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


Doing the Work

Seth Godin is likely a familiar name to many librarians. He’s the author of several books, has given many inspiring TED talks, and writes a great blog. I just started subscribing to his blog about a month ago. I love that his posts are short, varied, and contain out of the box ideas. Some of them apply to my work in libraries, some to my personal life, and some not at all (but reading them is still rewarding).

His post on January 24th of this year was titled “On doing the work” (yes, I ripped off the title). I won’t summarize it because it’s short and easy to read, but it got me thinking about where the motivation to really engage with something comes from. More specifically: how do I harness that motivation in myself, can I identify which activities are worth doing, and how can I get my users to do the work that comes along with libraries.

Part of my inspiration for thinking about these issues is the History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education MOOC I am taking. I find that I’m not as engaged or willing to do the work as I was in the Hyperlinked Libraries MOOC. I haven’t yet figured out why, although I can identify several factors that may contribute. The subject matter isn’t as directly applicable to my life, the format of the course assignments is more individual, the course has many more participants, and the course software isn’t as personal. This thought exercise has helped me understand some of my own preferences for learning experiences.

I am more motivated if I can identify a specific outcome of my learning relevant to my life. I feel more comfortable learning on my own or in small groups with an outlet to share what I am learning in my own way with my peers. I enjoy video lectures more than I would have thought (and wish I had more of them in graduate school!). Taking handwritten notes helps keep me focused on what I am doing, and typing those notes later is invaluable for processing the information I’ve learned. I am glad to have figured out these preferences, and wonder if higher education institutions provide the right environment for fostering this self-exploration in students.

I think higher ed is moving in the right direction but isn’t there yet. At my institution we offer classes in person, on video, split between online and in person, and fully online. Many seated classes now have an online space as well. I think this is good for students if implemented successfully. It would be nice for students to have the opportunity to experience each one of these modes of instruction early in their career to discover what suits their preferences. Librarians may not be able to directly impact a student in the way a faculty member can, but we can bridge the gap between the faculty, students, and administration. We can counsel students about their options and reassure them as they work through their adaptation to the college environment.

As I stated earlier, I have been pondering how to motivate students (and faculty) to do the work when it comes to their information needs. This is definitely an iterative process. I know that information sticks better when it’s repeated, when it’s relevant to an outcome in their life, and when it’s presented with humility. I try to keep these things in mind when I work with students at the reference desk or in the classroom. I taught a session this morning to a class where I am also embedded in their online space. I taught them how to cite articles and embed links in their discussion board. I made it clear that using library sources is easier for several reasons (credibility, citation generation, linking, sifting through results, etc.). I let them know that I can help them find articles if they are stuck.

I moved into a discussion on APA format by first talking about the reasons why citations are used in academia and in the workplace. I brought it back to their class assignments. I had them work together to complete a citation. I reinforced that I am around to help them with citations (or anything else they need). The professor also wanted me to discuss presentation skills. During this portion I discussed the skills in the context of their group assignment for the course, job interviews, and workplace presentations. Again, I reinforced how the library can be useful (research, study rooms for practice, etc.). I used humor as much as possible, and told personal stories of how these issues have impacted my work and that of colleagues and friends.

When I left their classroom I went online and posted links to the main resources I discussed in their online course space. I know that I won’t hear from most of them, but I know that I will hear from more of them than I would have if I’d not spent the time and effort to connect to their various motivations. I had two students (out of 23) find me at the end of class. One asked for where to go for resume help. Had I not connected presentations and research to the workplace, she may not have reached out. What this thought experiment has taught me is that as a librarian and educator I need to view each library user as uniquely motivated (or not motivated) to solve an information task, and that spending an extra minute or two figuring out the motivation will be invaluable.

Thank you to those of you who did the work to stick with this post! I wanted to also link out to an essay I wrote titled “Student Trends: Informing Library Practice” that appears in my library’s online newsletter for new faculty. It touches on several of the ideas I explored in this post.

Review of “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” by Nancy Duarte

“Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” by Nancy Duarte 

One of the best things about being a librarian is that I possess the skills to do research and find the best sources to meet any information need. I’ve also become more adept at recognizing my personal information needs, and I have a sort of mental catalog of skills I want to develop and topics of interest that I curate materials for. I use RSS feeds combined with Chrome bookmarking and a personal learning site to keep track of useful resources as I find them. One resource that came up several times was the book “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” by Nancy Duarte. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’d like to foster my professional development by presenting at conferences, and after reading several reviews I knew that Resonate would be a great resource to improve my skill set.

I present quite often in the classroom setting, and I found Resonate to be useful for my work there as well as my original focus of professional presentations. Resonate is clearly written in the context of presenting in a more formal business-like environment, but the majority of the material was relevant to what I do as a librarian. The book itself is physically stunning. The imagery is high quality, well-used, and informative (clearly a theme of the book!). It was a fun book to read, and Duarte uses practical examples throughout the text (many of which can be viewed online). Her examples transcend the business medium and include examples from entertainment and politics as well as the traditional Steve Jobs type examples. Duarte did an excellent job of presenting an idea, teaching it, and then analyzing it in the context of a famous/viewable example presentation.

This format made the concepts easy to grasp, and the concepts built upon each other in a way that felt like a natural progression. As in my review of “What the Best College Teachers Do”, I don’t want to include too much of the meat of the information because I feel that the experience of reading through the entire book is valuable to anyone who presents information to an audience. The most basic representation of her overall concept  for the structure of a presentation is: Beginning (picture of world as is) – – > Call to Adventure (what could be ) – – > Call to Action (how to make the change) – – > End (description of potential new bliss).

The gist of Duarte’s information is that a good presentation follows a story-like format, creates contrast, and resonates emotionally with the audience. She uses these ideas throughout the book and discusses them from different perspectives. Duarte includes some concrete rules (such as never spend more than 2 minutes on a slide) that are easy to implement alongside the more theoretical/conceptual information. She emphasizes the importance of devoting significant amounts of time to developing, practicing, and refining your presentations in order to get the best possible result (ex. “The journey should be mapped out, and all related messages should propel the audience closer to the destination” (76).)

I finished this book a few weeks ago, and was reading it while I developed my “Flexing Your Library Muscles” presentation. I know that my presentation was stronger because of Duarte’s information, and I wish I’d been able to finish the book before I created it in the first place! It’s funny how life sometimes makes connections for you, I just finished watching “An Inconvenient Truth” this morning before work and Al Gore’s presentation style is a wonderful example of Duarte’s main principles. He starts with laying a foundation of what’s going on, lets us know after every scary fact that the problems can be ameliorated, and gives us the message that we can make a difference in a way that’s emotional, funny, and non-threatening to our egos. The documentary was phenomenal and it was the best example I’ve seen of Duarte’s principles since I finished the book. Resonate is very inspiring and motivating, the message is clear that if you work hard at it, you can be a great communicator. I’m looking forward to putting these skills into practice in my new job!

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.

Checking In

I last posted 2 weeks ago, and my commitment to this blog is nagging at me to post something. I took this short hiatus (followed by this short post) due to a combination of factors in my personal and professional life. I had a random stomach illness last week that caused my Thursday night blogging time to be overbooked with rescheduled things and wading through two days of emails and responsibilities that I’d missed. I hate missing a day, and two is even worse! We had our second Library Out Loud session for faculty and our second Library Film Night on Thursday evening. The Library Out Loud session had six attendees, which is better than the four from the last session. I think part of the paltry attendance was the fact that due to my illness it was rescheduled. It’s unfortunate because I presented on our streaming video services and most of the attendees were faculty who I know are already using them!

Our film only had one student attendee but one of our staff members also attended and stayed for the entire film. We screened “Dark Passages” which is an older PBS piece on the West African slave trade. The discussion was led by one of our faculty members in Religion who has a degree in African American History. The staff member who attended talked about how he could trace his lineage back to West African and about growing up in the South in the late 1950s. It was a fantastic experience for the student who attended, and I wish more students could have been there for that. The faculty and staff member both stayed for 15 minutes after the discussion showing the student online resources relating to the film and her interests. I was so impressed with them, and it made me feel good to be a part of an institution where that happened. I’m glad we started this series and hope that we can promote it better through the rest of the semester to increase attendance.

I finished the “What the Best College Teachers Do” and had intended for my next post to be a review, so I will aspire to complete that next week. I’ve moved onto reading “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte. I have some big presentations coming up and read good things about this book. I love it so far. For anyone else working on a big presentation, I highly recommend this Presentations 101 guide from  the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School.