Reflections on the Workshop for Instruction in Library Use conference

Over the course of three days spanning the end of May and beginning on June, UBC hosted WILU – the Workshop for Instruction in Library Use – with a theme of “Intersections”. I attended the full conference including a pre-conference session, and presented during the lightning talks about library technicians facilitating instruction.

The program for WILU was packed full of presentations about the ACRL Framework; how to teach with it, some of the assumptions about students it holds, and how some library staff are helping others incorporate the Framework into their practice. I attended a fantastic session on creating online modules that faculty can incorporate with their lectures using a content management system which would be customizable to that course’s need, and placed throughout the course to ensure students are getting the information when they need it. Another session examined whether online learning modules are useful in information literacy, and how to best present the content for students. While there is no “right” way, and acknowledging that every student learns differently, each of these sessions presented ideas to engage learners in the content.

The opening keynote speaker was Emily Drabinski, who was amazing, and spoke about looking critically at how items are classified and catalogued. She discussed that the catalogue is “how the land was viewed at a particular point in time” and how it allows access while restricting it due to language and concepts (formal and outdated). Emily talked about how the controlled language meant some groups are misrepresented or left out, unintentionally (or perhaps at the time it was created, intentionally) “marking” these people. Her examples were based on the queer experience, and I couldn’t help but relate the issues brought up to representations of Canada’s First Nations populations. How our classification and cataloguing system label materials created by or about Canada’s diverse indigenous people can often be appalling (okay, maybe more than often).

On the morning of the second day, there were seven lightning talks which unfortunately due to anticipation and adrenaline, I don’t recall much of any besides mine. Each talk was seven minutes long with two minutes for questions. I spoke about library technicians facilitating instruction, focusing on the capabilities technicians graduate with and the benefits of collaborating with librarians. Due to the unique nature of my current position, working primarily on the Research Help desk and facilitating one-shot workshops for undergraduates, I wanted to encourage other academic institutions to re-imagine the role of library technicians in their institutions, especially as the role of a librarian is evolving.

There were a number of librarians from the USA at the conference, and it sounds like staffing on the reference desk is sometimes done by graduate students while library instruction done solely by librarians. This difference brought up some great questions regarding job responsibilities, compensation, and hesitation to the idea that librarians are no longer on the reference desk and therefore losing that point of contact with patrons. This discussion, in addition to comments made to me afterwards, highlighted the lack of understanding about how the two professions (library technician and librarian) can and should be working together to better assist their patrons and communities.

A panel discussing indigenizing instruction was held the afternoon of the final day with five panelists from across western Canada sharing their experiences and strategies, along with recommendations for resources. Each panelist stressed the importance of following cultural protocols, and acknowledging indigenous ways of knowing, in addition to being aware of bias within the classification and cataloguing systems. One panelist brought up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to actions, specifically that libraries are not mentioned while museums and archives are. As places of information libraries need to be engaging with indigenous communities, in a respectful and culturally sensitive way.

The closing keynote speaker was an author named E. Paul Zehl, who is as a professor of neuroscience at the University of Victoria. I hadn’t heard of him, or his books, prior to the conference so didn’t know what to expect. His keynote was full of science and martial arts facts, primarily in relation to super heroes and what it would take to be like them. Near the end of his talk he encouraged us to “be good at many things,” which resonated with me since as a library professional you never know what is going to be asked of you by a patron.

WILU was, hands down, an amazing conference that I would definitely attend in the future. If you were unable to attend, many of the presentations are available through UBC’s institutional repository, cIRcle, including a recording of Emily Drabinski’s keynote.








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