Guest Post: Caren Torrey on ACRL 2015 and Gut Churn
Caren Torrey, who is a Graduate Research in the program, reflects on the recent ACRL Conference:
ACRL 2015 – Gut Churn
Jad Abumrad, host and creator of RadioLab, gave a fantastic keynote speech at the ACRL conference on Thursday afternoon titled “Gut Churn.” He used this term to describe the moment when creativity goes into a dark space: when you lose your perspective, maybe give up a little hope, when you are not sure of yourself, when your creative process fills you with anxiety. Gut churn is Abumrad’s term for being uncertainty. Abumrad feels that this part of the creative process is key to overcoming hurdles and breaking through to an innovative answer.
Gut churn was echoed at the ACRL conference (held March 25th-28th in Portland, OR). Academic librarians embraced his speech; the term was repeated throughout the event. This feeling of creativity and embracing challenges was important for the conference theme of sustaining community.
I was rejuvenated after hearing Abumrad’s speech. Not only was I surprised that the keynote was like a private version of RadioLab — just for us (!), but I was relieved to hear that most successful, creative people also are apprehensive when trying new approaches to old concepts. As I navigate my path into the professional libraries world, I am embracing my own feelings of gut churn.
What resonated with me most about this conference were the specific challenges that libraries are currently facing: embracing new technology, outreach to faculty and students, education and information literacy, and demonstrating value. Each of these issues was discussed in the context of the academic library. In each case, there is a need for innovation and creativity that can only be accomplished by pushing through uncertainty. The uncertainty that libraries are facing include funding, use and lack of space, accelerated advances in technology, and the evolving role of librarians.
Many of the sessions that I attended discussed bringing new applications and e-resources to the library and the implementation of open educational resources. Librarians seemed excited about these changes. They want to incorporate new ways of presenting, accessing and finding information.
I could also sense the gut churn in the room during these presentations. The questions that were about implementing and training: How do you get new technologies in your library? How do you fund technology? How do you keep up? The anxiety and excitement expressed comes hand-in-hand with bringing innovation into the workplace.
As a profession, librarians are excited about information. We enjoy the feeling of wonder, the search for information, and the joy of finding the perfect answer. Librarians should embrace our collective “gut churn” to seek out new paths for finding solutions to our environmental challenges. Creative marketing and outreach to faculty and students can be approached in as collaborative exercise for all. Using new methods of interactive technology is going to be vital to accelerate education and information literacy. Our biggest challenge is demonstrating our value to our communities, perhaps we incorporate open data and open resources to track our impact.
As a graduate research intern at MIT’s Program on Information Science, I am conducting research on early career scientists. This includes investigating the way in which researchers advance their scholarly reputation early in their careers. I am exploring various methods of and technologies for sharing research and communicating oneself and one’s professional life via scholarly communication and social media. This research has been extremely valuable as an incoming academic librarian. Although the challenges vary by profession, building a name for yourself and your research is vital to a lasting, satisfying career.
My attendance of sessions for students and new professionals also echoed the overall feeling of the conference. The gut churn and excitement in these sessions was similar to my own feelings: where do we fit in in the moment of change? How do we effectively lead change as we enter the workplace? Is the millennial generation of librarians really that different than the current professionals? Am I going to get a job?
Overall, the ACRL conference felt like a success. I learned that in order to really make effective change, you have to embrace your uncertainty and learn from it. After all, there are only two outcomes: success and failure. Failure isn’t the end, it is a new beginning.