Yesterday, I attended the TRY Conference (the fifth annual conference for library staff at Toronto’s three universities: Ryerson, York and U of Toronto) and presented a poster session with some fellow students. Based on notes in my Moleskine, I’ll offer some of my impressions on it in this entry. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend every session, so this entry makes no attempt to be comprehensive – rather, these are simply some of my notes.
The morning keynote address was given by Dean Seamus Ross, the new Dean of the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. This address combined some observations on his own research (mainly involving digital preservation and efforts to communicate this such as this animation on YouTube) as well as the future direction of the Faculty. This emphasized the need to be creative and innovative, of seeking opportunities beyond the traditional Library environment. He also mentioned plans to launch an “information entrepreneurship” (and related ideas such as having an incubator to foster new companies with the Faculty’s students, professors, etc) course. That would be quite a departure from the public sectory focus that is customary to the field, but I think it is worth exploring further.
The first presentation I attended was given by a science librarian on efforts to include information literacy skills in a third year psychology course. Not only is this a good idea on its own merits but I liked the idea of the assessment strategy that was used. Assessment is something I think the profession needs to embrace more – not only for reasons of financial accountability, but also to determine what works and how we can become better at what we do. While the assessment was based on the SAILS methodology, questions were raised as to whether adaptation of this intrument might be in order. In the Q&A section, I asked if clickers had been considered – they are a common tool in science classes and good for obtaining fast, simple feedback – and I gathered that they may be used in future.
Two sessions I went to both explored professional issues such as training and mentorship. These are both questions I’ve considered as I make my way as a new professional. The concept of setting out terms for a mentorship – e.g. set out specific goals, decide how often to meet and start it off with a term of one year – strike me as useful. On the training side, I was happy to see that York University has included wikis in their training plan. As usual though, technology is only a tool in a broader strategy that includes lectures, workshops, role playing and shadowing. Getting the mix of options right in training may lead to better productivity and staff morale.
“The Library in the Cloud” session near the end of the day explored the rise of cloud applications (e.g. Google Docs, Google Calendar, flickr and the concept of software as a service) and how this can affect library work. Most of the points covered were familiar to me already, but it was still of interest. In the Q&A section, the presenters ventured to say that large organizations (e.g. universities) should ultimately stay interested in these developments but should probably hold onto their existing IT services and infrastructure for the time being.
The day concluded with a panel of chief librarians commenting on the future of their institutions, Library as place and other topics. The “Great Recession” came up a few times, in various ways. I asked about this in a pro-active way: “what skills do we need to emphasize?” This query led to an interesting mix’ of things including marketing, outreach, project management, interest and skill in management, teaching skills and one that I don’t quite understand yet. The final one – “the ability to deal with ambiguity” – raises many questions. I’m certainly open to change, innovation and improvement, but I don’t quite know if that is what was meant.