Daily Archives: January 24, 2006

Top Trends in Public Services

Also at the Heads of Public Services Discussion Group that Steven mentioned was the following listing of “Top Trends in Public Services”:

*Institutional Repositories
*Marketing/Promotion of Services
*Recruitment of Staff
*Scholarly Communications
*Providing Seamless Services from the Desktop
*Staff Training and Development
*Trends and Directions in IT
*University Partnerships Between Librarians and the Faculty
*Services to Alumni/Donors
*”With Google, I don’t need you anymore”
*”Integrating Library Resources into Course Management Systems”
*Learning Communities in the Libraries

Now, if you read these like I do, you’ll see that several of these are not actually “trends,” but “issues” or “problems” (how is “space” a trend, for example?). So, for what it’s worth, I offer the following as a start at re-envisioning some of these issues as actual trends. I trust others to add to and edit my list (disclaimer: some of these may overlap; this is a moving target and I am writing off the top of my head):

*Collaborating Across Campus – not only with members of the classroom faculty, but with student affairs educators, coaches, student clubs, faculty development experts, and others. Learning occurs in a variety of venues other than the classroom, and we must be creative and entrepreneurial if we are to demonstrate how we can collaborate with colleagues across the learning landscape in an effort to keep library public services at the heart of the university.

*Meeting Users Where They Live – whether the discussion is integration of library services and resources into course management systems, campus portals, social networking sites (e.g., FaceBook), residence halls, student clubs, athletic events, or departmental meetings, the message is the same – to keep the “library brand” at the forefront of user consciousness in an increasingly crowded information environment, we need to be in the places – physical and virtual – that they already frequent. This trend has significant implications for the skill set required of public services librarians and the ways in which central library services need to be configured to interact with IT environments outside the library. Also included in this trend would be the increasing collaboration between libraries and others in the creation of new learning spaces (both inside and outside library buildings).

*Deploying Expertise – as various trends conspire to make information and instructional services increasingly important across campus, while digital delivery of content conspires to reduce gate counts, we will have to be (say it again!) creative and entrepreneurial about developing structures that support the deployment and diffusion of professional expertise from the library across campus. Public services will revolve around providing faculty development programs, train-the-trainers models and materials, and a dedication to outreach to defined communities of users. As information literacy becomes an increasingly important part of lifelong learning, those of us in public institutions will be increasingly called upon to partner with colleagues in the community, including public and school librarians, to form one hub of the information literate community.

*Committing to Continuing Professional Education – not only do we have to integrate lively professional development programs into the library, but we have to build connections between in-house programs and campus programs, which might be housed in Human Resources, the Center for Teaching, Instructional Media, or elsewhere. Moreover, library leaders need to create systems that actually encourage (allow?) librarians and library staff to take advantage of these programs and that recognize and reward individual commitment to professional development.

*Scholarly Communications – It’s Not Just for Collections Folks Anymore – early discussions of the scholarly communication crisis were led by leaders in collection development (serials pricing) and digital initiatives (institutional repositories), but a knowledge of scholarly communications issues and options is increasingly required of all public services librarians. Building instructional and outreach programs that encompass information literacy and scholarly communication expertise is going to be increasingly expected of large libraries, and supporting this diffusion of expertise will be as great a challenge as was the diffusion of expertise regarding the World Wide Web a decade ago.

*Providing Seamless Services at the Desktop – this one was right on, except they forgot to mention mobile technology. Providing services solely to the desktop is “so 2001”!

*Accountability – whether the discussion is assessment of user perceptions (LIBQUAL+) or assessment of student learning (SAILS, ETS), libraries (like our colleagues across campus) are increasingly being asked to demonstrate their value to the core missions of the campus and to demonstrate attentiveness to “consumer concerns.” Not only does this imperative have significant implications for allocation of professional time (i.e., an assessment program does not run itself), but also leads us toward a dynamic view of public services in which some traditional services – if little used – may be de-emphasized, while emergent services may require greater time and effort.

That’s enough for now, and this post is way too long. I’ve gone out of my way not to provide rankings, but you may wish to argue for one or the other (or something new) as part of a Top 5.

Oh, and one more major trend – in my library, our instruction statistics are up almost 100% since 2000. In my last library, the jump was closer to 160% over the same period. That’s a major trend with implications for recruitment, professional and continuing education, expectations and annual review of library staff, allocation of professional time, use of non-MLS professionals and para-professionals, the place of the library as an instructional center on campus, and, literally, perceptions of the professional role of the academic librarian on campus.

Public Service Identity Crisis

Arriving about fifteen minutes after the start of the Instruction Session’s discussion on teaching methods, I found they were already turning folks away. The room was busting at the seams with librarians at roundtables deep into discussions about issues related to teaching and learning and the role of librarians in that process. Hmm. I suppose we need to further debate our instruction role, and whether it’s got a future. But I digress – and I expect we’ll have a report on that session from an attendee – so more on that session later.

Since I was already at this hotel I found another session to join. So I headed off to the Heads of Public Services for Large Research Libraries discussion group. The fact that I’m neither a Head of Public Service or working in a research library didn’t make this session any less interesting. In fact it’s always a surprise to sit in on a discussion where you are an outsider, and hear that the “big issues” in another segment of academic librarianship have much in common with your own. One of the recurring themes was marginalization. Do our users need us, and do our current service structures make sense for them? I also sensed an identity crisis of sorts. Parts of the discussion kept coming back to a critical question for all of us. What does public services mean to the library organization and academic institution, and what does it mean for our users?

Jumping into the discussion I asked if there was an identity crisis in public services. I mentioned some ideas I picked up at the OCLC seminar on “Extreme Makeover for the Library” that was largely about re-branding the library. Perhaps, I suggested, public services needed to remake its brand. After all, does the phrase public services mean anything to a user or an academic administrator. Isn’t public services a thing – a conglomeration of different departments – rather than the educational product it is designed to deliver. It may be helpful to read this brief essay by Clayton Christensen (disruptive technologies) about designing services that target the job that users want to accomplish (successfully completing an assignment) rather than the users themselves (e.g., undergrads). Maybe it shouldn’t be public services. What about “learning support” or “education and research management”. At least one person commented that there was no identity crisis, but I think more than a few thought the idea might be worth further exploration. Could be public services may be in need of a makeover.