Contributing Editor Reflection

Reflections from an ACRL first time attendee

This April, I attended my first ACRL conference. As ACRL is by far the largest conference I’ve attended, I definitely felt overwhelmed the first time I viewed the hundreds of sessions, posters, and roundtables in the program, especially when I saw that so many appealing sessions were scheduled simultaneously. In order to most effectively fill my conference schedule, I spent time looking through the program beforehand and highlighting what looked interesting to me. I found the ACRL app to be especially helpful in building my own agenda, as well as library twitter with its lists of CritLib and LIS research sessions (thanks Eamon and LibParlor!). Because there were so many offerings, I was able to attend sessions across many of my professional interests, including DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), instruction, and liaison/subject librarian work.

Of all the sessions I attended, these three have stuck with me the most:

Moving Beyond Race 101: Speculative Futuring for Equity (Jennifer Brown, Sofia Leung, Marisa Méndez-Brady, Jennifer Ferretti)

Brown, Ferretti, Leung, and Méndez-Brady structured this session around collaborative storytelling. Attendees were divided into large groups to envision a speculative future for libraries, while working through how to respond to situations such as “A white “ally” gets defensive when confronted with something racist they said/did” and “A colleague of color approaches you and says that they experienced something racist from a faculty member.” The presenters emphasized that this work is for everyone – white allies do not get to ask their POC colleagues, “what do you want me to do?” as way of discussing anti-racist work.

Challenging the “Good Fit” Narrative: Creating Inclusive Recruitment Practices in Academic Libraries (Sojourna Cunningham, Samantha Guss, Jennifer Stout)

Cunningham, Guss, and Stout’s research examines the hiring practices of academic libraries. Early in the research, they found that the discussion of “fit” was especially common in hiring. To assess current practices in libraries, they created a survey to ask library directors across a wide variety of institutions about their established hiring processes. The qualitative data from the surveys included directors’ definitions of fit, including words such as “friendly” and “collegial”, which further connects to the ambiguous nature of fit as a qualification for hiring, and “thus allows for libraries to stay within their comfort zones and replicate the status quo.”

Developing “fabulations”: Factors that influence the development of successful research collaborations between liaison librarians and faculty members (Kawanna Bright)

As a new liaison librarian myself, I’m always interested in hearing about about the different ways liaisons work with their faculty members. In her literature review, Bright found a very limited number of empirical research studies that specifically examined research collaborations of faculty and liaison librarians. Bright’s methodology was especially interesting, as she was able to collect data via interviews and the documentation of seven unique faculty-liaison librarian pairs. The implications drawn from her research stressed the importance of liaison librarians building on classroom collaborations and getting to know the research areas of your faculty.     

When I did have to miss out on a session, I found that there was typically someone livetweeting the session with the #ACRL2019 hashtag, so there were ways to catch up later. I also co-led a roundtable with my MSU colleague, Elizabeth Webster, on liaison work. The roundtable format was brand new to me, but we were able to have good, constructive conversations with the librarians who joined us at the table. One of my main takeaways from the roundtable discussion is that there are many different liaison models in academic libraries – something I will continue to explore in the future. In addition to all the conference activities, I had so much fun exploring Cleveland and hanging out with my MSU colleagues, old work pals from my previous institution, the crew of LibParlor writers, and some fellow music librarians. I’m so glad I was able to attend ACRL this year, and I hope I’ll get to attend again in the future!

Featured image by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

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1 comment on “Reflections from an ACRL first time attendee

  1. Have you ever attended ALA? If this is your biggest conference, I’m wondering “in relation to what”?

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