LOEX Pittsburgh: Library Instruction Conference

View of Pittsburgh from the conference hotel

From May 5-8, I had the exciting opportunity to travel to Pittsburgh, PA to attend the 44th Annual LOEX Conference, “Learning from the Past, Building for the Future.” College instruction librarians from all over the US came together to share new ideas, proven techniques, and inspiration with their colleagues. Over two days, I attended ten different sessions on teaching, pedagogy, and instructional technology. Lest you assume it was all academic journals and stodgy librarians, the workshops I participated in touched on a wide range of topics, including hip-hop with a professional DJ/Librarian, Newtonian physics, and surrealist parlor games.

Beyoncé was just one example used to illustrate sampling conventions in music

I learned about the conventions of hip hop sampling and how Beyonce gave credit to Outkast (among many others) for a riff she used in Lemonade, giving him respect and acknowledgement while referencing and building on her roots. Sound like something you know?

Sample question from the Force Concept Inventory
Sample question from the Force Concept Inventory

I got to test my memory of AP Physics in a session that explored the application of a science education technique called “concept inventories,” frequently used for testing students’ understanding of force, to the understanding of information literacy principles. (Hint: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.)

exquisite corpse
A warm-up game for team-building and creativity

To kindle our creativity, one presenter had us play a classic surrealist word game called “The Exquisite Corpse.” Fortunately, it was more closely related to Mad Libs or the one-word-story game than anything cemetery-related, and the scene that I ended up with was the oddly delightful, “A melodious dentist jumped straight home.” This led into generating new analogies to update the classic “research pyramid.” You can get a preview of my research map idea (plus my grade-A drawing skills) below.

research map
One of many possible metaphors for the research process

Of course, there were also some more traditional takes on information literacy instruction, but they were no less interesting and exciting (for librarians, at least). Professional conferences are a great opportunity to compare notes with colleagues at different institutions, to get new ideas, form new connections, and to be reinvigorated in your work.

The "Cathedral of Learning" at the University of Pittsburgh
The “Cathedral of Learning” at the University of Pittsburgh

Even if you’re not a librarian, most professions have their own networks. For students, many professional organizations offer discounted memberships and may have scholarships or other assistance available for attending workshops and conferences. It’s a great idea to get involved early, to gain insight into your chosen field and contacts for advice or maybe even a job one day. A quick Google search for [your profession] + professional association is often the easiest way to get started. You can also check out Weddle’s association directory, organized by job category.

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