Saturday, April 21, 2012

IPAL Spring Conference 2012

No, IPAL isn't an Apple product...It's the Iowa Private Academic Libraries consortium (librarians do like our acronyms, don't we?)! This was the first time I attended this conference which, as I understand it, in the past few years has usually just been treated as a business meeting.  This year, however, in addition to the lunch business meeting there were short 20- to 25-minute presentations highlighting the theme "Library/Campus Collaborations."

The day began on the road.  It was a little over two hours to drive there and, luckily, my colleague, Dan, didn't get too sick of my constant chatter (I was feeling talkative that day).  We arrived on campus with enough time to check in, grab a quick breakfast snack if we wanted, and see some fantastic friends I hadn't seen in a while.  It was so nice to catch up with them (and to see Anne Marie's adorable growing baby bump)! The president of the college shared a few words of welcome with us, then it was off to the sessions!

The first session I attended was UD's Jon Helmke's Skyping session, "Collaborating from a Distance: Using Skype to Help Achieve Student and Faculty Goals." During my internship at UD I was aware they had a professor Skyping in to teach an aviation class.  In order to accommodate this, the students met using a model similar to that used with graduate students.  The full group met once/week with the other class periods used for students to independently complete their course work. Several features of Skype made it the top choice for UD: the ability to screen share (so the professor could share with the students his computer desktop, and vice versa), the fact that it was free, instant messaging/mobile options.  Skype not only allowed the professor to lead classes, it also allowed him to be present at staff meetings and, later, when the professor had returned from campus, bring in guest speakers (reducing travel & housing costs and allowing more flexibility for the guest speaker's schedule).  The premium service allows for video conferencing between more than 2 users at some cost (similar to Google+ Hangouts).  There were some questions from the audience about campus bandwidth restrictions, outages, and clarity of sound/video.  For the most part none of these things were an issue in the speakers' experience.  UD campus bandwidth is pretty generous, though occasionally things will load a little less quickly or be a little more jerky/jumpy during prime campus-wide usage times.  Basic microphones and cameras work well and the professor said, as long as the students were projecting, he didn't have issues hearing classroom discussions or questions on the other side of the camera.  They did recommend you consult your IT department to be sure your network can handle such bandwidth use.

The second session I saw was another UD group, Anne Marie Gruber & Marta Abele in their session, "From Cover to Cover: Library-Campus Collaboration to Support At-Risk Students." They discussed their BRIDGE program, which is a summer program that brings at-risk or under-prepared first-year students to campus earlier than the rest of the incoming freshmen in order to better prepare them for their first year in college.  Many of these students have an ACT score of 17 and 75% of the group are the first-generation from their family to attend college. Much of the way Marta described the BRIDGE program made me think of Upward Bound or a more intensive version of the federal TRIO program.  They discussed the partnership between the BRIDGE program and the library and how the library was involved from the early development stages.  The library provided a literature review when the program was just beginning development, and has continued support them by providing materials to support student success & the faculty teaching at-risk students. (Some of the resources mentioned were The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, The Thinking Student's Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education, & Teaching Unprepared Students: Strategies for Promoting Success and Retention in Higher Education.) The summer program is primarily to orient students to campus and for bonding, not necessarily a time to focus on academic catch-up from what they may have missed in high school.  As the year goes on, students will spend time in required study-hall sessions in the library computer labs and take introductory/student success classes.  Not only does the library provide the space, they also build connections with the students early (during the summer session) so the students know who to speak with when they have questions about coursework.  The librarians also come in and introduce the "Who, What, When, Where, and Why" of research strategies.  Students were given a "fake paper," similar to they type most first-year students would receive in an introductory level writing course.  Instead of writing the paper, however, they looked at the guidelines and came up with a strategy as to how they would approach the assignment.  They answered "Who can help me with this paper? What is the format of this assignment? When is it due and when can I work on it? Where do I find the information I need? and Why am I doing this--what will I learn from this?" This reflective process helps the students see that the "fake paper" is a manageable assignment and it helps them form a strategy that can be applied to other assignments in the future.

The third session I attended was "Collaborating for Information Literacy: The Drake Experience." given by Carrie Dunham-LaGree and Bruce Gilbert from Drake.  They discussed their first-year seminar model at Drake and how they've worked to incorporate IL into all sections of the course.  One of the sections is led by a librarian, but all first-year experience courses.  Particularly helpful was the link to their libguides ( and the example rubrics they shared.

Throughout the day it was nice to meet new people and hear about what other institutions had been up to.  In the middle of the day we enjoyed a working lunch where we reviewed the minutes from the last IPAL meeting and discussed new business.  Officer nominations were approved and the Secretary/Treasurer's report was given. In the afternoon I attended Dan's session where he discussed the embedded librarian program we have, how it began, and where we're going with the development and implementation of the new Core Sem I courses.  There was a lot of interest in what Grand View is doing and several nice questions from the audience.  Our plan was to slide out and hit the road early, but Dan got stuck with this Chatty Kathy (points thumbs at self) and we wound up visiting with a good friend of mine from my undergraduate days.  We may be chatting more in the future about collaborating on an ACRL presentation proposal, which would be really exciting!  The laid-back feel of the conference was nice and it got me even more ready to head up to ILA/ACRL next month!

Friday, April 13, 2012

School Year Reflections

Well, it's mid-April and my first school year is beginning to wrap up here.  While a lot has happened the past year, it sometimes still feels like I just got here.  I've been here for 10 months, so some things are beginning to feel very natural.  I am able to jump in more when I see things that need to be done because I have the background to be able to identify those situations.  Every once in a while, especially with annual events like parties we host or campus-wide festivities, I think it is easy for my colleagues to forget that I've not done these things before & I don't know what to expect or how to plan for the event.  Most of the time, though, things go smoothly.  I've really enjoyed how much contact I have with students & how many are starting to think of me as "their librarian." Part of that comes from the embedded relationship I have with several classes, and part of it is just from seeing me and interacting with me outside of classes at the library.  (And another small part might be the candy jar I keep on my desk for students who come visit my office.)

While my colleagues told me spring would be less hectic than the fall semester, I found it a bit hard to believe (having taught in the public schools before this).  I was right to doubt.  While we likely teach fewer one-shot sessions we are still heavily involved with embedded classes and, in the spring, students are more likely to tackle more intensive research.  March was beyond hectic, even with spring break thrown into the mix.  Though it was a bit stressful, I continue to say I'd rather be too busy than not busy enough!

We've also started to look ahead to fall semester.  We will begin implementing the new core, in which information literacy is an explicit outcome, starting with the first year "Core Seminar I" (Core Sem I) classes.  Core Sem I courses must incorporate information literacy, critical inquiry, and written communication. With the implementation of the new core comes a set of completely new courses--Core Sem I. Each librarian is partnered with four sections.  While the desired outcomes are common through the entire course, each section covers a different topic ranging from life in rural America, to images of mythology & heroes, to drugs, to nursing & caring, to exploring the idea of happiness, to local/green food initiatives, to electronic media.  There are also two sections of honors freshmen who take part in the LOGOS program, a different, more intensive version of the Core Sem I.  I will also be working with one section of LOGOS.  That means I am already embedded in 5 courses for next fall--we've not yet discussed with the professors we're currently working with in an embedded capacity whether or not we're continuing that relationship for next semester/year.  I hope to be able to continue embedding in some of the courses I've worked with this year in addition to those I'm committed to for the fall, bit it depends on scheduling and how we, as a whole library staff, adapt the way we approach library instruction to fit our new needs.

On a non-library note, the fantastic summer-like weather in March made me antsy for those things that go along with summer: sandals (which I started wearing as soon as the snow melted), skirts, sunblock, running (well...I'm not necessarily antsy for it, but I'll do it anyway), and summer camp! I'm so fortunate to be going back for summer no. 9--which means I'm already thinking about recitals, door decorations, Orange Day, and laughter & shenanigans! I also have a neat opportunity this month to return to my music teacher roots & clinic for a day with elementary, middle, and high school orchestra students in Fort Dodge! I just hope I'm not too rusty!