Notes from the Field (and Lake) : ALA 2017 Chicago

Photo: D. Lacy

This June many of us headed off to Chicago for the annual American Library Association conference. The weather was perfect – warm temperatures with great views of the sky and lake, enjoyed off hours, of course.   I asked for contributions to this post –  for colleagues to share a program that was particularly useful or provocative. I’ve excerpted from those accounts, but please do feel free to contact folks individually with questions, follow-ups.

Brian Boling reports on the session, How Are Our Instructors Truly Using Media? A Multifaceted Approach to Developing Departmental Course Media Use Profiles by Scott Spicer from University of Minnesota.  “Scott has developed a workflow for ingesting course syllabi into NVivo [a textual analysis tool] and coding the syllabi for mentions of required viewing and media production assignments.  He shares his analysis with subject liaisons with an aim towards informing their outreach to faculty – particularly important as faculty may not be aware of the rich offerings at the library (both collections and services).”

Steven Bell also reported on different ways librarians can reach out to faculty. He describes an ARL-sponsored program on changing liaison roles, Talk So Faculty Will Listen; Listen So Faculty Will Talk. “It addressed the common frustration liaisons face when it seems that faculty ignore efforts to build bridges that could lead to enhanced use of library services and resources for students and faculty. The gist of the program, and this might not come as a surprise, is that it takes more than informational email blasts and participating in orientations (good but low impact activities) to build productive relationships with faculty.” Four strategies for talking with faculty, suggested by panelists:

  • Mistakes to avoid: 1) You do most of the talking 2)Focusing on “We have a resource to solve that…” 3) Ignoring emotions/feelings
  • If these mistakes sound like you…you need to talk less and listen more. Start by developing open ended questions to engage faculty in a conversation where they do most of the talking.
  • Four enabling questions were suggested: 1) What are your challenges as a researcher and teacher? 2)How is your field changing? 3)What are the emerging areas of emphasis for the department? 4)What are your hopes for library services?
  • Be concise in messages to faculty that are informational. Emphasize time-saving and productivity aspects of resources/services.

Adam Shambaugh also cites a program on emerging roles for librarians, ALCTS’ Creating the Future of Digital Scholarship Together. “Laurie Allen spoke about the digital initiative that began at the Penn Libraries to preserve federal climate data in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. This initiative—known as Data Refuge—would eventually include librarians, preservationists, and scholars from across the country. Laurie’s presentation, showcasing a variety of emerging roles for librarians and information professionals, was one of the most interesting and insightful talks I attended at ALA this year. “

Justin Hill attended a meeting of the SHARES group to discuss interlibrary loan practices and concerns. “Among the topics discussed was the investigation of the viability of allowing on-site access to visiting scholars from member institutions.  This conversation is indicative of the types of things being explored by consortia to reinvent what’s possible within groups of like-minded institutions. Where activities within consortia has traditionally been limited to just supplying ILL to members, the discussion has now shifted to begin discussing other possibilities like on-site access, shared programming, consortial collection building activities, and group purchasing powers.”

David Lacy attended pre-conference focusing on Search Engine Optimization with the “ambitious” theme: “If someone is searching Google for something that our Library holds, it should be at the top of the list”. Dave says, “the session provided me with an abundance of ideas that we can apply to our new online environment.”

Joe Lucia  attended a session presented by Chicago YWCA Chief Executive Officer Dorrie McWhorter, [formerly a CPA and management consultant for a Big Ten accounting firm. “Her theme was ‘the business of social impact’ and her focus was on how she’s worked over the past four years to build a workplace environment for the YWCA staff that is emotionally healthy, supportive & positive. Her intention in fostering that environment is to enable people to deal with the stresses and demands involved in bringing services to women and girls who are often in situations of critical need. Much of her presentation focused on interpersonal dynamics, relationship-building, and the core perception that people who feel valued, recognized, and respected are likely to carry those traits into the field in their daily work. She talked about a commitment to self-care for her staff and the benefit of regular (weekly) check-in meetings between managers and their team members that addressed current challenges, recent successes, continuing problems, and emotional well-being. Sounds touchy-feely, of course, but she reported a fundamental change in workplace culture in the direction of continuous connection and continuous professional growth that has allowed the organization to completely eliminate performance reviews.”

That would be nice.

I asked for some “fun facts” as well. Justin gets the prize for most weird hotel, rumored  to be haunted by the ghost of Al Capone, and Dave’s meal sounds most interesting:  at Maude’s Liquor Bar,  he enjoyed “ liver pate, steak tartar, roast duck salad, and Sazarac.” Me,  I had the mixed popcorn special at the airport – half caramel and half cheese – sounds gross but it was quite good!

Thanks to everyone for contributing.

Photo: N. Turner

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