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Reframing the narrative: Upcoming CARL Conference paper

Posted on 27 August 2015 at 1:37 pm in Musings.

Do you know any exciting examples of historic academic library educational innovations? I want to know about them, and here’s why: my contributed paper proposal for the forthcoming CARL Conference was accepted. It’s titled Reframing the narrative: Librarians as innovators in the past and present, and it’s all about the educational innovations derived from the work of academic librarians. Of course, writing the application was the easy part — now it’s time to research and write! The conference assembles in April of 2016.

In keeping with the conference theme, What we talk about when we talk about value, my paper is going to argue that contrary to popular perception, academic libraries have a remarkable but often unknown history as centers of innovation on campus. This research will build on the work I did for my Kentucky Library Association Conference presentation, Blazed Pathways and Skillful Glancing, when I looked at a number of historical comparisons for the contemporary debate around literacy threshold concepts.

From my application:

There is a common narrative when discussing libraries and the value they provide on a college campus. According to this narrative, the traditional library was valued for the collection it stored, and the modern library is valued for the services it provides. Rapidly changing technology is seen as the catalyst for this change, and the library of today and tomorrow is described as a center for learning, one that fosters creativity and curates the expanding universe of information. While this future is exciting and places the library at the leading edge of innovation in higher education, this narrative undercuts the creativity and valuable services provided by librarians of the past.

This contributed paper will examine the creative strategies and innovative instruction methods employed by our librarian forerunners, and present a position that libraries have been at the heart of educational innovation for well over a century. The presenter will demonstrate that early academic libraries were far more innovative than conventional wisdom suggests, and provide historical research that shows many of the trends in vogue today, such as embedded librarianship, flipped instruction, and advocacy around scholarly communications, all have roots in the practices of those early librarians.

If you, dear reader, are aware of any interesting, historic examples of library innovation, please be in touch!

Trip Report: CARL Conference 2012

Posted on 8 June 2012 at 3:08 pm in Musings.

In April of 2012 I attended the biennial conference of California Academic and Research Libraries, the state affiliate of ACRL. The conference theme was “Creativity & Sustainability: Fostering User-Centered Innovation in Difficult Times.” The focus of the keynote presentations was the promotion of innovative leadership (or, in the cases of some institutions, how to overcome a lack of innovative leadership). The conference proceedings have now been published online:

The opening keynote presentation was from Jenica Rogers, a library director at a university in upstate New York and a blogger at Attempting Elegance. In her presentation, she quoted some disturbing figures about how few library directors felt they had an innovative plan for the future. If institutional directors don’t feel they have a plan for the future, how must their staff feel? What does that say about the future of their libraries on campus? Rogers emphasized the easiest thing a director can do to foster innovation is to say “yes.” If you’ve hired a staff of motivated, creative librarians, saying “yes” will be the ticket to innovation and change.

Another keynote was from co-presenters Char Booth, coordinator of instruction at Claremont Colleges, and Brian Mathews, an Assistant Dean of Library Services at Virgina Tech. There presentation focused on threshold concepts in education and using curriculum mapping to refine and improve campus-wide information literacy programs. Their invited paper is available online and I highly recommend reading it.

I highlighted the following extract on tumblr:

How does threshold concept theory apply to academic librarians? It can be argued that incorporating knowledge of threshold concepts into our instructional strategy enables us to be more effective and empathic – anticipating the challenges our learners face and intervening with insight into their disciplinary experience. This can impact not only what and how we teach, but also when is the right time to cover particular topics and skills. In short, it enables us to survey the entire learning landscape within a discipline and optimize the libraryʼs interaction. By understanding the common stumbling blocks, knowledge gaps, and frustration points within a given subject domain, as well as with particular courses and assignments, we can better position the library to become a strong instructional partner.

As a liaison to my university’s nursing program, I feel it is incumbent upon me — even if the depth of my nursing expertise is limited — to investigate the relevant threshold concepts are in nursing practice so that I can deepen my work with the nursing students. I feel inadvertently stumbled into a threshold when I made a recent presentation on evidence-based nursing, a highly specific, clinical practice that involves using research to provide answers to clinical questions. Presenting on that specific a subject pushed me beyond the usual approach of ‘access the database here, use these search terms and limiters’ type of workshop. I had to get knowledgeable on realms beyond my experience — things like PICO questions, meta-analysis and systematic reviews — and relay the importance of these concepts to students who are still sometimes new to scholarly research. I came away from that presentation feeling like the formal process of creating a PICO question — and using that question to derive strong keyword search terms — transformed the students’ approach to scholarly search in ways that will benefit them beyond evidence-based practice. If they can master a high-level concept like PICO, the rest of their information seeking-skills will come to them more easily.

A few other highlights from the conference:

Predicting Innovation in Library Environments

Michael Germano, CSU Los Angeles.

CSU’s Michael Germano became a librarian after a career in tech entrepreneurship, and compared and contrasted elements of successful leadership with some of the bureaucratic elements he believes hinder libraries. One of his major points was that your internal culture affects your users. It has a significant impact, especially on existing, ongoing users and customer retention and loyalty.

He described innovative climates as possessing the following traits:

  • Accountability
  • Assessment/Evidence Based
  • Change tolerant
  • Confident
  • Competitive
  • Fearless
  • Positive/Supportive
  • Reward Oriented
  • Vision Driven

He asked how many of these traits are embodied by libraries?

He described the following as values that drive innovative environments:

  • Risk tolerance
  • Flexibility
  • Boundarylessness
  • Customer Focus
  • Shared purpose
  • Value/Empower people
  • Results oriented
  • Sense of urgency
  • Low tolerance of repetition

In contrast, he used the following attributes to describe existing library culture:

  • Organized and predictable
  • Permanency
  • Shared values

He emphasized how leadership qualities can create an innovative environment. He characterized leadership as the process of influencing others to engage in a shared task or purpose — leading is not managing.

Library instruction: information visualization and keyword searching

Matt Conner & Melissa Browne, University of California, Davis

This presentation was the culmination of a CARL-funded research study on the keyword searching techniques of college students and the effect of visual literacy tools on search success.

The basic idea is that vision and cognition are fundamentally related. Representations of data with visual designs assist comprehension and insight. A popular example is the red state/blue state map that makes political affiliation so much easier to grasp than a series of charts that conveys the same information. Their survey used information-seeking tools that emphasize visual elements to see how it affected user behavior and success. Some of the tools they used were the now-defunct Google Wonder Wheel and EBSCOhost’s Visual Search.

Known patterns in student search strategies are either single-word searches or long strings of natural language. Students tend to only skim search results. Students will give up quickly and assume there is nothing on their topic. These strategies don’t largely work using library resources. The researchers suggested that instructional librarians are not always giving students the best guidance for their topic searches. It’s really important to turn topic ideas into search keywords in a way that affects and strengthens search outcomes.

The question the researchers tried to answer was whether visualization would help students formulate more systematic searches.  Could it improve efficiency and increase satisfaction? Results were inconclusive, though users did have some success improving their keywords after using EBSCOhost’s Visual Search.

The research provided one surprise outcome: student behavior isn’t exclusively about searching and terms. There was a strong tendency towards link-following. They may start with one search in Google, but ultimately follow a series of links until satisfied, which partially explains the popularity of the hyperlink-rich Wikipedia.

Transforming Research into Practice: Using Project Information Literacy Findings to Revitalize Instruction and Outreach

Michele Van Hoeck, CSU Maritime; Ann Roselle, Phoenix College; Catherine Palmer, UC Irvine

Each presenter gave a specific example of using Project Information Literacy (PIL) findings at their institutions. Each of the research reports referenced below can be found on the PIL Publications Page.

First, some of the basics of PIL; it is an ongoing research project guided by Dr. Alison Head and Dr. Michael Eisenberg at University of Washington’s iSchool. It has surveyed 11,000 college students from 52 campuses across five studies.

Michele Van Hoeck focused on incorporating ideas from 2010 PIL survey, “Truth be told: How college students evaluate and use information in the digital age.” The survey involved 8,353 students on asked about their course-related and everyday life research. It was an online survey with 22 questions.

The first major finding of the survey was that students reported the most difficulty with getting started (84%), finding a topic (66%), and narrowing a topic (61%) – described as “failure to launch.” PIL conducted follow-up interviews with certain students. Students said it wasn’t a lack of ideas that made it hard to start, it was a fear of their idea failing them, and an inability to vet their topic. They were desperate for context and background, hence using Wikipedia very heavily.

Based on these PIL findings, Van Hoeck developed new learning outcomes for her LIB100 course at CSU Maritime:

  • Develop methods for exploring and vetting new topics.
  • Gain awareness of sources for context & background.

She suggested a couple methods of addressing these learning outcomes in a one-shot instructional session.

  • Infolit icebreaker: using Poll Everywhere to ask “What’s the worst thing about a research paper?”
  • Creating a Getting Started tab on a LibGuide (or other model of institutional research guide or pathfinder.)
  • Focus first session on getting started, devoted to sources for starting research.
  • Only demonstrating electronic sources and explicitly comparing them to Wikipedia.
  • Van Hoeck used libguide stats for assessment, looking at Fall 2010 vs. Fall 2011 usage. Paired with a new lesson plan, the LibGuide saw a tripling of link usage.

Ann Roselle of Phoenix College looked at the 3rd PIL report, “Assigning inquiry: How handouts for research assignments guide today’s college students.” The survey looked at 191 research assignment handouts from 28 different institutions across disciplines. 83% of the surveyed handouts could be described as a “standard research handout” — that is to say, unexceptional and including several common weaknesses.

The study compared the majority of research assignment handouts to city roadmaps with no street names included (because they did not specific which databases students should use.) Only 13% of handouts mentioned consulting librarians (or faculty). Only 18% mentioned plagiarism.

The PIL report described these assignments as paying “more attention on the mechanics of preparing a research assignment” rather than getting started, defining the topic, or evaluating the information.

As a response to these PIL findings, Ann Roselle hosted a workshop for faculty to give them a better idea of how to create a research assignment handout. She had faculty work in small groups. They worked through sources slowly and were given handouts to analyze. The selected handouts were a balanced mix good and bad to see how faculty would analyze them.

Time was given at the end of the workshop to provide faculty a chance to consider how their own handouts work. When asked to describe one common pitfall of research handouts, faculty identified that “librarian not included” comes up a lot. Faculty were also advised also include actual links to specific databases.

Feedback from faculty who have worked on improving their handouts includes, “I have noticed that students have less questions about how to do the assignment, and I am generally getting more college-approved sources.”

Catherine Palmer adapted a St. Olaf College Research Practice survey into a PIL-inspired pre- and post-test assessment model for UC Irvine. One advantage of the open-source St. Olaf assessment was the ability to include open-ended questions on research practices. UC Irvine replaced Project SAILS with this approach.

English Composition Students: How Are They Using Their Sources?

Sharon Radcliff & Elise Wong, Saint Mary’s College Library

This was an interesting presentation on a research project librarians at St. Mary’s conducted on the bibliographies of their freshmen composition papers. The pilot study included 25 papers in 2008. In 2010 they expanded the study to approximately 80 papers. 20 papers were not included in the 2010 study findings because they didn’t have bibliographies at all.

Some of their findings from the second survey were on the types of sources used:

  • 44% websites
  • 30% magazines and journals
  • 22% books

Regarding the citations, 58% were direct quotes, 42% were paraphrased. The faculty would prefer to see a higher percentage of paraphrasing in order to synthesize ideas, which is considered a stronger form of writing than a heavy reliance on direct quotations. About half of the quotes were introduced and analyzed. 20% had an introduction but no analysis. 14% analyzed afterwards with no introduction. 13% of quotes had no introduction and no analysis.

As a outcome of this survey, faculty & librarians revisited their instructional design to account for shortcomings with the hope that composition faculty could consult with librarians in course design and embed library tutorials in class materials.

There were some limitations of study. It was not a random sampling — the papers volunteered by English faculty. There was no discussion on the quality of the sources, and no association between un-cited information in the papers and plagiarism.

For the future, the librarians would like to implement multiple instructional strategies, design a study to test these strategies, in order to compare their modified practices to a control group. They would like to add specialized instruction on citations to sections of first semester in English comp. They would also like to compare results with sections not receiving instruction at all, and determine means to track the progress of students over four years of education.

One element the St. Mary’s librarians are adding to their freshmen year instruction is having the students actually find an article and identify the parts of a citation. They make sure the students at least write out one citation in class — have them have the experience of doing it themselves.

Post-CARL Review, Pt. 2

Posted on 4 May 2010 at 7:14 pm in Events.

As an early-career librarian, I went to the CARL Conference hoping to get a glimpse of the latest trends in librarianship, and to come away with a sense of coming shifts in the profession I need to be aware of – a glimpse into my own future. What skills does the modern academic librarian need to have? What do they need to be ready to do? What are library patrons looking for now, and what will they be looking for in the years ahead? How can I shape my career in order to be on the forward edge of coming changes?

Changing the Metrics

The first plenary lecture, by Dr. Peter Hernon of Simmons College, covered a broad span of the issues he sees in the profession and some emerging trends. His shock statistic was that reference desk approaches are down 80% from where they used to be. This confirms what everyone has been saying since the advent of internet search: reference, as a department and core duty of librarianship, is in trouble.

I’ve written about reference before, and made it clear that I don’t believe reference is dead (see There He Sat With An Answer For All and my e-Portfolio Competency I). Still, even as an ardent backer of continued (though diversified) reference service, I have to agree that a MLIS graduate can no longer claim to be solely a reference specialist and expect to find work. These days, a librarian needs to have a wider set of skills; capable of providing reference, yes, but inevitably even a reference department librarian will have responsibilities in library instruction, collection development, electronic resources and so on.

The bigger issue is that many traditional statistics of library usage – reference inquiries, circulation, and so on – often indicate to university administrators that libraries are declining, ergo library budgets get cut. So libraries need to produce research – quantitative evidence – to show administrators all of the benefits of continued library support. It needs to become clear what value libraries are supplying students; what are students getting per tuition dollar provided to the library? New metrics can show just how vital libraries remain (some of the presentations I discussed in the Post-CARL Review, Pt. 1 had examples of just the sorts of quantitative research libraries can be doing).

Early Career Librarians

One of the final-day workshops I attended at the conference was a discussion of issues for early career librarians, hosted by Katherine O’Clair of Cal Poly, SLO. There was a lot of practical advice to be had, both in a general sense, and some for me and my situation specifically. Since it was an open discussion, a lot of the attendees had different points of view; some reiterated the commonly held belief that if you’re a paraprofessional (instead of a librarian) for more than a couple years, you’re stuck being a paraprofessional forever. Others disputed that assumption on the basis of the current economy; hiring managers will be more forgiving of non-professional level work on your résumé given of how few opportunities are out there right now.

The eventual consensus was that getting your first professional level job isn’t a function of how long you have or haven’t worked as a paraprofessional, but rather the relationship you’ve developed with your professional level colleagues, peers and professional organizations. It’s vital to develop connections, attend conferences, and write papers; these activities show a professional-level of interest and can make up for any deficiencies on your curriculum vitae.

Some very good personal advice I received from an established librarian attending the session was that my digitization experience at the California Academy of Sciences, while archival by nature and not at an academic library, still provided me a skill-set a lot of libraries don’t have on staff; he made the point that even if I’m applying for a reference or instructional-heavy academic position, I should promote my digitizing experience. That skill – even if a library hadn’t considered it a priority – could make me a more attractive candidate. I’m capable of stretching a job description (and an FTE) to include new responsibilities, increasing my value.

That concept really holds true to any skill you might have. Don’t discard arrows from your quiver just because they aren’t listed in a posted job description. Make sure a library that is hiring knows all the different things you can do (budgeting experience? supervisory experience? Mention it).

Overall, I feel I came away from the conference with a better idea of current trends in academic libraries and how to better market myself in what is a competitive market. And those are marks of a successful conference-going experience (another mark would be a good time socializing and networking; I did that too!).

Post-CARL Review, Pt. 1

Posted on 19 April 2010 at 10:25 pm in Events.

I had a great time at the CARL Conference over April 8-10 in Sacramento. There was a lot to digest, in terms of insight and inspiration, and I’m hoping to distill at least a little bit of that wisdom here. There was a wide range of topics covered in the various presentations and speeches, but a couple subject areas jump out as being worthy of further discussion. My next couple posts on this blog will tackle these. First up: Library Instruction/Information Literacy.

About ten of the twenty-four official discussion sessions were focused on information literacy and instruction. Of these, I attended several, and came away with a lot of good ideas and an appreciation for the serious research going on in the subject right now.

Longitudinal Research

Three staff librarians from Cal State-Long Beach presented their ongoing, 6-year research endeavor to determine the effectiveness of their library instruction program. Their presentation, “Are They Getting It: Seeking Evidence of Students’ Research Behavior Over Time” described their grant-funded project from its inception to its current state, two years into the study.

I’m impressed with the depth of their research. They started by developing a large sample of freshman students with the intention of following them throughout their education. Their analysis of the students’ research skills extend to studying the students’ research paper bibliographies for source and citation quality. This sort of extensive, longitudinal study is difficult to implement and ties up a lot of staff time and resources, but the results — sure to be published — will be of use to universities and colleges throughout California and beyond (which is why CARL was the main grant-giving body behind the project). It’s easy to suppose how and why information literacy programs are successful or not; it’s another thing to really study what’s happening in a quantitative manner.

One interesting takeaway from their presentation was their use of a statistician to analyze the substantial data their surveys were generating. You can’t merely collect information — it needs to be analyzed in a meaningful way. Sometimes it is best to bring in an outside expert instead of relying on in-house staff. Their statistician was able to model their data in several dimensions and changed their whole perspective on the information they had gathered — and saved the time and energy of the librarians themselves.

The presenters — Susan Jackson, Karin Griffin and Carol Perruso, all of CSULB — also provided extensive survey details in the form of handouts, including a timeline, survey questions, and project budget. While the survey will run for several years yet, I’m looking forward to their eventual results and what it will teach us about what works and what doesn’t, and how research behavior is evolving.

Working With a Campus Assessment Coordinator

Another example of using outsider expertise came from the presentation “Upstairs-Downstairs: Working with a Campus Assessment Coordinator and Other Allies for Effective Information Literacy Assessment” by Golden Gate University librarians Amy Hofer and Margot Hanson. In this case, their outsider was really an insider: the existing GGU Campus Assessment Coordinator. Still, they were reaching outside the lines of library staff to work with someone with a campus-wide responsibility, and more importantly, an understanding of program assessment.

According to their presentation, the advice and administrative approval they got from their use of the Campus Assesment Coordinator was essential for the success of their program study, which involved the startup of a new, embedded library instruction program that moved away from “one shot” instructional sessions in favor of an ongoing, semester-long engagement with a class. Their Assessment Coordinator started by asking what a successful program actually looked like, who was the audience for their study, and suggesting the use of a control group to put the study’s findings in context. They also devised measures to test discernible improvement in actual information use, rather than relying on the students’ self-assessment of their own information literacy (in the form of traditional satisfaction surveys).

Hofer and Hanson narrowed their research by focusing on a specific segment of the GGU student body, a special program for foreign-born students developing their English-language research skills (the PLUS program). Golden Gate University has an unusually high level of international students due to its emphasis on graduate-level business programs and location in the heart of downtown San Francisco. They were able to measure student research skills based on written tests and an analysis of work performed at the beginning and at the end of the school term, and saw marked improvement in two of the three categories they measured (the hardest area to improve was the students’ choice of subject, which is a critical thinking skill that can extend beyond the library’s sphere of influence).

The Golden Gate University study was a well-orchestrated example of research that would be easier to implement than CSULB’s expensive, time-consuming longitudinal study that would still yield relevant institutional results. More information about this study, including some of the test questions and suggested further reading is available here.

The Post-Google World

The final presentation at the conference I attended was an informative workshop built around information literacy program curriculum, and improving lesson content by reverse engineering the process: start with the (desired) results, and work backwards to build your lesson plan. Korey Brunetti and Lori Townsend of CSU-East Bay were joined by Julian Prentice of Chabot College to lead this session (Let’s Try This Again: Redefining the Content of Information Literacy for a Post-Google World) that combined an initial group presentation with a workshop-style open discussion using Prezi to capture the assembled attendees’ ideas.

There were a few big concepts that emerged:

  • Keep your goals simple — reduce, reduce, reduce superfluous objectives in favor of imparting a few key, simple ideas on your students.
  • Emphasize critical thinking skills across mediums. Ultimately, the source of a citation doesn’t matter (open web vs. subscription database vs. government website etc.), it’s the quality and verifiability of that source.
  • Understand how contemporary students work and integrate better tools and critical decision-making into their existing study patterns.

This sessions’ notes and final “Prezi” will appear in the forthcoming CARL Conference Digital Proceedings.

Take-Home Lessons

I found a number of take-home lessons in this focus on information literacy programs. Beyond the simple opportunity to see how different libraries and universities are pursuing information instruction, it was instructive to see the value of both long-term and short-term research for improving existing programs, jump starting expanded programs and ultimately — and perhaps most importantly — proving the library’s enduring value to campus administrations.

Through each of these sessions were also woven excellent ideas for instruction curriculum in the 21st century; how best to capture the students’ attention and impart meaningful lessons that will actually impact their research methods in a positive way.

My next post will cover some of the career-development issues discussed at the conference, including Dr. Peter Hernon’s plenary lecture.

Dissecting CARL

Posted on 5 April 2010 at 10:31 pm in Events.

We’re just a few days away from the 2010 CARL (California Academic and Research Libraries) Conference and I couldn’t be more excited. Last week, my friend and carpool partner Carolyn came over for dinner and discussion of our itinerary and figured out which presentations we most want to attend (subject to change, of course, based on recommendations and momentum once we arrive).

So I thought I’d dissect the schedule and the presentations I’m most interested in seeing. Once the event is underway I’ll tweet my live impressions, and when it’s over I’m sure I’ll post a conference wrap-up.

Thursday, April 8

The conference kicks off with AM and PM “Engage Sessions” for early birds. Since these cost extra and both Carolyn and I are on “underemployed” budgets, we decided to pass on extra out-of-pocket expenses. It’s unfortunate, since several of these presentations sound interesting, particularly “Reference Toolkit Revisited” by Amy Wallace, CARL President. I’ve been doing specialized archival reference at the California Academy of Sciences, so a good refresher on the latest tools and tricks for general reference and instruction would have been worthwhile. Perhaps I can pick Amy’s brain during some of the open conference time.

The main draw for us Thursday is the dinner program from 6-8, which promises to be a great chance to reconnect with librarians we’ve worked with in the past and make new contacts.

Friday, April 9

Friday morning is when the serious presentations begin (and the difficult choices). After an early plenary session with Dr. Peter Hernon, we have to decide between four different presentations to attend late morning, another four after lunch, and a final set of four for the early evening. The three sessions I’m leaning towards attending are as follows (and, of course, subject to change):

  • New Directions in Library Instruction: Keywords, Visual Literacy, and Critical Thinking by Matt Conner (of UC Davis). This is appealing because I consider Library Instruction to be one of my strengths as a librarian and this is an opportunity to see another professional’s perspective and deepen my own understanding of information search. My own philosophy of Instruction is pretty heavily based on what I learned working with Joe Garity and his team at USF so I’m very curious what other perspectives are out there.
  • People Make Research Guides with Jacqui Grallo, Kathlene Hanson (of CSU Monterey Bay), and Jade Winn (USC). LibGuides and similar software are becoming the dominant medium for dynamic research guides (replacing the static pathfinders of the days of yore) and getting a better understanding of how to use these tools will keep me on the cutting edge of Reference Librarianship.
  • Digging into Our “Hidden Collections”: Maximizing Staff Skills and Technology to Enhance Access to Special Collections with Elaine Franco and John Sherlock (UC Davis), Sarah Buchanan (UCLA). I may just be getting suckered into a presentation about a mystery with a fellow named Sherlock, but this sounds very compelling to me. A lot of what I’ve been doing with the California Academy of Sciences has been digging through the back cabinets to find the uncataloged, unheralded and otherwise undiscovered items in our collections. I’d love to learn about Franco, Sherlock and Buchanan’s experiences with similar work on the larger scale of a research university.

Alternatively, there is an compelling sounding presentation on information literacy assessments (AM), library research ethics (PM), and wiki-based research guides (late PM) that could draw me away from my initial choices. The Friday lunch is also exciting: CARL will be introducing the current Rockman Award winners, and it will be my chance to meet the other members of the committee.

Saturday, April 10

The final day of the conference promises to be pretty full, too. I’m less decided on my Saturday “Listen & Learn” sessions, but here is what I’m leaning towards:

  • The Library as a Student Research Site by Anna Gold (of Cal Poly-SLO). Library service always starts with the user experience. Whether you’re trying to provide access to materials, assist in locating information, or performing behind-the-scenes technical services, everything we do as librarians has to be about easing the experience of our library patrons as they seek information, a place to study, to work and to collaborate. This presentation promises to be a well-researched look at how university library users are using the tools at their disposal and how libraries can make their research goals easier to accomplish.
  • Early Career Issues in Academic Librarianship with Katherine O’Clair (Cal Poly-SLO). Well, I fit the bill. I graduated in December and am currently looking for a full-time, professional position, and this session is all about what to do when you’re in my shoes. From the presentation description, this sounds like it could be a great, open discussion, or fall flat if the audience is light and unresponsive. However, given O’Clair’s impressive curriculum vitae, I’m pretty sure she knows what she’s doing and this session will be worth attending — it has the potential to be the most useful I attend all conference.
  • Let’s Try This Again: Redefining the Content of Information Literacy for a Post-Google World by Korey Brunetti (CSU East Bay), Julian Prentice (Chabot College), and Lori Townsend (CSU East Bay). It’s pretty clear that literacy and information literacy have diverged pretty sharply in the Age of the PDF. This collaborative, workshop-style presentation is focused on determining just what the necessary research skills are in our current technology-driven environment and how to ensure university students gain that understanding.

There’s also a snazzy-sounding Saturday late afternoon presentation on LibGuides in case I miss the Thursday research guide session. Saturday lunch is also reserved for brown-bag/Dutch-treat interest groups, and I’ll be joining the Rockman Committee and award winners for lunch at Rio City Café.

All in all, I couldn’t be more excited about my first CARL conference!

On Conferences

Posted on 29 March 2010 at 8:43 pm in Events, Musings.

In 1891 the annual American Library Association conference ventured to the West Coast for the first time. The ALA came at the behest of the San Francisco Free Public Library and its director, John Vance Cheney. He had spent the greater part of the prior conference lobbying for the privilege of hosting the gathering. While San Francisco was already a sizable city – the self-proclaimed Paris of the West – it was still a far-off frontier to the East Coast American library establishment. After all, much of the region between East Coast and West – Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas – had only gained statehood in the two years prior, and Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona still remained territories. It took a three month round-trip for the caravan of librarians to arrive at the City by the Bay, in what sounds to me must have been a fascinating train ride (for the companionship of so many librarians, for so long, crossing a territory so vast). It must have made for quite the “pre-conference”.

The Papers and Proceedings of the ALA for 1891 and 1892 – available freely on Google Books – are filled with interesting personal and professional notes on the event, including one late night tour of subterranean Chinatown haunts (complete with Chinese opera). Librarians have been writing up accounts of their adventures for far longer than the Age of Blogging!

In 2010, the ALA Conference remains a mainstay event, but with far more than the 50 attendees of 1891 (and developed in ways that Cheney, Dewey and Windsor likely never anticipated). Meanwhile, there is an endless number of focused events a librarian can attend based on specialty, region, and various other factors. Some now take place entirely online (robbing us of the charm of the three month train trip…)

So far I’ve only dipped my toe in one library conference, the 2008 California Library Association (CLA) Conference. I was a San José State SLIS student at the time and was able to attend free of charge in return for volunteer hours at the Infopeople Booth. It was a worthy trade. I found a presentation on Zotero to be quite useful, and greatly enjoyed the keynote speakers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. The booth time itself turned out to be a great hands-on learning experience with a variety of interesting gadgets and gizmos (with varying degrees of library-related usefulness). However, because of other commitments my time at the conference was limited.

I’ll have a more substantial conference experience with the upcoming California Academic and Research Libraries conference in Sacramento, April 8-10. I plan on attending the entire event (I’ll be commuting in each day with my friend Carolyn in lieu of the cross-country train ride). And while my experience in Sacramento may lack late night adventures in Chinese Opera, I’ll still do my best to write up accounts of my adventures on these digital pages here.

CARL Scholarship Committee

Posted on 24 March 2010 at 5:59 pm in Musings.

Last fall when I was writing my e-Portfolio for graduation from my School of Library and Information Science, I was asked to define how as a professional I would “contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities”. As part of my multi-pronged answer, I explained that I would seek to contribute to relevant professional organizations because I believe “it is important for librarians and archivists to support each other intellectually, share our ideas, and promote our organizations together, even as our resources and tools change with each technological advancement.” To me, one of the communities to which a librarian belongs is his or her profession, and we are beholden to helping each other.

I feel fortunate that I am now able to turn those promises into concrete action.

I am very proud and excited to announce that I have been nominated to join the Ilene F. Rockman Scholarship Committee on behalf of the California Academic & Research Libraries (CARL) association. CARL is the California chapter of the ACRL, which in turn is the division of the ALA (American Library Association) that focuses on the needs of academic and research librarians. I will be one of five committee members who promotes the scholarships, reviews applications and helps select winners (current Master’s Students in Library and Information Science). The scholarship is given to two recipients in even numbered years to help fund the recipients’ participation in the biennial CARL conference, and in odd numbered years it sponsors one student’s trip to the national ACRL conference. The hope is that budding professionals will have the opportunity to participate in conferences and thereby learn themselves how to become active in their profession.

This opportunity is due entirely to the great Penny Scott, outgoing chairperson of the Rockman Scholarship Committee, a fantastic mentor who has provided me a sterling example of how to give back to the profession, and whose path I feel honored to follow.