The plants around my home just burst into bloom. Thanks to some professional cross-pollination at the California Academic and Research Libraries (CARL) conference, “The Academic Library in Times of Change,” my library will be sure to be blooming, too. On April 13-15, academic and research librarians converged in Redwood City, CA, to share projects, ideas, and inspiration in order to address the future of academic libraries.
I attended because my school is a boarding high school that features a rigorous academic program. I want to make sure my library serves our students as they develop from precocious middle schoolers to college-bound leaders ready to tackle significant challenges and civic responsibilities.
Even across the aisle in ACRL, our friends are focused on similar goals and values, albeit in different contexts. While this post is incapable of offering an exhaustive list of all the amazing sessions and interactions afforded by the conference, there was a uniting theme that particularly stood out: equitable service to support the well-being of our patrons as they pursue complex literacies.
While this theme harkens to our roots, it is a bellwether idea that will help us focus and fulfill our promise. In a keynote address, Miguel Figueroa emphasized that our profession is strong in uncertain times because we are able to articulate values that give us clear direction in the face of manifold futures. That is, there is no single way forward with a final destination. Mr. Figueroa emphasized the efficacy of our professional values as we navigate the branching possibilities along the way—very Choose Your Own Adventure.
I am already using exercises in my journalism course that I learned from Joanna Messer Kimmit in a session about participatory design. I like the ethos of this collaborative approach to change; its democratic methods are apt for educational contexts. That is, there should be a participatory aspect to all of our work. Also, what better way to obliterate the apocryphal real-world/school divide than to have the students’ witness the effects of their efforts?
In another session titled “I study in my car,” Brian Greene and Elizabeth Horan made an inquiry into the study habits of students at two vastly different community colleges. They shared their survey and I am very eager to adapt it and learn more about my students’ study habits. Based on the data that came back, they even made changes to the libraries’ services to help adjust for more equitable and inviting access.
Additionally, an opening poster session worked like fireworks, sparking ideas. I met people who were increasingly circulating tech tools as part of their collection, staging scientific poster sessions in public places, analyzing tweets to map the connectedness of information literacy tweets, and collaborating with public libraries.
One compelling poster was presented by Torie Quiñonez, who utilized Chicana feminist theory to suggest ways “to see and support” students’ development into scholars. This formative work is often painful and difficult, especially for students who are entering into academic arenas for the first time and are navigating new identities. She shared her own narrative and I was excited to share this with a colleague of mine who teaches special courses about the Mexico-United States border, as well as global gender studies. If we want to equitably serve our audiences and fulfill the promise of diversity, it will be imperative to take in to account our students’ points of view as we offer support and guidance.
Conferences are motivating. They simultaneously help professionals broaden their horizons and affirm shared values. I returned to my library enlivened and excited to invest in its potential. Where are you “cross-pollinating” and what is inspiring your practice? Leave your comments below.