Healthy Choices | ACRL Preview 2017

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) convenes in Baltimore, March 22–25, 2017. This year's ACRL conference highlights themes of leadership and change, but a closer look also shows a healthy—and hopeful—regard for the well-being of the academic library system from top to bottom.


The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) convenes in Baltimore, March 22–25, 2017. This year's ACRL conference highlights themes of leadership and change, but a closer look also shows a healthy—and hopeful—regard for the well-being of the academic library system from top to bottom.

The big themes haven’t shifted significantly since the last conference in 2015: working with the ACRL standards, information literacy, assessment, copyright education for librarians, the ins and outs of Maker spaces and learning commons, and the always important need to develop cross-campus partnerships.

Surfacing this year is content focused on academic libraries producing video and a look at incorporating augmented reality. In addition, 2017 is also seeing an increasing interest in creative open educational resource (OER) solutions; self-care for students and faculty; and an added concentration on issues of diversity, social justice, equality, and access.


Keeping higher education healthy will depend heavily on making sure that academic libraries can serve the widest range of students possible, maintain multifaceted collections, and provide access where and when needed. Panels such as How It All Comes Together: The Theory and Application of Intersectionality Studies in Academic Libraries (Thurs., Mar. 23, 8–9 a.m.) look at the ways cultural identities impact library experiences on both sides of the reference desk. A Trans Body of Books: (Trans)Forming Library Collections for Advocacy (Thurs., Mar. 23, 9–9:20 a.m.) uses Google Scholar metrics and an analysis of library catalogs to review the availability of material on transgender issues and by trans authors and help drive collection development. And don’t overlook Creating a Social Justice Mindset: The Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Task Force of the MIT Libraries Collections Directorate (Thurs., Mar. 23, 9–10 a.m.) in the poster sessions.

In addition, a panel will be looking at survey results around the question of Using ACRL Diversity Standards To Transform Libraries: How Do We Practice & Value Cultural Competencies? (Fri., Mar. 24, 10:30–11:30 a.m.).

Doing the necessary work, of course, requires recruiting—and keeping—a diverse library workforce. Library Leadership and Gender: Expectations and Lived Experiences (Thurs., Mar. 23, 8–9 a.m.) examines the panelists’ encounters with gendered expectations through various stages of their careers, and “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” The Motivation of Underrepresented Minority Librarians to Lead (Fri., Mar. 24, 3–3:20 p.m.) takes a look at populations traditionally at the lower end of the retention scale.

Attention to inclusion matters in all corners of the library. Understanding the Needs of Scholars in a Contemporary Publishing Environment (Thurs., Mar. 23, 8–8:20 a.m.) looks at the Harvard College Research Program, an institutional effort to support digital scholarly publishing in the humanities that emphasizes collaborative humanities projects and humanities work at the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Accessibility on the Library Horizon: The NMC Horizon Report > 2017 Library Edition (Fri., Mar. 24, 8:30–9:30 a.m.) will examine important developments in instructional and assistive technology through the lens of accessibility. A contributed paper on another form of access—Supporting Learning on the Inside: Academic Library Services for Students in Prison (Fri., Mar. 24, 2–2:20 p.m.)—discusses working with incarcerated students.


The importance of engaging students—and faculty—with social justice work continues to grow. Sea Change: Transforming the Student Experience Through Community Engagement and Service Learning (Sat., Mar. 25, 9:45–10:45 a.m.) explores the ways that a service learning program not only can serve instructional needs but strengthen community. The Social Future of Academic Libraries: Emerging Perspectives on Engagement and Intellectual Capital (Thurs., Mar. 23, 4–5 p.m.) will look at social practice from a theoretical point of view. And to tie a number of the strands together, a Saturday panel proposes to answer the question: What’s Social Justice Got To Do with Information Literacy? (Sat., Mar. 25, 9:45–10:45 a.m.).

The Chair’s Choice Invited Program, with Darren Lund, professor at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Alta., will continue this line of inquiry with Opening an Uncomfortable Conversation on Privilege and Social Justice (Thurs., Mar. 23, 2–3 p.m.).


As tuition and textbook prices rise, more institutions are looking at issues of open access (OA) and increased use of OER. You Say You Want a Revolution? The Ethical Imperative of Open Access (Thurs., Mar. 23, 4–5 p.m.) convenes a panel of librarians, vendors, and OA experts to discuss movement toward OA—and the lack of it—in scholarly publishing. Data Curation for Re-Use (Why Open Is Not Enough) (Fri., Mar. 24, 8:30–9:30 a.m.) looks at the opportunities and challenges of data sharing and reuse through repositories. Going O’ER: Using Open Resources as the Path to New Pedagogy and Information Literacy (Thurs., Mar. 23, 2–3 p.m.) takes OER beyond the textbook to new forms of teaching and learning.

Change in the OA landscape continues to move slowly, however, and piracy remains an issue, as probed in presentations from Shadow Libraries and You: Sci-Hub Usage and the Future of ILL (Sat., Mar. 25, 9:45–10:05 a.m.) to Walking the Plank: How Scholarly Piracy Affects Publishers, Libraries and Their Users (Thurs., Mar. 23, 4:40–5 p.m.).


An institution is only as healthy as its constituent members, and ACRL 2017 has a number of offerings devoted to making sure librarians and their students have what they need. From Makerspace to Mind Spa: Transforming Academic Libraries into Centers for Wellness, Relaxation, and Contemplation (Thurs., Mar. 23, 4–5 p.m.) considers how the library can use its resources to restore and revitalize its users, faculty, and staff. Those seeking balance on the job can explore strategies at When Treading Water Isn’t Enough: What Academic Librarian Parents Need To Thrive (Fri., Mar. 24, 4:15–5:15 p.m.) and Books, Babies, and Boomers: Issues of Work-Life Balance and the Urban Academic Librarians Taking Care of Children and Aging Parents (Thurs., Mar. 23, 2–3 p.m.). The panel Resilience, Grit, and Other Lies: Academic Libraries and the Myth of Resiliency (Thurs., Mar. 23, 9:40–10:40 a.m.) gathers speakers from diverse backgrounds to discuss such resilience problems as burnout and adjunctification.

Support for librarians at all stages of their careers can be found, from Reflections on the First Year Experience as Library Leader: At the Helm (Thurs., Mar. 23, 9:40–10:40 a.m.) to the roundtable discussion The Perceptions of People of Color in Academic Libraries Concerning the Ability To Advance from Middle Manager to Senior Library Leadership—A Conversation (Fri., Mar. 24, 3–4 p.m.). And managers will appreciate presentations such as Sheriff, IRS Auditor, Psychotherapist, & Hostage Negotiator All in One: Project Management for Everyone (Thurs., Mar. 23, 10:20–10:40 a.m.) and From Saboteurs to Change Management: Investigating the Correlation between Workplace Behavior and Change Resistance (Fri., Mar. 24, 8:50–9:10 a.m.).

Resources outside of the library walls for librarians and students will be investigated as well, with such offerings as One Is the Loneliest Number: Building Effective Mentoring Networks (Sat., Mar. 25, 8:30–9:30 a.m.) and A Post-Apocalyptic Guide to Information Literacy: Survival Skills for Information Seeking After Graduation (Thurs., Mar. 23, 9:40–10:40 a.m.).

WRAPPING UP OR NEW LEADIN? Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden will deliver the closing keynote speech, and Roxane Gay (bottom) opens up the conference, keynoting on Thursday. Hayden photo by Shawn Miller

KEYNOTES OF NOTE Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden will deliver the closing keynote speech; writer and cultural critic Roxane Gay (bottom) anchors the conference keynote on Thursday. Hayden photo by Shawn Miller


It takes a village—or, in the case of higher ed, a campus. Many of the sessions on offer look at ways to partner within the library and across the institutional community. It Takes the Whole Library: Facilitating Cross-Division Conversations To Resist University Corporatization (Fri., Mar. 24, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) investigates strategies for solvency with integrity, and Finding the Gaps: Building Powerful Partnerships Across Campus (Thurs., Mar. 23, 8–9 a.m.) brings resources for leveraging collaboration to create great student-centered projects.

Technology collaborations are covered as well. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Opportunities for Community-wide Collaboration To Prepare for an Unprecedented Next Generation (Thurs., Mar. 23, 9:40–10:40 a.m.) discusses ways to redesign next-generation platforms for greater pricing and function flexibility.


A wide range of invited presenters this year include Nicole Cooke, assistant professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a 2007 LJ Mover & Shaker, with How Would You Like To Be Remembered? Expanding Your Pedagogy and Professional Practice (Fri., Mar. 24, 4:15–5:15 p.m.); Frank Golom, assistant professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, on Diversity, Change, and Its Discontents: The Role of the Library in Campus LGBTQ Transformation Efforts (Fri., Mar. 24, 10:30–11:30 a.m.); and Shannon Mattern, associate professor of media studies at the New School, New York, on Stacks, Platforms + Interfaces: Modeling Information Spaces (Thurs., Mar. 23, 9:40–10:40 a.m.).

Data-journalist, author, and information designer David McCandless will give the conference’s opening keynote speech (Wed., Mar. 22, 4–5:45 p.m.), highlighting the ever-growing importance of visual processing—come for the slides, stay for the content. The middle keynote will be anchored by writer, editor, and sharply insightful cultural critic Roxane Gay (Thurs., Mar. 23, 10:55 a.m.–12:15 p.m.), author most recently of Difficult Women (Grove). And to close out the conference, the 14th Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden (Sat., Mar. 25, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.) will speak to what is certain to be a standing-room-only crowd.


What would an academic conference be without its nonacademic offerings? In the spirit of the literary world’s Rock Bottom Remainders, the library world’s own band, Marc Fields & Bad Data, will be performing an eclectic mix ranging from folk, country, and bluegrass through blues and rock (Wed., Mar. 22, 8–9:30 p.m.). ACRL’s program notes that “surprise guest appearances from among the show audience are not to be ruled out.”

Those with a more competitive streak can show up for Trivia Night (Wed., Mar. 22, 8–10 p.m.). Knowledgeable librarians (Is there any other kind?) can bring teams or join one when they arrive—but seating is limited to 200, so get there early.

Virtual conference sessions will be offered again this year for those unable to attend in person, featuring 12 live webcasts, more than 200 slidecasts, keynote speeches, and more, all available for a year postconference.

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