Their Competition Is Good For You

As an academic librarian I make it a point to stay up-to-date with the latest news about the higher education industry. It’s important to know what’s happening in the world of librarianship, but it may be even more essential to know the latest news and developments in our parent organizations’ industry. How long do you think you’d last as a chemistry librarian in a chemical company if you paid no attention to developments in the chemical industry? Even if you are currently getting by as an academic librarian who pays no attention to higher education, I’d urge you to start taking more of an interest. A controversy worthy of your attention is always brewing in higher education. More importantly, being knowledgeable about higher education contributes to one’s passion for academic librarianship – and being a part of the academic enterprise.

It’s probably never been easier to stay alert to news in higher education. It all started with e-mail news reports from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Then Inside Higher Ed came along. Add to the mix the daily report from University Business. Then you can also read Academic Impressions. Get the news by e-mail or RSS feed. Read them all or take your pick. And just recently it seems like the competition between these resources – in an effort to capture our attention – is heating up a bit. The Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed are almost neck-and-neck in the race to get their news out first thing in the morning. Recently the Chronicle raised the stakes by starting up an afternoon news service. Then within the last few days University Business, which always sent their news out in the late morning or early afternoon, started sending their e-mail news alert almost as early as the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed.

Perhaps all of this is pure coincidence. But I suspect these different news services are jockeying to gain the reader’s attention and develop some brand loyalty. From my perspective all these news services are important for anyone trying to keep up with news and developments in higher education. Efforts to one up the competition will result in better and more timely news delivery, and that means good news for academic librarians who want to keep up with higher education. I find the resources are just different enough in terms of the stories, the depth of reporting, the commentary, the amount of full text provided, the use of hyperlinks, and other characteristics, to demand that I routinely scan each and every one of them – and it just takes a few extra minutes a day. So if a bit of competition results in new features, more frequent news reporting, or any other enhancements, I say bring it on. In this competition, academic librarians are the winners.

2 thoughts on “Their Competition Is Good For You”

  1. right on! thanks for this post, steven. there are lots of ways to be a ‘passionate’ librarian. most of all, i think being passionate about librarianship means wanting to show how you can be useful to people. i’ve read over and over again that librarians can no longer rely on just being the keeper of information — in a digital world, when information (sure, it may be bad information) is readily available (sure, it may be hard to find) online, it’s hard for non-librarians to really know what a librarian does or how they’re relevant if they’ve never worked with one.

    what couldn’t be more damaging to the profession is bad service. when it’s getting less and less obvious that a librarian has a vital role in a vast information-rich environment, providing poor service is only reinforcing that view of librarianship. Keeping up with current issues is part of remaining useful.

    in addition to organizing information and helping people find and use information, more and more we are being called upon to help people KEEP UP with information. i’ve taught a few “Keeping Current with Research with RSS” classes — on setting up e-mail alerts, news aggregators, and then locating those services in academic blogs and datbases. This kind of service is a new opportunity for us to help faculty and students cope with so much new information being generated so quickly. It’s a new way for librarians to be relevant in a digital environment.

    if we can’t keep up ourselves, how are we expected to help faculty and students do it? Thanks, Steven, for your blog “The Kept-Up Academic Librarian.” It’s proof that we can help each other as well!

  2. Hm. The Chronicle reports are, of course, restricted to people who pay subscription fees. University Business and Inside Higher Ed are open access. Academic Impressions is mostly a reblogging service.

    If you want to keep up to date for real, though, you will want to go beyond these trade publications. My own OLDaily is well known. But if you don’t like my commentary, you may want to try Edu_RSS:
    http://www.downes.ca/edurss02.htm

    The lesson here is that you need not – and should not – depend on journals and magazines to keep up any more; the information available in RSS from the blogosphere is much more reliable. As even a short experience with Edu_RSS will prove.

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