ALA Recap

August 14, 2009 at 7:23 pm Leave a comment

The following is a write-up I recently sent to the Northern New York Library Network.  Thanks to them, I recieved (or will receive shortly…in form of a reimbursement…hopefully very soon) a $500 grant to help cover the cost of my trip to Chicago for the ALA conference.  As you can see from the lack of entries following my initial post from Chicago, I gave up on trying to blog or twitter while at the conference.  Instead, I left my laptop at the hotel and chose to take in my annual conference experience using more primitive means, ie. my (increasingly delicate) memory and simple note taking. Ok, so I did twitter a few times from my iPhone but not much.

Two tips often suggested by seasoned ALA Annual attendees is to always maintain a flexible schedule and wear comfortable shoes.  I found nothing to be more true about my experience at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago this past July.   The McCormick Convention Center where the majority of the conference was held provides plenty of opportunity for getting  the recommended weeks worth of exercise in a scant three days.  Comfortable shoes are crucial.  As for maintaining a flexible schedule,  I had spent a whole half day at work before leaving trying to line-up an easy to follow schedule that would allow me to attend a wide range of programs while also providing ample time to view exhibits and  of course, pick up some swag.  However, by Saturday afternoon most of that schedule had been scratched and a new pact made to stay alert and aware of all learning opportunities but not be too strict about following any pre-planned schedule to a “t”.

The Annual conference has more to offer than just events and programs.  Some of my most influential experiences came through contact and conversations with other librarians while standing in long lines at author signings (I spent two hours in line so I could get my husband Neil Gaimen’s signature…partook in some intriguing exchanges with some lovely librarians) or over a meal at dinner (eats with Chrissy and her gang at the Big Bowl being the most memorable…I heart chicken pad thai).

There is so much to take in at Annual that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed not to mention exhausted by the night’s end, only to wake up early again the next morning to do it all over.   I began the conference determined to blog and twitter every thought I had but a laptop can get heavy on a shoulder after six hours and outlets for powering up dead batteries were scarce.  So I opted instead to take notes the old fashioned way, wait until I returned home to express my impressions in something more cohesive after having a few days to process everything I had seen and heard.

On Friday I attended the 2nd National Dialogue on the Curriculum of Readiness for the 21st Century Librarian, co-sponsored by the Committee on Diversity, the Committee on Education and ALISE.  This was a pre-conference session with the purpose of promoting further discussion on how to recruit students from underrepresented populations into the library and information profession.  Dr. Irene Owens, from the University of Texas was leading guest speaker.  In her speech she expressed concern over the lack of diversity within the library profession versus the growing diversity within the student/general population.  “Without diversity” insisted Owens, “there is no democracy”.  The hope for this session was to engage the audience through work sessions and garner recommendations on recruitment that could be published in an upcoming report by the committees.  Unfortunately, there were so many in the audience that introductions took up most of our time, however, there were several suggestions and thoughts expressed, with one of the most widely supported being to target recruitment at an earlier age (middle school, high school as opposed to college).  I intend to remain mindful of diversity issues while I continue my career and become more involved in recruitment and mentoring efforts from underrepresented populations within the state of New York.

Saturday proved to be the busiest day of the entire weekend.  It was, in fact, the day when getting lost (twice), lack of time, not to mention lack of coffee threw a big monkey wrench in my finely prepared pre-planned schedule.    I had every intention of attending the LITA session on Technology and the Developing World but I got lost trying to find the pick-up point for the shuttle to McCormick.  Instead, I caught the last part of I’m a Leader, I’m a Follower: Middle Management Theory and Practice.   This turned out to be a valuable session for me.  Although my position at Jefferson Community College isn’t strictly considered middle-management, the philosophies presented still definitely apply.  Perhaps the most valuable tips I brought back from this session were,  “leadership is based on helpfulness” , how to “distinguish helpfulness from pleasantness or niceness”, and finally how  “helpfulness develops trust and if people trust you then they will follow you”.

The next session was probably the one most pertinent to my job as a librarian at JCC.  Connecting First Year College Students with the Library was a panel presentation consisting of librarians and educators from several different community colleges.  Focus was given to how community college libraries can help support a successful first year experience for new students.  Some interesting reports and research were quoted during the presentation.  According to a 2007 report on student persistence “most weaknesses occur among students who began in community colleges”.   The first presenter, Donna Younger of Oakton Community College, likened a successful college experience to horse racing.  That is, the better the start the better likely hood of a successful ending.  The other presenters provided specific examples of how their libraries had been integrating their services into First Year Experience programs.  Strategies included teaching library instruction as part of a 1 credit Freshman Orientation course, building relationships with new students by developing better welcoming strategies and designing library websites with a unique independent look as a way to distinguish services from other departments at the college.

I went to two Web/Library 2.0 focused sessions over the weekend.  Life after 2.0 was another panel presentation which included the well known librarian blogger, Meredith Farkas.  Presenters measured the impact of various social media services, blogs, wikis, Second Life, and discussed what sort of impact these technologies have had on library services and what libraries have learned from their experiences so far. Suggestions for best practices include:

  • Don’t make assumptions about user base before launching tools, make sure there is a demonstrated need first.
  • Make sure social media tools are in line with library mission/goals.
  • Using a traditional approach when using Social Media is missing the point.  Don’t use it just as a broadcasting tool.

Web 2.0 meets the Standards for 21st Century Learners was a participatory session where a panel demonstrated five well known social media tools and then asked the audience to brainstorm in groups how they best felt these tools could be used in a library setting.  The one tool that stood out as a favorite was the Personal Learning Network (also referred to as Personal Information Portals) such as iGoole, PageFlakes and Netvibes, as a way to help students deal with and organize social media.  I found both these sessions to be very useful in helping to break through some of the complexity of using social media in libraries and determining how and which technology tools would be useful to implement into our library services.

Shortly after returning from ALA, I started my two week vacation.  Since returning, I’ve been working on getting a list of tasks that need to get done before fall semester starts at the end of August.  I have nearly completed our new Quick Reference Libguide, after having redone it twice because I couldn’t make up my mind about how much information I wanted to include.  The purpose of the guide is to provide good information in a simple “quick” outline, but it’s easy to get carried away with all the different resources out there.

I’ve also been asked to provide a short presentation on Social Media tools for faculty and staff on Start-Up Day (sort of like a staff/faculty orientation/enrichment day that we have before each semester).  I helped present a few workshops on social networking tools on our campus last year, however, this will be a little different in that I’ll be collaborating with three student ambassadors who will be presenting a short bit on Facebook.  I really like the idea of including students in the presentation, since I’m sure it will provide staff/faculty with a different perspective

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Entry filed under: conferences.

Hello from Chicago!

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