moving the needle: advancing the profession through publishing

For this year’s ARLIS/NA conference I asked a group of terrific editors and writers to talk about publishing. I moderated the entire session, Moving the Needle: Advancing the Profession through Publishing.

First we had an excellent paper from Eric Wolf who talked about scholarly publishing outside librarianship. He encouraged us to use our subject expertise (many of us in art librarianship have a second masters) and to write within that field. This is something I have been considering for a few months now – pursuing my interests in outsider art, tattooing, and other “low brow” art forms. Hearing Eric talk about the benefits and seeing his enthusiasm for writing outside information science has convinced me to move in this direction.

The lightning talks I arranged were also a success. In about an hour, seven speakers presented on a range of topics about writing and publishing. Three editors from ARLIS/NA discussed writing for them – Hannah Bennett represented the editors of ARLIS/NA Media & Technology Reviews, Terrie Wilson talked as a co-editor of ARLIS/NA book reviews, and Judy Dyki encouraged us to write for the scholarly journal Art Documentation. I have written book reviews for Terrie; she is great to work with and it was my first foray into writing in librarianship. I published my first peer-reviewed article in Art Documentation. Judy was very encouraging and considerate as an editor.

These three were followed by Anna-Sophia Zingarelli-Sweet who shared her experiences writing as a MLIS student and being a consulting editor for the great blog Hack Library School. I have been impressed by the work she’s done as a student! Then Laurel Bliss talked about publishing in relation to tenure for academic librarians. Laurel is an accomplished writer and had great ideas on making writing “easier” for the beginner.

Patrick Tomlin had an informative presentation on online scholarly profiles. He introduced us to many online tools like ORCID. Wrapping up the session was a presentation by Alex Watkins on open access publishing. Another accomplished writer, Alex discussed why open access matters and how authors can ensure their work is freely available.

I created a Zotero bibliography, Writing Opportunities in Art Librarianship, for the session. I linked to all the resources shared by the panelists and included some of my own recommendations. This proved to be worth my time as it was viewed by many ARLIS/NA participants over the course of the conference!

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Thanks to all the session speakers and attendees for making Moving the Needle a success! See you all in Seattle!

striving to be a better teacher, ending up a better person

One of my summer goals is to examine my information literacy instruction. In preparation, I’m starting some reading (what librarian wouldn’t?). While I feel comfortable with my current classroom techniques, I have never set aside time to reflect on my teaching. I’ve started reading Char Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators.

In her introduction, Booth outlines four elements of information literacy:

~ reflective practice: more than just assessment; revising your skill set as you teach and learn from that teaching

~ educational theory: learning theory, instructional theory, and curriculum theory

~ teaching technologies: getting comfortable teaching with technologies in the classroom, online, and blended

~ instructional design: integrating reflection, theory, and technology into teaching (xvii)

She also suggests the USER method to help prepare, instruct, and evaluate:

~ understand: identify problem, analyze scenario

~ structure: create targets, involve & extend

~ engage: develop materials, deliver instruction

~ reflect: assess impact, revise & reuse (xviii)

While I don’t feel knowledgable about educational theory, information literacy and the USER method seem very much like what I already do in the classroom.

So why do I feel like it isn’t enough?

A few pages later, in chapter 1, Booth lists some challenges to library instruction including “teaching librarians tend to have more limited interactions with learners, meaning that it can be difficult to see immediate or long-term evidence of our interventions” and “materials and lessons are often repeated, which can generate a sense of redundancy or malaise.” (5)

I can see these challenges keeping me from enthusiastically examining my instruction while simultaneously feel I need to improve my classroom skill set.

I also find a personal dilemma in one of the first exercises of the book. Booth asks the reader to list three strong instructors or presenters and identify three characteristics that made them personally effective.

I’ve been staring into the distance at a total loss. The teachers and presenters that immediately come to mind are very much unlike me personally – loud, animated, energetic. If I were to be even one of these three characteristics I’d frighten people who know me well. So how did my ideal teacher become someone who is not my ideal self?

Yet, when asked about the characteristics of my worst teachers, as Booth does, I’d list the same three. But there is a key difference between the two and that is where I need to focus: authenticity.

A common characteristic among successful teachers is authenticity. (9) Booth refers to authenticity through the image of the soapbox and “the infectious interest you can create by communicating with conviction.” (10)

I think students notice my “intensity of expression” when I’m working with them and become absorbed in the content. (10) But it isn’t central to my teaching and perhaps reworking this for full impact could improve my instruction. She says “half of your soapbox consists of sharing your expertise, but the other half consists of sharing your self.” (11) I have probably held back a little bit of both – expertise and self – in my teaching because I’ve strived to maintain authority without becoming authoritative.

Booth has elected to be more informal and more personal because it works for her and she acknowledges “sacrificing a modicum of my ‘authority’ in order to create a more accessible tone is a risk.” (11)

I’m willing to risk authority to be authentic. It will make me a better teacher, and a better person too.

emerging roles for academic librarians

I finally had a moment to listen to the archive of ACRL Art’s Virtual Midwinter Meeting. I was particularly interested in Joe Clark’s presentation about the Emerging Roles for Academic Librarians. He mentioned that we are moving away from collection-center service to an engagement-centered one. As this happens, the role of subject specialists and reference librarians is changing. This correlates with the recent publication from ARL New Roles for New Times: Transforming Liaison Roles in Research Libraries.

One of the virtual places he pointed us toward is the University of Illinois’ Subject Specialist Task Force Report. At first glance, these tasks seem obvious for a subject liaison. However, there are responsibilities creeping in to the role: such as creating exhibitions, “serve as a resource for scholarly communications, copyright, open access, and the institutional repository” (that’s a hefty load), involvement in fundraising, and outreach to the local community. There is also a whole section just on digital initiatives.

These roles are similar to the ones in the works at Kent State. Joe focused on four:

Programming & Event Planning

Kent State’s libraries host events – over 20 in a year. At the Performing Arts Library, Joe has many recurring events. Open Mic Lunch happens once a month; students and community members can perform. The Director Speaks series usually happens twice a semester. Performing arts directors talk about their approach to their work, usually the week before the theatre production opens. The Colloquium Series covers all of the performing arts and allows faculty, students, and others to present their research or ideas.

Outreach, Engagement, & Promotion

Programming ties in well to outreach and promotion. An event can bring new users to the library. The Performing Arts Library has an annual open house with live performances. There is a Welcome Week that attracts students who haven’t yet discovered the Performing Arts Library space. Student Appreciation Day is simply hot drinks and cookies. We all know cookies will bring a crowd!

Joe reminds us to be patient – attendance may not be large the first few times and some events may be complete duds, never to be tried again. Events take time and energy but the rewards are well worth it!


This isn’t about going out and getting donations. But we can help to identify donors and encourage development officers to bring donors to library events. So programming leads to outreach which leads to fundraising.

User Assessment

Assess user needs through surveys, focus groups, or even informal means. By continually assessing we can continually improve our services and spaces.


transforming liaison roles in research libraries

I attended the ARL webinar Transforming Liaison Roles in Research Libraries. The discussion stemmed from a recent publication, New Roles for New Times: Transforming Liaison Roles in Research Libraries by Janice M. Jaguszewski and Karen Williams.

During the webinar Jaguszewski and Williams highlighted the findings of their research about the new responsibilities and skill sets expected of liaisons. They reported on six trends:

Develop user-centered library skills

  • new approaches to collection development – methods include approval plans, patron-driven acquisitions, and consortial collaboration
  • merged service points for reference and circulation – patrons shouldn’t have to know how library staffing is organized in order to get help; a singular service point would also free up liaisons for more skilled work (who would still be available through a referral system)
  • library instruction – moving away from the one-shot session toward e-learning and working with faculty to develop better assignments that will address life-long information literacy
  • staff supervision – let others supervise library staff and manage daily operations (again, freeing liaisons for specialist work)

A hybrid model of liaison and functional specialist is emerging

Jaguszewski and Williams refer to “superliaisons” who aren’t linked to academic departments but rather work with the entire campus (and the subject liaisons). The functional specialist areas of expertise mentioned include copyright, GIS, media production, and data management.

This trend was most troubling to me as a newer librarian. My library school classes still referred to the seemingly outdated model of liaison duties as reference, instruction, and collection development. These duties are also still core responsibilities of my current position. I will need to be learning these other skill sets on my own and on the job. I wonder how many liaisons are both subject specialists and functional specialists.

Organizational flexibility must meet changing user needs

  • new roles in research services – focus on interdisciplinary research assistance, creating faculty profiles, and other workshops or consultations to assist faculty with research management
  • digital humanities
  • expanding roles in support of teaching and learning – goes back to e-learning opportunities mentioned in user-centered library skills (more scalable than one-shot); as more content becomes digitally accessible, teaching online makes sense
  • support for digital scholarship
  • user experience – new types of librarian positions focused on UX
  • copyright, intellectual property, and scholarly communication

No liaison is an island

I was happy to read about “renovated and repurposed spaces” which was reiterated during the webinar. New roles mean new use of space. We can’t support digital scholarship, media production, collaboration, and other methods of scholarly communication in environments designed for print access and individual study spaces. This is particularly important if libraries are to support interdisciplinary research practices.

Collaboration is key (enough said!)

Create and sustain a flexible workforce

Even with so much talk about emerging technologies and supporting digital scholarship, soft skills are still in demand. Mentioned in the paper is also a trend toward “non-permanent hires.” Given the current conversation in higher education about adjunct faculty, this is somewhat unsettling.

At first glance the findings seem redundant to what we already know and experience in academic libraries. However, I wonder how quickly libraries, particularly smaller ones at institutions still embracing more traditional learning practices, are enacting changes and transforming roles. There seems to be a widening gap between how library staff and academic administration view 21st century research and scholarship practices. Perhaps this is why much of the webinar discussion revolved around bettering library marketing and outreach.

ala 2013 notes from one-shot instruction sessions

Lessons for the Librarian: 10 Tips for Teaching the One-Shot Instruction Session was held on Sunday, June 30th. There were eight speakers: Beth Woodard, Staff Development and Training Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Debra Gilchrist, Vice President for Learning and Student Success, Pierce College; Jennifer Corbin, Head, Center for Library User Education, Tulane University; Megan Oakleaf, Associate Professor, Syracuse University; Michelle Millet, Library Director, John Carroll University; Patricia Iannuzzi, Dean of Libraries, University of Nevada – Las Vegas; Randy Hensley, Head of Information Services, Baruch College – CUNY; and Steven Hoover, Senior Assistant Librarian, Syracuse University.

You can view the slides from the presentation and read the article from which the presentation was based. Here are some key tips and references:

~ Some must reads: Understanding By Design by Wiggins and McTighe (2005, 2nd edition) and “Writing Information Literacy Assessment Plans” by Megan Oakleaf in Communications in Information Literacy (2009)

~ You can cover about three concepts well in a one shot. Remember, some students learn like you but most don’t – the Kolb Learning Cycle helps explain this.

~ Consider what activities will help the students learn and, at the same time, give you some assessment data. Assessment happens during teaching, not after! Go with evidence, not your gut: by assessing prior knowledge you demonstrate respect for students and their previous experience.

~ Some ideas to try: the one minute paper (have the students write what they want to learn in class today); “think, pair, share;” brainstorm session (will mean wait time); worksheets; teach using case studies.

~ “Enthusiasm is contagious. Not having enthusiasm is also contagious.” But, be authentic about it. It can be quiet enthusiasm.

~ Don’t be afraid to team teach. Faculty do have good intentions. Ask the faculty about the personality of their classroom. Working with faculty means you should be an asset, be a colleague, and don’t judge. Make the instruction integrated into their course, not a separate “library session.”

~ Document your impact and value and own your role as an educator!

new librarian’s guide to publishing

I attended the ALA NMRT webinar New Librarian’s Guide to Publishing. Since I’m hoping to publish my first peer-reviewed article in the spring of next year, I am open to all advice and shared experiences on the subject! Three librarians talked about their publishing experiences and tips:

Beth Evans from Brooklyn College gave us the four P’s of publishing:

Persistence. Beth submitted her first article to three publications before getting it accepted. Yet, that article led to a review and an interview in The Chronicle!

Partnership. She recommends working with colleagues to publish. In her case, she worked with interns. Don’t be shy or limit your connection opportunities!

Promotion. Like it or not you will have to assert and promote yourself. For example, she contacted The Chronicle when she had a great project happening in her library.

Preference. Write what you prefer to write about, even if it isn’t your speciality. We are all so much more than librarians – perhaps gender, ethnicity, subject interests, or happenstance will lead you to write outside the traditional scholarship.

Maura A Smale is at the New York City College of Technology and talked about publishing in open access venues. She pointed out that academic research libraries have increased expenditure on serials by over 400% since the mid-1980s! Some advantages of open access include ease of linking and sharing (download stats on OA articles are greater) and there are more opportunities for involvement in peer reviewing and editorial board participation.

Maura mentioned the DOAJ and SHERPA/RoMEO, which lets you search by publisher or journal to find summaries of copyright and self-archiving policies. She also talked about the SPARC Author Addendum which gives authors additional rights to their articles. You can add it to your non-OA contract – never hurts to try!

Brian Mathews of Virginia Tech rounded out the presenters and discussed writing as a personal pursuit that is less about traditional scholarship (peer review) and more about starting a conversation. He has chosen not to focus on academic works and instead writes white papers and blog posts.

As a rather accomplished librarian and writer, it was interesting to hear this approach. The more you write, he said (and it doesn’t matter the venue), the more you are invited to write. Also, blogging not only builds an audience but builds your confidence. Blogging can also be important as a writing venue for newer librarians. He emphasized that we write for where we are in our careers with a hint toward where we want to be.

personal branding is good design

During this month, the New Members Round Table listserv has had an online discussion about personal/professional branding. The discussion was generated around Personal Branding for Librarians by Karen G. Schneider for American Libraries. Schneider says that librarians have long been “notoriously preoccupied” with our image, to one another and to the public. The post mentions an ALA Midwinter program (panel review by Andromeda Yelton) on the topic moderated by Bohyun Kim, indicating it’s still an issue, particularly for new librarians.

The discussion was started by Laura Scott who says she is currently in Drexel University’s MLIS program and works in the publishing industry. Later on in the month she posted another article, this from Forbes by Glen Llopis: Personal Branding is a Leadership Requirement, Not a Self-Promotion Campaign. After reading this, I chimed in to the conversation:

Llopis says “what is the total experience of having a relationship with you like?” and I have no idea how to answer that…As a new librarian, I’m not yet certain who I am as a “total experience.” I’m also not sure how to find out.

Really helpful insight for others, right? I thought as an artist, I’d have no problem becoming a walking, talking “total experience.” A few days ago, Jo Alcock chimed in with a link to her post in 23 Things for Professional DevelopmentThing 3: Consider Your Personal Brand. Jo talks about online branding and creating a visual identity. This is when I began to understand.

I use the same photo across social media. Also, using an actual photo of me lets people consider my appearance before meeting me. Because they will consider.
I use the same photo across social media. Also, using an actual photo of me lets people consider my appearance before meeting me. Because they will consider.

Branding is good design. Dieter Rams knows good design and he narrowed it to ten principles of practice. Innovative, useful, understandable, honest, thorough. I’d like to be known for those things.

Robin Williams’ books are perfect for non-designers; she wrote the book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book! In it, she lists four essential principles of good design: contrast, repetition, alignment (“this creates a clean, sophisticated fresh look”), and proximity. Consider the similarities to what I want people to take away from the “total experience” of me: unique, consistent, approachable, available/prepared.

In the online conversation, Emily Weak of Hiring Librarians targeted what I was feeling when she wrote, “I can’t get past the idea that [branding] turns people into products.” Yet we know we need some kind of branding, as ugly as that term is. At a very basic level, the principles of good design apply to personal/professional branding.

Librarianship, as a service-oriented profession, may value from this. Good design is good because it’s reliable and helps us complete whatever task is at hand by doing so better and with little effort. As a newbie librarian, focusing on good design will make that “total experience” of ArtistLibrarian worth having over and over again. Now won’t that boost my reference statistics!