by | Oct 16, 2014 | General News

By Emma Oxford. The science librarians met on October 12-13, 2014, with 30 of the 80 Oberlin Group institutions represented.

As a new librarian at Rollins College, I recently attended my first librarians’ conference. I was very fortunate, as this conference was the 2014 Meeting of the Oberlin Group Science Librarians, hosted October 12-13 at Williams College and organized by Helena Warburg (Head of the Science Library @ Williams), Jodi Psoter (Science Librarian @ Williams), and a stellar planning committee. Aside from the minor travel headache that is getting from Orlando to Williamstown (or “Billsville,” as my aunt, a proud Williams alumna, has informed me it is locally known) and back again, the meeting was a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of my colleagues and to hear about what is happening around the nation in liberal arts science librarianship. (Cynthia Cohen from Claremont Colleges won the “distance award” for this meeting – she trekked all the way to Williams from California!) Thirty of the eighty Oberlin Group institutions were represented by thirty-one librarians at the conference.

I thought I would take this opportunity to write up a quick summary of what went on at the conference as well as offer my own thoughts on some of what was discussed.

The meeting kicked off on the evening of Sunday, October 12, with dinner and a presentation by Nate Kornell, Williams College Assistant Professor of Psychology. (I realize the purpose of conferences is not just to eat good food, but I feel compelled to say that the food at this dinner was excellent, as was all the food provided throughout the conference. Williams College was a wonderful host.) Dr. Kornell discussed effective learning techniques, a topic that I think resonates with librarians both as classroom instructors endeavoring to get students to retain as much information as possible and as lifelong learners themselves. Dr. Kornell emphasized especially 1) the importance of focusing on what you do poorly and learning from your mistakes, rather than practicing what you’re already good at, and 2) the effectiveness of spaced learning over massed learning, even though learners themselves tend to think massed learning is better.

This lecture was followed by a planetarium show at Williams’ Old Hopkins Observatory. I can’t remember the last time I saw a planetarium show, and I thought this was very cool. The planetarium itself is pretty impressive, and now I can find the constellation Cassiopeia and tell the difference between Ursa Major and the Big Dipper!

The program on Monday, October 13, was jam-packed with presentations by librarians as well as three other Williams College faculty members: Professor of Mathematics Tom Garrity, Associate Professor of Classics Edan Dekel, and Assistant Professor of Biology Matt Carter. The presentations focused on wide range of topics and included a discussion of library space based on last spring’s Oberlin Science Library Survey, a presentation on learning theory pedagogy that focused on the concept of mathematical maturity and how it can be applied across disciplines, a presentation on data management issues by Regina Raboin (Science Research Librarian/Data Management Services Group Coordinator @ Tufts) and Donna Kafel (Project Coordinator @ UMASS Medical School), and more! It was especially illuminating for me, as someone completely new to the profession, to hear the ideas, projects, plans, thoughts, concerns, and established practices of other liberal arts college science librarians. I’m so impressed with the work my colleagues are doing, and I look forward to hearing more about it in the future.

The highlight of the day was probably the tour of Williams’ impressive, brand new Sawyer Library. It just opened in July and is without a doubt one of the most beautiful library spaces I have ever seen. It includes so much more than the library collection (admittedly impressive in its own right) and has really gone the extra mile to provide students with diverse spaces to study, collaborate, and even work on multimedia projects. The sound and video recording room I thought was especially cool; it is totally soundproof. It’s actually kind of eerie if you stand in it silently. I think it truly speaks volumes (no pun intended) about the information age we live in that these kinds of facilities are included in the library rather than in another space. It also gets at what has been a passionate research topic among some of my fellow librarians at Rollins, and that is the library as “third place.” The ultimate goal is for students to regard the library as a third place (after home/dorm room and work/class) where they want to be and where they can engage productively with classmates and colleagues. Having as enormous a variety of study and collaboration areas as Sawyer Library does goes a long way toward making that a reality.

All in all, the 2014 Meeting of the Oberlin Group Science Librarians was a wonderful first conference. I look forward to future iterations of it and to learning even more from my esteemed colleagues at the other Oberlin Group institutions.

Emma Oxford
Science Librarian
Olin Library
Rollins College
1000 Holt Ave – 2744
Winter Park, FL
(407) 646 2683

October 16, 2014