Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

NYLA Observations.

with 4 comments

Before I begin this post I would like to express my excitement and anticipation for the Bright Eyes concert on November 15th. Okay, everything from here on will (for the most part) be library-related.

This September I attended the 2007 New York Library Association (NYLA) Annual Conference. It was the largest conference I’ve been to at this point and proved to be an interesting experience. I am including some of my general observations here and below is a list of the sessions I attended, with more information and my thoughts on each of them under the “Read the rest of this entry” cut. Just be aware that this entry is fairly lengthy…

My favorite part of the conference was volunteering at the Syracuse University iSchool booth. I got to meet some students in my program which is always fun for me since I am primarily a distance student. I also got to meet a lot of Syracuse alumni and hear about their experiences since graduating from the program. It made me feel a little better about my future hearing about all the interesting things they have gone on to do with their library degrees. Another interesting part was talking to library students from the University of Buffalo. More than once I was called on to defend my choice to attend SU over UB when they are both equidistant from my hometown. It was interesting, to say the least!

Now, maybe I just missed these things, and if so, I apologize. But I have a few suggestions for next year’s conference. First, there should be some sort of a coat room. I saw some lockers but you had to pay for them, and plus, who wants to dram their jacket into a 1 x 1 square? I saw a lot of people carrying their jackets around on their arms, and when you’re trying to carry your bag with all the free stuff the vendors give you, your lunch, and your purse, it gets to be tricky. I also saw a lot of abandoned coats that people had forgotten on the backs of their chairs!

Another suggestion would be to have more collaborative spaces for attendees to just hang out. All of the times I visited the Internet Cafe ti was packed, and I saw lots of people standing around in groups and pulling chairs together to talk to each other. Also, I think the trade show could do with the addition of some “fun” booths. I’m not sure if you have to pay to have a booth or what, but imagine booths with free neck/foot massages, makeovers, or health-related goodies. Would could argue with that? I’m trying to think of things that would appeal to the majority of conference attendees and exude a little bit of spirit amongst vendors clamoring for your business…

“What Are They Thinking?” (University of Rochester ethnographic study)
“Sure Fire Hire: Getting that Job!”
“The Library Is Now…OPEN!” (Open source software in libraries)
“Creative Communication: Using Web 2.0 as a Management Tool”
“Geographic Information Systems for Libraries”

The first day I attended a session by three of the librarians (Jane Smith, Sarada George, & Kenn Harper) at the University of Rochester about their undergraduate research study. The first time I heard of this study was when I interviewed Ron Dow (dean of River Campus libraries at the U of R) for my management class. After talking briefly with him about the changes they made following the study, I noticed the session in the NYLA lineup and decided to check it out. The U of R has made the ethnographic study freely available here, and it is worth checking out if you have some time.

What they did was basically study undergraduate habits (videotaped their dorm rooms and working spaces, handed out disposable cameras, tracked their campus movements, etc) and asked students to give feedback on their ideal library layout. Even better, the U of R actually acted on this feedback (what?! no bureaucratic bs?!) and incorporated many of the student designs into the layout and updates to the Rush Rhees library. One interesting discovery that the U of R librarians made was that their students use the library more to study in and as an “escape” from the daily distractions of college than to actually do research for papers. Another discovery was that students perceive librarians as knowledgeable, but only about books. According to surveys and student interviews, librarians are not seen as experts on internet resources, etc. As a library student, I know that this is not the case (as we actually seem to be getting more instruction on internet resources than traditional physical books). I hope this student viewpoint is not a trend (although i fear that it is) and look forward to finding ways we can show students that we are, in fact, internet savvy.

One discovery caught my attention in particular. The librarians found that students (especially first year students) often consult their parents on school and research-related projects. If I remember correctly, they decided to hold informational sessions during move-in week for, wait for it… the parents! What a great idea! They gave the parents information about which library liaison was assigned to their child, the library resources, hours, etc. Now, when the students call home, their parents can point them to people and resources on campus for help!

My second session on Thursday was a panel discussion about resumes, interviews, and general job searching information. Most of it was review for me… I find it particularly baffling that people are apparently still including pictures on their resumes and writing with excessively scripty fonts on paper the color of highlighters. One good idea I am planning to work on is creating my “personal philosophy” – my ideas about the profession of librarianship, why I am interested in this line of work, etc. To sum up three tips from the discussion:

  • Show up early.
  • Wear a suit.
  • Be honest.

Friday morning I listened to a presentation by Edward Corrado, a librarian at the College of New Jersey, about the use of open source software in libraries. It sounds like his library is utilizing these free (but not as in free beer) tools to better serve patrons. I am a big fan of the open-source movement because of its collaborative nature. It really seems to give me a sense of people from many different backgrounds (programmers, IT peeps, librarians, etc) striving together for a common goal which is usually for the common good.

After Corrado’s presentation I went to a Web 2.0 session. However, this one was a bit different than others I have attended. Instead of explaining how we can use Web 2.0 tools to serve and connect with our patrons, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich and Frank Rees described how we can use these tools to communicate and connect with our staff. This session was the most well-attended of all the sessions I went to at NYLA. I think this speaks to the communication difficulties that often arise in libraries. In my opinion, Web 2.0 technologies can help us to ease the disconnect between departments. The use of an internal blog for better lines of communication is currently being discussed where I work, so I paid particular attention to this session. Discussed besides blogs were, YourDraft,, Google Docs and eSnips.

My last session at NYLA was also my first glimpse at the use of GIS in libraries. I felt sympathetic toward Nathan Burch from the Finger Lakes Institute because it seemed like the people in the audience couldn’t really get over the limits of the examples he presented enough to understand the possible uses for this technology in our profession. To be honest I don’t blame the audience, because as librarians we focus on accuracy. However, I think with better records to work with, GIS could prove to be an interesting way to learn more about our user (and non-user) bases.


Written by Erin Dorney

October 28, 2007 at 11:02 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Greetings Erin,

    Are you going to the Mid-winter ALA conference?

    -Linda (QC)


    October 29, 2007 at 2:19 PM

  2. I actually agreee with your observations and actually was thinking that for the most part, what Nathan Burch was trying to exlemplify was generalized and used as examples, but librarians are trying to get accurate.. because I do believe that for the most part, many of the librarians attending the session was in a position to say whether or not they needed GIS technology for their library or not. I showed the ntoes I took with a co-worker of mine and he said it was too general.


    October 29, 2007 at 2:23 PM

  3. Hi Linda! Nice to hear from you! I wasn’t planning on attending Mid-winter but I am trying to swing Annual… however, it looks bleak unless I get some scholarships haha. How about you?


    October 29, 2007 at 3:54 PM

  4. I am also passing up on Mid-winter…… after a moment’s temptation to attend, but then I realize that it was much more meeting oriented. So not going… also going to try to save up for next year’s conference.. I searched the ALA site for potential scholarships, but there was none.. I wish I could have attended this year’s at Washington DC.


    November 4, 2007 at 8:42 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s