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ACRL TOP TEN! (and bottom four)

Lianne Ho & Cadi Russell-Sauve

There's always a lot to take in at the Association of College and Research Libraries national conference. This year Seattle played host, and 'Fish editors Cadi and Lianne were there to represent the hometown crew. There's a lot about the experience they liked, but they ain't above hating on sleazy robots. Here's their list of the best and the worst of ACRL 2009:

  1. Free ice cream
    ACRL Seattle On Saturday there was free ice cream at the exhibits. Flavors included mango, coconut, tamarind, and chocolate covered vanilla. Nom nom!
  2. Discount books at exhibits
    Hooray for desperate vendors trying to get rid of their display copies!  I bought three hardcover books (in pristine condition) from Oxford University Press for $14 on Saturday afternoon.  The heaviest book (i.e., the one most annoying for the vendor to box up and haul away) was a measly $2.  Oxford, who was literally giving away dictionaries for free during the last couple hours before the exhibition hall closed, had the best deals, but many other vendors were offering heavy discounts (50% off) on their books as well.
  3. User Experience panel
    This panel featured several dynamic and engaging speakers who shared with us their ideas about improving the quality of experience people have in libraries.  The panel emphasized that libraries need to work on ensuring that the user's WHOLE experience is positive--the library website and web resources, reference services, OPAC, systems, and circulation all need to work.  For example, if a user receives great service at the reference desk, but the book they want isn't where it's supposed to be on the shelf, they walk away with a less than favorable opinion of the library.  The speakers also stressed that libraries should strive to give meaning to the information they provide and build relationships with their users.  And through it all, communication with faculty and students is key!  It may sound like common sense, but a surprising number of people did not raise their hand when the panelists asked who had heard of the term "user experience" before...
  4. Persuasive Speaking Workshop
    I showed up to a workshop, put myself of the wait list, and actually managed to get in even though I was 30th on the list! The workshop was about developing communication and leadership skills. Two professional, non-librarian speech consultants taught about how to develop a good message -- akin to an elevator speech -- and relaxed breathing to reduce stress and make you appear more confident. Developing a good message plus good voice presentation plus good presentation skills should lead to increased confidence and persuasion skills. The workshop was fun, educational, and a good place to network.
  5. Improv Techniques in Library Instruction
    A group of librarians from USC hired an improv coach (one of the perks of living in Hollywood!) to teach them techniques that could be used in library instruction sessions.  It might sound silly, but they had some great ideas.  Being good at improv means having great communication skills, learning how to read a room, and being responsive to others.  Some practical applications in library instruction were letting students contribute to session/workshop agendas, using physical movement to capture and maintain attention, incorporating student role-playing in research demonstrations (ex. using the library catalog, searching a database).  One fun suggestion they had was using a movement activity ("Stand Up, Sit Down") to illustrate how boolean operators work: "Students with piercings OR tattoos - stand up!" 
  6. Cyber Zed Shed
    Adjacent to the exhibit hall was the Cyber Zed Shed. Speakers had about 20 minutes to talk about technology-related innovations in every area of the library: from using mass media in information literacy; to using Facebook for faculty research (presented by alum Miriam Rigby); to using Morae for usability testing (presented by our own Kathryn Whitenton and UW Librarian Jennifer Ward). Presentations were varied and (for the most part) interesting, highlighting numerous technologies and applications.
  7. EMP dance party
    Saturday night TestLast hosted desserts and music at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum. The entire museum was open to librarians who were banging on those bongo drums, forming impromptu bands which were just as quickly disbanded, eyeing Captain Kirk's sweaty jersey, and threatening the Daleks with extermination. KEXP's Darek Mazzone provided the tunes, and got a few dozen librarians doing the electric slide and forming a congo line. There were an assortment of desserts, including mini-eclairs, cupcakes, mousses, and more; beer, wine, and coffee.
  8. Poster Sessions
    There were five poster sessions featuring about a bazillion amazing posters. Some alumni presented posters, including Hana Levay on creating a serials decision database and Madeleine Mundt on community-oriented academic library exhibits at Suzzallo Library. Some other highlights included posters on the impact diversity initiatives may have on some librarians of color; Library Secrets, an outreach/information literary program that uses social software applications (like Twitter) to share tips and tricks about using the library and doing research; and a research paper wizard designed to guide students through the research and writing process step-by-step toward a deadline.
  9. Dinner w/ Colleagues
    Friday night we went to dinner at the Purple Cafe with 15 librarians from Washington. The ACRL-Washington Chapter even bought our first glass of wine! We networked with librarians from Washington State University, City University, UW Libraries, Pacific Lutheran University and had a reasonably priced and delicious dinner.
  10. Keynote speakers Sherman and Ira
    Can I just say, I love these guys. Funny, articulate, and lovers of librarians. Well, Alexie is more of an objectifier than lover of librarians… He spent a good 3 minutes at the beginning of his speech just staring us up and down and sighing. His main point was we should tell stories through research and that the librarian's duty does not end at the presentation of sources. Rather, the librarians should help the patron make sense of the presented information through narrative and other relevant sources. Likewise, Glass spoke about how to make stories, which can often be mundane, interesting. As teaching librarians, this is essential to getting students to enjoy the library and be intrigued by research.


  1. Crazy robot
    One of the vendors had a "robot" that called me by name and ensnared me in conversation about some product. I still don't know what they were selling. And I still am unsure if the robot was a person or how it was controlled. But the robot weaseled me out of my scan card even after I used the "oh, no thanks. I'm a student" line that always has them running for the hills... Creepy, creepy.
  2. Parking
    For those of us who wanted to go to 8am panel sessions but don't live in downtown, carpooling to the convention center was the easiest mode of transportation. But those parking fees were painful. $24 per day? Ouch!
  3. 8am start
    I don't know about you, but after staying out late "networking," 8am seemed too early to get up, let alone be an attentive panel attendee. I've heard some of those early morning panels were stellar, unfortunately I never managed to get to the convention center before 10...
  4. Elsevier is the devil
    I would argue that Elsevier's headache-inducing "game show" product demo topped even the creepy robot for vendor bad behavior. Caving to the pressure of several women in bright blue sequined vests and one extremely loud announcer, I was roped into taking part in "Scope It!," a Bingo-esque game show meant to showcase three of Elsevier's new products. Between the flashing lights and the game show host's booming voice, I had a splitting headache by the time the game ended an excruciating 15 minutes later. As for the products they were trying to sell us using the game show? I can't remember a single thing about any of them. Way to go, Elsevier marketing team!

April 15, 2009
Vol. XIII Issue 2

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