Category Archives: Faculty

Collision Spaces

Please welcome Laura Braunstein to the ACRLog team. Laura is the English Language and Literature Librarian at Dartmouth College’s Baker-Berry Library. She has a doctorate in English from Northwestern University, where she taught writing and literature classes. She has worked as an index editor for the MLA International Bibliography, and serves as a consultant for the Schulz Library at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. Her research interests include collaborative learning, using archival materials in teaching, and the impact of the digital humanities on teaching and learning. She coproduced the ACRL Literatures in English Section promotional video, “Literature Librarians and Faculty: Partnering for Academic Success.”

A biologist friend just moved in to a beautiful new laboratory building on campus. Her old lab had been crowded and outdated: her graduate students made coffee in her office and there were women’s restrooms only on every other floor. Now she has state-of-the-art research facilities, a spacious office, and her graduate students have their own lunchroom. There’s a restroom right around the corner. So why does she miss the old, inefficient building? Because she never sees anyone anymore. Gone are the chance encounters and serendipitous meetings that would happen, even in the restroom, when a colleague in another department would ask how her research was going.

What my friend misses are the “collision spaces,” those informal physical gathering places, corridors, and hubs on campus where people collide and interact. In a recent blog post, the Ubiquitous Librarian wrote of his visit to TechPad, a collaborative office environment for startup companies near his campus. He mused that academic libraries could learn from the way that business incubators build into their floor plans collision spaces for “serendipitous conversation and discovery.” What does it take to enable an academic library to become a collision space? A cafe? Comfortable seating? Shelter from the elements? A fortunate position in campus geography? Tolerant food and drink policies?

As many lament the coming irrelevance of the academic library, I keep seeing evidence that these rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. The most vibrant collision space on my campus is the library. Day after day it is packed with students, faculty, community members, and visitors to campus. Since we’re in a rural area, we don’t limit access to ID holders from our college. We have long embraced our identity as a resource for the community, and we value the connections that are enabled by being a crossroads for different kinds of users.

Social networking has certainly helped many of us make opportune connections in the virtual world. I would be truly sad, however, if our face-to-face arenas for networking disappeared. Day after day my work is enriched by being able to say: hey, it’s great to run in to you! How is that project going? What are you teaching this term? What can I do to help?

Faculty Connections with Website Flair

ACRLog welcomes a guest post from Marcia Dority Baker, the Access Services Librarian at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Schmid Law Library.

One of the great things about being an academic librarian at a law college is the ability to interact with a variety of departments. One such opportunity is a work in progress; this past spring our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs approached the library for assistance in promoting SSRN (the Social Science Research Network) and the UNL Digital Commons to faculty. Simultaneously, the law college Communication department was reviewing how to better promote the law college after a faculty member asked for help managing an email signature line. This allowed us to work with both departments in a new way.

After a few brainstorming sessions, we decided to better promote faculty scholarship and the law college in two ways: first by adding buttons to individual faculty pages that linked to a variety of resources and secondly, if interested faculty could add “flair” to their email signature line with the same buttons.

The university’s content management system recently migrated to Drupal, allowing individuals within departments better access to the law college website. The people who know the information best can update website pages more frequently. I’m now responsible for the law library web pages since I was already handling our social media presence.

Our faculty webpages are fairly static most of the year, typically updated when after annual reports are due or before the academic year begins. Most people search the internet for faculty members to find contact information, publications, areas of expertise or research, and/or courses taught; current content on these pages should be a priority. Since we don’t have a dedicated web person, the best option for our law college is to use buttons that link users to the most current information available. We decided on the following buttons: the UNL Digital Commons, SSRN, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Slideshare–a good mix of scholarly links, professional networking and social media.

The UNL Digital Commons is a hidden gem to most people outside the library, but an uncomplicated way to get faculty publications online. The only requirement from faculty is an email with their CV publication list, this doubles as permission to add their scholarship to the UNL Digital Commons. The Digital Commons staff then locates the publications, handles copyright, and scans and uploads the material into the repository. This process is user-friendly for our faculty, making it easy for them to say “yes” to having their scholarship in the Digital Commons–a great selling point for the librarians when promoting the service. A monthly report on material downloads is generated for all authors; this has increased conversation about the UNL Digital Commons as most people like seeing how many times their work has been accessed.

SSRN was initially utilized by approximately half of the law college faculty; the current number of participants is in flux as we talk to individuals about adding their scholarship. The big difference between the UNL Digital Commons and SSRN is that faculty members are responsible for uploading their publications to SSRN. The how-to instructions are clear, but asking professors to add material during the semester is a challenge. We work on the assumption that more articles will be uploaded during the academic year downtime. To help the process, the law librarians are promoting the SSRN FAQ section which is very helpful and can assist faculty with tech questions if need be.

The law librarians met individually or as a small group with the law college faculty to explain the SSRN & UNL Digital Commons buttons. During this time we also mentioned other options for faculty pages: the buttons for LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There was some confusion as to which Facebook page a professor’s faculty page would link to–not their personal page but the law college’s or law library’s Facebook page. A number of the faculty expressed concern about professional versus personal information online, wanting to keep both sides separate. After meeting with faculty to determine their preferences, a student worker in the communications department adds the appropriate buttons to their page. The quicker we update their websites, the better success our endeavor has.

Our project timeframe is the current academic year; we anticipate talking with the entire law faculty this Fall. If we can’t connect due to various reasons, then we’ll meet this Spring semester. The current priority is adding buttons to faculty pages as we talk to law college faculty members, especially since the student worker helping with webpages is graduating in December.

So far, this has been an engaging project. It’s great to talk to faculty about their scholarship and how the University at large can promote their work through the UNL Digital Commons. It has also opened new conversations on social media such as managing the law college and law library’s online presence, and learning how faculty want to connect with colleagues and students or that gray line between personal versus professional information online.

“We Don’t Read That Way”

ACRLog welcomes a guest post from Laura Braunstein, English Language and Literature Librarian at Dartmouth College.

I was chatting recently with a professor in my liaison department who was beginning research for a new book. Did she have everything she needed? Was there anything I should look into ordering? Yes, she said, the library was pretty well stocked with books and journals for the topic. However, many of the books she needed we only had as ebooks – for those, she would order print copies through interlibrary loan.

One of my colleagues had a similar experience. He was talking to several of his liaison faculty about a new ebook collection in the Humanities. The collection would be great, they told him, when they needed to look something up quickly, or search for a mention of a particular topic. But they would still want print books for serious study – ebooks weren’t the same, they told him, “we just don’t read that way.”

Many of these professors own Kindles or other ereaders, and love them – for reading the latest Ruth Rendell mystery on a six-hour flight to France to visit an archive. It’s one thing, they tell us, to read for pleasure on a screen – but it’s quite another to read for understanding, for critique, for engaging in the scholarly conversation. And this isn’t a generational matter – some of the faculty I know who seem most committed to print are younger than forty.

Does reading in the Humanities necessitate the long-form, linear, analog experience of the codex? Even when I tell these professors about the features available in some of the new ebook platforms – highlighting, annotation, sharing notes, etc – they still assert that they “just don’t read that way.” (And what applies to reading is even more crucial in writing – when it comes to tenure or promotion, they tell me, no monograph “born digital” would ever “count” in the way a print book would.)

Ebooks seem like sweet low-hanging fruit – they have enhanced searchability, accessibility at any time or place, and reduced storage and preservation costs. What’s not to love? Ebooks seem to make our students very happy. Often they don’t want to read a book cover to cover (although their professors might wish they would), and searching for relevant passages seems to satisfy their needs for many assignments. And journal literature seems exempt from the preference for print – I haven’t heard many complaints about deaccessioning back runs of print journals represented in JSTOR’s collections, for instance.

Is a user who routinely requests a print copy when the ebook is in the library’s holdings just multiplying the costs we thought we were saving? Should we deny these requests? Should we tell our Humanities faculty that even if they “just don’t read that way,” they should, because that’s the way the world of scholarly communication is moving in most other fields? Do we need to change their habits of reading, and habits of mind? Do we lead them to new formats or follow their preferences?

The Bearer of Bad News

One of the college service projects I’m working on involves the creation of a new digital platform for teaching and learning at my college. As faculty have begun to use the platform for their courses this semester, I’m finding that there’s been an uptick in the number of questions I field about posting course readings online. We don’t have an ereserve system at my library, and while I take any opportunity I can get to promote direct linking into our article databases, inevitably there are readings that faculty need to assign to their students that aren’t available in the databases.

It’s so interesting to see the range of awareness about copyright issues among my faculty colleagues. When they ask me whether then can post scanned book chapters or articles on their password-protected course sites, I respond by mentioning the Georgia State copyright case and urging caution. Many (most?) of the faculty I’ve spoken with aren’t aware of the case, perhaps because, like so many other aspects of the scholarly communications system, it seems like a library problem?

I like talking with faculty about copyright alternatives: about open access publishing, public domain materials, creative commons licenses, and how openness benefits researchers and the public — I could go on for hours. And I sympathize with faculty who struggle to get course materials to their students in the most efficient way possible. But I don’t like it when there are no acceptable alternatives. That’s tough to talk about, and I hate the hollow awkwardness that comes with telling colleagues that it’s not advisable to do something that is already such an accepted practice in faculty culture.

The Georgia State trial has ended. Once the verdict is announced, whatever the decision, we’ll have another opportunity for conversations about copyright alternatives with faculty. How can we promote awareness across the academy and emphasize that copyright isn’t just a library issue?

Tackling Textbooks

Many libraries grapple with whether to buy textbooks to put on reserve for students to use. At my college we do acquire textbooks, though of course we purchase many other books for circulating use as well. I’ve usually thought about the textbook issue from the perspective of the library, for example, our materials costs vs. the relative perishability of these books. Textbooks also have an impact on our library faculty and staff: our students assume that the library has their textbook on reserve and and sometimes get frustrated when we don’t, and can take their frustration out on our library faculty and staff.

But I’m starting to think that our offering many textbooks on reserve for students to use is deflecting many of the core issues with textbooks. Recently we’ve heard our faculty lament more and more often that their students are not buying the textbook for their classes. This is not surprising: textbook prices are high and growing, and I’d guess that one of the main reasons students don’t want to buy their textbooks is that it seems like a lot of money for something they may only use in one class, especially for classes that aren’t in their major.

We are certainly helping our students when we provide textbooks on reserve for them to use, which is an important part of any college library’s mission and goals. But we’re also allowing faculty to sidestep a major and thorny issue in academic publishing: the extremely high and continuously increasing cost of textbooks.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s definitely value in textbooks. Writing about complex subjects and disciplines in a clear, concise way that’s appropriate for undergraduates, especially first year students, is challenging. A good textbook can be very useful for faculty teaching and students taking a course. Some textbooks are not unreasonably priced, either. But for far too many topics it seems like the textbook market is out of control, with new editions every couple of years, and costs into the hundreds of dollars.

Open access textbooks and educational materials are one way to tackle these thorny textbook issues. As we get closer to Open Access Week I’m preparing for a faculty workshop we’re planning at my library, and am beginning to read about encouraging experiments with open access textbooks and other curricular materials by librarians and faculty. Is your library working on an open access curriculum project with faculty? Please share your thoughts and lessons learned below.