Monthly Archives: December 2005

Top Stories of 2005 For Academic Librarians

What’s a better way to spend the next to last day of the year than to review some of the news and developments of interest to academic librarians that transpired in 2005, and develop a list of the top stories. So here are the ones we came up with for your consideration – in no particular order.

Google Book Search and Open Content Alliance– We didn’t have to do a Lexis/Nexis search on this one to see what story got the most news coverage. This was big news any way you look at it. The story first appeared in the January 7 issue of the Chronicle, it kept gathering momentum all year, and it’s ready to roll into 2006.

Blackboard Merges With WebCT – If your institution has a courseware system it’s probably one of these two. Will this blockbuster deal make this merged product more hospitable to library resources? Time will tell.

Information Literacy Backlash – Also on January 7th the Chronicle Review gave us Stanley Wilder’s piece on “Why Information Literacy Makes All The Wrong Assumptions”. That created quite a firestorm of conversation, much of which concluded that it was Wilder who was making the wrong assumptions. But let’s give him credit for going public (big time) with his contrarian views; he gave us something to think about.

Emerald Pulls A Fast One – Journal publisher Emerald was caught with its pants down when Phil Davis, life-sciences librarian at Cornell, published data that showed he found issues from different Emerald titles that were complete copies of one another. This story actually broke in the Chronicle in December 2004, but much of the controversy played out in 2005. Thanks Phil for keeping these guys honest.

Ilene Rockman Passes Away – We lost one of the giants of our profession when Dr. Rockman passed away on November 26. Her contributions to academic librarianship will not be forgotten.

The Bookless Academic Library – The University of Texas got lots of media attention when they announced plans for a revamped undergraduate library with clusters of computers, a coffee shop, comfortable chairs, 24-hour technical help – and NO BOOKS. Ok, so 90,000 volumes were just being shipped off to other campus libraries, but you would have thought it was the day that print books died.

Katrina Devastates Gulf Coast – Hurricane Katrina’s fury brought death and destruction to this region, and our academic library colleagues there faced severe problems. Our community quickly responded with offers of help, and discussion list communication that kept us abreast of how valued colleagues were managing in the aftermath of Katrina.

All Hail The Chair Of Information Literacy – Purdue University’s library system announced the creation of an endowed chair in information literacy. Is it the start of a trend? Not just yet, but perhaps we’ll see more of this in 2006.

Virtual Conferencing Makes A Splash – It’s always big news when ACRL has its national conference, and plenty of news was made back in April in Minneapolis. But perhaps the biggest news was the simultaneous virtual conference that ACRL ran for the first time – and the first of this type we can recall for any ALA division. Where do you plan to be on April 20 and 21, 2006 when ACRL (with CNI and EDUCAUSE) hosts its first completely dedicated virtual conference? This IS the start of a big trend in continuing professional development for academic librarians, but will ACRL committees finally get to use ALA’s online community software in 2006 for virtual meetings? One can only hope so.

Can UKU With All This Tech Stuff – Blogging, RSS, news aggregators, podcasts, SMS, screencasts, vlogs, social bookmarking, folksonomies, tagging, personalization, Web (and Lib) 2.0, semantic web, institutional respositories, open source, vertical search…Had enough new technology stuff to learn about yet? Better hang on – 2006 is sure to be even wilder. (UKU = You Keep Up)

Talkin’ ‘Bout The Generations – The “Millennials” seemed a part of almost every academic library meeting in 2005 thanks to major articles and essays on the subject by authors such as Richard Sweeney and Joan Lippincott. Easily adapted into broader discussions of the library as place, the evolution of public services, facilities management, and information literacy instruction, we can only assume that we will continue “t-t-talkin’ ’bout my (or maybe your) generation” into 2006.

Getting Savvy To ID&T – Over 100 people attended an ACRL-sponsored pre-conference on instructional design and technology at ALA annual 2005, and ALA and ACRL promise major publications in this area in 2006. Increasingly popular technologies such as “clickers” and courseware provide increasing opportunities for academic librarians to become integrated into campus-wide discussions of teaching, learning, professional development, and management of instructional technology resources.

“Perceptions” Report Is Eye Opener – So we suspected that most college students go to the Internet first for their research, but OCLC’s “Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources” report really drove home the harsh reality of how far we need to go to get back on the information seeker’s radar screen. Maybe it wasn’t all bad news as college students certainly seemed more aware of and apt to use their academic library. We’re sure to be talking more about the library brand and the implications of this report.

And finally, the biggest of the big academic librarianship stories in 2005:

ACRL Debuts Its Blog – Well, we may be just a tad biased in our opinion of the importance of this one. But let’s give our ACRL leadership some props for recognizing the time was right for a blog targeted to the interests of academic librarians, and throwing their support behind ACRLog. Thanks guys!

The ACRLog blogging team hopes you enjoyed our top stories of 2005. Yeah, we probably missed something so feel free to add to the list with your comment. The entire blogging team appreciates your enthusiastic response to this blog, and we look forward to continuing ACRLog in 2006. We hope all of our readers have a great new year! See you in 2006!

What Makes A Good Academic Library Director

I’m sure we all have our own ideas about this topic, and you may have previously followed the research of Peter Hernon, Ronald Powell, and Arthur P. Yolung on the attributes of library directors (a book, several articles in College & Research Libraries and one in Library Journal).

Although it’s just one of several topics discussed in this podcast that features Susan Perry and her work with the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Mellon Foundation, Perry comments on her view of core competencies for academic library directors. Here’s what makes her list of core competencies for library directors:

* understand web page development
* expertise with digital assets management
* ability to work with scholars and students to make the right information accessible
* ability to work well with information technologists (e.g., campus computing)
* ability to mentor others (help them keep up with latest trends)

Clearly the focus is the technology aspects of library leadership, and in the podcast there is a fair amount of talk about scholarly publishing as the issue of the day. I would have liked to hear more about the role of user education for library technology , and how the library director can set the stage for it to be integrated into the curriculum. From my perspective, a critical attribute for library directors (moreso for colleges and small universities than research libraries) is the ability to integrate the library into the curriculum, and that only happens when the director, working collaboratively with library staff and other academic support professionals, is able to connect with faculty and encourage them to integrate library resources into their coursework.

By the way, the podcasts created by EDUCAUSE are among the easiest to take advantage of because you don’t even need to download them. Simply click on the play button on the page and the podcast will begin. Of course, there is also a link to the mp3 file for those that prefer to download the podcast.

Thinking About A Library Blog

I was just scanning the directory of library blogs, most of them academic, over at the College and University Feed Directory, and the list is growing quickly. So lots of us are jumping on the library blog bandwagon. I have yet to see much in the way of research that informs us about the effectiveness of a library blog. Do our intended audiences read them? Do they motivate users to make greater use of library services? Do faculty integrate library resources into their courses as a result of reading library blogs? Most importantly, how do academic library blogs contribute to students achieving learning outcomes? Many questions and few, if any, answers. We’re spending valuable time on these library blogs, but what’s the return?

A library blog certainly has potential as a tool for promoting library resources and services. That’s assuming that the user community is reading the library blog. How they manage to do that, and what we can do to improve the likelihood they will is the subject of another discussion. In this post I would like to point those who already have developed a blog for their library, and those who are thinking about it, to a blog post by Stephen Downes that offers some of the best advice I’ve seen for developing and sustaining a blog, personal or library. In “How To Be Heard” Downes takes the reader through a well-laid out blueprint for constructing a blog and getting it out to its intended audience.

If you’ve yet to discover the blogs and publications of Stephen Downes this is a good starting point. When it comes to discovering news and information about educational technology, and helping us to understand its impact, Downes is one of the best.

Our Assumptions Require Caution

One benefit of the semester winding down is the opportunity to catch up on readings and podcasts. EDUCAUSE produced several from the latest conference of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI). One worth your 30 minutes is a chat with Susan Gibbons, Assistant Director for Public Services and Collections at the University of Rochester. She talks about some of the technology they are experimenting with at UR’s Library, which does seem to be developing a culture for cutting edge resources and services.

One of the trends discussed is the personalization of library services. Gibbons mentioned giving students the ability to add reviews to catalog records, and to receive book recommendations from the library based on borrowing patterns. I ask if students really want that sort of thing. Let’s say the typical undergrad borrows several books to write a paper for a required class. Will they appreciate receiving announcements a semester or two later for new books based on a topic they have no intention of ever researching again? Maybe we need to first determine if anyone wants that sort of service. Just because Amazon does it doesn’t mean we should. Turns out the students pretty much ignored these services, and Gibbon says “We were surprised they didn’t jump on this.”

The dangers of assumptions about what we think the user community wants – versus what they really need – is made again when the talk turns to institutional repositories. Gibbons says “We thought our faculty would just add stuff, but they don’t.” They thought faculty would be compelled, for one reason or another, to self archive their content, but “faculty don’t yet see the benefit”. So the job becomes figuring out how to get users to actually use these services. Maybe we need to be more focused on figuring out what users want and need, and then making it available to them.

That’s where this interview gets even more interesting, because the folks are UR are doing just that. Seems they got a grant that allowed them to fund an anthropologist to study the work flows and behaviors of faculty and students to determine what services would really support their work. Gibbons makes a great point about WIIFM. Faculty will use our services when we can clearly demonstrate WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM. She says that if it gets their research more citations, if it gets them more recognition, and more visibility – they will use the repository. This information is coming out of the anthropologist’s research into where the users go, what they do, how much time they spend on different projects, etc.

It’s a shame we can’t all conduct our own anthropological studies of our user communities. It sounds like an excellent idea that could help us to target our resources into focused services that we know our users want and away from those that we develop based only on our assumptions about what they need – particularly when those assumptions are based on business models and commercial activity that doesn’t necessarily translate well to our academic libraries. Give this podcast a listen and see what you think.

Sensations Or Experiences: Which Do We Want To Provide

I may have a tendency to beat the drum about the importance of integrating our resources and services into the teaching and learning process – and advocating user education – so that we can help students achieve important learning outcomes. That goal often seems in conflict with those who advocate that we need to make things as simple as possible to eliminate complexity for library users for fear that complexity will drive them away. “Keep it simple” is usually code for “make it more like Google.” I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who thinks we might be shortchanging college students by making their education a series of technology sensations rather than a true learning experience.

Well, thanks to Bob Rogers, an associate professor for 34 years at Queensborough Community College in New York, I know there is someone else out there who shares my concerns. In an essay in the November 2005 issue of University Business titled “When Will They Learn“, Rogers writes:

There is a difference between entertainment and learning, between sensation and experience.Experiences change us. We see a play, climb a mountain, visit a foreign city, go to war, have a child–or struggle to reach any grasp-exceeding goal–and we are changed. Such experiences don’t need to be repeated; we are different people for having gone through them once and the change is permanent. Sensation, on the other hand, is something that merely happens to us; it’s more like a stimulus that momentarily alters our state of mind, perception, or awareness. But when that stimulus is removed, the sensation will fade. Sensations need to be constantly renewed, re-experienced, and repeated in life…Change does not occur without resistance. It requires work, sometimes sacrifice, even hardship, to achieve.

I really like this idea of experience versus sensation. Do we want to help our students learn how to conduct research? If so, we need to create a persistent change in their research behavior; that’s what learning is – a persistent change in knowlege and behavior. That change is likely to occur only as a result of coordinated user education (call it information literacy if you like) that takes place in collaboration with faculty and is integrated into the curriculum. If we choose to simply provide a “search sensation” through a smorgasbord of resources for students, and we provide no guidance nor create expectations for their use and application for learning, than it should be no surprise when we discover they begin their research at search engines and largely avoid library resources. If this trend continues it won’t be because we were too complex for students, but because we didn’t integrate ourselves and our resources into their learning experience.

What will it be? Sensations? Experiences? Which would you rather provide?