Reflections after the Association for Asian Studies Conference

A few weeks ago, I attended the Association for Asian Studies annual conference. This conference has been a staple of my repertoire since I started library school, because along with all the usual scholarly panels, there are also several meetings of librarians. With two years under my belt, I was excited to approach this conference as a professional, voting on CRL global resources projects for the first time, and actually representing an institution instead of just coming along for the ride to observe discussions.

I also wanted to approach this conference thinking about librarianship more broadly and how subject librarians interact both with the world of their subject and the world of librarianship. At least in my areas, I sometimes feel like I’m splintered off from the rest of the library world, focusing on regions outside of the United States and languages other than English, which sometimes bring with them different challenges than what the rest of the profession in the United States might be facing. I wanted to make sure I paid attention to all facets of my librarian identity during this conference.

This year also happened to be the fiftieth anniversary of the Committee on Research Materials on Southeast Asia, which meant an extra celebration and a lot of reflection. Many librarians, including me, presented on some aspect of their work, either highlighting unique collections or discussing collaborative relationships between institutions both in the United States and abroad. We also honored retiring and past members, which was a good history lesson for me: there’s a lot of work that’s been done already for me to build upon. I appreciated this introspective and retrospective time, as it showed me all the things that have been done and helped to inspire me to do things like work harder on building my own library’s collection. I’m now thinking about might make the collection here unique and how I can help in that process.

A good portion of all my meetings also focused on looking outward. Even if we’re dealing with materials from our subject areas, we still encounter the trends seen throughout librarianship. For example, an increasing demand for electronic materials means that we had discussions about everything from digitization initiatives to projects collecting electronic journals from South and Southeast Asia. It was exciting to hear about everything that was going on, and a little intimidating as well. A big lesson from my year so far has been that I need to be involved but that I also need to be selective about my involvement. When I hear about all these initiatives, I want to participate in all of them, if only to learn more about them. There were definitely times during the conference when I had to sit back and remind myself that I can learn from the sidelines, at least for now.

Finally, there were also discussions about more unique concerns for area studies librarians, such as support for cataloging in languages other than English. With problems like this one, which seem so specific to a certain subset of librarians, it might be useful to take a step back and look at librarianship more broadly to see what solutions there might be. One thought that particularly interested me was to work on training librarians within the countries of origin. While we did not follow through on this discussion, it does take me back to broader questions I’ve had recently about collaboration and how collaboration that crosses geographic lines can be accomplished. We’ve managed it in other projects, can we manage it in realms such as cataloging as well? What considerations—such as indigenous systems of organizing information—do we need to take into account? I don’t have the answers yet, but I’m trying my best to crosspollinate what I learn in subject-specific conferences with what I learn in library-specific conferences: I’m very excited to see what new ideas and potential solutions ACRL’s conference will bring.


What sorts of conferences do you regularly attend? How do you leverage information from conferences that aren’t focused on librarianship?

A Collective Kind of Conference

ACRLog welcomes a guest post from Mollie Peuler, eLearning Librarian at Central Piedmont Community College.

I recently attended my first Collective Conference in Knoxville, TN and found the two-day conference a valuable and—dare I say—fun experience.

If you’ve not heard of the Collective, the event promotes itself as a non-traditional conference with an emphasis on hands-on learning. Consequently, it features a lot more practical ideas and applications and not as much theory and abstraction as at a more traditional conference. When talking to my supervisor about attending this conference, she (genuinely!) exclaimed, “Oh, please go and bring back all of the cool ideas!” Yes, you heard that right—cool. How often do you hear about a scholarly conference being cool? Legitimately, the Collective is cool. Here’s why.

Networking

Ahhhhh networking. Even if you’re not actively job searching, it’s always a good idea to connect with other library professionals and share ideas and experiences. From start to finish the networking and camaraderie was so natural at Collective—it wasn’t forced, or a soul-sucking drag, or tedious. In part, this was because networking wasn’t simply a block of time or something you had to force yourself to do between sessions or in the line at the lunch buffet. Rather, cooperative work and time for getting to know colleagues was thoughtfully woven into every aspect of the event. Almost every session I attended involved sitting at a round table with other librarians and working out problems together or creating videos as a group or some other interactive activity. The fact that we were collaborating allowed for natural and meaningful interactions between attendees.

Technology and Design

A large portion of the sessions I attended were related to technology and/or design. This isn’t surprising; these types of sessions appeal to me as an eLearning Librarian. Even so, the offerings of the Collective were very fresh and highly relevant to attendees with an interest in both instructional technology and instructional design. And if you’re not interested in these areas, there were plenty of other sessions on social media, space planning, and digital scholarship, to name a few. A few highlights:

360 Degree Videos Made Easy
360 degree videos, also known as immersive videos, are video recordings that can be simultaneously viewed in every direction. In the past I had been intimidated by the technology, but Pete Schreiner from North Carolina State University libraries provided a hands-on workshop featuring a quick overview of 360 video resources including what software to download, best practices documents, and story board templates. The introduction to 360 was quick but thorough. Attendees then broke out into small groups using provided cameras, software, and laptops to create our own 360 videos. It was a lot of fun! I can’t wait to dive in deeper and create my own 360 videos for my library.

Give Your eLearning Objects the Beauty Treatment in a Flash
Juliene McLaughlin and Melanie Parlette-Stewart from the University of Guelph packed SO much into the one-hour session. I am the type of person that ruminates for far too long on design decisions. I want everything to be perfect, and I’m not naturally a quick decision maker. This session introduced a quick and collaborative design and brainstorming method for creating and/or redesigning learning objects such as videos and infographics. Three minutes may not seem like a lot of time to come up with 6 design ideas, but it forced me out of my comfort zone.

Knowledge, Reputation, & Image: Crafting & Communicating a Professional Brand
I believe Ashleigh Coren and Chanelle Pickens, from West Virginia University, began their session by stating that they were not experts, but that they simply were sharing “what worked for them.” This type of rhetoric was weaved throughout the conference: the idea of trying something new and sharing what was learned. This session inspired me to finally create the online professional website I’ve been meaning to work on for some time. Using journaling and short writing activities, attendees were able to brainstorm and practice creating artist’s statements. I kept my notes and know these activities will come in handy when I get to that point in my own professional website process.

Value

It can be difficult to budget in one more conference; after all most of us have limited professional development budgets. This conference is worth adding to your list. I’m not sure about other previous years, but the 2017 conference was $80 for two days. In addition to two days of outstanding learning opportunities, a few meals were also included as well as a vendor event with a complimentary drink and some fabulous conference swag. What stands out the most to me is the offsite catered dinner. The Collective crew provided transportation (in a multi-colored love bus!) to the venue where there was live music, a delicious catered creole dinner, and bar that included two drinks for each attendee. It was a fabulous opportunity to continue conversations from the conference during the day.

Location

If I HAD to pick one challenge of the conference, I would say that due to the constant collaboration and engagement, you may find yourself tired and in need of a recharge before conference end. Fear not—Knoxville provides plenty of opportunity for this. While I enjoyed grabbing lunch and hanging out with other conference attendees, when I reached my point of needing to unwind I very much appreciated wondering the streets of Market Square on a lunch hour. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars all within walking distance. A few of my favorites include Union Ave Books, Chesapeake’s Seafood House, and Juice Bar Market Square.

Final Thoughts

This was the third iteration of the Collective Conference, and other attendees that have attended each year tell me that it has gotten even better each year. I’m hoping to attend next year, but for now I’m looking forward to applying the skills and knowledge I gained to my professional work. I’m currently working with a team of librarians to build an online learning module that will eventually be embedded within BlackBoard, and I’ve already been able to apply the Universal Design for Learning Principals and the Simplicity Design Cycle tool that I learned about from one of the sessions.

As I write this blog post, I realize it’s actually a challenge to fully describe the Collective experience. I suppose all I can say is, if you’re interested in a conference that is a coming together of the coolest and most cutting edge librarians planned by a team of librarians who thought through every detail from start to finish, I highly recommend the Collective.