This was my first year attending Charleston Conference, a conference I’ve heard a lot about and was eager to experience. Part of me wishes I had had the opportunity to attend this hybrid conference pre-pandemic when it was a fully in-person experience. I overheard numerous attendees longing for the “old days” but, without anything to compare it to, I enjoyed many of the sessions I attended and still found opportunities to network and make new connections. Although I didn’t love the hybrid approach- there were the usual tech issues one experiences with virtual conferences (“you’re mic isn’t on”), I did like the option of viewing early morning sessions from the comfort of my bed without feeling harried to make it to the session in-person, on time, and caffeinated (some days, that’s a tall order). I also was able to appreciate what so many people love about Charleston, the opportunity to connect and engage with vendors in a more meaningful capacity (and enjoy some free rooftop libations!). Below is a summary of some of the sessions I attended that really stood out.
“Unlatching Knowledge: Preparing New Subject Librarians for Collection Development” – As a new academic business librarian with collection responsibilities this seemed like a no-brainer to attend. I found the discussion around the changing nature of collections and the role of institutions and librarians in collection development helpful as well as how other institutions support new subject librarians acclimate to the institutions collection policy/work. I was surprised to hear that collection development is not typically a required course in LIS programs. Although I wish my own education would have delved more into the nuances of digital lending and contract terms/negotiation, I’m happy that I at least had a foundational knowledge in the topic. I particularly appreciated the speakers’ emphasis that “experienced” librarians can learn as much about collection development from “new” librarians as newbies can learn from experienced professionals. One thought that began at this session and has carried through to the end of the conference (and beyond) that I’m still chewing on is the “preciousness” we (as librarians) still attribute to the physical tome (I think one of the presenters even referenced this as “book fondling”-eww) and how that impacts our collections development work.
“Stopwatch Session 2” – A combination of three presenters doing lightning-round style presentations on some-what related topics left me with a cramped hand (from note-taking) and a brain full of thoughts. I particularly found the first two presenters interesting as they discussed (1) how to communicate online resource restrictions to students and alumni and communicating viable alternatives and (2) how to communicate and engage with alumni around resource access (or non-access as the case may be). Dealing with business databases, a big licensing focus we have to try and communicate is “although we know these resources can help you make money, please don’t make money with this information”. On the flip side, the ACRL Framework tells us the importance of communicating that information has value- this strikes me as a dilemma and one that most librarians solve by sticking in usage terms in database descriptions that they know students won’t read and/or forgoing detailed discussions about how the information will/can be used (guilty as charged). As a former public librarian I am all too aware of the free resources (government, nonprofit, etc.) that exist for similar information and the resulting frustration with unfriendly user interface and navigation married with zero marketing budgets- how many times have I said to myself when stumbling across a “holy grail” free resource, “if only I had found this years ago!”. As the saying goes, if you can’t use the tool or even find the tool, does the tool even exist (or something like that). I’m glad these conversations are being had, especially at places like Charleston where database vendors can learn about these tightropes and pain-points for information professionals. I just hope the results are better, more open access as opposed to more stringent, restrictive licensing and access.
“The View from Somewhere: Institutional Values in Collections Decisions” & “What is our role in decolonizing and reconstructing curricula? Insights from librarians, faculty, and vendors in Canada and the US” – Although these two sessions were not paired, having attended them back-to-back they raised similar questions and thoughts around the topic of DEI in libraries and how libraries can, do, and should support DEI initiatives on campus. In “The View From Somewhere”, Librarians from Purdue University presented on the creation of a rubric their Library uses to help evaluate how their vendors line up (or don’t line up, as the case may be) with the Libraries and Universities professed value. Thinking about the large sums that go towards vendors (the phrase “put your treasure where your values are” really stuck with me), the rubric attempts to translate institutional values by (1) identifying values at different organizational level, (2) what do those values mean in a collection context and, (3) what are we (librarians) assessing in each of these identified areas. The idea is the rubric may look different for different colleges, departments, etc, within a larger university. Additionally, the rubric isn’t meant to be prescriptive- there will be vendors you have to purchase from because of the necessity of the material and the lack of alternatives-it is meant to start a conversation both within the institution and with the vendor (the presenters wouldn’t name, names but there is a vendor out there with a gold mine!? Why do they need a gold mine!?). In the presentation “What is our role in decolonizing and reconstructing curricula?” we learned about a grant funded program at Simon Fraser University whose aim is to create resources, practices, mentorship and more for faculty members seeking to decolonize their own teaching. Lots to unpack here but their website is a great resource. The presentation also included some great conversations around alternative classification systems (Brian Deer), struggles with archaic language in taxonomies, and a number of great resource recommendations including Femifesto overarching principles, Design for Justice Network principles, and Design for Diversity Toolkit.
“Libraries & Literacies: Navigating the Intricacies of Media, Science, & Data Literacy” – It was great to hear our own Roz Tedford in conversation with Librarians from Emory and Drake University as well as ANZOG Senior Fellow Dr. Zina O’Leary from the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, discussing libraries’ role in helping to shape, teach, and define new ways of engaging with information. The panel came together thanks to SAGE’s Critical Thinking Bootcamp (recording available via hyperlink) and offered a number of juicy insights and questions to dig into. Of particular note to me were making sure to address with students that library sources are not infallible- just because it’s in a database doesn’t mean you turn off your critical eye. Additionally, I loved Dan Chibnall’s (Drake University) discussion about the tension/conflict caused by the speed at which individuals, news media, and science publications create, understand, and disseminate information as well as his “green flag” and “red flag” assignment, which has students reading an article as a group and collaboratively coming up with “green flags” and “red flags” for understanding authority, bias, etc. Roz rounded out the session with a great introduction to “Algorithmic Literacy ”- bridging media and data literacy and asking us to think critically about how machine-learning is serving us up information.