ALAO Preconference

Last week, in the middle of a crazy semester of the most intense work I’ve done, a concussion, and a ruptured eardrum, I got to take a few days away to present at ALAO for their preconference.

This was an unusual event for me because I didn’t go solo. Given the recently ruptured eardrum, I opted to drive instead of fly. When my Mom heard I had a 9-hour drive planned, she volunteered to keep me company, which gave us both a road trip and an opportunity for her to hear me speak (which I think she still has a hard time believing that I do).  If you have a 9-hour drive to do, this time of year is a beautiful time to do it. It was a lovely drive both ways.

Photo by Denison University Libraries

ALAO is the Academic Library Association of Ohio. They hold an annual one-day conference on issues related to academic libraries, and had a really strong lineup of programs. Everyone affiliated with the conference was so friendly and helpful, and I just can’t say enough about what a nice event it (and how nice the organization) was.

I participated in the preconference. ALAO doesn’t always hold a preconference, but as this one took place in Toledo (as far north as you can go and still be in the state if you’re not familiar with the area). ALAO organized a preconference the day before to give people something to do the day before if they needed to travel to get there.  The preconference consisted of lunch, a keynote, and a panel.

I spoke on Change & Opportunities for Today’s Academic Libraries, one of my favorite themes. The arc of the talk was that as we’ve moved from a read to a read/write environment, librarians have transitioned (or are transitioning, or have partially transitioned) from servant to supporter, and that as the information environment continues to shift, we can position ourselves to be more collaborators, partnering with faculty and bringing our specific expertise to the discussions that are happening on campus about digital collections, finding and creating information in today’s environment, and teaching students using these tools.

If you’re interested in my slides, here they are:

Following my presentation, a panel moderated by John Burke, Director, Gardner-Harvey Library, Miami University Middletown spoke on ACRL’s The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report. The Panelists were  Sara Bushong, Dean of Libraries, Bowling Green State University, Susan Scott, Director of the Library, Ohio State University – Newark Campus, Kathleen Webb, Dean of University Libraries, University of Dayton, and Al Zavar, Director, West Campus Library, Cuyahoga Community College. The report is fascinating. It’s full of information that can both inform what we do but also what research we could pursue. I recommend checking it out. This panel was particularly nice because each speaker was a leader from a different type of library. This gave a much wider perspective on the report and insight in how it might be adapted for different settings.

The next morning I was able to hear Steven Bell speak, which I always appreciate. Steven is both clear leader in the field, an innovator, and someone who I found particularly welcoming when I was just getting started. His talk, as always, was spot on and engaging. As part of his talk he showed part of a video of IDEO working on improving the shopping cart (I hope this is the same video!):

He talked about design thinking and processes in libraries (again, something that’s particularly relevant to me) and threw out so many quick ideas that I had a hard time jotting them down. The one I’m still thinking about, though, is about textbooks. He talked about how we all know there’s a problem with the cost of textbooks and no clear solution. He pointed to that as an example of what we should be looking for: a common pain that isn’t being addressed.  In this case, he discussed an idea from Temple to give faculty grants to pull together custom resources for a course rather than use a textbook. That’s exactly where we need to be! It positions the library in the familiar space of providing academic resources, but also shifts us to being more partners and enablers for faculty willing to try something new. It also opens the doors for all kinds of copyright and publishing related questions. Love it!

So, it was a lovely time. A great event, friendly people, informative and inspirational sessions, and I even managed to catch up with a few folks I only see at ALAs. Thanks, ALAO!