Once Again No Academic Librarians At The Table

The latest Horizon Report for 2006 was just released. It’s always a document worth reading becuase it provides an excellent analysis of the “emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression within higher education.” It should be required reading for the academic librarian’s ongoing environmental scanning process. The reports focus on six areas of emerging technology trends. This year’s trends include:

* social computing (social collaboration, bookmarking communities, folksonomies, tagging, etc.)
* personal broadcasting (personal web sites, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc.)
* mobile communication (the delivery of educational and entertainment content to handheld devices)
* educational gaming (no amplification needed)
* augmented reality and enhanced visualization (three dimensional representations of abstract data and text)
* context-aware environments and devices (devices and rooms that respond to voice, motion, or other subtle signals)

The report also identifies several key trends and critical challenges. I was surprised to see this listed as one of the critical challenges:

Information literacy should not be considered a given, even among “net-gen” students. The skills of critical thinking, research, and evaluation of content, not to mention creative demonstration of mastery or knowledge, are needed more than ever; yet these very skills are underdeveloped in many students. Techniques for finding and assessing relevant information from the array of resources available both on- and offline are crucial, especially in light of the rising trend toward collaborative work.

I’m glad to see that this influential report identifies the need for information literacy as a critical challenge. As our user communities have to deal with an increasingly complex and information overloaded technology environment, the ability to understand and choose among the many information options wisely is increasingly difficult to accomplish – and academic librarians, working collaboratively with faculty and other academic support professionals, can help students and faculty to develop the necessary skills for success. Why am I surprised to find it here? That has to do with the membership of the 2006 Horizon Project Advisory Board. Of the twenty-one members of the Board not a single academic librarian is listed. What are we? Chopped liver? Do you mean to tell me there are no academic librarians savvy enough to provide valuable input on academic technology issues, instructional or educational technology issues, or societal computing trends. Before I go off on a rant here perhaps one of the members does provide strong library representation. Perhaps he or she has oversight for the campus library. Still, it strikes me as quite the oversight to have an Advisory Board with representation from virtually every academic support area within higher education except the academic library.

Here are two suggestions:

1) I encourage our ACRL leadership to reach out to the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, the two agencies that collaborate to produce the Horizon Report, to urge them to include at least one prominent academic library leader on all their future advisory boards so that our profession is represented when the report is developed and produced.

2) I encourage those who determine the membership of the advisory boards to read Jerry Campbell’s article in the latest issue of EDUCAUSE Review. That article points to the need for academic librarians to be involved in the wider discussion about technology issues in “the larger academic community.” Good advice indeed.

If we’re not going to be asked to sit at the table when these discussions take place then we need to get more aggressive and invite ourselves to be there. I’m not trying to suggest there is an “US vs. THEM” mentality occuring between academic librarians and our computing and educational technology colleagues. There are many examples (EDUCAUSE, TLT Group, etc.) where we are all working together to improve the application of technology for teaching, learning, and research. And the fact that this group still recognizes the importance of information literacy does speak volumes about the cross-fertilization of ideas occuring between librarians and their academic colleagues. I am simply saying that the absence of academic librarians in the Horizon Project is an oversight that can and should be corrected.

6 thoughts on “Once Again No Academic Librarians At The Table

  1. Interesting point regarding librarian involvement. I actually serve as the ELI contact for my campus, but I wonder how many other ELI campus reps are librarians vs. professionals either in IT or Instructional Development. Since ELI is an EDUCAUSE initiative, perhaps this is a question for someone to address at the upcoming Frye Institute?

  2. There is another way to look at this – when information literacy is being identified as a fundamental need even when no librarians are around to promote it, that shows real progress. I agree that librarians should be at the table, but one of the fundamental shifts in moving from “bibliographic instruction” to information literacy is to acknowledge that librarians aren’t the only ones who are involved. We should celebrate it when IL is embraced as a cause by non-librarians rather than take it as a slight.

    –Barbara “Pollyanna” Fister

  3. Yes, it’s a good thing that it’s mentioned in the report. But do we know for a fact that just because it’s mentioned, that it was embraced? Is there the possibility that is was included as an afterthought or a “hey, let’s not forget to mention information literacy – we wouldn’t want the librarians to think we ignored them” – sort of thing. The statement also doesn’t suggest those involved in the preparation of the report believe they are involved in information literacy, and it just may be they see it as the library’s critical issue – not their problem. I guess if we’re not there when the discussions are taking place we just don’t know.

    - Steven “Doubtful” Bell

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