The very first ALA Midwinter conference I ever attended was in Boston in 2005 when I was just looking for opportunities to become more involved in the association more deeply. Fast forward 11 years and I am now chair of an ACRL section and a nominee for ALA Council. What a difference a decade makes.
Before my conference began I was able to play a bit of the tourist (my favorite role in any city) and went with Mary Beth to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. My main interest was to see if my husband Patrick had indeed made it into their museum video – a film project he worked on over a year ago. And not only was he in the video he’s in the brochure!! So that was fun and actually educational. The museum has one of the only two tea boxes that were thrown overboard that have survived to the modern day.
On Friday afternoon my conference began with a meeting of the ACRL Leadership Council. ACRL is revising it’s Plan for Excellence that is approaching 5 years old. The major change that may be coming is the addition of a fourth goal area that may be concerned with the changing profile of staff that work in academic libraries. The association is interested in being useful to those with an MLS and the many people who work in academic libraries that do not have the MLS. I am sure more discussion will be happening on this before the ALA Annual meeting.
On Saturday I met with my section, the Law and Political Science section for our executive and general membership meetings. Lots of section-y stuff was discussed but the biggest news is that we are going to propose a name change for the section to better reflect our membership. We simply don’t have many if any law librarians in the section any more but have many public policy and international relations librarians. The final new name will be chosen this spring and will be sent to ACRL at the annual meeting for approval.
The rest of my conference was divided between the vendor floor and a few sessions. On the vendor front some great new things are coming. Alexander Street Press has a new Food Studies Online product that looks fascinating and relevant to many faculty on campus. I got a demo of LibCal from our friends at Springshare as we are looking for a more manageable way to schedule personal research sessions. The product was impressive and could solve that problem while also providing us alternatives for other scheduling things such as study room reservations, etc. I will schedule a demo for ZSR this spring. Perhaps the most interesting new product announcement came from the American Psychological Association and will be called APA Style Central. It will be a product that institutions can subscribe to that will give a range of tutorials, quizzes, and learning objects centered around APA Style. In addition it will allow students and faculty to store their source citations in the product and do collaborative writing utilizing the full APA style requirements. Will be fascinating to see in action and I am really curious about the pricing.
Among the sessions I found Cory Booker’s talk particularly energizing. LITA’s Top Tech Trends introduced me to the scheduling bot called Amy that now has me fascinated. The services to international students discussion group showed me that all libraries are trying to figure out where they can be of use to these students. Some schools have progressed further than others so there were some great ideas circulating the room. The ACRL update on the Value of Academic Libraries session was not what I expected but was a report from three libraries about programs they have in place targeting diversity. Of their examples a couple stood out – one was a project where the librarians worked to help in workshops that provided faculty with the tools they need to make their syllabi ‘transparent’ and to reduce the use of jargon and coded language that often frustrates first generation and international students who ‘don’t speak college.’ Another was a library that provided a whole range of workshops for their student workers on things from financial literacy, time management and career goals (not always taught by librarians, but facilitated by them) in an effort to help them develop as students and emerging professionals.
All in all it was a great conference and provided much food for thought!