Saturday, October 29, 2005

ACRL WA/OR Conference recap

Blogging didn't happen during the conference. I brought my laptop, but decided not to bring it to the sessions when I realized that nobody else was using one and that the tight schedule wouldn't really give me time to upload anything.

The conference was great! We stayed at Pack Forest, so it was like going to librarian camp. Yes, I mean that in a good way. My idea of professional dress is fairly casual, but I don't usually wear jeans and sneakers to conferences. I was in a cabin, so we had to walk a short distance to the bathrooms. Luckily, one of the sponsors provided mini-flashlights, which was helpful because I didn't think to bring one.

I enjoyed ACRL National this year, but the local meeting was centered on topics that I found more immediately useful and relevant to my interests and the work we do at MPOW. I found it difficult to choose between the sessions because all of them sounded good. Sessions I attended:

1.Mine, Yours, Ours: Collaborating in a Combined Library/Computing Lab
Kathleen Collins and Damien Koemans
University of Washington, Seattle

It was hard to choose between the two programs in this time slot. I wanted to go to the other session in this time slot because it was on information literacy instruction and articulation between two and four-year colleges, and because my supervisor was on the panel. I'm glad I chose to come to this one though, because it gave me the chance to learn more about another library in my own larger system. In a three-campus university with a 21 branch library, it's really hard to get a handle on what's going on in other units, especially when, like me, you work outside the "main" campus.

The presentation described the way the undergraduate library hosts a huge computing lab run by a separate campus department and how the two units cooperate to serve the students. The most interesting part for me was the discussion about the differences in the cultures of the library staff and the Catalyst staff, who are mostly students. The presenters gave tips on managing communication between departments to facilitate understanding of the differing perspectives on either side, and most importantly, emphasized that the students don't care about departmental differences and don't see the difference between library help and computing help. The best point Kathleen made was that we have to remember that we are all serving the same students and that we need to meet them at the point of need. The library moved the reference desk up to the second floor computing commons because that's where the students work. It was a good reminder that we can have the best resources and services, but students will only use them if it's visible and convenient.

2. Tale of Two Classes: Taking Different Paths to a Common Goal
Theresa Mudrock
University of Washington, Seattle
Heather Ward
University of Oregon

This session gets my vote for the best of the conference. My primary interest is instruction, so I'm biased, but I really like hearing about innovative assignments. Both presenters are history liaisons and each described really cool research courses they've taught. They both made me wish I was a student in their classes. What made these courses fun for students and helped them learn was that the assignments were meaningful. They showed students the value of researching and gave the experience problem-solving and understanding the context behind the research process. Both courses used primary documents, which can be so much more interesting and even fun for students than dry, scholarly articles. Both Theresa and Heather linked artifacts and information to the people who created and were documented by those resources. Very cool.

3. Building for the First Two Years – What Are Hallmarks of Collections for First and Second Year College Students?
Natalie Delker Beach
University of Washington Bothell & Cascadia Community College
Jennifer Sundheim
University of Washington, Tacoma

Because this conference is attended by librarians from both two-year and four-year colleges and universities, it is a great place to come together to talk about the first two years of college and how all of us work to support the learning that happens during this time. First, the presenters gave an overview of collections literature centered on undergraduate libraries, because that's where most of the work is coming from. They pointed out that there is a great potential for community college librarians to contribute their expertise by writing about their collections philosophies and practices. What the existing lit shows is that while a few core lists have been created and maintained, libraries aren't adhering to these in practice. In my opinion, this is a good thing. We should be building the best collection for the local population, rather than trying to use a one-size-fits-all approach. It seems that librarians are doing this very thing: building collections to meet local need.

I liked that this session was all about asking questions, rather than offering an answer. Jennifer and Natalie were really interested in stimilating discussion and getting feedback on what others think about collecting for lower-division. The discussion that followed the presentation was just starting to get good when we ran out of time. I noticed a nice mix of university and community college librarians in the crowd. This would be a great topic to come back to and revisit on a variety of forums.

4.The Collaborative Environment: Successful Librarian-Faculty Partnership at Western Washington University Library
Cecilia Siu-Wah Poon
Margaret Fast
Dr. Keith Hyatt
Western Washington University

This session was up against another on Millenials. Since I've done a lot of reading on the subject and because most of my coworkers were going to that session, I thought I'd hit this one so we can compare notes later. Besides, as a newer librarian I've learned that it takes time and a lot of effort to develop strong professional relationships with faculty.

The presentation highlighted a wide variety of ways librarians at the Woodring library work with the faculty in their departments. It was nice to see that many of the strategies presented--serving on campus-wide or departmental committees, offering faculty workshops, attending faculty social events--are some of the things we do on our campus. Woodring also has a pool of collections money for special projects. It's a competitive pool; librarians submit proposals to improve specific parts of the collection and they get faculty imput and support for the purchases. This is just one of the ways their librarians have worked with faculty and it's a creative incentive for faculty to get involved in collection development.

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