by Leah Hinds, Executive Director, Charleston Hub
Day 3: Friday, March 17
Due to travel on Saturday and a day of rest of Sunday, the report from Friday is coming out a bit later than usual! Day 3 of ACRL was rainy and gray, but the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of presenters, exhibitors or attendees. In addition to wearing green for St. Patrick’s Day, attendees were encouraged to participate in “Cardigans for Kindness” day:
“Won’t you be my neighbor?” Just as Pittsburgh local Mr. Rogers would have done, wear a cardigan at the conference today (in-person and/or virtually) in the spirit of community and kindness. Look for other encouragements in the app and opportunities all day long to focus on kindness/gratitude/conectedness. Afterall, “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”
I started the day with a roundtable panel, sponsored by OCLC, “Casting a different kind of net: Diversifying monograph collections in academic libraries.” The participants were Merrilee Profitt and Andy Breeding from OCLC, and Mark McBride from Ithaka S+R. This was a great discussion, on questions such as What does diversifying collections look like? Who is undertaking this work? What does this work look like now? What might this look like in the future? What are barriers to doing this work? The title of the session came from a survey response from an OCLC study. When asked about interest in pre-created lists of diverse materials for your collections, one respondent said he wasn’t interested in a list as much as to look at the list and backwards engineering it. To ask “How did that item not end up in my collection in the first place? How do I re-engineer our process so we won’t miss these things?” To cast a different kind of net to catch the things being left out.
Up next was an amazing panel presentation titled “Building Bridges into Library Leadership: Five Women’s Journeys to the Top Amidst the Great Resignation.” The panel was moderated by Joelle Pitts (Carnegie Mellon University Libraries) and featured participation from five women recently appointed to the top leadership position in their libraries, hailing from a variety of institutions: Tara Baillargeon (Dean of University Libraries, Marquette University), Mimi Calter (Vice Provost & University Librarian, Washington University in St. Louis), Rachel Ruben (Dean of Libraries & Archives, Mount Allison University), Alicia Salaz (Vice Provost and University Librarian, University of Oregon), and Hilary Seo (Dean, University Library, Iowa State University). Despite real and positive progress, there is still an imbalance. 83% of librarians are women, only 54% are in leadership positions. Participants were asked to give some background, their “leadership origin story,” to start with. Most of them were “accidental deans” who didn’t set out with a career goal to be in library leadership, but who either were tapped by a mentor or leader, or who started out in an interim position that was made permanent. Other topics discussed were: What are some of the toughest challenges or barriers that you experienced on your way to the top? Do you feel like the pandemic and the resulting great resignation has impacted library leadership for women? What can we do to continue our forward momentum? A handout for this session is available at https://tinyurl.com/37y42uw3.
“Welcome to the Machine: Ir/Responsible Use of Machine Learning in Research Recommendation Tools” was a standing room only presentation by Ali Krzton, Research Data Management Librarian at Auburn University. Ali defined what machine learning is and how it is being deployed to make the literature more manageable, and went over some popular tools that are being used in academia. The presentation also covered potential problems with machine learning use. ML only searches the patterns it is directed to find: are you engaged, clicking, watching? When you use services like this, not only are you getting a narrower and narrower version of yourself as a researcher, but you get a bit of a funhouse mirror. It isn’t always real what it’s feeding back to you as an interest, but you start to identify that it is real. Librarians can help faculty by explaining the problem with profiling, especially in interdisciplinary work, and by discouraging them from being overly reliant on one particular program. The session closed on a humorous note with a picture (similar to the one below, but I was unfortunately too slow to get a photo of the slide!) captioned, “Cats belong in boxes but researchers do not!”
“Library Leadership Cartwheel: Maintaining Stability During Administrative Uncertainty” was a presentation from three female administrators from Taylor University, a small Christian liberal arts institution in Indiana. They discussed a very difficult, challenging leadership transition involving an interim director and an acting interim director in the midst of Covid shutdowns, a hiring freeze, budgetary challenges, staff furloughs, and significant senior level transition within the institution. The panel discussed the importance of succession planning, and some key elements of stability during times of change: communication, documentation, transition processes, and support.
ACRL closed out the day with a St. Patrick’s Day Soiree at the Senator John Heinz History Center, part of the Smithsonian. The museum “preserves and interprets the history of Western Pennsylvanians through six floors of interactive exhibitions that feature iconic artifacts like the TV set from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the world’s oldest jeep.” Attendees enjoyed an Irish-themed menu of corned beef, lentils and mushrooms, and several varieties of potatoes, along with several Irish beers at the bar in addition to the usual wine options.
We’ll close up the reports tomorrow with notes from Saturday, March 18, and the closing keynote.