20 March 2009

ACRL2009: What do I wish were different?

ACRL was terrific. Not only because I attended a number of great sessions but more so because I met some really interesting and creative people with whom I hope to collaborate or at least keep my eyes on in the future.

But, now that I am back from ACRL, there are a few things that stick out at me about it as a conference. Steve Bell asked me what I think ACRL needs to do to improve. Here are four things that I think would make it more attractive, educational, and effective as professional development.

1. Tracks that mean something: I think ACRL could take a few tips from Computers in Libraries in terms of creating clear tracks for session themes. It’s very difficult to identify with the themes of Casting a Net, Feeling a Buzz, etc. How about tracks geared towards Teaching and Learning, Technology and Usability, Leadership and Assessment? I’m sure someone far more creative than I could devise catchy titles for these tracks. But offering tracks that enable attendees to focus their energy or diversify their experience would be very helpful.

2. What about the little guys? I wish ACRL would devote more attention to College libraries. While we are all in academic libraries, some issues are particular to smaller institutions with smaller staffs serving smaller communities. While I love seeing and hearing what big institutions can do, thinking about applying their ideas or programs at smaller institutions can be paralyzing. Can we create opportunities for smaller institutions to share and collaborate within the larger organization?

3. Let’s discuss! The Roundtables are excellent for short discussions of interesting topics but I would get a great deal from more discussion with peer institutions. Perhaps offering presentations that then turn into discussions? Discussion groups are well attended at Midwinter and terribly valuable. I wish we used that model more at ACRL’s own conference.

4. Get Digital: I can’t stress enough how I wish there were more emphasis on technology at ACRL beyond CyberZedShed. Despite how many exciting things academic libraries are doing with technology, ACRL is not showing itself to be a place to showcase those initiatives or teach and discuss their value. Younger librarians will turn elsewhere and that does not bode well for the future of ACRL or for keeping librarians abreast of changes and creative ways of using technology.

I love attending ACRL but as I move forward in creating innovative programming and implementing technology in ways that address my faculty and students’ needs, I wonder whether ACRL will be the place where I share my stories about that in the future. I hope so.

If you made it this far in the post, what about you? What do you think ACRL could do to improve?

1 comment:

Megan said...

As someone who works in a large institution, I'd also like to hear more from small organizations. I met several librarians from community colleges and small liberal arts colleges at the conference, and I got the impression that their unique environments are very supportive of innovative work in teaching in learning (in contrast to larger universities that have a strong research focus).

And I echo the call for more roundtable discussions! I've heard many people say that the "real" conference takes place in conversations held outside of sessions, so why not bring that dynamic into the official programming?