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2017 ACRL Conference Calls Librarians to Action

by Susan McMullen, Professor – Research Services & User Engagement Librarian

The Association for College and Research Libraries 2017 Conference was held in Baltimore, Maryland from March 22nd to the 25th. This year’s conference broke attendance registration records, attracting 3,499 face-to-face library professionals and more than 246 virtual attendees from all 50 states and 31 countries. With its theme, At the Helm: Leading Transformation, the conference offered over 500 programs in a variety of session formats including contributed papers, panel discussions, workshops, lightning talks, and poster sessions. The conference also served as a call to action as American Library Association president, Julie Todaro, urged all participants to reach out to their legislators to preserve library funding.

Library professionals examined current trends and explored new paths forward in areas such as higher education funding and costs, information literacy, competency-based education, digital preservation, data curation, open access, scholarly communication, collection development, assessment and evaluation, planning and designing library spaces, and social justice issues. For those wishing to delve deeply into an issue, six full-day pre-conferences were offered in the areas of assessment, law, information literacy, digital learning objects, and open textbooks.

The conference featured three distinguished keynote speakers.  The opening key note was given by data journalist and information designer, David McCandless. He spoke about the power of data visualization for helping us understand the world and reveal new patterns, connections, and stories.  Many have called data the “new oil“, but David calls it the “new soil” because everything blooms from this soil. As a “data detective”, he usually starts off with a good question and sees what grows out of the data.   Author and cultural critic, Roxanne Gay, read from her new essay detailing what she believes is the “Age of American Disgrace.”  She wants to believe there is “grace beyond this American disgrace” and that to achieve real change we must be willing to think differently and act differently. Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, delivered an inspirational closing keynote address that was the highlight of the conference.  Nominated for this prestigious role by President Obama, Hayden is the first woman and the first African-American to serve as Librarian of Congress.  In her role as CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, she famously kept the library open during the riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.  In her new role, Hayden hopes to make the Library of Congress’s priceless collections available to everyone.

In the spirit of open access, The Conference Proceedings are freely available at http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2017/ACRL2017_A.pdf