Schedule for ALA 2016

ALA is getting close! In just a few short weeks, I’ll be at Orlando enjoying the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the company of thousands of fellow librarians. (Well, maybe a little bit of both!) ALA Editions is graciously hosting an event for my book, and I’ll also be co-presenting a couple of career workshops and giving a poster on assessment. Here’s where and when you can find me!

Career Development Workshop
Preparing for Today’s Job Market I: The Job Search
Saturday, 9:30 – 10:30am
ALA JobLIST Career Center

The number one goal for many of us is finding a job. And not just any job — a job that we like, a job that we can grow in and learn from and feel proud of, a job that will enhance our skill sets and propel our careers.  This hands-on workshop will help you feel more confident in your job search by giving you the tools to organize a search, analyze job listings, and write effective, compelling cover letters and resumes. We will also discuss the importance of creating, and maintaining, a professional online presence and look at examples of online portfolios and profiles.

Author Event for Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries
Saturday, 2:30 – 3:15pm
ALA Store (near shuttle bus entrance)

Come visit with me to chat about providing research support for your faculty and students! The ALA Store will also have copies of the book for purchase. 

Career Development Workshop:
Preparing for Today’s Job Market II: The Interview

Sunday, 1:30 – 2:30pm
ALA JobLIST Career Center

Congratulations, you got an interview… now what?! During this workshop we’ll look at what to expect when interviewing at different types of libraries: academic, special, and public.We’ll discuss both remote and in-person interviews, and talk about the importance of doing your research, preparing questions for your interviewers, and showing confidence and personality during your interview. Throughout, we’ll emphasize how to go beyond the qualifications listed on your resume in order to show a potential employer that you are the right candidate for the job.

Poster: Utilizing a Tool to Build a Culture of Assessment: The Data Framework
Sunday, 2:30 – 4:30
Exhibits Hall, Posters 2 (Infrastructure)

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries first developed a Data Framework over a decade ago to track what library data was collected and reported. Since data use has grown exponentially, a major revision and reconfiguration was necessary. The revised Data Framework is a Tableau-based tracking tool and a data management map. This poster will be valuable for librarians desiring better data control throughout their organization and increasing staff interest in data collection and use.

Shameless Book Plug

In March 2016, my book Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries was released in the UK by Facet Publishing, and will also be available in the US from the ALA Store and through It’s a contributed volume full of accounts from amazing librarians about how they support faculty and student research at academic libraries across the globe!

What does “research support” mean? It’s any method by which a librarian (or a related information maven) supports how faculty and students contribute to knowledge in their discipline. This includes some services traditionally in the library wheelhouse (reference or research consultations), but is rapidly expanding to include support for GIS projects, better metadata, and more. For more about this topic, see the video below.

Who should read this book?

  • Librarians, administrators, and other library staff interested in re-thinking their approach to research support.
  • Librarians looking for an international approach to this topic.
  • Library school students interested in emerging forms of academic librarianship.

For more about the book’s content and structure, see the following video.

If you enjoy the video’s spiffy “research lifecycle” graphic, you can also download it as a PDF to print and enjoy as a nerdy decoration for your office, or proudly affix to the front of your home refrigerator.

CLIR Workshop, Photos

It’s been a busy few weeks, what with painting and then moving into a new apartment. I’m looking forward to getting back into my regular schedule!

However, one great part of my non-usual-schedule last week was attending CLIR‘s workshop/seminar on Participatory Design in Academic Libraries at the University of Rochester, NY. I attended with my former UNT colleague and research partner, Annie Downey, who is now at Reed College in Portland. We saw some amazing research, but for now I’m just going to share some photos from the weekend. My favorite photos are of these amazing “League of Librarians” trading card-style business cards for the U of Rochester reference and liaison librarians! Now I’m pondering what design to use for my own similar card.



In the large photo, library ethnographic research expert Nancy Fried Foster (formerly of U Rochester, soon to be at Ithaka S+R) is on the left, and workshop convener Alice Bishop (of CLIR) is in the center. (The photo at bottom left is of my “magic wand”–everyone created one as a right-brain activity to help us brainstorm what we’d do in our libraries/research if we had no barriers.)
The Rush Rhees Library at Rochester is an intriguing mix of traditional and modern library spaces.

And this is a friendly owl, just one of the amazing architectural details of the Rush Rhees Library.

Presenting Well

We’ve all sat through tedious presentations with text-heavy slides and a monotone, stagnant speaker. How do you keep from becoming that speaker yourself? Here are my personal strategies for presenting well.

Writing the Presentation Proposal

Proposals are typically short, limiting you to 100, 250, or 500 words. So take the cue and be to-the-point about your topic, avoid “scholarly” lingo if possible. My typical mind-frame is imagining I’m describing the topic to a friend. You want to be engaging and explain why people should care about your topic.
The only real rule I have about proposals is to send them. You’ll never be accepted if you don’t at least try, and I’ve been surprised by the number of times my proposals have been accepted. The only caveat here is to be sure to only propose to events you can conceivably attend–don’t pitch proposals for two concurrent conferences at the same time. Be mindful and professional about your commitments.

Creating the Slideshow (or not)

We don’t all absorb information in the same way–that’s how the idea of “learning styles” came about. Think about ways you can present the information using various methods, to reach the most people and keep the audience’s attention (through speech, written text, visual images, movement, etc.). How can you use the slide to emphasize what you’re verbally saying, but in a different way?

Personally, I’m visually attuned–I like images, to understand things through visual representations. So I feel it’s important to use images in presentation slides. It helps break up all that text, and it could help your audience understand your point better. Not crummy clip art (see this preso), not meaningless filler images, but an image that directly illustrates a point (like a table illustrating data) or is contextually/thematically related. Are you talking about data, specific outcomes? Then SHOW it to us, don’t just talk about it and show a slide full of text.

Need some tips on how to edit images? See the presentation below for ideas.

Be mindful to use public domain or creative-commons licensed images (or your own). Here are a few resources to get you started–and remember, most government-produced images are public domain!

Here’s a presentation on using public domain images (and my personal manifesto against clip-art).

When it comes to slide themes and Prezi templates, strive for simplicity and readability. If you’re familiar with the room in which you’re presenting, use that knowledge. Rooms that are brightly lit (even with the lights on) and/or have weak projectors, tend to work better with dark slide backgrounds and white or light text. Dark rooms and strong projectors work well with light, white, or medium-colored slide backgrounds and dark text. If you’re not sure, try for a very light background and dark text–high contrast makes your slide more easily readable in any circumstance.

Don’t use a slide theme, Prezi template, or font that is too “fancy” and distracting. Err on the side of simplicity–the slide text should be easy to read. You’re not entering a design contest (although ideally, you want something aesthetically pleasing), you’re trying to clearly communicate information. Prezi can get particularly distracting if you zoom, rotate, and move around a lot between slides. Sure, it’s thrilling and different–but it can also nauseate your audience. I’ve used Prezi, PowerPoint, and Keynote–the important thing isn’t the tool you use, but how you use it.

I’m a proponent of less text in slides. I know several effective presenters who put no text in their slides, and that’s admirable (and risky!). However, as an audience member, I like some text on a slide to give me an idea of where the speaker is headed. Text can be used effectively in slides to: highlight key words and ideas, use repetition to make a point, and convey long quotes (when absolutely necessary).

Here’s a helpful viewpoint: think about what you dislike in presentations. It’s surprisingly hard to keep that perspective in mind when creating your own slides. I’ve noticed myself falling into the same habits that drive me nuts when I’m in the audience (like writing the exact text I plan to say on the slide–arg!). Viewing the presentation from the audience’s perspective helps me avoid these things.

Some people say that fewer slides are better. I don’t always agree; sometimes I need to move through multiple slides quickly, to make a point. Don’t worry about hard and fast “presentation rules” (including what I’m saying here!). Try what feels natural for you, and if it seems to work, keep doing it.

For instance: if you don’t present well with slides, then don’t use them. There are other ways to bring in visual cues, and if you’re a dynamic speaker, you can opt to go without them altogether.

Speaker Notes

Presenting4My personal style of notes varies a bit. Sometimes I make notes that look like an outline with bulleted lists (similar to my slide text), with keywords bolded (readers of this blog probably aren’t surprised by my penchant for, ahem, boldness). Sometimes I write a near full-length script, but again with key words and phrases bolded. A script helps me to practice with all the content I want to say, and have a “cheat sheet” if I lose my way during the Real Thing. (This is particularly important during job interviews, allowing you to continue on during a moment of panic without looking like you’ve lost your way.) However if I’m breezing along as I usually do, I just glance at my notes briefly to check the next bolded word/phrase, which jogs my memory.

Presenting (The Speaking Bit)

Ask yourself: how can you present engagingly? Present in a way that makes your session moderators glad they asked you, instead of just reading a paper you wrote. To me, this means bringing your personality into the mix and explaining your ideas in plain language.
I have two “presenting” tones for my voice. One is formal, reserved for the rare occasion when I’m asked to read a paper, or give a speech. I try to avoid this tone whenever possible–it isolates the audience, and I dislike listening to presentations given in such tones. The second tone, which is just an energized version of my everyday voice, takes some practice but is far more interesting. To use this tone, it helps to be in the right mindset. Don’t think of spectators as The Audience To Which You Are Presenting, think of them as a group of interested colleagues and friends. Be relaxed, even casual if possible–it’s more interesting for an audience to listen to your relaxed voice.

One method that helps me get into Relaxed Voice Mode is practicing a presentation in front of friends. Practicing with colleagues can help, but there’s nothing that will make your Formal Presentation Voice sound sillier that giving your dissertation defense presentation to your husband. (True story–poor guy.) I loosened up considerably the second time around, and gave a more interesting presentation because of it (according to him).

I’m an advocate of being as active as possible while speaking–walk around, wave your arms. This goes directly against my communication courses in high school and college, who told me to stand still and stop fidgeting (ha!). However, I like watching active, dynamic speakers, that’s how I prefer to present. If I’m presenting and you see me standing still behind a podium, I’m either being held hostage by stodgy academics (please send help!) or I’m feeling under the weather (please send hot and sour soup to my hotel room!).

After the Presentation

If there’s an opportunity, ask for feedback from the audience (or moderator). At an academic conference, there may be a session discussant who’s specifically tasked with reading your full paper and giving feedback, which I find amazing. If there’s a Q&A, take notes about the questions–they can help you determine what topics you should expand on. Remember, you may present on this topic againfeedback is helpful! Even if criticisms are worded, ahem, not so diplomatically, take it with a grain of salt and keep the critic’s actual point in mind.

Also use feedback for the next step, which is: refine your topic for publication. If your presentation is research-related, this should be a no-brainer. Let me get on my soapbox here and shout: disseminate your research broadly! If your topic is geared toward practitioners and/or is hands-on, consider if there’s an appropriate publication outlet for it.
Finally, make your presentation findable online. Upload slides to slideshare (see screenshot) or otherwise link to your slides. Update your CV (print version, online, and LinkedIn page) with the presentation title, event, and date.

Now, do I always follow my own advice? No, I tweak depending on the particular topic and–even more so–depending on the audience. In the past three weeks, I’ve given two presentations: one used many images and one had only a background image. Neither had a lot of text. Each was suited for its purpose.

In the end, it’s up to your judgment. Noted statistician / informationist / infographic guru Edward Tufte gives a bunch of perfectly logical reasons why PowerPoint (or any slideshow) is a wretched way to present information. I think Tufte is a visionary when it comes to presenting data, and I see many of his points–but I still find slideshows an effective way for me to present. I’m interested in your feedback.

To wrap things up, here’s a list of related posts: