There are so many great conferences happening this week.
In Los Angeles, some of my favorite librarians gathered yesterday and today for the inaugural Identity, Agency, and Culture in Academic Libraries conference (IACAL, #iacal2017), organized by the incredible Rebecca Halpern.
In Alberta, Canada, even more of my favorite librarians are convening at the Workshop for Instruction in Library Use (WILU, #wilu2017), which began today and ends Thursday.
And right here in Colorado today, I joined my nearest and dearest librarians in Boulder for the CU Libraries Instruction Unconference (CULIU, #culiu17). We had nearly 70 attendees from around the state, representing community colleges, universities, and special libraries.. We spent over three hours engaged in participant-led discussions about student learning assessment, librarian burnout, professional development for graduate students, high school transitions, cross-institutional collaborations, critical information literacy, and more. It was simply fabulous. (And how could it be anything less with folks like Kevin Seeber, Juliann Couture, and my boss, Andrea Falcone, at the helm?)
In the Twitterverse, folks who are missing out on conferences label themselves as those #leftbehind, e.g., #wiluleftbehind or #iacalleftbehind. But being left behind doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from the incredible conversations and presentations happening in these spaces. Here are a few ideas for how you can get involved, even if you don’t have the time or funds to join your colleagues.
Follow the Twitter hashtag.
This is the quickest and easiest way to catch real-time comments about sessions and speakers at the conference. By reading tweets with the #iacal2017 hashtag, I learned that…
- Sofia Leung, Eamon Tewell, Angela Pashia, Veronica Arellano-Douglas, and Joanna Gadsby were on a fantastic panel about critical practice in higher education.
- Megan Watson gave a deeply researched and incisive critique of white feminism.
- Desmond Wong slayed everyone with a talk about indigenous cultures represented in/absent from academic libraries (and he’s working on a hotly anticipated article about libraries as settler colonial institutions).
- Safiya Noble questioned why libraries would want to be more like Google, an advertising tool that seamlessly provided Dylann Roof with search results that reinforced his white supremacist world views.
- Fobazi Ettarh coined the term “vocational awe” to describe the complacency that comes with seeing librarianship as a sacred duty (and therefore not questioning it and commiting to the radical social change necessary to improve it).
Read the conference program and proceedings.
The contents of a conference program can tell you a lot about current conversations in librarianship. When you’re reading a conference program, consider the following questions:
- Who is presenting & what are they talking about?
You’ll see certain names appear in different conference programs again and again, and they tend to talk about the same things. These folks have dedicated their professional lives to investigating particular issues or questions. If you notice that you have some interests in common with a presenter, don’t be afraid to connect with them via Twitter or e-mail. It can be a great way to find collaborators and partners for future projects.
- Which institutions are represented? Which institutions are missing?
In general, the folks who present at conferences have the funding/support to do so. This means that tenure-track librarians at large universities are generally over-represented at conferences. We don’t see very many non-tenure-track librarians, community college librarians, solo librarians, or graduate students in conference programs (unless the conference is specifically for one of those groups). This is frustrating because their voices are incredibly important in our professional conversations.
- What topics are represented in the sessions? What does this tell you about current trends in the field?
Looking at the WILU program, I can see that there are sessions about…
- Active learning
- Critical theory
- Inquiry-based learning
- International students
- Tribal colleges
- Data visualization
- Student learning assessment
The list above provides a solid sample of hot topics in information literacy instruction. These are the kinds of things I want to discuss with my colleagues, and I would also expect new professionals to understand these facets of the current information literacy landscape. As a graduate student or new librarian, it is an excellent strategy to analyze conference sessions for ideas for future presentations, papers, etc.
Participate in livestreamed events or watch recordings.
On Thursday at 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern, you can watch the livestream of the WILU closing keynote with Jessie Loyer from Mount Royal University. I really appreciate the opportunity to participate from a distance, and I think it’s a lovely gesture when a conference makes its keynotes or other speakers available remotely.
Be grateful always.
I acknowledge that a metric shit-ton of labor (physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and beyond) goes into organizing a conference, preparing and providing sessions, live tweeting, sharing materials, and discussing these big ideas, so I want to thank everyone who has put their time and energy into any of these activities. I see you and I value you, and I’m grateful for all the ways you make me a better librarian.