I recently attended an all day ACRL-NJ conference on plagiarism. NJ librarians have really taken the lead on this issue, spurred on by Rutgers University librarian Vibiana Bowman’s book of essays, the Plagiarism Plague. Previously I hadn’t thought too much about plagiarism, conceding the issue to disciplinary faculty and wondering what the librarian’s role could be. Librarians at least need to begin to inform themselves on the various issues surrounding plagiarism, such as defining what plagiarism is, gauging if it is on the rise and if so what are the causes, and then figuring out what we can do about it. Plagiarism seems to be on the rise throughout our culture, not merely among college students. Librarians can provide information about citation, develop tutorials, and be part of an overall culture that discourages academic dishonesty. In giving an overview of the legal issues of plagiarism detection services, Luis Rodriguez (Montclair State) made a point that stuck with me: he connected plagiarism to student learning. This seems to me a fruitful possible way to tie together plagiarism with information literacy.
EDUCAUSE ended with a lively session about ethical behavior in the digital world. It could have gone on for hours – and I would have listened to the four experts for that long. Clearly, we are in unknown territory, and the experts covered the spectrum from defending censorship and banning resources when it is for the greater good to allowing a free for all in cyberspace environment to allow for a “re-norming” of ethical behavior. While the discussions about the new nature of public information (we need to realize that so much of our lives is now publicly accessible – what’s on your web site?) and privacy/security of information were good, I think the most challenging issue for the panelists was their discussion of plagiarism. Clearly, cheating is never right, but the real issue debated was the use of detection software – there are many ethical issues here. As one speaker asked, “Why do we treat students as potential criminals?” Unfortunately, other than a comment from an audience member, little was said about plagiarism avoidance as a solution to the “countermeasure” war. The most salient point I heard was from the speaker who said that with respect to the ethical issues discussed, we have already lost the current generation (I assume he means millennials) – they are set in their ways. We could debate that but I think you know what he means. If they think it’s all right to plagiarize, illegally download, or practice other ethically questionable behavior, no faculty member or librarian will likely change their attitudes. He said we need to start educating the next generation, or at least have an educational system in place so that we can begin to create the necessary cultural change that will perhaps instill more ethical behavior in cyberspace. Hmmm, offer user education to create cultural change. That sounds like a familiar theme with respect to the changing culture of student research. Is it too late to reach the current generation with user education? I think not, and maybe that’s a debate for another day. The complete post is not there yet, but it appears someone will be blogging this session at the EDUCAUSE site – should you want more details.
Dynamic stability was the theme of Karen Holbrookâ€™s, OSU President, keynote address this morning at EDUCAUSE. She emphasized that as IHEs grow more sophisticated in their technology they must retain and be guided by their core values. I think academic librarians have heard that message before in our own literature and conferences. In many ways the talk was complimentary in many ways of academic libraries â€“ without specifically mentioning them. There were many examples of ways in which the academic library can contribute to and further the realization of core values on every campus. However, at the end of her talk, Holbrook became direct about the enduring value of libraries. She finished her talk with a great tribute to the OSU libraries and OhioLink. It was great for all of the IT folks to hear librarians be described as â€œleaders in creating a digital future.â€ But Holbrook pointed out its about much more than digital assets. She mentioned that OSU is renovating their library and said, â€œWe want our library to be a place that pays tribute to books and the pursuit of human knowledge â€“ and we still need books. We want a library that brings people together. Libraries are the best example of dynamic stability â€“ constantly changing but always a stable source of help within our institutions.â€ (note â€“ I had to get that quote quickly so it may not be quite exact – but it’s close). What a great way to start the day!
I attended the first keynote address at EDUCAUSE this morning. Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, had some interesting things to say. His themes illustrated how interconnected the higher education and computing industries are, and that globally these two can advance education. He said we have moved from the information age to the participation age. Itâ€™s no longer about retrieving information on the net, but about everyone and everything happening in a participative community. He said â€œItâ€™s about contributing via social networks.â€ This resonated with me because Iâ€™ve been thinking that academic libraries need to figure out where we fit into this participation age. Sure, weâ€™re blogging at our libraries, but how do we create communities in which our faculty and students participate. For the most part, I doubt they even read academic library blogs or contribute to them. We need to get integrated into the blogging and wiki activity that is happening in the classroom. We are already doing this to some extent within courseware, but we need to explore these frontiers further. What didnâ€™t resonate with me was McNealyâ€™s statement that â€œevery library on every campus is at risk to Google. The digital natives are on Google so fast that they donâ€™t even know there is a library.â€ I wish I could have handed him a copy of the Chronicleâ€™s special report on libraries from a few weeks ago â€“ they are giving them out at the Chronicle booth in the exhibit hall. Like many IT experts, I donâ€™t think he has a real clue about whatâ€™s happening in academic libraries â€“ but letâ€™s not deceive ourselves that we have no competition. My favorite â€“ his top ten list of excuses for not handing in homework in the digital age. It included, â€œMy cut and paste keys on the keyboard are worn outâ€ and â€œI plan on open sourcing my homework from the kid next to meâ€ â€“ good stuff. If you want to follow more of what is happening at EDUCAUSE (beyond my occasional posts) there is lots of conference blogging and podasting to be found on the EDUCAUSE site.