Daily Archives: August 17, 2006

The Lush and Vibrant Library

Though it likely didn’t get the readership that “The Deserted Library” did, the Chronicle’s Scott Carlson followed up with a good and thoughtful overview of what makes new libraries work and how different libraries conceptualize what they’re trying to accomplish, originally published last fall but featured recently in the Chronicle’s e-mail alert. It’s still a timely piece, well worth reading.

For example, the University of Chicago, in keeping with its traditions, is interested in exposing students to as many physical volumes as possible. They don’t want the library to be a student center. According to sociology professor Andrew Abbott, “The faculty is united in thinking that this building is supposed to be the research center of one entire wing of intellectual life at the campus, and we can’t afford to let it turn into an Internet cafe.”

Hal Shill at Penn State Harrisburg conducted a survey that found fascinating results.

The responses from about 180 institutions revealed surprising patterns. For example, Mr. Shill found that the location of a library on a campus made little difference in its popularity among students. Library size did not matter, nor did the number of study rooms in a building or the availability of wireless access. “The presence of a cybercafe — that was a wash,” he says. “It was not a statistically significant feature, but I would recommend it as a creature comfort.”

More basic comforts rated highly: the quality of natural lighting, the quality of work spaces, the quality of the heating and air-conditioning system, and the overall ambiance of the building. Computer and Internet access — such as the number of data ports, the quality of the telecommunication system, and the quality of the public-access workstations — were also vital to the success of a building.

I recall the collib-l list discussions when the “Deserted Library” article came out. Many academic librarians feared their presidents would read it and conclude “great, we don’t need to spend all that money on a black hole after all.” This is an article you don’t want them to miss. Send it to your president, your provost, your physical plant director, and your advancement office. Right now.

Google Jockeys For Conference Sessions

If you haven’t heard about Google Jockeys, the basic idea is that an instructor assigns a student to search Google during a class session so that the class can be alerted to material found on the Internet that relates to the class content. I guess to make this work you need at least two monitors or screens in the class room, one to show the instructor’s material and one to show the Google Jockey’s search results. I suppose it could be done with a single monitor or screen depending on how it’s handled. Since this is a relatively new practice there is no research on the impact of Google Jockeys in the classroom.

So I found it interesting to read that at the next Masie Center Learning2006 conference, many of the presentations will feature a Google jockey. According to the latest LearningTrends newsletter from the Masie Center:

During every Keynote/General Session, you will be able to see a screen with the results of on-going real time Google searches, based on the speech or interview. For example, as I am interviewing Lucy Carter from Apple, we might talk about the role of PodCasts for Blended Learning. Our Google Team will do a real time search on key elements,
display it for your interest and provide an edited search list for all participants.

Can something like this really help conference attendees or is it a trendy gimmick? Personally, I think I’d find it distracting to have a screen spewing Google results while there’s a presentation going on. Assuming the idea has merit how do I know the Google Jockey is an effective searcher. Maybe his or her searches are really missing some of the best information on the topic – and it may even be that a search engine other than Google could do a better job retrieving information on the speaker’s topic. And what’s with providing an edited list of the Google results? I could certainly do my own Google search if I was that interested in the topic. I’d much prefer the presenters to develop a resource list in advance and have it for me when I got to the presentation. I can see some merits of Google Jockeying in the classroom, but I’m just not sure it’s going to work all that well at a conference.

The Learning2006 conference is also going to offer real-time mindmap development:

You will be able to watch the development of a graphical MindMap. Every concept, metaphor and conversation thread will be captured in a linkable MindMap. References to books, links and research will be added by our MindMap team. At the end of the speech, the Thought Leader, myself and a team from our CONSORTIUM will edit and expand the MindMap to give to each participant.

Now this sounds like an interesting idea. It could be a great way to obtain a visual conceptualization of a presentation, along with relevant resources. I hope the Masie Center will make some of the mindmaps available to the public. No matter how things turn out I have to hand it to the Masie Center folks for their innovative ideas.

Who knows, maybe we’ll see a few Google Jockeys at the 13th National ACRL conference in Baltimore. Who wants to go first?