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What We Learned: MLA 2012

Posted by on June 8th, 2012 Posted in: Technology

Our final reflections on the MLA experience come from Andrew Youngkin and J. Dale Prince. Please feel free to follow up with us if you would like more or deeper information.

MLA 2012 – Andrew Youngkin, Emerging Technologies/Evaluation Coordinator, NN/LM, SE/A Region

MLA 2012 officially began for me on Saturday May 19, during the continuing education session, “Do you want to be a Library Director?: Knowledge, Skills, & Career Paths”.  Instructors M.J. Tooey, Carol Jenkins, and Jim Shedlock presented material on a range of topics including leadership philosophies, what sorts of responsibilities a library director must focus themselves on during a given month, the unique political and financial challenges a director might encounter, as well as the different planning and career paths one may take to pursue a library directorship. A pre-course, online primer allowed participants to review a lot of background details prior to and after the class, which provided opportunity to maximize and more fully absorb class material. One of the highlights of the class came towards the end of the session when participants were able to speak one-on-one with each of the instructors about any aspect of being a library director or considerations in aspiring towards that career goal.  Anyone considering library directorship or administration—or even those with a general interest in all that a library director does, would find attending this MLA CE class worthwhile at future MLA annual meetings.

The section programming sessions were also extremely valuable for me. One presentation I enjoyed was presented by Brandi Tuttle, Duke University, and titled “Bringing new methods into library instruction: a case study in team based learning”. In the session, she discussed the importance of pre-class prep and having the willingness/readiness to assess whether participants have looked at the content prior to class. Brandi emphasized the importance of shifting from lecturer to facilitator and suggested creating a LibGuide with course content to help class participants initiate discussion as well as prepare for learning ahead of time.

Another memorable presentation was entitled “Moving out ahead of the curveball: One library’s experience with going mobile” presented by Alicia Livinski from the National Institute of Health Library (NIHL), Alicia discussed how a ‘Mobile & Emerging technologies’ team was formed to implement objectives to plan a program to support the training and promotion of using mobile technologies. Still another presentation, given by Emily Morton-Owens, “New article retrieval tools: how they affect user workflow and the library’s experience with going mobile” discussed various bibliographic management software available to researchers, students, librarians, etc. including Endnote (web and local versions), Refworks, Zotero, Mendeley. She also gave honorable mention to some quasi ‘almost’ products, CiteULike and PubGet.

Finally, two other paper presentations highlighted the use of iPads as tools to improve resource access to users through health science libraries. “Keep Score: Use of iPads by Clinical Faculty” given by Emily Brennan , discussed a project aimed to check out iPads to clinical faculty as a library resource with various apps pre-loaded and supported by library staff. Training on the devices was provided and the overall program was well-received as indicated by increased library and other resource usage among patrons. Equally exciting to learn about, “iPads as Tools to Enhance Communications and Access to Emergency Prep resources” given by Christina Pope, Upstate Health Sciences Library, discussed a project aimed to provide outreach to emergency personnel using iPads.

The 2012 MLA Tech Trends Panel was a huge success and provided audience members updates on several emerging technologies to keep an eye on: Google +, Tumbler, Near Field Communications (NFC), Big Data, and Augmented Reality.  Panelists were Gabe Rios, Emily Hurst, Kimberley Barker, Eric Schnell, Michelle Frisque, and Fatima M. Mncube-Barnes. The technology panel was tweeted by many in the audience and several of the presenters during the session using the hashtag #mlattt. Michelle Kraft mediated, Amy Blevins was Google jockey, and Nicole Dettmer was the session’s Twitter jockey. Panelists provided the audience with a great overview and lots of great examples of these technologies, why they’ve emerged, and where we should be watching for them. I was able to adapt many specific ideas and material into my own technology training as it relates to some of these topics.

The poster sessions at MLA2012 allowed additional opportunities to learn from other medical and health science librarians, specifically regarding projects, collaborations and ongoing work during the year that showcased innovative ways to use technology or strategically employ assessment and evaluation. I’m excited to hold onto the examples displayed at MLA so that I can in turn share with member libraries/librarians in the SE/A who may be interested in developing similar projects.


MLA 2012 – J. Dale Prince, Executive Director, NN/LM, SE/A Region

David Midyette, Andrew Youngkin, and I attended a CE course, “Do You Want to Be a Library Director,” taught by MJ Tooey, Carol Jenkins, and Jim Shedlock. The course was divided into three sections that encompassed the philosophy and practice of leadership, finances, and politics. One of the primary questions asked by the course was “Are leaders born or made?” We did not arrive at a definitive answer—it’s a question that has been asked since the dawn of time, so unlikely to be solved by a morning and afternoon of careful deliberation by a group of librarians—but I think our consensus was, in most cases, it’s a combination of both; even the leader by inclination needs some polish.

The course was not, however, a course on leadership—and this is important to remember if you sign up for the course. It is specifically a course that introduces you to library directorship. Leadership is only one aspect of being a director. Balancing a budget, finding money, and marketing of the library are also part of the burden of the director. I, who manage a finite, given budget, was somewhat startled to find that many academic library directors are expected to find funds external to the University allocations they are given. From my limited viewpoint, this seems the most daunting and stressful of the duties of a library director.

We rounded out the day with a discussion of politics, or the process of strategic thinking. Many people disdain workplace politics (often with good reason since who gets to use the most refrigerator space in the office kitchen does not seem a worthwhile battlefield), but being an adept thinker and advocate is essential for a library director. No one in the class seemed much bothered by this understanding.

Overall the class was successful, and I took away many things that will be useful. A caveat: do not go in expecting how to handle staff; the assumption (rightly) is that deputy and associate directors will be handling most staff issues.

I can only second the praise of Mark Funk’s Janet Doe lecture. It was hilarious and informative. He clearly understands the medicine/sugar ratio.

Though there was very much more, I’ve wasted a lot of my allocated space talking about the course I took. So, briefly here are my take-aways from two presentations I’m still thinking about:

I attended Gail Y. Hendler, Amy R. Lapidow, and Karina Meiri’s presentation, “Hitting a Home Run: Collaborative Curriculum Design” and learned that, when educating medical students, controversy-based exercises are most effective in generating engagement. This has implications for more than just medical curricula. How can this be effectively used in RML workshops?

And from Rachel Walden and Nunzia Giuse’s presentation “Mentoring for Collaboration: More than Just Knowledge Skills,” I learned that in mentoring relationships, softer skills such as diplomacy, advocacy, negotiating around personalities, and institutional goals should also be taught; though it’s my assumption that most organic mentorships (as opposed to arranged mentorships) exist mainly to deal with the soft skills. This is a matter that has interested me since graduate school—the difference between arranged formal mentorships and organic informal ones and the effectiveness of each.

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