From March 22-25, 2017, I attended the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conference in Baltimore. I joined the American Library Association (ALA) and ACRL because I wanted access to their teaching resources—including this conference. Like a number of academic librarians, I learned to teach by having to teach. I hoped that this conference would help me improve.
I found ACRL to be wonderfully overwhelming. There were approximately 3500 librarians and 1500 exhibitors and vendors in the Baltimore Convention Center. The atmosphere was one of positive excitement. I was surrounded by academic librarians of all stripes, from African Studies and Arts, to Western European and Women and Gender Studies. And, each of those librarians was excited about their subject and their library.
With the opportunity to attend more than 300 workshops and roundtables in 4 days, the session that I was most eager to attend was the pre-conference workshop “Information Literacy Instruction Transformed.” This workshop focused on Universal Design for Learning, creating lessons that treat variability in learning styles as the norm rather than the exception. Its premise is that when one teaches to specific learning needs, it reduces barriers to learning, engages every student, and improves learning outcomes for all. This workshop has given me ideas on ways to teach for different learning styles and abilities, and how to engage every student in my class.
While I enjoyed all the sessions that I attended, I was overwhelmed by ACRL. There were so many opportunities to learn and so many people. Nearly every session that I attended was overflowing with attendees, especially the keynotes with Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden; English professor, author, and cultural critic Roxanne Gay; and British data-journalist David McCandless. But I am glad that I attended the conference because of the opportunity to interact with, and learn from, librarians in other academic fields. I left with ideas for my next class and contacts who have tried them out.
I highly recommend the 2019 ACRL conference in Cleveland or 2021 conference in Seattle for anyone looking to develop and expand their information literacy skills or expand their librarian network. The immediacy of the conference will make you feel as if you have to attend everything, but that is not the case; ACRL records most of its sessions. You can feasibly have alone time while everyone else is in a recorded session and still get access to that information for up to a year with ACRL Virtual Conference access. So, go to ACRL, but practice self-care!