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Discovery & User Experience

ALA Midwinter

This past weekend, I attended my first Midwinter conference in San Diego. Over the summer, I attended ALA Annual in Washington, D.C., which was, quite frankly, overwhelming. The sheer amount of people at the convention center and at programs made it difficult to navigate the conference and take part in (or even find) programs that I thought would be interesting and educational. However, Midwinter had an entirely different feel, and I think I took away more from this conference than previous conferences I have attended.

Part of the reason I was at Midwinter was to begin my participation in the Emerging Leaders program. For those unfamiliar with the program, it is a program that is designed to encourage younger and new-to-the-field librarians to become involved in ALA, and develop leadership skills and opportunities. EL’s are divided into groups to work on a project that spans from now until the annual conference in June. My project, entitled “Smart Money Week,” is a program focusing on developing financial literacy, and is aimed at libraries. The Chicago Federal Reserve is in the leadership role for the project, and is collaborating with ALA to promote programming and outreach at all libraries, although public libraries are largely targeted. Last year, Naperville Public Library and another library in Wisconsin (the name escapes me now) did a similar program with enormous success. This year, several states are doing a state-wide Smart Money Week-Indiana’s’ will be in October. However, the current goal for Money Smart Week is to have libraries nation-wide participate in the program in April of 2012. (Currently, states do Smart Money Week at various times-Nebraska is having theirs in November). Our EL team has several tasks. The first is to assist with the re-launch of a new website dedicated to the Smart Money Week in 2012-filling in holes in the current website, updating information, and adding new resources as necessary. We will also be creating a survey and way of evaluating the programs that will take place in 2011, in the hopes that the results will be used when planning the events of 2012.

I think that the most interesting part of the project will be the creation of evaluation method, and I know I will draw on my experience in DUX as a way to design the survey (or whatever method we use). I have had the opportunity to administer usability tests, while also having the chance to be a “guinea pig” on a number of occasions and although this will be a different type of evaluation, I still think that it will be an interesting comparison to what we do here in DUX-understand how people approach our website, what they gain from it, and how we can make it better.

In an attempt to become better acquainted with all the different committees, roundtables, and divisions that ALA encompasses, I attended a number of committee meetings and discussions on Saturday. During one of these sessions, I heard someone say “I worry about the digital divide-the division between rich and poor, those who can afford iPads and iPhones and the data plans, and those who cannot.” I found this extremely interesting, because so often we hear of “digital natives”-those who have always experienced the internet and know how to use computers and the like, but far less frequently is the idea of those who are not exposed to technology because of a social class difference explored-particularly in an academic setting. The exchange reminded me of a similar experience I observed over the summer. There was an X153 class that came for instruction. X153 is class for incoming freshman that are often the first generation of college students, and may be unfamiliar with newer technologies-such as Twitter. One IA used Twitter as a learning tool, which, while an excellent idea, is difficult for students who have never heard of Twitter, don’t have an account, and don’t have any idea how to use it. However, would these students have been exposed to Twitter if the IA not used it during class that day? Or was there a better platform for the IA to use Twitter? As an IA and a DUX-or, I often find myself wanting to show students I teach new technologies or ways of searching that they may be unfamiliar with-but in 50 minutes, how do I bridge that gap? I’m hopeful that my time at IU, combined with my new experiences with ALA and as an EL, will help me understand the best way to approach such a difficult topic.

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