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LEARNING COMMUNITIES FOR EXCELLENCE: Invitation to the ACRL President’s Program in Atlanta: The top five reasons you need to be there

by Lee C. Van Orsdel

ALA’s Annual Conference in Atlanta, on June 13-19, 2002, offers an overwhelming number of opportunities to look and learn, to network and engage, to consider new ideas and challenge old ones. Some of those op- portunities—the best of them—will enlarge the ways you think and act as an academic librarian. The ACRL President’s Program, “Transformational Learning Communities: Claiming Our Future,” promises to be such an opportunity. For those who need to be persuaded, here are the top five reasons you need to be there:

Reason #5:You’ll experience ACRL in one of its most effective and necessary roles: fostering learning communities.

As members of ACRL, we are part of a learning community. Something wonderful happens when we gather to learn from each other and from experts who have knowledge that is relevant to our professional development. The ACRL President’s Program is our annual convocation—a time when we gather to celebrate some of our best people and some of our best ideas; a time to wrestle with issues that affect the way we lead on our campuses and in our libraries. The President’s

Program is always a good place to be on the Monday afternoon of ALA Annual Conference.

Reason #4:You’ll get to see how a dozen or more of your forward-thinking colleagues put the concepts of learning communities into action.

If the devil is in the details, then the poster session that follows the keynote address and panel responses should expand the learning experience for participants by connecting theory to practice. Librarians from 15 to 20 institutions will be on hand to talk about their experiences with learning communities on their campuses. Handouts will be available, so you can take the best ideas home with you.

Reason #3:The Reactor Panel (a.k.a. librarians who respond to the keynote address) consists of three outstanding colleagues you will want to hear: Theresa Byrd, Randy Hensley, and Joan Lippincott.

Theresa S. Byrd is director of libraries at Ohio Wesleyan University and a member of the ACRL Board. An enthusiastic champion of information literacy, Byrd has a good per- spective on learning communities in smaller academic institutions. Her experience in higher education includes a stint with community colleges in Virginia, various leadership roles on her campus and in professional organizations, and extensive work with consortia. She currently serves on the OhioLINK Board.

About the author

LeeC. Van Orsdel is dean of libraries at Eastern Kentucky University, e-mail: lee.vanorsdel@eku.edu

Top five reasons you should attend the President's Program

#5.You’ll experience ACRL in one of its most effective and necessary roles: fostering learning communities.

#4.You’ll get to see how a dozen or more of your forward-thinking colleagues put the concepts of learning communities into action.

#3.The Reactor Panel (a.k.a. librarians who respond to the keynote address) consists of three outstanding colleagues you will want to hear: Theresa Byrd, Randy Hensley and Joan Lippincott.

#2.Barbara Leigh Smith (a.k.a. tire Keynote Speaker) is one of the most important voices in the nation on learning communities, and she’s coming to help us learn about their potential for reforming higher education.

#1.You don’t want to ignore an issue that has so many implications for the ways we teach and learn on our campuses, in our libraries, and in our professional organizations.

Randy Burke Hensley hails from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM), where he is head of public services. Hensley’s passion for teaching and learning earned him the Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award in 2002 and the UHM Library Innovation in Instruction Award in 2001. He is a regular faculty member of the ACRL Institute for Information Literacy Immersion Program. He has published and presented extensively on learning communities and on learning styles.

Joan Lippincott, an experienced librarian and associate executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), understands the impact of technology on teaching and learning, particularly in collaborative environments, better than most. She was instrumental in establishing CNI’s New Learning Communities program to identify and model innovative uses of networked information and collaborative teaching and learning practices. In the March issue of C&RL News, Lippincott speaks powerfully in favor of librarians as participants in, not just adjuncts to, teaching and learning communities on college campuses.1

Reason #2:Barbara Leigh Smith (a.k.a. the Keynote Speaker) is one of the most important voices in the nation on learning communities, and she’s coming to help us learn about their potential for reforming higher education.

Smith could well be called an icon in the field of learning communities in the United States. In the 1980s, Smith was the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Evergreen State College, an innovative consortium of 48 colleges and universities in the state of Washington. While there, she founded the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education, out of which grew the learning community models that have spread across the nation. Smith is currently codirector of the National Learning Community Project, funded by the Pew Charitable Trust. Her experiences in higher education administration, in curriculum innovation, and in the development of collaborative teaching and learning methods are impressive. Smith’s perspectives on the emergent use of learning communities in higher education will be stimulating and challenging.

Reason #1:You don’t want to ignore an issue that has so many implications for the ways we teach and learn on our campuses, in our libraries, and in our professional organizations.

The learning communities movement is one of the most powerful ideas in higher education today. It is a concept with many applications, but it is strongly associated with campus efforts to retain students and to increase their success. For academic libraries, the concept has tremendous potential to “ensure the library’s relevance to [our institutions’] educational and research programs,” as ACRL President Mary Reichel declared when she announced her presidential theme.2

Indeed, the idea of learning communities gives form, structure, and language to our desire for continuous learning, for creative connectivity, and for diversity on our campuses, in our libraries, and in our professional associations. Sounds like an idea worth showing up for.

The President's Program will be held in Atlanta on Monday, June 17, 2002, from 2:00-5:00 p.m. Visit the President's Page at http://www.ala.org/acrl/ prespage.html.

Notes

  1. Joan K. Lippincott, “Developing collaborative relationships,” College & Research Libraries News (3, 3 (2002): 191.
  2. Mary Reichel, “ACRL: The learning community for excellence in academic libraries,” College & Research Libraries News 62, 8 (2001): 820. ■
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