Are you ready for the ALA conference?

Bags packed? Schedule highlighted? Are you ready for the 2013 ALA Conference?

Today, I’m offering up a collection of links to help you make the most of ALA 2013!

American Libraries direct has a great list of conference events and activities in Chicago.

ALA also offers a PDF you can print and take with you of making the most of your conference experience

Sara Dixon over at INALJ offers her thoughts on whether attending is worth it for those that have to pay themselves

Here’s Library Journal’s guide to attending the conference

PC Sweeney tells you how to be awesome at going to library conferences

John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow will both be there, among other fabulous authors

Open Access is a big deal for academic libraries! Check out Scholarly Communication events at ALA

While you’re there – take a tour of local Chicago libraries

Of course – attending a conference shouldn’t be all work. Take time to eat, drink, and do something fun!

Wear your walking shoes, hit the exhibit hall, and remember to bring back some swag for the rest of us!!

EDIT: And furthermore, here’s a list of free food opportunities at ALA to help you stretch your travel dollars

What events are YOU most looking forward to at ALA 2013?

Learning Badges: A solution to growing library instruction programs?

Let’s face it: academic libraries are only going to continue having to do more with less. As print circulation drops, use of  online library resources (hopefully) rises – but how is your library meeting the challenge of teaching students to use online resources efficiently? I would guess that most instruction librarians are already on teaching overload! The solution may lie in online classes – but not the for-credit, instructor-led classes that you’re used to!


The future of information literacy instruction may, instead, lie in learning badges! Many college and university libraries are turning to “gamification” or short, online modules, that teach students specific info lit skills and reward students with colorful, virtual “badges” that the students can collect and show off. Purdue University seems to be at the forefront of developing academic library badges. Take a look at U of A librarian Nicole Pagowsky’s review of Purdue’s beta badge program.

Done well, learning badges look like some of those developed at University of California, Davis, for the sustainable agriculture program. Earned badges allow students to show the world what they’ve learned. “Each badge would allow the employer to click through to more detailed levels of evidence and explanation—documents, assessment results, hyperlinks, video, and more.” Badges are fully explained and hopefully transferrable to use outside of academia.

In fact, learning badges have the potential to transform records of academic learning as we know it today:

Compared with the new open badge systems, the standard college transcript looks like a sad and archaic thing. Its considerable value is not based on the information it provides, which is paltry. What does a letter grade in a course often described only by the combination of a generic department label and an arbitrary number (e.g. Econ 302) really mean? Nobody knows, which is why accredited colleges often don’t trust that information for the purposes of credit transfer, even when it comes from other accredited colleges.

What do you think? Do you see potential for learning badges at your institution?

“So You Have Blue Hair”: On looks and working in a library

Say the candidate walks into the interview with blue hair and piercings. Maybe she’s also wearing bright pink boots along with her slacks and blazer. What do you think?

Katy Perry does well for herself, right?

Public library employee Elinor Crosby, of Nova Scotia, says that she stays true to herself by maintaining a professional look but also incorporating her personality, which includes all of the above:

The librarian who convinced me to go and do my MLIS insisted that librarians didn’t care what you looked like as long as you could do the job, and I have found this to be true.

In my limited library experience, I haven’t met any library employees with hair color that doesn’t occur naturally, or with uncommon facial piercings, but I’ve definitely met people that are proud to show off their personal style with their work attire. Yet, we don’t seem to have much of a dress code at my library at Arizona State, and I think most people here dress however they feel most comfortable.

What do you think? Does physical appearance of a potential employee affect whether or not you’d be interesting in hiring her, professional skills aside?

See the entire post over at INALJ: So You Have Blue Hair

Project Information Literacy


How do college students start their research? Most academic library employees know the quick answer: Google and Wikipedia! But there’s more to the story. How do college students move through the research process in the digital age, and why do they approach it as they do?

Project Information Literacy‘s (PIL) mission is to reveal the answers to this question. PIL is a nonprofit that is partnered with University of Washington’s i-School. Their goal is to re-shape research skills curriculum to help students as they are, not as we wish they would be.

PIL has already completed six major studies since 2008 in an attempt to “to investigate how they find, evaluate, and use information for their course work and for addressing issues that arise in their everyday lives.”

One of their findings is that while students’ lives are dramatically different in this age of technology, many college professors stick to old-fashioned teaching methods:

Despite the seismic changes in the way that information is now created and delivered, 83% of instructors’ handouts for research assignments PIL analyzed in 2010 called for the standard research paper. Few handouts asked students to present findings using other formats, including multimedia and oral presentations.

PIL also studies how students’ research skills carry over into their personal lives and post-graduate jobs. Even classically “information-literate” students still struggle in the workplace. In a column from late-2012 over on Inside Higher Ed, one librarian summarizes a key report from PIL documenting the struggles of recent college grads:

What they hadn’t learned was how to deal with questions that didn’t have an answer that could be found in a text, whether online or in print. Their work assignments lacked the structure and instructions that college assignments had, their deadlines were tighter, and the stakes were higher. They felt their jobs were at risk. One key need graduates identified was finding mentors and informants. As one focus group participant put it, “the biggest hurdle for me was getting used to talking to strangers” (19).

Even with the prevalence of social networking, students might still need to work on their social skills to help themselves get ahead in life!

Check out this overview of PIL that features super-hip music:

Automate your life: Let IFTTT “put the internet to work for you”

Have you heard of If This Then That (IFTTT)? It’s a social media mash-up tool that lets you conveniently automate online tasks!

The structure is simple: if one thing happens, then do something else:

These automated tasks are called recipes. IFTTT users create recipes to share with the world! Simply create an account on IFTTT and share your social media info with the site. Worry not, IFTTT has been reviewed by PCWorld, NY Time’s Gadgetwise blog, and Time magazine.  So take advantage, try one, and see if your life gets better: