Monthly Archives: January 2006

Baltimore Button Debuts At ALA Midwinter

There were lots of flashing buttons and other gizmos up for grabs at the ALA Midwinter conference, but the one I proudly displayed was the new ACRL button promoting the 2007 national conference in Baltimore. Here’s a photo of the new button shown on my classic ACRL X (still the best freebie conference bag to date) conference bag:

acrlbuttonon bag

Here’s a thumbnail with a closeup of the button – click on the image for a larger view:

acrlbutton

Outside of picking one up at ALA Annual in New Orleans, where I’m sure they’ll have plenty to give away at the ACRL booth, I’m not sure how ACRL members can get a Baltimore conference button. If I hear news about it, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

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
*Space
*”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.

ACRL 2007 Is Looking Good

As a member of the planning committee for ACRL’s 13th National Conference, to be held in April 2007 in Baltimore, I spent time at this ALA Midwinter conference at various conference planning meetings. Although the Minneapolis conference in 2005 will be tough to top, this great group of conference planners, led by the always dynamic and enthusiastic Mary Reichel, will be working hard to deliver an even better conference experience for attendees. In particular, the planning group is looking at ways to improve two events that were the source of some discontent at the 2005 conference. Clearly, the poster sessions were way too crowded owing to many presenters and a lack of space, and that is definitely being addressed for Baltimore. In addition, the workshops are incredibly popular but often all of those who want to attend just can’t get into the sessions. The committee is considering ways to allow for more attendees to get to the workshops. There is still a long way to go until we get to Baltimore, but this conference appears to be in very capable hands.

Rebranding Your Library

I attended OCLC’s “Extreme Makeover” seminar on Friday, here at the ALA midwinter conference. It was definitely a worthwhile event even if it wasn’t exactly geared to the academic library segment. Still, I picked up a few good ideas I’ll be thinking about for my library. I won’t go into great detail about the session because the folks over at It’s All Good have lots of detailed notes on what each speaker had to say.

I found what Jennifer Rice and Patricia Martin had to say about rebranding and defending your brand in times of competition had the most value. Jennifer, in particular, told us about the six most important consumer trends and how that impacts us. This led to the development of a matrix for determining what your library brand should be (hint: a learning community). These two also touched on themes of simplicity/complexity in terms of user wants and needs and giving users an “experience.” We know that users want simplicity, but sometime our library brand requires them to encounter complexity. How do we balance the two without causing the user to go to a competitor? Although the speakers talked about giving the user an experience (their examples were based on companies that do this, for example, buying coffee at Starbucks isn’t just about drinking coffee, it’s about having an “experience”), I think they were talking more about sensations. A library experience, I should think, reaches the user at a deeper level. It connects with something he or she is passionate about. How do we deliver that sort of experience.

The final speaker Antony Brewerton is known for the marketing campaigns he does for his library. But as the only academic librarian (and only true librarian) on the bill, he did little to connect reaching users to collaborating with faculty. It’s great to have fancy brochures of the type shown from his library, but if we do a good job of connecting with faculty and encouraging them to drive students to the library’s resources through assignments and associated instruction opportunities, I think that will go much farther in helping academic libraries reach their user community – and avoid marginalization and irrelevance – something that was mentioned more than a few times in this symposium.

Let’s hope OCLC keeps offering these good programs at ALA events.