NMC Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 6 of 6): Educational Technology on the Four- to Five-Year Horizon

September 5, 2014

It’s all about connections, we realize as we read the final section of the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries. Skimming that section about technologies “very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making” in academic and research libraries four or five years into the future leads us through concise discussions of the state of the Internet of Things and Semantic Web/Linked Data developments—two technologies that are firmly grounded in connections.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderThe Semantic Web/Linked Data section of the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition has plenty to say to anyone involved in libraries and other training-teaching-learning organizations: “Semantic applications and linked data have the potential to be immensely powerful educational resources” that allow us to “more effectively sift, query, and gather relevant information,” Horizon Report lead writer Samantha Adams Becker and her New Media Consortium colleagues remind us.

As is the case with big data, the semantic web “might be able to help people solve very difficult problems by presenting connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, individuals, events, or things—connections that it would take many people many years to perceive, but that could become obvious through the kinds of associations made possible when the semantics of the data are exposed” (p. 44).

For libraries and those who staff them, the implication is obvious: as organizations and people dedicated to providing access to information—and, more importantly, helping others find meaningful uses for that information—they become even more dynamic in their roles as community partners and resources when tools like a semantic web speed up the search process. For other trainer-teacher-learners, the implications are a bit more subtle, but no less important: semantic-web applications almost certainly would facilitate the training-teaching-learning process in ways we can’t even begin to imagine and change the way we support the process of change/transformation that is at the heart of successful learning.

nmc.logo.cmykThe 2014 Library Edition does not paint an unrealistic picture of where we are in terms of developing and employing a semantic web in our work: “While the evolution of the semantic web is still in its infancy for libraries, the worldwide linked open data movement is just beginning to adopt international standards for digital repositories that contain bibliographic information” (pp. 44-45). It is equally blunt about the state of development of the Internet of Things: “While there are many examples of what the Internet of Things might look like as it unfolds, it is still today more concept than reality, although that is changing rapidly” (p. 42).

But the fact that the report does help us focus on what is possible and what is being imagined—and provides examples of current semantic-web and Internet of Things initiatives—does help us understand some of what is currently happening and, more importantly, what may be possible within the four- to five-year adoption horizon described in this section of the report. Looking back over more than five years of reading and being involved in Horizon Project work, I realize how quickly those four- to five-year horizons become today’s horizons—and how important it is for all of us involved in training-teaching-learning to keep up with what is developing in the world of educational technology if we don’t want to be left behind the learners we are attempting to serve.

NB: This is the final set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition.


NMC Library Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 5 of 6): Bibliometrics/Citation Technologies & Open Content

September 3, 2014

Because trainer-teacher-learners are faced with and often focused on short-term, day-to-day pressures to produce new learning content—NOW!—we all-too-rarely take time to explore what the best peer-reviewed articles and open content might offer us in our efforts to produce more effective learning opportunities for those we serve.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderThe newly-released New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries inspires us to look beyond that narrow field of vision. It is a fabulous tool that also helps us remember that we are part of “an expansive network of education collaborators” that can help connect us to “researchers, faculty, and librarians who are creating, adapting, and sharing media—and numerous repositories brimming with content” (p. 40).

While the focus on academic and research libraries within the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition means that report is often directed at those working within those types of libraries, the content within the section about technologies “very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making” in academic and research libraries during the next two or three years can easily be adapted to any trainer-teacher-learner interesting in exploring ways to apply educational-technology developments to the work we do in a variety of settings.

The first of those two technologies—bibliometrics and citation technologies—would, at first glance, appear to be of far more interest to those working in academic and research libraries than to those in other types of libraries and other training-teaching-learning organizations. But a quick skim of the section, with its summary of tech developments that help us “better gauge an author or journal’s impact,” reminds us that there are plenty of ways for us to sift through the drinking-from-the-fire hose flow of information that threatens to drown us.

Altmetrics_LogoThere is, for example, an introduction to altmetrics—an alternative to bibliometrics that “takes into account a scholar’s online social media imprint as well as their ability to publish their own research in repositories and disseminate it though  blogging or other avenues” (p. 38). If you’ve been relying on Facebook and LinkedIn likes and Twitter links to online resources when you’re trying to keep up with new developments, you’re going to find altmetrics to be a tremendous upgrade in terms of leading you to thoughtful, well-developed resources that keep your knowledge current. And if you want to further understand and use bibliometrics to your advantage—and the advantage of those you serve—you might also want to move beyond the report’s summary and skim David A. Pendlebury’s white paper on “Using Bibliometrics in Evaluating Research.” His simple observation, on page 7 of the paper, that “the goal of bibliometrics is to discover something, to obtain a better, more complete understanding of what is actually taking place in research,” helps us understand why bibliometrics is a topic we ought to be exploring more frequently and more diligently. We come full circle by following a link from the report to Mike Taylor’s “Towards a Common Model of Citation: Some Thoughts on Merging Altmetrics and Bibliometrics,” an opinion piece published in the December 2013 issue of Research Trends.

Moving into the second two- to three-year horizon technology—open content—we’re on much more familiar ground: “Open content uses open licensing schemes to encourage not only the sharing of information, but the sharing of pedagogies and experiences as well….As this open, customizable content—and insights about how to teach ad learn with it—is increasingly made available for free over the Internet, people are learning not only the material, but also the skills related to finding, evaluating, interpreting, and repurposing the resources” (p. 40).

ACRL_MOOCs_OERs_ScanWe come across reminders that “open” means far more than “free of charge”: it refers to learning resources that “are freely copiable, freely remixable, and free of barriers to access, cultural sensitivities, sharing, and educational use” (p. 40). Our models are increasing visible and, under the right conditions, appealing: massive open online courses (MOOCs), when they are well-designed and well-facilitated; open textbooks and textbooks that are evolving to provide engaging learning opportunities; and colleagues within libraries and other learning organizations where development of open educational resources is increasingly being explored and promoted.

It’s obvious, as we read and reflect upon the 2014 Library Edition, that resources like this one do not need to and should not remain siloed away—read only by the obvious audience of people within academic and research libraries. The fact that the report has, within its first month of availability, already been downloaded more than a million times—the most popular Horizon Report to date in terms of initial readership—suggests that its audience extends far beyond those directly involved with academic and research libraries. And if learning facilitators worldwide are among the readers, learners worldwide are going to be the beneficiaries.

NB: This is the fifth set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition. Next: On the Four- to Five-Year Horizon—the Internet of Things and Semantic Web/Linked Data


NMC Library Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 4 of 6): Electronic Publishing and Mobile Apps on the One-Year Horizon  

August 29, 2014

Libraries—among the key organizations in our lifelong-learning landscape—are “poised to be major players in the digital revolution as academic electronic publishing becomes more sophisticated,” the writers of the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries remind us.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderElectronic publishing and mobile apps, in fact, are technologies “very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making” in academic and research libraries during the next 12 months, the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition confirms.

While those of us immersed in training-teaching-learning within and outside of libraries won’t be surprised to read that electronic publishing and mobile apps are important technologies having a tremendous impact on and providing magnificent possibilities for libraries and other learning organizations, we have a lot to gain by paying attention to this particular report.

The section on electronic publishing, for example, includes a reference to libraries taking “resources that are generated locally” and “turning them into teaching materials as new publications”—an idea that has parallels in what we’re seeing as learners contribute to a new concept of textbooks by creating content used by other learners within connectivist MOOCs (massive open online courses), for example. This theme connects nicely to the idea that mobile apps are critically important within these and other learning organizations because, as the report notes, we are spending considerable amounts of time (an average of 60 hours each week) accessing content through our digital devices (p. 34). If libraries and other learning centers are going to be where the learners are, they are going to be engaged in electronic publishing and using mobile apps to get them there.

nmc.logo.cmykLibraries-as-publishers, furthermore, parallels what we have been seeing in online learning for a variety of organizations in at least two ways: we are continuing to redefine the concept of publishing to carry us far beyond a print-based focus (e.g., seeing the posting of blogs, YouTube videos, slide decks, and a variety of other learning objects as “publication”), and we are having to acknowledge our roles as publishers when we make our digital learning objects available for a specific audience (as when we use a company intranet or make our learning objects available only to registered learners) or take a more open approach as through publication in the form of content on MOOCs.

This, of course, raises another training-teaching-learning concern documented in the 2014 Library Edition: the long-standing concern that resources created with today’s digital formats are tomorrow’s inaccessible (i.e., lost) resources: “there is a need for libraries to assess their publishing programs and envision methods for future-proofing them….Only 15% of surveyed libraries developed a strategy for sustaining their publishing services long-term…” (p. 35). The same could be said for anyone creating learning objects designed to be used over a long period of time, and it’s far past the time when we should be preparing for the problems our lack of attention is creating for us.

As we shift our focus to that second one-year-horizon technology (mobile apps), we continue to benefit from considering the training-teaching-learning implications that course through the report: “Mobile apps…are particularly useful for learning as they enable people to experience new concepts wherever they are, often across multiple devices” (p. 36).

UNESCO--Reading_in_the_Mobile_EraWe are reminded that apps are making us change the way we think about software: “…mobile apps are small, simple, and elegant,” particularly when compared to “desktop applications that stack feature upon feature on a one-size-fits-all approach” (p 36). They are inexpensive. And the best of them “seamlessly create a full-featured experience”—which, of course, helps learners focus on the essentials of their learning process rather than finding their attention divided between learning how to use the technology and learning what they initially set out to learn. Exploring the resources cited within the report leads us to links to the Bavarian State Library in Germany and its apps allowing users to “explore ancient texts with augmented reality, location-based features, and geo-referencing in historical maps” (p. 37) and a UNESCO report (Reading in the Mobile Era: A Study of Mobile Reading in Developing Countries) that offers insights into how the use of mobile devices for reading is removing barriers to literacy for significant numbers of learners.

What we are left with, as we scan the one-year-horizon section of the 2014 Library Report, is an invitation to step back from our normal immersion in electronic publishing and mobile apps. Acknowledge how significantly each technology is developing. And think about what we can do to use these technologies to the advantage of the organizations and people we serve in our roles as trainer-teacher-learners—and more.

NB: This is the fourth set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition. Next: On the Mid-Range Horizon—Bibliometrics/Citation Technologies and Open Content


NMC Library Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 3 of 6): Key Challenges for Libraries, Learning, and Technology  

August 28, 2014

We have plenty to celebrate as we consider that fantastic intersection where libraries, learning, and technology meet. We also have plenty of short-term, mid-range, and long-term challenges to address at that same intersection, as the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries reminds us.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderAlthough the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition focuses on academic and research libraries, the challenges that are documented within the report can easily be considered in the overall library-as-learning-center environment, and are also well worth the attention of those involved in training-teaching-learning outside of libraries since libraries so clearly are an important part of our lifelong-learning sandbox.

Among the “solvable challenges” (“those that we understand and know how to resolve”) is the challenge of embedding academic and research libraries in the curriculum. (Other trainer-teacher-learners can read this section and consider what it suggests in terms of embedding their own learning opportunities into the public and special libraries as well as the non-library settings they/we serve—after all, if we’re going to be effective in meeting our learners’ and our organizations’ learning needs, we need to be where those learners are at their moment of need.) When Report lead writer Samantha Adams Becker and her New Media Consortium colleagues suggest that “[l]ibrarians need to broaden their own concept of their role in the design of curriculum and provide outreach to faculty to help them understand how librarians can add to the education of students” (p. 20), they are reinforcing something any trainer-teacher-learner recognizes: we need to be demonstrating, in positive ways, how we facilitate and support the learning process for those we serve—and demonstrate, through our actions, how committed we are to being accessible to those learners.

The report writers also note how a first-rate learning facilitator “transforms the library space into a physical and virtual learning environment” (p. 20)—a challenge many of us have accepted and continue to explore as creatively as possible. It’s an idea well worth pursuing for anyone who still sees academic classrooms and workplace learning labs as the places where learning takes place and sees libraries as places to go (onsite or online) for materials that support rather than provide learning opportunities. As we continue to see the lines between “classrooms” and “libraries” as learning spaces blur—to the advantage of anyone interested in learning—we also need to keep thinking bigger and bigger to explore how we can more fully integrate library and other learning programs into our efforts in ways that connect libraries, library staff, and other key players in our local, regional, national, and global learning communities through a blending of onsite and online learning opportunities. (MOOCs—massive online open courses—as I frequently write, are just one of the many variations we are just beginning to explore.)

Moving to a second solvable challenge documented in the 2014 Library Edition of the Horizon Report series, we are treated to a concise and inspiring section about “rethinking the roles and skills of libraries”—a topic that again easily extends to any contemporary trainer-teacher-learner: “The challenge is in keeping institutions flexible enough to adapt to…new roles while finding leaders that can build sustainable models and collaborate across departments to meet the ever-changing needs of their institutions” (p. 22)—and, I would add, the ever-changing needs of their learners.

ARL_LogoA particularly intriguing part of the “rethinking roles” discussion is recognition of ‘the need for ‘superliaisons,’ or library staff that assist a variety of departments with their specialized skillset” (p. 22)—a concept drawn from the New Roles for New Times publication series from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). Where the ARL report on Transforming Liaison Roles in Research Libraries includes a fabulous reminder that “no liaison is an island” (pp. 12-13), the Horizon Report inspires us to think about how superliaisons might benefit any learning organization or community of learning. Furthermore, it actually makes me realize that any great trainer-teacher-learner needs to be cognizant of the importance of being a superliaison in a much broader sense: being a liaison between what happens in our formal and informal learning spaces and what happens when our learners are called upon to apply their learning far beyond the confines of onsite and online learning spaces.

nmc.logo.cmykThe 2014 Library Edition of the Horizon Report series carries us further by documenting two difficult challenges (“those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive”) and two wicked challenges (“those that are complex to even define, much less address”). The wicked challenges of “embracing the need for radical change” (pp. 28-29) and “maintaining ongoing integration, interoperability, and collaborative projects” (pp. 30-31) are, like the solvable challenges, topics that ought to be on the minds of all trainer-teacher-learners—not just on the minds of our colleagues in academic and research libraries. And because the latest Horizon Report so effectively captures the essence of those challenges, it is already helping to shape the conversations that will help us at least partially address them.

NB: This is the third set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition. Next: On the One-Year Horizon—Electronic Publishing and Mobile Apps


NMC Library Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 2 of 6): Key Trends for Libraries, Learning, and Technology

August 22, 2014

There’s a rich and rewarding experience awaiting trainer-teacher-learners who explore the “key trends” section of  the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries: lead writer Samantha Adams Becker and her New Media Consortium colleagues deftly lead us through concise summaries of trends that are “accelerating technology adoption in academic and research libraries” in a way that helps us read beyond the (virtually) printed pages and clearly see how those trends affect us and the learners we serve.NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderBecause the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition focuses on academic and research libraries, we’re never far from the connections between libraries, technology and learning in this report. We also, if we think of the ramifications of what the 2014 Library Edition suggests, are constantly reminded of what the world of libraries and library staff members suggests in the overall lifelong-learning environment that serves as our own playing field.

Looking, for example, at two of the six trends that are accelerating technology adoption in libraries (and other learning organizations)—an increasing focus on how research data for publications is managed and shared, and the impact the open movement is having on creating greater access to research content—we see parallels between what library staff and other trainer-teacher-learners are facing. Library staff members who serve library users through data-management efforts are increasingly struggling not only with how to manage data to the benefit of those users/learners, but are also grappling with the changing nature of publications and data sets: “The definition of a publication itself is evolving beyond the constraints of static text and charts to take on a format that is more interactive” (p. 7)—a challenge of extreme importance to those managing and facilitating access to information resources and to any of us thinking about the formats we use in preparing and using materials to facilitate the learning process.

It’s a theme, trend, and challenge that carries over into what the report describes as the “evolving nature of the scholarly record.” Just as the scholarly record managed by library staff members is “no longer limited to text-based final products” and “can include research datasets, interactive programs, complete visualizations, lab articles, and other non-final outputs as well as web-based exchanges such as blogging,” the learning materials used in training-teaching-learning are increasingly comprised of interactive programs, complete visualizations, articles we prepare and share, and other non-final outputs including blogging and even blog sites used as stand-alone and elements of blended-learning opportunities—as we saw earlier this year through Tom Haymes’ blog/website that was part of an onsite presentation he facilitated and also serves as a lesson-in-a-blog.

nmc.logo.cmykWith each turn of a page, we find more within the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition that helps us re-examine the training-teaching-learning world we inhabit. And more that inspires us to seek ways to effectively use the changing environment to our advantage. When we reach the section describing another key trend—the increasing use of mobile content and delivery—we read about the impact it has on anyone associated with libraries and sense the impact it has on training-teaching-learning overall.

“Some libraries are furthering this trend by loaning devices such as tablets and e-readers to patrons, just as they would a printed book,” we are reminded (p. 8). And it doesn’t take much to carry this into the larger learning landscape, where many trainer-teacher-learners have moved well beyond the question as to whether mobile learning (m-learning) is catching on and are, instead, incorporating the use of mobile devices into onsite and online learning opportunities. There’s even a wonderfully circular moment when, in reading the report, we come across a reference to an online learning resource—23 Mobile Things—that can be used on mobile devices to learn more about the use of mobile devices in libraries and other learning environments. Yes, it really is that sort of report: it illuminates; it engages us in the subjects it reviews; and it rarely leaves us short of additional learning resources. (Among my favorites are the links to “11 Case Studies Released on Research Data Management in Libraries,” from the Association of European Research Libraries, and to Klaus Tochtermann’s “Ten Theses Regarding the Future of Scientific Infrastructure Institutions [libraries].” “11 Case Studies” includes one that documents a library’s training-teaching-learning function by describing a blended-learning opportunity designed ultimately to help researchers. “Ten Theses,” Tochterman writes in his preliminary note, was crafted to “address fields of development where libraries need to undertake particular efforts in the future,” e.g., pushing content to the user rather than making the user come to the library—or, in our case, to the learning facilitator; offering viral and decentralized services; and having high IT and high media competence.)

There is far more to explore in the “key trends” section than these blog reflections suggest. And it’s a tribute to New Media Consortium CEO Larry Johnson, Samantha Becker Adams as the lead writer, and everyone else at NMC that the report will have a much wider audience than those affiliated with libraries. There is plenty of content. Plenty of depth. And plenty of reason for all of us to take advantage of what has been written so we can familiarize ourselves with contemporary tech trends while keeping up with and meeting the needs of those who rely on us to support them in their own learning endeavors.

NB: This is the second set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition. Next: Key Challenges


NMC Library Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 1 of 6): Documenting Where We Are and Where We Might Be Going

August 21, 2014

When a wonderful friend and colleague retired from library work after 40 years in the industry, he wistfully reflected upon one consequence of his departure: that he would not be part of all that would be happening with libraries over the next 20 years.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderIf he were to read the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries, he would have even more cause to wish he had additional time to invest in these essential partners in community-development and lifelong learning.

The report—available online free of charge and focused on trends, challenges, and developing technologies in academic and research libraries, but essential reading for the much larger audience of people interested and involved in academic, public, and other types of libraries worldwide—is likely to quickly become a seminal work; more than 100,000 people downloaded the report within 24-hour period immediately following its formal unveiling. By documenting where we are and where we might be going, the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition will contribute substantially to conversations and decisions that help sustain libraries as responsive key players in the extended and expansive onsite and online communities they serve.

As an essential reference tool in and of itself, it provides a wonderful grounding in the basic language and learning landscape of the continually-evolving world we inhabit within and beyond the physical and virtual spaces of libraries as lifelong-learning centers. To read the report is to become aware of critically-important terminology including “device-agnostic” and “ubiquitous learning” (p. 9), “distant reading” and “macroanalysis” (p. 16), “creative destruction” (p. 29), and “competency-based learning” (p. 31). It also draws attention to first-rate learning resources including JISC (p. 4), the University of Leipzig research group Agile Knowledge Engineering and Semantic Web (AKSW) and its cutting-edge projects (p. 6), the 23 Mobile Things online course (p. 9), the Coalition for Networked Information (p. 14),  the Center for Digital Education (p. 26), the Ohio State University Libraries “Digital Initiatives Program Guiding Principles,” and others. It provides links to numerous articles while also mentioning more specialized reports and books. And as if all of that were not enough, it has a feature not included in previous Horizon Project reports: an extensive section of endnotes and links to online articles and resources that could keep us busy for many months to come. All in all, it’s a magnificent and well-written work of scholarship (crafted by lead writer Samantha Adams Becker and her New Media Consortium colleagues) that documents what we are—and should be—considering as trainer-teacher-learners working on behalf of dynamic communities worldwide.

nmc.logo.cmykAs is the case with all Horizon Project reports, the library edition provides concise descriptions of important developments in technology—“the technologies which the members of the expert panel agreed are very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making over the next five years” (p. 32)—placed within a one-year horizon/time frame, a two- to three-year horizon, and a four- to five-year horizon indicating when those technologies are “forecasted to enter…mainstream use…”

Anyone wanting an expansive overview of the ed-tech landscape will find it on page 33 of the report, as well as on the project wiki. (Going online takes us to yet another magnificent resource, one in which we discover that each technology is linked to a brief description—in essence, a concise tour of contemporary educational technology—and the list is far from static: “new technologies are added within these categories in almost every research cycle” for the various Horizon Project reports.)

The central sections of the final pages of the report lead us through discussions of how electronic publishing and mobile apps are driving technology planning and decision-making within the current (one-year) horizon; how bibliometrics and citation technologies and the open-content movement will have the same impact during a two- to three-year horizon; and the Internet of Things, along with the semantic web and linked data are likely to have significant impacts within the four- to five-year horizon.

With all of this before us, we engage with the 2014 Library Edition as a stimulating report on libraries, learning, and technology as well as a document that will serve effectively as a primer for those earning a degree in library studies to become part of a global community of practice. And the report also serves as a stimulating refresher course for experienced library staff members and library users. By documenting important elements of the library landscape of our times, it helps us identify and celebrate our successes while shaping the conversations that will build upon our past and present to lead us into a dynamic future.

NB: This is the first set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition. Next: Key Trends


ALA Annual Conference 2014: Ernie DiMattia and Learning Moments That Change Our Lives  

June 28, 2014

Conference attendance, whether onsite or online, can be transformative. The planned and unplanned encounters with colleagues, the vendors with whom we work, the authors we adore (or are going to adore after encountering them and the work they produce), touch and change us in ways that sometimes are immediately evident and at other times require the passage of time to geminate and bear fruit.

ALA2014--LogoWe seek, come across, and learn from people whose work we have avidly followed in print or online, and sometimes are stunned to find that they just as avidly following and learning from ours. We have unexpected, intensively personal conversations in spaces like the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference Networking Uncommons and, in the process, deepen relationships with people we might otherwise not have come to know. We learn how much more challenging and rewarding the conference-as-learning-experience can be when we learn how to blend our onsite and online participation via the conference backchannel.

Relishing the collaborations that produce significant results through our volunteer service on committees or through participation in efforts like ALA Membership Development’s Ambassador program is just another part of mining conference opportunities for all they are worth; they help us understand how welcoming and supportive the ALA community can be—and is.

And even though the size and scope of the ALA Annual Conference has us sharing space with more than 20,000 colleagues, it’s amazingly easy to find the individual members of our community we want to find—and equally stunning to realize how much the absence of even one cherished colleague can affect us.

I had known that Ernie DiMattia, the chair of the ALA Publishing Committee, would not be with us here in Las Vegas this morning for our semiannual onsite meeting. All of us on the committee had been notified earlier this week that he was dealing with “ongoing health issues.” But I had had no idea, before arriving at the meeting, that he had been in the final stages of a long-time battle with cancer and that he had passed away last night.

Ernie_DiMattiaThere was a moment of silence as we all, in our own individual ways, struggled to absorb the news that this gentle, literate, vibrant light in the ALA community had been extinguished. And while I can’t speak to what others were thinking, I found myself reliving the moment, a couple of years ago, when Ernie approached me during an orientation session we were both attending, asked me how I was doing, was insightful enough to ask a thought-provoking question that significantly changed my perceptions about what all of us were learning to do in that session, and, as a result, sent me down a very productive year-long path as chair of an ALA advisory committee that completely changed the way it did its work.

Ernie’s simple question at the moment I was about to become a committee chair: “Who will you be serving as a committee chair?” And the obvious answer—ALA 2012-2013 President Maureen Sullivan while working with (rather than for) ALA staff—inspired a series of interconnected partnerships that was rewarding for all of us and the larger ALA community we served.

When my year-long term came to an end and I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Publishing Committee with Ernie as chair, I continued to learn from the inclusive, collaborative approach he took to our work. I appreciated the fact that he went out of his way to stop and chat whenever our paths crossed in those wonderfully expansive conference hallways. I admired the way he fostered productive partnerships with our ALA staff colleagues to help craft a forward-looking strategic plan that will continue to make ALA Publishing an essential part of the ALA community’s operations.

I wish I could say that I knew Ernie better. I wish I could say we had numerous lovely and inspiring conversations, but they were far too few. And as I walked those Ernie-less halls today, I knew they would never again feel quite so vital as they were through Ernie’s presence. But I also sensed that they would remain important, comforting, and essential to all I do as long as I continue acting upon and sharing all I learned from Ernie’s unofficial and very informal mentoring.


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