My poster won a prize at the 2013 OCULA Spring Event

This past Friday was the 2013 OCULA Spring Event in beautiful Jordan, Ontario. The theme was “Forward-Facing Library: The Future of Reference and Instruction in Academic Libraries,” and I presented a digital poster with my awesome colleague Joanna Blair about the Information Literacy assessment program we’re working on at Seneca. We made it using Powtoon, which is an easy way to make fun animated videos. You can take a look here:

And we won a prize! Ours was voted best digital poster during the second half of the poster presentations.

Photo by Jennifer Peters, originally posted at

Photo by Jennifer Peters, originally posted at

Digital poster winner trophy

Digital poster winner trophy

Many thanks to Jennifer Peters and Sarah Forbes for organizing a fantastic event. I’m looking forward to next spring already!

Why librarians shouldn’t be afraid to call themselves experts

Hello my name is ExpertAt a library conference I attended recently, I noticed that two speakers opened their talks by announcing that they were not “experts” on the subject matter they were about to present. This struck me as a rather odd way to begin a presentation; it caused me to put little faith in the presenter, and it even reflected poorly on the organizers of the conference, who really ought to have found some genuine “experts.” Of course, in both instances, the presenters went on to give perfectly good talks, but their lack of confidence had a negative impact on my perception of their presentations (watch a TED talk for a good example of an effective, confident presenter).

I feel that too many librarians are hesitant to identify themselves as experts. Perhaps this is because we consider ourselves to be “jacks of all trades, masters of none.” Perhaps, as Mari Vihuri suggests, it’s a case of imposter syndrome. Or perhaps, as portrayed by librarian stereotypes, we are simply too meek and humble. In any case, it needs to stop. If we want to earn the respect (or simply the attention) of our clients, peers, and administrations, we need to make it known that we are experts in the areas we work in every day (it should go without saying that we should never claim to be experts on topics we’re genuinely not familiar with).

For example, as a librarian at McGill, I gave many workshops for students and faculty members on the use of the citation management programs EndNote and Zotero. At the beginning of each session, I would introduce my co-presenter and myself as two of the McGill Library’s citation management software experts. Did this mean I considered myself to be the most knowledgeable person on campus, or even just among the library’s staff, on any of these programs? Certainly not. As a relatively new librarian, I was fully aware that there were researchers and librarians at McGill who knew EndNote and Zotero much better than I did. However, compared to the people in the audience, who had voluntarily signed up for an introductory workshop, I was an expert. I may not have been “the” expert, in the sense of being the ultimate guru on campus, but I was clearly “an” expert, in the sense of having spent a significant amount of time with the software and knowing it well enough to teach others to use it.

Similarly, when giving in-class presentations to students in the Faculty of Management, I always encouraged them to come speak to a Management liaison librarian such as myself for help with their research, and I would regularly describe our team as being the research “experts.” In some cases, there may have been faculty members or graduate students who were more adept at using specific databases than I was (especially when I was first learning the ropes), but I believe that if I had instead claimed that the Management librarians “knew a bit about research and would be happy to do what we could to help, even though there are other on campus who know more,” students would have been much less likely to contact the library.

So this is a challenge to everyone in the library/information community: spend a few minutes identifying the areas (and circumstances) in which you could be considered an expert, and make a point of spreading the word about your expertise. Don’t brag, but make sure the people around you realize what you’re really good at doing. And encourage your colleagues to stand up for their expertise as well. It will make people respect you and listen to what you have to say.

What are you an expert at? How do you let people know without bragging? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Need a little inspiration? Here’s your expert-related Friday Fun:

See you at the CLA conference in Halifax

Just a quick note to let everyone know I will be at the CLA conference in Halifax at the end of May. I’d love to meet up with some of my readers, so drop me a line if you’ll be there. And you should definitely attend the panel I’ll be speaking on: Getting on (Tenure) Track: New Professionals and Academic Librarianship on Friday, May 27 at 8:30 am. My Re:Gen colleagues and I will be talking about all the issues new or future academic librarians need to know about. Bring your questions, or just sit back and absorb the tips.

While I’m at it, allow me to also plug the session I will be convening: Technology Lightning Strikes! on Saturday, May 28 at 8:30 am. We have a fantastic group of tech experts who will be giving pithy talks, and afterwards everyone will have the chance to discuss in break-out groups. I assure you it will be worth waking up early for this one.

You may also be interested in my new post at the Re:Generations blog.

Web 2.You 2011: A success for the 4th year in a row

I attended the 4th annual Web 2.You conference yesterday, and it did not disappoint. As you may know, I was co-organizer of Web 2.You 2009 and last year I was a presenter, but this time I was perfectly happy to sit and simply enjoy the day. The only small role I played was ambushing Web 2.You co-founder Amy Buckland at the opening by presenting her with the SLA Eastern Canada Chapter 2010 Member of the Year award. After that, there were no more surprises, just the high quality presentations we’ve come to expect each year.

Joanne Mayhew kicked things off with a presentation about Industry Canada‘s corporate wiki. The project has really taken off, and if they had only started a year earlier, I might have been able to have been involved with it when I worked there in the summer of 2008. At any rate, it was an interesting look at a successful wiki launch, and I have no doubt it will be useful for anyone in the audience who might work on a similar project in the future.

Next up, Rajiv Johal and Michelle Lake talked about LinkedIn, which is one of those social sites on which many people create profiles but fail to maintain them after the first month or two. I have the feeling that when the audience went home last night, we all either signed up for the site or updated our profiles. It was especially interesting for me because I gave a presentation on LinkedIn for MBA students last semester, and Rajiv and Michelle covered some angles I hadn’t considered before. I had looked at the site mainly in terms of networking and job hunting, but Rajiv pointed out that it can be a powerful tool for business librarians doing research on small companies. I definitely picked up some tips that I will be able to use in the future.

After lunch, we heard from a panel made up of Ulla de Stricker, Robin Canuel, and Carolyn Hank. For a group of people who had never met in person before, they did a remarkable job of feeding off of each other’s enthusiasm while maintaining a smooth flow of conversation. Topics included the ownership of tweets, data loss through reliance on USB sticks, and the belief of some students that all important old research has already been digitized. If the audience didn’t already have enough ideas to occupy our thoughts, we certainly had plenty to ponder after watching the panel discussion.

Jason Puckett wrapped things up with a fascinating look at “open formats, open source, open access, and open publishing.” He demonstrated the importance of openness to libraries, pointing to examples of where closed formats limit our users; for example, DRM on music and DVDs may actually encourage piracy because the pirated version is more useful. After pointing out the flaws in our current electronic environment, Jason gave examples of content creators, like Cory Doctorow, who are finding creative new business models that allow for openness and profits to coexist. He concluded on an optimistic note, suggesting that librarians are in a position to influence vendors and demand that they provide their information in open formats.

As usual, the event was followed by a 5 à 7, where the audience was able to interact with speakers (and perhaps to ask the questions we hadn’t been brave enough to ask in front of the whole group). All in all, it was a terrific day – congratulations to the organizers, MLIS students Adrienne Smith and Bruno Therrien!

Conference season is upon us

I recently attended the SLA conference in New Orleans, and it was an incredible experience. I want to remind everyone, students and professionals alike, that going to conferences is an invaluable opportunity for networking and learning more about the community. If you’re interested in hearing my thoughts on SLA 2010, check out my post on the Re:Generations blog (Re:Gen has other great conference posts as well).

Of course, you may not be able to travel as far as New Orleans (unless you already live near there), so keep your eyes peeled for local conferences. For those of us in Quebec, the ABQLA puts on an excellent conference each year in Montreal. Whether you take advantage of discounted student registration rates or work as a volunteer (which usually means avoiding registration fees altogether), you should absolutely make a point of fitting at least one upcoming conference into your schedule.

You’ll find the biblioblogosphere is already filled with conference tips, so I’ll refrain from adding more of my own, but I will suggest that you check out Stephen Abram’s tips. And as always, if you have questions for me, just ask.

Web 2.You 2010 follow-up

Michael and Graham

Me (on the right) with Michael Porter, after Web 2.You 2010

It feels like years have passed since Web 2.You 2010, but it’s actually only been three weeks. At any rate, as many of you already know, the event was fantastic. The other speakers gave great talks and were a blast to hang out with, and apparently I didn’t look nearly as nervous as I felt. It was certainly intimidating to present to so many excellent librarians (not to mention discerning students), but one of my former library school profs liked my talk so much that she invited me to give it again in her class. I went ahead with that last week, and it was another great experience. And fortunately I’m not the only one who deemed Web 2.You 2010 a success; here are some other reactions:

Web 2.You at McGill – the little conference that could and does
Web 2.Wow
On Speaking in Montreal

Video clips are on their way, but for now feel free to check out my photos and slides. And for extra credit, take a look through the photos taken by a current SIS student.

Web 2.You 2009 was a terrific success!

Whew, I can’t believe it’s all over! After months of planning, negotiating, reserving, and worrying, Web 2.You finally happened on Friday, and I couldn’t be happier with the way everything went. I can’t write a long post today because all the schoolwork I ignored last week is calling my name, but I wanted to say that the event went off without a hitch. It turns out that Michael is just as kind, helpful, and inspiring in person as he has been by email over the past few months, and Stephen and Amy captivated the audience as usual. Our student volunteers really went above and beyond to make sure everything went smoothly, and the student presenters did a great job as well. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved with such a great group of people – my sincere thanks to all the presenters, volunteers, attendees, and my incredible co-organizer, Amanda.

Sadly, Amy had to return to the reference desk right after her presentation, so she missed the group photo, but here I am with Amanda, Stephen, and Michael, and there’s Amy giving her talk about social networks below.

Amanda, Stephen, Graham, and Michael at Web 2.You

Amanda, Stephen, Graham, and Michael at Web 2.You 2009

Amy presents at Web 2.You 2009

Amy presents at Web 2.You 2009