Reflections on NCLA

I’ve decided to attempt to blog every Thursday evening. Thursday nights are my nights in our library, and I spend my 5-6PM hour at the reference desk awaiting Blackboard IM sessions with students. This is week 4 of our offering chat reference, and so far I haven’t had any takers. I thought this would be a good time to blog about my development as a librarian in a consistent way.

My goal for this week is to reflect on the North Carolina Library Association (NCLA) conference that I attended in Hickory, NC from October 4th to October 7th. As I mentioned in my last post, this was my first conference and I tried to take advantage of the learning and networking opportunities presented to me. I had some specific topics I wanted to focus on before I went like community college librarianship, working with faculty in person and online, brushing up on e-books, and library websites/LibGuides. I think I did a good job of attending sessions that related to those topics.

The first day was actually a pre-conference, and my co-worker and I attended the “Educating Community College Librarians” all day session. The session was not heavily attended, which was nice because it allowed for better interaction. One drawback of the session was that most of the participants, myself included, were new to the community college library setting. Another was that the presenters seemed to be more focused on using us as guinea pigs for their material which they were planning to present as a class for LIS students & professionals in the future. That being said, I did enjoy most of the discussion and I found it useful to hear about the experiences of other community college librarians in the state. The presentation included a lot of material from other fields like business and psychology, and it made me reconsider how I see myself as a community college librarian. One of the themes was librarian as a counselor, and this made me appreciate my 2 years of work as a crisis counselor. It’s very refreshing for me to be able to actually fix a student’s crisis by showing them MLA format or finding that last article they need for an assignment.

Day two was the official beginning of the conference. The opening session was a talk by Rebecca Renard who is one of the Library Journal 2011 Movers & Shakers and the Teens of Distinction Program Coordinator at the DC Public Library. Her talk was amazing. She discussed some of the ways they worked to get the teens more involved in all aspects of the library. The two messages I really took from the talk were: to always be aware of opportunities to promote the library and involve community members AND to find ways to engage patrons in the library and help them feel a sense of ownership. This inspired me to contact our faculty who teach web design and ask them to have their students help do usability testing for our site, and to possibly use web design students to assist with web development in the future. As a result of this contact I might be teaching web classes about usability and will likely be on the committee to develop our new web design degree program.

After the opening session I attended a session on resources from the statewide service we use for most of our databases and a session on evaluating open source tools for use in the library. The open source tools session didn’t include any services I wasn’t aware of, but it did help me to realize that any tool is useless unless it meets the needs of your patrons effectively. This is a mindset I’m working on cultivating because I have a tendency to get excited about new tech and want to push it on people! The best part of my day two was after the official conference sessions. I attended an informal meet-up with the Distance Learning Interest Group of the NCLA at a neat place in Hickory called the Olde Hickory Taproom. It turns out that several other groups were meeting there, and by the time I left there were at least 60 librarians there!

I met some fantastic people who I hope to cultivate relationships with as I develop my career. One is Katy Kavanagh, the new Instructional Design Librarian at ECU. It was awesome to meet other young librarians in their first job who just moved to NC. I think we need to start a support group! I also had some good conversation with Beth Filar-Williams, the Distance Education Librarian at UNCG. She and I have very similar interests personally and professionally, and I’m already planning to meet up with her at my next conference in November. The other awesome librarian I met that night was Jennifer Meyer, the one and only librarian at a career college in Raleigh. She had some really great insights on working with patrons in vocational and just on librarianship in general.

The third day I attended my favorite session on Embedded Librarians. Jennifer Ballance, the E-Learning Librarian at CPCC was my favorite speaker on the panel. She is doing at CPCC exactly what I want to be doing here. They use LibGuides and Blackboard to embed librarians into individual courses. I reached out to her after the conference and she is actually coming here on Monday to meet with me to discuss what she’s done in more detail. I could write more, but there’s an excellent blog post on Lauren’s Library Blog about this session. I also attended a session on library websites that presented the results of a wide scale usability survey of library websites. It was interesting and gave me some good ideas for what to do and not to do when I redesign our site.

The final day I went to a session about designing successful learning outcomes which was extraordinarily helpful. It was the first part of a workshop on the topic, and I hope to attend the rest of the sessions. This session focused on writing good outcomes based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. I’ve found that I’m already using this information in my work here. I contacted one of the presenters  Amy Harris, Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Coordinator at UNCG, to get a copy of a rubric that shows the Information Literacy basic competencies and associated learning outcomes. I’m going to use that in a class I’m co-teaching to help new faculty members build courses in Blackboard.  I also went to a session about LibGuides which was really useful because we just got our LibGuides account set up yesterday, and the presenters were able to answer some questions I had about their use.

Although the sessions were good, I found the poster sessions to be one of the most rewarding parts of the conference. I got some great ideas for getting patron feedback (using whiteboards to ask students questions), designing better library spaces (designating zones with different acceptable behaviors), and using QR codes successfully.

I made an attempt the week after the conference to reach out to many of the people I met during the conference, and I hope to continue to be active in the NCLA community. As I stated earlier, I’m attending the NC3ADL Conference in November and I hope it will be as rewarding!

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