Yet Another Leadership Development Opportunity

If you’re not already planning to attend the Frye Leadership Institute or the ACRL/Harvard Leadership Institute, you may be interested by the newest entrant in the field, the Peabody College Academic Library Leadership Institute to be held for the first time this summer at Vanderbilt University.

The latest collaboration between Patricia Senn Breivik and E. Gordon Gee, who brought us the landmark Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library almost 20 years ago, the Institute promises to explore “new roles for libraries that may emerge from [the broader context of higher education] to support the goals and priorities of the parent institution. ”

Also interesting is Vanderbilt’s challenge to other leadership development programs:

“The focus on understanding leadership and the external environment, coupled with an in depth understanding of the higher education context of libraries, distinguishes Vanderbilt’s institute from others, which emphasize management skills and the internal library organization.”

Wow – anyone from Harvard or EDUCAUSE want to reply to that one?

Without taking anything away from what will undoubtedly be an excellent program at Vanderbilt, it seems a bit unfair to suggest that some of their competitors in an increasingly busy “summer institute” market aren’t also taking a broad view of the role of the library leader as educational leader.

One thing that did disappoint me in reading the program overview is that, despite the presence of Breivik and one of her colleagues on the National Forum on Information Literacy on the faculty, I didn’t see information literacy noted as a curricular area for discussion. Topics such as strategic planning, human resource development, and fund development are common fare among many library leadership development programs and it would have been nice to see this program stake out some new territory by including a clear focus on the place of the library in the teaching and learning landscape on campus.

Start your engines because applications are due March 1st!

Top Trends in Public Services

Also at the Heads of Public Services Discussion Group that Steven mentioned was the following listing of “Top Trends in Public Services”:

*Institutional Repositories
*Marketing/Promotion of Services
*Recruitment of Staff
*Scholarly Communications
*Providing Seamless Services from the Desktop
*Staff Training and Development
*Trends and Directions in IT
*University Partnerships Between Librarians and the Faculty
*Services to Alumni/Donors
*”With Google, I don’t need you anymore”
*”Integrating Library Resources into Course Management Systems”
*Learning Communities in the Libraries

Now, if you read these like I do, you’ll see that several of these are not actually “trends,” but “issues” or “problems” (how is “space” a trend, for example?). So, for what it’s worth, I offer the following as a start at re-envisioning some of these issues as actual trends. I trust others to add to and edit my list (disclaimer: some of these may overlap; this is a moving target and I am writing off the top of my head):

*Collaborating Across Campus – not only with members of the classroom faculty, but with student affairs educators, coaches, student clubs, faculty development experts, and others. Learning occurs in a variety of venues other than the classroom, and we must be creative and entrepreneurial if we are to demonstrate how we can collaborate with colleagues across the learning landscape in an effort to keep library public services at the heart of the university.

*Meeting Users Where They Live – whether the discussion is integration of library services and resources into course management systems, campus portals, social networking sites (e.g., FaceBook), residence halls, student clubs, athletic events, or departmental meetings, the message is the same – to keep the “library brand” at the forefront of user consciousness in an increasingly crowded information environment, we need to be in the places – physical and virtual – that they already frequent. This trend has significant implications for the skill set required of public services librarians and the ways in which central library services need to be configured to interact with IT environments outside the library. Also included in this trend would be the increasing collaboration between libraries and others in the creation of new learning spaces (both inside and outside library buildings).

*Deploying Expertise – as various trends conspire to make information and instructional services increasingly important across campus, while digital delivery of content conspires to reduce gate counts, we will have to be (say it again!) creative and entrepreneurial about developing structures that support the deployment and diffusion of professional expertise from the library across campus. Public services will revolve around providing faculty development programs, train-the-trainers models and materials, and a dedication to outreach to defined communities of users. As information literacy becomes an increasingly important part of lifelong learning, those of us in public institutions will be increasingly called upon to partner with colleagues in the community, including public and school librarians, to form one hub of the information literate community.

*Committing to Continuing Professional Education – not only do we have to integrate lively professional development programs into the library, but we have to build connections between in-house programs and campus programs, which might be housed in Human Resources, the Center for Teaching, Instructional Media, or elsewhere. Moreover, library leaders need to create systems that actually encourage (allow?) librarians and library staff to take advantage of these programs and that recognize and reward individual commitment to professional development.

*Scholarly Communications – It’s Not Just for Collections Folks Anymore – early discussions of the scholarly communication crisis were led by leaders in collection development (serials pricing) and digital initiatives (institutional repositories), but a knowledge of scholarly communications issues and options is increasingly required of all public services librarians. Building instructional and outreach programs that encompass information literacy and scholarly communication expertise is going to be increasingly expected of large libraries, and supporting this diffusion of expertise will be as great a challenge as was the diffusion of expertise regarding the World Wide Web a decade ago.

*Providing Seamless Services at the Desktop – this one was right on, except they forgot to mention mobile technology. Providing services solely to the desktop is “so 2001”!

*Accountability – whether the discussion is assessment of user perceptions (LIBQUAL+) or assessment of student learning (SAILS, ETS), libraries (like our colleagues across campus) are increasingly being asked to demonstrate their value to the core missions of the campus and to demonstrate attentiveness to “consumer concerns.” Not only does this imperative have significant implications for allocation of professional time (i.e., an assessment program does not run itself), but also leads us toward a dynamic view of public services in which some traditional services – if little used – may be de-emphasized, while emergent services may require greater time and effort.

That’s enough for now, and this post is way too long. I’ve gone out of my way not to provide rankings, but you may wish to argue for one or the other (or something new) as part of a Top 5.

Oh, and one more major trend – in my library, our instruction statistics are up almost 100% since 2000. In my last library, the jump was closer to 160% over the same period. That’s a major trend with implications for recruitment, professional and continuing education, expectations and annual review of library staff, allocation of professional time, use of non-MLS professionals and para-professionals, the place of the library as an instructional center on campus, and, literally, perceptions of the professional role of the academic librarian on campus.

Get Ready For Another Great Debate

If you attended the ALA conference in Toronto in 2003, and many librarians chose not to, perhaps you had the good fortune to attend “The Great Debate.” This program featured a group of librarians engaging in a formal debate about the future of the library building. One team argued that academic institutions no longer needed physical library facilities while the other team made its case for the necessity of the library as physical place. I don’t think either team converted anyone in the audience, but it was a fun and thought provoking event.

Well it appears the success of that session was not lost on the committee responsible for planning the ACRL President’s Program for ALA’s 2006 conference in New Orleans. They’ve chosen the debate format for the program. The actual title of the program will be: The Emperor Has No Clothes: Be It Resolved That Information Literacy is a Fad and Waste of Librarian Time and Talent.

The debate will be moderated by James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, Columbia University. One debating team is composed of Stanley Wilder, Associate Dean in the Library, University of Rochester, and Jeff Rutenbeck, Associate Professor and Director Digital Media Studies, University of Denver. The other team is composed of Julie B. Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College, and Gary P. Radford, Professor of Communication Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University. Think you can guess which team will be arguing that information literacy is a waste of time?

Here’s the advance description of the program:

Two teams will debate the relevance of information literacy as we know it. Is information literacy a concept created by academic librarians to make themselves more relevant to the curriculum or is it one of our most important roles? Is information literacy critical thinking in disguise or is there a real body of knowledge to be communicated? Does civil society’s dependence on life-long learners require the acquisition of information literacy skills? Can libraries justify the expenditures they’ve made on teaching information literacy or do the data suggest otherwise? This debate will test our assumptions and beliefs about a core element of the academic librarians’ role in the educational process.

I suppose ACRL members could debate among themselves the value of this program. For one thing, it seems an odd choice of topic for an organization for which information literacy is an established priority. Perhaps it is beneficial for an organization to have its core values questioned from time to time in order to confirm whether or not those values still make sense for the organization and its constituency. I think we all know in advance that if the “it’s a waste of time” team wins the debate it’s highly unlikely to affect ACRL’s commitment to information literacy. But perhaps a bit of controversy will make some good food for thought.

It also seems this issue, when Wilder’s Chronicle Review piece (“Information Literacy Makes All The Wrong Assumptions”) first appeared, received a reasonable vetting from folks such as Esther Grassian , various bloggers, on discussion lists, and at regional academic library conferences. Does the issue need to be rehashed? Actually the debate format as proposed may add to our understanding of and own thinking of the value of information literacy by polarizing the issues and forcing us to take one side or the other. Imagine there is no middle ground. Where do you stand? Adding faculty members to the debate teams should also give us better insight into their perspectives on information literacy. It may help us to communicate with faculty on our own campuses, both those who support and oppose (or are indifferent to) information literacy.

The bottom line is that this debate, not unlike the one held in Toronto, is unlikely to change the position of any librarian that attends. But I think it has symbolic value as a forum in which we can reaffirm that information literacy is an important component of education at every level. Whichever side you may take in this debate it will certainly present a fun opportunity to come out and cheer for your team or howl in derision at their opponents. I plan to be there.

Top Stories of 2005 For Academic Librarians

What’s a better way to spend the next to last day of the year than to review some of the news and developments of interest to academic librarians that transpired in 2005, and develop a list of the top stories. So here are the ones we came up with for your consideration – in no particular order.

Google Book Search and Open Content Alliance– We didn’t have to do a Lexis/Nexis search on this one to see what story got the most news coverage. This was big news any way you look at it. The story first appeared in the January 7 issue of the Chronicle, it kept gathering momentum all year, and it’s ready to roll into 2006.

Blackboard Merges With WebCT – If your institution has a courseware system it’s probably one of these two. Will this blockbuster deal make this merged product more hospitable to library resources? Time will tell.

Information Literacy Backlash – Also on January 7th the Chronicle Review gave us Stanley Wilder’s piece on “Why Information Literacy Makes All The Wrong Assumptions”. That created quite a firestorm of conversation, much of which concluded that it was Wilder who was making the wrong assumptions. But let’s give him credit for going public (big time) with his contrarian views; he gave us something to think about.

Emerald Pulls A Fast One – Journal publisher Emerald was caught with its pants down when Phil Davis, life-sciences librarian at Cornell, published data that showed he found issues from different Emerald titles that were complete copies of one another. This story actually broke in the Chronicle in December 2004, but much of the controversy played out in 2005. Thanks Phil for keeping these guys honest.

Ilene Rockman Passes Away – We lost one of the giants of our profession when Dr. Rockman passed away on November 26. Her contributions to academic librarianship will not be forgotten.

The Bookless Academic Library – The University of Texas got lots of media attention when they announced plans for a revamped undergraduate library with clusters of computers, a coffee shop, comfortable chairs, 24-hour technical help – and NO BOOKS. Ok, so 90,000 volumes were just being shipped off to other campus libraries, but you would have thought it was the day that print books died.

Katrina Devastates Gulf Coast – Hurricane Katrina’s fury brought death and destruction to this region, and our academic library colleagues there faced severe problems. Our community quickly responded with offers of help, and discussion list communication that kept us abreast of how valued colleagues were managing in the aftermath of Katrina.

All Hail The Chair Of Information Literacy – Purdue University’s library system announced the creation of an endowed chair in information literacy. Is it the start of a trend? Not just yet, but perhaps we’ll see more of this in 2006.

Virtual Conferencing Makes A Splash – It’s always big news when ACRL has its national conference, and plenty of news was made back in April in Minneapolis. But perhaps the biggest news was the simultaneous virtual conference that ACRL ran for the first time – and the first of this type we can recall for any ALA division. Where do you plan to be on April 20 and 21, 2006 when ACRL (with CNI and EDUCAUSE) hosts its first completely dedicated virtual conference? This IS the start of a big trend in continuing professional development for academic librarians, but will ACRL committees finally get to use ALA’s online community software in 2006 for virtual meetings? One can only hope so.

Can UKU With All This Tech Stuff – Blogging, RSS, news aggregators, podcasts, SMS, screencasts, vlogs, social bookmarking, folksonomies, tagging, personalization, Web (and Lib) 2.0, semantic web, institutional respositories, open source, vertical search…Had enough new technology stuff to learn about yet? Better hang on – 2006 is sure to be even wilder. (UKU = You Keep Up)

Talkin’ ‘Bout The Generations – The “Millennials” seemed a part of almost every academic library meeting in 2005 thanks to major articles and essays on the subject by authors such as Richard Sweeney and Joan Lippincott. Easily adapted into broader discussions of the library as place, the evolution of public services, facilities management, and information literacy instruction, we can only assume that we will continue “t-t-talkin’ ’bout my (or maybe your) generation” into 2006.

Getting Savvy To ID&T – Over 100 people attended an ACRL-sponsored pre-conference on instructional design and technology at ALA annual 2005, and ALA and ACRL promise major publications in this area in 2006. Increasingly popular technologies such as “clickers” and courseware provide increasing opportunities for academic librarians to become integrated into campus-wide discussions of teaching, learning, professional development, and management of instructional technology resources.

“Perceptions” Report Is Eye Opener – So we suspected that most college students go to the Internet first for their research, but OCLC’s “Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources” report really drove home the harsh reality of how far we need to go to get back on the information seeker’s radar screen. Maybe it wasn’t all bad news as college students certainly seemed more aware of and apt to use their academic library. We’re sure to be talking more about the library brand and the implications of this report.

And finally, the biggest of the big academic librarianship stories in 2005:

ACRL Debuts Its Blog – Well, we may be just a tad biased in our opinion of the importance of this one. But let’s give our ACRL leadership some props for recognizing the time was right for a blog targeted to the interests of academic librarians, and throwing their support behind ACRLog. Thanks guys!

The ACRLog blogging team hopes you enjoyed our top stories of 2005. Yeah, we probably missed something so feel free to add to the list with your comment. The entire blogging team appreciates your enthusiastic response to this blog, and we look forward to continuing ACRLog in 2006. We hope all of our readers have a great new year! See you in 2006!