Differences Between Library Instruction Conference Attendees and Their Institutional Affiliations in the United States and Canada are Discernible

Carol L. Perryman

Abstract


A review of:


Willingham, Patricia, Linda Carder, and Christopher Millson-Martula. “Does a Border Make a Difference? Library Instruction in the United States and Canada.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.1 (Jan. 2006): 23-34.

Objective – The primary intent of this study was to identify differences among library instruction conference attendees and their institutions between the United States and Canada. The overall hypothesis was that there would be areas of measurable distinction between the two countries. The authors tested nine hypotheses: #1, that the largest number of survey respondents would be employed at large institutions; #2, that statistically, the majority of well-developed instructional programs are found at universities rather than colleges; #3, that beginning programs are more often found at four-year institutions; #4, that program development and technological issues predominate among instructional foci in the early twenty-first century; #5, that more experienced librarians are more likely to attend library instruction conferences; #6, that LOEX (originally an acronym for Library Orientation Exchange) is perceived as the most valuable conference in library instruction; #7, that the impact of conference attendance upon library program development is only moderate; #8, that conference theme and reputation are the two greatest factors contributing to attendance; and #9, that the majority of conference attendees are from the United States.

Design – Historical research, and an e-mailed survey.

Setting – Libraries and library instruction conferences in the United States and Canada.

Subjects – One hundred thirty-two librarians who were attendees at one of three library user instruction conferences: LOEX, LOEX of the West, and WILU (Workshop on Instruction in Library Use).

Methods – First, a brief historical review was conducted on the influence of social, economic, and political events on the development of library user instruction, the creation of conferences focused on library instruction in from the United States and Canada, and national surveys looking at institutional support for instructional development. Next, a survey instrument consisting of fifteen demographic and attitudinal questions was sent via e-mail to all 508 attendees of major library instruction conferences (LOEX and WILU for 2001, and LOEX of the West for 2000) in the United States and Canada. Responses from the 132 returned surveys were tabulated and used to evaluate their linked hypotheses.

Main results – Of the nine initial hypotheses, five were supported, and the remaining four were either partially supported or rejected. Supported hypotheses included: #1, that most participants in the top library instructional conferences came from institutions with >5,000 student populations; #2, that the majority of fully developed instructional programs were in universities; #5, that librarians with greater seniority were more likely to attend instructional conferences; #7, that conference attendance has only a medium impact on program development at participants’ home institutions; and #9, that most conference attendees come from the United States. Partially supported hypotheses were: #4, that factors most highly rated by participants were program development and technology, and #8, that conference theme and reputation are ranked higher in terms of influence in attendees’ decision to participate in the conferences. Rejected hypotheses included: #3, that “beginning programs are typically found at four-year institutions,” #4, that “program development and technology rank as the two most important instruction-related issues” (note that hypothesis #4 is both rejected and partially supported), and #6, that “LOEX is considered the most valuable conference.”

Conclusion – The authors confirmed their overall hypothesis that significant differences exist between the United States and Canada regarding library instructional programs. Although the two countries developed at very different rates prior to the 1960s, technology and cross-border sharing has meant that they are now developing along parallel paths. The authors suggest several avenues for further study including the need to consider attendees over a greater time span, the differences in responses between younger and more senior participants, and questions about the real differences between library instructional programs in Canada and the United States.


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