I apologize for the length of this post, but it is encompassing both Saturday and Sunday, and both were extremely valuable days at the conference.
Saturday, March 14’s first session was called Weaving a new net: Hauling multiple services into a New Learning Commons at Seattle University. They discussed the trials and rewards of bringing together 4 discrete operations into a single “help area”. The 4 operations were not overseen or common to the library, but would be collocated there once their renovation was complete.They began planning in 2005 and envisioned a collaborative, stimulating interactive space that would assist users in multiple needs. This was all very exciting, but hard to envision. The Provost selected from a number of proposed operations to be moved initially into the space.The Research Assistance desk, Speaking Center, Writing Center and Learning Assistance departments were included. Left out of the initial mix, but under consideration were the Teaching and Learning Center, Circulation Services, Math Lab, Student Advising, and the Disability Services. Each of the four that were to be moved into the Learning Commons were from different buildings, different cultures, different operations, with differing levels of staffing and staff, and cultures. They each answered to different budget lines and different bosses as well and all had different levels of financial support. From this very awkward beginning, they started conversations in early 2006, and were glad that they had the benefit of time to figure it all out. It is to open in September, 2010. Some members of the panel expressed a discomfort with feeling like a “guest” to the library. They didn’t know at the outset what each other’s missions or best practices were. Others were still trying to figure out what the best practices were to be. There was a clash of cultures, (hierarchical vs. collaborative). They will continue to have separate budgets and reporting lines but said that with a common mission and vision, (they also expressed a little difficulty figuring out the difference between mission and vision) and lots of open communication, they were confident that it would all be a beneficial experience for the students but still had a little defining work to do. Questions from the audience were asking about whether there were plans to include media/technology support in the future or if it had been considered. The panelists agreed that there would be benefits to this, but the decision of what to include in the Learning Commons was entirely the Provosts, and it was not included at the outset.
Second session was with Veronica Bielatt and Judith Arnold, former colleagues from WSU who spoke on Creating Instruction Objects “to go”. They discussed the need for portable, large scale, point of need instruction to support three large classes of business/finance students, about 600 students in all.They moved to these little 1-2 minute teaching objects, developed in 3 “chunks” and portable across many formats, and provided for other people who may or may not have “pre knowledge”. The 2 minute micro lectures include demonstration of the skill and then user demonstrating the skill. They utilized online collaborative mind mapping, Mind Meister. Then compared Trailfire or Brain Honey for the teaching and Hot Potatoes for the self-test.
After lunch in a little café, (where we had to walk a bit because every restaurant near the convention center was packed with librarians), we did a tour of the Seattle Public Library, then back for the afternoon sessions..
I stayed a few minutes with Lauren’s “Charting the path to the Mountaintop” where we were supposed to describe in a catch phrase what our own personal path had been thus far. I decided the catch phrase for my path was “Taking advantage of surprise.”
Halfway through I left to catch the second half of the Reference Renovation project that was offered by former colleagues from Wayne State. The reference area renovation that they described was a two year project that began before I left there, so it was very interesting to me how it all turned out.In order to have the space work, they opened up vast areas of the first floor of Purdy Library, downsized their reference collection by 81% and put the reference desk in the center of the area that had previously been only rows and rows of computer terminals.They utilized a 3D modeling software to plan the changes and found it very beneficial both for identifying potential problems with their design, and using it as a valuable tool for showcasing the project for potential funders. They finally finished the project with the installation of the new work areas and reference desk in December/January of this year after having to make a few “seat of the pants” changes to configuration because the original “pinwheel” design didn’t work aesthetically and was not stable enough actually hold up the computers. But the end result is really a great renovation of what had been a really sad space.
The evening events have already been described by others, but I will say that the dinner was the best I’d had in Seattle, and the EMP and Sci Fi museum was really fun.
Sunday in Seattle dawned snowy.
After saying goodbye to Roz and Susan, I ran over to the conference center to see Robin Chase, the invited “green speaker.” ACRL made a commitment to have a “green” conference this year and 80% of the participants took the pledge. (I admit that I must have missed that part of the website, because I didn’t take the pledge, but did participate in the initiatives.) Some ways that that manifested itself are:
1. Sessions had no powerpoint handouts.
2. Each attendee was given a bag made of 10% recycled content. (I think they could have done better there.)
3. Each attendee was given a “shower timer” so that we could try to keep our showers down to only 4 minutes. (I used it and it worked and managed to get my showers to the shortest ever. One little tip, open the shampoo bottle before you turn on the water. Saves precious seconds.)
4. There were recepticles for recycling the program and the badge holders after the conference.
Robin Chase is the founder and CEO of ZipCar the worlds largest car sharing company, and also GoLoco, a ride sharing community. She discussed the importance of reevaluating how we all operate if we want to continue to have the same level of cultural wealth that we enjoy today. We should all recognize our unrealized capacity in everything and try to exploit it, efficiently using our resources, instead of continuing to deplete them. Examples she gave are the ZipCar program she started, which is essentially a time share program for automobiles. Also mentioned the “CouchSurfing” program, run through a website, where individuals needing low cost accommodations can sign up to sleep on the couch of a willing and available couch owner in the same town. (I have a couch that is available, but not utilized all night. You have the need for a couch to sleep on. That is the essence of recognizing an unrealized potential and utilizing it.) She was a very entertaining speaker and recognized the synergy between what she does and what libraries have always done…shared resources among many for the good of everyone. (She said something like, “You have know idea how much fabulocity is in this room!”) One of the questions that was posed to her at the end of the session was regarding how to begin to move the seemingly immovable like vendors who write restrictive license agreements that won’t allow for easy sharing of resources. Her answer, interestingly enough is to find the value of the service you want to provide to the seller, and sell them on it. It might mean that you give a different story to everyone you meet. She said that if she just told everyone in this room that we should all sell our cars and sign up for this timeshare that will be managed through the web and lessen the ‘available-ness’ of cars to you, no one would be willing to do that. But, when she says to city planners, you can, by promoting this, eliminate some of the road construction and maintenance that is projected, they respond to taht. When she says to individuals that you can save money on both autos, and insurance AND reduce air pollution, as well as building up your social network, they respond to that. And she says to schools and doctors that she can demonstrate an impact on the numbers of students with asthma, THEN people start to listen and recognize the value of this lifestyle. She challenged all of us to begin by just announcing to everyone when you are going anywhere in your car, and see if someone in earshot might like to share a ride. Get in the habit of recognizing unrealized capacity and utilizing it. Scarcity breeds a desire for ownership, but social sharing breeds a feeling of wealth and abundance.
Second session of the day was Improving on Excellence: Looking Beyond Information Literacy to the 21st Century Educational Paradigms and Virtual Worlds. This session was on gaming and how gaming can be used to teach the core fluencies that all 21st century users should have. The panelists were all from Ontario, Canada, and two of them were from McMaster University one from Earlham College. Shawn McCann, (another former colleague from WSU) is the Nextgen and Gaming Librarian (I kid you not!) at McMaster. He took us into the “World of Warcraft” game , and demonstrated all of the core fluencies, and how they are involved in the game. The fluencies expected of a 21st century learner include: information; media; numeracy; business and economic, scientific, multicultural, and geospatial. It was a fascinating look at gaming, and I now have new found respect!
The final event, the closing keynote by Ira Glass, long awaited by yours truly, (big fan of This American Life did not disappoint. His story telling technique is epic. Others have described the lecture already…how he started the lecture speaking to us in the dark, just to illustrate the power of just listening. One lesson that resonated with me is when he demonstrated how he reels in the listener. At one point, to make his point, he stopped the narrative of one of his stories long enough to show all of us just what happens when we hear the beginning of a story, even a rather mundane story. It was driving me crazy not knowing how it would end, as he dangled that ending out in front of us like a carrot. It was like hearing a great set up to a joke, but not knowing the punchline! As he put it, “when the story starts to build, nobody turns off the radio just then.” One statement he made, (this may not be verbatim but it is the essence) is “the more idealistic the position you are trying to sell, the more cunning you need to be about encasing it in something people will want to hear or know about.” It made me think about our library services that we are so certain that faculty and students need to know about, but we have a difficult time sending that message out. We need to recognize that everyone else sees us differently than we see ourselves. Identify that which is universal and tell a story about what is at stake. His funniest moment was, as Lauren said, when he blamed the creation of the topic sentence for the current situation with the dearth of storytelling. Giving away all of the good stuff at the beginning takes all the fun and interest out of the story. He was a great ending keynoter for a very enriching conference.