Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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My Full Plate Club membership application

This month has been a whirlwind! In fact, I can’t believe May is actually ending, I feel like it barely began. So, what have I been up to while I have been neglecting you?

  1. My library building is closed for the summer for renovations, which has been an interesting challenge. As in the Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times. I’ve been trying to treat the absurdities of the communication non-process as an object lesson on university structures, and am trying to figure out something productive to do with my newly honed awareness that colleges should never be considered single entities, and wondering if I can/should make a career out of my need to facilitate communication. When not scratching my head and wondering why it is is just so hard to share necessary and non-secret information.
  2. Paperwork from my office is in 5 canvas bags in my home office, waiting for late June to get organized and filed. I hope. The destruction of my sedimentary filing system means that I have no idea what’s in any of these bags, and if I need to get into them it will look like a tornado went through my spare bedroom.
  3. Not that I ever doubted, but I am in love all over again with Web 2.0 (and other collaborative/ non-located, web-based ) tools! Given my inability to get into my papers in any organized way, I would have been basically paralyzed this week without google docs and spreadsheets, my personal and work wikis, twitter, and IM. Especially given that one of my presentations is with folks at three other SUNY campuses, and we are still analyzing our data!
  4. I’m making progress on the two presentations I am giving at SUNYLA in two weeks. Next week I will focus on the open committee meeting I am facilitating. This has some real consequences, as we need to decide if there is enough will to keep the committee alive, or if it should be disbanded. I have a few books on facilitating decision-making that I’ll spend some time with this weekend. I’ll check in with the two panels I organized and am introducing a week from Monday and then hammer that piece out too. And I owe many thanks, apologies, and at least one drink to the conference organizers who almost certainly had to structure the conference around where I needed to be when!
  5. I am polishing up my Library Instruction Cookbook proposal
  6. I have been hip-hip-hurra ing the fact that Internet Librarian not only accepted our presentation proposal, they asked us to turn it into a pre-conference! We’ve got work to do to take better advantage of that format, but I am really excited! It will be my first time presenting at a national conference (and, my first proposal to one as well, so make that another 3 cheers for me!), and Monterey in October is spectacular! And there’s no way this instruction librarian could rationalize sneaking away from campus that time of year without a speaking commitment!
  7. And if all that isn’t enough, periodical and database decisions for next year have to get made PDQ and with nothing but dire prognostications to guide us into next year’s budget. I wish I could keep blaming Spitzer’s zipper for our budget woes, but I think other sources have taken the forefront…
  8. I’m also trying to make a decision if my anthropology prof collaborator and I should publish our article in a pedagogy journal or an LIS journal. And I’m not entirely sure how to make that decision. A. also thinks I should take first author, and I want to invent a way for us both to be first author, because we are working on this together, entirely. Poor man is up to his eyebrows in lit review now, too.
  9. And, to ice the cake, my director and I have been having lots of conversations about leadership. I’ve been thinking a lot about organizational culture, and then saw the article (needs ALA password for ACRL member access) in this month’s CR&L, and now I’ve got leadership books and facilitation books piled on the sofa and almost wish I could just bury myself in reading them this summer. Or clone myself, and have my clone read and process them and come back to me in October to share the knowledge!


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LOEX 2008 de-brief: The Overview

So, in my long absence, I went to LOEX. This was my first LOEX, and I really enjoyed it. As with Computers in Libraries, I avoided sessions (a) where I knew the presenter, because I could get slides and notes later (b) that might make me want to change things outside my own self. Of course, once I got back, my Director asked me to share what I learned that the rest of the library might benefit from. I thought I had finally figured out the way to moderate my frustration by focusing only on my own improvement, and now she asks. Note point 3, and watch me bite my tongue. right off.

These are my general impressions, I promise to post some specific details on what was best, worst, most useful later today. And, in the future, I solemnly swear to debrief conferences while at the conferences, because it is very very painful to do it this way!

Sessions I attended:

  • preconference at Elmhurst College
  • Plenary: Creative Collaboration: Setting the Course for the Future of Library Instruction
  • Assessing One-Shot Instruction: Using Post-Assignment Evaluations to Build Better Assignments (handout)
  • We’re out of time! Extending the One-Shot Session Virtually (slides)
  • New Learning, New Scholarship, New Spaces: Creating Dynamic Physical Environments
  • Improving Teaching and Learning through Instructional Partnerships: Building Librarian Relationships with One-on-One, In-depth Conversations (slides)
  • We Built It, They Came, Now What? Lessons Learned From Creating a Successful Course Integrated Information Literacy Program (slides)
  • Plenary: The Future of Libraries in Higher Education (which was inspiring and amazing and worth the cost of admission!)

General themes and overall impressions:

  1. I had been told that LOEX really concentrated on the hands-on and practical, but most of the sessions were the usual sort of info lit presentation – what we did well and interesting. Nothing wrong with that, just that I was expecting something a bit different. Perhaps the little bit different was that these were all high quality!
  2. Keywords: Collaboration, Assessment, innovation
  3. I know this was an information literacy conference, but what i was keying in to most was leadership for innovation. So much of what folks were talking about circled around how good administration, good leadership, involved innovative thinking and creating spaces for creativity. Lots of discussion of not only how to foster innovation, but how to avoiding squelching it. Really, very inspiring, but also a little frustrating. One of the morning plenaries took this on head on, and still managed to sidestep two audience questions directly about how to bring some of this into being when your administration isn’t taking the role of keeping out of the way.
  4. UIUC GSLIS represents! I know a lot more folks in library land than I thought I did (and I though I knew plenty!) Between ACRL-IS involvement for 5 years, attending lots of ALA conferences, the twitterverse and library-land lists in general, I have some pretty deep networks! Throw UIUC into the mix, and I rarely sat down at a table without having a connection to someone. It was really very nice. I spent some quality time a couple of friends, had some good chats with some folks who i wanted to catch up with, was surprised to see some unexpected faces, and met some good folks and possibly made some new friends too. I do feel like I am a part of the ‘LOEX family!
  5. I’m a little freaked out there was a session at LOEX with the exact same title as the session I proposed for Internet Librarian!
  6. Learning Commons. Library as learning space. Ok. I got it. Why are there so many sessions on what is essentially not so complex? Or, what am I missing (and you better tell me, because after 4 sessions at two conferences I really get that movable space, collaborative space, comfy seating, and productivity software coupled with librarians, tech support and other support services is a Learning Commons. Throw in books, and hey! It’s just good library practice! isn’t it?)? Maybe I’m just sad that making our spaces comfortable and useful to students and researchers is cutting edge thinking instead of common sense.
  7. There were a lot of great sessions to choose from! The less positive way to frame this: why did the conference “start” a full day before the conference started? May 1st was a total waste of potentially useful time (the pre-conference trip to Elmhurst College Library was great, but seemed to have been a last minute addition), time that might have helped cut down from 6 concurrent tracks to 5, and thus help eliminate clone-wishing?? Especially given that folks were pretty much stuck at the hotel. Luckily other folks blogged, debriefed, and otherwise made their LOEX experiences avialable, allowing all of us to be in many places at the same time:
  8. Deciding to put together a panel for ACRL and put the proposal together in the interstices at LOEX may have been staggeringly stupid! But we pulled it off, so fingers crossed that it gets accepted.


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Did somebody ask for focus??

Hello world!

I have been a very bad blogger lately, and I apologize for that. What’s my excuse? Getting ready for a two week trip, taking the two week trip, and now having a couple days to get my office tidied up and figure out what I need to pack home for the summer. Yes indeed, for the third (of the last 4) summers my building will be closed this summer for renovation/repair work (and we’re hosting two library conferences this summer, what horrible timing!). Nothing too sexy, but a new HVAC system and new windows. Word is it will be accessible to us all summer, but I’m planning as if they will find asbestos in the HVAC.

So, why did I leave for two weeks? A marvelous conflation of events had my nephews being born a week before LOEX, and my sister’s wedding a week after LOEX, all in Chicago. So I took myself off to Chicago to be inspired about information literacy and leading for innovation, coo at adorable babies, and to get all gussied up and cry at my baby sister’s wedding to a fantastic guy with a great family. Oh, and to dance like a mad woman. (as an aside, there are may reasons I love my sister. Including the fact that we did not hear a) Celebration, b) the Macarena, or c) the Hokey Pokey at her wedding)

This weekend I’ll debrief LOEX for y’all (and for myself– it’s good to do!), and from there I will be immersed in thinking about assessment (not that immersion, as much as it would be a great idea!); I have three panel sessions at SUNYLA on assessment. Two are informaiton literacy assessment panels, and one is an assessment of the organization itself. I will also be strategizing the best way to re-energize my SUNY library instruction committee by way of the open meeting I am holding for it at that conference.

I am also writing an article this summer with a prof I do a lot of collaborating with (I can never get rid of dangling participles in this type of sentence! any tips for that???). I expect that the collaborative act of writing will see some ink here, as well as cross-disciplinary writing. I expect that my very strong feelings about how information literacy has stalled out in academe may get vented here to blow them out before making them polite enough to play their role in the article.

Oh, and, budget cuts loom. Big scary ones. So I expect I will be spending some mental blood, sweat and tears on pondering about how one can call oneself a college while having an already woefully inadequate budget sliced by 6-12%.

Which is all to say, I’m back, and better than ever! All rested up and over-scheduled and veering off into what I hope will be an extraordinarily productive summer.

Unless I get side-tracked. In a good kind of way…

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