The 2023 Empirical Librarians Conference (EmpLibs) took place on March 9 & 10 at Virginia Commonwealth University Monroe Park Campus in Richmond, VA. With the last conference in 2021, organizers and participants were eager to reconnect with each other and share “research supported and done by librarians…” which happens to be the conference motto. This year’s conference was sponsored by the University of Tennessee Knoxville Libraries

Supporting & Performing Research

With this year’s theme – “Supporting Patron’s Original Research + Performing Research in Libraries” – the conference program aligned closely with all things research and the trending issues in research libraries. East Carolina University’s Kawanna Bright kicked off the conference with a keynote session relative to DEI in library research – what’s traditionally included and what’s traditionally missing.

Colleen’s Experience

Over the day and a half conference, I attended sessions exploring research from librarians near and far (New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Chicago, Florida) who shared their work in faculty partnerships using open education resources, frustrations with systematic reviews, queer learning education & research design, and research participant recruitment in this hybrid era. From a health science perspective, I was happy to see and meet three other health / medical librarians presenting on addressing research with non-traditional students, empowering and disempowering language in patient education materials, and quantifying Evidence Based Medicine instruction assessment. Furthermore, I was happy to present my own work which includes partnering with the HES department in health literacy instruction and assessment.

Heather’s Experience

A first time attendee, I was impressed by the quality of the research sessions. I haven’t been to many hybrid conferences, but Nina and Chris really made it a smooth and enjoyable experience. I participated in the short talks session, where I discussed our work supporting faculty in digital qualitative methods.

I plan to attend next year when the conference is in Tennessee!

EmpLibs Host – Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)

Best known for its School and Medicine and School of Arts, Richmond, Virginia’s VCU was an accommodating host for this year’s conference. In 2015, the James Branch Cabell Library underwent a $50M expansion and renovation and afforded students, faculty, and staff an updated collaborative and accessible space. Complete with ergonomic furniture placed to provide tons of study nooks and collaboration areas (including an inviting and comfortable “Reading Porch”), eclectic art curated through the Special Collections & Archives department, and many accommodating and accessible gender neutral restrooms, the Cabell Library was a great location for this small but mighty conference. Furthermore, Richmond’s Broad Street, just adjacent to the Cabell Library, is great for strolling and is full of artsy and diverse shops and restaurants.

Along with proving to be quite an exemplary model of the hybrid conference experience, EmpLibs was an affordable professional development experience that really packed a punch with research-centric content. “It rocked!” according to Dede Rios, Director of Optometric and Clinical Library Services at Brackenridge Optometry Library at The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio who presented “Librarian perspectives on research collaborations.” EmpLibs 2024 Tennessee – here we come!