Wednesday, January 09, 2008

ALISE conference 2008

This is a nice conference. I met lots of graduate students at the "works in progress" poster session last night.
And this morning I heard Yvonna Lincoln speak! I heard afterward that some were disappointed with her keynote address because they were looking forward to hearing her speak about research methods when what she really spoke about was "serving democratic needs for information & literacy". She talked about how libraries, specifically academic libraries could help to reduce the digital divide (a term she prefers to "haves and have nots") using their physical, digital, human and social resources. It was all based on a quote from Benjamin Franklin to the affect that the benefit of democracy is that power lies with the people and if the people lack the "enlightenment" to use their power responsibly the thing to do is educate them, not to take the power away from them.
I confess that I would have liked to hear her speak about research methods too but I got some really great ideas from her address for the TAMUCC Information LIteracy QEP proposal that I just wrote so I wasn't disappointed. The first idea is to involve students in service learning projects (possibly as a component of a class) that would take them out into the community to teach what they learn (information literacy). And the second was having librarians hold "office hours" in the academic departments to which they are liaisons.
She talked a little bit about assessment and outcomes, saying basically that the idea was to go out and ask people 'how has your life changed as a result of X' which seems really simple but is something that I'm not sure is heavily emphasized in the ARL information literacy standards.
I had lunch today with the Research Methods SIG which ended up being about seven people talking about teaching research methods courses in LS programs at the masters level. Very interesting. And this afternoon I've been listening to various people (doctoral students and faculty) talking about their research. In that respect, at least, it's been lots of fun.
Over all, everyone has been welcoming and pleasant. I was a little worried that it wouldn't compare well to the other small conference I always go to in the summer where everyone is particularly warm and welcoming. But I'm happy to say that everyone here has been nothing but warm and welcoming. I have ribbons on my name tag that identify me as both a student and a first time conference attendee and lots of people have stopped me to introduce themselves and to ask me about myself so I feel right at home.

I also feel right at home because all of these people are interested in the same types of things that I'm interested in: research in library science. I've already attended several workshops, meetings for people with like interests, and poster sessions. I've heard about historical research methods in library science (interestingly, women were the first librarians to conduct surveys of library users, not men even though men originally dominated the profession).

I also attended a session given by Bill Moen and Sherry Vellucci describing MERIC which stands for Metadata Education & Research Information Commons. Its a repository for and community for sharing ideas about course related materials (lecture notes, powerpoint slides, tests and quizes, etc.) for teaching cataloging and metadata courses. This is a very cool idea. What you'll find at their website is a prototype.

This afternoon I attended what amounted to a research showcase. Three presenters gave an overview of research in progress. Kate McDowel presented on "The Unspoken Influence of Women and Children's Services in Professional Librarianship 1882-1906" and for historical research it was very interesting. She credits women librarians with introducing survey research into library and information science as a way for female librarians to support and express their own opinions in a male dominated (at the time) profession.

Suellen Adams presented research that she and Mary Lynn Rice-Lively are conducting into the relationship between personality and LIS researchers' choice of methodology. In interviews, they've discovered that research questions tend to be socially or politically relevant, that researchers like to merge their various interests into one topic, and that, when asked to describe their research, subjects were far more focused on their research topics than on their research methods. The next step in this project is to look for correlations between research methods and the researchers' personality (via the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator protocol).

Finally, Heather Hill presented her investigation into the collection of a privately managed public library system. Also not even remotely something that I'd normally find an interest in but, again, presented so well that I found it fascinating (in that perfect world where I don't need to sleep this would be something I'd choose to read about).

If anything in this (far too long) post has captured your interest, you can find abstracts and contact information for the researchers at the ALISE web site at

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I am... a wife a daughter a sister/sister-in-law an aunt a reader a librarian a doctor a quilter a niece a grandmother ;-) a cat owner 6 feet 1 inches tall a yoga enthusiast a cook