3 Insights From ACRL 2011

acrl keynote

image from Susan Sharpless Smith on Flickr

ACRL 2011 wrapped up this past weekend and much like the last time I attended, it was a great conference. There was a lot of great content and ideas in the papers, panels, posters and Cyber Zed Sheds. There were also some excellent keynotes that challenged us to think outside of the echo chamber of the library world. But my favorite part of ACRL conferences are the people and the networking that goes on. I love connecting with smart, like-minded people who are thinking about the same problems that I am. I got a lot out of the conference and figured I would share a few of the ideas that got my mind buzzing:

Planned abandonment

One great session I attended was called When Interdependence Becomes Codependence: Knowing When and How to Let Go of Legacy Services by Katherine Furlong and Mary Evangeliste. I’ve thought a lot about the idea of dropping services, but this presentation really brought the idea home for me. Libraries often keep adding new services, but we rarely drop them. We need to examine services from time to time to see if they are still really best serving our users. The presentation drew from literature in the field of management and exhorted people to ask two big questions of their current services: “would we do this service again” and “is it still relevant?”

Image is important

Clinton Kelly talked about how to be stylish. But he also talked about why style counts. On a personal level, Kelly says that image is important because “how you dress tells the rest of the world how you expect to be treated.” This can also apply to the profession as a whole. The way we act and present ourselves will be how others treat us. If we are quiet or deferential we’ll be treated accordingly, but if we own our expertise as information professionals and assert that expertise, then students, faculty, and administrators will treat us as such.

Intentional Innovation

David Dahl, in his session Lightning in a Bottle: Managing Ideas to Spur Innovation, discussed innovation, but he didn’t use it as the buzzword that it is often used as these days. He talked about it as an intentional process as opposed to something that just happens. It’s something that can be fostered and recreated. We need to set aside time just for idea generation. He also said that there must be people who select and champion ideas or the ideas will never go anywhere. In addition, ideas come to us all the time, but if we don’t purposefully collect these ideas, we’ll lose them. Having a process and structure in place are necessary in order to consistently generate and implement useful new ideas.

There was so much awesome stuff going on it couldn’t all make it into this post, but there’s another great writeup over at Library Journal . Did you attend in person or virtually? What was an insight that you had?


In the Spirit of Ben Franklin: 13 Virtues of Next Gen Librarians

benjamin franklin statue

image by Michael Parker on wikimedia commons

The ACRL national conference is upon us once again. If you’re going to the city of brotherly love, I’d like to invite you to come check out a panel that I am on with two amazing librarians. Carissa Tomlinson is an emerging technologies librarian at Towson University, and Catherine Johnson is an instruction and reference librarian at the University of Baltimore.

WhatIn the Spirit of Ben Franklin: 13 Virtues of Next Gen Librarians

Where: Philadelphia Convention Center, room 201 B/C

When: Thursday, March 31st at 10:30am

We’ll be talking about what a next-gen librarian is and what sort of virtues they should aspire to. But we won’t have the last word. In this interactive (hopefully really fun) session, we’re going to ask for your feedback and come up with other virtues together. Folks can participate in the conversation by using the Twitter hashtag #libvirtues. Here are just a couple example of virtues that we will be discussing:

Flexibility: Librarians can’t afford to be myopic or stubborn in this current environment. Things are constantly changing — not just technology but also things like publishing models. The Harper Collins fiasco is just one example. In order to be well positioned in the future and avoid becoming obsolete, next-gen librarians will need to have the ability to quickly adapt to all the changes going on around us.

Courage: Next-gen librarians are going to be folks who need to take risks. Inventing the future of librarianship won’t always be easy, and sometimes it may be scary. But in order to best serve our users, we are going to have to work on getting over the fear of failure and doing awesome things in spite of that fear.

Hopefully this peaks your interest and gets the wheels turning in your brain about what sort of qualities are necessary in the current era of librarianship. We’ll be asking audience members to propose their own virtues, so get thinking. See you in Philadelphia!


ACRL Immersion Reflections

drawing of me, explosion, and ideas

My drawing of a lesson from Parker Palmer

I’m at ACRL Immersion this week which is fortunately in lovely Burlington, VT at Champlain College. It is overwhelming and I’m meeting tons of people and getting tons of information. I’m actually squeezing this post in between dinner and yoga. I wanted to take some time to reflect on my experience so far though and share things I’ve found helpful for immersion and my career.

  • Take time to reflect – That’s what I’m doing right now. Here at Immersion I try to squeeze in precious minutes to reflect on what I learned and what it means to me. But this should be done at work to. Reflect on what you’re doing. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Take time to just think and not necessarily be creating something. Have your students in class reflect too. That’s where ideas can be born and meaning can be found.
  • Real experts don’t sit at a desk, they talk to people in the world – I got this from a great video we watched about the design company IDEO. You can theorize all you want, but the real information is out in the world. We make assumptions about students all the time, but rarely examine them or ask their opinions. I know I want to take more time talking to students about assumptions or just observing people when I get back.
  • The people you surround yourself with make a difference – Immersion is tons of work and it’s easy to get tired and less engaged. But the people here are a self selected group. They’re people who wanted to come to improve their teaching. The other Immersionites are engaged, participating, or even asking me questions. They push me when I’m tired and help make me better. If you surround yourself with engaged, curious, dynamic people it helps you to be better and improve.
  • Stay passionate, keep things fresh – Burnout happens. I’ve only just celebrated my second year of librarianship, but over time things can get stale and you can become burned out. You need to work on keeping your passion alive. Keep your teaching or your job fresh. Try new ideas often. Try out some different technology or slides in the classroom. Experiment and be willing to fail.

There is tons more I’ve taken in still have three more days. I highly recommend Immersion to anyone though. And for people who have attended or are currently attending I’d love to hear other things you’ve taken away or advice you might have.