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At the Helm: Leading Transformation – Report from the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) 2017 conference

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The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) 2017 conference, March 22-25, 2017, Baltimore, Maryland, featured more than 300 carefully curated conference programs to help you stay at the forefront of the profession.

By Rick Provine, Dean of Libraries

Baltimore. Land of oysters, crabs and Little Italy. Clearly a lot to learn here. In addition, the biannual Association of College and Research Libraries conference offered its own array of delicacies. Chief among them…amazing keynote speakers.

First up: David McCandless

“David McCandless is a British data-journalist, author, and information designer. He creates stunning infographics that explore new directions for journalism and discover new stories among the vast amount of data surrounding us. His three books  – The Visual MiscellaneumKnowledge is BeautifulInformation is Beautiful – along with his blog help people visualize captivating and intriguing patterns and connections across economics, philosophy, art, science, health, and pop culture.

“McCandless describes how combining the language of the eye with the language of the mind enhances our understanding of complex data. He believes that the Internet has turned us all into visualizers for whom processing graphic information is effortless. According to McCandless, data visualization is becoming increasingly important because it enables knowledge compression, allowing an enormous amount of information to be packed into a small space.”

This was a fortuitous event for me. As we move forward with a curricular emphasis on visualization in tandem with the emergence of a newly-endowed Tenzer Technology Center, McCandless’s entertaining and informative presentation demonstrated the power of visualizing information across disciplines and data types…a very liberal arts approach. I recommend his Ted Talk.

Next up: Roxane Gay

“Roxane Gay is an author and cultural critic whose writing is widely revered for its reflective, no-holds-barred exploration of feminism and social criticism. Her work garners international acclaim for her deft eye on modern culture and for the signature wit and ferocity of her critiques. She is the author of Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad FeministDifficult Women and Hunger to be published in 2017. An Untamed State, Gay’s novel about a kidnapped Haitian-American woman, is currently being adapted for film.”

Wow. If you have never seen Roxane Gay in person or heard her speak, you owe it to yourself to do so. Funny, smart and direct, she enlivens the room with her spot-on commentary and engaging way of bringing home society’s challenges. You can enjoy her Ted Talk here.

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In between keynotes, there was an array of programs emblematic of the changing nature of libraries and the challenges in scholarly publishing. I attended several focusing on building and space, “design thinking” and issues related to open access. Each program gave a concise view of a specific topic that fed my need to consider options as we envision a renovation of our Roy O. West Library.

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Closing Keyhote speaker Carla Hayden is the 14th Librarian of Congress. She is the first woman and first African-American to fill the post. Ms. Hayden delivered a rousing address that brought it all to a pleasant, fulfilling close.


About ACRL

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 11,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship.

ACRL is the largest division of the American Library Association (ALA). ACRL currently has a membership of more than 11,000 members, accounting for nearly 20% of the total ALA membership.

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