From Tuesday, April 13th to Friday, April 16th, several members of the ZSR Library attended the Association of College and Research Libraries Virtual Conference. While not quite the same experience as attending in person, there was still a wealth of knowledge information shared through both live and on-demand conference presentations. Here were some highlights:

A Push Towards Lateral Reading (Amanda)

There were several presentations that discussed both lateral reading and the SIFT Method, which are new(er) and improved methods for teaching source evaluation. For context, for at least the last two decades (or more), instruction librarians have relied on “checklist” methods like the CRAAP Test and RADCAB for teaching source evaluation, which many argued didn’t challenge students to look beyond the source itself to determine if it was credible. Enter “lateral reading,” which asks the reader to check what other sources say about the source in question and its content. This is a method that has been long employed by fact-checkers and journalists, and which recent studies have shown is a more effective method of source evaluation. Lateral reading is a key component of the SIFT Method (the new heuristic that is quickly replacing CRAAP and RADCAB). Several of us have been incorporating these new techniques into our teaching over the past couple of years, so it was affirming to see it so highly recommended at ACRL.

Hidden Barriers: The Experiences of Academic Librarians and Archivists Living with Invisible Illness and Disability (Mary Beth)

This presentation outlined the results of research conducted by two academic librarians who have an invisible disability. Researchers report that most people with invisible disabilities will disclose to friends they make at work that they have such a disability well before they need/want any accommodation, but will only report their invisible disability to supervisors and HR when they need accommodation. Some ideas they provided to minimize the impact of invisible disabilities in the interview process: normalize the requesting for accommodations (ie: “we can make accommodations for all of these invisible disabilities, please let us know what accommodations you may require”) and provide interview questions in advance.

Translating values into action: launching an anti-racism talent management audit -Trevor A. Dawes, Curtis Kendrick, Christine Wolff-Eisenberg (Mary Beth)

  • “Fit” is a way to say that this person won’t make white people uncomfortable. The change needs to come from the white culture to get comfortable with being challenged.
  • Why focus on race specifically when trying to increase your diversity pool and not more diversities, or more diversity broadly?. In the book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee, the author posits that focusing on racial diversity makes our organizations better for everyone. It will make it also better for all other diverse groups. Start with race and all minority groups will also rise. Race isn’t real, it is a social construct. But there are certainly social impacts to race. If we focus on race, we’ll solve a lot of problems related to equity, diversity, inclusion.
  • Systemic racism is there, so identify ways to measure it. After changes are implemented, look for differences and determine, “are we more anti-racist this year than we were last year?” Places to look for ways to measure might include talent management/hiring practices, language, collection development, etc.

Beating the Odds: Asian Women Leaders in Academic Research Libraries (Mary Beth)

This session was a conversation with 4 Asian Women leaders in academic libraries who discussed how Asian Women can rise in the ranks of academia. One noted that in job interviews people of color are reluctant to share things that are personal, or that really highlight their talents. It can be difficult to talk about strengths. That can impede progress when being evaluated against those that are more comfortable talking about their strengths.

One also noted that if hiring rubrics are not identified in advance of the start of the evaluation process, the decision-making process is unclear. That allows for some opportunity wherein someone might say  “hey, I know someone that would be good for this position,” or
“I know someone that will be able to supply me with names of people to pursue,” which prejudices the white-centered hire. In the final thoughts the leaders shared:  ask for advice; proactively reach out to employees to be a mentor/sponsor/coach for people of color to advance in their careers; support each other; find and utilize allies.

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted! (Hu)

ACRL did an amazing job creating and implementing this virtual conference, yet I struggled mightily with the format. It was a challenge to keep up with both work and the conference, and I just could not bring myself to participate in the online social events. But as always, the content of the conference was incredible. The most meaningful sessions for me all revolved around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Systemic Oppression Requires Systemic Change: Recasting the Roles of Academic Libraries in Contemporary Contexts” presented by librarians Jennifer Brown, Jennifer Ferretti, and Charlotte Roh. The powerful examples they shared from their work creating and running WeHere will stay with me long after the conference.

Another amazing session titled “Under Pressure: Rethinking How We Teach Plagiarism” by Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill helped me see an entirely new approach to teaching plagiarism that focused on the politics of citations, and how citation disproportionately privileges white and male voices at the expense of others. Additionally, “So You Hit a Paywall: Introducing Undergraduates to Information Privilege” by Cara Evanson and Meggie Lasher, both from Davidson College, had some great ideas for using student’s frustrations with paywalls to teach about access and information privilege. The last session I’ll mention, “If..Then…Else: Algorithmic Systems, Bias, Knowledge Structuring, and Our Epistemic Crisis” by Ian O’Hara, really dug into the crisis created by algorithms and what that means for us all.

I learned just as much, if not more from this ACRL as I did from other F2F ACRL conferences, and while the format may have presented new challenges, the content of ACRL 2021 addressed many long-standing challenges that we need to keep working to resolve!