When Students Promote The Library

I’m getting more interested in exploring ways in which we can take greater advantage of “word of mouth” marketing on our campus to get our students to pay more attention to our library resources. At least one recent article pointed out that libraries need to do more to make our library resources more visible to the user community. Put that together with a chart from OCLC’s College Student’s Perceptions of Libraries and Information (go to page 21 of 100) report that indicates that the college student’s number one source for learning about electronic information sources is “friend”, then it’s not unreasonable to conclude that to reach students you need to be integrated into their informal networks – and no – Facebook doesn’t cut it because students don’t take your profile seriously and its not word of mouth unless students are hearing it from other students.

So I was interested to come across this article, written by a student at Dennison University, that basically says everything (well, some of the good stuff) that we’d like students to know about using the library’s electronic resources. So how do we get students to read something like this or better yet create this kind of content on their own – or with our support. I don’t doubt that there are students just like this author on all of our campuses who would be willing to share their success stories and endorsements of the library’s resources if we could develop good strategies for tapping into the content and distributing it to other students. For example, how about livening up the tepid library blog by featuring posts from students about their positive library experiences – and even negative ones too just to show were open minded and listening. As one recent article described it we need to encourage our students to be our “library ambassadors” .

I will be putting out feelers with students on some of these ideas in the fall semester, and if you are too – please share what you’re working on with ACRLog.

Wikipedia going down the youtube?

I used to be mostly amused by Wikipedia, but now I’m getting more and more disgusted. We all know that Wikipedia has its pros (freely accessible, wide ranging, democratic) and cons (questionable accuracy, poor writing, democratic) but the recent New Yorker article told me more than I wanted to know about the sausage making process. From the article one gets the impression that the average contributor is a male computer programmer with some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder, and that edit wars, vandalism, and abuse are all too common. Here’s some quotes that stuck out:

“Pettiness, idiocy, and vulgarity are regular features of the site.”

“Nothing about high-minded collaboration guarantees accuracy, and open editing invites abuse.”

“For all its protocol, Wikipedia’s bureaucracy doesn’t necessarily favor truth.”

The author poses the question,

“What can be said for an encyclopedia that is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes illiterate?”

I know that all sources have errors, but the arbitrariness of the accuracy in Wikipedia combined with the poor writing has me leaning toward the answer that such an encyclopedia has no place in an academic information landscape. Unless there are changes, academic librarians should be discouraging its use and working toward building and promoting higher quality collections.

Will students listen to us if we discourage Wikipedia? Probably not, but they may listen to
Stephen Colbert.

For more see Wikimania 2006, The International Wikimedia Conference which is this weekend, August 4-6 in Cambridge, Mass., and of course you can participate on-line. See also Filipino Librarian.

Some Not So Serious Advice For Speakers

As a professional group I tend to think that academic librarians make pretty good speakers. Many of us get on-the-job experience making presentations for our colleagues, or we regularly get up in front of students to teach, and if one’s experience involves getting hammered with questions at a reference desk it helps to develop the ability to respond to questions under pressure. And these days good speakers need to be adept with managing a variety of technologies, at understanding how to create good visuals (particuarly for off-line presenting or emergency backups) and coping with on-the-spot technology mishaps – all the sorts of things most academic librarians can do well. All that aside, who among us could say no to some good advice for becoming a better speaker.

You may find this set of “18+1 Bits of Tongue in Cheek Advice for Speakers” just right for a Friday. Since one of my major pet peeves is poor use of PowerPoint in presentations I’d say Tip #18 is well worth committing to memory:

18) If you insist on using PowerPoint, here are the ground rules;

The folks at the very back of the room must be able to read every slide.
No text less than 30pt in size.
When selecting font and background colors; no yellow on white or black on blue.
Read out all the text on a slide on pain of death… consider yourself duly warned.
Keep the number of slides below the number of minutes in your presentation.
If there are technical problems, you are still expected to give a good presentation.

I think the author shows good selectivity here because a list of PPT do’s and don’ts could go on and on.

Enjoy the list – and here’s to better and better presentations by academic librarians!

BONUS TIP – If you are serious about improving your speaking and presentations definitely take a look at this author’s speaker evaluation form!

Do Academic Librarian Searches Take Too Long?

Without knowing much about the average length of a job search in academia, I wonder if, as Todd Gilman claims, job searches for academic librarians do take an excessively long amount of time to complete. Gilman has authored a series of career-oriented articles (sharing his experiences as a Ph.D. migrating to a career in academic librarianship) for the Chronicle, and in his latest one he takes academic librarian search committees to task for failing to complete their work in a reasonable amount of time – which should be one semester according to Gilman. In his Chronicle piece Gilman provides a laundry list of offenses that search committees, personnel librarians and library directors need to avoid. When they don’t, says Gilman, top candidates are likely to reject the position in disgust.

One point I can’t argue with, and would encourage all search committees to do more of, is the need to maintain regular contact with job applicants. It should be relatively easy to create a distribution list (using BCC: to avoid anyone spotting e-mail addresses of others) for the candidates, and simply provide them with a status report on the progress of the search every few weeks or at least alert candidates to those times when the search is bogging down – for whatever reason. That would certainly alleviate some of the anguish of the “endless searche” problem Gilman describes.

Please share your “endless searche” stories here – as a comment – or provide your tips on how to avoid them from happening. Were you ever so disgusted by a search process you encountered that you decided to withdraw from the search? Let us know.

JobLIST – New Resource For Employers And Job Seekers

Whether your library is offering a job or you are actively looking for a new one, you might want to take a look at JobLIST. It’s the outcome of a venture between American Libraries, ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR), and College & Research Library News. For employers this is a unique way to combine print and digital job ads, or just keep it all online. I think job hunters will find the search mechanism works quite well. Another great feature for job seekers is that the site supports RSS technology so that anyone can be alerted to new job ads (on defined criteria) as they are added to the system. E-mail alerts are not yet available, but will be added in the near future. This seems like a fairly robust site for employers and job seekers. Do take some time to explore JobLIST.