Friday, July 21, 2006

ALA Annual 2006

I attended the following events at ALA this year:

Serving the Underserved - Distance Education & the LIS Degree
Speaker 1 discussed how the profession views distance education. Many look down on distance education programs, but most graduates of distance programs are satisfied with their education and employers are happy with distance LIS graduates. Speaker 2 explained how distant students can receive the same level of education as traditional students by researching LIS programs, using internet communication tools, participating in library associations, and work experience. Speaker 3 listed the pros and cons of distance education. Speaker 4 discussed distance education from an instructor’s perspective.

Ethical and Legal Issues in Reference Discussion Group
In this informal discussion, librarians chatted about the role of libraries and librarians in detecting/preventing plagiarism. We also pondered how to handle purchased items that turn out to be plagiarized or fabricated (as in Frey’s A Million Little Pieces). Although it was an interesting conversation, there were no grand revelations.

Making Assessment Work for You: How Information Literacy Tests Can Help Support Library Programs
Speakers discussed the development and use of 2 assessment tools: Project SAILS and the ICT Literacy Assessment. I was late and missed Carolyn Radcliff and Joe Salem discussing the development of Project SAILS. Much of Wendy Holliday’s presentation on Utah State University’s experience with SAILS and assessment of information literacy is in the document at I thought it was interesting that SAILS scores showed no significant differences in freshman and sophomores, but the few seniors who participated did do better than underclassmen. Their citation analysis was also interesting. Of the few students who did provide citations, they were mostly websites and 16 websites accounted for 49% of the citations.
I cannot recall anything about Teresa Egan’s presentation on the development of ETS’ ICT Literacy Assessment, however, there is a lot of info about this test at Lesley Farmer discussed her experience with the ICT assessment. From her experience, the test focused too much on technology and not enough print IL, it was time consuming, and not aligned with the curriculum. They also experienced technical difficulties while administering the test and had to have the campus’ firewall turned off.

The Long Tail: The Internet, Culture and the Mega-Store
This was the most interesting session I attended at ALA 2006. Chris Anderson, author of the recently published The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, discussed the “long tail” and how libraries contribute. Anderson’s “long tail” describes the shift in consumer purchases away from a heavy focus on popular products to a focus on niche products with less mass appeal. For example, when I was a teenager, I bought most of my music CDs at Wal-Mart. My purchases were limited to products available in Wal-Mart, mass produced and mass distributed. But thanks to online stores, like Amazon, I can easily find and purchase less popular works, such as music by Sherie Rene Scott or O’2L.

If you graph product purchase versus popularity, a tall spike (of popular products) occurs with a long tail of niche products following. While no one niche product sells more than any of the popular products, all together, the niche products sell more than the popular products all together. The long tail affects entertainment, publishing, advertising (think AdWords), credit cards and even “libations” like beer. You can read a little more about “long tail” at and in Anderson’s original article on the subject at

The “long tail” can be seen in libraries through interlibrary loan, online databases, and Google Book Search. Interlibrary loan and online databases provide users access to a much broader access to materials than what they have at home or even in their libraries. Google’s Book Search helps users become aware of books that they might not have been aware of. Select slides of Anderson’s PowerPoint from this talk are available on his blog at

Events I Did Not Attend
I did not attend the following events, but resources related to these events and other blog summaries are available online.

ACRL President’s Program: The Emperor Has No Clothes: Be It Resolved That Information Literacy is a Fad and Waste of Librarians’ Time and Talent:

Drug Foods, Fast Foods, and Feasts: A Social Science of Eating:

Go Where They Are (And Go Now!):

I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can: Building a Career When Personal Responsibilities Demand More of You:

The Power of Personal Persuasion:

Publish, Don’t Perish: Helpful Hints for Authors:

LITA Events:

If you have a link to resources or summaries of events from ALA 2006, please share!