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My [second] ALA Annual conference commenced on Friday afternoon, as I attempted to catch the #5 shuttle bus bound for McCormick Place, only to find myself (and other librarians, too, but this is the “all about me” show) stuck in rush hour traffic. Despite my best efforts to arrive in time for the Opening General Session, I arrived at McCormick Place about ¾ of the way through Steven Levitt’s speech. So, I did what any other bibliophile/book hoarder would do : I headed for the exhibits. A glass of bubbly, three tote bags, and ten advanced reading copies later, I escaped the crowds and headed back to my hotel to prepare for Saturday (read: sleep).

On Saturday morning, I headed to McCormick Place for one of my annual staples: the Interlibrary Loan Discussion Group. Lars Leon spoke about some of the issues facing ILL and how the librarians (and the service) will evolve. Of course, there were concerns about the future of both the STARS group and the service, but I think ILL is uniquely positioned to identify discovery issues, provide behind-the-scenes reference assistance, and locate and provide access to “hard-to-get” publications (i.e. conference proceedings, white papers, patents, et al). I was also fascinated to hear that, while some ILL librarians/departments are being fused with Acquisitions and Reference, some are morphing into Metadata specialists (and I think this speaks to the multi-faceted environment that ILL truly is).

After eating (and running) at an EBSCO luncheon, I made my way to “The Guide on the Side: A Transformation in Database Instruction.” As many of you probably know, the University of Arizona created this tool to assist in distance database instruction, and the tool was awarded the 2013 Association of College and Research Libraries’ Instruction Section Innovation of the Year Award, as well as the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy 21st Century Cutting Edge Service Award (whew, that’s a mouthful). As I demo’d a tutorial a couple months ago, I was familiar with the JSTOR module, but not Guide on the Side’s many iterations, including staff-only versions, which University of Arizona uses to train new Reference staff and students. U of A has also developed a module for evaluating websites using the Guide on the Side, and I can see how it would be an exceptional activity within a class (active learning + built-in assessment + immediate feedback = awesome!).

The Guide on the Side presentation and discussion served as the perfect segue into the RUSA MARS Virtual Reference Discussion Group. I really like MARS – they were the most energetic and welcoming group during the RUSA 101 session I attended last year in Anaheim – and their sessions garner seasoned Reference professionals, new professionals, and many LIS students, too. I sat at a table with representation from all of these groups, so our discussion ranged from the basics (i.e. “Which virtual reference tool(s) do you use?” and “How effective are they?”) to the more complex (“How do you conduct assessment and determine if a virtual reference session is successful?”). Almost all of the librarians at my table used the Springshare platform, so it was nice to hear not only the pros and cons of the service, but how they manipulated it to do other things (like assessment).

From MARS, I landed at the ILL Hot Topics Group, though not without consulting every convention center employee for directions to the room. I do love the camaraderie that is intrinsically part of the ILL club; whenever I attend one of these sessions, I seem to know at least one person (which can be very exciting if you’re like me (an ALA newb) and aren’t involved with committees). As I arrived just a few moments before the session began, I didn’t have a lot of time for networking before the meeting came to order. One of the hottest topics, and a primary concern for ILL departments, is the practice of paying publishers for ePub articles. In most cases, these ePubs are indexed, so our patrons find them in database searches; however, they can’t access them (even if we subscribe to the print journal). Purchasing them can be an expensive practice; to give you some perspective, Wiley tends to charge $35-$40 per article, ProQuest charges $37-75, and Bentham usually charges a minimum of $65. Cost aside, ILL librarians prefer paying our lending partners – rather than the publishers – but we don’t have that option for ePubs; if we subscribe to the print journal and can’t access the ePubs, then other libraries likely have the same restrictions. This practice presents a major philosophical problem, as it undermines our ability to support our fellow resource sharing colleagues, our internal and external patrons’ research needs, and our mission (sharing IS caring).

Another topic of concern is MOOCs and their impact on resource sharing. Many public libraries are feeling the burden of requesting MOOC-related textbooks through ILL, but academic libraries may soon feel the burden of requesting and supplying the materials. (I envision a cancellation notice that reads something like, “Unfortunately, ILL is unable to supply this book, because 40,000 of your closest friends have requested the same title.”) What are our options for supplying these textbooks and course materials to our internal patrons? Maybe libraries could have a MOOC collection, perhaps as part of our textbook collection that stayed with course reserves and was accessible by all. It seems like a cool way to provide access to critical information while keeping the costs down for our own patrons. Of course, it increases costs for us (but we might end up buying it anyway if a patron requests it through ILL, and no one will lend). (As an aside: I’ll be very interested to see how Georgia Tech provides ILL – and reserves – services to students enrolled in their Master of Science in Computer Science MOOC. Maybe it will be similar to traditional distance learning ILL, maybe not.)

On Sunday morning, I stepped out of my comfort zone to attend the RUSA-BRASS Business Reference Services committee meeting and discussion group, where we discussed the use of web conferencing tools to assist in virtual committee meetings, as well as in the reference interview or personal research session. Through this session, I gained a bit more knowledge on how to locate patents, both in the U.S. and worldwide; this was especially helpful, as we receive a number of ILL requests for patents, and finding them can be challenging.

After making a final round by the big publishers and collecting even more schwag, I made my way to “Lessons for the Librarian: 10 Tips for Teaching the One-Shot Instruction Session.” The opening “act” sang a few lines from “Moon River,” which immediately got my attention, and the speakers were articulate and inspiring, and the audience was engaged (no pity laughs from us – I actually guffawed). I also love an instruction session that begins by listing learning outcomes. For those who are interested, the tips are as follows:

  1. Less is more (unless you’re me, and you’re blogging. In that case, MORE is more, amiright?!)
  2. Some students learn like you. Most don’t.
  3. If you’re not assessing, you’re not teaching.
  4. Have a lesson plan.
  5. Go with evidence, not your gut.
  6. You should not be tired.
  7. Your enthusiasm is contagious.
  8. Faculty are your friends.
  9. Integrated, not separated (i.e. deepen partnerships with faculty by weaving information literacy instruction throughout a course)
  10. Your teaching matters to your institution.

This was, by far, the BEST session I’ve ever attended (ALA or otherwise), and it was the perfect [academic] ending to my conference!