The Library Association of the City University of New York (LACUNY) organizes an annual conference, often focused on a timely trend or theme in the library field and hosted at one of the CUNY campuses. This year’s conference was held at LaGuardia Community College, and was centered on the future of academic librarianship.
Columbia University Libraries’ Barbara Rockenbach delivered an interesting keynote on the impact of academic libraries (and librarians) on student success. She focused on thinking about the library as a classroom, designed as an active, flexible space to facilitate conversation and community; treating our collections as a user-centered service rather than a repository; approaching staff roles as partnerships rather than service-only models; and considering the library as part of the whole university context rather than a standalone institution. Rockenbach comes from a digital humanities background, and I particularly enjoyed the discussion of reskilling librarians for future research (referencing Brewerton’s gap analysis study in the New Review of Academic Librarianship) and the Morningside Heights Digital History project that started partly as a skills-assessment test, as well as an opportunity for Rockenbach’s team to gain new skills for themselves. The Morningside Heights site grew out of the Developing Librarian Project, a two-year training program created by and for librarians with the goal of acquiring new skills and methodologies in digital humanities. She also discussed Columbia’s recent efforts at reaching out to the community as a whole, citing the research & resource-sharing relationship between the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture and Columbia Libraries, as well as their partnership with the public 6th-12th grade Columbia Secondary School.
After the keynote, I attended a facilitated discussion with Ken Fujiuchi on Libraries in the Machine: Libraries in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality. Ken is the Emerging Technology Librarian at SUNY Buffalo, and it was nice to hear the perspective of a modest-budget librarian on implementing practical uses for hot new tech. (I also picked up a book rec for the dystopian sci-fi novel Ready Player One, which I’ll definitely be reading soon!)
The next session was a panel discussion from a range of librarians and professors from Lehman College and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Ken Schlesinger, Barbara Gray, Stacy Katz, Martha Lerski, Christine McKenna, and Sean O’Heir presented a chilling but also highly informative and actionable discussion on Preparing our Patrons to Navigate a Fake-News-Strewn Landscape. Christine gave an overview on the history of journalism, including our early fictionalized/sensationalized American newspaper culture; Martha discussed the cultural context in which people are most receptive to fake news (hint: times of social stagnation, widening income inequalities, and social/economic change like globalization and shifting industries); Sean took us through some examples of fake news proliferation and tools/organizations that can help assess news quality (like First Draft News); Stacy shared her research on how librarians are fighting fake news (and suggested that maybe we need to be less neutral in our language choices, and more forceful in our professional responsibilities); and finally Barbara discussed using journalism as a framework to teach research skills & practices. Barbara compared librarianship and journalism as similar disciplines of verification, with shared professional standards and values of accountability, transparency, and evidence-gathering—maybe librarians aren’t technically part of the fourth estate, but we also have civic duties towards truth and accuracy. Barbara also shared some resources that wouldn’t be out of place in the information literacy curriculum: a fact-checking exercise from The Nation, CUNY J-schools fake news detection checklist, and an accuracy checklist for journalists that can help any scholar/writer.
Finally, I checked out the posters session and had some great chats with librarians on their work. I talked to Derek Stadler about The Fast-Forward Fixation: A Critical Examination of Academic Librarians’ Focus on the Future, which was both an investigation into the successes and failures of library predictions, as well as the degree to which these forecasts mirror the prevailing mood in academic librarianship at the time. I also learned about the recent design work Laura has been doing for Enhancing Information Literacy with Infographics and Visualizations. Not only has Stony Brook created a pretty great Information Literacy Guide, but all the design elements are Creative Commons-licensed and can be reused and rebranded—I’m definitely going to be borrowing the “check your source” bookmark template for some upcoming fake news-related programs at Brooklyn Public Library!