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.

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.

Reflections On Blogging

Editor’s Note: ACRLog is hosting a team of ALA Emerging Leaders. Each month one of our Emerging Leaders will contribute a guest post, and each will focus on some aspect of gearing up for the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. This month the series takes on a slightly different topic than the Annual Conference. Miriam Rigby, Assistant Professor, Social Sciences Librarian for Anthropology, Sociology, Ethnic Studies,Geography & Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, shares some thoughts about blogging.

One of the questions posed to our Emerging Leaders team when we took on this project to write posts for ACRLog and ACRL Insider, was whether blogs were still relevant. Based on my habits, which include subscribing to over 60 blogs through Google Reader, my initial gut reaction was “of course!” But then I started wondering, “are blogs the new Second Life?” No offense to people who find Second Life useful or entertaining, but outside of the realms of librarianship and advertising, very few people I know think it is relevant; some are surprised to hear it still exists or is used at all. And these people are visibly shocked when I tell them of ACRL conference presentations in which Second Life is used, or even discussed. Anecdotes, to be sure – from a small pool of people no less – but noteworthy, I think.

Blogs seem different though. The New York Times has dozens of blogs. There are mega-blogs run along the lines of traditional news sources, with multiple, regular columnists and editors; take Boing Boing or Gizmodo for instance. There are even peer-edited blogs such as In the Library With the Lead Pipe. And if, for a minute we can conflate the ideas of blogs and rss feeds, even the Anthropology Department that I am a subject-specialist for at the University of Oregon has a “blog” to which I can subscribe to keep up to date with all of the awards and accomplishments the department achieves.

As an aside, subscriptions like these, through my Google Reader, are crucial to my blog reading habits; this rss aggregator compiles all of the blogs I follow in one place, and I am notified when there is a new post. This saves me hours of bouncing around the web, trying to find out if anyone has posted something new.

Blogging is not just a hobby or a personal journal option, but also a career for many. It seems to me, that some people who are anti-blog are that way because they have an outdated view of what blogs are. Blogging is a format that has grown up and developed itself in terms of content over the past decade or so. And as it is a fairly versatile format, I don’t think that it will disappear too quickly. What I mean by all this, is that when anti-blog people think of blogs, their negativity may stem from an outdated idea of teenagers’ LiveJournal or GeoCities pages from the ‘90s; they expect the rants of an individual, rather than interesting news and links to more information. Blogs certainly still can be this (not to suggest that this particular one isn’t great, it is), but they can also be well crafted, cited, authoritative sources of cutting edge science like the Public Library of Science’s (PLoS) Medical Blog. Blogs don’t have many constraints; if you can imagine it, you can probably make it and call it a blog. And as that lovely Wikipedia entry states, you can embed pretty much any content you like.

Of course, I couldn’t write a post on information sharing on the web, without mentioning social networks like Facebook and Twitter – places that are somewhat blog-like in the way that people write posts (no matter how short) and share information with each other. Perhaps these will kill the Blog?

Perhaps, but on the other hand, where is this information that is being shared via links coming from? Online newspapers… and blogs! In response to this, and Facebook’s ongoing privacy issues, some people are leaving Facebook for other sites like Tumblr, a socially networked blogging platform, while others are coming up with their own new concept for online networking and information sharing, as with Diaspora.

Notre Dame recently hosted a science and mathematics career conference for 11-14 year old girls, Expanding Your Horizons. Data Librarian, Michelle Hudson, had the pleasure of talking to some of these young women about careers in library science and information architecture, and in the process, discussed blogging with them. Apparently, none of them “blog,” but they do use Facebook. (Michelle notes that it wasn’t clear if they recognized features like “notes” on Facebook are blog-like, and their reading habits were not explored.) So, maybe there are generational differences, maybe blogging is for people over 30. Or maybe it’s a semantic issue; many things look like blogs to me, which may not be called blogs, or be understood to be blogs by their users.

But what kind of a librarian would I be if I just told you my thoughts and didn’t invoke some Web 2.0 participation via blog comments? So, you obviously read some blogs – you are here reading this. But how many blogs do you tend to read? What are your favorites? And do you go directly to the blogs’ webpages, or do you import them via RSS to a reader? And do you think blogs are relevant, or do you know of some newer, cutting edge method of keeping up to date with news and internet memes?

Making Conferencing Comfortable

Editor’s Note: ACRLog is hosting a team of ALA Emerging Leaders. Each month one of our Emerging Leaders will contribute a guest post, and each will focus on some aspect of gearing up for the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Next up in the series is a personal reflection on being mentored at the ALA Conference by Rachel Slough, MLIS Candidate, 2010, Indiana University. Rachel’s co-author for this post is Sarah Wenzel, Bibiliographer for English & Romance Literatures at the University of Chicago Regenstein Library

One of the first things I did when I started my MLIS program was join ALA because I was told it was “the thing to do.” I didn’t exactly know what this meant, except that this was supposed to be important for my professional future. I was eager to attend my first annual conference last summer to get a better idea of what ALA is and does. In the months between the start of classes and the start of conference, I learned about ALA and became particularly excited about the opportunities to connect students and early professionals with experienced experts.

As the conference grew closer, I grew more nervous. I read about various events and sections, attended an ACRL 101 On-Point chat and talked with several of my librarian mentors. But I still had questions. Would I get lost? Would I be able to find sessions that were relevant and interesting? In all the enormity of the conference and the organization, would I be able to find a place where I felt like I belonged?

I was thrilled to find out that the New Member Round Table offers an Annual Conference Mentoring program, which pairs a first time attendee with a “seasoned” conference-goer to help ensure that the first conference experience will be a positive one. I took advantage of it, and was happy I did.

My conference mentor, and the NMRT Conference Mentoring program, played a large role in helping quell my nerves and make me want to become active with ALA as soon as I could. I was paired with Sarah Wenzel, and I received Sarah’s contact information several weeks before conference. We talked and emailed before the conference and also met once there. She introduced me to her colleagues, and invited me to join her at ALA division meetings. As a student, it was exciting to meet a professional librarian beyond my home institution who clearly loves the field and who is eager to mentor in-coming colleagues. As a first-time attendee, having a mentor gave me the guidance to navigate the ALA structure, confidence to seek out my own niche, and security in feeling that I was welcomed. Throughout the conference, I was delighted to discover how nice librarians are, and how eager many are to answer questions and to discern what I’m really asking. Having a conference mentor helped me to feel comfortable and welcomed both into ALA and the profession.

Participating in the NMRT Conference Mentor program has benefits for mentors as well. When I determined that I would be writing this post as part of my Emerging Leader project, I asked Sarah for her perspective on what it’s like on the other end.

Sarah Wenzel: This was the first time that I’d formally mentored a colleague, and I was glad for the chance to give back to the profession after all of the mentoring that I’ve received over the years. Most heartening to me was the chance to talk to someone enthusiastic and energetic as she discovered the joys (and, sadly, the logistical frustrations) of an ALA conference. Sharing my conference strategies with Rachel, who has slightly different professional interests than I, gave me the opportunity to think outside of my “home” section and to consider other areas than the WESS related activities that often frame my conference attendance. I was also reminded again of how closed and un-welcoming, despite our best efforts, our structures can seem. The need to make sections, committees and discussion groups more transparent and to reach out to new members once again became real to me.

In the same way that teaching is the best way to learn something or to force yourself to think about what you do in new ways, mentoring allows you to reexamine your assumptions and explore different aspects of the profession.

Seeing the perspective of someone who hasn’t attended ALA before refreshed my enthusiasm for the conference, and gave me a sense of re-discovering both the conference and the organization. Not least, I also have added a terrific new contact and colleague to my network of resources.

For those interested in participating in this year’s program as a mentee or mentor, Applications are due May 15.

Ways To Engage With ACRL

Editor’s Note: ACRLog is hosting a team of ALA Emerging Leaders. Each month one of our Emerging Leaders will contribute a guest post, and each will focus on some aspect of gearing up for the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Next up in the series is a personal reflection on ACRL 101 from Hui-Fen Chang, Assistant Professor, Humanities & Social Sciences, Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University – Stillwater.

Hi, I’m one of the ALA Emerging Leaders for ACRL 101. As a new-to-the-profession librarian, I joined ACRL less than a year ago. So far I only have good things to say about the organization.I became a member because ACRL is the leading professional organizations for academic and research librarians. Through my involvement, and especially through my work with the Emerging Leaders program, I’ve become more aware of all of the practical and useful resources for professional development for academic librarians.

When I attended my first ALA Annual Conference last year in Chicago, I started out by going to the ACRL 101 & Membership Meeting where I was able to meet with the ACRL leaders and section representatives. I also found out about various ways to get involved in ACRL (like volunteering to serve on committees), and useful tips for making the most of the ALA Annual Conference. Overall it was a useful and informative orientation for me as a first-time ALA Annual attendee. It inspired me to select the ACRL 101 program within Emerging Leaders. I strongly recommend it to this year’s first timers at Annual 2010.

Between now and then though, if you’re at all like me, you’ll probably want to start planning how to get involved so you can make the most of your conference. In addition to blogs like this one, ACRL publications such as College and Research Libraries and College and Research Libraries News have helped me stay current with scholarly research and with issues germane to academic librarianship. With regard to getting personally involved, ACRL has 17 sections each with committees eager to add new members. In ACRL volunteers are always welcome to serve on committees. I really found committee work an excellent way to network and gain professional experience. I sent in my committee volunteer form, and the next thing I know I’m working with other academic librarians on the Instruction Section Research & Scholarship committee. Through committee work, I get to learn more about the structure of the organization, and how a committee functions and operates, not to mention that I actually get credit for contributing to national projects and publications.

What are some of the other resources worth noting?

* 7 interest groups and 42 discussion groups to join and network with librarians

* OnPoint Chats , blogs , wikis, Facebook and other interactive resources for librarians to communicate and share ideas 25 standards and guidelines on topics of academic librarianship such as information literacy and collection development

*A variety of online seminars, webcasts and courses like Instructional Design for Online Teaching and Learning, Creating Usable and Accessible Web Pages and Copyright and the Library

ACRL National Conference, March 30 – April 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There is still time to submit your proposal (by May 10, 2010)!

If you are new to ACRL and want to learn more about ACRL resources and ways to get involved, consider attending the ACRL 101 & Membership Meeting at ALA Annual. In addition, our group of Emerging Leaders is hosting three ACRL 101 mini-sessions for prospective ACRL members and first-time ALA Annual attendees in the ALA pavilion on June 26 and 27 (in the Exhibit Hall). Participants will get to meet with ACRL members and representatives, and to hear about these insiders’ experience with ACRL. It’s as useful and interesting for us to meet new people as it is for you, so we hope to see you there!