Thursday, November 15, 2018

Can't Miss: Sessions at ALA Midwinter!

The ALA Midwinter meeting is my favorite of any national conference I've been to. I can't really tell you why. But I do know that the Symposium on the Future of Libraries is happening for a third year!!

Midwinter is back in Seattle this year, like my first Midwinter when I was a 2013 ALA Emerging Leader. I'll probably have some reflections on that later on. (I remember bringing my spouse because we were like, "when will we ever have a reason to go to the Pacific Northwest ever again?" And now we live here? So.)

Bryce's Facebook status from 2011. Text reads,
"you may never impress anyone. what will you do instead"? <sic>

The image above is a Facebook memory I received while at last year's Midwinter meeting. I had to laugh when it passed by on my notifications as I attempted to navigate the terrain of the exhibit hall, which always feels loud and bright and can be disorienting. Thanks, Past Me. You're a real peach.

Here are some Symposium sessions that I'm particularly excited about. Might be worth adding to your schedule!


Breaking Down the Barriers to Advocacy for School Libraries
Deborah Rinio, Adjunct Instructor, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Ann Ewbank, Director, School Library Media Certificate, Montana State University; Jenna Nemec-Loise, Head Librarian, North Shore Country Day School
Join ALA Policy Corps members for a conversation surrounding political advocacy for school librarians. In this session, you will hear directly from decision makers at various levels to learn their perspectives on advocacy and what makes a good advocate. You will also learn how to connect with your local, state, and national legislators; communicate effectively; and break down the barriers standing in the way of your advocacy efforts. 

Making the Connection: Early Literacy and Computational Thinking for Young Children
Claudia Haines, Youth Services Librarian, Homer Public Library (Alaska); Paula Langsam, Children's Librarian, DC Public Library
Computational thinking, a problem solving process often associated with computer science, has become a buzz word as libraries and other cultural institutions move to support STEM and STEAM learning. But beyond the “coding” buzz, the universal ideas behind computational thinking – decomposition, pattern recognition, and abstraction – connect with familiar early literacy practices, like reading, singing, and playing. By exploring the relationship between early literacy skills and computational thinking skills, library staff can challenge themselves to think differently about our fundamental services and programs and the ways our work supports the whole child. Young children can become successful problem-solvers, creative thinkers, and lifelong learners at the library.

Community, Equity, and Storytimes
CiKeithia Pugh, Early Learning Program Manager, The Seattle Public Library; Betha Gutsche, WebJunction Programs Manager, OCLC
Leading for equity means examining our library practices and policies with an equity lens. This shift in practice moves away from viewing our services as merely transactional and instead builds them in partnership with community. This interactive session will highlight The Seattle Public Library’s work to prioritize community voices and equitable partnerships to create relevant, responsive youth services programming. We'll also explore how Supercharged Storytimes is applying an equity lens to a training program that builds the skills and knowledge of storytime providers across the country as they nurture early literacy skills in the readers of the future.

Learning from Each Other: Intergenerational Learning with Storytelling and STEM
Ashley Braun, Digital and Family Learning Librarian, The Seattle Public Library; Amy Twito, Informal Learning Program Manager, The Seattle Public Library; Dr. Carrie Tzou, Associate Professor, University of Washington Bothell
When families use STEM concepts to tell their own stories that center around their culture, creativity, and values, learning comes to life. Hear about the transformative partnership between a public library, university research team, science center, and community-based organizations that codesigned family programs incorporating stories, robotics, and e-textiles. At the heart of this learning is family storytelling, a practice that brings folks of all ages together in a culturally responsive, strengths-based way. Attendees will learn ways to incorporate participatory design elements with partners, as well as how to cultivate intergenerational learning experiences by prioritizing storytelling in STEM programs.

Pushing on the Frontier: Disability Access and the Future of Libraries
Katherine N Deibel, Inclusion & Accessibility Librarian, Syracuse University Libraries 
To be truly inclusive, the future of libraries must take great strides in promoting disability access. This goes beyond just web accessibility. Yes, we should be more obstinate regarding the compliance of our own web sites and collectively push on vendors to be compliant. True change, however, requires libraries to further involve themselves in the creation, remediation, and sharing of accessible content. As stewards of content throughout history, we understand how content’s structure and usage has evolved. Using this knowledge, libraries must play an active role in shaping the technology, standards, and practices to make content truly accessible to all. 

Algorithms, Implicit Bias, and Search Literacy: Exploring Beliefs among Computer Science Students about Search Engine and Machine Learning Models
Shalini Ramachandran, Science Librarian, University of Southern California; Steven Cutchin, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Boise State University; Sheree Fu, ECST Librarian, California State University, Los Angeles; Karen Howell, Head, Leavey Library, University of Southern California
What role do library professionals have in raising awareness about algorithm design and human bias? In this presentation, we share insights from a survey of computer science students – the future  architects of algorithms and AI systems that shape our information infrastructure – about their perceptions of the biases in search engines and big-data algorithms. All librarians can benefit from our presentation as it will help them understand the significance of developing ethically informed search literacy. In our discussion, we underscore that library and information professionals have a role in partnering with information scientists to ensure that libraries can be spaces where users can optimize their search for information and expect fair treatment from automated systems.

Building a Future-Ready Workforce: How Public Libraries Can Create Resilient and Entrepreneurial Communities
Audrey Barbakoff, Community Engagement and Economic Development Manager, King County Library System; Jay Lyman, Librarian, The Seattle Public Library
Learn about key trends shaping the future of work and how public libraries can play an important role in creating communities that are prepared for change. Structural shifts in our workforce such as automation and AI, the sharing and gig economy, systemic income and educational inequity, and entrepreneurship and design thinking will impact workers and businesses in your community. By the end of this session, you will: understand some key workforce shifts impacting your patrons; be able to connect those broader trends to impactful library partnerships and services; and have begun formulating a plan to develop services responses for your own library.

Racial Equity: Libraries Organizing to Transform Institutions
Amita Lonial, Learning, Marketing and Engagement Principal Librarian, San Diego County Library; Sarah Lawton, Neighborhood Library Supervisor, Madison Public Library
Libraries across the country are working to identify and address institutional racism and structural inequities. Released in 2018, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity’s issue paper “Advancing Racial Equity in Libraries: Case Studies from the Field” provides an overview of successful strategies and a framework designed to drive change from the local level. Join colleagues from GARE and from the Public Library Association’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to learn more about the work that is being done and to discuss the opportunities and challenges that libraries and communities face as we transform our institutions. 

Return to the Real: The Library as Social Connector
Betha Gutsche, WebJunction Programs Manager, OCLC; Jennifer Peterson, WebJunction Community Manager, OCLC
Studies show an increase in loneliness and depression because of too much time spent online. Communities experience steady erosion of the bonds formed when people share real-time activities together, which affects our health and well-being. As a magnet for social connection, libraries offer that sense of community and shared place that humans as social animals crave. Active learning programs that offer participatory activities to enhance individual learning can go further to cement social connection when people are learning and doing together. This session will explore library programs through the lens of social possibilities, with the goal of strengthening community bonds. 

The Role of Libraries in Addressing Homelessness and Poverty 
Julie Ann Winkelstein, Researcher, Author, Teacher, Activist; Tina Reid, Library Assistant II, Felix G. Woodward Library, Austin Peay State University; Jessica Ball, Librarian, Memphis Public Libraries; Hilary M Jasmin, Research and Learning Services Librarian, University of Tennessee Health Science Center 
Across the United States, public libraries in particular are considering their responsibilities in serving well their community members who are experiencing homelessness and poverty. The role of libraries in addressing societal challenges like these is one that hasn’t received much specific attention in library schools and this fact has left many who are addressing these challenges on a daily basis without the necessary vocabulary, background and tools. Using a new library school class as an example, this interactive session will offer examples of exercises, readings, videos and conversations that can help libraries move forward, dream big and take action.

Check out the whole line-up here! Hope to see you at Midwinter!