ACRL 2011 rehash

Based on my experiences as a newer librarian attending the past two ACRL conferences, this one is well worth the price of admission. I found the second time around to be richer, and part of that relates to knowing a few more people in our field, running into them, and stealing them away for a quick chat or break.

Vendors! I don’t think the vendor part of conferences has come up on the blog before. A colleague not attending forwarded invitations to visit booths and hear about products, and I also received many many emails as well. Talking to some others at the conference showed me how others strategically plan their conference schedules around vendor events as well as sessions. An opportunity I missed last time by opting out of receiving emails from vendors, professional development live sessions and demonstrations can be paired with meals by certain vendors. Shorter demos are available in the vendor hall during free times in the schedule. If you want to know more about a product or publisher, this is a great time to find out immediately (and take a free pen or other tschotske, if that’s your thing).

At my second ACRL, I went to the first time attendees the first night of the conference and learned what ACRL folks want new people to know about and do at the conference (and be active in ACRL interest groups). The organizers actively encouraged networking, and clearly said if you are having a good conversation with someone, skip the next session you planned to attend and finish that conversation–you do not know where it will lead. This surprised me, but in this job market perhaps should not have. If personal connections can give you an edge, let you hear about a new opportunity, go for it. Newbies were encouraged to network throughout the conference with the goal of having conversations and gaining signatures to win a prize. For the next few days I heard these conversations so it seems to work; at one point someone joked that I was useless to her because I didn’t fit any needed categories on her sheet.

The following sessions made the strongest impressions on me and are things I would like to fiddle with in the next year; some were short presentations of technology, and some were 3 hour workshops. Part reminder and part accountability, here we go.

Cyber Zed Shed: Connecting through course guides. Some great ideas about how to use commenting features in course guides (presenter used Library a la carte) to engage students and learn their topics in their own words, without instructor intervention. This is a move I think I am ready for, and now I have an idea of how to incorporate that courses; I have targeted research methods and thesis courses to try this out in. I think this is part of the virtual conference; I would totally watch it again.

Workshops on Instructional design/making an online tutorial, and another on writing winning proposals and how to plan for presenting were also hits. Taking the time to walk through the process from start to finish and see the actual steps involved for creating a tutorial was great; working in small groups and getting my ideas out there was awesome. The reality of having all the technical design stuff done elsewhere is where the breakdown happens. Ways to make guides and tutorials accessible to different learners was extremely helpful and a big future consideration.

This post was delayed as I used the advice from the workshop on writing and giving presentations to review past proposals and write a new one for an upcoming state conference. Although not all the advice given at the workshop will apply to conferences with different criteria and expectations, the presenters were all incredibly strong and worth modeling. Presentation artifacts available here:

A session on mentoring instruction librarians gave a unique perspective on how one library offers different levels of training, from one day to train the trainer sessions to an academy that spanned a semester, meeting on some weekends and putting new ideas into practice between meetings. This final idea, putting ideas into practice and reporting back, seemed the most viable to me. A paper presentation on assessing the skills of incoming graduate students was focused on how to make instruction more student focused than librarian focused. Meeting students where they are at, at any level of education, makes sense and is something that does need revisiting every few years. Our students are changing and we need to reflect on that and retool.

There was much more that I missed, and some of it was strategic; with the price of admission I get a full year’s access to virtual presentations that although I won’t be able to interact live, I will still be able to view and possibly have more time to ponder the ideas expressed.

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How to Fail in Grant Writing — from Chron of Higher Ed

Tips from 6 biology professors on how to make sure your grant proposal is rejected. Some tips are science specific, but some apply to all grants; and some apply to all article writing.

See also:

How does your grant compare

How to write an Outreach Grant proposal

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Print What You Like

No really, print only what you like at

This site lets you remove items from websites (think ads or banners) and then print what is left (content!). Very useful when printing LibGuides for professional portfolios, etc.

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ACRL Instruction Section mentor/mentee applications accepted

If you are a member of ACRL, you can join the Instruction Section for a small extra fee. Not only do you get the newsletter (a place for possible publication?), you can also sign up to be either a mentor or a mentee. Applications are being accepted for the next academic year now; check out this site:

I missed the sign up round my first year as an Instruction Librarian, and the window of applying was about 10 days last year, I think. At any rate, it was small, and you do want to share information about yourself so you get matched up with an awesome mentor. I sure did. The IS mentor committee set me up with a mentor who is a few years ahead of me in a faculty position. I had actually seen her present at LOEX and was putting some of her projects in action here, which made the match even more exciting. Since our conference attendance didn’t overlap this year, we communicate by email and cheer each other on electronically. The experience has been pretty great; she provides an outside viewpoint and set of experiences that are not a match with anyone else’s here. I feel like I can contact her any time to say hello, what do you think about this, or how did you get started in that? She is active in other organizations than the ones our library has ties too, so has been able to give me a push in a few different areas, or tell me more about expectations of service at different levels of the profession.

If you are already a member of this section and would like to be matched up, jump on it! The committee membership has changed, which may be a good thing, since the monthly discussion questions that were promised to mentors and mentees didn’t seem to ever appear, so we fumbled around a bit before we got our groove. It looks like this year will be more organized.

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ACRL webcast–So you want to create an interactive IL tutorial?

Cinthya Ippoliti of Paradise Valley Community College (part of Maricopa Community Colleges) led the ACRL webcast on creating interactive tutorials. She began with a needs assessment from faculty to determine how to structure the tutorial. A working group began the project, but then the group dwindled down to two people; as Cinthya said, “Sometimes, things don’t work better by committee.”

The group considered Acadia’s tutorial . My thoughts: while well-done and entertaining, this tutorial moves linearly, and interactive elements are limited to moving from one screen to the next, while pausing to read the text and watch the images.

Instead of building off existing tutorials, Cinthya started from scratch. She looked at over 100 tutorials and literature, and found that not much was specific to information literacy. Much of what was already available was in the fields of IT and Education, or were specifically targeted to math or other subject areas.

Interactivity means different things to different people, starting with merely clicking through one page to the next and reading text along the way. Greater interactivity was built into Maricopa’s tutorial, including elements such as free-form navigation, varying levels of difficulty, use of strategies, etc. Rollovers, drag and drop or clicking were all ways to increase engagement even during moments when students were viewing text. Passive viewing of the tutorial was not possible–students had to continually make decisions, even which tutorial piece to begin working in.

The overarching principle for the tutorial was the desire to conceptualize and boil down ACRL IL Competency Standards, to make the tutorials work toward increasing IL skills in students. The backbone of the tutorial began with storyboarding each page; a slide showed side by side images of storyboard versus the specific tutorial page. The multi-media designer (Sam) was integral in the creation of the tutorial.

The completed tutorial has 4 modules, and interactivity is slightly different in each one, depending on content of the module. Each module has the same set up–an intro blurb, a pre- and post- test (called quizzes), and, importantly, a small amount of text. Instead of text blocks, the tutorial uses lots of flash and popups. Cute analogy of Boolean terms as food choices–Boolean as ordering lunch. The tutorial stays away from using library jargon, skipping over the name Boolean but drawing the concept out for students. Hints are given for incorrect answers, instead of being told the correct answer–in this way, focus is kept on increasing skills rather than on correction.

Concerns with assessment: continued difficulty in capturing student results without a server–students need to print out their own results. No long term data was available due to this choice.

Usability study for the tutorial was conducted using 8 students. For the purpose of presenting the results, Cinthya had Institutional Review Board approval of the user testing. Afraid of researcher and tutorial bias, other people conducted the testing by observing users and asking them to talk through their thought process as they navigated the tutorial. Afterward, participants completed a post-assessment questionnaire to clarify the process. Results included the idea that more feedback is better–students desire immediate feedback, even on the pre-test. Their tendency was to focus on quiz scores as well as completing tasks. Students also did not notice they needed to scroll down to see the full page, so be aware of that when laying out tutorial slides or pages.

Assessment from the tutorial was used to change and refocus the in-person instruction given to classes during a library session; using the tutorial and gathering pre-test results could guide where more time should be spent in face to face instruction. Evaluation was the main area in her results.

The webcast matched ACRL’s description of the event. I am always hopeful that a webcast will be more like a workshop and the group can walk through a scenario of building a section of a tutorial together. I guess that is our job now.

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Visual CV (or ePortfolios)

From ALA direct via Mashable:

VisualCV offers a platform that looks very useful and attractive for online portfolios and resumes.

VisualCV screenshot

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After Immersion

To hear ACRL Immersion graduates talk about it, Immersion is like the religious experience the name alludes to. Instruction librarians return home “changed”, inspired by the readings, conversations, and reworked instruction scenarios. We want to talk about what it was like, but can’t quite describe the spirit of the 4.5 days of focused sessions except to other Immersion grads. Like any cult conversion or Bachelor-style relationship, though, the proof, the lasting effects, can only been seen in what happens after. After you go home, after the spotlight is turned off, after the paparazzi have left the building. To me, more important than what happened at Immersion is what I did and will do with that knowledge.

Before we go there, though: a little background on Immersion. As Meredith Farkas blogged shortly after Immersion this summer, it is more retreat than conference. The best way I know to tease out the difference between the two is to look at the focus of each. At a conference, the focus is on the presenter/s research or work, and what they think you may want to know. Even though conferences may be grouped around a particular theme, there is little opportunity or pathway to build ties from one session to the next, and many choices that make many different paths. Conferences are a solo flight navigated by the individual. Immersion focuses on the attendees rather than the (truly awesome) presenters. The Immersion retreat builds a shared experience even before opening by assigning readings ahead of time. Participants in the Teacher track bring one presentation, one-shot instruction session, one semester long course, or one online tutorial to workshop throughout the week. Working on separate projects but with similar stumbling blocks and shared goals and deadlines gave many opportunities for immediate peer review.

Instruction best practices, such as writing meaningful learning outcomes, were pieces of the puzzle. Although the final picture of the jigsaw that is Immersion will be different for each participant, one similar feature is a clearer understanding of ourselves as learners and instructors, and the ability to see our students as a mix of learners and teachers as well. Active learning is another part of Immersion. By participating in it, we learn how valuable a learning tool student engagement is.

So, now that 2 months have passed, and the first teaching hurdle of the semester has been jumped, what differences in my teaching, if any, have resulted from my Immersion?

First off, I have to acknowledge Tiffani Travis’s Program Track group. They led our Teacher Track group in a discussion on how to advocate for change: talk to a faculty member about changing the library instruction session format you’ve done in the past; talk to colleagues about approaching library instruction sessions with defined learning outcomes and active learning; talk to supervisors and administration about what you can do for them.

Returning all charged up from Immersion, I advocated my way into additional instruction departments. Some of these are areas I hadn’t considered working with before, but since reference fields questions from all departments, this will continue to round out my skills. The first 4 weeks of the semester were spent breathlessly leaping from new instruction prep to the next, sometimes continuing the instruction practices of the previous librarian, but when possible (limited by time or faculty preference) making adjustments to the session to keep the focus on the students. Now I am in the process of updating my LibGuides for the new areas where needed, continuing to build ties with my new departments and schools, and conversing with my colleagues. Fall instruction is in a lull right now, and I hope to have more chances to share active learning activities within my library.

What am I doing differently? I’m looking at students more. I am speaking up. I am slowing down my movements, and breathing or sipping water to let students absorb what I just said. I am asking students directly “What do you already know about the library?” Then I fill in the gaps or correct misconceptions. The students are learning from each other, more than they would learn if I just told them what I know they need to know–useless unless they need it at that moment.

I met with a Journalism 101-type course whose professor’s personal learning outcomes for the session included getting the students into the library, realizing the library staff is helpful, and has books and other materials that will be useful. Building from this generic foundation I created a paired electronic scavenger hunt of library resources and features of our new homepage, moving from general into Journalism-specific resources so students would work together to find and use these resources. Hopefully they found me helpful, but more importantly learned that the library is not just books, and now they have experience using resources for their major. I then used much of the same setup for a 200 level intro to research course in another discipline, and I am already thinking about how I would revise this activity for next semester. In the past I might have turned down working with this class because the session was not tied to an assignment.

I still need work on designing learning outcomes and would like to involve faculty members in that step more in order to make our library sessions more collaborative and therefore more meaningful to students.

So far, I have had several more students hang back after library sessions to thank me for the class. Our students are generally polite, but that is something extra. A graduate instructor said “This was the least boring library session I’ve attended” after I worked with his class, but I’ll take that as a constructive comment and build on it.

For the first time, I see social networking having positive and direct effects on my work. Facebook posts by Laura Westmoreland introduced articles from Inside Higher Ed I might have otherwise missed, and Maria Accardi posted a fantastic library session activity for a fast peer review. Sure, I’m on listservs that do the same things, but much like our students I find I like learning about new things from people I can picture and remember.

Productivity Porn!

Love the concept — nice article/video on how to avoid avoiding work by obsessive fiddling with productivity tools.

WorkSmart Video and article. Mentions RescueTime — a little program that reminds you that you’ve just spent X minutes on Facebook, or Gawker, or whatever, instead of WRITING YOUR ARTICLE.

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Would you like to write a survey?

The Applied Statistics and Operations Research people in the College of Business work with BG faculty.

From their website:
“Consulting Services Available To Faculty: Planning of Experiments and Surveys, Method of Analysis, Use of Statistical Computer Programs, Interpretation of Results, for research and instructional activity involving statistics.”

Find them here:

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Writer’s Cafe –Project-based writing software

Again, from ProfHacker on Wired Campus: an article about Writer’s Cafe.

Writer’s Cafe is intended as a fiction writing tool, but you can also use it for other types of writing. Indeed, the naming convention used throughout the program refers to storytelling: storylines, screenplay formatting, character development, and there’s even a “name generator” for characters. If you can move past these conventions, Writer’s Cafe becomes useful for project-based writing.The writing we do in higher education covers many genres. We write the longer journal articles, book chapters or books, but we also write shorter documents: grants forms, IRB protocols, or reports. Writer’s Cafe is useful with longer or shorter writing tasks by helping you organize your data in meaningful ways.”

Billie Hara, “Using Writer’s Cafe for Writing Projects”, September 21, 2010, 08:00 AM ET

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