Monthly Archives: January 2008

You Won’t Discover Much About Academic Librarians In This Discovery Tool

I’m a big fan of EDUCAUSE publications. From the regular magazines such as EDUCAUSE Quarterly and EDUCAUSE Review, to the many white papers, and the Seven Things You Need to Know series, I think EDUCAUSE has radically raised the bar for what an association can accomplish with its publications. I’m sure ACRL pays attention to this, and is seeking to raise its bar as well. So I was somewhat disappointed when I examined the just released ELI Discovery Tool: Net Generation Workshop Guide. Here is the description:

The ELI Discovery Tool: Net Generation Workshop Guide is designed as an action-oriented, modifiable resource for faculty development and other instructional uses. We have focused on the Net Generation because serves as a starting point for many other discussions about active learning, emerging technologies, information fluency, learning space design, and assessment.

Sounds interesting, right. Here’s a resource I can use to design faculty development programs. The guide has 9 different educational units that can be offered individually or as a group. Each module is designed to produce a two-hour workshop. So far it’s all good. But things really fell flat when I examined the module on information literacy (see unit 8). I will give kudos to EDUCAUSE for at least including it in a learning guide geared to help faculty understand the millennial generation. If nothing else it might help to create some awareness among our faculty.

But reading this guide you wouldn’t know that librarians had anything to do with information literacy programming. There isn’t a single mention of the word “librarian” and there is no suggested activity that involves librarians. I know that academic librarians don’t own information literacy, but at a minimum couldn’t the “follow-up” section even suggest something like “talk to your campus librarians about developing an information literacy initiative” or “find out what your campus librarians are doing to help students develop better research skills”. And while I have great respect for Diana Oblinger, to look at the resources listed in the guide you’d think she was the only person who ever authored a publication about information literacy – not even a link to ACRL’s information literacy resource page?

I know that ACRL has a program to organize its effort to reach out to other associations to develop joint efforts to promote the goals of the association. I know our ACRL colleagues can’t be aware of everything that’s happening at its partner associations, but did something fall through the cracks here? I can imagine few things more central to ACRL’s mission than an EDUCAUSE publication designed to educate faculty about information literacy. It seems there were some opportunities for inter-association communication here, but it looks like that just didn’t happen in this case. I hope that the next time EDUCAUSE is developing educational or programmatic materials about information literacy or any issues in which ACRL has a vested interest some cooperative interaction will be a part of the process.

Is Facebook this generation’s Rolling Stones?

I saw an interesting piece on Frontline (PBS) last night called Growing Up Online. I was interested in watching the program because of all the social networking talk that has been at the forefront of academic librarianship in the last year or so; it’s also been mentioned several times on this blog. The Frontline piece talked about how teens are basically growing up virtually; submerged in the online worlds of sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Youtube. The piece revealed several interesting, but perhaps not surprising, “facts” about this new generation of online teens: kids and teens spend almost all of their free time (in school and out) online, virtual networking is the number one way this group communicates with one another (it even tops email), and incidences of “cyber-bullying” are on the rise (disturbing, but true).

The piece also talked about how cheating is a source of struggle in high schools due to the ease of use and the accessibility of materials on the Internet. Several high schools students interviewed claimed to use SparkNotes, a set of free online study guides, almost exclusively while doing homework. One boy announced that he never looks at the actual books assigned, and instead was able to “read” Romeo and Juliet via SparkNotes in just 9 pages. He said that if there were 27 hours in the day, he would gladly read Romeo and Juliet, but unfortunately there are only 24 hours. The sad thing was, he actually seemed sincere. I found this especially interesting considering the recent uproar about Steve Jobs’s comment that people don’t read anymore. I don’t think this one teenage boy can speak for an entire generation, but it’s a little disconcerting to find out that many teens consider “reading” to be the consultation of a study guide.

Since libraries started creating Facebook and MySpace pages, I have felt rather conflicted about the whole idea. I understand the theory of wanting to connect with students where they are (because, obviously, Facebook is where they spend most of their time), but I’ve always wondered if it can be truly affective. I’ll be honest: I’m 25, I use Facebook to stay connected with friends, and if I were still in college, I wouldn’t be “friending” my professors and librarians. Hearing the interviews on Frontline only confirmed my suspicions that teens and young adults don’t want authorities online. They’re very secretive and protective of their niche, and they just don’t want the adults intruding. I believe this is true of any adult: parents, teachers, etc.

The title of this post is in reference to a comment in the Frontline piece that “the Internet has created the greatest generation gap since rock ‘n’ roll.” Associate producer Caitlin McNally, who is in her 20s, noted that even she felt somewhat out of touch with the students she interviewed:

Maybe even more striking to me was how social networking sites have become fully integrated into kids’ lives. I didn’t build my first profile until after college; it felt underground and novel, like being in on a joke. I’d never even heard the term “social networking.” Having a profile on the Internet was ancillary to my “real” life, while for the kids we met, it has become a fundamental element of what they do each day and how they represent who they are.

I’m with Ms. McNally on this one. I am surprised at times to feel a disconnect with the students I’m teaching, when many of them are less than a decade younger than I am. When I think about it, though, I doubt many of the students would want to hang out with me in real life; why would they want to hang out with me virtually? Thus, I’ve come to this conclusion: instead of “joining” students in their virtual space, I think we should try to focus on catering to their virtual learning styles. Whether this means offering more online workshops, or virtual reference services, or blogs and podcasts, I’m not sure. I’m just not convinced that implanting our libraries into Facebook and MySpace is making quite the splash we think it’s making. But, hey, I’m just a new librarian!

Designs on the Presidency

Do you have an eye for design? Do you at least have a pencil and a used envelope? The Chronicle is running a contest and wants your ideas for the Bush Presidential Library. Send in your literally back-of-the-envelope sketches. Certain themes have already been overdone, but there’s plenty of room for more.

Let’s just say that Mr. Bush should be less worried about the test scores of America’s children and more concerned about their imagination. How are we going to compete with China and India if our people can’t think outside the box (or outside the outhouse)? . . .

One more thing: We’ve heard that some architects and architecture firms are reluctant to send in designs. They don’t want their libraries to run alongside crude pictures of toilets, we’ve heard, and they don’t want to be associated with a George W. Bush Library, even a make-believe one.

We have some responses to this: Regarding your peers in the contest, we have made clear that we’ll winnow the entries; the outhouse designs probably won’t make the cut.

Regarding the PR repercussions of designing a library for a not-very-popular Bush, just be courageous. (Your entry will be anonymous during the reader-voting process, anyway.) Great architects have been known to be brave, proud, and even pugnacious, not intimidated by even the most daunting projects. Mustering courage for an imaginary building can’t be that hard.

Sharpen those pencils. Fire up your imaginations. The deadline for entries is February 1st.

Mastering The Art Of Adaptation

ACRLog and its readers have engaged in some lively conversation about leadership in the last few weeks, and I hope you are looking forward to another post about it (sorry Barbara). I attended OCLC’s 2008 Symposium on “New Leadership for New Challenges” at the ALA Midwinter Conference. Described as an exploration of “how both individual and institutional leadership has an impact on the success of libraries” the program featured Leslie Crutchfield, co-author of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High Impact Nonprofits and Rush Miller, co-author of Beyond Survival: Managing Academic Libraries in Transition. The two speakers gave different, but occasionally overlapping, presentations about organizations that transform through change and how they achieve sustainable success. The common thread: great leadership.

Crutchfield’s philosophies and strategies are based on a detailed analysis of successful nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Heritage Fund. Successful nonprofits (including libraries) achieve positive social change. What are the six practices? Advocate for a long-term vision; what will the world or your community look like when you succeed? Make markets work; yes, you can achieve success by collaborating with for profits. Inspire evangelists; convert your community into true believers and get them to do your job for you (that one should sound familiar to the scholarly publishing advocates). Nurture your nonprofit network; collaborate with peers to succeed. Master the art of adaptation; know your mission and do whatever it takes to accomplish it even if it’s not mainstream. Share leadership; leaders need to let go and let others share the power. Crutchfield’s talk was more about the qualities of great nonprofits and less about leadership, but she gave case studies that clearly pointed to visionary leaders who had the courage to institute the six practices even when it meant taking great risks in the name of innovative change. That’s why she said that for libraries the number one practice should be mastering the art of adaptation.

Miller’s advice for survival – or avoiding complete marginalization in higher education – was more familiar to the audience of librarians. Referencing stories about change at this own library since 1994, he emphasized that achieving an adaptive library was about the attitude of the employees not organizational structure. Miller said that while a great leader alone can’t make all the difference, a great library must have a leader with a well-articulated vision and the confidence to pursue it. In response to a question Miller closed with some important advice for the next-gen leader. While today’s leaders (and folks, by leaders he meant top library administrators) obtained their jobs based on expertise in library skills (e.g., collection development, technical processing, etc.), the next generation must achieve their authority based on ability to adapt, innovate, identify problems and develop creative solutions.

Both speakers pointed out that great organizations, nonprofits and libraries, needed leadership throughout the organization – employees that are willing to be adaptive. But it was also clear that those adaptive employees needed a topnotch administrator – an executive director – to motivate and influence them to share in the leadership so that the organization could transform and move into the future. I suggest that in our future conversations we not debate where true leadership emanates from in the academic library, the administrator or the front-line worker, but that we focus instead on how the two can share leadership in a way that puts the mission and cause of the organization ahead of anyone’s ego.

OCLC will have a video recording of both presentations on their website sometime in February. If you’re interested in leadership and creating adaptive library organizations, plan on viewing the program archive.

Kindle Is A Failed Concept Says Jobs

There was lots of excitement generated by yesterday’s Macworld 2008 presentation by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Bet you can’t wait to get your hands on a MacBook Air. In an interview with some New York Times technology columnists after his presentation (the columnists called it “his performance”), Jobs had something interesting to say about other technology gadgets. The one comment I thought of most interest to our profession had to do with Amazon’s Kindle device for reading e-books. Jobs doesn’t have a problem with the technology, he just thinks it’s a pretty bad idea – and not because people don’t like to read e-books, they just don’t read much at all anymore. From the article:

Today he had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

When the Kindle first appeared there was a fair amount of discussion among librarians about how the device might be used to encourage reading. Jobs is pretty savvy about technology and consumer trends, and just the fact that he doesn’t see it going anywhere because people don’t read should be a cause for concern. Now perhaps his observation only concerns whether it can be a huge hit with consumers, rather than a niche product that will catch on with the 60% of people who do still read with some regularity. Perhaps the ultimate fate of books and reading will depend to some degree on academic librarians and things we might be able to do, perhaps working collaboratively with faculty, to encourage more reading and develop lifelong readers.

Then again, maybe Jobs would be satisfied if we all just watched television shows and movies on his company’s gadgets.