L to R: Frances Fox, Jack Mevorah, Carisima Koenig

The 2018 Annual American Library Association (ALA) Conference brought together more than 17,000 members of public, PK-12, higher education and research libraries. Focusing on engagement, dialogue, and innovation around transforming libraries, the ALA conference content is focused on how to “track trends and keep up with this rapidly changing field.” The conference featured presentations from former First Lady Michelle Obama and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, as well as leaders from the library community and beyond.

Members from the CannonDesign education team found their experience to be engaging and immensely valuable. While they joined in the discussions, offering insight when appropriate, it was also a great opportunity to spend time listening. In taking time to listen, three key themes emerged:

  • Librarians serve many different populations. The day in the life of a public branch librarian may look very different than an academic research librarian, however they both serve a common mission. They are ambassadors of information, defenders of data, and our best line of defense against “fake news.” As physical collecting slows, and access to online resources expands, librarians are the conduit to access information and research. Librarians are trained, not only in guiding research across both physical and digital collections, but in shaping new content and in testing new learning modalities.
  • Librarians wield a multifaceted skill set. They are highly technical yet empathetic to the human condition. Their role is constantly evolving with the super-speed pace of technology. Librarians must be agile, constantly flexing their skillset to serve a population that can be overwhelmed in a data-rich world. Librarians have the unique ability to set the framework on how to research, how to study, how to engage curriculum, and how to drive content creation. Whether a public branch librarian or an academic research librarian, both are well versed at assessing and engaging with the full spectrum of learners.
  • Librarians are measured, data-driven people – even with regard to space! Their insight on how to research, how to study, and how to create content provides us with valuable metrics that helps shape spaces to facilitate these activities. At the conference, many sessions discussed space – its use and its potential. It is up to us, as designers, to shape this data and help evaluate what spaces best serve the mission of a library, its place, and its population.

The ALA Annual Conference was once again an inspiring and influential experience for our education team. We will continue to explore new methods of design within all library settings, while also keeping in mind how to best serve the people that make libraries work – the staff, administration and patrons.