#ACRL2015 Report Back

Two weeks ago, I attended the ACRL 2015 Conference. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with other librarians, and hear of the various projects that are undertaken within the profession today. The conference also had a number of keynote presenters which were eye-opening and enlightening.

Keynote G Willow Wilson

G. Willow Wilson, fantasy author and comic book writer, was the opening keynote for this year’s ACRL National Conference. She had a very thought provoking keynote, that examined her own family history and how we all carry our own stories. She also talked about how as academic librarians we facilitate inquiry into the world and ourselves. He keynote has also persuaded me to read her novel, Alif the Unseen, as well as her run on Marvel’s Ms. Marvel.

Scholarship Recipient

I was fortunate enough to attend ACRL through the generous donations that funded the ACRL 2015 Scholarships. I received the Mid-career Librarian Scholarship. Not only was I treated to a breakfast, but a presentation by fellow IU alumni Emily Ford, a librarian and founding editor of In the Library With the Lead Pipe. She discussed how its important for librarians to connect our intellect with the emotional and physical sensations of our bodies. I found this very moving, as she talked about revealing our authentic selves as a component of our work. Someone asked how to present them authentic selves while on a tenure-track line. This is something I’ve personally struggled with, drawing boundaries between my professional life, and that of my personal and political beliefs.

Academic Librarians of Color Panel Presentation

I attended a panel where a group of librarians of color where they briefly talked about the challenges that they face at their institutions. They discussed  the various papers they have written on the subject, including making diversity a requirement for various functions – search committees, faculty quotas, etc.. A consistent theme among the presenters is how the idea of diversity is problematic. Here is a Storify of the presentation.

Before the panel, I had a very interesting conversation with a librarian where we discussed the lack of black librarians.  She argued that potential LIS students growing up in low-income areas may have a negative perceived stereotype of a librarians from the public library branches that serve those communities of an elderly librarian yelling at kids not to check out books. Many first-generation college students may also see that that it’s more lucrative to find a “professional” occupation such as a doctor or lawyer.

New Roles for the Road Ahead – Barbara Fister Steven Bell Lorcan Dempsey Panel

One of the problems I have with conferences is that sessions that you want to attend overlap. This was the case between the panel of Barbara Fister, Steven Bell, and Lorcan Dempsey.  As I also wanted to attend the panel with Heidi Burkhart and Courtney McDonald, entitled UX for the People Presentation.

Google Glasses for the Masses

I also attended a session called Google Glasses for the Masses, which focused on the loaning a Google Glass device. Workshops were held to introduce the user to the equipment. This particular library loaned Google Glass daily.  They also mentioned the Gardner hype cycle, which examines the inflated expectations of emerging technology to a plateau of productivity.


VGo Robot
Another library talked about the VGo Robot, a remote controlled robot that can give library tours. Mostly used in medical facilities, this may be useful in reference transactions or, for larger libraries, can be used to provide directions. I’m not sure how I feel about robots in the library, (not out of my own dystopian fears and fantasies), but I feel that the human interaction is what makes libraries work.

DOTS – Database of the Smoky Mountains
This presentation examined the use of a Drupal site that contained digitized books, government docs, editorial cartoons, and photographs related to the Smoky Mountains. The database is accessible here.

Pratt Libraries Navistax
This ten-minute presentation showed how a librarian at Pratt used animated gifs to provide maps to the stacks.

One presentation examined IT reporting software to manage email to the library Spiceworks at the Erikson Institute. This is something I feel that we could use at my own institution for a wide variety of purposes, such as reference transactions.

One System to Rule Them All

I also presented on my own usability test for our new responsive design site. I was very nervous to give a ten-minute technical talk, but it was very well-received.

Other highlights of ACRL include 5 City Tech Librarians in the ACRL program!  There were also many other CUNY librarians at ACRL, presenting on various posters, panels, and roundtable discussions. There was also the CritLib Unconference that many of my colleagues were a part of.

Buddy program

The other highlight was the ACRL buddy program. Since this was my first conference, I signed up for the buddy program where they pair you with an experienced ACRL conference attendee. Cara Sabolcik, Associate Library Director for St. John’s College, was my mentor. We discussed the massive differences at our institution, which were just fascinating to say the least. Its these connections that librarians can make that I find the most value at conferences. I learned a great deal about information literacy, technology, and improving our libraries, but to talk about the profession with totally different viewpoints is always refreshing.


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