More from the ‘Mini-Apple’

May 27, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Awards and Recognition, Continuing Education, Meetings, Professional Development | 2 Comments

Hi folks,

I’d like to thank Sally Gore for her previous post. Like Sally, having received funding from the NAHSL Professional Development Fund, I am obligated to post something of my experience at MLA 2011. Also like Sally, I would have shared some details on this regardless of the funding situation. My reasoning is different from Sally’s however, I would do it because I am a professional. And, as a professional, I need to record that I received this award in my C.V.!

In all seriousness though, I feel that MLA 2011 was a good experience. It had been 7 years since my last MLA conference, and I had the opportunity to present a poster this year (abstract should be HERE at some point – see #85), so it seemed like a good time to re-visit this opportunity. As people that know me will be familiar, I have spent the last few years working with Alison Clapp and our NAHSL Education Committee (see HERE for our list of members) in planning educational programming for folks in our region. As an aside – special thanks to Marybeth Edwards, as these kinds of comments make all of the work for these programs worthwhile! As I reflect on this, the networking opportunity available at a national conference (not just MLA) is invaluable and an educational experience in itself. If you aren’t able to attend this or another major conference regularly; I would recommend getting creative to pull together funding every couple of years to attend.

Having said that, I am excited to point out that when I attended the Chapter CE Chairs meeting at MLA, I learned that there will be expanded opportunities for our membership to attend educational offerings remotely using MegaMeeting software. So, stay tuned for more information on that, as I understand MLA will be doing a program using MegaMeeting in the Fall!

Now, onto a bit of the discussion of some of the content from MLA’s plenary speakers. I thought some of these were thinly veiled pep talks. While everyone enjoys a good pep talk, I agree with Sally in that we need to be realistic about the time in which we live, and recognize that we must work both diligently and intelligently to overcome many significant challenges so that we can continue to be important to our institutions. Yes, we have value, but during this time it is important to ask to whom are we valuable? Why? And, assuming that we are valuable to the right folks (sometimes yes, sometimes no) how do we remain so? As Sally pointed out, many resources seem to flow to buildings and other technologically advanced machines that can be shown off to prospective students/clinicians/whatever the target audience, as opposed to hiring and retaining those people who provide support for academic and clinical endeavors. I believe that this challenge will be ongoing, and we need to choose our focus wisely.

Specifically, I was pleased that I got to hear Geoffrey Bilder’s clever speech (I had met him previously as he was the CTO at Ingenta while I was there, and I knew him to be very intelligent). His presentation was funny, and it was clear he felt that we as information professionals have value, but at the same time he pointed out that publishers are now doing some of the work that we have traditionally done. I would add that vendors, platform providers, and others are also providing some of those services. If many of our “traditional” functions are being infringed upon or taken over by others, we need to fully understand – where does our value lie? Then, we need to focus on those areas and effectively market this value.

Do we have more value now in the areas of e-science, translational science, the EHR (as in recent programs from MLA) or is it perhaps “Knowledge Management”? (Thanks, Margo Coletti and Mark Goldstein!). I think this discussion is worth having and invite others to join in on this!

See what happens when you help fund one of your own to attend the MLA conference? You can thank your NAHSL Professional Development Committee…

Best regards,

Nathan Norris, MLS, AHIP



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  1. Thanks, Nathan. YES! Attending meetings is of vital importance, particularly as we find ourselves in situations where professional support and networking means more than ever. I think a lot of time we think of professional development as a luxury, something that’s the first to cut when funds and time and staff run short. We’re fortunate that NAHSL – as well as other professional groups – realize the value of professional development and help support it for members financially.

    In regards to your call for a discussion about our future, our skills, our new areas of emphasis, etc., I’m happy to chime in. I sure hope others will, too. As you mentioned, I blogged about similar things earlier in the week. I think a lot about the future. I’ve got YEARS to go in my career and quite honestly don’t even see the concept of retirement as something that I’ll ever experience, so wondering what my future working life will be is pretty interesting to me.

    Libraries are changing. Librarians are changing. We see this happening all around us. Today I’ve been thinking how it’s not only we professionals who struggle with these changes, but it’s our patrons, too. When we no longer do something, i.e. provide a service and/or a resource, that they’ve come to expect, there are repercussions to that. What can we afford to keep doing? What do we need to give up? As you note, who are the patrons to whom we can be of most value? And how do we serve them at the expense of others?

    None of this is easy, as we all know. Having a professional organization, in particular the colleagues who make it up, willing to explore and have these hard discussions only helps us as we move forward into not the clearest future.

    • OK, Sally and Nathan, sorry it took me so many days to answer your call for discussion. When I went to MLA 2010 in D.C., Daniel Pink talked about the “high touch” aspect of our jobs that cannot be automated. Now, I suppose a publisher or vendor could provide great customer support (something that used to be our job), so where does that position us for “high touch”?

      I just ordered David Lankes’ book The Atlas of New Librarianship. I haven’t read it yet, but one of the intriguing concepts that David puts forth is “knowledge is acquired through conversation” and that librarians are in the business of being conversationalists. Here’s David’s blog

      So…a publisher or vendor can provide customer service, but what about conversation? Is that only the domain of the faculty or the classroom? Public librarians host conversations all the time (book groups, speaker series) Where do we fit in the conversation?

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