Deepening the Conversation

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


Whew! Conference over! What’s next?

Well, SUNYLA 2008 at Potsdam has been put to rest, and so have I! I no longer have the ability to just keep functioning on 5 hours of sleep a night over time. Two nights of recovery sleep and one science fiction romance later, I am feeling like a human again!

The conference was great, the flicker stream is here. I promise you, you’ve never seen a library conference like this before! In addition to sessions, we also had a drum circle, a talent night, a karaoke dance party, game night, a barbecue at the riverside, and the discovery of a pool table on campus (hello roving reference!). SUNY librarians lay to rest any myths about boring, timid, shy, withdrawing tendencies in the profession! And I really enjoy these people! SUNY is a deeply overburdened, underfunded system, but it attracts some great people that I enjoy getting to see once or twice a year.

While the gale force winds that swept through the area the day before made getting here a bit difficult, they cleared out the humidity and the rain and we had beautiful weather for the event. Turnout was good, (although the classrooms dwarfed the number attendees, making presenting a little intimidating! so many empty seats!). I learned that my library is far better equipped for the electronic age than anywhere else on campus — we may have fewer outlets than students want or need, but campus has several 200 seat lecture halls with only TWO outlets in the entire room! Data ports have been run along the tabletops, but not power. How can we move into the digital age if we can’t support student computing in the classroom? What good are the data lines when the students can’t plug into them?

I had a lot on my plate at the conference, including giving my own talk about my assessment of teaching and learning as a speaker on a set of panels I put together. I facilitated an activity in our member survey that went very well (‘wouldn’t it be nice if SUNYLA…’, borrowed from LOEX), and facilitated the resuscitation of the SUNYLA Library instruction committee. The membership expressed a commitment to keeping it alive, albeit in a different form, and we will be making some big changes. I haven’t reported back to the organization yet, so that’s really all I can say about it here, but I am happily surprised that the group decided to stay alive, and made a commitment to doing the work. In many ways the value of a group is shown in how many folks pitch in; I’m glad I came up with a forum for folks to feel comfortable and empowered to make the changes they want and need to make.

Yesterday I also went to a meeting of the local AAUW chapter, and am trying to figure out if AAUW is an organization I should get involved with. They do good stuff. I wonder if I could just donate the membership amount and that might be put to better use, since I’m not sure I can put anything else on my plate right now. They also would fulfill that “community involvement” space on my annual report for promotion and tenure, which only holds my Co-op committee right now. (is that too mercenary?) I’ll hold off on making that decision until the end of summer, because big changes may be afoot in my life between now and then!

So, all that’s left to do now for the summer is:

  • Deal with the budget. It’s bad, quite possibly very very bad. By all appearances it will be the worst case scenario (state level), but we still don’t know if it will be the worst case worst case scenario; that depends on how SUNY and the campus deal with the situation. I just wonder how long we can hold off on renewals; I’d like the decision to take all the cuts out of the monograph budget to be something we discuss and make a decision about, not just be the only money that hasn’t been committed yet, and so the fall guy for the deficit. Not sure that will be possible, though.
  • Work with the Women’s Studies program to lay my hands on their departmental library. It has been promised to the Library, I just haven’t taken action on that yet. There are also several boxes of books from the former Chair that I need to look over and take into our collection. The WGS library liaison and I also need to formalize some stuff for next year. Things will be very different next year, and I feel the need to move more of the selection to the program faculty and have less of it depend on me.
  • Leadership. I’d like to finish some of the facilitation stuff I’ve been scanning in prep for the conference, and I’ve got the Fifth Discipline sitting on my shelf demanding some attention
  • My article. My collaborative article. Writing with another person, in another discipline, will be an interesting challenge. It helps, though, when that collaborator has a gorgeous home on the Lake for us to meet at for two day collaboration sessions!
  • Make real the changes my LIC decided upon. I almost forgot that part!
  • Read and Review Our New Public, A Changing Clientèle
  • Take a vacation in Nashville!

There’s more (there will be discussion here about the greasemonkey plugin project, I promise!), but I just got really stressed out! I’m going to head out to my favorite farm stand and buy the fixings to make some delicious food for the week — I’m thinking something with barley or wheat berries maybe? –and start looking into fun things to do in Nashville the week after next! After going flat out since early April, I deserve a leisurely Sunday, don’t I?

Happy Sunday, happy summer, and happy Father’s Day all!


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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.