Lots of interesting stuff in this week’s Chron on technology and libraries. One piece in particular is a paranoid’s dream. James G. Neal, in “Information Anarchy or Information Utopia?” offers a long list of our current phobias. Now I’m worried because hardly any of this stuff frightens me.
An example: “The relationships between libraries and faculty members will be disruptive. We must more effectively integrate the library into the academic enterprise. Libraries must be professors’ partners, not their servants.” Wow. When I showed up for work twenty years ago as a member of the faculty nobody asked me where my maid’s uniform was. If that was disruptive, I missed it.
And this: “And the weak leadership-development efforts in academic libraries will produce chaotic administrative turnover. Where will we find the next generation of academic-library leaders?” Um, how about looking at the librarians we’re hiring? They’re not wearing maid’s uniforms either. In fact, most of the ones I know are expecting to lead, and excited about it. If leadership is reserved to administrators who have to be removed from libraries to receive special training, we’re in trouble. You know how they do it in the sciences? They mentor new scientists and they do so assuming they are all part of the same glorious enterprise. That’s leadership development with integrity.
Anxiety is one of the most potent levers available for making your agenda into a significant social issue. (If you want to know how it works, read Philip Jenkins or Joel Best. Fascinating stuff.) Librarians are as prone as anyone to sound the alarms in order to raise the profile of something they care about. But on most of the issues listed in this article I think our profession has a much better record than Neal suggests. It’s the Wrong Platform Syndrome. We are perennially afraid of being left behind, even when we’re ahead of the curve.
Maybe it’s just a simple misunderstanding. Anarchists are utopians. They believe people are capable of acting in the insterests of others. The majority of librarians and library workers I know fall into that camp (without being perceived as servants) and they don’t think change is disruptive; it’s simply the most rewarding part of the job.
ACRL has opened registration for the ACRL/Harvard Leadership Institute 2006. Reviews of earlier Harvard programs have been strong, and this year’s program again promises participants the opportunity to explore their own leadership style and to critically evaluate how well-positioned their home institutions are to meet future challenges.
There are a variety of leadership development initiatives now available to librarians, including regional programs like TLA’s Tall Texans, IT-infused programs like EDUCAUSE’s Frye Institute, and programs designed to prepare leaders for specific initiatives, including information literacy instruction, and scholarly communication. And, of course, there’s Senior Fellows. I’d be interested to hear from program alumni what they gained from these programs in the area of leadership and, for those who have attended more than one, how they felt the different programs complemented one another.
An addendum: given all the resources dedicated to these programs, it’s also worth asking how effective they have been in terms of actually helping to prepare the current/next generation of library leadership. I remember some work that Mark Winston did some years back tracing the career trajectory of Snowbird alumni, but haven’t tracked any similar studies that may have been done of regional program alumni, etc.
Building on the successful professional development model found in programs like the ACRL/Harvard Leadership Institute and the Institute for Information Literacy Immersion program, ACRL will be teaming up with ARL to provide an Institute on Scholarly Communication in July 2006. From the brochure:
“As a participant in this 2.5 day immersion program, you will become fluent with scholarly communication issues and trends so that you are positioned to educate others on your library staff, engage in campus communications programs and other advocacy efforts, and work collaboratively with other participants to begin developing an outreach plan for your campus.”
No information yet on program faculty, but applications aren’t due until April 1, 2006, so there’s time for much more content to be delivered. Mark your calendars!
Library Link of the Day brought me this interesting essay on online degree programs. In it, Karen Glover of Georgia Tech asks why a recent survey of HR professionals showed that they view online degrees as less “credible” than degrees earned through traditional, face-to-face programs. She wonders about this bias, and so would I (although Glover doesn’t say that the survey she cites was of HR professionals in libraries, which seems a significant point to omit). I’ve taught in 2 online MLS programs (Illinois and San Jose State) and have found the majority of my students to be as actively engaged in preparing for a career in libraries as anyone that I knew during my own F2F MLS program at Indiana. Although my perspective on their work is typically limited to what they do for my class, I certainly think that they have the opportunity to receive as good a pre-service professional education as I did (although, as anyone who has read my work knows, I’ve taken issue with a number of aspects of professional education for librarians, in general, and those issues are not any less evident in online degree programs).
Professional education and recruitment into the profession have been identified by ACRL as one of the top issues facing academic librarianship, and there is no question that the availability of online degree programs has opened up the field to people who cannot relocate to one of the cities housing a F2F program, and has opened up opportunities (albeit limited ones) for practicing librarians also not located near one of these programs to take part in LIS education. I know that I would not be at all “concerned” if a candidate for a position at Kansas had completed the ALA-accredited degree through an online program (and I might well be thinking about how that experience could translate into effective delivery of services to faculty and students making use of Blackboard here). Others? Is Glover’s citation of the general study not applicable to the academic library environment, or is this something that needs further research within our own community? Is there any difference between completing one’s pre-service professional education in an online environment vs. completing continuing education (much of which is sponsored by LIS programs and by ACRL) in that same environment?
Amazing all the interesting stuff that can wash up in one’s in-box in a single day. The Chronicle reports that some of the first books scanned in the Google Library project are now online. Google’s blog shows some of the texts. I notice that some are missing the “find in a library” link to WorldCat that the library project is supposed to include (a link that is absent on the digital books supplied by publishers; the idea was to include it on the library-scanned books). Still no memo describing how Google plans to take over the world. We’ll just have to either take their word for it that they’re good guys – or use our imaginations. And wait to see what the courts decide.
If you want paranoia with that, here’s a scary item from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: your printer may be watching you. Remember how detectives used to match documents to the typewriter they were written on by noticing the top of the letter T was a little chipped? Well – that’s sort of the idea. Embed a secret code that can match a page to a specific printer. And how handy when industry does the advance work for you! It strikes me as a tad bizarre that we live in a country in which the idea of making a record of the unique grooves and lands in any handgun as it goes from the manufacturer to the marketplace is totally untenable. Nope. No way. Threatens our civil liberties. Fuggetaboutit. But ideas? Speech? Expression? Hey, those things are dangerous, dude! We need to be able to track back and see where they came from. The Feebs, of course, say it’s just to apprehend counterfeiters, but that’s about as comforting as being told I shouldn’t worry about the PATRIOT Act unless I’m a terrorist.
The EFF tidbit (not the rant) came from the wonderful folks at LII – which has a spiffy new look. Between their weekly update and the one from the Scout Report I usually find plenty of interesting academic sites to share with faculty or to add to our subject guides. Or just to make me think.
Now if Steven would just find a way to add a button to his Kept-Up Librarian that would automatically download all the news fit to feed directly to my brain, I would truly feel kept up. But I would definitely need a memory upgrade.