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LOEX is always a dream conference for instruction librarians, and this year was no exception. This year’s Pittsburgh Conference brought together a record 425 participants from 40 states, but most exciting was our Wake Forest contingent which included Kyle, Amanda, Meghan and me.

The conference kicked off with an opening reception Thursday evening, and began in earnest early Friday morning with an opening plenary session by Dr. Sheila Corrall who encouraged us to become reflective teachers. She made the case for the idea that critical reflection should be elevated to the status of a threshold concept. In her lovely British accent she described how in England, in order to become a librarian, one must first graduate from library school and then work two years in a library, during which time one is required to keep reflective journals. At the end of two years, one must write a capstone paper reflecting on the experience. She made the compelling case that in order to become effective professionals, we must incorporate critical self-reflection as instructors and learners.

Here are some of the things I learned about from various breakout sessions:

  • Candice Benjes-Small (Radford University) gave a great presentation on how to assess one-shot sessions by using the mixed methods observation technique. Evaluations should be immediate, actionable, and able to be captured. At the end of one-shot class sessions, students at Radford are given quick written surveys/quizzes and at the end of the sessions instructors return to their offices and spend 30 minutes, self-assessing and making changes for upcoming one-shots.
  • Inclusion and social justice were dominant themes throughout the weekend. Emilie Vrbancic (U of Colorado, Colorado Springs) led a great session on creating inclusive teaching environments by designing instruction centered on principles of Universal Design. Most of what she said, I am already incorporating in my classes, but I had never heard that the most inclusive room design is one in which student are facing one another. We should promote interaction between students, have group activities, keep instructions simple, present instructions in multiple formats, allocate a third of class time for individual work, and integrate citation management tools such as Zotero (there is more, but I’m stopping there!).
  • Eamon Tewell (Long Island University Brooklyn) introduced ways of incorporating critical information literacy in library instruction. Critical IL aims to understand how libraries participate in systems of oppression and finds ways for librarians to act upon these systems. Tewell gave the results of a survey in which instruction librarians shared how they address critical IL. Some instructors use social justice issues in their search strategy examples. Some instructors introduce alternative media zines to introduce a variety of perspectives. Other instructors abandon the search strategy demonstrations altogether reasoning that students can learn it themselves and social justice issues are far more important than search strategies.
  • I attended a session on international students and academic libraries. I learned that the 2014/15 academic year saw the largest increase (10%) of international students in the United States of any time since the 1970s. Most of the students (57%) are from China and 22% are from the Middle East.
  • Kyle and Amanda had the most interesting session of the entire conference! They talked about their experience teaching LIB100 online last summer and the changes they made in their fall LIB100 sessions. I believe we could create an in-house WFU mini-LOEX and learn a ton just by hearing what is happening in our classes! They shared this link which I will share with you: ly/wfuloex
  • Catherine Fraser Reihle (Purdue) and Merinda Kay Hensley (U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) gave the results of a study on what undergraduate students know about scholarly communication (an article will be coming out on this). They surveyed students currently engaged in research experiences such as capstone projects or scholarly research with faculty members. The majority of respondents were STEM students. The findings were fascinating: Not a single student could say with confidence that they owned copyright to their work; most respondents were not concerned about the data they had generated and many did not know where the data was located (in a notebook somewhere); and the vast majority collected the data in a written notebook with no digital version.

Amanda, Meghan and I took an early flight Thursday morning to Pittsburgh in order to take in a few of the sights. During the ZSR Reynolda: An American Story Library Lecture Series, I learned that the Reynolda Gardens greenhouse was designed by architects Lord & Burnham. When Allison mentioned that Lord & Burnham also built Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, I immediately put Phipps at the top of my list of things to see while at LOEX. You can see the similarity of this amazing building (built in 1893) and our own Reynolda greenhouse (1913).

Overall, it was a wonderful conference and I am very thankful for the opportunity to attend LOEX 2016!