Library Summer Camp

I’m hoping that anyone who reads this had the chance to go to summer camp as a kid, and to actually enjoy the experience. There’s something magical about time away from home with people you see infrequently, doing different things, learning together, and getting very little sleep. When I was leaving ALA’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas I felt like I was leaving summer camp.

This feeling may have been heightened by the fact that I was staying with seven other librarians in two suites, but I think the communal aspect comes through even when you are staying solo. I can (and will) talk about the sessions, meetings, and learning but what I found most valuable this year was the time to be around other librarians having conversations ranging from personal to professional and back again. The eight of us that stayed together came from Florida, Ohio, Texas, California, Utah, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Some of us had met in person, or online, or not at all.

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Most of the suite at dinner

We spent a lot of time together in the evenings and in spare moments. I took something from all of them, and from the myriad other librarians with whom I interacted. The most important outcome of this conference for me was a rekindling of my passion for what I do. It’s never been lost, and I am more thankful each day for the work I do, but I’ve had a rough year personally. I separated from my partner of 11 ½ years, and there were times when it felt impossible to focus on work. I am healing, growing, and changing from the experience and ALA felt like a confirmation that I’m ready and able to throw myself fully into librarianship again.

That being said, the rest of my conference was good although not as rich for learning from sessions as other conferences I’ve attended. This was primarily due to the things I had to do for committees and work projects that took away from the time I could spend in sessions, coupled with a frustrating experience traveling to/from events. My first big/important event was Saturday morning, when I moderated the ACRL DLS/ULS panel “Leading From the Side: On, Off, and Within Your Campus”. It’s interesting to be on the other side of the podium at ALA!

Doing my moderation thing!

Doing my moderation thing!

The room looked massive, and we had around 180 attendees. I got there early to make sure we were set up and that our speakers were comfortable. The session went well from what I could tell. I had to modify some of the language written on our outline to make the session flow better, but it was a good way to stay fully engaged while the panelists were speaking. As a side bonus, the information they imparted was useful! I got to catch up with some friendly faces and meet some new people after the session, and I felt a big weight lift off after we successfully implemented the panel session.

On Saturday I also attended the inaugural Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) board meeting. I went to a meeting for SustainRT at ALA in Chicago and agreed to be their webmaster, a role that I am still committed to. I’m also the unofficial social media person. The meeting was fantastic, there was a lot of energy in the room and I think we made some great decisions about how to move forward. If you have any interest in sustainability in libraries (environmental, collections, architecture, outreach, instruction, really anything!) it’s a great group to join.

After that I attended a session on training from the Learning Round Table that was interesting but not applicable to what I’m doing, however it did pique my interest in that RT. After a “quick” trip back to the hotel, several of my suitemates and I attended the joint ULS/DLS social. It was good to see more familiar faces that I met in Chicago and meet some new librarians. After that most of our suite went to see the V variety show and spent some time taking in the ridiculous Strip.

Sunday morning I met a colleague at the Springshare booth where we spent about 90 minutes talking through our LibGuides V2 migration that happened yesterday! He and I are leading the effort to migrate and hopefully revamp our guides. I spent a good bit of time in and out of the exhibits area this year and I thought it was very well done. I also held out for the best swag!

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After my meeting I caught the Sunday Ignite sessions and got to see a friend from NC do a presentation. I enjoyed every single one and took some short but good notes on marketing and design. I attended the SustainRT lightning rounds in the early afternoon. It was great to see the cool sustainability work going on in libraries around the country. I hope SustainRT can continue to hold the lightning round sessions at future conferences. It’s a great format for sharing.

After the lightning rounds I made my way to the Starbucks to meet my Hyperlinked Library MOOC instructor Michael Stephens in person. I ran into my panel co-chair John Jackson in line and the three of us had a great conversation.

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That evening I attended the LearnRT social at the LVH pool with some of my suitemates and a UCF colleague/friend. We met librarians from around the US and Canada, and enjoyed our time by the pool. After that we had dinner in the LVH and then spent a bit of time on the Strip before returning to the hotel. We all had early Monday meetings!

Monday morning we spent the hour getting to the Convention Center and then several of us attended the meeting for the ACRL Innovations Committee that is working on several events/opportunities/things for the 2015 conference in Portland. It was a busy 90 minutes but we got a lot accomplished. I like being able to meet with my committee members in person, it makes it easier to communicate virtually after you have a chance to get to know people. In the afternoon six of us drove out to the desert to hike Mary Jane Falls in the Mt. Charleston area.

PicMonkey Collage 2

Even the hike was educational! At some point during the 3 mile round trip I paired off with each person for a while and had discussions about programs, instruction, imposter syndrome, career development, publishing and research (among more personal topics!). That night I attended a burlesque show with some colleagues. Tuesday morning was time to say goodbye. My flight was at noon and I was blessed to have one of my suitemates on the same first leg of the flight! We didn’t plan it and figured it out once we were in Vegas. I love when life works out that way.

If you’re still with me or TL;DR: great trip!

Scenes from the trip

Scenes from the trip

Learning and Generating Ideas

Last week was a momentous one professionally. May 10th was my one year anniversary of working as a Regional Campus Librarian for the University of Central Florida. It’s been a year of great change for me personally, and I’ve grown quite a bit professionally as well. Working for a larger institution has given me the opportunity to interact with a larger group of librarians on a regular basis. This has helped me develop a better sense of who I am professionally and what my interests are within librarianship. I also had the opportunity to attend the Florida Library Association Annual Conference last week, which furthered my learning and helped me to generate some new ideas.

The conference spanned three days, and was attended by librarians from the entire state. It’s always interesting to interact with new people. I find myself having conversations with other academic librarians facing the same challenges, and also with public and school librarians who have a very different daily experience but who are rooted in the same core values. I find both to be valuable in my quest to provide the best service possible to my institution. The first day of the conference I presented a poster with two of my colleagues.


My colleagues and me with our poster. (L to R) Kelly Robinson, Carrie Moran (me), and Michael Furlong.

My colleagues and me with our poster. (L to R) Kelly Robinson, Carrie Moran (me), and Michael Furlong.

Our poster was titled “Mythbusters: The Digital Native”. We addressed the common myths about digital natives, provided evidence from our various reference desks, and offered some solutions to address the technology challenges all libraries face. I’m happy to send the PDF to anyone interested in the topic. The poster sessions were the first experience for most people as they took place immediately before and after the opening session. It was my first poster session and I enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss our work with multiple people in a more intimate setting than a presentation.

The keynote was fantastic. It was a talk titled “The Art of Perception” by Amy Herman. Herman developed a training program to teach police officers to enhance their observational skills while working at the Frick Museum in NYC. Her program uses art and imagery to teach these concepts and she was fantastic, so fantastic that I attended the follow up session later in the day. Her website The Art of Perception has more details, and anyone who works with the public should check it out.

On the second day I attended a great lightning round session. There were seven mini sessions and each one gave me something to ponder. One group of librarians used GoPro cameras to track user behavior in the library, another group used theater students to make library instruction videos, and one librarian discussed a project where he was embedded in a class who had to edit Wikipedia as a course assignment. After that I went to a session on retooling a reference program, and although I didn’t find what they did especially relevant, it did spark me to spend 10 minutes writing ideas for things I can do in my library.

The final session I attended that day was on project planning and it was fantastic. The speaker used a model from the “Getting Things Done” method, and gave us time to work in small groups to discuss projects we felt stuck on. One thing I am going to do as a direct result is make sure to start all meetings with a statement of purpose. I already do this frequently, but I think it should be the first step on any meeting agenda. The learning I did on day two inspired this tweet:


The final day of the conference was a half day but still packed with good stuff. I got to see a Twitter friend present in real life on library web performance and user expectations. I also attended a session on social media that focused entirely on public libraries, but still had some good takeaways. I think our library can do better about having conversations on social media and at making our posts more fun – even those that ask our users to do something. The closing keynote was from J. Jeff Kober from Disney. His talk was on customer service and creating excellence, and he was one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen live. The biggest takeaway from Kober was to make sure everyone in the organization knows the greater mission and cultivates that in his/her daily work.

I’m blessed to work for an organization that supports professional development and new learning opportunities. I am looking forward to applying some of the knowledge I gained to new programs and outreach efforts at my library. Attending this local conference also got me excited for ALA Annual in Las Vegas, hope to see some of you there!

ALA Chicago 2013 Recap

The intention of this blog was to track my development as a librarian, and it wouldn’t be complete without a recap of my first American Library Association Annual Conference! I arrived in Chicago on Friday afternoon and got off the train in the Loop amidst hordes of Chicago Blackhawks fans. It was a fun way to arrive in Chicago, even if it made navigating my suitcase through the streets a bit more challenging! I stayed at the University Center, a dorm that rents out empty rooms in the summer to travelers and conference attendees. Beth Filar-Williams, a librarian I knew from NC, asked me to share a suite with her and two other librarians. It was cheap, in a good location, and staying with 3 other librarians was an excellent way to get immersed in the world of ALA.

I didn’t go to McCormick on Friday because I knew I had a social near my hotel in the early evening, and I wasn’t sure about the shuttle schedule with the Blackhawks parade. The first ALA event I attended was the excellent ACRL Instruction Section Soiree at the Columbia College Chicago Library. I met some phenomenal librarians, and a picture of some of us made it into American Libraries! It was a good introduction to the whole experience. I got to get my feet wet networking with librarians of very similar interests, see old friends, and hopefully make connections that will be enduring. A few months ago I wrote a post on my 5 library blog heroes, and one of them (Char Booth) was there, so I dorkily introduced myself. I had a nice conversation with her and was glad that I put myself out there.

Saturday I woke up early (time change + excitement) and got on the first shuttle to McCormick at 7AM. I happened to get on and spot an empty seat next to my boss and we had a nice chat on our way over to the convention center. When I got there it was too early to get my badge so I had breakfast and got myself ready for the day. I registered and picked up my 5K packet and then went to see Jaron Lanier speak. His talk was about the effect of network technologies on our lives, and followed an almost stream of consciousness style thread through different topics. One of his messages was that globalization doesn’t mean a loss of individualization and that there doesn’t have to be one way of doing things. Our networked society has flattened the world, but we should work to make sure that people still have access to multiple sources and forms information.

My first trip to the exhibits area was kind of overwhelming. I stumbled directly into the author signing area which was completely mobbed. The biggest reason why I came to ALA this year was because I helped plan a program with ACRL’s Distance Learning Section, and that program was held on Saturday at 10:30AM. Our session was a panel discussion with three librarians doing work in online instruction titled “Is it worth it?: Assessing online instruction”. Two of the panelists are now my co-workers at UCF, but I had no affiliation with them when we started planning the session. I arrived early to help hand out cards and flyers with a link to more information for the audience. The seats were already half full when I arrived and by the time we started we had a full room. We counted 310 people in attendance! The session went well and I thought our format was unique in that the panelists took turns answering questions rather than each presenting their own slides one at a time. I was furiously taking notes for my conference report for C&RL News (which I just finished editing!). After the session several people stayed to ask questions, so I deem it a success. Five of us from the conference planning committee went to lunch after to celebrate a job well done, and it was good to catch up and to meet some of them face to face for the first time.

I definitely spent a lot of time stalking name badges to look for people I knew only online beforehand. It’s nice to make the face to face connection. Saturday afternoon I attended a session on mobile websites that was interesting but not inspiring. After that session I made my way back to the Loop area to get ready for the ULS/CLS social at the Plymouth Grill. I had a good time at this social, and it was also really nicely put together. I got to meet several librarians I knew online or from papers/presentations and also to meet some other DLS section members. A few of us went to Native Foods Café after – I highly recommend this place to any vegans/vegetarians/veggie lovers!

Sunday morning was the most anxiety provoking part of my whole experience, I had to get up at 5:30AM to get ready for the Think Fit 5k Fun Run & Walk. I caught the first shuttle at 6AM and commiserated in misery with the other brave souls who made the decision to run so early! The race started right by McCormick and ran along Lake Michigan. It was my first 5K and I wish I had been better rested, but I still smashed my goal of under 30 minutes and finished in 27:39. I came in 28th overall and was really happy with my performance. Looking back on the trip, I think this was one of the most special parts of my whole ALA experience and I’m incredibly glad that I did it.

I managed to go back to the dorm, shower, change and get back to McCormick around 9:15. There seemed to be a lot of good sessions/breakfasts on Sunday morning and I wish I could have participated in them. I spent more time at the exhibits and did my only swag run. I got some good books (like the new Laura Lippman!!!) and mailed them back to myself. I think it’s so great that they have a post office set up in the hall. I had a meeting at 10 with the members of the committee I’m co-chairing for DLS to plan a session for the 2014 Annual conference. The meeting was short but productive.

After that I checked out the first half of Giada De Laurentiis. She was phenomenal! She was warm, open, funny and engaging. I tweeted her a thank you during the session and got a response back later in the day. I know that I could have done something more library related but I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see some of the celebrities that made time for ALA. After that I attended part of an Ignite Session. I wish they would have done a better job planning space for the programs/sessions. Almost all the sessions I attended were standing room only and it made it hard to fully engage with the material. I attended that session to hear the presentation on Fair Use  and it was very interesting. I think it’s so important to incorporate academic integrity and discussions of how information is used outside of academia into our instruction and conversations with students and faculty.

In the afternoon I went to the RUSA MARS session titled “Usability, the User Experience & Interface Design: The Role of Reference”. I think usability testing is incredibly important and useful, and I was glad to see a session on it that focused more on the role of public services rather than just on website/interface design. The speakers did a good job of discussing how the results of their research could inform instruction/design/reference work. The University of Chicago talked about how they’re putting altmetrics information directly in the catalog results to help students identify valuable resources. This session definitely gave me some ideas and inspiration for how to teach students about identifying resources and doing discipline specific research.

After that I attended another good session called 40 Great Apps for Mobile Reference & Outreach from the San Francisco Public Library. It was fun to attend a session not geared toward academic librarians, and the session was very well presented and designed.

In the late afternoon I attended the Executive Committee meeting for DLS. It was my first introduction into the behind the scenes work that happens at conferences and I learned a lot by attending. I also had to give an overview of what my committee is doing, and although I wasn’t aware of that before I walked in the room, I think I did a good job. I enjoy doing committee work and being involved in leadership, and I hope to become more involved in the future.

After that meeting I walked over to Fado with Beth for the LITA Happy Hour. I am not a LITA member but after seeing who attended, I think it might be worth joining! I read a lot of library blogs and saw so many big time bloggers and “rockstar” librarians there. I got to meet another one of my heroes, Lauren Pressley ! She was so nice and welcoming. I had a great time there and also afterward hanging out in the dorm with my roomies.

Monday morning I started out at an interest meeting for the new Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) that was recently approved by ALA. I am beyond excited to start working with this group! Taken directly from the program description, “SustainRT invites the exchange of ideas and opportunities regarding sustainability in order to move toward a more equitable, healthy and economically viable society. The mission of the organization is to provide resources for the library community to support sustainability through curriculum development; collections; exhibits; events; advocacy, communication, library buildings and space design.”

The majority of people in attendance wanted to focus on the environmental aspects of the mission, however, I think I can make a huge impact by helping out with the health aspect. I have so many ideas for how to incorporate healthfulness into the conference experience and I think this will be a way for me to bridge my passion for health/wellness with my passion for libraries. I volunteered to be the webmaster for the organization since I don’t get to do much web stuff in my new role at UCF.

After that session I saw some of Oliver Stone but got discouraged by the discussion because it seemed to focus mostly on what’s broken and less on how it can be fixed. I am still looking forward to watching his new documentary because I feel like my grasp on American history is limited and could use some improvement. I left early so I could check out my friend Katy Kavanagh’s poster session on universal design in STEM tutorials. It was excellent and I’m so glad to know someone who is doing great work. I checked out the other posters there (it was hosted by the ACRL Science & Technology Section) and tried to take what I could from them since I don’t currently work with STEM programs but will in the future.

I ended my official ALA experience with a lunch hosted by the American Psychological Association. I was worried it would be a sales pitch, but the presentation was very informative and taught me some things about the APA databases that I didn’t know. Also, they have something called ADEPT (APA Databases & Electronic Products Training Institute) that has CC licensed training materials that librarians can use online or in presentations.

One of the tips I read in multiple ALA prep guides was to spend some time enjoying the city in which the conference is hosted. In that spirit, I took a long walk through the streets of Chicago on Monday afternoon. I started from my hotel and walked over to Lake Michigan. As I made my way across the Chicago River I encountered the Bean and the Picasso sculpture. I stopped for a drink by the river and then took the train to the Little Goat Diner. I’m a huge Top Chef fan and wanted to go to one of Stephanie Izard’s restaurants while I was in town. The restaurant was adorable, played awesome music, had a vegan menu and the fried pickle sandwich I had was incredible. After that I walked to the Chicago French Market mostly to browse and then took the train back to my hotel to pack and process.

I used a pedometer for the time I was there, and I walked/ran a total of 31 miles in the 5 days of my ALA experience. It was an amazing trip and I’m looking forward to more in the future!

Sights New Friends Eats Conference

The Next Chapter

It’s been five weeks since I started my new position as a Regional Campus Librarian for the University of Central Florida. I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed. I certainly intended to update my blog sooner than this, but the first few weeks of a job are intense, especially this one! I wrote a post before I left my last job that outlines what this one is. My position is unique in that I’m employed by the UCF library but work on the campus of Valencia College Osceola campus in Kissimmee. UCF has partnered with several state colleges in the Orlando vicinity to form a network of Regional Campuses that hold UCF classes. I am the first full time UCF Librarian at this campus, and will work to support the UCF students, faculty and staff located here in Osceola.

I also work at the reference desk which primarily serves Valencia students. The ratio of Valencia to UCF students in the Fall will be something like 30 to 1, so I have to know what their priorities are as well because I will be working with Valencia students on a daily basis. In terms of starting my new job, this means learning two separate systems. It’s been a lot of information to absorb but the UCF and Valencia librarians have all been amazing and supportive of my learning curve. I spent my first full week on the main UCF campus in Orlando meeting with various people and departments. My supervisor had lists of people to meet, information to learn, and tasks to complete. I am so thankful that she had these in place. It made the training process less scary and more manageable. I’m still working on checking a few key people off my list of meetings, but I’ve completed almost everything else I needed to.

I haven’t yet worked a full week on the Osceola campus, I keep going to the main Orlando campus or some of our other locations for meetings and trainings. Yesterday I got to visit the College of Medicine with other regional librarians and librarians from the main campus. We got a two hour tour of the school and the library and it was incredible! I feel so blessed to be a part of an institution that is focused on being innovative and forming partnerships within the local community to foster student success.

One of the most interesting things for me in this transition is to see how much of what I was doing at Cleveland transfers to my role here. I observed one of the Valencia librarians’ instruction sessions a few weeks ago and I could have easily taught the class myself. The only real difference is that students have different resources and a different way to access them. I have tried to spend time orienting myself to the resources that are new to me (or ones I haven’t had access to since graduate school).

My big focus at first is going to be outreach to the faculty and students on this campus. Last week I finally felt comfortable enough to introduce myself to a faculty member who teaches Public Administration. Within 5 minutes of talking with him he asked me to come to his class that afternoon to teach a short session on APA format. I was thrilled to be able to get into a class that quickly and took advantage of the opportunity. I had a few hours to prepare so I created a quick presentation based off the Plagiarism & Citations workshops I used to do at Cleveland. I had a great time working with the upper level students, something I didn’t get to experience at Cleveland. They were very engaged and asked at least 10 good questions. After the session I connected with the faculty member on LinkedIn and he actually endorsed me for Public Speaking, so I think I must have done something right! That faculty member has already been in the library and will hopefully be an advocate for the library with other faculty members in the Fall.

Last week I also had the opportunity to attend a day and a half long training on Scholarly Communications on the main campus. I hope to write a recap of the whole session for my next post. I am excited to get involved in some new areas of librarianship that weren’t relevant/feasible in my role as a community college librarian. So far this job has been perfect because I still get to do a little bit of everything, but now I get to work with upper level students and with faculty who are actively working on tenure and publications. Speaking of publications, one of my goals for my first year here is to get an article published. I’m just starting to work on that now.

This week I spent some time working on my ACRL committee duties. I am the co-chair of the ACRL DLS 2014 ALA Conference Program Planning Committee. We have partnered with the same committee in ULS to work on a joint program proposal. We had our first meeting this week using ALA Connect’s chat space. I facilitated the meeting and was extremely pleased with the results. Our groups worked well together and the pieces of the plan seemed to fall into place without much friction. After the meeting I felt that same runner’s high type feeling I get after a good instruction session (which I did experience after my APA session last week). I want to set a goal for myself to become involved in leadership. I enjoy doing it and think I have been successful in that role when I’ve taken it on in my life.

This change has been overwhelming in the usual ways (moving to a new state, new job, etc.) but has also been invigorating. I feel like I have access to a whole new set of opportunities and challenges, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year brings. I know that this year will bring me to my first ALA conference at the end of the month and I am totally freaked out and excited about that! I can’t wait to see old friends, meet up with people I only know virtually, and make new connections that will last throughout my career.

Flexing My Library Muscles

This week started with the North Carolina Community College Learning Resources Association annual conference in Wilmington, NC. I went to school in Wilmington so it was nice to be in a familiar place. I also enjoy this particular conference because it’s only for NC community college librarians so every session was relevant and I got to catch up with some friends from across the state. The conference started with a short welcome by the president of the host college followed by a keynote from Cal Shepard (State Librarian at the State Library of North Carolina). Both of them mentioned my presentation by name during their talks! It was pretty funny, all the people in the room that knew me and my title were giving me looks.

Speaking of people I knew, not only did I get to see my library friends, but I also had family at the conference. My Aunt Barbara is a part time librarian at Cape Fear CC and was able to attend the conference. It was neat to have a family member there, certainly a unique experience! My presentation was in the first slot after the keynote, and I was a bit frustrated with the conference planners. I left a minute or two early to make sure I could set up and got to my assigned room to find it locked. Thankfully my aunt was able to track down a maintenance person to open the room. Obviously, the computer wasn’t running and by the time I had my slides downloaded it was already time to start. There were no instructions on  how to use the projector and I was worried about timing so I started without them projected and turned my monitor out to the room.

I had great attendance. I didn’t count but I know I made 30 handouts which I ran out of, and I had about 10 people standing at the back of the room. I actually had a nightmare two nights before the conference that I couldn’t get my slides to work and I told that story as an ice breaker and to give myself time to recover. One of the librarians from Cape Fear was able to get my slides projected by the 3rd or 4th slide and I think I handled it as well as I could have. Once I got past the beginning hiccups I was pleased with the rest of the presentation, but feel as though I could have done better if I hadn’t started that way.

My presentation was titled “Flexing Your Library Muscles”. In hindsight I would have added a subtitle like “Outreach across the campus” or something similar. The description I wrote was “This presentation identifies how to use your strengths, be flexible, and stretch yourself as a librarian in a community college library. These skills will be paired with concrete examples of how each skill has been used by librarians at Cleveland Community College to enhance the services provided to our patrons. Participants will leave this presentation with strategies for improving outreach to students and faculty, enhancing in person and online library instruction, and partnering with other campus departments.” You can find my slides here  and the conference website has my handout document.

I left time at the end for people to pair & share using their handout to discuss ideas for things they could do in their own library or that they already do. The room burst into chaos so I thought that was a good sign. Several people shared their experiences and asked questions. My co-worker that attended told me it’s one of the most useful presentations she’s ever been to at a library conference (and that includes multiple ALA and ACRL conferences). That was really nice to hear. I also got a shoutout on Twitter from someone I didn’t know personally that said “great presentation”, so I feel good about the whole thing. I’m keeping an eye out for calls for proposals at upcoming conferences. I really enjoy presenting.

The rest of the conference was good. I had several great conversations about library and non-library things with new and old friends. I picked up some ideas for eBooks. Unfortunately, I started the day with a sore throat and ended it with a worse sore throat, canceled plans with friends for that night, and the inability to attend the second half day of the conference. I’m still feeling rough today. I had to come in yesterday as I had two Psychology classes scheduled in the morning that no one else could have taught. The classes went well. Both of them ended before their class session and every single student in both classes stayed after being dismissed to look for resources or ask questions. I’ve been using the Habits Pro app to record one positive moment from each work day, and that was definitely it yesterday!

As a final note, I’m a huge blog fan and I love Google Reader. Check out this article by John Paul Titlow for a great perspective on the loss of Google Reader.


Last week I made a brief return to the blog world, and I’m determined to continue my blogging efforts. I know how important reflection is in my growth as a librarian, and I need to make a better effort to engage in formal reflection…thus, blogging. My night shifts are the best time to blog, however this night has been unique. I work in a small community college library, and I typically answer one or two reference questions a day. In the 6 hours (minus one of teaching time) I’ve been here tonight, I’ve answered at least 10 reference questions. Two came in by phone, which is also unusual. I think it’s getting to be that time of the semester where important projects are due.

Another factor is the work I did this semester with our General Psychology (PSY150) classes. I have my BA in Psychology and one of my goals for this position was that I would get involved with the Psychology program on campus. I spent my first two semesters here getting to know the Psychology faculty and trying to help them with small projects like adding videos to Blackboard or assisting with pulling reserve books for projects. This summer I happened to be in their building teaching a different class and I made an effort to stop by their offices. There are 2 main faculty members that run the program, and I was lucky to catch one of them that day. I discussed their final project (which is similar for all PSY150 classes) and how I could help their students be more successful. I scheduled library sessions for all of her classes that day, and soon after scheduled with the rest of our on campus PSY150 sections as well. I also made a Research Guide that has separate tabs for each instructor, their assignment, and the best resources for completing the assignment.

I used the guide in classes to help orient the students and give them a more memorable place to come get help. As part of the in class presentation I had them work in groups to explore a database and answer questions about the resources it contained. I then had them present what they found to the class. I’ve been using this exercise in our English classes this semester and I’ve been pleased with the results. I’ve done a lot of reading, video/webinar watching, and discussion on teaching over the last few months, and I knew I had to figure out some way to assess the impact of this instruction. I’m taking a three pronged approach: I’m keeping track of the PSY150 students who reach out to me (and our other library instruction person) for help, I’m tracking statistics on the PSY150 Research Guide, and one of the PSY150 faculty members has agreed to let me look at their citations. I think this should give a good estimate of the value of our work in this area.

We had 152 students attend the library session of their PSY150 class, and we’ve had 14 students come for assistance so far (the assignment is due between now and the end of the month depending on the class). That means almost 10% of them have made a point to reach out. The Research Guide has had 1,082 hits since it was published in August. The assignment requirements have been downloaded 64 times. These numbers are very encouraging to me. I’m excited to see the citations, and I’m hoping the instructor still has papers from previous semesters for comparison purposes. I hope to use this experience to convince faculty members in other departments to use our instructional services.

I took a pause after I wrote the first part of this blog to do some things in the library. I re-read my previous paragraph to get an idea of where I was and the last sentence reminded me that I need to reflect on a big moment in my library career, my first conference presentation! At a conference in April I was asked to be a co-presenter on a proposal for the state community college system conference in October. I presented with a librarian from NC Live (the organization that provides a vast majority of our online resources) and another community college librarian about how NC Live’s online resources are being used to support faculty. The presentation evolved over time to focus on how we used NC Live to meet a specific need on campus. I did my part on how we use online content to support the Quality Enhancement Plan developed on campus for our 10 year accreditation review. My co-presenter discussed how she worked with the Psychology faculty on her campus to help them design an assignment with an appropriate set of research demands and the instruction she delivered to those classes.

I felt fantastic about how the presentation went. I knew most of the people in the room, but we did get a few non-librarians in attendance. One faculty member came to hear more about a specific resource, and she asked if her librarian would know about the resource. We assured her that her librarian would, and then we discovered her librarian was in the room! It was a serendipitous moment that made me feel great about the whole thing. I got a lot of positive feedback, and it’s given me the drive to present as much as possible! It’s hard to think of topics, although we discussed creating a proposal for an upcoming conference about how to get faculty to buy into library services. I see that topic a lot and it was something that worried me when I first started. Several of the questions we received at the end of the presentation were about how we got faculty to do these things. It made me feel good that I’ve accomplished something that can be difficult in community college libraries, and I love sharing my experiences with others.

I recently read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I had mixed feelings about the book itself, but I was taken aback when I realized that I’m not as much of an introvert as I’ve always thought I am! One of my criticisms of the book is that the author makes it seem like you have to be one or the other, but I found that some of the introvert characteristics didn’t fit me and neither did some of the extrovert. I love teaching and presenting, and I get energized by it. When I go to presentations at conferences I’m often one of the only people who will raise my hand to answer questions, ask questions, or add to the discussion. On the flip side, outside of work I prefer hiking along, reading or spending quiet nights at home.

I’m a big fan of learning more about myself and how my strengths can be used to their fullest potential. Realizing that I’m not a complete introvert gives me motivation to keep pushing myself to be outspoken and contribute to library conversations. There are days when it feels like there are too many young, talented, smart, driven librarians for me to make a difference but days like today where I taught an awesome class and have answered umpteen interesting reference questions assure me that I can have an impact.

Conference Catch Up

I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2012 Metrolina Library Association Information Literacy Conference at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte last week. I started with an awesome session by Patricia Gamble at Winston Salem State University titled “Triple Threat Searching Strategies”. She had great ideas for interactive learning and you can read information on the majority of what she covered on this Libguide. I actually used a riff on her Boolean operators activity for a SMART board training I did today.

After her presentation I went with a small group on a tour of the JWU library. It was neat to see a library that was designed in 2006 and you can tell that their Director really kept the students and their needs in mind with his design and the collection development. They had great handouts on databases that inspired me for our library. Many of our students prefer holding something in hand. We only have handouts now on MLA and APA, but I think making handouts on other resources would encourage students to use them more often. The second session I attended was called “LAF: Librarians and Faculty as Teaching Partners” by Michael Frye at Winston Salem State University. The sessions for the day were broken into 4 categories: Collaborate, Sharpen, Remodel & Engage. All of the Collaborate sessions seemed to have a similar theme of how to engage faculty so I only attended one from that type.

The presentation was okay, but not as engaging as the first one I attended. He showed a video with the faculty member he partnered with, and it was nice to hear a faculty perspective on working with librarians. I wish I had the time to be as embedded as Michael was in his example, but it’s not feasible based on our staffing and campus size. I did pick up a few good ideas. One is the “Think, Pair, Share” activity that I think would be helpful for our English students when they are trying to select and refine topics. Another good idea was to offer 5-15 minute review sessions to instructors whose students have already attended a one shot during class. I think this will be super helpful to students, especially those who get their library instruction early in the semester before they are focusing on their final projects.

The third session I attended was a panel on working with discovery services. When I went to the conference I thought we’d be getting a discovery service soon, but it turns out we won’t. I try to pick up something useful from every session, and one of the panelists had a good idea to poll students at the beginning of class and ask them what they think is the most challenging thing about their research assignment. I think this helps students feel less anxiety, more camaraderie, and would help me focus my instruction. After lunch I went to a session on Project Information Literacy, which I already know quite a bit about. The session was good and had lively discussion from all types of librarians. Several librarians discussed models/assignments/tutorials that break the research process into steps that students can use to track progress and I think this is a neat idea.

The keynote session was by Jessamyn West. She was probably the best live speaker I’ve seen to this point in my life and career. She was funny, intelligent, well researched and made a topic I wasn’t too excited about very relevant for me. Her talk was titled “Myths & Facts About the Digital Divide” and it really resonated with a lot of challenges I’ve faced on campus. We have tons of students who take online classes and have no computer or Internet access at home. Jessamyn talked about how the digital divide is a cultural phenomenon and how people who don’t have access to computers likely don’t know anyone in their intimate circle (friends, family, etc) who does. I think community colleges are in a unique place to reach these groups and I see students of all ages who prove this to be true. She helped me to connect the counseling background I have with the work I currently do, and remind me to have compassion with people who are trying to navigate the digital world I’m so comfortable with for the first time. She also taught me about Wikipedia articles in Simple English which totally rocked my world!

All in all it was another fantastic experience and it gave me the presentation bug. I haven’t presented professionally yet, and I have my first presentation scheduled for October. I’d like to find other opportunities to present and I’ve been pondering what I could talk about. I have ideas but nothing I want to shout out to the world just yet! 😉

This week has been a blur. I was out for the conference, and then a vacation day to spend time with my parents who were in town, then a sick day on Monday. Tuesday I had two webinars and a committee meeting, yesterday I had SMART training all day, and today my morning was all SMART training. I cherish the time to review my conference experiences, and I wish I could have done this one sooner! It’s been a busy week for a summer semester, and I’m looking forward to next week when I’m planning to immerse myself in re-designing online instruction for several classes.