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April’s Spring Conference Round-up

Photo illustration of creativity and ideasThis spring I had the opportunity to attend the California Academic and Research Libraries (CARL) Conference in April, the LOEX Conference in May, and the California Conference on Information Literacy (CCLI) in June.  These were excellent learning opportunities, as always, and I’m happy to share a few highlights from each.

CARL: It was wonderful to see the excellent work being done by librarians throughout California.  Elizabeth Horan and Brian Green, two of my colleagues in the community college system, reflected on the results of their recent survey of students about their study habits and preferences.  Take-aways included the high number of students at both of their colleges who report studying in their cars.  This highlighted the importance of mobile interfaces for library websites and article databases, since many of these students also reported accessing information on their phones or tablets.  It also suggests the importance of creating spaces for individual studying, not just group studying, when libraries are redesigned and shows the value of permitting food in study spaces, when possible, in order to ensure that the library is as comfortable for studying as a car.  I also got inspired by Del Williams’ presentation about hosting hip hop and spoken word performances by a student art collective in the Cal State University, Northridge library over the past year.  The way that this collaboration changed students’ perceptions of the library shows the importance of counternarratives and culturally sustaining services in academic libraries.  The artists, the audience, and the librarians/staff learned a lot about the library’s capacity to welcome new voices into the shared space.  These papers and the rest of the presentations will be available in the conference proceedings in the coming year.

LOEX: There were many presentations this year about games and gamification in library instruction.  We all had a great time playing Search & Destroy, a card game created by librarians at Ferris State.  It is loosely based on the rules of Uno and introduces learners to keyword searching, databases limiters, and Boolean operators.  I also learned from a student advocate about theories of engagement and learning that help librarians connect to students on the Autism spectrum.  I was fortunate to get to attend the presentation by Jess Barbera from McDaniel College, Marianne Sade from Washington College and Sam Martin from Washington & Jefferson College, three of the five colleges that collaborated on an IMLS funded project last year to create, deliver, and assess first-year information literacy instruction to meet the needs of at-risk students.  I was a consultant on their project and worked with them to write the quiz they used as a pre/post assessment to study the effects of the active learning modules they created.  They shared the successes and frustrations of the audacious project and offered examples of their instructional materials, aligned with learning outcomes that they developed from the Framework.

CCLI: The conference theme was design thinking and I got to present a lightning talk about the process we used to analyze the Framework, brainstorm performance levels, identify learning outcomes, and craft performance indicators when we kicked off the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy project at the end of 2014.  Please visit my slides if you are interested in a quick overview of our development stages, which emerged as we learned more about the Framework.  At CCLI I also learned about an inspiring collaboration between a librarian and English teachers at a Bay Area high school to build design thinking elements like prototyping and iteration into senior students’ capstone projects.  The librarian’s guidance led to changes in the timeline of the project, allowing for meaningful formative and summative assessment.  I also learned about a bold initiative at Samford University to offer brief conceptual lessons on key IL Frames in freshman seminars.  The highlight of the conference was the keynote presentation by Lauren Pressley.  She drew from her varied experiences using design thinking strategies at the libraries where she has worked as well as in her role as incoming ACRL president to offer concrete examples other librarians can apply in their own work.  Her use of strategic bursts, rather than strategic plans, and her emphasis on dedicating time to inspiration and ideation at the beginning of the design process resonated particularly with the audience looking for ways to get started with design thinking.