In Praise of Scholarly Conversations, Conferences, and Diversity

TLA Sync Up! 2015

TLA Sync Up! 2015

This morning as I packed my bags for another adventure (Texas Library Association Conference 2015) I thought about the variety of librarians that I would encounter this week. Conferences have always been one of my favorite ways to continue my education. When I talk to students about scholarly communication, I explain journals by pointing out that scholars are usually not able to get together in one room to share their research so one of the ways that they “talk” to one another is by publishing their research in academic journals. Of course, each time I use this example to teach the concept of scholarship as conversation I am thinking in the back of my mind that there are exceptions in the form of conferences. One special time a year when my disciplinary “peeps” are gathered together in a convention center and are completely immersed in the world of libraries.

When we talk about scholarship, I can’t help but be enthusiastic when I think about what is about to transpire. The scholarly conversation that is usually given to me a few times a year in print is going to unfold right in front of me. I’ve been invited to listen in on the great things that are happening in Texas libraries and libraries across the United States – perhaps even around the world. Even better, I’m going to spend a few days with a group of people who know exactly where I’m coming from because they are from the same kind of place. We can share ideas for better instruction, find out new ways of providing information services, and talk about ways to engage our college students with the library. What’s not to love?

Stereotypes, We've got 'emThis will be my third TLA to attend and one of the things that always stands out to me is the diversity that can be found within my own profession. I joke to my non-librarian friends that at a library conference I can expect to see a wide range of librarians – from fanny packs to tattoos and everything in between. Despite the persistence of the librarian stereotype,  as I scroll through my conference session offerings I’m once again reminded of the many parts and personalities that make up the modern library as we know it. Being that this week is also National Library Week, I would like to take a cue from my fellow blogger Traci Ledford and highlight just a few of the different types of librarians that I’ll be rubbing shoulders with in Austin this week. TLA has 28 “round tables” to reflect the diverse interests of its members. By highlighting just a sampling of these interest groups, I am hoping that you’ll get just a glimpse of what variety exists within my profession —

  • Acquisitions and Collection Development – Having once been a part of this fine group, I can tell you that this is a fun job that also requires a tremendous amount of what seems like constant analysis. These people are responsible for acquiring and maintaining the collections within libraries. They devote their time to studying patron needs and interests to make sure that the information that you need/want is available to you. They also work diligently to ensure that you have access to the most quality information available. They study gaps in the collection, weed items that are no longer correct/relevant/usable, and carefully evaluate their ever-shrinking budget to make the best decisions in terms of spending.
  • Archives, Genealogy, and Local History – If you want to have a fascinating conversation about history, these are your go-to people in my world. This group is tasked with the preservation and access to history – can you fathom how big of a job that must be? The specialized training that they must continue to undergo within this field is extensive — they have my utmost respect. If you have ever watched one of those genealogy shows (PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow or NBC/TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are?) and wondered how they just “happened” to find that obscure document detailing the whereabouts of someone’s second cousin twice removed, I can guarantee you that someone from this branch of the discipline was involved.
  • Automation and Technology – Often referred to as “systems librarians” this talented group of people is devoted to “the art and science of combining the principles of librarianship with the abilities of computing technology.” If you haven’t already noticed, today’s libraries aren’t just about books. One could make the argument that they never really were – they are about information and access. Books were just the way that it happened up until the age of computers. Today’s library relies heavily on technology and to make all of that happen, we need a specialized professional who knows the theories of librarianship and can speak the language of computer science. From hardware to website design to intricate software, this group is vital to making information accessible in the 21st century.
  • Cataloging and Metadata – When I describe these professionals to my students, I generally stick with “these people make my job much easier and make my information skills look much more impressive.” The cataloging librarians of the world create reliable search experiences for library users by categorizing information, setting and maintaining standards, and providing subject analysis of the library collection. You as a library user should know of the extraordinary attention to detail that goes into every single catalog record that enables you to almost instantly find the book on the keyword/subject/author/title you are interested in accessing. As my metadata (the data about the data) professor once said, without a cataloging system basically what you’ve got is a big pile of books. You want Harry Potter? Good luck. See ya next Thursday.
  • Reference and Information Services – The TLA description says, “encourages the advancement of information, bibliographic, and research services in all types of libraries.” This is the area of librarianship that I hope to always call home. Providing reference assistance to patrons who are in need of information gets to the core of why I love being a librarian. These are the question answerers — the constant thought on our brain is “now where would that particular piece of information live?” Reference librarians are those who eagerly await your inquiry and aspire to being able to connect you with that perfect information source.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! This year’s theme for National Library Week is “Unlimited Possibilities @ your library.” While it is meant to draw attention to the fact that libraries are more than just warehouses of books, the theme makes me reflect on the career paths within my own discipline. As Traci highlighted earlier, these people I am called to work with paint us a picture of community – one body, many parts. Whether they come with cardigans and buns or hipster glasses and tattoos, I’m glad to be numbered among this diverse group of professionals.


Discipleship in Christian Education



a:  one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another
b:  one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts
c:  a convinced adherent of a school or individual

Student’s see professors through a very narrow perspective;  life experiences thus far. They can only compare you to their previous experiences, and they are at the mercy of their current situation. Their perspective influences how they interact with you ,and how they expect you to interact with them.

For instance, at the beginning of the semester I always have a few students that cannot understand why I won’t take late work. They fuss and complain, not getting them any closer to me accepting their late work. By the end of the semester, I don’t have any students kicking and screaming about late work because this is the new ‘norm’ in their perspective.

I think it is important for me to understand and consider why students behave the way they do. They behave this way because, at some point, this behavior got them what they wanted and it was reinforced.  This brings me to my next reflection….

Recently, I had a student that sent me a text to landline message. This type of message occurs when the student decides to send a text message to my office phone rather than calling my office phone.

I was checking my voicemail one day this week and this is what it said in a robot computer voice…

“Hey Dr. McRee. This is (student’s name). I am sorry I missed class. I slept straight through my alarm. I was wondering what all I missed today.”

At first glance, this looks like the student is really trying to get the information from class. However….. After I emailed her back telling her to come to my office to go over what she missed, she did not come to my office. I plan to explain to her in detail that I appreciate her reaching out, but that her efforts were minimal. Technology cannot replace your personal work ethic and follow through.

Am I a bad professor for telling her this? Has no one ever told her this? A number of questions run through my head. I ask fellow professors and they agree that she could improve her professional interaction.

Which brings up another question… How do we as professors help shape our students in ways that are not grade related?

I was at an ETBU leadership workshop ( Breakfast with Fred ) earlier this semester and this was one of the proposed questions. So, I asked my students if they think that I help them develop in the ways listed below. These 10 items were published in a journal article as the “Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in Today’s Workplace”

  1. Integrity
  2. Communication
  3. Courtesy
  4. Responsibility
  5. Interpersonal skills
  6. Positive attitude
  7. Professionalism
  8. Flexibility
  9. Teamwork skills
  10. Work ethic

I personally could only pick out three that I could actually attach a grade to the “soft skill”. BUT, to my surprise… My students justified how I was able to teach them all the 10 skills without always assigning a grade to each of them. We had an honest conversation and it was interesting to see their perspective. I was shocked and told them I was very flattered… I told them that many times I don’t feel like I am able to breakthrough with some of these skills because of the dynamics of grading in higher education. I ensured them that these skills are needed in the real world, but that sometimes I am unsure of how successful I am at implementing them in the classroom.

So, as I reflect back on the TEXT to LANDLINE situation, I can see clearly that this is an opportunity to disciple this student. Interactions such as these do not always lead to a quantified grade, but they do shape the future leaders & graduates of ETBU.

My goals moving forward are to change the perspective of my students early on. To consider where they are, understand why they are the way that they are, and provide support for them to get to the behavior they need. To take situations on a student-by-student basis, and see what they need from me to mature. It is important to disciple our students… even if it means giving them feedback in ways not related to their grades.


Robles, M. M. (2012). Executive Perceptions of the Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in Today’s Workplace. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 453-465. doi:10.1177/1080569912460400

The Intersection: Where Faith & Scholarship Collide

Greetings! Welcome to The Intersection — the online space for the Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship (CECS) and ETBU. In support of the CECS Vision, The Intersection provides an outlet for the ongoing discussion centered around the question of what it means to “create and participate in scholarship that embraces a Christian worldview without compromising in the pursuit of scientific truth and intellectual inquiry” (CECS Vision Statement). Our hope is that this blog will become a place for scholars to reflect and share their ideas on the issues of our day.

The idea for The Intersection came from a series of grants that have been offered by the CECS in recent years. The first, 2012’s The Intersection of Faith & Discpline, explored the connection between faith and academic disciplines by requiring the grant recipients to “design an instructional model for examining the intersection of faith, disciple and application outside the classroom and/or outside the regular limitations of classroom discourse” (IFD Grant 2012). In Spring 2013, 5 grant recipients have been selected to participate in The Intersection of Faith & Reflection. These recipients will be asked to begin posting weekly to this blog as they reflect on their faith, their disciplines, and their classroom experience. To learn more about the IFR Grant and view profiles, go to Faith & Reflection Project. These bloggers will be the trailblazers for our blog and establish a framework for future postings.

We’re glad you’ve found us and hope you’ll make an effort to follow along as we begin our blogging journey. Have questions? comments? suggestions? Write to us at cecs[at] or post a comment below.

With great anticipation for the future,

The Intersection team