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I finally made it to Jasper after almost four years in Alberta. An extremely long drive from the forgotten corner of the southeast, but well worth the trip. I attended the Alberta Library Conference for the first time and filled in as a last minute session presenter (while very sick, no less).

Our session was on the partnerships and projects in place in southeastern Alberta: Medicine Hat College, Medicine Hat Public Library and the regional Shortgrass Library System, and three high schools. Once we started creating a list, it became clear that we have some amazing partnerships here. It’s small enough in Medicine Hat that all the librarians fit in one room – and since we have so many projects in place, it’s natural to involve each other as we develop new initiatives. We also are lucky to have enthusiastic staff that are willing to try new things.

Best conference takeaway: in one of the sessions, a managing librarian’s advice was to just refer to any change you want to make as “a pilot” so people would be on board and you don’t have to have an exact plan (or know much about how things are going to turn out). I’m pretty sure this has always been the college philosophy of project implementation. Another session from Edmonton Public Library made me cringe at the size of their system, number of employees and the earnest effort to put each of the 600+ employees through a rigorous training program. It’s nice to be nimble.


Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. April 26 2013.

Short WILU report and summer projects that may happen

Workshop for Instruction in Library Use (WILU) at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta

I haven’t written since my last conference report on the OLA Superconference…It’s now near July and I’m just starting to tackle my summer projects To-Do List.

The trouble with WILU for me is that instruction is really only one component of my job (though I do teach 60+ sessions/year), so it was quite overwhelming to be thinking of so many potential things I could/should/would be doing with more time/resources/staff. Instead, I wanted to take home one thing to work on at my library.

Two librarians from McGill presented a great session on ‘redirecting’ library instruction. This session really made me think about taking a big picture snapshot of our library instruction. We do so much instruction, and record our stats faithfully, but I’d love to develop a visual showing where our instruction is actually taking place within the college curriculum. Further, mapping ACRL standards to our instruction efforts is a tangible first-step in formalizing our instruction program and moving toward assessment.

I also really enjoyed the keynote by Dr. Michael Eisenberg and a session on  Teaching Research Methods. I really want to get ‘out of the box’ in terms of my own instruction. I already avoid using library jargon as much as possible, but we really need to stop just demo-ing a database or other tools. At the end of the day I want my students to care about research and knowledge, and how even a small assignment fits into scholarly activity.

As Eisenberg stated, students know how to find stuff. And there is too much stuff. We need to focus on the research process.

Among my other summer plans: What to do with music scores, weeding the P’s (!), revising our APA documentation, weeding AV, finalizing plans for OBOC, revising policies, hiring student assistants, creating a research guide for addictions, planning a pilot assessment project for instruction in history, developing a library survey…

Super Toronto

photo: Quill and Quire

I had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto Feb.1-4, 2012 and I’ve been wondering how best to ‘bring the conference back to work’. Besides being back in love with Toronto (though there’s not much to love right now, the weather was fantastic, and it’s such a change of pace from here in Alberta), the conference gave me A LOT to think about.

Thanks to this helpful post from Rebecca Jones, I’ve planned a session with my colleagues about a great presentation on Information Literacy for Faculty by Seneca College Libraries. I’m excited to try a few of their techniques. This session was the best one I attended at the conference, and was both inspiring and overwhelming (how can I do all of that at my library?!).

The biggest big-picture, take-home, reiterated issues that cropped up for me were:

  • We are screwed if we leave things to Apple and Google
  • We are screwed if we continue to licence content like ebooks (libraries need to vote with our wallets on ebooks)
  • Outcome over output (who cares if our circulation was up 3% this year?)
  • Importance of media literacy/critical thinking about technology (stop being a fanboy/girl of Apple, make social media purposeful rather than feed our worst instincts).
  • “Return” the library space to the users (stop the collections “arms race” to have the most volumes)

I need to remember these.

Oh, and George Stroumboulopoulos closed the conference at the Gala Luncheon. I used to listen to George on CFNY Toronto radio way back in the 90’s…so great, and look where he is now. Oh, and libraries can’t rely on nostalgia either.

Resources for Introverts

Last time I completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I has 28 ‘points’ for introversion and 2 points for extroversion. This was hardly a revelation for me. However, the process of exploring our results has led me to feel more confident in my ‘type’, accept it as a preference not a burden, and learn to work with my preferences.

Here are some resources I’ve come across recently on ‘surviving’ as an introvert. I’m sure lots of librarians are introverts. It’s interesting to realise that there is a difference between preference and behaviour. Introverts are able to display extroversion, it just takes more energy.

  • Ancowitz, N. (2010). Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead.
  • Dembling, S. (2009-present). The Introvert’s Corner [Weblog]. Retrieved from PsychologyToday website
  • Fine, D. (2005). The Fine Art of Small Talk. New York, NY: Hyperion.
  • Laney, M. O. (2002). The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in a Extrovert World. New York, NY: Workman.
  • Phelps, M. (2007-2008). Power Networking for Introverts [Weblog]. Retrieved from

Some of the above were posted in the discussion Best Resources (and Tips) on Networking for Introverts, a discussion forum from the LinkedIn Group LIS Career Options.

I also posted some resources on Strengths-Based leadership on the Re:Generations blog:

Reflections on Library Day in the Life Project

This week I participated in Librarydayinthelife Project for the first time, recording my daily activities and posting them here on my blog.

The challenging part was remembering to record things as they happen and finding time at the end of the day to write everything up and post.

The week I recorded was both typical and atypical. I don’t have a set structure to my work, other than a few recurring meetings and my Information Desk schedule. Everything else changes as priorities change: classes get scheduled, other meetings, reference work for students (urgent).

After a year and a half in my position, I still need a lot of time to prepare for classes. This is good (I know I offer the best session I can) and bad (time consuming, especially during busy weeks). I also find I need downtime after a class to digest what just happened. I think it will help for me to actually schedule this time for myself to stop feeling like I’m ‘wasting’ time.

I let projects fall by the wayside and can end up spending a whole week taking care of issues as they arise instead of tackling long awaited tasks. I will schedule time to review my performance/annual goals on a monthly basis and commit the time to those projects. A librarian I met claimed to schedule a day per project in her week. This seemed luxiourious. Though I don’t have a whole day per week for each project, scheduling even half an hour to think about my long-term projects should make a difference.

I let things I cannot control affect my mood. My Tuesday’s class went so well I was ecstatic and inspired. My Thursday’s class (where no one showed up, in another city) left me drained and upset for the rest of the day. I tried to just move on to my other tasks. I should have taken the time to think about what happened.

Overall, it was enlightening to see the break down of my week. My New Year’s Resolutions included taking an hour long lunch break and leaving work on time to go to the gym. I’m doing pretty well with this so far. It’s made me more efficient at work, but sometimes  I feel like I should be doing more.

Library Day in the Life, Day 5

Last day in LibrarydayintheLife

Leigh Cunningham, Collections and Instruction Librarian, Medicine Hat College, Alberta, Canada

Follow-up to yesterday: I was also sad about this article 45% Of Students Don’t Learn Much In College

7:45 Arrive at work. Roads weren’t too bad, but everything will ice over today and ‘heavy snow’ in forecast for this afternoon.


Start working through piles on my desk that I decided to leave yesterday. Feeling better as I get organized. Make my way through the piles of potential weeds on my desk. Make list of things I *must* do today and this relieves pressure from my entire to-do list. Figure out what can wait until Monday. Answer some email.

Other librarian off again today (director still away, too). Reschedule reference desk hours. Other staff step in to cover shifts = awesome.


Post February shelving schedule for my student assistants and deal with wacky timesheet issue. Respond to request to be shelver’s reference in her summer job search (aww). Distribute posters throughout the college (help from co-worker = awesome). Organize our weekly staff trivia game. Each week I ask a question (weirdest food you’ve eaten, favourite movie) and the answers are compiled into a matching quiz. We have a monthly prize. It’s been a very successful social committee initiative and provides great water cooler fodder.


Work on reference question for distance education student.


Reference Desk shift: helping students with microfilm reader (always a blast) – they get an assignment where they have to find the headline from the day they were born in Medicine Hat News. Student responses to microfilm: “cool”. Other scavenger hunt items: first female member of parliament and date someone won a Nobel Prize. Put up Info Desk display for OBOC. Decide on dates for upcoming social committee events.

1:00-1:30 Lunch, reading UsWeekly


Prepare for meeting with psychology instructor.


Meet with psychology instructor regarding 3 different upcoming classes (5 sessions) for her students: Abnormal Psychology: Finding & critiquing peer-reviewed articles; Social Psychology: Writing a research proposal; Education Psychology: Researching theories &synopsis writing.


Tidy up and decide what to bring home for the weekend.

4:00 Leave work for hair appointment.


Library Day in the Life, Day 4

Day 4, LibrarydayintheLife Project

Leigh Cunningham, Collections and Instruction Librarian, Medicine Hat College, Alberta, Canada


8:30 Arrive at work.


Email. Finish preparation for class today and preparation for weeding at Brooks Campus. Answer reference question from Distance Ed. Student (drug prevention programs for grade 1).


Travel from Medicine Hat to Brooks, AB


Meet with staff at Brooks library


Offer drop in Study Skills workshop on APA and MLA formatting. Sadly, no one shows up. Feeling dejected.


Eat lunch on the run and travel back to Medicine Hat


Chair Social Committee Meeting. We’re going to see the Medicine Hat production of Evil Dead: The Musical.

3:30-4:15 Reference Desk Shift

Help a student cite something from a PowerPoint slide in Blackboard. I conclude that the instructor has incorrectly cited criteria from the DSM-IV and we end up not being able to find the criteria listed on the instructor’s slides in the actual manual. Great. Send student away with a cobbled together APA citation. Bring the DSM back to my office to find the correct info.


Feeling dejected and defeated. My desk is piled with papers. Do I tackle the pile or just head home for the day?