Elon University and Belk Library well-represented at 2023 North Carolina Library Association Conference

The 65th biennial conference of the North Carolina Library Association was held Oct. 16-20 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The North Carolina Library Association (NCLA) is the statewide organization for the entire North Carolina library community promoting libraries, library and information services, librarianship, intellectual freedom, and literacy across public, academic, school and special libraries. The association’s biennial conference features a wide variety of presentations across library types. At this year’s NCLA conference, there were eight presentations featuring Elon librarians and staff.

Elon and Belk Library’s contributions to the conference ranged from topics including AI in library instruction, intellectual freedom, student success collaborations, cultivating healthy workplace environments, and more. Find each presentation title and a brief description below:

The theme of this year’s conference was “Cultivating Community: Strengthening Roots, Supporting New Growth”

In “A Chatbot Did Not Write This: The Library’s Role in AI Instruction,” Health and Life Sciences Librarian Jesse Akman, Engineering and Physical Science Librarian Ellen Cline and Outreach and Marketing Librarian Alison Van Norman discussed Belk Library’s partnership with other offices across campus to develop a series of workshops aimed at demystifying AI, addressing faculty concerns, and offering ideas for using AI constructively in the classroom and in research practices. The library is a natural place and partner for AI education, but what exactly do those roles look like? With an issue as broad as AI, how do we identify topics the library should or should not cover? Who might we partner with for a more comprehensive AI education experience? These questions, as well as strategies for moving beyond the technology itself and towards a more holistic understanding were introduced in this session.

Digital Collections & Systems Librarian Shaunta Alvarez presented with a panel on Demystifying Careers in Technical Services: Getting a job, learning the job, growing in the job with librarians from Appalachian State University, Cabarrus County Public Library, Meredith College, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and UNC-Greensboro. The panel featured technical services professionals discussing what it takes to get a job in cataloging, e-resources, acquisitions, and more. Hiring managers, accidental tech services librarians and recent job-seekers from public and academic libraries shared their insights and advice on this often overlooked and misunderstood area of librarianship.

From Co-location to Collaboration: Connecting with Building Partners for Student Success Programming from Outreach & Marketing Librarian Alison Van Norman and Executive Director of the Koenigsberger Learning Center & Director of Learning Assistance James Holsinger described the partnership between staff in Belk Library and Learning Assistance to create academic recovery workshops for first-year students on academic probation. The goals of this collaboration were two-fold: first, to find new and creative ways to not only reach Elon’s most at-risk students but also to convince them to attend a set of workshops that were not compulsory; and second, to create content for academic success workshops that motivates, inspires, and helps students find their academic footing. The presenters shared workshop outcomes, successes, and challenges in this interactive session, encouraging those in attendance to share their own experiences.

Book challenges and censorship continue to be increasingly significant in North Carolina, with attempts to remove or restrict access to books in school, academic, and public libraries. In Intellectual Freedom in NC – What Can YOU Do?, Director of the Curriculum Resources Center Allison Bryan provided an overview of the current state of book challenges and censorship in North Carolina, including changing trends in challenges. She also discussed statewide advocacy efforts and explored strategies that librarians can use to fight censorship in their own communities.

Patrick Rudd & Alison Van Norman presenting on a panel with librarians from Wake Forest University and UNCG.

Coordinator of Library Instruction & Outreach Services Patrick Rudd and Outreach & Marketing Librarian Alison Van Norman joined librarians from UNC-Greensboro and Wake Forest University for a panel titled Outreach Programming in Academic Libraries: What’s New, What Works, and What We’ve Learned Along the Way! Successful outreach programming requires planning, execution, and evaluation. Libraries must identify target audiences and their needs, develop compelling programming/events that meet those needs, and measure the impact of their outreach efforts to inform future programming decisions. By engaging with their communities in meaningful and impactful ways, libraries can enhance their value and relevance to their institutions and beyond. The panelists discussed various outreach efforts at their three academic libraries, hosting various events that attract a range of audiences and foster deeper connections with the communities they serve, describing programming that can be applied to any type of library.

Student Success Librarian Carlos Grooms presents on the history of redlining in East Greensboro

Student Success Librarian Carlos Grooms and librarians from North Carolina A&T State University discussed work done with A&T’s F.D. Bluford Library to elevate conversations surrounding the historical practice of redlining communities in Social Justice and Libraries: Strengthening East Greensboro through archival collections and historical programs. In 2021, the Bluford library received a grant from North Carolina Humanities and began a series of events and talks exploring the history of redlining and discriminatory housing practices in Greensboro. The panel discussed their experiences working on this project, things they learned, the success of the community programs, and more.

Dean of the Carol Grotnes Belk Library Joan Ruelle presented on a panel on Surviving to Thriving: Cultivating Healthy Workplace Environments with librarians from Orange County Public Library, Wake County Public Libraries, and Wake Forest University. Much of the advice that’s given to employees regarding mental health is based on solutions to burnout, coping strategies, and methods to mitigate stress and frustration caused by their workplaces. While this advice helps employees survive, organizations that strive to create healthy workplace environments can focus on harm reduction at the source, allowing team members to thrive. Panelists shared their experiences as both employees and leaders, discussing what they have learned about creating functional workplace cultures, meeting employee needs, and providing support to staff and colleagues.

In When You’re the New Kid: Managing Career Transitions with Intention, Student Success Librarian Carlos Grooms and Kate Silton (Electronic Resources Librarian at Wake Forest University) discussed their experiences starting new jobs in 2022 after being colleagues at NC A&T State University for over a decade. After many years in the same workplace, the idea of pursuing new opportunities and trying something new can be daunting and can raise big questions about your career path and goals. The presenters shared from their personal experiences transitioning to new roles and institutions, considerations for library professionals interested in making a change, tips for acclimating to a new library, and suggestions for ways that libraries can successfully onboard new employees.

In addition to the contributions to the 2023 NCLA Conference, Carlos Grooms also serves as the chair of one of NCLA’s sections: Roundtable on Ethnic and Minority Concerns (REMCo). REMCo serves as a voice for NCLA’s ethnic and minority members and strives to improve and initiate services for the ethnic communities that all libraries serve.