Professional Development

During August 2008...

Sarah at the Innovation in Instruction Conference

Friday, August 22, 2008 1:42 pm

On August 21st, I attended Elon University’s 5th Annual Innovation in Instruction Conference. Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, was the keynote speaker. I won’t rehash the details already reported upon by Lauren, but the take-home lesson for me is that we should teach less of an “Information Paradigm” but more of a “Participation Paradigm,” where students can navigate the world and critique and analyze information. In addition, teaching is less about control, and more about enabling your students to become active participants rather than passive observers.

Next, I attended Lauren’s presentation, “Students as Contributors: Teaching Skills While Teaching Content.” There was lively discussion about the influence of social media in business, politics, and education. For more information, check out her presentation here.

I also attended “Evaluating Critical Thinking” by Ed Neal, Director of Faculty Development at the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence. This session provided many practical tips on how to effectively evaluate your students’ critical thinking skills. He provided many examples of the types of exam questions which assess different levels of learning in Bloom’s Taxonomy. He also provided examples of grading rubrics, which are effective tools for encouraging higher level performance among your students.

Last, I attended “Teaching the Future” by Jeffrey Coker, Assistant Professor of Biology at Elon University, and Janna Anderson, Associate Professor in Communications at Elon University, which was already reported upon by Lauren. I was especially interested in the method in which Dr. Coker taught his Introductory Biology class. Dr. Coker has an interesting approach to teaching biology for non-science majors, where he focuses on “Ecological Change,” Cellular Change, and ” Genetic Change.” In his class, students design, implement, and analyze and present their own experiments. In addition, students design plausible biological systems for the future and plan their implementation. Some examples of student projects are “Eradicating human influenza” and “Human resistance to antibiotics.”

I am so glad that I attended this conference, because I learned many lessons about effective teaching that I plan to directly apply to my LIB220 course this fall and in future classes, as well.

Innovation in Instruction

Friday, August 22, 2008 11:28 am

Yesterday I attended Elon University’s 5th Innovation in Instruction Conference. I’ve attended almost all of them, and each year they get better. This year’s keynote should make it clear how impressive the event has become. Michael Wesch, of The Machine in Us(ing) Us, Information R/evolution, and A Vision of Students Today fame, was the keynote speaker and was one of the most interesting and provokative speakers I’ve heard in some time. The drive alone was worth hearing this talk. My notes, in detail, are here.

I also was able to give a few talks. My first one was “Learning From the Context” and I think we had at least 70 people in the room. It was a really nice crowd and I got positive feedback from several people:

I gave another talk with Jolie Tingen on convergence literacies. We had a smaller crowd, but we had some really good discussions:

The final session I attended was on “Teaching the Futures” and was largely about integrating futurist thinking into courses. My notes are here.

Innovations in Instruction is a great, and free, opportunity for those who are interested in effective and innovative teaching. It’s a crazy time of year, but I’m glad that they have it when they do. Reaching professors and instructors as they’re just getting ready to gear up for the fall is prime time for people who are looking to do something a little bit different this year. And the content and enthusiasm of the presenters was just the inspiration I needed to get energized for this coming semester.

Kevin at MERLOT

Monday, August 11, 2008 7:45 am

The eighth annual MERLOT Conference, held in Minneapolis, had much to offer. Under the banner of “Still Blazing the Trail and Meeting New Challenges in the Digital Age”, there were an impressive number of sessions (from 15 minute mini-sessions up to 2 hour workshops) shared among several different conference tracks. The library track, ‘Reinventing Libraries in the Digital Age’, unfortunately, seemed rather lightly represented.

Sessions ran the gamut: from the opening plenary’s ‘stuck on an escalator‘ video to Saturday evening’s consideration of learning and cognitive neuroscience. In between, I attended many other interesting sessions: the challenges of repository creation in the context of sharing educational resources; an analysis of effective online instruction and hybrid course development; the use and importance of self-assessment in asynchronous class discussions; the integration of social network environments within the campus learning context; and an examination of accessibility and deprecated development techniques in the context of online education.

Overall, it was a informative conference, where the varying perspectives on and degress of hybridity indicated the value and complexities of the changing landscape and its new opportunities.

Susan’s MERLOT Report

Sunday, August 10, 2008 4:34 pm

I’m starting this report with a disclaimer: I arrived in Minneapolis to attend and present at MERLOT International Conference this weekend AFTER a long week of intensive learning in Cambridge. So, I am admitting up front to the fact that my brain was already on overload. Thus, my notes are much more brief than Lauren P.’s, so I recommend you move on to her report for thoroughness and insight.

I’ll restrict my comments general ones and will tell you all about our presentation. We talked about our initiative to provide blog and wiki services campus-wide. I provided an overview of the environment that made it a desirable and doable project. Lauren talked about the library’s role in supporting and growing the program by integrating instructional design and technology training for the faulty and other users. Kevin shared the details of the technology specifics of the implementation and on-going maintenance and support of this locally hosted open-source service. The presentation was very well received with lots of questions about how we made this into a viable program. One might think people were being polite (but I will say that both Lauren and Kevin were fantastic presenters), but we continued to have people come up for the rest of the afternoon and again today to say how they had really enjoyed our talk.

Announcing our Session

This conference is one that targets educators who incorporate technology to enhance learning in higher education. This year, a library tract was added, “Reinventing Libraries in the Digital Age”, which prompted us to submit a presentation proposal. I had attended a few years ago and had found it valuable but mostly as a way to see what faculty are doing with technology in the classroom. So it was a bonus that libraries were invited to be specifically addressed in our roles to support campus learning.

One session I’d like to report on was presented by Peter Juvinall from Illinois State University, who has used Facebook as the delivery framework in classes he teaches for freshman students. His anecdotal findings paralleled what we experienced in our pilot to use Facebook in LIB100 last spring. It was encouraging to hear that we may be on track with our goal to meet the students where they already are.

One other session I’d like to mention was a bit different. The presenter, Mike Buetner, spoke about the potential for video-based learning as a delivery method in a majority of situations. To make his point, he had the audience watch a video on how to tie a blood knot as we attempted to actually tie the rope. A few people were successful (I was way too brain-dead by the 5:30 session time yesterday to even attempt it). Here is an example of the type of video instruction he was promoting.

Finally, I have to tell about my new conference/class/meeting technology tool: the LiveScribe Pulse Smartpen! We weren’t allowed to use computers to take notes at the leadership institute, but one of the students had what looked like an expensive, but normal pen. It turns out it was really a computerized writing implement. It was so cool, when I got a few spare minutes yesterday, I rushed out to Target (Minneapolis is their headquarters city) and bought one. The technology uses a camera and custom paper with millions of microdots to capture every stroke and notation you make on the paper. You can download that onto your computer.The real fantastic part, though, is that the pen records every sound that is happening (read: presentation speaker or instructor teaching) and connects the audio to the image that was captured by the camera. All the captured material is time line based, so turning back to any page in your notes and tapping the pen on a word will restart your audio at the precise moment your wrote that word. I tested it out this morning at both the plenary session in a huge conference room and at a smaller session. The audio was clear and I was able to go back through my notes and hear exactly what was being said (helpful when I can’t read what I scrawled). I’m hoping it will become a useful tool for all the meetings I now seem to be attending.

Lauren at MERLOT

Sunday, August 10, 2008 12:10 pm

This was my first MERLOT International conference. I had heard it was really good from Susan, so Susan, Kevin, and I proposed a session on blogs and wikis, were accepted, and went to Minneapolis for MERLOT.
fancy signage in main room

As a somewhat techy conference, there were power strips on every table in almost every conference program room. Fabulous touch! There was free wireless in the conference area, and the presentation areas were hard-wired with good technical support. Each session also had a session chair who introduced the speaker, gave time limit warnings, and helped distribute and collect things during presentations. This really made it much smoother for the presenter than most conferences in my experience.

One of the most interesting things to me about this conference is that there is a diversity of presentation lengths. Some are over an hour, some are as short as 15 minutes. I wasn’t sure about the 15 and 30 minute presentations, but I ended up really liking them. If they’re great, they’re chock-full of information; if they’re not great, they’re just 15 minutes, you can go on to something else. It also means you can go to a large diversity of events as you can see here:

Minneapolis was a great place for a conference. It’s much more of a city that I expected, and there are a lot of pretty and interesting places around there–enough to want to take a trip here for fun! It’s walkable, there are nice places, and I ate some great food.

Great conference all the way around!

One Last Leadership Institute Session to Share

Friday, August 8, 2008 6:00 pm
Graduation SpeakerJoe Zolner

Our final session this morning was designed to pull together everything we have been learning this week and get us thinking about how we can use what we’ve learned to develop our ability to become change agents at our institutions.

Joe Zolner, our program leader and primary instructor this week, shared his thoughts on “The Science and Art of Managing Change.” He talked about common themes that he sees time and again as he studies organizational change. Here are some that resonated with me that I’d like to share with everyone:

The Science

  • Change agents get “outside the box” regularly. They interact with people different from themselves. They find ways to cross traditional institutional and intellectual boundaries.
  • Idea champions make change happen, nurture and support them.
  • Change happens collaboratively. Understand the intricacies of group process.
  • Change always spawns new logistical complexity, anticipate and plan for it.
  • Information is power and should always be transparent to all involved in a change process.

The Artistry

  • Satisfaction derives from mastery of process, not ownership of content.
  • Change has both scope and pace – balance “big” transformative change with “little” change that tinkers and incrementally improves.
  • **(my personal favorite): Every change looks like a failure in the middle – perseverance and persistence count.
  • Think kaleidoscopically.

Final Days at the Institute

Friday, August 8, 2008 5:40 am
Our discussion group at Harvard Faculty ClubOur Discussion Group at Breakfast

Yesterday was another full day of sessions and learning. We worked on two case studies – the first was about the Boston Lyric Opera where we examined how a non-profit organization used a specific tool, the Balanced Scorecard, to improve its organizational performance and outcomes. I could see how this can be a very helpful tool because it provides a framework to detail a complex strategy in a straightforward way. The scorecard puts things into four perspectives, customer, instrnal business, financial, and learning & growth. Each of these perspectives then has four elements to develop: objectives, measures (of success), target, and initiatives.

The second case was an examination of the MBA curriculum change made at Babson College in the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s. We were working with the definition of innovation as being the process of putting new, problem-solving ideas into use. In higher education change is often a prolonged process and this case illustrated all the complexities of the process of implementing substantive change in that framework. We will continue to talk about it in this morning’s session also. A couple things that caught my attention were the contrast in definitions used in this session: creativity as “new idea generation” versus innovation as “new idea implementation.” And the view that “ideas are useless unless used.”

In our afternoon session we turned inward and used and talked about why, personally, change is so difficult. We learned that people typically have “immunity to change.” We spent 2 1/2 hrs working through a specific behavior we would like to change in ourselves (well, call it a self-improvement goal) and examined what is standing in the way of being able to do that. It was like a fast-track therapy session!

As I write this, I just finished packing up my room so I can check out and head off to meet my group for the final morning. We plan to have our last discussion over breakfast at the Harvard Faculty club, so everyone is looking forward to that. The Institute continues until noonish today. Although it seems like I just arrived in Cambridge, it has been a richly rewarding week of learning and reflection.

Next time you hear from me, it will be from Minneapolis where I am heading later to day to meet up with Lauren P. and Kevin. We will be presenting at the Merlot Conference tomorrow afternoon.

ACRL Immersion: Final Thoughts

Thursday, August 7, 2008 6:56 pm

I didn’t post about my last day an a half at the ACRL Intentional Teacher Immersion program primarily because it was pretty intense and I needed time to process it. Again, I won’t bore you with the details, but it involved pretty intense discussions of what we percieve to be weaknesses in our teaching that were carried out in what we called a Palmer Circle format. This comes from Parker Palmer, the author of one of the books we read. The idea is that a concern is stated by the focus person and the other members of the group can only ask questions of the person to try and help them think through the issue. The process of asking questions was almost as difficult as the process of being the focus person. Teachers and librarians tend to be problem solvers and the impulse to say “well…what I would do in your situation is…..” was difficult to overcome. But the experience was a great one and I hope to take away a new respect for questioning as a way to work through issues rather than just giving advice.

To prepare for the questioning aspect of the Palmer Circle we used a set of cards called the ‘whack pack’ which was designed to inspire creative problem solving. The questions were great and I am ordering a pack of the cards off eBay for us to use.

The final half day was devoted to creativity in instruction and in reflecting on the experience of the Immersion program. As I have reflected over the last week here are the big take-away’s for me:

1. Getting time away from my other duties to focus more on my instruction will become a higher priority for me.

2. Keeping up with the literature of instruction across the disciplines is a commitment I really want to make. This will include exploring presentation and publication possibilities in discipline specific arenas outside of librarianship.

3. I will endeavor to trust my students more with thier own learning and strive to be a guide to them whenever the opportunity arises.

4. The two leaders of the program, Lisa Hinchcliffe and Beth Woodard both from Univ. of Illinois are MASTER teachers and were such amazing role models of what exceptional teachers do that I will carry their examples with me for a long, long time.

5. Campus food is lousy everywhere, but UCSD has truly integrated environmentalism and sustainability into their campus culture which was a truly refreshing site. Even down to putting recycle cans outside next to all of their trash cans and using compostable plastic cups for conference set-ups.

Library Assessment Conference cont’d.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 10:54 pm

Beginning with Tuesday temperatures soared in the 90’s for a Seattle high. The Student Union building where the sessions are held lacks sufficient air conditioning and opening the windows just didn’t get it.  Being without air in my office for the last couple of weeks I guess I should have felt right at home. Nonetheless conference attendees seemed cheerful and committed to continuing their library assessment discussions. As with each day we began with having to choose which one of the three tiered assessment tracks to attend. For me Qualitative Methods won out over Information Literacy and Management Information. First up was Zsuza Koltay and Kornelia Tancheva sharing their work with “Personas and a User-centered Visioning Process.” This presentation outlined a fast track process Cornell University Library staff used to develop a user-focused vision. A consultant was hired to conduct local interviews with faculty and students exploring work habits and needs. They used these conversations to create shall we say imaginary little friends. Each friend represented a type of user and was used to invite empathy and foster understanding. They created ten different type personas. Among their findings were; Cornell is not the world, streamline website, single point of entry and local content should be made available in the same information delivery as all other data.

Syracuse University conducted a similar type study also using interviews as their foundation. Nancy Turner shared her story of “Patterns of Culture: Realigning Library Culture to Meet User Needs.” Librarians listened to and observed how faculty did their work. Each faculty member was asked a series of questions and here are a few I managed to capture:

Tell me about a recent article or piece of information you read?

Where did you find it?

What did you do to prepare for a recent class?

When you started work in you office today, what was the very first thing you did?

A total of 291 quotes were captured and uploaded into a project management tool. Brainstorming sessions were held and quotes were categorized. Themes that surfaced were: tools, daily life, relationships, worldviews, collections and resources.

Todd White from the University of Rochester was last up sharing findings from interviews and observations of graduate students. His findings were interesting and I wondered if Wake’s graduate population if polled would share similar results. “In Mixing Methods, Bridging Gaps,” White shared findings suggesting that grad students don’t use endnote, they don’t have time for social networking applications, are Mac oriented and are most protective of their time. They find a path and continue on it. For Rochester the study clarified areas of disconnect between Librarians and doctoral students.

For the next set of parallel sessions I choose to hear more about organizational assessment. John Harer of East Carolina University spoke on using “Employees as Customers Judging Quality.” This study sought to discover if current practices in employee assessment in academic libraries address employee’s perceptions of quality. Employee satisfaction and climate surveys, employee exit interview forms, employee self assessment forms and manager/dean evaluation instruments were obtained from ARL libraries and analyzed for possible avenues and measures of quality related to employee assessment instruments. This is the first part of an on going research project. Next steps include content analysis of employee satisfaction instruments from other industries.

Lisa Hinchliffe’s session was a little more practical and was most appealing to me. The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign used staff reflections on organizational goals, culture and leadership for organizational assessment and development. This experience gave staff a chance for renewal, refocusing and re-energizing. It also required high levels of trust, valued and appreciated diversity and regarded conflict as natural. People who work in an organization continually observe it, they analyze it and they judge it. Some of the six questions posed to staff were; what would be your top three issues to resolve successfully in three years; if you had all the votes, what would you do?; identify your leaders weaknesses and strengths; what do you need to be successful and finally, given your strengths and skill sets, what would you consider to be your role in improving the culture?

Afternoon sessions continued to stress the importance of conducting some form of organizational assessment. Here are a few notable statements taken from the afternoon sessions:

Promote a culture of assessment at every opportunity.

Communicate assessment within your library as well as to your user communities.

Use staff newsletters and blogs.

Create interactive student/faculty/staff learning communities.

Let assessment become part of everyday work process, part of the decision making loop within the library.

Collaboration improves library user experiences and builds interactive relationships.

The last session featured assessment pioneers Duane Webster, ARL; Amos Lakos, Waterloo University and Shelley Phipps , University of Arizona offering reflections on the first couple days of the conference. They advised Librarians not to get hung up on the tools but move towards the means, share their findings and their processes with other libraries, spend time redefining goals, understand and measure the impact of new roles. How can we change from competing with other libraries to collaborating. Leadership should be focusing on redefining libraries and librarian roles in research, learning and instruction within today’s educational communities. Remember we assess so that we can improve.

On Wednesday I asked myself if there were really more to hear. Could there be other angles not discussed.  And yes there were. The track entitled “From Planning to Action” featured three sessions with each focusing on ways to take assessment findings and link them to goal setting, strategic planning and even to business planning.  Raynna Bowlby, a Library management consultant described the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting method. Well designed goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. I see an advantage in writing goals in this manner and plan to review my own personal ones for possible revisions using those standards. A team of presenters from the University of Arkansas illustrated the value of pursuing an approach to improved library effectiveness that integrates strategic planning, performance measurement and organizational flexibility. Susan Bailey and Chris Palazzolo of Emory University discussed how Rick Luce’s arrival there brought in new challenges. One of which came about when staff were asked to develop a business plan that included a set of activities, processes, and tools to keep the strategic plan and progress on it in front of staff members in an ongoing and systematic way. Keys to their approach included creating a business plan for each strategic initiative and scheduling monthly meetings where reports on progress were given. I found the term “issue owner” a little disturbing. Especially when the presenter explained that this person was the one held accountable for resolving the issue that prevented adequate process towards completing a particular initiative.

Afternoon sessions changed focus from general to a little more specific with concentrations on “Webpage Usability.” A University of Louisville representative filling in for absent Mark Paul whose name I missed, suggested that library assessment services can and should take advantage of the outsourcing mentality in such areas as usability studies, focus groups or statistical analysis. Creative uses of these groups can allow for better facilitation and more targeted usability studies.

“If They Build It They Will Come” featured a story from Carnegie Mellon University where students were invited to create their own version of the Library’s web page. Graduate and undergraduate students began the brainstorming sessions by identifying all the components of the current web page they loved and wanted to bring over to their new design. Equal time was given to document all the components that they wanted to remove. Each student used poster boards to outline their web page of choice. One suggestion from the students was to eliminate so many words. Just give us boxes that take us directly where we want to go. Also they asked for rotating pictures of actual students and asked if possible to feature success stories by those same students.

Research libraries are facing among other challenges the fact that their catalog interfaces have not kept pace with other technical search innovations. Choosing to focus on next generation OPAC’s, Kathleen Bauer Yale University Librarian shared initial findings from early stage investigation of VuFind . Yale has chosen to rename the product YuFind. In preparation for this project they examined log files from their current Voyager system. Findings showed that the most popular search was by title (41.8 %), which was also the library search default. This was followed by keyword searches coming in at (31.4%). The average search phrase was 2.5 words long. The most common hit rate netted zero search results. (21.4%) They found that very few people availed themselves of call number searches. From the audience came questions about the validity of these numbers. As always the trail of discussions ended up on Google. From those in the audience as well as those on panel several admitted to beginning their searches using Google as the discovery and then on to the Library’s catalog for fulfillment. Perhaps these type studies along with such products as VuFind will prove to aid users in effectively using an OPAC to discover appropriate material in the library’s collection.

The final session was to offer advice for those beginning assessment planning. Four case studies were presented. The result of which was a storytelling session revealing the library climate when the decision to create a plan was begun. The emphasis was on more of a here’s why we did it versus here’s what we did to begin. Thursday morning I’ll attend one last class; “Getting started with Learning Outcomes Assessment: Purposes, Practical Options, and Impact.” The post conference workshop is intended for Librarians considering, commencing, or retooling a plan for assessing student learning outcomes.

I am eager to explore assessment opportunities for us at ZSR. I am sure you’ll here more as we begin to strategize on ways to revisit current assessment activities and explore options for growth and development within this arena.

Wanda

Leadership Institute: Monitoring Institutional Performance, Vision & Voice and More

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 6:04 pm

Susan's In! Widener Library Virtual Tour Screen Capture

Today, a full day of discussion and presentations continued. In the small group discussion this morning, we spent an hour trying to frame a mini-case written by one of our group members. Earlier this summer, each person was asked to submit a mini-case in which we described a challenging situation in which we are involved. Each morning, we pick one to “dissect.”

In the large group presentations today, Jim Honan led us through a case study that helped to teach how to monitor institutional performance. We looked at case written about UNITEC Institute of Technology‘s plan and process to systematically evaluate the viability of their programs as part of a strategy to be competitive and gain university status. In examining the case we talked about contexts for planning (external environment and competition, leadership, resource allocation, and governance & decision-making) and how these contexts are all occurring simultaneously so all must be included as you consider how to proceed.

Our second session, with Joan Gallos, was spent talking about 4 leadership challenges

  • How do we find vision for ourselves so that we can offer it to others?
  • What do we bring to advance that vision?
  • How do we identify and involve others to advance a shared vision?
  • How do we give personal voice to the vision so that others take up the call?

For me, this was the session where I felt less experience. We were asked to talk about our greatest leadership moment and our most disappointing and then try to describe what differences we saw between the two. We heard terms including: “soul”, “creativity”, “values”, “charisma.” The example shown to us was Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. How can you ever think you’d compare with that??

But there were some good, practical aspects also. We were introduced to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference. We learned about important people alliances to help deliver your message (the power of social context): connectors (people who have major social relationships established across many different groups), mavens (people who are seen as knowledgeable and respected), and salespeople (those who are seen as charismatic and influential). It made me start to consider who those people might be at Wake Forest?

Our afternoon session was led by Maureen Sullivan, who focused us in on library-specific issues. We spent 2 hours considering critical forces for change in the academic library; actually, things we are all familiar with, thanks to our strategic planning process: students as customers, shifts from teaching to learning, changes in the nature of our collections, scholarly communications, changing demographics, ownership to access, etc. Maureen showed a You Tube video, A Vision of Students Today, that helped to get her point across.

The nice surprise for the day, however, came with the news that one of the Widener librarians in the Institute had made arrangements for all of us to be admitted to Widener Library for a tour. As I mentioned a few days ago, one needs a Harvard ID to gain access. Any other exceptions have to be specially approved. So you’ll see the picture above shows my special pass. The other picture is a screen capture of the virtual tour of the library on the Harvard website, as they do not allow photographs. The building is beautiful, but our access was restricted to a very small area. We were able to admire the Memorial Room, which is in honor of Harry Widener, for whom the library is named. As we learned on our campus tour yesterday, Harry was a graduate of Harvard, and was a bibliophile. He obtained a copy of the Gutenberg Bible which is on display in the room. Harry perished on the Titanic and his mother donated the money to build Widener Library. It had a few strings attached: The footprint of the library can never change, or else ownership of the building reverts to the city of Cambridge. This means that they are not able to add on or alter the outside dimensions of the building. So stacks go underground 5 stories. The Memorial Room I mentioned above is dedicated to Harry. It is a requirement that fresh flowers are maintained in the room and nobody is allowed in there to read. That is because the room is reserved for use by Harry’s ghost! But we got to stand at the entrance, see the flowers, and the bible. It was an impressive room. We also got to see two murals painted by John Singer Sargent.

The other areas we were able to see were the reading room and reference on the second floor, and the periodicals room and circulation on the main level. I must make mention of the fact that, in the circulation room, there is an information desk staffed M-F from 9-5 by a reference librarian, to help users who might be intimated by the prospect of 50 miles of shelves and 3 million volumes.


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