Suber Predicts Open Access Unstoppable Trend In 2007

In the December SPARC Open Access Newsletter, Peter Suber provides an evaluation of the results of the November elections from the point of view of Open Access (sometimes defined as free public access to federally funded research), and provides his predictions for Open Access in 2007.

Suber notes that Open Access advocate Lieberman won and Open Access opponents Santorum and DeWine lost, yielding 3 critical victories for Open Access policies. (On another political note, net neutrality advocate Ed Markey will chair the House Telecom and Internet Subcommittee.)

Perhaps because of these victories, Suber is optimistic about Open Access for 2007:

* The spread of OA archiving policies by funding agencies and universities is an unstoppable trend. As in 2006, we’ll see more mandates than requests, and we’ll see more policies from funders than universities.

* The spread of institutional repositories is equally unstoppable. The number of universities launching them is growing fast and the conviction that they are an obvious, even tardy development is growing faster. More and more universities will launch them in a spirit of catch-up, rather than as break-out break-throughs. They will soon be a new fact of life for universities, like libraries or web sites, and the discussion will shift from their utility to the best practices for filling them.

What do these trends mean for academic libraries? It’s not yet clear, which is to say, I have no idea. But it seems huge. Greater minds will discuss the developments at a SPARC and ACRL sponsored forum at the ALA Midwinter Conference.

Where’s The Library In This Partnership

I just learned from Blackboard’s November 2006 newsletter that a new partnership was established with Google. My university (and probably your’s too) is a Blackboard customer, and I do like to see them establishing new ventures that expand the utility of their courseware system and its value to our faculty and students. While the two companies are working together to incorporate a number of Google tools into Blackboard the one that is of most concern to me involves Google Scholar. According to the press release about the collaboration:

An exciting outcome of the partnership is the integration of the Blackboard Learning System (TM) and Google Scholar. The integration of these two products…enables quick and easy access to millions of scholarly references directly from courses within the Blackboard environment.

The press release then goes on to exclaim the many virtues of Google Scholar. Don’t get me wrong. Despite my reputation as an occasional Google naysayer I think there are some real benefits to this aspect of the partnership. Scholar, when combined with the library’s link resolver technology, has the power to serve as a discovery tool that can actually lead students into the library’s treasure-trove of resources. Integrating it into the Blackboard course (even though it requires a building block that makes taking advantage of this possible only for those who have Blackboard’s enterprise version) is a good example of “be where the users are” thinking because it has the potential to put students one link closer to the library’s e-content right in a dynamic learning space.

The operative word there is “potential”. What really concerns me is that all too often academic libraries are completely out of the courseware loop on their campuses. Yes, there are the shining examples of academic libraries that run and support courseware on their campuses, but I still hear all too many tales of librarians who are shut out by their campus courseware administrators. I can too easily envision campus courseware administrators, be they in academic computing or IT, deploying the building block that integrates Google Scholar into Blackboard without informing the librarians or seeking their collaboration in the process. Many libraries have yet to implement link resolver technology, and without it Google Scholar will further marginalize the library’s e-content. It also potentially puts students in a position to pay for full-text access to resources their library may already provide.

I hope this mention of the Blackboard-Google partnership will encourage academic librarians to take a leadership position on their campus in any consideration of integrating Google Scholar into the courseware system. There should be some discussion about the implications of Google Scholar’s integration into Blackboard, and what that means for the library and the user community. Handled properly, it has the potential to be a beneficial advancement. If not, it just further widens the divide between the library and their constituency. How’s this going to play out on your campus?

And while I’m asking questions, why aren’t we seeing any partnerships to better integrate the library’s aggregator database and catalog content into the courseware system? What are the library database aggregator’s waiting for? To see how many other ways Google can think of to eat their lunch? A truly cynical librarian might even question if the aggregators and e-journal publishers are fine with allowing Google to serve up their content in a non-library container because it opens up the possibility for IHEs and their students to pay twice for the same content. But you know I’m not a cynical librarian, right.

Reinventing Undergraduate Education

Live Conference Blogging – a first for me!

I have the privilege of participating in a conference sponsored by The Reinvention Center at Stony Brook Transforming the Culture: Undergraduate Education and the Multiple Functions of the Research University . This conference has a unique theme of connecting classroom learning with other academic activities on campus. The program features library connections in many sessions, including an all-conference case study panel presentation about the collaborative Mellon Project at the University of California, Berkeley. No concern about librarians not having a place at the table this time!

James Moeser, Chancellor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in his keynote address shared his institution’s process to implement a new undergraduate curriculum (including longitudinal measures of student learning) and initiatives that focus on connections in many dimensions. Being focused on connections requires vigilence and continued effort as it is very easy for people to slip back into separate silos. His remarks challenged me to think about how faculty-librarians collaborations can be so difficult to initiate and sustain. Perhaps our own silos are so comfortable we don’t allow ourselves to be changed by our collaborations and so they remain superficial and thus easy to neglect over time.

The panel from Berkeley presented an inspiring case study of the impact that robust campus collaboration can have on student learning. I think particularly effective was having a librarian, campus administrator, and faculty leader on the panel. The Berkeley Mellon project can’t be just taken and applied to every campus – for reasons both financial and cultural. What is key is that we start the conversations about what is possible on our campuses and inspire participation of our own.

So Where Are The Academic Librarian Bloggers

Thanks to those of you who added a link to your blog at the Academic Blog Portal or mentioned it in your blog. Last week I put out a call for all academic librarian bloggers to add their blog to a new wiki for academic blogs. I pointed out that it actually has a section for academic librarian blogs. For once we were not ignored or treated as the forgotten child of higher education. Initially I was a bit letdown that only a couple of bloggers, certainly no more than 15 or so, added their own blogs to the list of 10 or so I started the wiki section with. But things picked up later in the week and now there are at least 30 blogs there (although one is more of a library blog than a personal blog – but why be picky at this point). It would be nice to see wikipages, not just links, for all the blogs on the page.

I still have to believe there are more than 30 academic librarians blogging. There’s got to be hundreds of librarian blogs, and I would imagine that academic librarians represent more than just a small segment of the total. I recall that Michael Stephens did a blogger survey, and I believe he had some data to suggest there are lots of academic librarians blogging. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find the survey data at his blog.

Why bother adding your blog? For discovery – that’s why! I saw that a blog called Library Voice had been added to the portal. I had never come across this blog before. Its author is Chad F. Boeninger, Reference & Instruction Librarian, web manager, and Business & Economics Bibliographer at Ohio University. Within a few minutes of looking over Boeninger’s posts I came across one about a tutorial he created for Academic Search Premier. What a great discovery. I immediately contacted Boeninger to see if he might be open to sharing his Captivate file. Thank you Academic Blog Portal for leading me to it.

Just this morning I discoverd a blog called David’s Random Stuff by David Free, a Public Services Librarian at the Decatur Campus Library of Georgia Perimeter College. I’m going to add it – and others as I come across them – but please help build our area of the blog portal by adding your own personal or team blog or getting colleagues that are blogging to add to the Portal. SO, please do like the Geeky Artist Librarian and be sure to mention the new University Librarian Blog section of the Academic Blog Portal in your blog. Get the word out there.

Try Avoiding The “A” Word

With growing attention being paid to higher education accountability at the national level as evidenced by the recent final report of the U.S Commission on Higher Education, our institutions are increasingly focused on building a variety of assessment methods into the curriculum. Of course, accomplishing effective assessment across the institution is easier said than done. There are no sure-fire or easy ways to get the job done, and it often is met with resistance at different levels across the institution. Academic librarians are aware of the need for assessment, and as a profession we have made some significant contributions to the assessment movement at our institutions.

But even with the many articles, programs and standards related to the assessment of library services, it is something we still find difficult to grasp. In an effort to help institutions in my neck of the woods improve their understanding of and ability to conduct assessment, a regional higher education association conducted a full-day assessment workshop which I had the good fortune to attend. A theme repeated throughout the workshop was that part of the assessment challenge is the word itself. Either people don’t get it or they are adverse to being a part of the process. The experts’ advice was to avoid using the “A” word at all. Instead, frame discussions about assessment in terms of the simple question “What do you want students to be able to do?” The answers to that question can then form learning outcomes for individuals courses, the institution as a whole or for skill attainment areas such as information literacy. Other basic questions that can contribute to both the identification of outcomes and ways to measure them include:

  • Do we meet or exceed accreditation standards?
  • Do we compare well to others?
  • Are we meeting goals?
  • Are we getting better?
  • Are we getting the most out of our investments?
  • Perhaps when we replace our assessment jargon with some simple questions we might actually make more progress in determining the extent to which the academic library contributes to students achieving institutional learning outcomes. Just coincidentally, later in the week, Pace University issued an assessment report that provides some interesting ideas for assessing student learning. While it’s an institutional blueprint for assessment it makes good reading for those who wish to learn more about higher education assessment challenges and approaches. The demand for greater accountability in higher education is likely to only grow in strength. It would benefit academic librarians to develop methods to both quantitatively and qualitatively demonstrate how their libraries contribute to students’ academic success. Oh, and a final benefit of attending an assessment workshop – finding out that your peers are just as challenged by it as you are.