Last week, I went to Burbank, CA to attend the LOEX of the West conference — the best conference I’ve been to so far. It was also my first time presenting at a professional conference!
On Wednesday, I went to a preconference on conducting ethnographic research in libraries. Given my background in cultural anthropology, it should be no surprise that I’d be interested! The presenters had taken a workshop on ethnographic methods, done a study using a few different methods, and were working on their analysis of their results. While I probably had more training specifically in ethnographic methods in my anthropological studies, I was thinking about those methods in terms of learning a whole new culture — so getting practical tips on applying those methods in the library was useful.
The methods they used included observations of people in the library space, student-drawn ideal library designs, student-drawn comic strips about their research process, focused interviews with students & faculty, and poster & display board surveys. During the workshop, they brought in some of the students that had participated in the drawing portions of the study so that we could practice interviewing them about their drawings. It’s easy to accidentally ask a leading question when trying to ask an open ended question — which was part of the point of that exercise.
For the poster & display board survey, they just put signs (posterboard or large format post-it notes) around the library asking simple questions — “why did you come to the library today?”, “what do you like about the library?” and “do you have any suggestions for the library?” That’s an easy way to get quick feedback! We have some new whiteboards on wheels (so that students can take them wherever they need ’em) — I wonder how it would work to write some questions & put them in random spots in the library. Would people erase other peoples’ answers in favor of their own? Write over them? Respond to them?
On Thursday, we had a keynote address from Esther Grassian, “Occupy their minds! The politics of information literacy”.
After that, I went to a session on keeping students engaged in a three credit hour IL course. I was both happy and a bit disappointed that a lot of the active learning exercises they used were things we’ve at least talked about using — happy that I’ve learned a lot of great stuff from my colleagues, disappointed that I didn’t hear about any brilliant new ideas. They have a libguide posted for the class, with a lot of their course materials posted — might be worth checking out if you teach a credit bearing course and want some ideas!
After lunch, it was our turn to present! Six of us — nearly the entire Instructional Services department at UWG — co-presented about the interview tactics they used when hiring me and another new librarian last summer. Instead of the standard prepared-in-advance presentation with superficial interview meetings all day, they reduced the time spent meeting with people and answering interview questions in favor of some brainstorming sessions. Instead of the prepared presentation, they had us do two separate (and not back-to-back) hour-long brainstorming sessions, then gave us an hour to prepare a presentation about what we came up with in those sessions. Long story short, it was a much better way for them to get to know us and evaluate how we would interact with the social dynamics of the department, and I walked away with a much better sense of how I would like working here than a lot of candidates get in standard interviews.
On Friday, I went to “Building and sustaining a culture of assessment in your instruction program” by Meredith Farkas. Honestly, I probably should have gone instead to the one on designing an online library orientation game, but I read Meredith’s blog so was excited to see her presentation. The main thing it drove home for me was just how lucky I am. We don’t have all of the suggested components (more money would be nice!) at all levels, but we have a lot of support in my department and within the library for building a culture of assessment.
During the second session of the day, it was our turn to present again! This time, it was just Jean, Jessica, and me, presenting on building complementary exercises for freshman IL instruction. Before Jessica and I started, the librarians were tired of using the kitchen sink method in every freshman orientation, freshman composition, and public speaking course. So they started to try to be strategic and design smaller chunks of instruction; after we started, Jessica and I jumped in to help work on that. We went back to basics to figure out the bare minimum students need to know for each course and design exercises around a single learning outcome. Then we decided on just one or two learning outcomes for library instruction sessions for each course and built standard exercises. Because of the way the exercises and lessons are structured, we can now draw on other librarians and staff members to help teach these lower-level high-demand sessions.
After lunch, I went to a session titled “Rubber chickens and wild west shootouts.” Really, how can you go wrong with that? We played games, and I got several good ideas to use in class. It was a fun session. They did end about 20 minutes early, but my reaction when it ended was “it’s over already? bummer!”
For the final session, I went to one on outreach ideas. They had a button maker, and instead of making a bunch of buttons, they print out sheets and let students color their own designs. They also set up a “photo booth”, where they provide goofy props and/or cut-outs of famous characters and/or whiteboard signs and take photos to post on flickr. Also, custom printed temporary tattoos are apparently pretty popular!
And, finally, after dinner, they hosted a battledecks competition, where my boss kicked ass — seriously, like 60ish% of the vote.