Monday, April 11, 2011

ALA Executive Board Spring Meeting 2011

I had a whirlwind weekend at the ALA Executive Board meeting. Our meeting had a very different flow to it than in the past. By "in the past" I mean the one spring meeting I've experienced as a seated board member, and the year before as an observer.

Before all the board stuff started, I spent a little time with Jenny Levine on Thursday. We were on the same wavelength. I brought her two packages of Reeses white chocolate peanut butter eggs. However, she totally outdid me with this amazing star shaped brownie with gold. Not a bad way to start my trip!

Gold star from Jenny (@shifted)

Friday morning featured the ALA Staff Awards. This is always a nice event. There are a lot of people that get things done at ALA. It's nice to attend their breakfast and see them receive their employment milestone awards and the two staff achievement awards. Of note is Jenny Levine's five years at ALA recognition. Congrats Jenny!

After lunch, the meetings began. The agendas, as always, are on the Meeting Agendas site. I'll highlight some of the interesting discussions.

Our conversation related to social media and the executive board was interesting. From my perspective I think it barely scratched the surface. We are at a point professionally and technologically where we need to be engaged in dialogues where they're taking place. There is a time and a place for a press release and a unified response at the top, but other times it makes more sense to have a one-on-one interaction in whatever the appropriate venue might be.I understand that this takes a lot of time and there are so many hours in a day, but I think we owe it to our members (and to ourselves) to make every best effort to connect, collaborate, and communicate.

Sunday morning after our closed session was the strategic dialogue on transforming libraries. It was facilitated by Paul Meyer who has worked with ALA on a variety of projects. I think it was the good start of a dialogue. One of the items we talked about what we thought the library of the future looked like. My contribution to this part of the discussion was the notion that the future library, and librarian, would be completely new and reconceptualized. A number of the challenges and issues facing libraries are augmentations of what we might refer to as historical or traditional services, particularly lending materials, reference and instruction services. While we've made some really great modifications to how we provide these and other services, it's becoming clear that emerging and innovative services simply cannot be based on their traditional counterparts. If success breeds success, then change breeds change. Just imagine what we get with successful change.

Not all of these shifts are driven by changing technologies. Over the past five years I dramatically shifted my approach to providing reference and instruction services. The amount of one shot course related instruction I delivered went down, but my one-on-one or small group reference consultations spiked. The faculty I regularly worked with often felt their students were not as well prepared as in the past and needed every possible class to foster learning. At the same time, they valued research and what I brought to the table as a reference librarian. They found it useful to meet one-on-one with me, so perhaps their students would as well. My previous experience with their courses and my experience as a reference librarian gave me an opportunity to reinvent my approach to working with students and, in turn, information literacy. These successes led to these students coming to me for help with other coursework, and that sometimes led to referrals from peers. Were reference and course related instruction still major components of my job? Absolutely. The way in which those activities are carried out have shifted in response to the curricular, teaching, and learning needs of students and faculty.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are degrees of change. What may not look like much of a shift to some of us is a major departure from librarianship for others. There's room for both during this period of transition.

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