Friday, April 08, 2011

ACRL 2011: Distance Librarianship

I attended ACRL 2011 in Philly last week, and besides enjoying an authentic philly cheese steak (okay okay, I opted for provolone instead of Cheez Whiz - can you blame me?), I learned a lot. Reaching distance students was a pretty big conference focus, and I attended several presentations on the topic.

The best and most relevant to me was Fostering Library as Place for Distance Students: Best Practices from Two Universities (PowerPoint), presented by Heidi Steiner, Distance Learning Librarian at Norwich University and Beth Filar-Williams, Coordinator of Library Services for Distance Education at University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Some points from the presentation:
  • Virtual reference is much harder than face-to-face. You end up making a lot of assumptions, and there are often miscommunications.
  • ACRL provides Standards for Distance Learning Library Services
  • Students need access to library resources and course management from a distance
  • At Norwich, every distance program has its own specific library webpage - to create a place for those students
  • Resources available from a distance are important. This includes e-journals, databases, e-books, Films on Demand, and ILLiad for for seamless ILL transactions. Both libraries will mail books to student; one pays return postage, one does not.
  • For distance students, it is especially important to be available at their point of need - through IM, plenty of research/subject guides, tutorials on how to use the resources, and more.
  • For instruction, both institutions use a lot of tutorials. They have experimented with synchronous options. One recommends Elluminate vOffice. You have to pay for it, but it's only one room, so it's a lesser license than regular Elluminate. EventBrite was recommended for setting up instruction - it allows people to register for an event and also automatically sends reminder emails. Being embedded in course management discussion boards is another option.
  • The presenters also discussed the importance of "Being Real" - making distance students realize there are humans staffing IM reference, not robots. They also mentioned including video clips of librarians introducing themselves on their websites/subject guides.
  • was recommended for sharing your computer screen with a student. They said it is incredibly easy to use - all you do is send the student a URL. And it's free!
  • Two other technology tools they use are free scheduling software tools: and Jiffle. I'm definitely going to have to look into some of these!
I also attended a shorter panel session called Going the Distance: A Closer Look at Uniting with Remote Users. From that, I took away the importance of informing distance students about the services the library offers, the need to offer training on the resources, and the importance of determining if the resources and services are perceived as adequate by the distance students.

Some other distance learning notes from poster sessions:
  • Some libraries use Skype to talk to distance students
  • Screenr - does screencasting, but it has to be done all in one go (no editing!) and there is a time limit (maybe 5 minutes?).
  • Librarians at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse evaluated several free web-conferencing tools. Information is on a LibGuide they created specifically for this topic.
Overall, a lot of info, a lot of ideas, and A LOT of cool tools to explore!


Heidi said...

Hi Kate. Thanks for writing up our panel! I'm so glad to hear you found the information we shared helpful. If you have questions about any of the tools or services Beth or I mentioned, feel free to shoot!

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