ACRL is hands-down my favorite conference. The ideas that come out of this event, both through sessions and through discussions with other librarians and vendors, are so exciting and energizing, that even with a strained back that kept me away from some sessions, it was still an awesome few days. I will let others who went discuss the keynotes and I’ll focus on some of the break-out sessions I attended.

The most useful session to me was the last one I attended. Entitled Breaking free of curricular confines: seeking new opportunities to teach critical media literacy in the era of “fake news”. This was a great session on ways that two different librarians had been teaching about fake news in their libraries and their communities. It gave me some great ideas for Hu and I to try in our Lifelong Learning class this summer and our FYS in the spring. For example, Statista, a database we get, has been collecting data of Fake News – WHO KNEW?? And the NY Times has a quiz to see if you can spot the fake ‘influencer’ accounts.

I do like to look for a theme at these things, and for me the thing that sticks out to me is that there are amazing people at libraries all across the country really trying hard to dig in to what our students and faculty are feeling, thinking, and doing in relation to libraries and research. I went to several sessions where research was being done at an astoundingly detailed level to try to get information about our faculty and  students. Here are some highlights:

  • A session on reporting in the post-truth era described a study where they Interviewed journalists, journalism professors and journalism students about their actual practices. Because credibility of information is intertwined with the process of its creation they wanted some insight into how practitioners and those learning to be practitioners view information, sources, fact-checking, bias and more.They are still coding the research but presented some preliminary findings.
  • In Narratives of (Dis)Engagement: Exploring Black/African-American Undergraduate Students’ Experiences with Libraries the researchers conducted interviews with black/African American students to tease out their experience with libraries and librarians across their lifespan. They are still finishing the coding of these, but they did present some early findings that highlighted how libraries and librarians are percieved.
  • In “I’d Say It’s Good Progress”: An Ecological Momentary Assessment of Student Research Habits, researchers surveyed students every night over a 5-week research project to see on a day-to-day basis what research tasks they did (and how prepared they were) and what they avoided (and why they avoided them). They looked for the cues and the barriers across the daily progress which can be more illuminating than asking students to reflect back only at the end of an assignment. This was particularly intriguing to me as it could show us what we (faculty and librarians) need to spend more time on with students and when.
  • In Container Collapse and the Information Remix: Students’ Evaluations of Scientific Research Recast in Scholarly vs. Popular Sources, the researchers were interested in how the internet has made it especially hard for students to understand what exactly the sources they find are. Are they news? Research? Reliable? Sketchy? They gave students (High School, Community College, Undergrads and Graduate students) three items – a scholarly journal article, a short article in Nature, and a web news story all about the same research and asked them to rank them over a series of criteria including whether they were useful and whether they would cite them. The results showed interesting deviations across the student types. Graduate students, for example, were more likely to cite Nature even though it wasn’t very useful, because they understand the academic reputation of the publication.

Outside of these sessions, I saw vendors figuring out how to expand offerings to fill in service gaps and not just resource gaps.

  • ExLibris, for example, has an Alma add-on product called Leganto that essentially allows libraries to become the central system for course pack creators (usually faculty) for classes by integrating into LMS systems and library systems simultaneously.
  • JSTOR is entering the digitization services realm by providing a suite of services for special collections and archives ranging from digitizing content, to hosting it.

All in all it was a great conference that will yield new content, services, and conversations for a long time to come.