Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden at ACRL 2017

Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden speaking at ACRL 2017. Photo by Jocelyn Ireland.

Jocelyn Ireland, Instructional Design Librarian at Mohawk Valley Community College, received a Professional Development Award from the Central New York Library Resources Council (CLRC) to attend this year’s Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) conference. Read about her experience and standout ACRL sessions below.

The ACRL 2017 conference in Baltimore, Maryland was a memorable experience filled with energizing professional development opportunities. I attended sessions that focused on assessment, information literacy instruction, accessibility, and collaboration with campus partners. The lessons that stood out to me were the importance of librarians to (1) use big data to anticipate user needs and demonstrate the library’s value; (2) engage in the political process; (3) invest in retraining to stay relevant; (4) stay true to our values.

David McCandless, the opening keynote speaker and data journalist compared data to soil that you can dig your hands in, and infographics are the flowers that can bloom from the soil. Data visualization requires time to experiment and play with to unlock the data’s potential. Infographics make data more accessible, even beautiful, for more people. For those interested in data visualization, check out McCandless’ website For those interested in creating visualizations, he suggested or

Another session that stood out was “So, what do you think about tomorrow’s academic libraries?” with authors David Lewis and John Palfrey. Both speakers emphasized the importance of institutions investing in their human capital. Skills that many librarians learned in library school are no longer relevant. Retraining staff with professional development is essential for libraries to stay relevant. David Lewis also encouraged the aging baby boomers in leadership roles to develop effective mentorship programs for millennials. The new librarians need leadership training since the demographics of the profession will shift. Another big takeaway was a call to administrators to shift staff and financial resources from the physical environment to the library’s online presence. Most of our users are interacting with the library online so that is where library staff should be prioritizing time and energy.

The highlight of the conference was the final keynote given by the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. My words cannot give her talk justice. Her driving mission as Librarian of Congress is to make the treasures of America’s library available to everyone. She is doing this through digitization efforts, partnerships, and innovative programming. The Library of Congress has events with authors with live streaming so online viewers can be involved. For the first time ever, the Library of Congress will be sharing their “crown jewels” of comic books at Washington D.C.’s Comic Con. Other programs include a series of Disco events and events specifically for local teens. Carla also encouraged librarians to be proud of their stereotype of trustworthiness. Being trustworthy is our strength; so own it and be proud.

The keynote speakers, panel sessions, round table discussions, and poster presentations were eye opening for an early-career academic librarian like myself. Thank you CLRC for the financial support that helped make this opportunity possible.

Interested in our Professional Development Awards? Find out more here. Did you recently attend a conference/professional development opportunity and would like to share your experience? Contact Jen Bort, CLRC Research and Development Librarian.