Residency Diaries: Attending & Presenting at #ALAO2016

This guest blog post was co-written by Laura Birkenhauer and Cara Calabrese, Resident Librarians at Miami University.

On October 28, we had the opportunity to attend the 42nd Annual Academic Library Association of Ohio (ALAO) Conference in Wilmington, OH. The theme this year was “User Experience: Exceeding Expectations By Design.” Laura details below the experience of attending the conference as a new resident librarian, while Cara discusses the conference from the perspective of both attendee and first-time roundtable discussion leader.


While I’d attended ALAO in both 2014 and 2015, employed at the time as paraprofessional staff, it was exciting to attend the conference as an Academic Resident Librarian. My residency with the Miami University
Libraries is loosely defined, offering opportunity to explore my interests. In the last three months, I’ve identified my focus to be on the first year experience (FYE) and international student populations, both in terms of instruction, outreach and serving as a library liaison. The residency, however, is multifaceted, offering opportunity to participate beyond my selected focus in other areas of instruction, collection development, liaisonship duties and service. Like any academic librarian, scholarship, creative activity, and professional development are encouraged for residents in my department.

All of this said, I was thrilled to find that ALAO offered numerous sessions relevant to my interests and residency. Below, I detail the sessions I consider highlights of my #ALAO2017 experience:

“What Can the Library Do for You?: Redesigning our New Student Orientation to Match Goals and Patrons”

Joshua Michael, Cedarville University (Support Staff Interest Group Sponsored Session)

This session spoke directly to my interest in the first year experience, and highlighted an event that will be a large undertaking for me in fall semester 2017: new student orientation! While I’ve participated as a part of orientation before, as a tour guide or staffing one of the various “stations” in the library, it will be an entirely new experience to oversee first year orientation. Joshua discussed the pros and cons of changes he made to his library’s orientation, providing me with all of the insight without any of the risk of undertaking such a major overhaul myself. I look forward to experimenting with the look of the MU Libraries’ fall 2017 orientation, and was glad to have picked up a few tips thanks to this session.

“Lost in Translation: How to add the WOW factor in the International Student’s Library Experience”

Araba Dawson-Andoh, Ohio University

This session included helpful statistics on the growing international student population in the U.S. as a whole and in Ohio. Araba also cited detailed data on international students at OU, provided by the Ohio University Office of Institutional Research. Any librarian, and especially librarians working closely with international students, ought to familiarize themselves with the useful information provided by the office for institutional research (or similar entities) at their specific institution.

Araba stressed the importance of collaboration with campus partners, giving examples such as OU’s English Language Improvement Program, your on-campus writing center and any international student organizations at your university.

Staff development was also a key component of Araba’s presentation. Library staff can be better prepared to respond to international students’ needs through workshops, campus programs or conferences.

Finally, it was helpful for me that Araba detailed OU’s approach to instruction for international students, which includes library orientation and course integrated, subject related and resource specific instruction. She also highlighted the library webpage she had created specifically for international students. Though the Miami University Libraries currently host a number of LibGuides for various courses specific to international students, I hope to similarly create a webpage dedicated to and designed for Miami’s international students.

“Improving Learner Experience through Creative Library Instructional Design”

Mandi Goodsett, Cleveland State University (Instruction Interest Group Sponsored Session)

Between handouts, a LibGuide and a Padlet page, this session included so many great takeaways! Mandi’s session was one of my favorites of #ALAO2017 because it was so interactive and engaging. She asked attendees to consider a case study and then contribute to a Padlet page, where we could share live our ideas for instructional activities appropriate to the situation detailed in the case study. Her session included opportunity for discussion, both in pairs and as a large group, a simple aspect of many conference presentations that is often skipped due to time constraints.

As a new librarian instructor, it was incredibly helpful that Mandi offered a detailed list of ideas for creative library instruction. A lengthy listing on one of her handouts included strategies and methods I’d never encountered – beyond think-pair-share, jigsaws and the like! – including the Cephalonian method, RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect, and Comment) and WebQuests. She also introduced me to the idea of an “entrance ticket” for students, a tasks that students must complete immediately upon entry to the classroom.

I look forward to attending ALAO in the future as a presenter, roundtable head and/or committee or interest group member/chair. But, for now, it was enjoyable and informative to have the opportunity to observe, learn and network as a new resident librarian at a nearby and affordable local library conference. I am saving the date – and you should, too! – for ALAO’s 2017 Annual Conference on Friday, October 27, in Columbus, OH, themed “Libraries Act, Respond, Transform: The ART of Empowerment.”



Still being new to Ohio, I have never attended ALAO’s conference before. I have attended local conferences in Florida, where I used to live, but they tended to focus on public library issues. This was a great opportunity to see an academically focused local conference and get to know more about my fellow Ohio librarians and library activities.

This conference, beyond being a place where I could meet other Ohio librarians, was also a massive learning experience. I was heading a Roundtable for the first time and I am a Co-chair for the ALAO Technical, Electronic, and Digital Services Interest Group (TEDSIG) and on next year’s Conference Planning Committee. This conference was a chance to actively participate in the ALAO organization and see and experience the conference from the attendee side so I can help make the next conference successful and participant friendly.  The only presentation I’ve done to date was at a regional library meeting a couple of years ago. I was extremely nervous leading up to it, but luckily the keynote speaker and sessions kept me engaged leading up to the roundtable.

I was pleased that the program offered a Technical Services minded session in nearly every block. Being a Resident Librarian in Technical Services, I appreciated that. The first session I attended was “Partners in Crime: Technical Services and the Digital Humanities” by Libby Hertenstein and Julie Rabine from Bowling Green State University. This session was sponsored by the Special Collections and Archives Interest Group. Every Interest Group chose a session that they thought would be of interest to their members and introduced the speakers. At national conferences, I haven’t noticed if this was a recurring feature because the sheer amount of sessions were just overwhelming, but I liked this added feature. Even if you weren’t sure of the content from the session title or the short info blurb, the attachment or endorsement of an Interest Group would help make the decision easier. I loved hearing about how Technical Services was developing new workflows while making digital humanities projects and incorporating the Text Encoding Initiative. While I usually prefer hearing about fully completed projects, I liked getting to hear about the challenges of this project and how its timing and results will influence the project moving forward. Learning about new ways Technical Services can bridge gaps and collaborate within the library beyond their normal role was exciting.

Right after the first session was time for the Roundtables. All the roundtables were held in the same room, at separate tables, and people were encouraged to come and go between topics they found interesting. My Roundtable was “Providing access to new content types: Let’s talk about streaming video.” I had a few people come and sit and ask questions and generally discuss streaming videos. Back in the summer when I submitted my proposal for the roundtable, I had been asked to prepare 3 questions to play off and get the conversation started. With my group we had more people curious about streaming video and how it was being used currently and if there were subject areas at their institutions that could benefit from this different content type. For a first foray into speaking at a conference this was good and was relatively low anxiety. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to dip their toes in as you can start a discussion on something you know or have experience in and you don’t have to speak alone for 30-40 minutes. My roundtable went in a different direction than I had originally thought, but I came out feeling more confident as well.

The next session I attended was “Opening Up Open Access: Exceeding Users’ Needs.” Marsha Miles and Ben Richards gave a great primer for people new to open access and wanting to learn more. They talked about what libraries and universities can do to promote open access and the use of open educational resources. I know that Miami University Libraries are highly involved in open access initiatives on campus and off. It is good to know that around the state these conversations are also happening and being taken seriously.

At this conference a lunch was included. This was another good opportunity to network and interact with aspiring and Ohio librarians. I wound up sitting with a few MLIS student volunteers. It was great to have an opportunity to chat and hear about their conference experiences so far. While eating, there were awards presented, one of which my Co-chair and I announced and presented. I was pleased to see that there was a Support Staff Presenter Grant and grants for research and continuing education beyond the awards for honoring ALAO members.

Something else I enjoyed about this being a local conference was the amount of my colleagues from Miami University that were attending and participating. I was able to attend a session by Erin Vonnahme titled “Read In Redux: Revitalizing Library Programming,” and see posters by Carly Sentieri, Marcus Ladd, and Carrie Girton. In between sessions, it was nice to see familiar faces in the halls.

The last session I went to was sponsored by TEDSIG. “How Our Village Raised its Genre/Form Index: Why It Took Three Years and Why We Stuck with It”  by Kathleen Medicus, Amey Park, George Leggiero, and Laurence Skirvin, all from Kent State University. This was a four-part presentation, focusing on how they created a Genre/Form Index. Each individual talked about the part they played in the creation of the index. The presentation included how they came to start this project and what research needed to be done before they could move forward with the index. It also addressed the technical challenges and implementation issues within the workflows and cataloging system. With their project fully finished and well-received by patrons, they recommended it to other libraries and offered suggestions about how to implement this kind of search functionality. This presentation was very informative and had high attendance.

Reflecting back on this experience, I found that while I was exhausted at the end of the day, I enjoyed the local conference and was pleased that it offered significant learning opportunities for me. I was able to get that first conference presentation under my belt, get an idea of what other Ohio librarians are working on at their institutions, and be both an attendee and a participating member of ALAO. I would highly recommend participating in local chapters of ALA or ACRL and attending a local conference to any Resident Librarian. They are smaller scale versions of the national organizations and allow you to gain experience while you work on your service to the profession.


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