ACRL needs to get them involved in promoting this event.

We May Have Lost Your Comment

Owing to circumstances beyond the control of the ACRLog blogging team, the last several days worth of posts were lost just yesterday. Our hosting service had a software failure that resulted in the loss of all posts from the last few days. Thanks to Bloglines, the content of the posts that were lost were available, and we did our best to rebuild the posts from this week. However, we could not restore the comments. We apologize if we lost your comment to a previous post. We welcome you to try to re-write the comment if time allows.

Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

I will readily admit that I’m lifting this title from one of the great all-time sports columnists, Bill Lyon, who not long ago retired after writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer for many years. Published every couple of Saturdays, “Sudden Thoughts and Second Thoughts” was something to look forward to, as it provided a delectable mix of miscellaneous observations and reactions. I hope he won’t mind me using it. Here are a few I had recently:

  • Infolust
  • A couple of bloggers mentioned the April 2006 briefing from TrendWatching.com about “Infolust“. It’s a good read, so take a look if you haven’t yet. Your comments on this piece will be appreciated as I’d like to know what other academic librarians are thinking. See if “Infolust” doesn’t describe some of the research behavior you see at your library. The question – or challenge – for academic librarians is how do we respond to users driven by Infolust. While Infolust is certainly about instant information gratification, one observation I make is that Infolust is also about power and empowerment – making users feel empowered. Can academic libraries somehow tap into the user’s Infolust so that we can develop within them an appreciation of satisfying one’s Infolust in the library’s information environment? I know what you’re thinking. The instant gratification factor is not there. But wouldn’t having the ability to master more sophisticated information tools – especially when they can enable you to kick butt on academic research assignments – offer a form of information gratification. That’s something worth thinking about.

  • Microsoft Academic Search
  • There was a fair amount of blogging and discussion list chatter last week about Microsoft’s big news – a new Academic Search engine. Microsoft will be going head-to-head with Google Scholar. I think I’ve seen no less than five or six librarian bloggers giving their personal reviews, but if you want the basic facts go to Resourceshelf. Since more than a few academic libraries have invested resources in creating connections from within Google Scholar, will they seek to do the same with Academic Search – or choose one over the other? On their well-placed link for librarians Microsoft wastes no time pushing for open URL link resolver connections from within Academic Search. Although the content is rather limited right now, there’s a lot to like. If you haven’t done so yet, take a closer look this week.

  • Who’s a Self-Promoter
  • Just because you blog, does that make you a self-promoter? What about publishing an article in a library journal? Are you just communicating ideas or research with colleagues, or are you out to be an “A-list” academic librarian? These are some of the questions raised by a blog post by Walt Crawford last week. Apparently he had some concerns about a reference to “movers and shakers” (LJ’s annual collection) made by The Shifted Librarian. I won’t rehash what created a fair amount of commentary; you can read Walt’s post for that – which will give you a better sense of why I’m writing about self-promotion. From my perspective the vast majority of academic librarians who simply publish, present, or blog are not self-promoters. If you’re good, others will know it and that may result in some unintended recognition. I think that’s how most folks end up as LJ Movers & Shakers. And like every award handed out in libraryland, there are many deserving folks who are not recognized. So I just linked to a post I wrote a while ago. Am I self-promoting my own writing? What if I link to an article I wrote in a journal? I think I’m just trying to get you read something related to the conversation. You may think I’m trying to broaden my personal sphere of influence. Certainly we all occasionally see evidence of shameless self-promotion in an attempt to obtain speaking engagements, requests to contribute articles, or to broaden one’s reputation in the profession. We have to accept it will happen, and live and let live. If you have a good idea or something worth communicating, share it with ACRLog (like Brian Mathews did – which garnered a few mentions in the LISblogoverse). Don’t let concerns about being accused of shameless self-promotion keep you from communicating ideas or news that could benefit your colleagues. I think most academic librarians have the good sense to know where the line is between enthusiasm for sharing ideas and shameless self-promotion – and to avoid crossing it.