CLA! Yay yay yay! Gooooo librarians!

I just got back from the CLA Annual Conference and Trade Show 2009 in Montreal. What a busy weekend!

The CLA conference was held at the Palaise de Congress in Montreal.

The CLA Conference was held here, at the Palaise de Congress in Montreal. Colourful!

Bruce Harpham and I presented at the poster session. Our topic – near and dear to my heart – evaluated students’ perceptions of professional development opportunities at the Faculty of Information. We looked at whether students were successful in securing employment during the summer between first and second year, and whether their career aspirations changed throughout their MISt degree. It was a great experience to follow from a research problem and design, right through to synthesis and presentation of results.

"Hello, welcome to our poster! Please, take a handout!"

"Hello, welcome to our poster! Please, take a handout!"

I went to a full roster of sessions pertaining to all sorts of cool stuff – Joseph Janes being hilarious about the future of libraries, Mount St. Vincent developing a credit-course on Information Literacy, a video-game developed to teach students about academic integrity, and how copyright is ruining everyone’s lives and destroying the whole world – delightful, fascinating topics!

In particular, I attended several academic library sessions and the topics were great. Here’s a sampling of the issues that came up:

Open Access: This is an issue that continues to be at the forefront of scholarly communications debates in academia. Librarians are in an interesting position because we engage with scholarly publications on so many levels: As authors and researchers; through support for faculty publication and authorship; and as professionals who are all about free and open access to information. Oh, and as those who have seen their budgets decimated by journal subscription fees and crazy access agreements.

Information Literacy: As the risk of sounding like a big jerk: Traditional IL is broken. Students do not need a one-off every September about how to access the catalogue.

Luckily there are several go-get-em librarians in this country who are eager to fix it! Mount St. Vincent librarians have successfully implemented a credit-course on Information Literacy that is open to all students at the university. One of their librarians, Meg Raven also did some AMAZING and BRILLIANT research on students’ and faculty perceptions regarding student’s research habits. When the slides are posted on the CLA website, I will be sure to post them here, since – effectively – students’ expectations for their research, and professors’ expectations for student’s research are OPPOSITE.
It’s totally nuts.

Academic Integrity: Along with the IL issue, and flowing nicely into the Copyright issue, is the fact that it is easy for students to copy+paste stuff off the Internet. We need to teach them that that is a terrible idea. There are many fascinating initiatives academic librarians are undertaking to tackle this issue, from the aforementioned video game, to workshops on information synthesis and ethical research. This is an issue that has come up as a concern among faculty at York as well, so no doubt I will be grappling with issues of plagiarism, citation and information synthesis in the future.

Copyright: Well this is a dizzying issue. And terrifying. And infuriating. But mostly just confusing.

We had a fantastic panel, including a presentation from Margaret Ann Wilkinson, possibly the smartest person on the planet, and faculty at Western Law School. It’s frightening how much of a risk we really take with digital information formats. There are some key class action lawsuits raging between authors and publishing houses over digital content that has profound implications for academic libraries. I’m pretty sure the only people who actually understand the issues are the lawyers though, so one can’t help but feel helpless about the whole mess.

In a workshop on academic integrity at college libraries, the notion of a “Copyright Help Desk” came up; librarians are being approached more and more about issues of intellectual property, copyright, patents and pirating and simply don’t know the answers/don’t want to risk libel. Fascinating but scary (and possibly very expensive, depending on how those law suits go).


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