#ACRL2015 reflections – better late than never?

So, it’s May.  ACRL 2015 was in March.  I’m finally finding time to reflect on my conference experience (hey, they’re both M months, it’s practically the same thing), so here we go!

First things first:  Babies & Conferences

If there is one thing I take away from the ACRL 2015 experience it is this:  It is damn hard — for me — to meaningfully “do” conferences with a baby in tow (even if he *is* adorable).  

Baby in a Le Petit Prince onesie

Mon petit prince rocking the literary themed onesie for the library conference.

Things that made the trip possible:

  • a direct flight there & back
  • arriving the first evening – but going right to the hotel
  • departing the morning of the last day without attending any sessions that day
  • bringing a stroller (hello baby who doesn’t sleep in a stationary bed other than his crib at home!)
  • bringing my mother
  • verbalizing that it is okay not to milk every moment (or, said another way, redefining what ‘milk every moment’ means)

Speaking of milk, I was still nursing at the time so I appreciated that the conference offered a lactation room – though I never ended up using it.  I had all my pump and equipment and the whole kit and caboodle, but thanks to my mom I was able to nurse my baby before and after various sessions.  Seriously though, if I am ever nursing/pumping again and have the option to go to a conference that is overnight in any way, I will be saying no.  So. Not. Worth. It.

Picture of me & baby

We look pretty good for 4:30am local time, I’d say.

Because my partner had a schedule during this time in which he really wouldn’t have been able to be around for our son, I had to bring the baby.  The only way I felt comfortable doing that would be to also bring my mother to watch him while I was, at a minimum, leading the workshop my colleague and I were signed up to do, and if possible to watch him during other times as well.  She graciously acquiesced to be flown to Portland and watch her only grandchild (not a hard sell, I suppose); but I don’t know if I can ever ever ever do something like this again.  It was just too much stress!


Still, it was worth it this time

Despite juggling hurdles involving a baby, a mother, and a conference, I deem ACRL 2015 a success!  The workshop I co-lead was awesome (more on that below); and I emerged from the conference energized and with a few implementable ideas.

Some highlights

I got a ton out of a session called “leaving the one shot behind.”  In this session I learned about Library DIY which is one cool library interface.  Not that we necessarily can or should implement this at my institution; but it’s some delicious food for thought.

The presenters talked about several things including train the trainer and peer mentoring models.  But one small nugget I really liked in the presentation was around working with faculty as a way to scale up information literacy instruction.  They asked faculty “what skills do your students need to successfully complete the assignment?”  And then followed that up with “which do you explicitly teach them?” as a way to just acknowledge any disconnects.  I am choosing to interpret skills in a new-information-literacy-framework kind of way.  So, I think these are valuable questions as we here at Wellesley College go about working with faculty in our own scaling up of IL discussions.  Librarians do not need to be the only ones ‘teaching’ information literacy.  Faculty do it too!  And on that note, the presenter followed that point up with a point about offering workshops to faculty to help them create thoughtful / better assignments (which resulted in more information literate students).  Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, turnout was light.  But where implemented – it was effective.  I do wish we could have heard more about this assignment redesign workshop and saw some examples coming out of this, but ah well.

Then I was a huge fan of a session on teaching lifelong information literacy.  Learned about the BEAM model, created by Bizup in 2008, to help students understand that sources can be used for different means:  as background, evidence, to build an argument, and to provide a methodological frame. This model has been extended too – but these are the major ways sources are used in scholarly work.  In teaching with this model in mind, you can get students thinking about authority and relevance: one source may be great as E but not A.  Some ideas they provided around teaching this in the classroom included:

  • having students list the sorts of evidence they think would be useful for their research using at least two or three of the categories in BEAM
  • having students who have sources consider what type of BEAM source each is
  • reading an article and see how the authors use sources based on the BEAM framework
  • having students evaluate sources for authority based on how they intended to use the sources (as B, E, A, or M)

I quite enjoyed a very short session on reading strategies for undergraduates.  The presenters claimed that 49% students cannot read at the college level.  They acknowledged that scholarly articles are not written for students, and that reading these articles feels often like translation work.  So, some work we can do as librarians is to teach them some reading strategies.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this evaluation piece for some of my psychology classes and I do think it is the hardest to teach… because it takes real time and effort.  However, they outline several great strategies for starting the conversation with students.

Finally, I went to a fairly interesting session on ‘high / low / no tech’ instruction strategies.  I think the high and even low tech examples they talked about were too much work for things I would be trying to accomplish in the near term.  These are things like creating fairly impressive videos; moocs; stop motion videos; etc.  But the no tech section raised something that I’ve since had a lot of success with on an individual basis that I hope to bring into a classroom setting and develop further.  It’s simple really – physically place bound journal volumes in students hands and have them look through them.  In their example, the presenter said they used this strategy to teach citation (here’s their handout), but I think one could really do a lot more with this.

Since ACRL, when I’ve worked with students individually and shown them these bound volumes we have to back up first and talk about what the heck those weird dividers are in the middle of the “book.”  Oh!  Those are “issues” – and then we talk about the process of scholarly communications in this discipline, and how physically when the library receives some number of issues that fill up some amount of space we bind them in a little set (sometimes a full volume, sometimes a partial volume, sometimes 2 or more volumes at a time).  So there’s a lot of opportunity there – and this session made me realize that I should really find opportunities to bring these physical print journals into the classroom when I’m thinking about these elements of information literacy.

Some lowlights

Life is just too short to waste time in really terrible conference presentations.  I left two sessions for this reason.  Sounded great on paper (and thus, perhaps, the rooms were full for both); but totally not worth my time.  In lieu of the first, I practiced my workshop talk; and in lieu of the second, I went to my second choice session – which was a winner in that case.  I wonder if there is an etiquette around this that I am not paying attention to?  I was in the back or side for both near an exit so I did not cause too much disruption I don’t think.  But what do others think?

Also… I never made it to any social functions!  Thanks baby!  #sarcasm

Process Mapping Workshop Reflections (slides // handout)

Um, okay – this was the most fun thing ever.  Yes, I mean it.  A Process Mapping Workshop.  Most fun thing.  One attendee said it was “super interesting” and “high-energy.”  Hurray!  Okay but enough about that – here’s what we did and how it went.

A process map is a tool that lets you quickly and fairly easily (if done well) visualize the steps, tasks, decisions and actors involved in some process.  It’s also a great tool that enables organizational assessment (as my co-presenter Megan Hartline and I argue here).  But, it’s not the final map itself that creates a culture of assessment but rather the process of process mapping.  Bear with me here.

Creating a process map is hard work and can be fraught with tension.  Oh, I’m sure there are processes that are a breeze to map and everyone is clear, on the same page, and all can easily identify where breakdowns are occurring and how to solve them without anyone’s feelings getting hurt – but those are processes that don’t really need some extra TLC to improve.  The work of process mapping involves getting the right stakeholders together at critical moments to think about the work that is done when/how/by whom and to have conversations about what that looks like right now.  Once those conversations begin to happen, everyone starts to see the work they’re doing with an assessment hat on.  It’s neat.  But these conversations are tricky to lead and take some practice.  So Megan and I submitted this workshop proposal* wherein we would tell our attendees about process mapping and what it’s good for and then give them lots and lots of guided practice in actually doing it.

Ah it was so great.  People really got into it – and they realized many of the lessons we were trying to impart:  that this is difficult but worthwhile, that it can take quite a while, that a facilitator is useful, that the act of generating the map is more important than the final map, and that managing scope is critical to success.  We got some great feedback afterwards – and I’m hoping people will be writing us with magical success stories of their own mapping endeavors soon.  (I can hope, right?)

Whew.  The end.


* As an aside, we finished the proposal the very evening I went into labor.  I’ll kind of always associate process mapping with the birth of my first child.  Weird, right?


Technology & libraries & children… oh dear?

I am not a librarian catering to babies and small children.  However, I am a mother of a young child and deeply supportive of / interested in / engaged with libraries, so when a mother-friend asked me a question yesterday about children, libraries, and technology, I just have not been able to get it out of my mind.

The question

My friend goes regularly to a public library with her two children (one six months and one three years).  The children’s section of this library recently got computers and placed them on very low tables in the area catering to the under 4 crowd (e.g. board books are nearby).  Her older son now, understandably, zooms in and becomes entranced by the glowing screen of wonder.  When they move to look at books, the inevitable bloops and beeps emanating from the row of enticing screens call to him and make it hard to focus on the books.  She asked me if there was anything she could say or do to avoid this exposure to screens for her young kids.  Her dread and discomfort were palpable as she explained that she heard the library was soon to start using iPads in the same section.  She doesn’t want to stop going to this library as it’s got wonderful programming and is a convenient location, but she is committed to minimizing screen time.

My first reactions

Well, my gut reactions at the time were:

  1. Libraries are universally excited about implementing technologies of all sorts (I cited our 3-D printer and the makerspace movement).
  2. This library probably got some grant to do this and really feel it fits with their mission; and there’s probably not much she can do.
  3. That said, since she was nervous about approaching the librarians at that library (for fear they would label her ‘that outraged mom’ – I assured her, if the librarians are at all ethical and good at their jobs, even if they felt that way about her they’d never let on :-P), she could go to our local library which does not use technology to this extent in the children’s section and inquire about what is happening at the other library, why, and what kinds of questions or requests she could make (and how to make them) so that this point will resonate with them.

This suggestion felt highly unsatisfactory, and the issue started to get me annoyed as well.  I did a little more thinking and a little digging and here are some things that are floating around in, as Hercule Poirot calls them, my little grey cells.

My thoughts 12 hours later

Public (and all) libraries are constantly thinking about relevance, new and exciting services, and how best to meet patron needs and desires (both known and unknown to the patrons).  There is a lot of energy around reinventing library spaces with a primary focus on building and doing.  These are common refrains when accused of being irrelevant in the face of “everything being online” (everything is not online, and libraries now do so much more than provide print books but those are other stories for others to tell).   Lots of good is coming from this, especially with regard to offering technological workshops and gadgets, and of course free internet – all of which serve to minimize the digital divide; a deep, systemic, socioeconomic problem that public libraries have been a part of tackling.

All of this energy can be contextualized, too, against a backdrop of a long-standing philosophical conversation around providing what the people want (Fifty Shades of Grey! Romance novels! Cookbooks!) versus providing what’s good for them, what’s educationally, morally, and ethically valuable for the community (this book by Wayne Bivens-Tatum has a nice chapter talking about the history of public libraries).

Alright, but what if what people want is in some way bad for them?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says (my emphasis added),

Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.

They also say,

The AAP recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.

I just see such a conflict with these statements and all the energy and excitement around integrating technology into the children’s sections of libraries.  A few brief searches of the Association for Library Service to Children’s blog posts suggests an overwhelming excitement and enthusiasm for exposing children of all ages to technology.  I don’t think that’s inherently bad, but I feel very very unhappy about posts like this one which argues that only passive screen time is bad screen time and that rich experiences (like learning a programming language or creating something on an iPad) are great.  I think learning programming languages and playing with iPads can be rich learning experiences, but there’s nuance too:  how many hours a day is a child glued to their minecraft game?  How old are they?  Again, as the AAP states,

Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.

The ALSC does have some posts addressing this age question.  Here’s one advocating for screen-free story time that I really like as it grounds its points in the AAP recommendation.  I love how Kleckner closes:

The new screens and screen uses are in many ways exciting and even amazing. They are part of a very new and enormous cultural change in how technology is used today. Still, screen use is not appropriate and beneficial everywhere, for everyone, at every occasion. Like at the family dinner table or while driving, story times at the library are best without it.

Yes.  Agree.  100%.  And I’m surprised the ALSC doesn’t have any statements to this effect at all.  What advisories I did find on their website related to helping young patrons avoid stumbling onto explicit and dangerous content online (and even this was written 15 years ago at this point).  Real missed opportunity in my opinion.

There is a sense that if children don’t get on the tech bandwagon, they’ll be at a disadvantage.  And again, that digital divide across jarringly unequal socioeconomic lines is real.  But, where does this leave us?  Are the children’s sections of public libraries talking about this?  Are they and the AAP connecting?  Are parents just clamoring for tablets and other technologies and therefore libraries are simply providing services that are being asked for?  What’s the ethically right thing to do in this case?  Is this just an extension of whatever reasons a public library will stock Fifty Shades of Grey?  Or is there something more here that should make us pause and think again about the technology we are offering to our youngest among us?

What say you, children’s library workers??

Project Management & Libraries

Below is an excerpt from my portion of a presentation two of my colleagues and I gave at the Michigan Library Association’s May 2014 Academic Libraries conference.  Actually, I could not be there, having recently had a baby, so my colleagues read a script I had written on my behalf.  I wanted to share that with you all to keep the knowledge circulating!  My part was the introductory part, but I still think it’s useful.

Let me know if you have any thoughts!

First, I want to start with the question:  What is a project?  Why do I even start with this?  I think in the library, we’re so busy doing lots of things that it can be really hard to implement any project management techniques unless we can fairly easily identify a project as it starts up, as it is underway, and as it finishes, as distinct from the routine processes critical to the operations of libraries or larger programs, which are collections of related projects and processes.

Projects have two key features.  Like a snowflake, a project is both temporary and unique.  (I’d also add beautiful as an adjective that projects and snowflakes have in common!)

Projects are temporary in that they have end points.  Ideally, each project has a defined start and end time, date or milestone.

Projects are also unique, as opposed to processes in which the same set of functions are triggered by some event or action.  Projects also require a specific set of resources (human, organizational, institutional, research, fiscal, etc.) brought together to accomplish a set of well-defined, unique goals.

Given this definition, I think more people in the library work on projects than they realize.  And because of that, project management practices can help library workers be more efficient and have better outcomes for their projects.

Okay, so what is project management?

I once had a collaborator who had a post-it note stuck on his computer monitor to remind him of his little mantra.  It read:  get stuff done.  (Actually, I’m replacing the word he used with “stuff.”) In some ways, that’s not very useful… but, I would argue that project management is a method to do just that (get stuff done), and to do it well if not the first time then better and better over time.

Robert Wysocki, who wrote a very helpful guide to “Effective Project Management” calls project management, “organized common sense”:  Or, in other more descriptive words:

Project management is all about directing activities to execute a project while controlling limited resources (again, human, organizational, fiscal, technological etc.) efficiently & effectively, ensuring the end goal is successfully achieved.

This involves:

  • Understanding stakeholder needs
  • Planning what must be done, by whom, when, to what standards
  • Building, motivating & coordinating a team of people
  • Monitoring work being done
  • Managing changes to the plan, and
  • Delivering (successful and effective) results

As for types of methodologies, I’m not going to talk too much about the different methods, but I wanted you to just be aware that “project management” is not one approach – and not all of these will work in all library contexts:

Traditional Project Management dates back to the 1950s & 60s.  It relies on a strict sequence of phases (define, plan, execute, close) with key tasks identified in each phase.  If you’ve ever heard of a “work breakdown structure” or “gantt chart” – these tools capitalize on this kind of project management approach by organizing the tasks that need to be done by certain times and how long they will take.  This approach is highly linear & rigid.  It’s very:  “do this, then you can do that, then you can do that”.   Once the plan is written, it isn’t altered much throughout the project.



Agile Project Management has been around for about 25 years.  It’s quite well known in software development environments.  Agile project management emphasizes people & interactions over processes & tools; work products over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiations; and responding to change over strictly following a plan.

Just a quick aside, Menlo Innovations right here in Michigan has an Agile Project Management Workshop if you are interested!



Extreme Project Management is useful for highly iterative and risky research & development type projects.  It is the least structured, and most creative of the three models presented here (there are others out there though).  The failure rate is high.  These projects are fast & change a lot over their course.  There are high levels of uncertainty in these projects (will this work?  maybe, maybe not!) and so they are highly iterative:  There is an emphasis on a sequence of repeated phases, with each phase is based on a limited understanding of goals & solutions.  And so as the project progresses, the team might rethink the scope or plan; and assess the project along the way.


In general, project management approaches all do have some elements of planning or scoping, running and assessing the project.

So, how are libraries engaging with project management?   

Hiring Librarians is a popular blog that often interviews both library candidates and library hiring managers and publishes those as blog posts.  In December 2013, the blog manager looked at all responses by hiring managers in libraries to the question “What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?” for which they could select any number of options from a 25 option list (26 options if you count “other”).

Out of the 25 options, “Project Management” was chosen 65% of the time out of 305 responses.  In other words, 199 out of 305 hiring managers listed project management as a coursework topic that all or most MLIS holders should take.  Interestingly, it was the 3rd most popular option (behind Reference & Collection Management).

So I think this shows – at least a little bit – that project management skills and understanding are valued quite a bit in libraries.  But, it is not necessarily clear that library workers (or those coming out of library schools) are adequately trained in project management.

The rest of the presentation discussed the wonderful project management community of learning (our special interest group) we have developed over the past two years to talk about addressing this issue of how to create professional development opportunities around project management.  Our hope is that other libraries can take this presentation and begin their project management networking and professional development groups to learn more about this subject and how to apply it successfully to library work.

Project Management in the Library

I am a “Special Projects Librarian” at the University of Michigan, and, as it turns out, that’s a pretty neat role.  It’s never dull, that’s for sure!  My position involves quite a bit of process management (e.g. I run a process whereby committees can add new members via an “open call”), but also project management for a diverse suite of projects.  My day seems never to be the same.  I’m always working – but always on different combinations of projects.  It’s quite fun, and I think, really valuable for the organization.

When I first started my position, I had had a bit of formal project management training through some coursework at the School of Information.  Still, I decided to seek out some more professional development opportunities in that area in the hopes that I would be able to use some common techniques and methods in the work I do.  After finding a course on project management in libraries via Library Juice Academy, I decided to take that (thank you Library Human Resources for the funding!) and ultimately report back to the Library on what I had learned.*

Today is that day!  (The day I report back on what I’ve learned).  I’m giving a talk today for a brown-bag lunch series hosted by a Project Management “Special Interest Group” I’m in.  I even posted my slides to SlideShare (a new thing for me!).

Neat!  Sadly, there is one image you won’t see because it’s not cc licensed.  Ah well.

My plan is to talk for about half the time – giving only the highest level view of project management – and then have a discussion with whomever shoes up on to what extent we are already using project management methods in our library already, what aspects of project management approaches and techniques could help how we run things now, and ways in which we could implement these approaches and techniques.  My hope is, too, to explore the role of the Project Management Special Interest Group in bringing about any changes we want around aspects of project management in the library.

If there’s time after that, I’ve got some templates to share with people and a hands-on activity planned if that seems useful to folks.  Some of the templates I have from the course seem too formal to use in our library, but one thing I think our PM-SIG could do is build and test out some more flexible templates in Google docs to share with people in the library.  This, really, is my goal for the session:  to have people in the PM-SIG get interested enough to think about collaborating on some project management templates that work for us… we’ll see how it goes!

So, dear readers, how about you?  What do you think about project management in libraries?  Is it emphasized in your library?  Is it worth going to workshops on the topic?  What aspects of project management would you like to incorporate more into your work?

Also, sidenote… this is my 50th post!  Yay!

* I have to say, the Library Juice Academy course was fine – the assignments asking us to fill out templates (i.e. scoping documents, project charters, work breakdown structures, etc.) for projects we were involved in were where I think I learned the most in that course – but, I got a more cohesive sense of the theory behind project management with this book:  Effective Project Management by Robert Wysocki.  Do not be scared by the girth and heftiness of this tome!  It is very easy to read and just taking a look at the introductory chapters is very helpful!

Super late to the party: Dan Cohen & the DPLA

WOWIE!  What fabulous news!  I learned about this on time, I swear, but am only blogging it now because life really does find a way to get in the way (this time, really, it was life:  my partial excuse is that I was at a baby shower out of town!).

Dan Cohen is truly a cool guy.  And it was recently announced that he would take the inaugural reigns of the Digital Public Library of America in April.  This is good news.  The DPLA has the potential to be an epic flop (I sincerely hope it will not be, but it has the potential, as anything does) or something that turns into a crucial stepping stone in the progress of digital library models and how digital information is accessed and used.

I first learned about Dan Cohen when a friend of mine, now a PhD student at UMSI, raved about him.  Then, his name cropped up everywhere – a digital humanities course (obviously), discussions on the future of scholarly publishing (see PressForward), and at HASTAC 2011.  He is a vibrant, enthusiasm-inducing speaker, and innovative thinker.  I sincerely wish him well in his DPLA endeavors.  I think he could really take this organization and make it a vital player in the fight for freeing up information, making our cultural resources and heritage accessible and usable for all.

Here’s a little more from Dan in a DPLA Q&A.  Get excited!

Understanding Badging

So, a few weeks ago I attended QuasiCon 2013.  I blogged about the experience here.  Recently, conference organizers asked me to reflect on the experience I had with badging at the conference (something they were testing out).  Since I wrote them a (seriously too long) email musing about the topic, I thought I’d be generous and share my thoughts with you all, dear readers.  I’d be curious to hear about your experiences with, sentiments towards, and questions about badges if any.  Have any of you been awarded a badge for something?  For what and what did you do with it?  If not, what should I do with the several badges I earned at QuasiCon?

So.  Onward!  I really love the idea of adding badging to quasi-con.  QuasiCon is cool because not only do current students and recent grads get a chance to schmooze and talk about libraries, but they also get a chance to experience a new kind of conference that they might not experience otherwise.  This will help them feel comfortable in the future delving in and really participating in any un-conferences they may find themselves attending.  I know that for me, that aspect of quasi-con comprises a lot of the value of attending.  That’s why I really got into tweeting this time around too.  I felt like it was an un-intimidating venue to tweet a conference.  And I got practice learning to listen and tweet relevant things at the same time – no easy task I tell you.  This is good!  So this brings me to badges – by doing a badging system, everyone participating sort of gets to test out in what ways badges are cool and enrich the quasi-con experience as well as the ways in which they are odd or don’t quite work.

There were two kinds of badges at QuasiCon:  badges to earn whilst attending the conference itself, and then badges to earn later.  Someone zipped through what badges there were and I remember trying to tweet them to get them out to people.  Then I realized that they were posted on a website.  But I still think tweeting them was useful – it meant my list was archived in a place I could get to them (I kept not remembering what website to go to to find out more about the badges).

So, I hadn’t ever earned a badge for something before, and thus, I admit, I wasn’t sure how I was going to even know I earned a badge, how I would actually retrieve said badge, where I’d put it and finally what I’d actually do with it.  To be honest, I still don’t really know the answers to these questions.  I tweeted up a storm and then realized to get a higher level badge for social media use at the conference I’d need to post on two networks.  So, I went over to Facebook to post something about QuasiCon.  (Apparently, badging works!  It incentivized my publicizing the conference on a platform I otherwise wouldn’t have posted to… just to get that higher level social media badge).

But, how was anyone who awarded the badges to know I did that?

Turns out, you had to submit evidence that you should be awarded a badge.  This makes Mega Social Mediatortotal sense, and of course I just didn’t really read the instructions well enough to realize this at the time.  Luckily, I have since submitted links to some tweets & my Facebook post, so I earned the “Mega Social Mediator” badge (I feel like I should print it, frame it and stick it on my fridge!).  For my previous blog post, I got a “Blog Ambassador” badge.  I’m swimming in badges!

But seriously now, tell me, how does one use a badge?

Now, I know in the material world Blog Ambassador(And aren’t we all living in a material world?  And aren’t we all material girls inside?), if I got a badge for doing a good deed, I could sew it or iron it onto my Girl Scout sash.  But this e-badge… it is a small mystery to me.  It certainly incentivized my participation at the conference – and perhaps this alone is valuable.  But am I missing something?  Should I be concerned if I was so motivated to get an award that I don’t know what to do with?  What does that say about our education system in this country?!  What does that say about ME?!

I’m still intrigued by badging.  The University of Michigan is using badging to help keep staff members motivated to exercise this semester through a program called “MHealthy.”  I must admit, these are absolutely helping me reserve time each week to work out.  So, while I’m a little skeptical about what this all implies about what motivates me, I’m happy that in both cases a badging system has pushed me to engage more and do more.

The always thought-provoking and inspiring Cathy Davidson wrote an excellent piece on badging that you should certainly read if you’ve made it this far.   I really like how she’s laid out what the important features are around badging and why they work.  I’ll leave you with a short quote from her then:

The badge has to not just credentialize or certify learning but should also motivate it. By organizing a set of skills and interests…into an actual, definable, measurable skill capable of assessment and judgment, badges inspire students to greater mastery. A hobby becomes definable as an intellectual, creative asset, something to be tended, improved, honed, perfected, advanced, and innovated. As with a game challenge, attainment becomes the floor not the end point, it becomes a step on a way towards even greater mastery. The badge inspires a certain form of learning by naming it and honoring it.

I think she’s right:  badges become the floor not the end point.  I like that.  And I think it helps me redirect how I’ve been thinking about badging.  Instead of asking “what can I do with this award I just got?”  I can just acknowledge that the badge wasn’t the goal, but rather the experience/skills/tools I gained by getting the badge was the goal.  And those will help me do X, Y, and the ever sought after Z.

What do you think?

#quasi13: A Quasi-Conference from ALA at UMich

Well, I’m going for a hat-trick of blog posts (after my hiatus, 3 in a row?!).

Today I went to Quasi-Con13, the second annual quasi-conference put on by the ALA group at the University of Michigan.  Just as last year, I enjoyed myself immensely.  The first part of the conference was an “un-conference” where topics were decided upon in the morning after some semi-structured small group conversations.  Organizers created a schedule based on these ideas and people went around to various break out rooms to discuss the topics raised in the morning.  Each room had two facilitators to help things move along.  They were great.  Thank you facilitators!

The morning discussions were fascinating!  I went to three:

  • tensions between academic librarians & faculty – expectations around the role of librarians
  • libraries & librarians in fiction – how are we portrayed? what would be better?
  • collaboration & competition in GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives & museums)

What wonderful discussions.  I’ll just pull out some of the things I heard from the libraries & librarians in fiction talk which surprised me (in that, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I think some interesting things came out of it).  Sure, there was some funny reminiscing of librarians being portrayed in TV shows (Seinfeld, Buffy, etc.) but things got substantive too.  I have been mulling over a set of questions that emerged from the session:

If you could insert a librarian into a show, how would they be portrayed? What would they do? Who would they be? What would be the plot?

I like this.  It would be awful to have some sort of “Big Bang Theory” effect happen – a show which reinforced negative or totally unhelpful stereotypes. But how do we make the work of information professionals interesting to a broader audience?  Infiltrate Antiques Roadshow?  Place a librarian on NCIS or CSI?  Is there a way to do that and portray them realistically?  What role in the library (outreach manager? director?) would even be able to make this happen?  Who reaches out to Hollywood?  Ah, so many questions, so few answers.

We briefly touched on Star Trek (by the way, here is a great article reflecting on Star Trek that you should read if you liked that show).  On that show, the computer is the library / librarian and all the cast members are totally information literate, i.e. know what to ask to get the information they sought.  So, is that just a Utopian version of the library and world of information literacy?

[photo coming soon]

In the afternoon, there were structured talks. I went to three of these as well:

  • Detroit & using archives to confront stereotypes & misrepresentation
  • The use of memes and web 2.0 for library marketing
  • Participatory learning: library-based makerspaces

I enjoyed the participatory learning session quite a bit as I’ve been thinking about “learning by making/doing/building/creating” a lot.  It was lovely to hear the stories from local endeavors – places in Ann Arbor, at the AADL, and at UM.  I think by the end of the day, people were a bit weary and petering out, but this was a very nice set of sessions.

[photo coming soon]

Some reflections on the day / experience:

  • I tweeted.  A lot.  This was the first conference I was consistently tweeting.  It was nice and not overwhelming (like the ESA 2012 and LTER ASM 2012 conferences were).  The audience were people I felt comfortable tweeting to, and it turned into good practice: turns out it’s hard to tweet and pay attention at the same time.  You can find my and other peoples’ tweets at #quasi13
  • In discussions and in talks, if people said snappy, short tweetable statements, turns out, those are easier to broadcast.  Makes me rethink the kinds of things I would say in a presentation to this kind of audience.  I’m sure politicians are way ahead of me on this one, but even at a conference comprised mostly of students, it’s still good to think about (will this be reverberated on social media?  If so, make some concise sound bytes, and perhaps even reference them – “you can tweet that”).
  • Organizers played around with badges this year.  I liked that.  The first half of the conference people were able to nominate others for badges (list of them here) and in the second half, I think people can just get badges for things like… blog posts and further reflections on the events of the day.  To be honest, the badges thing this year kind of confused me.  I like that it was something that was also going on, but I don’t quite understand how they got awarded and how one knows one got a badge.  I guess I’ll hear more later about that.  Having badges be dangled in front of me like a carrot did spur me to tweet copiously.  So that’s nice.  If I get a badge, don’t worry, I’ll post about it here 🙂
  • It was really nice to see some SI alumni come back for this.  I’m glad about that.
  • This kind of conference is a great opportunity for students to test out talking about their ideas and get a practice run at other kinds of conferences that might be more intimidating.  I’m really glad about that too.
  • Finally, the facilitators & organizers did a great job.  A+.