Keeping Up Helps To Make The Point

Recently I received an e-mail from a fellow library director at a university somewhat similar to my own wanting to know if we could chat sometime about some issues she was confronting at her institution. She had developed some strategies, but wanted to bounce them off a colleague for some feedback. I was glad to help. She had read my Library Issues piece on the OCLC College Students Perception Report, and wanted to further pick my brain about the possibilities of using the Report strategically. When we spoke on the phone about a week later I learned more details about impending budget constraints at the institution, and concerns that it might involve staff reductions at the library. The conversation also covered challenges the librarians were confronting in their efforts to integrate information literacy into the curriculum at their university. You know the story – faculty resistance, lack of administrative support for a dedicated information literacy position in the library, too few librarians and too many classes. In other words, challenges common to many of our academic libraries.

Well, you know what they say about free advice, but I was glad to share what I could about my own library environment and any lessons learned that could help my fellow director and her staff (some of who joined in the conference call). I won’t attempt to share all the details here, but it was a stimulating conversation from which we all learned (I think) something about our libraries and how we might do a better job of achieving our outcomes – although their lack of stated outcomes for information literacy was something that needed more work, along with an implementation plan that included formal assessment methods. The library director needs to clearly communicate to the administration and faculty what can be achieved with information literacy, and how it will help the institution meet accreditation standards. Without an articulated plan that’s difficult to accomplish. We also brainstormed ways to use the information in the OCLC report to establish the need for students to make better use of the institution’s investment in library resources – and that faculty needed to collaborate with librarians in all areas of the curriculum to make that happen. I can only hope our hour-long conversation will help this dedicated director and her staff achieve their goals, and especially fend off efforts to cut the library’s resources.

The point I want to make though is about keeping up. It certainly takes some extra time each day, but the investment will be well worth it if you come up with information and resources that can be used to keep administrators and faculty aware of the value academic libraries add to the students’ education and their ability to achieve academic success – and possibly even to help them choose the institution and stay there until they graduate. But if you don’t have the ammunition you can’t do the job. As I speak at and attend different conferences I still find that too few library administrators and even fewer front-line academic librarians are reading the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed. Those two should be required reading for every academic librarian everyday. Doing so will allow you to come across an article like the recent one about initial results from the ETS ICT Assessment that indicated students at many test institutions lacked adequate information literacy skills. That’s the kind of ammunition about which I’m talking. We alerted our readers to the OCLC College Students Perception Report, yet I still find academic librarians who haven’t heard of the report. It’s chock full of good ammunition. I’m going to get off the soapbox now. There is no secret to or special skill required for developing good strategies for locating and using the best information possible when advocating on behalf of the library. It all comes back to having a sound and well-rounded keeping up regimen. Here at ACRLog we’ll continue to do our part by bringing to our readers’ attention new studies and reports that are required reading for academic librarians. The rest is up to you.

8 thoughts on “Keeping Up Helps To Make The Point”

  1. I like this blog very much and agree with you about the importance of keeping up. But I couldn’t help noticing that your Keeping Up Page lacks an obvious RSS button and that your personal page was last updated on, ahem, 09/12/01.

    RSS is vital for keeping up and everything you do should feature it.

    Nicely written column this, though!

  2. Whoops–boo boo on my part–there seem to be two Keeping Up Pages–one of which does feature RSS very prominently. You have two links in the piece above–rather confusing for readers.

  3. Hope: I don’t see what’s so confusing about having links to two different keeping up resources that I maintain. One is a blog for keeping up to date with news in higher education, and the other is a more static website to provide resources and strategies for keeping up. The former is updated regularly so it has an RSS feed. The latter is updated less regularly – only as I find new resources to add – so the need for RSS there is less important. I always recommend that interested parties use a web page change detect service to keep up with the keeping up site – certainly a method for keeping up that’s just as essential as RSS. There is a glitch on my home page that is preventing the last updated date from advancing. For some reason in my web editing tool the update date is correct, but it isn’t being published properly. Rest assured that my personal site (different pages) are updated pretty regularly – just last week in fact. Thanks for your kind words about the column and the blog.

  4. Steven, when keeping up – how do you deal with the factor of “continuous partial attention” referred to in the previous post? I do feel compelled to read lots of RSS feeds and listservs, but the more I add, the less justice I feel I do any of them.

    Any thoughts on how to focus and, if necessary, scale back? Is this something a library staff should tackle together – e.g. you keep an eye on this and let us know if something really important pops up, I’ll cover this beat? And how do you build in time for reflection without the distraction of a constant flow of news?

    Just curious, since the two posts read together make for interesting contrast.

  5. I agree that The Chronicle of Higher Education is required reading for all academic librarians. I find the Wired Campus section to be particularly valuable for my area of interest- teaching with technology. There have also been a few recent articles on library renovations- a topic that is particularly relevant for my institution. Check out the “On Course” columns for teaching advice. Finally, the “First Person” columns are always a fun distraction- a good way to survive my very slow Monday night reference desk shifts (my favourite column is the one written by Thomas H. Benton- “The Worst Building on the Campus”)!

  6. Thank you for such clear articulation of why keeping up with at least a few key resources (including CHE) is essential. The article serves as a call to both the under-and-over KeptUp.

    For those who don’t use RSS, it is encouragement to jump on the bandwagon. If you are new to RSS, you might check to see if your University already has RSS readers available to you and the community (via the University portal –e.g. Luminous does– or via your Citation manager service — e.g. RefWorks does). You could use it to keep up for yourself and additionally provide Subject-Feed-libraries to your patrons as part of an outreach effort, and as a demonstration the importance –and relative ease — of all academics being Kept-Up!!

    …And for those of us who may have overwhelmed ourselves with too many feeds/list it is a gentle reminder to pare down or (at least) to be sure to read to few that are of real personal and professional relevance!! The Kept-Up site even breaks them down into “manageable” areas of interest for the reader–thanks SteveB!

  7. Barbara – there’s no question if you try to follow to many things than you start rushing through them to get them all read (or browsed) in the alloted time you have for keeping up (I recommend picking a specific time and getting in the habit of doing just keeping up work at that time). I do try to routinely cut out feeds that aren’t making a contribution to my awareness – and to focus on a few good feeds outside of librarianship – I don’t think too many are needed – especially if the ones you pick do a good job of pointing out when something really worth reading is out there. I also suggest trying a “keep up team” approach where you could divvy up the feeds and news sources – and then just share the really useful information. Let’s face it – your going to really need to read just 1 in 10 or 1 in 30 items you come across. At the end of the day, sometimes it is just about allowing oneself time for the important reflection part you mention – not just constant feed grazing.

  8. Kathryn – thanks for making some additional good points for us to keep in mind when it comes to keeping up. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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