Just got back from the Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians 2011 Conference, held in Stevens Point. What a great experience! I love small conferences like this. The theme this year, Renew, Energize, Sustain, couldn’t have been better. Towards the end of the semester, most academic librarians are in need of a change in pace. Learning from my colleagues and getting the chance to network was just the change I needed. Here, I’ll highlight some the sessions I attended.
Keeping Up with the Joneses: Improving Information Literacy for Nontraditional Students
Part of my job focuses on adult learners, so I was particularly interested in this session. Presented by Anna Zook at UW-Eau Claire, she discussed her research of adult learners at the Eau Claire campus. Adult students are often overlooked and have different needs and anxieties of traditional-age college students. It was interesting to see how the library had carved out “special” study spaces for non-traditional students, including a study lounge (also used by graduate students) and a family-friendly study room where adult students could take their children. It’s located near the juvenile collection of books and includes a TV/video system. I took away several great suggestions from the presenter and attendees:
- Acknowledge and use students’ life experiences in reference interactions & information literacy sessions.
- Make the library more accessible for adult learners (longer reference desk hours, orientation sessions, online tutorials, easy remote access).
- Information literacy sessions: Have students share questions that they have about the library at the beginning of class. Incorporate peer-mentoring activities.
- Offer “Start Strong” library/research appointments with a librarian to all non-traditional students at the beginning of each semester, or new co-hort of students.
- Create short (1 to 3 minute) videos that can be uploaded to YouTube, library website, learning management system, that explain basic services or concepts (e.g., How to Search for an Article, How to Find a Book). Accompany short video with a PDF handout to reach multiple learning styles.
Louise Diodato and David Weinberg-Kinsey from Cardinal Stritch University detailed how their library underwent a renovation. Maybe in a previous life I was an architect, because I always find building plans fascinating! The big takeaway from here was to think about how your library could maintain services in the midst of a renovation. In addition, constantly communicating to the architects is an absolute necessity. Architects do not understand the finer points of libraries and their collections. You need to educate them! Also learned about a cool device that can move bookstacks without taking them apart and without having to move the books off of the shelf. If your library is thinking about renovation, also pay attention to:
- New furniture–with an emphasis on movable furniture
- “Wayfinding”–the placement of tile/carpeting that allows users to find their way through the library, to its various study spaces, service points, and collections.
I think too often we design library websites and other online tools, such as tutorials, without considering how people with disabilities will be impacted. Axel Schmetzke from UW-Stevens Point presented his research on studies that examined university and library websites. I learned about the main barriers that people with disabilities face when viewing websites [from Schmetzke’s PowerPoint]:
- Images without meaningful alt text, Images maps without alt text
- Scrolling text, Blinking elements
- No meaningful link text (e.g., “click here”)
- Poor contrast between text & background
- Tables used for spatial layout
- No “skip navigation” link
Circulating iPads in an Academic Library
Jessica Hutchings from the UW-Milwaukee SOIS and Jodi Bennett from Cardinal Stritch University detailed the decisions and processes for circulating iPads at the Cardinal Stritch library. Three iPads were purchased. Initially, they had a 2 hour in-library use only loan period. They began with downloading 20 educational and news apps, and branded the iPads with university imagery. Although the library promoted the use of iPads as e-readers, students did not tend to use this function. Simple curiosity was cited as the #1 reasons students choose to check out an iPad. After using the iPad, students were directed to a survey on use. The apps/software that students wanted, but were not installed included: MS Office (not available), Flash (not available), social networking, games, and GarageBand.
After examining iPad usage, the library changed the loan period to overnight. They have now loaded approximately 60 apps/programs, including Facebook, Skype, Pandora, Dropbox, Angry Birds, RefWorks, and GarageBand. Power adapters also made available. The overdue fine is $10/day. After each iPad is returned, library staff “restore” the iPad to wipe out any user data. Users cannot download any apps on their own. This a great program and definitely academic libraries should be allowed to have new technologies for users to experiment with and “play in the sandbox” so to speak.
IT Interested? Encouraging IT Experimentation in the Library
Librarians Thomas Durkin, Ian Benton, and Jim Jonas from UW-Madison shared how they put together an informal group of “show and tell” technology sessions open to all library staff. The presenters gave out a few tech tips and invited the audience to share some tech tools that they like to use. Here are a few of the tech tools presented:
- ARIS – tool to create free educational games, interactive tours, etc. Runs on Google Maps.
- Compfight – Image search tool. Can easily search Creative Commons Flickr images.
- Evernote – nice notetaking tool. Can be downloaded to desktop, laptop, smartphones, and other mobile devices.
- NetGalley – 1000s of galley proofs on non-yet published books. You can even write reviews, too.
- Shelfari.com – use to build a virtual bookshelf. Great as a promotional tool to highlight a particular collection (e.g., new books, children’s books, etc.)
- Topicmarks – upload PDFs or other files of scholarly articles. This tool will generate a “plain English” summary, overview of the article, keyword cloud, etc.
- Yammer – microblogging tool that libraries can use to keep track where staff are.
A librarian–Rita Mitchell, and a writing instructor–Beth Bretl, from Cardinal Stritch University teamed up to embed Rita into the learning management system for Beth’s English 102 class at Cardinal Stritch University. The idea stemmed from an article on the Inside Higher Ed website on Using Library Experts Wisely. The idea expanded and all sections of English 102 were paired with a librarian. During the course’s research sequence, students got to know the librarian and completed a tutorial and worksheet. In the learning management system (LMS), students posted their research question and worked with the librarian to narrow it. Using the online chat in the LMS, the librarian guided students to appropriate keywords and resources. Each student also kept a blog that discussed his/her research process.
Why Librarians (but not only Librarians) Should Staff Our Reference Desk
Steve Frye from UW-Madison discussed research involving different staffing models for reference desks. He encouraged participants to “know how patrons see your library.” It may be radically different than what you think. A review of scholarly literature leads to no solid conclusions on who should be staffing the reference desk. Here are a few other points:
- A traditional reference desk staffed by one librarian remains the model for most libraries.
- A combined reference/circulation desk model is ascending.
- A tiered model is another alternative. Staffed by students or paraprofessionals, with librarians “on call”
- Libraries should choose the reference desk model that reflects the institution’s culture.
- Roaming/roving reference: Students DO NOT like aggressive roaming/roving reference.
- For tiered models, patrons dislike being referred when someone is not available to help immediately.
- The model used at the presenter’s large, busy library involves multiple staffing at the reference desk (librarian, paraprofessional, grad student).
- Adjust your services to meet your students’ needs. Presenter’s library started night-time librarian positions that work until midnight.
- Your reference desk MUST be visible and near the entrance. DO NOT hide it.
- Library administrators should staff the reference desk during a busy shift so that they do not develop over-generalized observations about the library.
- If you think that doing something at the Reference Desk (e.g., clearing a printer jam) is beneath you, then you will not be a successful librarian.
Friday Keynote – Instructional Literacy and the Library Educator: Design, Technology, and Academic Culture
This session fit the bill when it came to the “energize” portion of the conference’s theme. Presented by Char Booth of Claremont Colleges, here are a few of my takeaways:
- What assumptions do students have about librarians? They don’t need to pay attention. “I’m not being graded.” “I already know how to do this!”
- Librarians are not perceived as teachers. We need to change this.
- Instruction librarians often have oversized expectations of what we think students want from us, when in reality, it’s ok to be “good enough.”
- Teaching effectiveness will be different for every librarian.
- What makes a good teacher?: enthusiasm, openness, makes you think, meets you at your level, caring
- Idea: Librarians need to create a brilliant subject-specific pitch for their information literacy sessions. You can do a lot in one minute. You need to connect your students to information literacy. Example: YouTube video of Berkeley Biology professor pulls out a brain!
- A library educator’s job is to challenge the assumptions of your students.
- Instructional Literacy involves: reflective practice, educational theory, teaching technologies, instructional design
- Reflective practice idea: after you teach, ask yourself: “What went well?” “What didn’t go well?” “What is one thing you observed that you need to change?”
- Technology: create a toolkit of technologies that work for you–ones that you have tried and vetted. Ask: does the tool accomplish your objectives?
- Cricket Effect: classes that do not respond to your questions. Make sure and ask instructors beforehand about class dynamics: is it a quiet class, active class. You may need to adapt your techniques.
- The “Librarian as Indicator Species” concept: If people think librarians are just about books, then they will forget us. Instead, librarians help with an informed democracy, create a sense of community, provide excellent customer service, provide knowledge.
I can’t do justice to Char’s presentation, but it is online on Slideshare.
UW-Stevens Point Library
Lastly, although it wasn’t part of the official conference, I took a stroll over to the University Library [photo] at UW-Stevens Point, a campus of approximately 9,000 students. When I’m away at conferences, popping in at the local college or public library is one of my favorite things to do. Usually, I’ll see an idea or two that could be adapted at my own library. At UW-Stevens Point, one of the first things I noticed was a plasma display listing which computers were open. Great idea! I also liked their poster explaining quiet areas to study. In addition, the endcaps of each of the bookstack ranges list not only the call number range, but subject areas and how to get help [photo]. Very helpful!
Conference presentations should eventually be uploaded on the WAAL 2011 site. Next year’s conference is to be held at Lake Geneva.