Professional Development

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Steve at ALA Midwinter 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016 5:48 pm

I know that it can be kind of difficult to read these conference entries thoroughly, especially when they discuss areas of librarianship that aren’t in your bailiwick, so I’ll give the headline for my Midwinter 2016 (with more details to follow, if you’re interested): the governance of RDA is changing, and the bibliographic models that underlay RDA are changing, and nobody is really sure how either of these developments will shake out.

First, let’s talk about the governance changes. I’m one of eight voting members of CC:DA (Cataloging Committee: Description and Access, the committee that develops ALA’s position on RDA), and at our Saturday meeting, we heard a presentation from Kathy Glennan, the ALA representative to the RSC (RDA Steering Committee), the body that ultimately determines the content of the RDA code, about changes to the structure and membership of the RSC (which was called the Joint Steering Committee, or JSC, until last November). The JSC had representatives from constituencies who use RDA, including ALA, the Library of Congress, the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, the British Library, etc. The new structure, which will be fully in place by 2019, limits the membership of JSC to one representative each from six regional groups (North America, Latin America & the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania). The North American group will consist of just the U.S. and Canada. Mexico will be in the Latin America & Caribbean group, while other potential members of the North American group (Bermuda, Saint Pierre and Miquelon (had to look that one up!), and Greenland) have not yet adopted RDA. So, the United States and Canada will go from having three representatives on the RSC (two for the U.S., one for Canada) to only one representative for both countries. How this will be worked out is still being discussed. One idea proposed was to create a small committee (perhaps with the three reps who used to go to the RSC) that would function like a tiny RSC for North America, with one of the members of this group attending the actual RSC on behalf of North America. This proposed group has the suggested name of NARDAC (North American RDA Committee), which, when pronounced, sounds like the name of a villain from a 1970’s episode of “Doctor Who.”

The other major change to RDA was discussed in our second CC:DA meeting by Gordon Dunsire, the Chair of the RSC. Gordon is a brilliant guy, who usually talks about a mile over my head, but I think I got the basic gist of his presentation. As a re-cap, RDA is based on the FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) model. If you’ve ever heard us catalogers talk about the distinction between Works, Expressions, Manifestations and Items, that’s what we’re talking about. FRBR not only models bibliographic entities, it also models people (as individuals and groups) and subjects. Well, the FRBR models are being revised. The new model FRBR-LRM (FRBR-Library Reference Model) is expected to be published during the first quarter of 2016. It will describe new entities including Place, Timespan, and Collective Agent. What FRBR-LRM will look like after it is vetted, revised and finally accepted is obviously unknown as of yet. But, once FRBR-LRM is in place, it will most likely mean that there will be new entities that need to be described by RDA, which will mean a revision of the code. The changes could be minor or they could be enormous, there’s really no way to tell quite yet.

Stay tuned for more developments.


International Data Privacy Day

Thursday, January 28, 2016 10:07 am

Happy International Data Privacy Day!

January 28 is an international holiday* focused on raising awareness about the importance of online data privacy. This year, the Electronic Freedom Frontier is emphasizing the need to protect student privacy, most notably in a Google Apps for Education environment (which includes us). Google has been especially criticized for how they handle data from K-12 students, but it’s worth reviewing what they say for college students also and anyone else who uses Google apps.

If you haven’t done so, it’s worth a few minutes of your time to run through the Google Privacy Checkup. This will present options for what profile information other people can see about you, what settings apply to Google sites like Photos and You Tube, and whether Google will use what they know about your interest to tailor ads for you (you can turn off that tailoring, but not the ads themselves – at least not without something like AdBlock Plus).

Google has grown into a massive set of applications that know a lot about you. To their credit, the My Account site does a pretty good job of offering and explaining options for how that data gets collected and used. has also posted some information for Data Privacy Day. Their message boils down to: update your software. Time and again, malware that mines your private data gets in through security holes in outdated software that have already been patched in the current version. In other words, if you’re currently ignoring an alert to upgrade to Firefox 44, you should upgrade to Firefox 44.

Some other good places to check privacy settings:

Anyone who knows the Apple ecosystem, feel free to add comments for iTunes, etc.

NC-LITe at UNC-CH, December 2015

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 12:02 pm

On Wednesday, December 16 Sarah Jeong, Kyle Denlinger, Amanda Foster, Meghan Webb, and Joy Gambill traveled to beautiful UNC-Chapel Hill to attend NC-LITe, the twice-annual mini-conference loosely focused on instructional technology in libraries. NC-LITe is always an awesome conference and this was no exception! Our day began in the Undergraduate Library where we checked in and spent time informally meeting and greeting colleagues from 15 institutions across the state. After the check-in, we made our way over to the historic Wilson Library where the program began in earnest.

The beauty of NCLITe is its small size and each time we meet, we begin with a check-in to hear what is happening at each institution represented. These updates are always interesting and it is where we learn things such as which campus has a new library dean (WFU!) and the fact that Canvas is being launched as the Learning Management System for several NC institutions.

After hearing updates from each campus, Jonathan McMichael (UNC-CH Undergraduate Experience Librarian) led a design thinking activity (based on Stanford’s method). The design thinking process is unique in that it focuses on needfinding, understanding and empathy first, and then the designer and user work together to define, ideate, prototype and test solutions. Also, one of the fundamental concepts at the core of this process is a bias towards action and creation: by creating and testing something, you can continue to learn and improve upon your initial ideas.

One of the highlights of the day was touring one of UNC’s newest (and by that I mean re-modeled) active-learning classrooms. The classroom use to be a 150-seat lecture hall. It was transformed into an active learning space (seen below) that featured around 100 rolling Steelcase “Node” desks and several projection screens.

The classroom was inspiring, to say the least. We had some definite classroom envy. Naturally, there is a high demand from instructors to use the classroom. Instructors must apply to use the room and show that they have plans to use the room for active-learning. which has challenged instructors who teach sections with 100+ students to re-think their teaching. Overall, its first semester has been a success and almost all the instructors asked to teach in the classroom again.

If the library gets another instruction classroom, I (Amanda) think we could definitely use some of the ideas featured here for ourselves. It definitely inspired us to think creatively!

Image Credit: UNC Center For Faculty Excellence – Interactive Classrooms at UNC-CH

After the classroom tour, we heard four lightning round talks including two from our own Sarah and Kyle! Kyle taught us how to use Voice Thread.

Sarah talked about her 2015 Summer Technology Exploration Grant from Wake Forest University Provost’s Office, that she used to convert a lecture-based course, LIB 220 Science Research Sources and Strategies, into a learnerĀ­-centered, flipped course. Her talk highlighted the redesign process to incorporate student reflections using Blogger as a core component of the course to enhance metacognition in learning outcomes.


After the wonderful lightning talks, we went to lunch on Franklin Street and spent more time catching up with NCLITe colleagues. Please note that this post was a collaborative effort by Meghan, Sarah, Kyle, Amanda, and Joy!

Ellen & Tara at NC Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery Conference

Thursday, August 13, 2015 2:12 pm

On Thursday, July 30, Tara Hauser and I headed for Chapel Hill and the annual NC Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery Conference. This year the pre-conference and the conference were held at the UNC School of Law. We have combined our efforts to report on our experience.

Tara won the opportunity for ILLiad training at a casino night at the ILLiad Conference last March and James Harper negotiated with Atlas Systems to offer the pre-conference to ILL/Document Delivery representatives from North Carolina academic libraries.

On Thursday we attended the pre-conference, “The DIY ILLiad Tune-Up”, which was presented by John Brunswick with Atlas Systems. The ILLiad Tune-Up is needed to keep up with new enhancements that could improve services and productivity.

Different topics that were covered include routing rules, email routing and templates, Printing processes, the Database manager, Client layout customizations, Web page customization and shared servers. All of which was very helpful. All those who attended were able to get a six month subscription to the Atlas Video Training Library.

On Friday we had about 70 representatives from Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery departments across the state. Almost all were from academic institutions with one governmental librarian. The day started with some lightning round/discussion sessions about relevant topics. They were supposed to be limited to 5 minutes each but that guideline pretty much went out the window in the Q & A/discussion phase but that’s the best part about this conference; sharing discoveries, frustrations and innovations with other libraries.

Discussions included “green” and cost-saving options for packaging and the advantages of using “purchase on demand” for some items instead of ILL. Mailing and delivery options are always important in ILL departments so the UNC courier system was discussed as well as free tracking for USPS packages (even at library rates). James led a discussion on the importance of using statistics to demonstrate how ILL supports faculty as well as a session speculating on The Future of ILL and Document Delivery. After lunch there was a free discussion time. One of the main topics of the afternoon was thefts in our libraries and we found that ZSR is certainly not alone in having these problems.

This get-together is always a highlight of the year. Given the collaborative nature of ILL it’s a good time to meet with the people we depend on to help us demonstrate that ZSR Delivers.

Steve at NASIG 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015 5:35 pm

Okay, so by now you know what’s coming: I apologize for being so darn late in writing this blog post. I lost my notebook! The dog ate my homework! I had to see a guy about a thing! I know there’s no good excuse for writing about a conference almost two months after it happened, but I promise I’ll not get that far behind again.

Anyway, the 2015 NASIG Conference in Washington, DC (well, technically Crystal City, Virginia, but close enough) was a very special one for me, because I served as president at this conference. Also, it was our 30th anniversary (there was a nice party to celebrate) and NASIG did its first joint program with another organization (the Society for Scholarly Publishing, or SSP) since 1992. Presiding over the conference was a fun if slightly nerve-wracking experience, as it entailed far more public speaking than I am comfortable with (for the record, I am comfortable with approximately zero public speaking, so, more than that).

Chris and Derrik have both written about the conference proper, so I think I’ll delve into the joint program with SSP a bit. Now, full disclosure, I was on the planning group that organized this event, so I might be a little biased in my reporting. The joint program was called “Evolving Information Policies and Their Implications: A Conversation for Librarians and Publishers,” and it consisted of three keynote addresses, one each by a publisher (Jayne Marks of Wolters Kluwer), a librarian (T. Scott Plutchak of the University of Alabama, Birmingham), and a vendor (Caitlin Trasande, formerly of Digital Science), a panel of two intellectual property lawyers (Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law at American University, and Michael Remington of the firm Drinker Biddle & Reath), and a closing panel with all five previous speakers.

Although each of them brought up interesting points, (especially Jayne Marks conversation about how publishers are experimenting with new models and tools for their customers, but it is difficult to fully develop them because every customer wants their products customized and personalized to such an extent that the publishers are constantly stuck in development), I will focus on Scott Plutchak’s keynote, which addressed the problems related to preserving and providing access to research data sets. Plutchak emphasized how current and trendy this issue is with the memorable phrase, “Data is the new bacon.” However, research data sets are also enormously difficult to manage. Plutchak said that managing research data sets is a “wicked problem.” This is not just a snappy way to refer to the problem, but an actual term from social planning. Wicked problems are problems that have edges that are hard to define, that require a multi-disciplinary approach, and that is probably not solvable in one permanent way, but that can be mitigated and managed (an example might be urban planning). According to Plutchak, when it comes to preserving and providing access to material, “Publications are easy, data is a beast.” One of the complicating factors is that now, not only are funding agencies often demanding data set deposits, so too are publishers, which means researchers are getting hit from both sides. Plutchak argues that managing data sets is an institutional issue, not just a library issue, and the problem can’t be handled like we do with institutional repositories for publications (which are easy, but data is a beast). To manage data sets, not only will libraries need to be involved, but also academic research offices, information technology departments, faculty, etc. If researchers are going to be successful with grants, we will need to have infrastructure, policies, and resources in place to manage their data sets.

Plutchak’s keynote address was probably the most interesting and share-worthy of the conference content I was able to attend and focus on without having to do presidenting. Between welcoming folks to the joint program, opening and closing the conference, doing a drawing at the first-timer’s reception, introducing a keynote speaker, conducting the all-conference business meeting, installing my successor as NASIG President (the intrepid Carol Ann Borchert of the University of South Florida), speaking at the 30th anniversary celebration, and conducting the NASIG Executive Board meeting (which I actually enjoyed), I was kept quite busy. But I have to say, it was very cool to be comped the hotel’s presidential suite. All in all, it was an exhausting, but extremely satisfying experierience.

Wanda at ALA 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015 3:20 pm

Everyone has posted such beautiful pictures of San Francisco. I am envious of your photographing abilities. I think for me though, it is official; I am just not a huge fan of the big city. While there the following lyrics just kept ringing in my ears. Green acres is the place for me. Farm livin’ is the life for me. Land spreadin’ out so far and wide. Keep Manhattan San Francisco, just give me that countryside.

Ok, so the city may have not been appealing, but the conference was great. After finishing my BCALA Executive Board responsibilities, I spent Friday afternoon in a LLAMA sponsored pre-conference entitled: “Mind Over Matter: Sustainable success for library leaders.” Presenter, Kim Nichol spoke of mindfulness as engaging curiosity in an intentional way. Mindfulness has to do with the quality of your attention, your awareness of self and of others, your ability to keep an even keel, and lastly your being responsive and not reactive. Practicing mindfulness is a necessary component for effective leadership. Mindful leaders bring their best selves to work each day. How? They recognize that they are human and so are those who work with them. We each have a human need for physical rest. We have an emotional need to feel valued, welcomed accepted and even loved. We have an intellectual need to explore, to learn and to participate in. We have a spiritual need for community, for purpose and for legacy. Being mindful of these needs and bringing them to the forefront of our daily interactions, will aid leaders in their ability to lead others. This not only ensures that they bring their best selves to work, but also those around them will be more likely to do the same.

The ACRL Personnel Administrator’s group discussed practices and timelines around academic librarian searches. Three to six months was about the average length of time for search from post to offer. Many of the practices shared were similar to those we have in place here. Such as the use of grids/metrics to evaluate each applicant by the same set of criteria. The one option discussed, not in practice here, that I found appealing was that of establishing of timelines up front. So in the beginning of the search process dates of the search committee members as well as other key players were identified and held as possible phone interview and onsite interview dates. The onsite interview dates are then shared with the applicants during the phone interview. Attendees confessed that in most cases delays around bringing candidates to campus resulted from scheduling conflicts at the Dean/Director levels. This was the one step that I thought could impact our ability to keep the search moving along. Discussion followed on the topic of when reviewing of applicants took place. Many agreed that starting the review early in the process, rather than waiting for all the applications to arrive also helped to move the search along.
Supervision of millennials in the workplace was another topic of interest. Student assistant and supervisor training were amongst the areas most in need of attention discussed. Communication, collaboration and the setting of clearly defined expectations were equally deemed as necessary components to a successful partnership. This topic was slated for further conversations.

Below is a list of the BCALA Literary Award winners. One of the winners currently works right here in North Carolina.

The winner of the 1st Novelist Award went to Forty Acres: A Thriller by Dwayne Alexander Smith (Atria Books). The Fiction category winner was Citizens Creek: A Novel by Lalita Tademy (Atria Books). Award winners for Honor Books for Fiction were, Saint Monkey: A Novel by Jacinda Townsend (W. W. Norton & Company), Til the Well Runs Dry: A Novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma (Henry Holt & Company and Ruby by Cynthia Bond (Crown Publishing Group). The winner in the Nonfiction category is Visible Man: The Life of Henry Dumas by Jeffrey B. Leak (University of Georgia Press). Leak is an associate professor of English and director of the Center for the Study of the New South at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Honor Books for Nonfiction went to Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland with Charisse Jones (Touchstone), Dorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University; Building a Legacy of Black History by Janet Sims-Wood (The History Press); and The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology, edited by Katie G. Cannon and Anthony B. Pinn (Oxford University Press). The winner for BCALA’s Best Poetry Award is Books of Hours: Poems by Kevin Young (Knopf).

As always, I am happy to continue conversations around any of these topics, just let me know.

Roz at SAGE/CQ Press Advisory Board

Friday, July 17, 2015 2:01 pm

As some of you may know, I serve on the Reference Library Advisory Board for SAGE/CQ Press. This board meets virtually two or three times a year and for dinner at ALA Midwinter and Annual to provide feedback to SAGE and CQ Press about ideas in development for new products, interface upgrades and even to provide the library perspective on issues in the publishing world. SAGE has a variety of boards (Reference, Collection Development, Aquisitions, etc.), all run by our old ZSR friend Elisabeth Leonard who is now Director for Market Research for SAGE/CQ Press. Each year she brings members from across the various library boards to their headquarters in Thousand Oaks, CA for a meeting/brainstorming session. This was my second time to be invited and just like last year, I feel I may have gotten as much from the discussion as SAGE did (and the spectacularly beautiful SoCal weather did not stink).

This year there were five of us from the various boards in attendance and one other joined virtually during the Monday meeting. Two were collection management folks, one was head of a consortium, another soon to be head of resource services at an ARL and myself – the lone public services person. This time our conversations ranged from the state of ebook thinking in libraries, to upcoming improvements to the Sage Knowledge platform, to communication and outreach strategies to faculty and we ended with a discussion of the place video has in our collection development and teaching/research environments on our campuses. I always learn so much about how other places are doing things and thoroughly enjoy the chance to talk libraries with other people as passionate about them as I am. Sitting in a room with people from the publisher side of things also is a really wonderful experience. We will not always agree on everything with publishers but in many ways we are on the same side. SAGE is always really ready to hear what we have to say and eager to discuss tricky issues with us. We covered issues of cost, Carnegie classification and pricing models, streaming video and its future as a research source, the usefulness of publisher-specific journal search interfaces, discovery services and so much more.

This year Elisabeth asked me to stay an extra day and do a presentation for the SAGE/CQ Press staff about librarians and how/where we factor in to the research and selection process in libraries. I discussed the research process as students view it, how our research assistance differs with faculty and students, the factors that we weigh when deciding to purchase something and what libraries want from content providers. It was a fun presentation to put together and the group that attended had really great questions. I have uploaded the presentation on slideshare for anyone who is curious.

Megan at RBMS

Friday, July 17, 2015 9:39 am

“Preserve the Humanities! Special Collections as Liberal Arts Laboratory” was the theme for the annual conference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of ACRL, held this year in Oakland, CA during the week preceding ALA. Sessions at the Oakland conference center and the Berkeley campus explored the idea of special collections as source material for humanities research, and librarians as both facilitators of and participants in this research.

Many of the sessions were about planning and providing instruction in special collections. I participated in one on undergraduate instruction (along with librarians from Johns Hopkins and Auburn), giving a presentation on how I developed and taught ZSR’s History of the Book (LIB260) class. Our session drew a standing-room-only crowd, which I think attests to the fact that instruction has become a major priority for special collections librarians and archivists in recent years.

There were of course more very interesting concurrent sessions than I could attend (without a time-turner). One proposed a “User-Driven Manifesto” and offered case studies of how a user-centered culture can be implemented in special collections outreach. Another session, “Bridging Borders between Special Collections and Area Studies,” discussed the challenges of collecting and outreach for collections of materials from non-western cultures.

I particularly enjoyed the second plenary session, “Special Collections Libraries as Liberal Arts Laboratories.” Rachel Sagner Buurma from Swarthmore gave an account of her ongoing Early Novels Database project, in which undergraduate researchers create detailed metadata for works of 18th century fiction. And Kimberly Christen Withey described the Plateau Peoples project at Washington State University. This digital portal for archival materials of Indians of eastern Washington and surrounding areas uses Murkutu, a CMS software designed specifically for digital heritage collections of indigenous communities.

As always, I came away from RBMS with many new ideas and a renewed appreciation for the innovative work being done by special collections librarians across the country!

Steve at ALA Annual 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015 5:15 pm

This year’s ALA in San Francisco was, in some ways, an usual conference for me, while in other ways, it was the same thing as always. The unusual part was that I flew out with Mimi and Shane the Saturday before the conference started and had nearly a week of vacation before the conference began. The usual part was actually the conference itself, because once again, my conference activity was consumed with committee work and BIBFRAME and RDA stuff.

Like Lauren, I attended the BIBFRAME Update Forum, but I had some different takeaways, which I’ll share. The first speaker, Sally McCallum from Library of Congress, described how LC has their catalogers experimenting with inputting BIBFRAME descriptions, keeping the records in a triple store. They have found that it is not easy to transform MARC data into BIBFRAME data, and are looking to see if the BIBFRAME dichotomy between work and instance records is clear and useful for catalogers. At present, they are focusing on how catalogers can search the data. They are not looking at end user searching, they are not doing acquisitions processing, they are not managing holdings and circulation using BIBFRAME, and they are not even looking at how they’d go about distributing records. So, it’s very early days for them. They do have 19 million former MARC descriptions redone as BIBFRAME works and instances, which is an awful lot of data to work with. Despite the fact that LC still has so much work to do with BIBFRAME, Beecher Wiggins of LC said that their plan is to have data ready to be broadly distributed in five years. We’ll have to see. As Lauren mentioned, the forum also featured brief presentations by ILS companies to discuss how they are preparing for BIBFRAME. The main thing I got from each of them is that they are all working on training among their staff and they’re all listening to/asking questions of customers to see what kind of things they’d like to see in a BIBFRAME-based system.

During the conference I also attended a total of seven hours of meetings (split across two sessions) of CC:DA (Catalog Committee for Description and Access), the committee that develops ALA’s official position on RDA. Normally, these meetings are super inside-baseball and of no interest to anyone who isn’t really into RDA rule, but there were three pretty interesting things to share out. (Trust me there was plenty of super-inside baseball stuff at these meetings, like the seemingly never-ending discussion of a 154 page report on machine-actionable data.) This stuff may still be too inside-cataloging for most folks, but I’ll take a stab at describing it:

1. The Library of Congress Authority File is going to get a massive automated re-vamp thanks the wizardry of Gary Strawn at Northwestern University (who our own Kathy Martlock worked with on a project…brush with fame!). These changes will not involve changing the 1XX or heading fields, but will involve adding lots of good stuff to the attribute fields that enrich the descriptions of authorized headings. Over 3.5 million authority records will have ISNIs added to them, which I know will make Lauren quite happy. This project was described as a “heart transplant” for the LC authority file.

2. The Functional Requirements models, FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Data), and FRSAD (Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data), are being consolidated and will have major revisions in the next couple of years. That means that the conceptual models that underlying RDA will be going through major revisions, which are pretty much guaranteed to have major impacts on RDA.

3. The governance structure for RDA is going to become more international and is going to be entirely revamped. Back when we had AACR2, pretty much whatever the US and the UK said was it. Which made sense, because AACR2 stood for “Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd ed.” But RDA is trying to be more international. So, the proposed plan is to have an RDA Board, which will consist of six representatives, one each from North America, Latin America & the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. We’ll have to see how this develops, but it could have a major change in how much input ALA has on RDA.

Okay, that’s probably enough conference stuff for now. On our last night in town, Jeff and I joined Thomas, who still had another night to go, taking in an A’s game in Oakland. Although the stadium is a concrete bunker with all the charm of a parking garage, it was quite fun. The stadium is also the home of the Oakland Raiders, and the huge Raiders banner at the front gate that read “A Commitment to Excellence” had Jeff and me wondering if this was meant as some sort of Northern California hipster irony. But the big Athletics sign across the seats was kinda cool.

MBL at ALA15 in SF

Thursday, July 9, 2015 5:17 pm

This ALA Annual in San Francisco marked a high water mark in my ALA going experience. I was happy to present a poster session as the final assignment as chair of ZSR’s Assessment in Action team, and I did so along side of Meghan Webb, my fellow AiA team member. Assessment in Action is an ACRL grant funded program whose purpose is to build capacity in Academic Libraries to conduct high level assessment projects that will demonstrate the value of the library to the larger institution.

Our project focused on finding out how students define a successful year, and determining if the library was truly helping them to meet their goals. (Since our mission is to help students, faculty and staff succeed, this seemed a logical question to pursue.) The poster session was very busy. Many of the attendees, admittedly, were either past or future participants in the Assessment in Action project. (Assessment in Action is a three year project, and I applied for and was granted the opportunity to participate in the Year 2 cohort.) I heard positive feedback about our process, namely our decision to have students define success themselves, instead of using some academic definition like their position in class, or their GPA. We also heard positive comments of our use of graphics on our poster. Many of the year 3 Assessment in Action participants made note of the infographic we used to define our conclusions, and found it a powerful way to create meaning while minimizing text. Year 3 participants hoped to use such a method in their own poster a year from now. I appreciated having had the opportunity to chair such a vibrant and engaged team that included Meghan Webb, Le’Ron Byrd our former ZSR fellow, John Champlin of the Professional Development Center, Ryan Shirey of the Writing Center, and Glenda Boyles from the Bridge.

In attending sessions, my experience was better this year than previous years, either because I’m better and sussing out what will be the most helpful sessions to attend, or maybe sessions were just better overall. The sessions were quite varied, though, so “themes” are difficult to identify. I’ll give my biggest takeaways here.

Gems from Gloria Steinem’s opening keynote:

Gloria Steinem started her speech by reading a segment from her book My Life on the Road. She spent most of the time with the attendees answering questions that they posed. Among her best quotes:

–“The truth will set you free–but first it’s going to piss you off”

–“The single greatest stimulus to the economy our country could ever have is equal pay.”

–“The paradigm of ‘most violent societies’ is also the paradigm of strict heirarchy.”

–“The voting booth is the only place on earth where the richest people have no more power than the poorest people.”

–“Laughter is the only free emotion. So don’t go anywhere you can’t laugh. In fact, libraries should put up signs that say ‘No talking/but laughter is OK!'”

In responding to someone who said “I’m humbled to be in your presence,” she said “But I’m here to make you not humbled!”

She also recommended two books Sex and World Peace (which ZSR owns as an ebook) and The Mermaid and the Minataur (which ZSR owns in print.)


Whenever I am at ALA or ACRL I always seek out opportunities to sit in on any session that Lisa Hinchcliffe (form ACRL president, AiA team leader, Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction at the University of Illinois) is giving. This conference she presented as a part of a panel discussion entitled “All the Data: Privacy, Service Quality and Analytics.” Her co-presenter was Andrew Asher from Indiana University. They each had strong but different perspectives of the amount of data we keep about our users and what we should do about it. Lisa’s position was that we should be open and honest with users about what we keep and why, but not actively keep no data, since the recognizing patterns in the data allows us to improve services. Andrew was of the opinion that libraries should keep the absolute minimum data about users, even if it means we sacrifice the ability to improve services. Both interesting perspectives! The one point both agreed upon is that academic libraries, in order to ethically manage data and be responsible to our patrons, need to investigate and contractually agree upon exactly what data our vendors are keeping about our patrons every time they use information in one of their databases. “If you can’t control it, disclose it” became the mantra. Also, only track that information which you might care to analyze. If you won’t be analyzing data to improve services, don’t track it at all.

Merging public services desks:

Another very interesting session I went to was entitled “To Merge or not to Merge?” Three libraries gave their perspectives on the success/failure of a merging operations that had been in separate desks into a single service point. I’ve been to many of these sorts of sessions over the years hoping to gain some insight into what could be a very difficult transition in co-locating disparate services, even in such a friendly place as ZSR. This one was refreshing in its candor. Here are some of the takeaways from the different libraries’ presentations:

–Planning starts at least a year before the actual change with input from all sides about what exactly will take place at the desk, what will take place away from the desk, and how those operations will coordinate.

–When two groups of people are serving the same function at the same desk but are at two different pay grades, morale will decline.

–Communication is the key to making over the transition, and continues after the combining. It is an ongoing struggle to communicate enough.

–Deciding in advance that the new desk is not a merger of two different desks, but instead is a whole new service, might help ease the transition. Be clear and obvious about how and what you decide will happen at the desk.

–The most successful model (by that I mean, the desk with the happiest staff) moved reference librarians off of their desk, did training with the circulation staff to give them the ability to triage the easiest questions and provided methods to pass along the harder ones without judgement. Reference librarians used their former desk time to increase liaison contacts, do more teaching, embed in instruction, etc.

I don’t know what ultimately our flavor of “merger” will take, or how soon it may happen. There are as many options as there are libraries merging desks. Every time I attend a session on this topic I get more comfortable with the idea, and more aware of the responsibility to make sure we do it right because it is fraught with opportunities to do it wrong.

Finally, because it’s ALA at San Francisco, a few photos: Chinatown, Pride Parade, and a vendor visit with an awesome booth!



2007 ACRL Baltimore
2007 ALA Annual
2007 ALA Gaming Symposium
2007 ALA Midwinter
2007 ASERL New Age of Discovery
2007 Charleston Conference
2007 ECU Gaming Presentation
2007 ELUNA
2007 Evidence Based Librarianship
2007 Innovations in Instruction
2007 Kilgour Symposium
2007 LAUNC-CH Conference
2007 LITA National Forum
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