Monthly Archives: June 2008

Georgia State Strikes Back

If the university presses that sued Georgia State over the use of electronic readings offered their students through the campus CMS, department pages, and library e-reserves were looking for a “whoops” and the kind of statement that Cornell (and other schools) have adopted – they guessed wrong.

At issue: well, it depends on how you frame it. University presses think Georgia State violated their rights by not “seeking permission” (copyright lingo for “paying”) to use digital copies of their publications. They want the university to adopt practices that are at least closer to their more limited definition of fair use. Georgia State believes they were furthering students’ education in a way that is fair use. And in papers filed on Tuesday they’ve just explained their side of it to the court.

Andrea Foster’s article in the Chron (the only coverage of this development that I’ve seen so far) points out that Georgia State is making another argument – as a state institution they’re immune from prosecution.

Without having a copy of the filing, it’s hard to read the tea leaves – but this could be precedent-setting in ways the previous settlements were not. How interesting that this document was filed just before ALA is having its annual meeting in Annaheim and at the very same time the American Association of University Presses is meeting in Toronto. I’d love to have two flies on those conference center walls with Twitter accounts.

(The AAUP has a statement of support for the press’s suit posted on their website, but it’s from last April. I tried to see if they have updates on their blog, but guess what – it’s closed to non-members. I also couldn’t find a statement from Georgia State’s press office at their Website.)

Do you know more about this court filing? Do tell.

Why This is Important to YOU

Lately, I’ve been in a marketing frame of mind. The information literacy committee I’m on is busy coming up with ways to spread the information literacy word and develop new and exciting PR techniques. My regional library is just starting production of a newsletter, geared towards faculty (informational, but a marketing tool nonetheless). I’m brainstorming ideas for my tri-sided bulletin board in the library lobby. I’m even getting hit with marketing advice at conferences: a few weeks ago I attended my regional ACRL chapter conference and who should the keynote speaker be? None other than the chair of the marketing department at a local college.

It seems strange, because I’ve never really given marketing much conscious thought. It just seems to sort of happen. Of course I know that libraries, like any other “business,” have to “sell” their their services. But wait a minute: are libraries really businesses? Should they really have to convince people to use their services? These questions are loosely tied to the old Patron vs. Customer debate. At the ACRL chapter conference I attended, there were some rather strong opinions about college students being viewed as customers of the library, since they do pay enormous amounts for tuition. And I’ve seen this debate elsewhere, too (take a look at the Information Literacy Instruction listserv archives for a heated discussion on whether or not instruction librarians should treat their students as paying customers) . Some librarians think it’s outrageous to view students this way, while others think it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t really see the “library as a business” model as all that evil; in some ways, it even makes sense. Any organization that wants the population they serve to be aware of and use their products must find a way to let the population know about said products. This is the same regardless of whether or not your population pays for the services you provide. And there we have it: the essentials of marketing.

Now that I find myself actively involved in library marketing, I have to think about these issues. To be honest, I really don’t think it matters at all whether or not we call the people who come into our libraries “patrons” or “customers,” or even “users.” Even if I worked at some sort of fantasy free university (can you imagine??), I wouldn’t treat the students any differently (other than being slightly envious, as I contemplate my student loans waiting to be paid off). I’d still have to find some way to let them know about information literacy, or our workshops, or databases that will be of use to them. That’s why we’re here, right?

This brings me to my last thought. How do I get the point across that these are things they need to know? What kind of marketing works for this generation of students? My info lit committee has come up with numerous ideas, including YouTube videos (in the style of the DePauw Libraries Visual Resource Center) and having a weekly column in the student paper. We’re even considering something in the style of Lav Notes: a marketing tool that consists of flyers and advertisements posted to the doors of restroom stalls. I think we’re on the right track, but students can be a fickle bunch. While we struggle to find ways of telling them why information literacy, and whatever else, is relevant and important, some new style of media may be grabbing their attention. In the end, I just hope that they’ll be curious enough, desperate enough, or maybe just conscious of their financial investment, to be swayed by our marketing techniques and come by the library to see what we can offer them. But, hey, if all else fails, I guess they’ll always need to use the bathroom, right?

Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

Daily Newspapers Consider Radical Change

I take a commuter train to work. My unscientific survey reveals that out of every ten newspaper readers, nine are reading the highly condensed, mostly infotainment and poorly reported – but free – commuter’s newspaper. The tenth person is reading the Philadelphia Inquirer. So it’s no wonder that this country’s metropolitan daily papers are considering radical change. Ideas under consideration include highly condensed versions a few days each week, eliminating paper editions on some days (see the web version those days) or eliminating home delivery most days in order to save gas. Previous ACRLog posts have pointed to the similar experiences of academic libraries and newspapers. Both mediate information to an end-user audience and are being displaced by other information providers. People pay for print newspapers. Libraries are free to end users; it hasn’t helped us avoid a similar fate. According to a recent BusinessWeek article, newspapers aren’t waiting to find out what they offer that can’t be replaced. They are exploring new ideas for reaching their communities in print and online. Some additional insights were offered by Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the NYT, when he spoke at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Executive Leadership Forum (See “Upheaval in News Business” on 6/10/08- no longer free). Keller said the NYT is discovering new “creative energy” by merging their online and print staffs, and supplementing in-depth articles with blogs and reader forums. Despite those efforts many expect one or two metropolitan dailies to shut their doors permanenly or at least cease publishing a print edition. Let’s hope the academic library’s similarities with newspapers ends there.

Web Surveys Have Inherent Problems

In an ACRLog post written a while back I expressed some concerns about the rise of library research being conducted by e-mail surveys. Want to research the use of clickers by academic librarians? Just send out a “take my survey” announcement to several discussion lists. It’s fast, it’s easy and it’s reliable. Well maybe you get two out of three with online surveys. Now experts are beginning to question the online survey; they may have too many weaknesses. According to an article in BusinessWeek, there are inherent problems with online surveys. The key problem is that the pools of respondents “rarely represent the larger population”. Online surveys have a tendency to attract opinionated people; they tend to respond to every survey while others ignore them all. While there are also problems with obtaining reliable results (the same surveys conducted just weeks apart had wildly different results), owing to their ease and convenience online surveys are here to stay. To improve representativeness and reliability, survey firms are mixing their methods. The surveys are still online, but they are randomly contacting individuals by phone or e-mail and inviting them to participate. That adds more statistical rigor to the web-based survey.

Follow Tips and Ideas for Speakers

We can all use some good advice to improve the quality of our presentations. A while back I recommended taking some time to watch videos of great presenters; you can learn a great deal by seeing the experts at work – and I provided some of the top sources for these videos. If you prefer to just read presenting tips to get ideas on how to do a better job, I have a suggestion for you. Take a look at Alltop’s new “speaking” section. Alltop is a site that compiles, on a daily basis, articles and posts from a wide range of news and blog sources. I sometimes use their education page to find posts for Kept-Up Academic Librarian. At Alltop Speaking you can quickly find tips on everything from the pros and cons of giving out your slides as a handout, to getting a presentation started, to being a better panelist. It’s also a great way to discover new presenting blogs. So take a look. It may just lead to better presentations.

Did You Try Talking To A Librarian?

Take a look at the blog Burnt Out Adjunct where the author has a post titled “Google Is Not Research“. BOA writes:

These students are not agog at the level and breadth of information available to them. Rather, they expect to be able to, within a few key strokes, to gain access to whatever information they seek. And, with aggregated search engines like Yahoo! and Google, they are, to a large extent, able to accomplish this…The cranky, if well-meaning professors, once confronted with such a bibliography, stare at the creatures seated in front of them and wonder, probably correctly, if these poor deluded punks have ever set foot in the hallowed halls of the school library. They haven’t. In their minds, they do not need to.

Read the rest, but as I did I kept asking myself, has BOA ever talked to one of the institution’s academic librarians. I doubt it. Collaboration could be a wonderful thing…if faculty, even the adjuncts, gave a thought to inviting us to participate. Or maybe we need to work harder to reach them. Anyway, you can see my comment to the post.

Programs for academic librarians at Annual

It’s hard to believe that ALA Annual has snuck up on us again, but here it is coming up this week! For those of you who will be joining the ranks in Mickey Mouse’s hometown, ACRLog has put up a new page on our site with a concise (ish) listing of all the programs that are relevant to college and university libraries.

And for those who may be interested, I hope to see you at the University Libraries Section Program, “R U Communicating? Speaking the Language of Millennials,” which I’ve been planning along with some other great ULS folks. I’ve got to say, I had no idea how much work and energy goes into planning these events until I found myself on the other side of the fence. I have a new respect for the programs now…

Hope you have a wonderful conference!

Core Values Must Come First

In the past few weeks I attend two equally thought provoking presentations. Although the content was radically different, as were the presenters, – one a library science professor and the other a business faculty member and corporate consultant – there was a common theme in each talk that resonated strongly with me. Both talks, in a way, were about a subject much on the minds of academic librarians these days. How do we adapt to a radically transforming information landscape in which our very relevance is put to the test?

The first of the two was David Lankes, Associate Professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. I heard him present at the Connecticut Library Association where he spoke about the “library as conversation”. Lankes urged the audience to keep asking ourselves two essential questions: why are we doing this and why does it matter to the people for who we do it? The answers, it was suggested, would emerge from a fundamental understanding of our core values, from which we could then develop innovative resources and services to better serve our communities. Lankes’ advice to the audience: “Be the wave machine, not the wave”.

The other presenter was William Gribbons, Professor of Information Design and Corporate Communications at Bentley College, but also a consultant to dozens of corporations. I heard him give a talk about user experience at a professional development program at the Rutgers University Library. Gribbons made a strong case that academic libraries could no longer win over students and faculty with links to e-resources alone. When all information providers look the same, only by differentiating the library could progress be made. According to Gribbons a unique user experience is carefully designed and constructed, but whatever that experience is it should be shaped by the organization’s core values.

While neither speaker actually defined what a core value is or how one discovers it, I think Lankes came close by instructing the attendees to work at understanding what business their library is in. He thought the business of libraries was knowledge creation. I like to think it is learning and promoting academic success. There are other possibilities but I believe all of them must be based on creating relationships with our users from which they will obtain meaning. When we understand the business we are in and how that translates to creating meaning for our users those core values will emerge.

So where do we begin? Exploring and articulating a library’s core values, as you’d expect, involves some soul searching, both individually and collectively, and collegial conversations – among staff and with the user community. But these two rather different speakers pointed to much the same thing: core values must come first. Having a sound, basic and fundamental understanding of those values will drive efforts to develop a plan for innovation or provide a better user experience that will guide us through disruptive technology change, hyper-competitive information environments and the many other challenges that are sure to confront academic librarians.