Annual Conference Reports

SAGE Support Staff Travel Grant Recipient Reports

Within the record-breaking crowd of attendees at this year's Annual Conference were the 2007 SAGE Support Staff Travel Grant winners: Monica Claassen-Wilson, Julia Merkel, Audrey Pryce, Nancy Slate, LaShawn Wilson, and Siu Min Yu. The grants are designed to get deserving support staff to their first ALA Annual Conference, which is exactly what happened. The following reports speak volumes about the value of this award program and ALCTS' effect on the wider profession.

monica claassen-wilson, university of kansas libraries

Monica Claassen-Wilson, University of Kansas Libraries

The 2007 ALA Annual Conference was far more than I had expected, and judging by the record attendance, was more than anyone had expected! I have a new understanding of the renewed sense of purpose our academic librarians bring with them upon returning from conferences like ALA.

On Friday, after checking in and walking around town long enough to get enormous blisters, I met with my SAGE mentor, Lia Hemphill. She sat and chatted with me for nearly an hour and a half about how to navigate the conference, particularly the exhibits, and offered some suggestions to consider regarding options for pursuing a library degree and the MLS job opportunities that might be available. I had come to ALA in search of information and with the goal of talking to librarians from all kinds of libraries in my quest to decide if I wanted to go to library school and pursue librarianship as a career.

Over the course of the conference, I attended sessions that included “Conquering Your Fears” (LSSIRT Empowerment Conference keynote); “Libraries 2.0” with Stephen Abrams and John Janes; and “Leadership by Opportunities Taken” with Maureen Sullivan. The leadership session was perhaps the most valuable session I attended, and a catalyst for many conversations about the role of library managers/leaders over the remainder of the weekend. I attended several product seminars in my role as program assistant for collection development, but much of my work in that capacity was done in the exhibit hall. One of my job responsibilities is to compile usage reports for our electronic resources. I had the opportunity to meet many of our product representatives in person as I talked with them about how they can improve their usage report systems. I also discovered that having the words “Collection Development” on my badge made me an excellent target for being pulled aside to hear the latest product pitch.

I was excited to meet the other SAGE winners at the awards ceremony, and was amazed to find out that one of the winners is friends with fellow college alumni of mine. In that moment, the academic world shrank by several degrees for me.

The highlight of the conference for me was the many conversations and discussions I had with library colleagues from all over the United States, as well as with colleagues from my own institution. I realized that this is a community of which I want to belong long-term, and to that end, I have decided to pursue a MLS. I will begin study in spring 2008. I am thankful to SAGE Publications, ALCTS, and the selection committee for this fantastic opportunity.

julia merkel, james madison university

Julia Merkel, James Madison University

The ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. was a wonderful whirlwind of activities, speakers, sights, sounds and camaraderie among colleagues. Preconference planning was greatly assisted by the itinerary planner which enabled me to put together a track of sessions concentrating primarily on preservation topics. A brief summary follows.

After starting out at the ALCTS 101 reception on Friday evening, Saturday began with the Curators and Conservators Discussion Group at 8:00 a.m. Donia Conn, Northwestern University led this lively discussion on decision-making and priority setting. It was particularly interesting to hear the range in programs from one-stop shops to larger operations from academic to commercial conservation labs. It felt like a mini-town hall meeting among peers. Several tips for managing workflow, equipment—even suggested reading were shared (Paul Banks and Roberta Pilette’s Preservation: Issues and Planning is now at the top of my list.) I was glad to hear a heads-up on the necessity for including a conservation budget line for IMLS digitization grants as well as the argument for retaining shadow edges in digital photographs for authentication and scholarly purposes.

The Physical Quality and Treatment Discussion Group met with Jeanne Drewes and Beatriz Hapso from the Library of Congress later that same morning. Drewes gave a presentation on new technologies in conservation such as IRENE (image reconstruction erase noise, etc.) which generates high resolution digital maps for sound media and haptic technology applications for conservation training. Hapso gave an overview of the high density storage unit being constructed for LC at Fort Meade. In a nutshell, the facility operates with a warehouse tracking system and enjoys extraordinary fire prevention planning, climate control and access. Although the facility is located several miles from the capitol, there is only a three hour turnaround for requests, and a book has yet to be misplaced on twenty-five miles of shelving!

While digital issues were raised at both of the morning sessions, an afternoon panel discussion delved into the subject with gusto. Janet Gertz, Director of Preservation at Columbia University, Robin Wendler, Metadata Analyst at Harvard, and Joseph Jaja, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Maryland, were the panelists. This was not a session for the faint of heart. Stewardship, long-term planning, retention plans, web interfaces�and the importance of META DATA (even meta data on metadata!) were covered. An attempt to summarize such a dense topic reads like this: start small, learn from mistakes, and be very, very selective in choosing digital projects.

As a conservation technician who came to the library field from a fine arts background, I feel very much like a novice in the field of digital preservation. However, I came away with a renewed sense of how technologies can aid rather than replace traditional preservation efforts. It was also very reassuring to hear colleagues speak to their own experiences—both good and bad. The conference was a terrific reminder of how collaborative the library culture is and just how lucky I am to be a part of it.

audrey pryce, bank street college of education

Audrey Pryce, Bank Street College of Education

My first experience attending the American Library Association Annual Conference was fulfilling. Initially, I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the conference and the multitude of librarians. There was so much knowledge concentrated in one tiny region of Washington, D.C. that I felt intimidated. Later that evening, I spent a little down time sharing experiences with a fellow SAGE Grant recipient, LaShawn Wilson from Auburn State University, and I started to relax.

The next day, I attended the Opening General Session with speaker Senator Bill W. Bradley. His speech was both humorous and inspiring. His main topic, “Face the truth and the answer will be self evident,” was thought provoking and motivated me to begin thinking about my current position as a library assistant and my future career as a librarian. How can I best serve patrons and encourage my colleagues to do the same? On Sunday I attended the ALCTS workshop on how to catalog assorted audiovisual materials, graphic novels, etc. I received some helpful information on how to handle the influx of newer genres in our library. I also felt a type of camaraderie with the librarians as they discussed issues and problems to which I could relate, and received some helpful pointers on how to resolve them.

My most valuable experience at the conference was being able to spend time with my colleague Lisa von Drasek who is the Children’s Librarian at Bank Street College. I appreciated the time that she spent introducing me to fellow librarians, children’s book authors and publishing representatives. She showed me how to network, or basically how to put out my hand and say, “Hi, my name is Audrey.”

During my visit to Washington, D.C., I was able to carve out a little sightseeing time on Sunday morning. I was able to visit the city’s historic U street district to see the African-American Civil War Memorial and have brunch at Poets and Busboys, a Langston Hughes themed café.

I want to thank my mentor Rhonda Marker, ACLTS and the SAGE Travel Grant Jury for selecting me to receive this grant and for being so welcoming at the ALA Conference. I encourage other technical service assistants to apply for grants offering this type of experience because they introduce you to the bigger picture of the library profession.

nancy slate, mamie doud eisenhower public library

Nancy Slate, Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library

First off, I must say “What a once in a lifetime experience!” it was to be able to attend the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.! I started out with the ALCTS 101 gathering on Friday evening. This was the perfect way to meet fellow SAGE grant winners, the people on the ALCTS committee that awarded the grant, ALCTS Board members, etc. I received many helpful tips and hints about how to plan my daily itinerary of workshops and meetings. It was exactly what a “newbie” like me needed.

On Saturday, I started out by attending the ALCTS workshop “Informing the Future of MARC.” This gave me new insight into current trends in cataloging and how to make better use of commonly used fields in MARC records. Next, I was off to see the author, Patricia Cornwell and listen to her speak and answer questions. She is a personal favorite of mine.

On Saturday afternoon, I attended another ALCTS workshop “New Developments in Form/Genre Access.” I learned about indexing in various systems and the lack of consistent language for the Form/Genre 655 fields. I will put this to good use in cataloging of fiction items at my library. I spent the rest of the afternoon in the “Vendor Stacks” researching and gathering information on Library bookmobiles for my Director. I have never seen so many vendors in one place before. It was a “book lover’s paradise!” To cap off my Saturday, I attended the ALA general opening session and heard Bill Bradley give the keynote address.

I had reserved Sunday morning for some personal sightseeing in Washington, D.C. I had never been to D.C. before and had to see some of the monuments and memorials. I just walked, took pictures, and soaked up the historical atmosphere. In the afternoon, I was off to the ALCTS Awards Ceremony. I got to personally thank the SAGE Publications representatives who sponsored my award. I spent time getting to know the other award winners and my mentor, Sarah Morris, who had given me tips and hints through e-mail correspondence prior to arriving at the conference. Everyone made me feel so special!

On Monday morning, I attended what turned out to be my most inspiring session of the conference. It was the author series featuring Margaret Wright Edelman. She is so passionate in defending and protecting children’s rights. It made me realize what an important role my own library plays in starting children on the road to literacy and life long learning.

I will be sharing my experiences at ALA with my co-workers at our next staff meeting and also at the Colorado Library Association Annual Fall Conference.

siu min yu, rice university

Siu Min Yu, Rice University

First, I would like to thank ALCTS and SAGE for giving me the opportunity to attend the ALA Annual Conference. When I walked into the Washington Convention Center, I could feel the intensity of the Conference and the experiences of the next few days were wonderful, educational and enlightening.

Choosing between programs that I wanted to attend and those that I should attend was a challenging task. I attended “Informing the Future of MARC: An Empirical Approach” a program sponsored by ALCTS. MARC format has been a subject of discussion in the cataloging community for many years. With RDA due out next year and metadata being utilized to catalog many formats of library materials, this presentation led the cataloging community to re-examine library catalogs and its position with the landscape. Since I am a copy cataloger, naturally I want to know about the future of MARC, and as a MLS student, this presentation caused me to put more thought into which courses to take for in the future--advanced cataloging or metadata.

Since I am the president of the Southwest Chapter of Chinese American Librarian Association (CALA), I attended the CALA program “Librarians of the 21st Century: Developing Solutions to New Challenges at the Global, National and Local Levels.” I also attended the Board meeting for which I experienced the business side of an organization, rather than just taking in information and absorbing knowledge.

Among other programs that I attended, I gained the most insight from the program “Transforming Your Staff” which was sponsored by ALCTS. I learned from this program that as a support staff, I not only need to find ways to improve how I perform my work but also to keep one goal in mind: how the improvement would benefit my library.

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