The start of my ALA Mid Winter experience was spent attending two days of pre-conference meetings for the participants in ACRL’s “Assessment in Action” (AiA) project. This is the second year of the grant funded project meant to build capacity for doing assessment projects in academic libraries, allowing libraries to better tell their stories and demonstrate their worth to the academy. ZSR’s project involves investigating how students define success in their own lives, and identifying ways that the library can assist in helping them reach success. Since ZSR’s mission, as we all know, is ‘to help students, faculty and staff succeed,’ it is going to be very interesting to discern how the students define success, and then to develop programming and spaces that will help in that effort. ZSR’s team includes: Meghan Webb, Le’Ron Byrd, Ryan Shirey (Writing Center), Glenda Boyles (the Bridge) and John Champlin (PDC). The first of the two days was spent getting each participant caught up on where all of the other participating libraries are in our cohort, (there are over 70 libraries participating this year,) and identifying ways to either help them through difficulties or learn from their successes. On the second day we learned of techniques and methodology for analyzing and reaching conclusions about our data. We now know what we need to do, and what elements we’ll need to include in our follow up reports to ACRL. We all need to have completed some form of our assessment by ALA Annual in June as we will all be expected to present a poster session there.

After the two Assessment in Action days, I also attended the ARL Space Assessment session with Susan reported on so ably. Since our Assessment in Action investigation also will have a component related to space use in the library, it was a helpful session. One of the presenters described a focus group study wherein students were shown photos of different types of study spaces, (high soaring ceilings and heavy wooden tables, comfy couches, individual study carrels) and asked which kind of space they would prefer for different activities and what words would best describe those spaces. They used this information to inform future furniture purchases and renovations. I thought this was a powerful exercise and we might pursue that here as well.

I also attended the Sustainability Round Table discussion group. SustainRT is a very new group in ALA, just established last mid-winter meeting and it’s just now finding its legs. Primary among the topics discussed was promoting a Sustainable Libraries Resolution similar to the one just approved by the New York Library Association. This resolution will be modified in the ensuing months, and then be presented to Council at ALA Annual. One big success of the SustainRT group was the inclusion of places to recycle ALA badges at the end of conference. If you saw one of those “recycle your badge” containers in the Conference Center, you can thank the members of SustainRT.

The great Chicago Blizzard of 2015 interrupted the conference and both of the sessions I had intended to go to on Sunday, (as well as the SustainRT ice skating social) were cancelled. But I did manage to make it to the vendor floor and visit McFarland, Atlas Systems, and Agati my favorite library furniture company before the big storm hit. I expected to visit others too, but the number of attendees to the conference, and the number of vendors on the floor seemed to me to be way down. Which brings me to another point raised by the SustainRT group…will MW continue to be necessary much longer? Indications are that many of the sections do their planning for Annual by email and conference calls before they even come to midwinter.

And now for the obligatory snowmagedden photos: both taken from the hotel window. The first just as the snow started to fall Saturday night, the second mid-day on Sunday when nearly white out conditions were present. It was an impressive snowstorm!