Friday, March 13, 2009

ACRL - Post the First

Yesterday afternoon, Bonnie and I arrived in surprisingly sunny Seattle. We're at a small hotel within walking distance of the convention center and a Top Pot. Delish! After checking in and sorting our emails and other work stuff (I handed in the first of two final assignments), we went off in search of food. We stopped by the ACRL of Oregon happy hour, but the place was packed. We then wandered to the College Inn, one of my favorite places in the city (second only to Mary Gates Hall in terms of where I've spend the most time!). We joined the iAlumni group in the back and I had a lovely chat with a woman at the iSchool who work for Alumni relations/development. We chatted a bit about the recent announcement that the residency requirement will be removed from the program and she assured me that this was not a decision taken lightly, and in fact has been in discussion for at least two years. This makes me feel more confident about the decision, but I will still miss the opportunity to travel northwards to meet up with my cohort and other online students.

This morning, after breakfast at the aforementioned Top Pot, we headed to the convention center to check in. A snazzy tote bag and coffee mug were obtained (and the former is being progressively filled with fliers and pens!). I wandered around the exhibition hall and checked out some new microfilm/fiche readers and scanners and the dizzying array of vendors. It's a bit weird to walk around an exhibit hall like that knowing that you really have no say over budget lines (or real concern for budget lines). Everything appears shiny and amazing without a price tag.

After the exhibit hall, I headed out to the lectures. I caught the end of a discussion on information literacy, which I really hope will be posted online. However, I did see Campus Disconnect: Academic Libraries and the Information Needs, Skills, and Behaviors of Non-teaching University Staff, presented by Cara Bradley of the University of Regina. She undertook a survey of staff on campus (distinct from faculty and students) to try to understand why they did or did not use the library and how better to attract and serve this potential users and advocates. The difference in needs from the students was particularly noteworthy - instead of looking for what is cheap and fast (typically the undergraduate focus), staff members wanted materials that were accurate and current. Staff members want assistance with evidence-based decision making, locating the best data possible, and stress reduction. Bradley gave an example of how a staff member related how he spent 6 hours on the phone to locate data. Bradley went back to her desk and located the same data in 15 minutes! Since at my library we really do need a new space, it would be wonderful to pull more staff members into the library to not only assist them in their work, but to really make them see just what a valuable resource we are to the entirety of the university community.

Something I didn't expect from this lecture was how useful the comments and question portion would be. Many librarians who have undertaken similar projects or outreach efforts related some of their solutions and strategies, many of which I scribbled down. A conference is of course intended as a place to share information and ideas, but I guess I didn't realize the ideas would be so practical or audience-generated.

After lunch, I attended a session on E-books, where the presenters (Andrew Revell and Aaron Shrimplin from Miami University Library in Oxford, Ohio) spoke on their research regarding user perceptions of the format. They utilized Q methodology, which is a fascinating mixed-method approach. What I took away from this lecture was the realization that out of their 4 generated viewpoints, 3 contained the idea that people do not like reading off of a computer screen. It will be interesting to see how readers like the new Kindle will impact this opinion, but I think it will have to come down substantially in price before we see a larger user base.

Up next is Sherman Alexie's keynote, which I've been looking forward to since I registered.


FOSCO said...

I was just having the Kindle conversation with my college roommate over lunch. I don't know how I feel about reading off a screen (I suppose I could handle it). On the other hand, there is something very satisfying about the weight of a book (not to mention the tactile experience of the paper and the visual pleasure of the cover--oh, and the smell!).

I can't wait to hear about the Alexie keynote--I love him.

Aiglet said...

I actually do quite a bit of reading in ebook format -- but I do it on my iPhone. It was an incredibly bizarre feeling the first time I realized that my list of "must have" for leaving the house is down to "phone, keys, wallet," instead of "phone, keys, wallet, organizer, book, other book, other other book, scraps of paper to take notes on, pens...."

On the other hand, I also realize that I'm *extremely* unusual in that I don't actually mind reading fiction on the little screen. The program I use (Stanza) has a pretty decent UI and the font/text size are settable (which they're not on a lot of the dedicated devices). I would never read *non*fiction on it, though -- it's not a good medium for things with high density.

I also think that the Kindle won't get real acceptance until it's cheaper, prettier, and interfaced with Project Gutenberg. Why would I pay $300 for something that only reads books from Amazon I have to pay for when I can pay $300 for an iPhone, get Gutenberg for free, other stuff for pay (including all the Kindle content) *and* a phone?