Two New Members Gain Insight on Instruction

nmrt footnotes

by Anne C. Behler, Reference Librarian, Pennsylvania State University
and Emily L. Rimland, Reference Librarian, Pennsylvania State University

We arrived in San Antonio on Friday night, after having spent our four-hour flight pouring over our planned schedule of events. We kept reading through the descriptions of the sessions, looking at the map for the locations of events, and trying to make tough decisions about which sessions to attend of those that were scheduled in the same time slot. We were two new reference and instruction librarians ready to embark on our first ALA conference as professionals. What did the conference have in store for the two "new members" who weren’t yet involved with committees besides NMRT? Saturday and Sunday revealed that indeed, there was quite a bit to be gained.

Learning Commons/Spaces: Opportunities and Challenges for the 21st Century Library
Sponsored by the ACRL/University Libraries Section/ Current Topics Discussion Group

As recent graduates of library school, the topic of Learning Commons is certainly not new to us. In fact, it’s a concept that our home library is trying to adapt, as are many libraries around the country. The two big questions that are out there about learning commons are, "What exactly does one look/feel like?" and "How does a library go about making it happen?" These questions and many others were addressed by the three speakers at this forum. Michael Gorman, ALA President and Dean of Library Services at California State University, Fresno, was able to talk about the experience of designing a library from scratch, a process Fresno is in the middle of right now. His major caution to creators of Learning Commons was that they make sure they were creating more than just computer labs inside the library—that they be sure to create an intersection between library services, information, and technology. Joan Lippincott, the Associate Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, presented the reasons why it is important for libraries to consider creating learning commons—especially the need to adapt the library to the expectations of NetGen users who are adept with technology and need access to both information and various methods of accessing and manipulating it. Finally, Richard Myer, Dean of library faculty and director of libraries at Georgia Institute of Technology, talked about the results of the Georgia Tech’s conversion to a Learning Commons model of service. The three presentations created an excellent dialogue about all of the qualities of, and issues associated with, creating Learning Commons in our libraries.

Instruction Balance
Sponsored by the ACRL/Instruction Section/Teaching Methods and Education Committee

As a forum for instruction librarians, this session encouraged participants to share their thoughts and reflections about balancing the increased demand for instruction and workload. The enormous turnout at this event indicated how important this issue is to librarians—new and experienced! Small groups discussed how to handle the instruction activities that take up the most time, managing requests for instruction, and collaborating with other librarians.

Bright Ideas--"Hello, Anybody out There? How to Improve Outreach Efforts and Build Positive Relationships"
Sponsored by the ACRL/Instruction Section/Management of Instruction Services Committee

This well-attended session focused on a different aspect of instruction—outreach! Amy Ferguson, a librarian in Texas, excellently blogged this session and provides all the juicy details at: .

For new librarians this session was extremely informative and helpful—a favorite of ours! We left with a long list of ideas to try back home after hearing what others are doing to reach particular patron groups. Reflecting on both ACRL Instruction Section programs, the most salient point that we took away from these sessions is that it’s the little things that matter. Whether it’s a short but personalized email to that certain faculty member or offering to teach a class for an overworked colleague—personal touches are key!

S.O.S. for Information Literacy Focus Group

S.O.S. (Situation-Outcome-Strategies) for Higher Education is a web-based multimedia repository for lesson plans and ideas to help school and academic librarians teach information literacy skills. Up to this time, S.O.S. targeted the K-8 audience, but is now expanding to provide resources for secondary and higher education librarians. S.O.S. will be a great resource to both new and experienced librarians looking for fresh and innovative ways to motivate students about information literacy. S.O.S is "context-based," so teaching ideas and resources are connected to lesson plans, instructional goals, and national standards. Launch of the new version is scheduled for next fall, so keep your eyes peeled. This focus group was designed to solicit feedback from instruction librarians about the S.O.S. tool. This session was enlightening, as it allowed us to witness veteran instructors collaborating to shape a new resource that will serve to benefit the whole field.

As it turned out, two new librarians had quite a bit to gain from attending ALA Midwinter. Above all, we learned that in the world of Instruction Librarianship, the greatest resource is by far each other and our collective experiences.