Having never posted to the Conference Reports blog before, this will be a new experience for both of us. So come with me on a journey through some contributed papers. And the open keynote. And one invited paper:
Opening Keynote - Rush Kidder
Unfortunately, the planned opening keynote by Naomi Klein was canceled due to a family emergency. I'm not familiar with Ms. Klein, nor was I familiar with Mr. Kidder. Kidder's speech revolved around choosing between "right and right," by which he meant that most of the choices we face both personally and professionally don't entail a right vs. wrong decision. That's a decision we make easily, so easily it's rarely even a decision. Steal or don't steal? Don't steal. Easy. We don't run into that kind of choice too often. Where he lost me was in economics - basically further regulation will worsen the economy further and lead us down the path to communism (not the harmless hippy commune kind but the KGB and Stalin kind). Also, further regulation will lead to worse offenses against libraries than anything the PATRIOT Act afflicted upon us. I wonder if someone told him later that libraries are a largely socialist institution?
Later that evening, I attended the ACRL gaming night.
Basically, it was Caffeine Fix without finals. Still, nice to know we're already doing something right.
A great deal of my conference time was given over to contributed paper presentations - I have many, many pages of notes on these, so I'm just going to give a short blurb here and anyone interested can find me and ask for further details. If there's demand, I'll happily post everything I have to say.
1) We're not playing around: Gaming literate librarians = information literate students
Not so much a call to gaming, necessarily, but rather that we should approach information literacy in a "scaffold-ed" manner, just as students approach games. Bring them in gradually, and build upon different skill sets. Give up control and allow students to develop the system, while we moderate from the background. Interesting tidbit - a gamer asking a question on-line will receive an answer from his/her peers in 32 seconds. Maybe it's not always right, but here's the thing: an incorrect answer generates a frenzy of corrections almost immediately, so that the asker does not walk away with bad info.
2) Percolating the Power of Play
A bit more gaming intense, this session described two video games designed specifically to build student's information literacy. That's right - games that teach. While still in development, they'll be available soon and shared with the greater library community.
3) Beyond Literacy: Are Reading and Writing Doomed?
Short answer, yes. This was way out in the wacko zone - literacy is on the way out, not in the immediate future, but still it's going. Not in the sense that we're backsliding, and we'll descend back into a pre-literate society, but rather that we'll be post-literate, ie, something better will eventually come along. Our problems are increasingly complex, and a more effective communication tool is needed, so just as literacy replaced orality, so will post-literacy (whatever form it takes) replace literacy. Really interesting, but kind of hard to apply.
4) Campus Disconnect: Academic Libraries and the Information Needs, Skills, and Behaviors of Non-teaching University Staff
Here's the thing - universities operate through the work of much more than students and professors, and the library can help these folks in their work and personal life. But...most of them don't even realize that the library is even available for their use!
5) Conflict and Consensus - Clusters of Opinions on E-books
As it turns out people have differing opinions about the usefulness of E-books. In other news, sun to set in the west this evening.
6) Reaching Public Service Excellence: Developing a Mystery Shopping Program to Measure Service Quality, Performance, and the Patron Experience at Library Service Desks
The title kind of lays it all out - I'll add that attempting this in practice is a bit tricky - it requires a substantial investment of time in training the "secret shoppers" for reference in order for the data to be useful. Still, it's worthwhile if it can be pulled off - perhaps the best candidates would be MLS students visiting other libraries.
7) Reaching Beyond the Summit: Are We Creating Work Environments for People to Thrive?
Meeting can be productive, or not, based on the physical and social environment in which they take place. Nice meeting rooms produce better results. Listening is good; don't go into meetings with a strongly formed opinion. Keep the meeting in the actual meeting room (as opposed to the lounge afterward). Most of this seemed common sense, but it's the kind of thing we need to be reminded of.
8) Bullying or Mobbing: Is it Happening in Your Library?
Currently there are no laws which protect the targets of bullying from bullies even though bullying is four times more likely to occur than other types of harassment and the negative health impacts are present and easily measured. Probably the worst offenders within the university are faculty who bully students. Watch out for it and take note.
9) Academic Library Support Staff Competencies: What should support staff know and be able to do?
Not much usable detail here, because this really was just a description of a survey. But it has generated enough discussion that the ALA is working on a support staff certification process. A listerv based survey which generated 3,571 responses - the most of any ALA survey ever. So clearly it's on our minds. Full details are available in the conference proceedings.
10) Improvisational Theater as a Tool for Enhancing Cooperation in Academic Libraries
Four habits of highly effective librarians are: openness, responsiveness, collaboration, and communication. These are the exact same skills needed in improv theatre. If you're good at improv you'll be good at any collaborative process.
Invited Paper: "I would sort of appreciate a little more understanding:" Engaging Net Gen Students in Virtual Reference
The difference between contributed and invited paper presentation seemed to be one of length and prestige. The short, short version - Net Gens trust their peers. If one net gen student tries IM and likes it, he/she will recommend it and others are highly likely to try based on that recommendation. Email is "for old people." Seriously, it's already on the way out. IM is considered to be the least intimidating, so long as it's easy to use (like ours). Mostly, this session confirmed that for the most part we're doing things right, but more importantly, why what we're doing is right.
I also attended several poster sessions, two receptions, and several dozen vendor exhibits, but this post is already like 30 pages so let me just say "they were neat" and perhaps "I'm rather tired."