Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gone Fishing

I'm going to take a summertime break from blogging. Time to recharge the brain. I'll start up again in a few weeks, probably when the new semester starts in mid-August. In the meantime, here's what I'm reading:

Real Education by Charles Murray
The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner
The Education of Henry Adams (by Henry Adams)
The Painter of Battles by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Highlights of ALA

Queen Anne's Lace, cropped with FotoFlexer

As promised, here's what I found most valuable at ALA, and why:

1) Friday's Unconference - Although the program wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I got a great answer for my library facebook page dilemma: We need to create widgets so that students can import them into their own online spaces if they choose. This idea came from the wonderful Joyce Valenza, a librarian at Springfield Township High School in Pennsylvania.

2) NMRT Discussion Group: “Getting Published in LIS Journals” - I suspect that the people who attended this meeting are the ones whose names I will be reading in the library literature in the coming years. Those who participated were obviously determined to produce high-quality scholarship useful to librarianship. Taking part in this discussion was a great motivator, even though I am not on a tenure track.

3) Millennials in Graduate School: How Do We Support Them? - Susan Gibbons, who wrote the admirable Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester, was one of the speakers at this event. I was able to catch her portion, which contained information from the study report The Next Generation of Academics. It sounded like the researchers in this new study applied the same methodical scrutiny to graduate student study habits, with some very interesting results.

4) ACRL's Colleges and Junior Colleges (CJC) Section Hot Topics Discussion - The group size (approx 15 people) for this discussion was perfect, and I suddenly found myself in a room of people with identical concerns and frustrations about libraries in community colleges. Although we were working with variety of user populations, it was exhilarating to be in a room of people with the same set of problems.

5) Web 2.0 meet the Standards for 21st Century Learners - At the time the Distance Learning Section of ACRL was set to meet at one of the northern hotels, I found myself still at McCormick Place on South Michigan Avenue, which is why I ended up at this session. Luckily it was a good one, and I got to see a number of tools I hadn't used before, such as FotoFlexer, Pageflakes, and netvibes's widget directory.

6) Social Software Showcase 2009 - Smart people demonstrating tools and technologies on the horizon. Need I say more?

7) Lastly, rather than point to an organized event I want to describe how amazing it is to be surrounded by active, thoughtful librarians from all over the country who are interested in discussing issues of the profession at every opportunity. I've heard that ALA is a good way of recharging yourself professionally, and it's true. The interactions I had with other librarians were at least as valuable as the lectures.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ALA: yep, it was great

ALA Exhibition Hall, McCormick Place

I had a fantastic time at ALA in Chicago this past week. I'm in the process of absorbing everything I encountered there, but here are a few notes right away:

-I found different cultures of librarians. What I mean is that there seemed to be an array of attitudes toward technology, toward library patrons, toward the profession, etc. I probably shouldn't have been surprised by the diversity, as the only thing that brought us all together was an interest in information -- which is pretty darn broad.

-I had several prototypical ALA experiences such as walking until my feet were sore, ungracefully navigating the many and varying climactic zones, and changing my planned schedule in light of local geography. As a first-time attendee, it proved VERY worthwhile to take the time to organize myself beforehand and make sure I had activities to go to at all times. It would have been easy to become overwhelmed.

-There was a rather ribald twitter backchannel that was initially quashed but promptly re-emerged. Here is a write-up (also a short follow-up) that more or less sums it up. Regardless of the snarky/semi-sordid content, I was glad to see that intellectual freedom won the day.

**added 7/21/09: piece in Library Journal interviewing the creator of @ALAsecrets.

-One huge benefit of the entire experience was the chance meetings I had with a great many interesting and inspiring people, often from outside 'my' type of library. Also, experiences that seemed the most meaningful were where there were smaller groups or opportunities for one-on-one conversations, rather than large groups sitting in lecture halls. This is significant when it comes to how to make distance learning and virtual conferences effective.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Things I'm Excited about at ALA

purple coneflower, on campus

On Thursday I'll be heading to ALA in Chicago. This will be my first time attending, and I'm so glad to have the opportunity to go! It's something I've been looking forward to all year.

My current schedule contains too many things to list here, so I'll just describe the events I'm particularly anticipating, in chronological order. Next week I'll report back on what turned out to be the most valuable/interesting/enlightening.

1) Friday: Unconference. I've been a fan of the unconference since I attended one last year in Syracuse (I wrote about it here). At this one I'm honored to be hosting a discussion, originally entitled "How libraries can provide services using patrons' online social networks without being creepy." I hope people come with ideas, because I still have not found satisfactory answers since suggesting the topic earlier this year...

2) Saturday's Serials Solutions breakfast discussion of Summon. The neatest thing since sliced bread? Well, they've got my attention.

3) Saturday: ACRL's College and Junior College Libraries Discussion Group, "Hot Topics in Community College Librarianship." I'm expecting to have a lot in common with folks in this group.

4) Sunday: ACRL's Distance Learning Section meeting. Who doesn't want to talk about intricacies of authentication and online learning theory?

5) Sunday: ACRL Instruction Section program "Illuminating New Instruction Research: Applying Research to Practice." I am an instruction librarian, after all.

6) Monday: Volunteering at the New Member's Round Table booth at McCormick Place. I even volunteered to do a write-up of the experience. Looking forward to the view from behind the booth.

7) Monday: OCLC's President's Lunch. Taking the place of our director, who is not attending. I hope nobody mistakes me for a waiter. Not that there's anything wrong with being a waiter.