Monthly Archives: July 2007

A More Academically Minded ALA President

We now have a new ALA president, Loriene Roy, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. I think she has a tough act to follow. Leslie Burger was certainly high profile, and clearly did a great job of taking ALA in a new direction. In the post-Gorman era, she re-established member confidence, generated enthusiasm for ALA programming, and invigorated the association with a new spirit for leveraging technology. How will Roy keep Burger’s momentum going? So I was interested to hear what Roy had to say in a podcast interview with Scott Jaschik over at Inside Higher Ed. Since this is a higher education newsletter I’m thinking the conversation is going to focus on academic librarianship. Though that was not entirely the case it certainly didn’t take away from the value of the interview.

Roy is an LIS faculty member, so much of the interview focused on library schools and where they are headed. Doing a little research over at the ALA site I learned that supporting library and information science education through practice is one of Roy’s platform issues. Does this signal a return to Gorman’s big issue – transforming library education (have we seen signs of change despite all the discussion)? Not necessarily. I can’t say that Roy seeks to reform library science education, but perhaps her focus will primarily be making the LIS experience more practice based.

Once the interview conversation gets past the “L” word discussion, Roy is asked how library education is changing for those who want to serve as academic librarians. You should go and listen for yourself – you may not agree with me – but I didn’t get the impression Roy is well versed in academic librarianship preparation. I would have expected Roy, as an LIS faculty member, to emphasize the importance of having LIS schools offer at least a course in academic librarianship (more than a few do not), and to stress the need for faculty with the appropriate background to properly advise prospective academic librarians. I know this was a short conversation, but it would have been great to hear some ideas for promoting academic librarianship as a career. There could certainly be more internship efforts, and what about creating connections between aspiring academic librarianship students and practitioners in the field. Instead Roy’s response, while making some good points, offers little that is concrete about how academic librarianship education has changed or needs to change.

I realize the ALA president should be library sector neutral. But my experience – and again tell me if you think I’m off the mark – suggests that the ALA presidency seems to address the public library sector more than others. I’m not suggesting ALA needs to become more academic librarian-centric; that’s what ACRL is for. But it would be nice to hear more about academic librarianship from our ALA leaders from time to time, and to know they are following the academic library issues. Perhaps Roy will be that leader. Take 10 minutes and listen to the interview. Hear what Roy has to say about library science education and the profession.

University Publishing Goes Digital – and Science Takes its Toys and Leaves

Ithaka has just come out with a report on university publishing that librarians should read. It’s not just about university presses, but discusses how institutions of higher learning handle “the communication and broad dissemination of knowledge” – and yes, libraries are part of it.

According to the report, and it’s no surprise, “the lines between formal and informal publication are breaking down.” The rise of electronic means of communication are changing the way scholars share knowledge but presses have had trouble adapting to that fast-changing reality. After conducting many interviews, the authors of the report concluded that administrators feel detached, publishers’ responses vary from business-as-usual to seeking new alliances, and librarians – they’re into it. The authors of the study found “a high level of energy and excitement from librarians about reinventing their role on campus to meet the evolving needs of their constituents.” Though critical of presses, librarians also seemed very supportive of their mission. The report concludes with a list of recommendations and several appendices, including an interesting comparison of libraries and university presses strengths and weaknesses. (One strength of libraries: their budgets are much larger than university presses’ and so they can afford to experiment. One weakness – they don’t know how to market what they do.) Among other things, the report recommends more cooperation on campus, better alignment of institutional goals with their publishing efforts, and more collaboration in creating large-scale platforms across institutions.

Ironically, Inside Higher Ed reports the AAAS is no longer interested in being part of one of the earliest and most successful platforms. It’s withdrawing its prestigious journal Science from JSTOR, the first case of a publisher withdrawing. This will not affect issues already in the archive, but will mean no more will be added. Apparently, it’s all about business.

In a statement, Science said that “our strategic planning must reflect a business environment that is in a constant state of transition, one that has recently seen dramatic technological and competitive changes.” More scientific societies are “digitizing and controlling their own content, and AAAS shares the belief that it is now time to assume the full responsibility for maintaining a complete electronic archive of its flagship publication.”

In other words, Science is now ready to handle their content by themselves and wants a monopoly. Taking responsibility for having a complete archive shouldn’t interfere with making that content available elsewhere – but sharing is not in their business interests.

Once again, the goal of broad dissemination gets mugged by Mamon. Obviously, we still have some kinks to work out in the digital scholarship landscape.

You May Be A Tool Of The Old Education Paradigm

Still using the tools of the past in your library instruction? Spending perhaps a tad too much time lecturing to students? Perhaps wowing them with PowerPoint slides as a warm up to your point and click search demos? Well, you may be a tool of the educational past as well. At least that’s according to Marc Prensky, who in a recent column takes educators to task for ignoring the changing educational paradigm. In an essay titled “Changing Paradigms” that is found on the final page of the latest issue (July-August 2007) of Educational Technology, Prensky claims that teachers still don’t get it because instead of adapting new technology and new ways of teaching with it they persist in using the tools of the past. What are some of the tools of the past? Oh, you know, encyclopedias, multiplication tables, spelling rules and libraries. Wait a minute. Did he just say “libraries”?

My first reaction is that Prensky (who mostly addresses k-12 educators) hasn’t used or visited an academic library recently. If he had he would know that academic libraries at all levels are leveraging technology in nearly every way possible to connect end users with information in seamless ways and to adapt to their study and learning behaviors. Admittedly we are not quite there yet. But I’d hardly equate today’s library with long division. Despite being mildly annoyed with Prensky’s categorization of the library with the tools of the past, I do like the gist of his essay. In a nutshell, our pedagogy can get in the way of the 21st century learner.

So how do you adjust your teaching to new learning styles? Prensky suggests what not to do. Don’t spew facts, explanations, reasonings and tool-based approaches. Instead take advantage of the Twenty-first century learner’s desire to solve interesting problems, work in a group and share what they learn with others. In fact, our library technology may indeed fit well with the new educational paradigm in which learners:

Find information you think is worthwhile anywhere you can. Share it as early and often as possible. Verify it from multiple sources. use the tools in your pocket. Search for meaning through discussion.

If you are willing to experiment you may put some of this to the test in your next instruction session. Put students into groups, give them a problem to work on, let them use whatever tools they want (or perhaps assign each group a tool – anything from search engines to library databases), let them interact and share across groups, let them use their cell phones to call friends for help. It sounds risky and threatening just to write about it let alone actually do it, but I like a Nicholas Negroponte quote used in the essay. “Learning comes from passion not discipline”. If we can communicate one thing to get students passionate about the library, that’s likely to have a far more powerful impact on their future interest in using the library and its resources than the repetitious spewing of scattered facts and rules about searching online databases.

So I’d urge Prensky to reconsider the library as one of the tools of the past, because it may not be the library but the librarian who is the tool of the old education paradigm. We need to morph, as he says, “into the role of challenger, observer, guide, and coach to the students.” Are you ready to change your educational paradigm?

Don’t Click on that Article!

The University of Kansas is taking a get-tough approach to copyright.

Violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is against the law. If you are caught downloading copyrighted material, you will lose your ResNet privileges forever. No second notices, no excuses, no refunds. One violation and your ResNet internet access is gone for as long as you reside on campus.

So don’t use those full-text library databases. Those articles are copyrighted. Sure, they’re licensed for the campus, but according to this policy, you will lose your network privileges forever. No excuses! Even though it’s not a violation of the law.

According to Ars Technica, quoting the Lawrence Journal-World, the new policy is a result of receiving increasing numbers of takedown notices from the RIAA. It’s kind of hard to educate students about copyright when the institution’s own tech folks get it so wrong. And it’s kind of hard to take violations seriously when zero tolerance means zero respect for sharing legally and zero understanding of fair use.

It is too quiet without them

The library has been eerily quiet now that most students have left campus for the summer. I miss being interrupted numerous times a day, students working on their laptops, and the sound of books being checked in and out. So, when do they come back? I took a step back and thought about it, and I am member of their generation and I need to stay in contact with my friends. As a last hurrah, we held our Student Appreciation Picnic last week for the students who worked for us during the school year and I, of course, took photos to document the event. To keep in touch, the students and I talked and I decided to open up my personal Facebook profile to my students. There has been great success so far. I am friends with most of the students that work for me and I added pictures of the Student Appreciation Picnic to one of my photo albums. Right now we all keep in touch virtually, but I look forward to August when they return and we can get the next year underway. To everyone who has read my posts during the course of the 06-07 school year, thank you. In the next couple of weeks, I will submit my last post with reflections on the completion of my first year as an academic librarian.