Breaking the Ice: Attending a Non-Library Conference

by Carrie Dunham-LaGree

As a librarian, I wear a lot of proverbial hats. For the most part, though, I’m a librarian and a professor. Both of those roles have numerous sub-roles, but in their simplest terms, it’s what I do. I have both a title (Librarian for Digital Literacy and General Education) and a rank (Assistant Professor of Librarianship.) My job description outlines my credit-bearing teaching responsibilities: a three-credit first year seminar each fall and a three-credit information literacy course each spring. This teaching load separates me from most of my librarian peers: only three of us are responsible for teaching credit-bearing courses (although others have in the past and are certainly welcome to in the future.) My teaching load also separates me from most of the non-library faculty, as most teach three three-credit courses a semester. Most days, I feel like both a librarian and a professor. Some days I feel like ‘just a librarian.’ This weekend, I’ll be ‘just a professor.’

I’m blessed to work and teach at a university that values teaching and professional development. The support of time and money to attend conferences, webinars and conduct research has been remarkably helpful in my development as both a librarian and professor. I could not have participated in the Emerging Leaders program without Drake’s support. While I attend numerous on-campus gatherings related to the scholarship of teaching and learning and improving our teaching, my conference attendance has been strictly library-related until now. Tomorrow I leave for sunny San Diego to attend the Team-Based Learning conference. It’s not only my first time attending a non-library conference, it’s my first time presenting a poster session by myself. It’s also my first time trying to explain what I do to people in a variety of fields. Team-based learning is an instructional format widely used in medical schools. My poster session is about using team-based learning in a first year writing seminar that is also a learning community, meaning all nineteen students live on the same floor of a residence hall. It’s the first time I’ll be just a professor for three days.

As I’ve pondered how it will feel to be surrounded by academics from a variety of disciplines, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll never be ‘just a professor.’ As passionate as I am about teaching and education more broadly, I chose librarianship as a career. The fundamental philosophies of our profession are driving forces in my work choices, whether I’m in the library, my classroom, or a committee meeting on campus. As I dine and chat with the other attendees at the team-based learning workshop this weekend, I’ll use every opening I can to ask “have you thought of collaborating with a librarian on that project?” I’ll share stories of how librarians impact student learning. And I’ll try not to roll my eyes if someone says, “if you’re a librarian, what are you doing at this conference?”

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