ACRL ’07 wrap-up

The ACRL conference has been blogged exhaustively by the small army of official conference bloggers (note to self: sign up to be one of those bloggers the next time I want to go to a conference). So I’ll just distill the highlights into one post.

Luz Mangurian’s talk about learning and cognition was great: a neurologist’s explanation of how the brain learns things, and stores (or doesn’t store) new knowledge. The main point was that neurons connect with other neurons in networks, and associating concepts together literally makes new connections in the brain. If you keep using those neural networks, the knowledge gets stored as long-term memory. She had a lot to say about attention: we auto-focus on narrow ranges, and we can pay attention to, at most, about seven things at once, and not for very long. Which means that lecturing doesn’t work for most students — a point illustrated by an incredibly telling chart.

David Silver from the University of San Francisco media studies department talked about what he called "already existing information optimally uploaded," or AEIOU, and encouraged librarians to consider blogging as a means of sharing and recombining information that’s already available in other contexts (both digital and analog). I liked his emphasis on using online means of drawing students into the offline world, and the student projects he described that mingled blogging with some fairly extensive archival research at the library.

On Sunday morning, I was glad I got downtown early enough to take in Laurie Allen’s presentation on the very cool PennTags project, a kind of for the UPenn library catalog. I’d heard about PennTags, but hadn’t heard about the nifty bibliographic features they built into it, like the automatic capture of bibliographic citation information and call numbers, or the way it allows for really long annotations, so students can use it to build annotated bibliographies for their classes. It’s not open-source yet, but that’s apparently on their to-do list.

And it was also good to see the Aquarium again during the conference reception, and to commune with the puffins (new since the last time I’d been there), the tree snakes, and the stingrays.* And John Waters suggested two ways to get young people into libraries: 1) librarians walking around naked for two minutes at a time, and 2) "Good Parts Day," wherein all the naughty parts in library books would be marked with Post-it notes. He also spoke with amazement about the fact that his movies now show uncut on TV: really, what is the world coming to?

There were more panels that I went to, and some excellent posters (especially one on Google map mashups and one on librarians doing outreach to theater students by helping with production research for plays — which would be insanely fun to do). But those were the standouts.

* I didn’t take that puffin photo, Steven Bell did. I love their giant beaks.

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