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Snowy Sandusky: ALA-O Pre-Conference Ignites Conversation and Ideas

13 Nov

Despite the Kalahari Convention Center’s African safari theme, the Ohio weather decided not to coordinate for ALA-O. However, the active and engaged librarians keep the conversation hot and the session abuzz.

Char Booth, Director of Research, Teaching, & Learning Services at the Claremont Colleges Library, lead the ALA-O pre-conference event about library advocacy and outreach, covering the theoretical as well as practical, making it a fruitful session. Having seen Char speak before, she has a vibrant presence and fun yet wise presentation style that draws people to her talks; this was certainly part of the reason for some attending the pre-conference. Her slides are available on SlideShare.

To start off, Char defined advocacy as simply “making people care” and outreach as “making people aware”. These concise yet broad definitions allow for bigger discussions and ideas about what is possible. With libraries, what comes to mind first is promoting resources and services to users but there is so much more to consider and people to keep in mind. As part of the workshop, Char provided a worksheet to generate reflection and table discussions to learn from each other. To make it personal, the first activity was a mini SWOT analysis for a particular advocacy issue or idea. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is such a great idea because reasoning and logic guide the idea to help articulate not only the benefits but also consider any counters against it and prepare for them. This allows for strong and direct advocacy in any situation. As an alternative, some might prefer the quicker WIIFT method (What’s In It For Them?) in order to make the sell matter for the audience.

Part of advocacy includes data and assessment to show the value of your library and what it does. This might be driven by on-campus data collection and analysis. However, Char enumerated several great online sources for library data to replace or supplement your own data:
Ithaka S+R US library survey
NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition
EDUCAUSE ECAR (Student and Faculty Technology Research Studies)
Project Information Literacy

Outreach, then, makes use of the advocacy and Char certainly interrogated it from many angles and offered numerous possibilities. Two main approaches are DIY (Do It Yourself) and LSEDIFY (Let Someone Else Do It For You). For the benefits and concerns for each style, check out Char’s awesome slides at the link provided earlier in the post. Part of her comparison included the feel for particular audiences that each brings to the table, which is important to consider to ensure that the outreach resonates and is effective, such as a professional annual report. Whether fun or formal, non-scripted or instructional, on-the-fly or well-funded, there are great ideas going on at libraries no matter what the context. With its relaxed spirit and perfect weather, Claremont Colleges Libraries puts their mobile library cart and button maker through their paces constantly to go to their users and engage them. What fun, in the sun!

If that isn’t enough, Char offered more resources and reading for those who want to learn more and steep further in inquiry and ideas, check out the ACRL Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report by Megan Oakleaf. Also, at the end of her slides, Char lists a few books of interest too.

As a first-timer at ALA-O, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds! Follow the conference action virtually on Twitter with #ALAO2014 and the numerous session hash tags.

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