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The Record Breaker


ALA Annual Conference 2007, Washington D.C. boasts a record breaker turnout of 28,635 people (21,466 registrants and 7,169 exhibitors). These numbers surpassed the previous ALA record of 27,962 people set in Chicago, 2005 and last year's annual conference in New Orleans at 16,964. With over 300 sessions and programs, topics ranged from Web 2.0 technologies and applications to new perspectives on information literacy to library promotion and fundraising ("It's Official: ALA Conference Is a Record Breaker," Library Journal: Academic Newswire, June 28, 2007).

Three noteworthy programs included a RUSA MARS Hot Topics Discussion Group Libraries2Go: Library Services for Handhelds, an ACRL Arts Section/Instruction Section program Eye to I: Visual Literacy Meets Information Literacy, and a Women's Studies Section program Once Upon a FURL in a Podcast Long Ago: Using New Technologies to Support Library Instruction.


Libraries2Go: Library Services for Handhelds included a panel of three: Bradley Faust, Ball State University; Markus Wust, North Carolina State University; and Michelle Jacobs, University of California, Merced. Whether or not today's students and library patrons are gaming, blogging, podcasting, or instant messaging to the degree that much of the media and national conference speakers claim, they are indeed mobile. At the 2007 Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, stated "The biggest growth areas are clearly going to be in the mobile space." "And the reason is people treat their mobile phones as extensions of their person," he said ("CEO Eric Schmidt Presents Google's Friendly Face at Web 2.0 Expo," InformationWeek, April 17, 2007). That's what made this particular program so timely and practical.

At Ball State University, mobile patrons can search the library catalog, check library hours and contacts, and browse for information on their various collections and services. North Carolina State University's MobiLIB carries seven distinct services for their mobile users. These services include a catalog search, a text-based version of the library computer availability display (i.e., where PCs, Macs or "Web only" computers are currently open for use), a campus directory search, library contact information, and links out to services such as search engines and campus busing. Both speakers discussed technical issues such as mobile screen sizes, language precision, and access keys for navigation.

Opening its doors in 2005, the University of California, Merced has moved quickly to offer new services to its mobile patrons such as text messaging reference. Some of the questions Jacobs has received via text messaging have been "What was the database we used in class today?" and "What are the hours?" Additionally, at this forward-thinking library all library staff use cell phones rather than desk phones so as not to be tied to the desk when fielding reference questions.

Some bits of advice that Jacobs offered the audience was to be sure to add text messaging to your cell phone plan (to avoid an outrageous bill), list hours this service will be staffed, and add scripts for frequently asked questions. UC-Merced library also has a YouTube video to advertize their service and demonstrate how their text messaging service works.


Eye to I: Visual Literacy Meets Information Literacy struck a chord with ALA attendees as it addressed a topic with which the library profession has been all abuzz, visual literacy. It was a joint venture between ACRL's Arts Section and Instruction Section. The panel included Cindy Cunningham, Director of Media Metadata and Cataloging, Corbis Corporation, Danuta Nitecki, Associate University Librarian, Yale University Library, and Loanne Snavely, Head of Instructional Programs, Penn State University Libraries.

The presenters discussed the overall concept of visual literacy, ownership and rights of image use, cataloging images for effective access, objectives for teaching visual literacy, and teaching strategies. They defined visual literacy as "the ability to communicate as well as recognize and understand ideas conveyed through images." Cunningham (Corbis Corp.) shared some of her insights regarding the cataloging of images for effective access. She made the point that images cannot be cataloged only once if we are to keep up with language trends. One way, however, to keep up with language trends without cataloging images over and over again is to incorporate "tagging" or what Cunningham refers to as "crowd sourcing." This allows users to supplement the cataloging work by attaching their own terms to the images. Cunningham also emphasized the importance of using not only literal but also conceptual terminology in cataloging images. Words are used to convey images but words mean so many different things to different people. Thus, the inclusion of "tagging" and the combination of literal and conceptual terms helps increase database access.

On the teaching/learning end of the discussion, Nitecki at Yale shared an assessment rubric for the use of visual images in the curriculum. The rubric looked at three separate foci of analysis: the depiction, depicted, and depicter. These foci of analysis then are applied to three levels of analysis: factual, interpretive, and evidential. This rubric makes a fine tool for assessing a student's learning.


And finally, Snavely wrapped up the panel with some tips when teaching using images.

  • Are there situations where an image is better than text to teach a certain point?
  • Use an image only when it is appropriate and relevant to what you are saying while you teach.
  • Think about how words are images.
  • Help navigate and orient students through an "image" that is text heavy.

    Check out the accompanying virtual poster sessions .

    The third program, Once Upon a FURL in a Podcast Long Ago: Using New Technologies to Support Library Instruction, must have struck a chord with ALA attendees as so many kept crowding into the hotel conference room to listen that the hotel staff had to take down one of the walls and open up the hallway to add more seating!

    With an academic perspective on Web 2.0 technologies, Joan Lippincott, Associate Executive Director, Coalition for Networked Information kickstarted this panel with a terrific overview of a variety of libraries that are adjusting their environments and services to meet the needs of this new generation of students. Addressing these needs and facilitating deeper learning (e.g., social, active, contextual, engaging, and student-owned), Lippincott states that these libraries are shifting their focus from students as information seekers to students as information producers, from teaching about library access to resources to teaching about access to information and tools, from teaching about policies and rules to fostering policy awareness and discussion. This also included the transformation of information literacy from expert to collaborative, from focused on owned, licensed items to mixed including those freely available. Some examples that she highlighted were:

  • Georgetown University's Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship
  • Dartmouth's RWIT: Center for Research, Writing, & IT
  • University of Pennsylvania's Penn Tags Social Bookmarking
  • Stanford University's GroupSpace with TeamSpot
  • University of Delaware's Student Multi-Media Design Center
  • Georgia Tech's Presentation Rhearsal Studio.

    Kathleen Burnett, Associate Professor, Information Studies, Florida State University followed Lippincott with a perspective on what current library science students are being taught about Web 2.0 technologies at Florida State's College of Information. Kathryn Shaughnessy, Instructional Services Librarian, St. John's University, Queens delivered a wonderful presentation on how St. John's has incorporated tutorials (using Captivate), podcasts (using Audacity), blogs (using WordPress), and wikis (using PBWiki and WikiPM) to support and deliver an online master's level course, Global Development and Social Justice Program. Shaughnessy also discussed using RefWorks as a RSS Reader. Memorably, she said "If a librarian asked me what the one new technology was that they needed to know, I'd say RSS." A bit later in her presentation Shaughnessy humorously stated, "If a librarian came up to me and asked what two new technologies they should know, I'd say RSS and Skype."

    Heather Tompkins, Reference & Instruction Librarian, Carleton College completed the panel with presenting an engaging, concrete view of a variety of social web tools applied to an academic environment. Tompkins argued that social web tools (Web 2.0 technologies) can be used to prepare and design for instruction, communicate and connect with faculty and students, and as a model to teach concepts about academic research. She also addressed why social web tools makes sense to incorporate into academic work. For instance, the social web is interactive, informal, easy, flexible, and focuses on connections. This matches what we know to be true about instructional best practices such as addressing a variety of learning styles and preferences (e.g., active learning), meeting students where they are, empowering students, and emphasizing connections and process.

    The various social web technologies that Tompkins discussed using in practical ways were FURL and del.icio.us (e.g., using social bookmarking tools to share information with faculty, staff, students, and colleagues), RSS (e.g., automatically populating web guides or subject pages on library website with RSS feeds), Flickr (e.g., annotating images such as library floor maps), Google Customized Search Engine (e.g., creating customized search engines for specific courses or project groups), and Google Docs & Spreadsheets (e.g., sharing and editing documents). And perhaps most intriguing was Tompkins argument for using social web tools to teach concepts about academic research. For example, she explained how a discussion and use of "tagging" can relate to the role and importance of controlled vocabulary. Also, a "blogroll" and the function it serves can be related to the function of bibliographies and how researchers use them.

    Check out the WSS panel's PowerPoints and handouts.

    ALA Annual 2007 was packed full of terrific programs many of them addressing practical and concrete ways of applying new, mobile, social, and relevant technologies to our library work for today's patrons.

    Think about getting involved in ALA! Now is the time to join a committee that interests you and addresses your concerns.

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    ALA Midwinter 2008 will be in Philadelphia, PA and ALA Annual in Anaheim, CA.

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