March 23, 2018

ACRL Preview: Indianapolis, IN, April 10-13, 2013

The next biannual conference of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL)—ACRL 2013: Imagine, Innovate, Inspire—will be held in Indianapolis, April 10–13.

Why is this conference unlike all other conferences? Several of this year’s innovations are drawn from the current trends in professional gatherings that feature high-energy, interactive, bottom-up content rather than traditional presentations. The IdeaPower Unconference (Apr. 11, 8–9 a.m., 10:30–11:30 a.m., 1–2 p.m., and 3–4 p.m.) is designed for six-minute talks and heavy engagement to generate collaborative projects. Meanwhile, THATCamp ACRL 2013 (Apr. 12, 8:30–9:30 a.m., 11 a.m.–noon, 1:30–2:30 p.m., and 4–5 p.m.) lets attendees set an agenda on the spot. Powers of Ten Dialogue: On Perspective, Insight, and Communication (Apr. 11, 1–3 p.m.) is a “crowdsourced exploration of different perspectives on issues in higher education.”

Other 2013 changes to the conference include added support for body (yoga, massage) and brain (the new Buddy Program), plus technology-enabled instant gratification: attendees can vote for their favorite sessions in the ACRL People’s Choice Awards via mobile device. Winners will be announced at the closing keynote, to be delivered by journalist Maria Hinojosa (Apr. 13, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.). The opening keynoter is education reform advocate Geoffrey Canada (Apr. 10, 4–5:45 p.m.); musician and author Henry Rollins will deliver a third keynote (Apr. 11, 4:15–6 p.m.).

The data-driven library

Among the 300-plus program items on offer, certain thematic groupings jump out. From the “proper study of librarians is libraries” department, several sessions will employ interesting and unusual methodologies to see how patrons really are using academic libraries. The in-depth preconference Plugged into User Behavior: Low-Budget, High-Impact Usability Testing of Library Subject Guides (Apr. 10, 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.) will work with hands-on activities to teach how to construct, conduct, and analyze usability tests. The preconference Begin at the end: Reverse Engineer Your Library Instruction Through Analysis of Student Bibliographies and Citations (Apr. 10, 9 a.m.–noon) will teach how to assess student papers and use the findings to improve library ­instruction.

For those who still want more, two contributed papers may be worthwhile: Seating Sweeps: An Innovative Research Method To Learn About How Our Patrons Use the Library (Apr. 11, 8:20–8:40 a.m.) on which areas of the library and types of furniture are used most and where various activities take place, while How Do You Like Me Now? An Image-Rating Study of Librarian Approachability (Apr. 13, 8:30 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) assesses clothing choices, name tags, and adjacent objects to increase patron comfort in approaching library staff.

New hats for academic librarians

Sessions that consider new roles for academic libraries include the Library Publishing and Undergraduate Education: Strategies for Collaboration panel (Apr. 11, 10:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.) and the contributed paper Supporting the Dissemination of Undergraduate Research: An Emerging Role for Academic Librarians (Apr. 12, 1:50–2:10 p.m.).

While the conjunction of Maker culture and the library can’t really be said to be emerging any more—when the Institute of Museum & Library Services makes it a grant priority, it has emerged—for those still working out the implementation, there’s the panel From the Periphery into the Mainstream: Library DIY Culture(s) and the Academy (Apr. 11, 3–4 p.m.) and the Cyber Zed Shed presentation Made in the Library (Apr. 12, 9:20-9:40 a.m.), which covers kitting out of a particular academic Maker space and how it was used for instruction.

Working better, together

Panels on how to upgrade academic libraries’ workplace culture range from the business-inspired Think Like a Startup: Creating a Culture of Innovation, Inspiration, and Entrepreneurialism (Apr. 13, 8:30-9:30 a.m.) to Diversity Beyond the Numbers: The Application of Psychological Contracts, Microaggressions, and Faculty Incivility to Diversity Recruitment and Retention Issues (Apr. 11, 1–2 p.m.).

On the hands-on side are Building a Dream Team: Library Personas in the 21st Century Library (Apr. 11, 8–9 a.m.) and Innovators Needed: Workforce Development for the 21st Century Academic Library (Apr. 12, 8:30–9:30 a.m.). Contributed papers range from the wistful Where Have All the Entry-Level Positions Gone? (Apr. 12, 4–4:20 p.m.), which analyses more than 9,000 MLS job advertisements from 1990 to 2011, to the obstreperous Advocating for the Devil: The Role of Conflict in Libraries (Apr. 11, 10:50–11:10 a.m.).

Content and how to find it

For those focused on building academic library collections and making them findable and usable, standout offerings include The Hidden Library: Increasing Discoverability in Non-Textual Search (Apr. 13, 9:45–10:45 a.m.), a panel on how to handle metadata and systems for music and visual art. The Game On! Creating Video Game Collections at Academic Libraries panel (Apr. 11, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) will share best practices for video game collection development from the American Library Association Emerging Leaders program on crafting a video game collection to support an academic degree emphasis and creating retro gaming collections funded by students and ­donations.

Meanwhile, contributed paper Beyond the Physical Archive: Imagining Primary Source Literacies in the Digital Age (Apr. 13, 8:30–8:50 a.m.) addresses the dilemma of how instruction librarians can help teach undergraduates to find and use primary sources via traditional methods as well as digitally. Contributed paper Braving the Present: Experience and Copyright Risk Assessment for Digitizing Recent Historical Collections (Apr. 11, 1:20–1:40 p.m.) argues for digitized primary sources being up-to-date, not just to the end of public domain.

Teaching techniques

For instructional librarians as well as those supporting teacher training programs or simply helping faculty upgrade their “A” game, ACRL offers instruction-focused items. Speaking of games, the Quest for Engagement: Innovative Library Instruction with Games-Based Learning panel (Apr. 12, 4–5 p.m.) covers using games to teach inside and outside the library classroom, including for staff training. Meanwhile, Hacking the Learner Experience: Techniques and Strategies for Connecting with Your Instructional Ecosystem (Apr. 11, 1–2 p.m.) takes a step back, focusing on how learning happens at each institution using threshold concepts, curriculum mapping, teaching taxonomies, and inquiry-based methods.

While most probably know from personal experience that stories are a powerful teaching tool, contributed paper Tell Me a Story: The Use of Narrative As an Instructional Tool (Apr. 12, 11:20–11:40 a.m.) explores why, as well as providing examples that worked (and some that didn’t). Another paper, Feeling Our Way: Emotional Intelligence and Information Literacy Competency (Apr. 12, 11:40 a.m.–noon), looks at the hows and whys of students’ emotional development when designing information literacy instruction. Library Extravaganza for Distance Learners, a Cyber Zed Shed presentation (Apr. 12, 11:25–11:45 a.m.), shows how to involve distance learners in a multimedia, five-hour library event in the midst of an in-house, in-person one.

Particular passions

Several sessions this year jump out because their highly specific, not to say quirky, topics may represent one person’s unique obsession. These kinds of sessions are often well worth attending, since a personal love of a subject often leads to a degree of detail that professionalism alone does not deliver—and they’re less likely to happen again, for example, the Embracing ‘Troublesome Knowledge’: Information Literacy Threshold Concepts in the Natural Sciences panel (Apr. 11, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) and contributed papers Beer Cans in the Stacks? Using a Photo Study To Reveal How Students Use Library Spaces (Apr. 11, 8–8:20 a.m.) and Digging the Digital Crates (Apr. 12, 9:10–9:30 a.m.), which uses hip-hop and electronica DJs’ “crate digging” as a metaphor for the search through information artifacts found in media to uncover different forms of expressive culture and argues that libraries have a “pivotal role in establishing social authenticity of these amateur performance recordings in an unmonitored web ­environment.”

Since there are numerous scheduling conflicts even just among LJ’s picks, let alone the full program, don’t forget the Virtual Conference, which lets attendees read papers and view slide decks and web- and podcasts before or after the live event. Likewise, see the final conference program for all session locations. n

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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  1. Thank you Meredith for this very informative article.