Monthly Archives: July 2006

JobLIST – New Resource For Employers And Job Seekers

Whether your library is offering a job or you are actively looking for a new one, you might want to take a look at JobLIST. It’s the outcome of a venture between American Libraries, ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR), and College & Research Library News. For employers this is a unique way to combine print and digital job ads, or just keep it all online. I think job hunters will find the search mechanism works quite well. Another great feature for job seekers is that the site supports RSS technology so that anyone can be alerted to new job ads (on defined criteria) as they are added to the system. E-mail alerts are not yet available, but will be added in the near future. This seems like a fairly robust site for employers and job seekers. Do take some time to explore JobLIST.

Remember That ACRL Membership Survey – Part 3

This is the final installment in our report on the ACRL Membership Survey. We hope you have found it informative, and we appreciate your comments on these issues. The latter section of the report is devoted to something called the “opportunity analysis.” Here is how it is described:

The intent of the gap analysis is to identify the variance between the importance members place on various activities and their current levels of satisfaction with those same areas. By measuring the gaps between importance and satisfaction, ACRL can identify the relative “opportunity” of pursuing a variety of strategies.

Here are the top 12 opportunities that ACRL may choose to pursue:
* Creating awareness of librarians as respected authorities on knowledge management
* Increasing libraries’ influence on higher education and research environments
* Increasing the visibility of academic/research librarians
* Increasing the technological competencies of librarians
* Developing academic and research librarians as leaders and experts in information
technology application
* Educational programs that help you develop new skills and capabilities
* An ongoing campaign that communicates the value of academic and research libraries and
library staff to the campus community
* A strong voice that encourages local, state, and federal government to support libraries
and improves government relations
* An up-to-date web site containing a breadth of resources for academic and research
librarians
* Encouraging widespread adoption of information literacy across the curriculum Standards
guidelines to help improve library services
* Influencing accrediting entities

It sounds like ACRL is already actively pursuing some of these requests or has done so in the past. For example, recall the series of Chronicle of Higher Education ads promoting academic librarians. That addressed numbers one and two on this list. Clearly members want more of this activity. Based on other charts in the report it’s clear that ACRL members would like the association to help them achieve respect and recognition among their colleagues and within the higher education industry. The report also provides the top recommendations from members in four areas: communications; professional development; advocacy/leadership;general library issues. Some of the top recommendations are repeated on these lists, but there are also others that didn’t make it onto the top list.

Again, as I review these “opportunities” it looks like ACRL is already providing services in many of these areas, for example, “communications that keep you updated on ACRL news and events” or “e-learning” (webcasts, virtual conferences, etc.). But you could also make a case that ACRL, as it moves in the right directions, needs to do more to promote these resources to the membership and – as we have seen in this report already – do more to make events affordable, do more to involve younger members of the profession and do more to make events and services easy to obtain at the local chapter level.

Finally, here are some of the key recommendations the report makes for action ACRL will want to take in responding to the needs of the membership:
* ACRL should first ensure that it is effectively communicating the outcomes of current advocacy and leadership efforts (i.e., Council of Liaisons, Scholarly Communication, etc.).
* ACRL should showcase effective practices and publish articles in higher education publications and periodicals about how librarians and libraries are making meaningful contributions to the broader campus environment.
* ACRL should attempt to provide opportunities for ACRL members to speak/present at other higher (that’s an interesting one!).
* ACRL should ensure that any new efforts in the advocacy / leadership arena, are balanced with commensurate attention to professional development offerings (it’s clear that the greatest number of members cited professional development opportunties as the single most important ACRL service they desire)
* To ensure future viability of ACRL, it is critical that future marketing, communications and product development are informed by generational preference. For example, younger members place higher importance on professional development than do those nearing retirement. Therefore, ACRL should work strategically to ensure that younger members have ample opportunity to enhance their skills and advance in their careers. (I don’t think we can say enough about the importance of this one, and if comments received to part one of this report are an indicator our younger colleagues feel much more needs to be done to get them engaged in ACRL – and it may be that opportunites to do more at the chapter level are being missed).
* Finding ways for senior members to maintain a purposeful connection to the profession will be an important focus in the coming years. These members will likely need to stay current with technological developments in the field, which will enable ACRL to develop and market specific educational programs geared toward late-career members. Also, since these members are naturally predisposed to “support the profession,” it will be important to develop programs and services that tap into their desire to mentor, consult, and otherwise give back to the profession.

In summation I would conclude that the membership survey is mostly good news for ACRL. It’s clear that members are far more satisfied with the delivery of services than in past years, and when you look at what members’ report as their priorities and what ACRL is already doing to address those needs, it appears ACRL is a responsive professional organization. It is also clear that ACRL is faced with some significant challenges if it wants to remain relevant to academic librarians. The growing age divide in the membership is going to need attention soon or else we’ll have an association that is dominated by those on the cusp of retirement. ACRL must find ways to bridge the gap between its established senior members and the many new and younger academic librarians that are feeling alienated from the association.

Perhaps the ACRL leaders should look to some of the actions that Leslie Burger is taking to mend the generational meltdown that was left in the wake of Michael Gorman’s ALA presidency. What are good starting points? Bring in younger academic librarians to serve as advisors to the ACRL Board, make better use of new communications technologies to reach them, prioritize their involvement at the national level and national conference (ACRL already offers loads of scholarships to encourage new and younger members to attend), and create more intergenerational mentoring programs. ACRL already offers some of the highest quality professional development programs you can find anywhere and it needs to build on this strength. And as far as moving their professional development programs into the virtual environment, it’s no exaggeration to say that ACRL is the trendsetter among ALA divisions with its e-learning and virtual conference offerings. And since the report indicates that newer and younger members value professional development as their highest priority, ACRL needs to leverage its outstanding professional development to reach those members. But are we offering the types of professional development programs they need? We’ll only know through the establishment of better forms of two-way communication with the membership.

Start here by providing your comments. What can ACRL do for you and the membership to be as relevant as possible to members of this profession? Now that you know more about the results from the membership survey, what would you like to see ACRL do next? ACRLog invites your guest post on this topic. If you’d like to contribute a guest post on this topic please contact me directly.

“Peer-to-Peer Review”

There have been several recent developments about using the Internet to revive tradtional modes of scholarly publishing and make it both more accessible and more open to new forms of collaboration.

The Chronicle describes a new report from the Council of Learned Societies that argues the social sciences and humanities need a better “cyberinfrastructure.” The point is not just to preserve artifacts, but to encourage collaboration and to do so in an open access environment.

The Chronicle’s Wired Campus describes the MediaCommons project coming from the Institute for the Future of the Book. This wiki-style project will involve communication studies scholars in real-time peer review – or “peer-to-peer review” – that will emphasize process as much as product.

And Inside Higher Ed reports that 25 provosts at major universities are supporting the Federal Research Public Access Act – a push to require federal agencies to make their funded research available free.

Libraries have been at the forefront of change in scholarly communication – and it’s happening. The next interesting puzzle will be figuring out just how we will deal with these new modes of developing and sharing scholarship. Just how do you provide stable access to a work that is constantly changing? Or point students to research that’s being made public in so many different places?

Degrees of Difference

Columbia University is offering a new Master’s Degree in Information and Archives Management through its School of Continuing Education – and we were curious what that means. Martha Zebrowski, Academic Director of the program, kindly answered my questions about it.

bf: Do you see this program as appealing to librarians or allied professionals working in libraries, or are you primarily reaching out to another audience?

mz: The CU MS in Information and Archive Management is oriented toward people in business, government, and non-profit organizations. The MS is not a library-oriented program, but does address information concerns that grow out of the core activities of such organizations. We think of the sort of individual who is interested in the MS as the “humanist in the middle.” This individual has discretionary and decision-making responsibilities in the organization and works, on the one hand, with the business and policy principals of the organization, whose responsibility it is to further the core objectives of the organization, and, on the other hand, with the IT professionals, whose responsibility it is to design, implement, and manage the technological systems that support the core mission of the organization.

Applicants to the MS program come from various backgrounds. Most are already working in information environments where they work with organization principals and IT staff . . . Among the current applicants are several who own their own businesses and see the program as relating specifically to concerns they have in those businesses.

bf: I notice from the Website that the faculty are primarily Columbia librarians. Is there a formal relationship between this program and the Columbia University Libraries? Do you see a role for academic librarians in continuing education in general?

mz: There is no formal relationship between the MS in Information and Archive Management and the libraries, though [University Librarian] James Neal has been very helpful all along. My own degree is in political science, and I teach in the pol sci department. The man who teaches the legal issues course is an attorney and specialist in that field, though he is also a reference librarian in the law library. Other faculty members have similar multiple specialties in addition to their being librarians or systems analysts. The faculty who will be teaching the advanced archives courses are practicing archivists outside of the university, one in the NYC municipal archives, another as in independent consultant to business. There will be new additions as we introduce more courses.

bf: Columbia housed the first library school. Has anyone spotted Dewey’s ghost yet?

mz: Dewey’s ghost is regularly spotted in the stacks, where it is responsible for locating missing books. This is a big job.

bf: All kidding aside, why did Columbia decide to offer this program?

mz: The program is one of a growing number of practically-oriented MS degrees offered by CU, and the impetus for all of the MS degrees comes from the university president’s and provost’s offices. These programs are all housed in the School of Continuing Education.

Before we began the program, we conducted an extensive questionnaire/survey of individuals working in business, government, and non-profit organizations. We surveyed individuals who had CU library degrees from the days when CU had its library program, and we surveyed individuals who had other sorts of degrees, as well. We particularly wanted to reach individuals who were working in business, government, and non-profit organizations. Respondents were encouraging as to the utility of the MS in Information and Archive Management, and strongly suggested that we include opportunities for MS students to take courses beyond the required core courses, that is, elsewhere in the university. In addition, they recommended that the program include strong practical/applied components. We have drawn on each of these suggestions in designing the program.

bf: Final thoughts?

mz: In my experience, most students in colleges and universities do not intend to spend their careers in those institutions, so I would say that the more academic librarians know about the worlds students at all levels plan to enter when they leave school, the more everyone will benefit.

Thanks to Dr. Zebrowski for answering my questions, even the silly one. You can find more questions and answers at the program’s brand-newFAQ.

Where Is Your Library Link And What Does It Say About Your Institution

There was an interesting thread on COLLIB-L on Tuesday the 18th about the institution’s home page and the place of the link to the library on that page – or its lack of presence . It began with one librarian reporting her institution was about to makes some changes to its web site and its intention to “demote” the library from a prominently placed link on the home page to simply being included in a link to academic units. What advice, this person asked, could we give to help in making a case for keeping the library link prominently placed on the home page. After some practical suggestions, such as gathering page view data to show the library’s importance to the community, were offered the exchange morphed into a debate of sorts on the need for an obvious library link on the institutional home page.

I observed there were two different perspectives on the function of a library link on the institution’s home page. Was the link needed for prospective students or current students? There was a general consensus that the institution’s home page was perceived by the administration as a marketing resource for prospective students and their families. From that perspective, why is a link to the library needed to promote the institution? Surely our marketing colleagues would rather see links to student blogs or campus amenities. You could make a case that a prominent library link is a symbolic gesture that communicates to prospective students that the library is still “the heart of the campus.” Or you could make a case that the library is more important to prospective students than previously imagined. I suggested making that case for the library link by pointing to a report mentioned previously here at ACRLog that documented the library building was ranked highly among factors prospective students using in making their college decisions. If the building is important to students then it may be having a library link on the home page does make a significant contribution to the marketing effort – as well as a statement about the institution’s commitment to important values.

But if our concern is the current student what is the real value of a link on the homepage? Shouldn’t we have better ways to get them to our resources. Think about it. If a student wants to use a library database, navigating to it from the institution’s home page could mean 4 or 5 clicks which is too many. I suggested getting an INFO domain (e.g., http://yourlibraryname.info) and then spreading the word to use that domain name to quickly get to the library (e.g., http://gutman.info - note that you need to create a redirect to the actual URL of the home page). Another option could be to create a set of portals (see a prototype here as an example) for your different schools or majors that is truly focused on the information needs of those students. If we create something of value that saves students time and energy they’ll take notice and you won’t have to worry about them finding the link to the library on the university home page. As far as saving the student time and giving them convenient tools to work with, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, gave a good suggestion when she shared a link to her library’s customized toolbar. This is a great idea, though there’s a bit of effort involved in creating the customized toolbar, but if you can get students to integrate the library into their web brower, who needs a link on the institution’s home page. You can contact Lisa directly if you’d like a copy of a handout about the toolbar created for a poster session.

Chris Olson, of Chris Olson & Associates, would argue that even with these tools and specialized applications, having a link to the library on the institution’s home page was a marketing opportunity for gaining students that the institution would throw away by eliminating the link to the library. Sharing her marketing savvy, Olson wrote “it’s not about visibility…it’s not about making it easy for students to find the library. It’s about positioning the library in a business context and using business/bottomline-oriented arguments to convince people of the library’s value.” She added that just arguing that the library deserves to be on the home page isn’t sufficient, but that we should argue that presenting it there makes good business sense. Sounds like that argument could appeal to business-oriented administrators. But do we have the research or data to support the argument? Tom Kirk, library director at Earlham College, also brought up the value of examining web site data, but made the observation that data alone would hardly yield the information we need about student behavior in using institutional and library web sites. Until we do know more about how students use our web sites, Tom said, we may be unjustified in arguing for what belongs on a home page. As for alternatives, Tom suggested that many of our institutions have specialized portals for communicating with current students and faculty, where a more prominent library link could be placed. He also suggested that having the library under “academics” has “become a de facto standard alternative to a link on the home page?” So if they do move your library link from the home page to academics, don’t take it too badly. Dan Gjelten, Director of Libraries at the University of St. Thomas, brought the voice of moderation to the discussion by reflecting on the tensions between campus web site as marketing space and information resource. He argued that it needs to be both but that the emphasis probably needs to be on attracting new students. He said, “It is a big world wide web and it is many things to many people. I believe there is room enough for all of us.” So perhaps there is a way we can figure out how to share the institutional home page space in a way that is mutually beneficial for the library and institution. Dan also referred the list to a new ECAR report (note – your organization needs to be a member to view online) on how the University of Toronto addressed the challenges of creating an institution-wide web space to better serve the academic community. It could be that report has some information that will help to better define how the library contributes to the institutional web site.

In the end, while the consensus on the list was that academic librarians should advocate for a library link on the institution home page – if for nothing more than purely symbolic reasons – it may be that we are lacking a strong argument backed by data for why the library deserves to have link space among the valuable web real estate that is the institutional home page. For us it seems to boil down to a set of psychological (you really love us, don’t you), sentimental (we are the “heart of the campus”, right) and territorial (we deserve this space because we’re more important than…) needs that demand we have a presence on the institution’s home page. All the arguments aside, I still think (and many of you would no doubt agree) that it makes a nice institutional statement when there is a prominently displayed library link on the home page. But in the age of “marketing trumps all” thinking and the need to provide a user experience, we may find ourselves having a tough time making a case for the library link on the institution’s home page.