Conference Circuit

ACRL Together Wherever

Programs from the virtual event

ACRL Together Wherever, a week of virtual programming and networking opportunities for the academic and research library community, was held June 8-12, 2020. More than 2,769 individuals signed up for the virtual event, accounting for nearly 4,600 live webcast views. Recordings of all ACRL Together Wherever sessions are freely available on the ACRL YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/3gfT1ie. Ed. note: Thanks to the ACRL members who summarized programs to make this report possible.

Shifting the center

More than 600 registered attendees joined McKensie Mack, anti-oppression consultant, researcher, facilitator, and founder of #BoundaryWork for an inspiring, important presentation on accountability culture and dismantling structures of racism within libraries. In the 2020 ACRL President’s Program, “Shifting the Center: Transforming Academic Libraries through Generous Accountability,” Mack used a combination of stories, GIFs, theory, and calls to action to keep the audience inspired and engaged. They asked attendees to engage on Zoom chat and Twitter, and seamlessly integrated input from the crowd into the presentation.

Throughout, Mack connected accountability directly to harm, arguing that when we talk about race, and when we work to dismantle racial oppression, we cannot avoid harm: “There is no such thing as a harmless person, a harmless institution, or a harmless community.” Harm will happen. Accountability is, therefore, about the choices we make: to reduce harm or to amplify it.

So, what does generous accountability mean, and why is it important? To answer this question, Mack dug into the ways that libraries as public educational institutions in the United States are founded on white supremacy culture. White supremacy culture is baked into all of our institutions, and it is something that we have deeply internalized. Generous accountability as a concept is for all who have internalized white supremacy, which includes accountability as something punitive, shameful, and individual. Generous accountability is accountability that is transformative, healing, and rooted in community.

Mack closed with five “critical guidelines” for dismantling white supremacy culture in libraries:

  1. We cannot be neutral. This work is not race natural. Race-neutral approaches to library service are inherently racist.
  2. Develop an anti-racist lens. White librarians and administrators need to develop an anti-racist analysis and apply it to librarianship. Non-Black librarians and administrators of color need to develop an anti-racist analysis centered in pro-Blackness.
  3. Black librarians need to heal. Healing requires study. Healing requires facing internalized anti- Blackness.
  4. Normalize open dialogue about anti-racism.
  5. We do this work together, never alone . . . even healing. Don’t isolate.—Anne-Marie Dietering, Oregon State University, Anne-Marie.Deitering@oregonstate.edu

Teaching computer science students about algorithm bias

This panel discussed the presenters’ experience of collaboratively designing instruction on algorithm bias for computer science students. Shalini Ramachandran (former science and engineering librarian at the University of Southern California [USC]) opened the talk. She defined algorithm bias as “bias that occurs when computer algorithms systematically discriminate against certain content, individuals, or groups in favor of others, without a sound basis.”

Slide from the “Teaching computer science students about algorithm bias” session.

Slide from the “Teaching computer science students about algorithm bias” session.

Sheree Fu (engineering librarian at California State University-Los Angeles) spoke next and discussed the results of a survey of computer science students conducted at the collaborators’ institutions. According to Fu, some of the survey responses indicate that computer science students recognize the possibility of bias but hold an unwavering optimism about technology that could reasonably lead them to overlook the potential of bias in their professional work.

Karen Howell (head of USC’s Leavey Library) presented after Fu and considered instructional goals. She pointed out that “Our goal for the algorithm bias instruction module is to raise awareness among computer science students. When computer science students become aware of the potential harms caused by algorithm bias, they can work to mitigate these harms by integrating ethical considerations into the algorithms they are working on or reviewing.”

Finally, Steven Cutchin (associate professor of computer science at Boise State University) reviewed his experience teaching the instructional modules the team had developed. Some of his recommendations to educators were to emphasize cases with inherent ambiguity, show the process and steps that cause problems in AI outcomes, and select examples that come from a place of good faith.

Ramachandran concluded the talk by emphasizing that librarians, because of a long-standing history of advocating for fairness in information systems, are uniquely poised to disseminate instruction on this topic to students from a variety of disciplines.—Shalini Ramachandran, Boise State University, shalini.cutchin@gmail.com

Empowering student workers using flipped and agile project management

Jenn Stayton presented “Empowering Student Workers Using Flipped and Agile Project Management” to a room peaking at 289 attendees. As student engagement librarian at the University of North Texas, Stayton discussed how she engages her student workers in projects that develop career skills, while taking into account each student’s unique skillset and professional interests. By recognizing individuality, Stayton develops projects that use student’s interests while benefiting the library as a whole. These projects include:

  • a peer-to-peer embedded tutoring program,
  • a student-run research blog, and
  • self-created tabling events, promoting the library and providing research support.

To accomplish all of this and “control the chaos,” Stayton uses a combination of flipped and agile project management.

Flipped project management:

  • gives students a project and time to learn on their own, before coming together to help,
  • gives student workers an opportunity to learn hands-on, which enables a deeper learning through problem-solving,
  • allows supervisors to become the “soundboard” that guide the projects, and
  • encourages productive failure, making unsuccessful projects a learning opportunity.

Agile project management:

  • prioritizes communication,
  • encourages adaptability by prioritizing responding to change versus adhering to plans, and
  • uses the natural skillsets and diversity of a group, while building on expertise that aligns with student interests. For example, if one person is good at technology, one is good at media studies, and one is an English major, then they will make a better training video than any one person.

Stayton recommends supervisors be willing to become mentors, and she ended the session by advocating that libraries “shift our focus to being student-centered. Everyone’s job in the library should be teaching students and encouraging students.” This can be done by treating students as collaborators on projects, which allows for a mutually beneficial process enabling both parties to learn from each other.—Madison Brents, University of North Texas, madison.brents@unt.edu

Everyday inclusion begins with me

“Everyday Inclusion Begins with Me: Diversity and Intergroup Communication in the Workplace” engaged the virtual audience on challenging questions of bias, intergroup communications, mentorship, and microaggressions. Delivered as nationwide protests erupted over police brutality, the presentation was both timely and well-attended.

Aubrey Iglesias (New Mexico State University) introduced the presentation stating, “By going through our workdays in an automatic way without reflection and continuing to do what we are doing is contributing to us not progressing as a profession.” Iglesias reviewed research showing how diverse groups tend to outperform homogenous groups and offered tips for more inclusive communication and diverse workgroups to improve library outcomes.

Pambanisha Whaley (Alabama State University) shifted toward a discussion of the importance of mentorship in the profession, asking attendees to consider whether certain library members suffer penalties for speaking and whether others get all the important opportunities. “If done effectively, our mentoring relationships are going to create connections that strengthen how we can understand each other [and] allow us to think beyond our own experiences,” said Whaley. “They’re going to help us really work together as a cohesive team.”

Jaena Alabi (Auburn University) discussed the persistent problem of microaggressions, which can “be directed at any marginalized group.” Witnesses to microaggressions need to defend victims, because, “[i]f you try to consider yourself an ally and you’re not responding in a situation, you’re sending a definite message to people that you were hoping to ally with,” Alabi noted.

The presenters offered an anti-racism book list in their slides and the audience engaged in more than 20 minutes of discussion, and questions following the presentation.—David Irvin, New Mexico State University, dirv@nmsu.edu

Flip the deficit script

Emily Cox (North Carolina State), Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger (Virginia Military Institute), Mark Lenker (University of Nevada-Las Vegas), and Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol (Millersville University) called on the audience to reflect on the everyday life research skills first-year students bring with them to library instruction sessions. The group’s literature review found that the majority of research studies emphasized the deficits of first-year students’ information literacy skills. The presenters’ project takes a different approach by interviewing first-year students about their everyday life research in order to identify promising starting points for developing strengths-based information literacy instruction.

The four presenters for the “Flip the deficit script” presentation.

The four presenters for the “Flip the deficit script” presentation.

The interviews revealed several findings about first-year students’ research habits that fall under five broad themes:

  • Students readily discuss their everyday life research experiences.
  • Students frequently consult with people they know.
  • Students learn through a range of information channels, evaluating sources as they go.
  • Students double-check findings with sources they trust.
  • Students articulate the difference that their learning made for their lives.

For each theme, the researchers related an illustrative example from the interviews, connected it to an ACRL frame, and suggested specific activities to show how the theme could be applied in an instructional setting. Over the course of the presentation, participants responded to questions the researchers used in their semi-structured interviews with students, giving them a chance to learn about their everyday research strengths, too.

The presenters concluded by suggesting that librarians flip the deficit script and focus on students’ everyday life research skills. As educators, we strive to create a positive, strengths-based learning environment. We can prepare students for the academic research environment by valuing what students bring to the classroom and building connections between academic research and their existing research experiences.—Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger, Virginia Military Institute, kocevar-weidingerea@vmi.edu

Forgotten Hispano-American literature

Seventy-one participants attended Kathia Ibacache’s (romance languages librarian, University of Colorado-Boulder) presentation “Forgotten Hispano-American Literature: Representation of Hispano-American Presses in Academic Libraries.”

Ibacache reported on the results of her research regarding the number of books published in 19 Hispano-American countries between 2014 and 2018 and held in 88 university libraries in the United States. She noted the lack of representation of Hispano-American presses in these university libraries, the impact this poor representation may have on academic activities, the benefits of building a collection that is inclusive, and best practices for acquiring these books.

Ibacache offered information on issues related to a market-driven book publishing business, where books published in Spain and book vendors from the dominant society are the ones filling the shelves at expense of books from Hispano-American presses.

Some issues are:

  • new and emerging authors are a financial risk factor;
  • students and researchers may be losing access to the work of canonical authors who are not considered profitable;
  • while an author’s country of origin presses and other presses in Latin America may publish the complete works of an author, European counterparts and presses from the United States tend to publish anthologies or the most representative pieces of recognized authors. However, researchers and students may need complete works for comprehensive understanding; and
  • Latin American indigenous languages’ publications are one important area of literature that is usually found in Hispano-American publishing houses.

Emphasizing the importance of building inclusive collections, Ibacache noted that Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas offer a wide variety of book vendors, publishers, and university presses that may benefit the Spanish-language collections of university libraries in the United States. The benefits of building a Spanish-language collection that is inclusive include the fact that university libraries may provide an array of emerging Latin American authors, dispense access to complete and canonical works that may be omitted by non-Hispano-American publishers and book vendors, and rescue the lo latinoamericano essence contained in these books.—Kathia Salomé Ibacache Oliva, University of Colorado-Boulder, kathia.ibacache@colorado.edu

Meeting the AI challenge

Carey Toane and Michael Serafin presented to an online group of more than 100 people on the University of Toronto Libraries’ (UTL) 99 AI Challenge, a program launched in May 2019 that focused on educating nontech experts on the basics of artificial intelligence (AI). The program had two phases: the completion of an online course exploring the basics of AI and six in-person group conversations with UT subject experts. Toane discussed the program planning aspects, including program design, recruitment, and delivery, with particular emphasis on the importance of a diverse cohort. In terms of program design, ethical and philosophical concerns, as well as the societal impact of AI, were brought to the forefront in the speaker series, as typically there tends to be a lack of focus on these in standard AI courses.

Serafin described program assessment, including the results of two participant surveys that were administered and analyzed. Data collected included demographic information, reflective content (like learning assessments), and changes in perspective or opinion. The surveys highlighted considerations that should be made for both re-implementation of the program locally, and for institutions considering this type of program. The results showed that participants liked that experts were chosen to give talks and in fact would have liked the talks to be longer, and they enjoyed interactive activities and discussion during Phase 2. Additional concerns centered on session scheduling, proactive approaches to online participation for those unable to make it in person, and options for an advanced course.

The following discussion included questions about funding, the origin of the name of the program, and particulars around the discussion series. Additional information regarding the program can be found at https://onesearch.library.utoronto.ca/ai-challenge.—Michelle Spence, University of Toronto, email: michelle.spence@utoronto.ca, and Paulina Rousseau, University of Toronto-Scarborough, email: paulina.rousseau@utoronto.ca

Open peer review

The Publications Coordinating Committee sponsored a panel discussion on the merits and risks of open peer review (OPR), and emerging models from College & Research Libraries (C&RL) and the Publications in Librarianship (PIL) monograph series.

Emily Ford (leading scholar and advocate for OPR in LIS publishing) began the program with a brief history of traditional, double-blind review rooted in racism, classism, and commercial publishing interests. Ford spoke to advantages of OPR, which include producing more robust scholarship, promoting equity and inclusion, and reclaiming community-driven review practices.

Wendi Arant-Kaspar (C&RL editor) described the journal’s use of developmental peer review, in which authors and reviewers are de-anonymized and work collaboratively to improve a manuscript. An editorial describing this process was published in the journal’s April 2020 special issue. Arant-Kaspar also reported that many C&RL reviewers support OPR, but their ability to participate depends on considerations, such as workload involved in mentoring new researchers.

Dan Mack (PIL series editor) described how the editorial board planned for OPR using a decision tree to define levels of transparency and workflows. Ford’s forthcoming book, Stories of Open, was the first in the series to undergo OPR using broadly solicited, identified comments in Google Docs. Both ACRL publications are committed to expanding OPR by providing opt-in pathways for authors and reviewers.

Zoe Wake-Hyde (assistant director of the Rebus Foundation) addressed how OPR can adapt to meet creator needs, engage reviewers, and de-mystify publishing practices for students. Wake-Hyde also acknowledged that BIPOC and queer/trans folx are more likely to face personal and professional consequences in OPR, and recommended creating clear guidelines for authors, reviewers, and editors and explicit policies to report and address harm.

A selective bibliography of readings was also provided.—Tessa Withorn, California State University-Dominguez Hills, twithorn@csudh.edu

Privies, pumping, and prayer: Negotiating private needs in public spaces

The ACRL Professional Development Committee sponsored this panel with librarians from three public institutions. These spaces provide vital services for library users but are not always a top institutional priority, due to their private nature and the often-marginalized groups who require them.

Stephanie Margolin and Jennifer Poggiali described research they did while at the City University of New York on academic library bathroom spaces. Poggiali noted that “it might seem that bathrooms are already a universally acknowledged need on college campuses and academic libraries,” however, they are often overlooked or neglected spaces, which disproportionately impacts patrons with disabilities, women, and transgender and nonbinary individuals. Margolin and Poggiali talked about the importance of multilingual signage, gender-neutral options, changing tables, and investments in cleanliness and maintenance.

Clean, inclusive bathrooms are essential, but they are not appropriate nor lawful for pumping as Charissa Powell and Holly Dean shared with their research into creating a lactation space at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. They found that even at campuses that provide lactation rooms, they can often be inadequate and lacking both necessary supplies and privacy. A successful lactation room should be ADA compliant, with a locking door, sink, comfortable and adjustable chair, table, electrical outlets, and a wastebasket.

Though not legally required, providing a prayer space can accommodate the needs of many library users as Christina Riehman-Murphy and Emily Mross of Penn State University Libraries found with their research into student use of academic libraries for spiritual practices. Their national study and focus groups showed that students use libraries for spiritual practices at many campuses and that access to a simple, dedicated, reservable, and faith-inclusive space can make them feel included, respected, and help manage stress.

Visit https://guides.libraries.psu.edu/ACRL2020PPP for more information.—Christina Riehman-Murphy, Penn State-Abington College, cer20@psu.edu

Students do not attend alone

This program was sponsored by ACRL and presented by Indiana University (IU) East Campus Librarian KT Lowe. Students come from a variety of communities, all of which have their own loci of information and knowledge bases. Knowledge bases, for the purposes of this presentation, included not only mass media and social media, but also family, friends, and community members, who are also affected by media. Therefore, when students come to campus, they bring their information and information-seeking behaviors with them, which stem from their networks and communities.

IU East serves approximately 3,500 students in 11 counties in east-central Indiana and west-central Ohio. In order to foster higher-quality information behavior in students’ home communities, the library has adopted an outward-facing approach with facets targeted toward different age ranges. For grade-school and middle-school students, the library invented a board game focused on discerning fact from opinion, which is available upon request (lowekat@iu.edu).

For adult audiences, librarian KT Lowe hosted a weekly fake news mini-podcast, which was broadcast as part of the local weekly radio show Leave it to Cleaver on WECI 91.5 FM until the COVID-19 pandemic. For senior citizens, the library has partnered with the local public library to lead workshops on misinformation. These workshops will likely be expanded to senior centers and community centers in order to reach a larger audience. Finally, the Fake News Guide (https://iue.libguides.com/fakenews) is intended for all audiences and was designed in November 2016. It has been viewed 117,000 times throughout the world, with responses from as far as Dubai and Dublin. By treating fake news as a community problem, as opposed to an issue particular to student success in class, we aim to improve student outcomes over time, while fulfilling our role as a beneficial community partner.—KT Lowe, Indiana University, lowekat@iu.edu

Drag in academic libraries

An enthusiastic Zoom audience of 270 participants attended “Supporting Diversity in Campus Communities with Drag Queen Story Hour.” A panel of librarians who had hosted Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) on college campuses, and one drag performer, shared experiences, communicated the value of DQSH, and offered advice for academic librarians who wish to host similar events.

Celeste Covington reads during the “Supporting diversity in campus communities with Drag Queen Story Hour.”

Celeste Covington reads during “Supporting diversity in campus communities with Drag Queen Story Hour.”

Drag Queen Celeste Covington, one of St. Louis’s preeminent story time drag performers (and employee of St. Louis Public Library’s Early Childhood Outreach Center as Bill Stephens), opened the presentation with a brief overview of the importance of drag activism, the DQSH experience, and the controversy following these events in some communities.

Sarah Reando (communications and outreach librarian at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri) described her experience hosting story times in a campus environment that was exceptionally receptive to drag events. She focused on the challenges of preparing an event for children in an academic library, and the joys of seeing the performers be so warmly received by the local community.

Alora Bauer (student success librarian at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith) shared her experience hosting DQSH in a community that was considerably less accommodating to the event. In spite of this, Bauer’s event provided a fun and educational experience for students and members of the local community.

Maria Atilano (student outreach librarian at the University of North Florida) brought her experience planning the first drag story hour created specifically for college students. These events are now held regularly as part of ongoing efforts to showcase different aspects of LGBTQIA+ diversity efforts.

To close out the presentation, Covington returned for a surprise Drag Queen Story Hour for the session participants. The audience was treated to a drag reading of The Bad Seed by Jory John.—Sarah Reando, Webster University, sarahreando96@webster.edu

Invisible labor in archives and special collection libraries

The RBMS ALA Annual Program Planning Committee hosted the panel “The Invisible Labor in Archives and Special Collection Libraries.” Moderated by Brittany Adams (special collections librarian at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law), the program featured a discussion among Emily Beck (assistant curator at the Wangensteen Historical Library in Minneapolis); Abigail Connick (rare books technical services project librarian at Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts); and Robin Desmeules (cataloguing librarian at McGill University in Montreal).

The session aimed to bring to light issues within special collections and archives work that often go overlooked, with a goal of raising awareness and looking towards solutions. Beck, who is one member of a full-time staff of two, talked about the work that goes into co-teaching around 100 classes each year, in addition to her other duties. Each class requires extensive planning, collaboration with the course instructor, and a deep knowledge of the collection and subject matter. Connick is the first full-time cataloger at her institution and discussed what it was like to inherit the piecemeal work of previous part-time, temporary catalogers, while holding a term position herself. She also discussed the weight of a significant backlog. Finally, Desmeules spoke about the special knowledge and research that goes into cataloging, which may require consultation with colleagues, especially where foreign languages and non-roman scripts are concerned. She also discussed her research on the feminization of librarianship and its implications.

The chat session was highly active, with many participants calling for a continued conversation on invisible labor with the addition of more diverse perspectives, both personally and professionally. RBMS is currently considering further programming on this topic.—Brittany Nichole Adams, Northwestern University, Pritzker School of Law, brittany.adams@law.northwestern.edu

New metrics for telling your library’s story

This panel discussion, sponsored by the ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey Editorial Board, featured Maurini Strub (director of library assessment at the University of Rochester), Meris Mandernach Longmeier (head of research services at The Ohio State University), Jonathan Wheeler (data curation librarian at the University of New Mexico), and Krystal Wyatt-Baxter (head of assessment and communication at the University of Texas-Austin). It was introduced by Devin Savage (dean of libraries at Illinois Tech) and moderated by Mary Jane Petrowski (ACRL associate director).

Maurini Strub, director of library assessment at the University of Rochester, speaking during the “New metrics for telling your library’s story” program.

Maurini Strub, director of library assessment at the University of Rochester, speaking during the “New metrics for telling your library’s story” program.

This panel sought to help identify newly emerging metrics to assist in the articulation of library value. The speakers then not only shared some of the processes and tools they had developed, but also spoke to communicating with stakeholders and aligning library activities with institutional strategies. Strub spoke about a process for event evaluation and how she looked to go beyond headcounts to assess learning, behavior, impact, and return on investment. Longmeier discussed trying to measure success at her library’s spaces, specifically the Research Commons. She demonstrated how their program implementation model helped them implement a data gathering plan. Wheeler gave an overview of the RAMP project, an IMLS-funded, multi-institution collaboration that provides accurate institutional repository usage data. Wheeler spoke about how RAMP’s dynamic benchmarking could be used for insights and decision-making. Wyatt-Baxter spoke about aligning library strategic planning with institutional assessment. She discussed leveraging the reflection phase to make positive changes and reorient to big picture goals. Wyatt-Baxter ended the panel with the wry observation “. . . and then 2020 happened.”—Devin Savage, Illinois Institute of Technology, dsavage@iit.edu

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