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.

The Only Laptop in the Room (and a Worthwhile Keynote Paper)

I’m not certain what I think it means but … I am attending this conference – The Student as Scholar: Undergraduate Research and Creative Practice – and am the only person I see with a laptop in the sessions. So different than presenting at ACRL and other recent library conferences where the blog posts about my presentations were posted to the web by attendees before I gathered my things up and left the podium. I sometimes wonder if librarians make too much of our willingness to embrace technology and use it to our advantage but then …

In any case, let me use my laptop to your advantage – take a look at the keynote – From Convocation to Capstone: Developing the Student as Scholar. Some interesting ideas and obvious connections to information literacy. I particularly think that academic librarians might benefit from becoming familiar with LEAP: Liberal Education and America’s Promise and especially the report College Learning for the New Global Century.

Libraries At The Cutting Edge

That’s the title of a commentary published today at Inside Higher Ed. Written by ACRL President Pam Snelson, this article will serve to inform IHE readers that the library is a vibrant and dynamic resource at their institution, and as Snelson says is “far from fading away in the Age of Google”. Published to coincide with the start of the ACRL National Conference, Snelson’s commentary will also remind IHE’s subscribers that libraries are about more than print and electronic resources, but that academic librarians are “partners in education.” Read the article and leave a comment in support of it.

If you are going to the ACRL conference in Baltimore, and you would like to meet to make suggestions for ACRLog or just share your views on blogs, academic librarianship or whatever, come to the ACRLog Roundtable session being held at 8:00 am on Saturday morning (we are table 9). I will be there with fellow ACRLog blogger Marc Meola to meet and greet ACRLog readers and to hear from you. We hope you will stop by to meet us.

The Benefits Of Working In Academia

Lots of New York Times readers were disappointed when the Times took away free access to editorials and commentaries and turned it into the subscription-only TimesSelect. Well those of us working in higher education are getting a break from the Times. They recently announced that as of March 13 students and faculty with an “edu” email address would be eligible to get free access to TimesSelect. From the press release:

Beginning on March 13, subscriptions to TimesSelect will be available for free to all registered college students and faculty with a .edu in their e-mail addresses. TimesSelect is NYTimes.com’s paid offering that provides exclusive access to 22 columnists of The Times and the International Herald Tribune as well as an array of other services, including access to The Times’s archives, advance previews of various sections and tools for tracking and storing news and information. Current student subscribers will receive pro-rated refunds for their previously paid subscriptions. College students interested in registering for free TimesSelect subscriptions should go to www.nytimes.com/university for more information.

Take note that it doesn’t say anything about free for librarians – and who the heck is actually buying all the New York Times content anyway. Talk about being disrespected. Anyway, if you want to get free access to TimesSelect you’ll have to adhere to the idea that librarians are practically faculty. When you fill out the form you have to choose student or faculty. When I first tried to register the form kept forcing me to identify my graduation date – even when I indicated my status was faculty. Dumb form! When I tried the form again the next day it did let me register as a faculty member. You may want to spread the word on your campus. It’s not exactly the “benefits of membership”, but something like that. Let’s see how long this stays free.

OA Made Simple . . . and Not So Simple

Want a quick way to explain open access to your faculty and students? This article from Auntie Beeb can help. It’s short and to the point.

A tad more complex (and required reading for academic librarians) is the statement on open access from the Association of American University Presses. The idea of taking pricey for-profit publishers out of the loop that produces new knowledge (through often publicly-funded research) and makes it publicly available (through often publicly-funded library collections) is easier to grasp than when open access risks dismantling a disinterested and public effort to select, edit, design, market, and promote the fruits of scholarship – which is what university presses do. They add value, but they’re forced more and more to turn to the commercial publishing sector for business models.

Here’s a simple fact: university presses are not like Random House. Like libraries, they are not profit centers. They are cost centers. And they need support, because university presses are a necessary part of bringing scholarly work to the public, for the public. Faculty depend on them. Libraries need them. And so does the public.

So here’s our homework for today:

Any decision to switch from a market to a gift economy requires very careful thought and planning. The AAUP and its member presses welcome the opportunity to collaborate with university administrators, librarians, and faculty in designing new publishing models, mindful that it is important to protect what is most valuable about the existing system, which has served the scholarly community and the general public so well for over a century, while undertaking reforms to make the system work better for everyone in the future.

This is a group assignment. Each member of the group must contribute equally. It’s worth 100% of the grade.