“There is more to life than work” – Gen X Faculty and U

This morning’s IHE brings us a report on emergent characteristics of Gen X professors, which brings some of the familiar characterizations of my generation into the study of faculty life. It turns out, for example, that we value transparency in the tenure and promotion process and the teaching component of academic life. Radical ideas!

As I read this report, I had two thoughts:

  1. this study seems somewhat “behind” the discussions we’ve had in the library community about Gen X professionals – likely because it takes longer to become credentialed and employed in an academic department than it does to do so in the library world; and,
  2. the fact that this study seems to bring key elements of the characterization of Gen X students into that of Gen X faculty members reinforces the importance of how we relate to the current generation of undergraduate students.

That is, if many of the characterizations that we (and others) have made about Millennial students and their relationship to the library (and, more broadly, to their information environment) carry forward in the same way, then we had really better focus our efforts on thoughtful transformation if we don’t want to read a report in 5-8 years telling us how Gen Y professors do or do not value the library.

“Can You Hear Me Now?” – EDUCAUSE Touts Information Literacy

In a brief discussion of the myth of student technology competency in this month’s EDUCAUSE Review, Diana Oblinger and Brian Hawkins remind the IT and higher education communities that the ability to download a ringtone to a cell phone does not equate to the ability to effectively locate, evaluate, manage, or present information.

For those of us in libraryland who have been conducting and presenting research on the information and technology literacy skills of our current generation of students, there is little new in the ER story (hence my double meaning of my appropriation of a familiar cell phone commercial tagline – yes, students can use technology, but what can they use it for and why should this seem like a new idea to the ER community given everything we’ve said about this for the past decade?).

For EDUCAUSE members, though, including campus CIOs and CAOs, the clear and cogent points that Oblinger and Hawkings make about the fact that one must be intentional and consistent about assuring that undergraduates do not leave college without well-developed ITL skills may be new. And, if so, they will provide an opportunity for discussion of ITL outside the library and in the environments where such discussions must take place if we are to provide the best instructional services that we can to our students and our faculty. If we’re lucky, we may be able to open a few doors to substantive collaboration with our colleagues (and to administrative support for library-based instructional initiatives) by plunking a copy of Oblinger and Hawkins (2006) down on the desk.

Bring “Helicopter Parents” In For A Landing @ Your Library

Today’s CHE provides a link to a Survey of Current College Parent Experiences (PDF), which, among other things, tells us that:

“Of the 839 parents surveyed, 74 percent communicated with their student two or three times a week and one in three did so at least once a day.”

This is consistent with what our Student Success people tell us here at Kansas and is one the the reasons why KU is one of the many institutions to have created a Parents’ Association, which begs the question: what are libraries doing for parents?

I first started to think about the significance of parent involvement a few years ago when the NSO staff at Washington State took the library off the standard summer orientation tour. I didn’t hear complaints about this from incoming students, but I did hear complaints from their parents who, for some odd reason, wanted their students to be oriented to academic resources as well as to social opportunities. That feedback helped with later NSO discussions. Here at Kansas, we have a very successful NSO workshop program, but the Parents’ Association is new and we’ll have to work to get involved. This would dovetail nicely with some development activities that we’ve pursued with parents of current students in partnership with the KU Endowment.

As the oft-cited-this-week Susan Gibbons mentioned in her presentation at the Taiga Forum, there is another dimension to “helicopter parenting,” as well. Her research showed that undergraduates are likely to consult parents during the research process and she concluded that effective ILI programming for parents could help direct their children back toward library resources and services during one of those weekly (or daily) phone calls.

So, another audience for our services and another opportunity to partner with our colleagues in Student Affairs!

Commission On Higher Ed Aims Sight On Accreditation

I hope ACRLog readers have been following the proceedings of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education over the last few months. Sometimes we are so focused on our libraries and institutions that we neglect to pay attention to the industry in which we work. I suppose that’s one reason I recently shared my higher education reading list. This morning the major higher education news outlets reported on a big development from the Commission, though I don’t think it was unexpected given its nature and the past work of its chairman.

Previously the Commission, which is focusing on how to create greater accountability for American IHEs, seemed to be concentrating on a national standards test for college students. Today they turn their attention to the regional accreditation process itself. In a issue paper released by the commission, they essentially question what in their view is:

a system that is created, maintained, paid for and governed by institutions is necessarily more likely to look out for institutional interests.

The Commission appears to have a number of problems with the current accreditation system beyond the fact that those being accredited create and support the system (I don’t think I’m stretching things by saying that the Commission is suggesting that because colleges and universities support the system, we go too easy on each other):
* accreditation standards between the regional agencies vary too widely
* specialized program accreditations are completely voluntary
* the quality of the higher education has fallen dramatically despite accreditation
* the current system if more focused on the needs of IHEs than the needs of the public
* the public has difficulty accessing accreditation data and reports

What is the solution to the problems of the existing accreditation system? More federal government oversight and involvement of course. The paper says the solution is:

A new organization could achieve the multiple needs for alignment. The Congress and the President could enact legislation creating The National Accreditation Foundation.

I believe it is Larry Hardesty who is fond of saying, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” in referring to such proposals. Having just went through the self-study process at my own institution, and having recently returned from participating on a re-accreditation review team at another institution, I would agree that the regional accreditation system – a system in which we review ourselves – is going to have some weaknesses and challenges. However, it is a system that in the opinion of many academics works effectively to maintain the quality of higher education. It is true, as the issue paper points out, that very few institutions ever lose their accreditation, but those who have worked within the system know that accreditation teams do observe and identify serious accountability flaws within institutions that are then closely monitored by the accrediting bodies until they are corrected. The thought of the federal government, especially given the ineptitude of the current administration, taking over the responsibility for higher education accreditation certainly sends a chill up my spine.