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As many of you know, ALA 2012 marked the first ALA Conference I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of attending. I had never attended a major professional conference other than ILLiad, so I wasn’t certain about the sheer magnitude of the conference. However, I planned thoroughly prior to arriving, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by the size of ALA or the number of sessions. The Anaheim Convention Center and the Hilton Anaheim served as the primary venues for the majority of my sessions, and scheduling sessions in close proximity helped me not only navigate the facility, but ensured I got a seat in nearly all sessions I attended.

As expected, many of the sessions I attended focused on Resource Sharing. On Saturday, I attended the Interlibrary Loan Discussion Group meeting, where presenters discussed methods for e-delivery and the changing landscape. Several ILL librarians discussed the pros and cons of scanning and delivery services, including BSCAN ILL, Relais, OCLC’s Article Exchange, and ILLiad’s Odyssey. Although we use Odyssey, I was glad to learn a bit more about the available e-delivery tools and ILL satisfaction with those. Article Exchange, in particular, seems to be popular with almost all ILL librarians, and I can vouch that it is an efficient alternative to emailing an article; from the borrowing perspective, it’s a bit more cumbersome, but still efficient if you don’t have Odyssey. Lars Leon, of the University of Kansas, also presented an ILL cost study; the study examined the resource sharing costs of both loan and article transactions and averaged the total cost per transaction by figuring the cost of request systems, management tools, shipping, equipment, debits and credits, supplied, and staffing. According to the study, the average cost per article is around $8, but the cost ranges from $3 to $14, depending on the institution. Both were interesting topics, and I hope to read Lars’ study soon.

On Saturday afternoon, I met with ILL librarians to chat about Hot Topics in Resource Sharing. Copyright and licensing woes were at the forefront of the discussion, but the future of ILL continues to be a motif. Some expressed concerns that our work is difficult to qualify, often because there are no transaction numbers for all that we do (i.e. extended Reference assistance, various un-tracked questions, phone calls, emails, et al). Atlas Systems expressed interest in creating a Knowledge Tracker (as is present in Aeon) to create a history of interactions that go beyond the bound of traditional ILL. “Get It Now” is still touted as a solution to journal embargoes, and several are using the service for both mediated/unmediated article acquisition. I was intrigued to learn that some ILL departments are being assumed into Resource Sharing and Acquisitions departments. Frankly, I see ILL as a microcosm of the library, and I’m still ruminating on our placement within a specific department or division. I think this trait (as well as our tendency to emphasize sharing) allows us to be flexible and naturally collaborative, so that we work well within almost all units.

On Sunday morning, I ventured to the OCLC Update Breakfast, where Jay Jordan discussed the WorldShare platform and the forthcoming Applications Gallery, which might have an app for integrating acquisitions into the Resource Sharing component of WorldShare. I also attended the WorldCat Resource Sharing & ILLiad Users Group session on Sunday evening; although some of the information was shared at the ILLiad conference in March, attendees were able to view the Beta version of the consolidated FirstSearch, WorldCat local and interfaces. I hadn’t seen this prior to ALA, so I was thrilled to see that the effort looks pretty user friendly for both the public and resource sharing staff. This consolidation will allow for device independent searching/resource sharing and will support a consistent user experience across OCLC’s discovery offerings. The final product will include over 140 million article citations and the ability to purchase an item directly from Amazon or another vendor. Genie Powell, from Atlas Systems, noted the newest iteration of ILLiad is delayed, due to termination of 7.4 and 8.0 in mid-July. Atlas will incorporate many WorldShare features into ILLiad 8.3 (specifically, Article Exchange, which Atlas is looking to improve and better integrate).

In addition to concentrating on Resource Sharing, I attended sessions that supplement my additional job responsibilities. As I am a LIB 100 assistant, I thought it would be useful to attend several instruction sessions. I signed up for Roz’s session without realizing she was presenting, so I was pleased to see a familiar face! Roz was a great presenter, and the session as a whole challenged my preconceived notions about what critical thinking really is – according to one panlist, nearly 74% of the critical thinking literature doesn’t define “critical thinking” – and how we can encourage critical thinking through instruction. I also ventured to “Learning Styles: Fiction, Nonfiction, or Mystery?” where three panelists examined the history of learning styles, controversies associated with learning styles, and the role of learning styles in distance education. I was especially interested in knowing more about learning styles and their role in distance education, and I left the session with a greater understanding of effective course design to ensure student satisfaction and achievement.

One of the things I appreciated most about ALA was that it allowed me to feel more engaged with the profession. I attended several 101 sessions, including RUSA 101, to gain a greater understanding of committee structures and opportunities for involvement. I was also able to network with other Resource Sharing and Reference librarians by chatting with members of the MARS and STARS round tables. David Atkins, chair of the STARS Round Table, is the Head of Resource Sharing and Document Delivery at the University of Tennessee, and I was delighted to speak with him and other Resource Sharing partners about round table involvement and delivery/shipping/resource sharing concerns. I also had dinner with Atlas Systems and ILL/Course Reserves folks, which proved to be a great networking (and dining) opportunity. I’m hoping to become more involved within the profession, possibly through committee work, and I’m thankful for the opportunity not only to attend ALA Annual, but to supplement my job responsibilities with sessions that were insightful and engaging.