ANSS Program At ALA Is Food For Thought

I’m pleased to share another post from our guest ALA Conference blogger, Kim Leeder. Kim is the Special Assistant to the Dean at the University of Arizona Libraries. She also maintains her own blog, Park Ranger for the Intellectual Commons:

Among all the interesting sessions offered at ALA Annual this year, ACRL’s Anthropology and Sociology Section’s “Drug Foods, Fast Foods, and Feasts: A Social Science of Eating” had me hooked from the moment I spotted it in the program. I was intrigued not only because the subject is inherently personal and omnipresent for all of us, but because the description of the panel suggested that it would be a wide-ranging academic discussion on the subject of food tied only loosely to libraries. And so it was.

The session opened with a talk by Wendy Woloson of The Library Company, who provided an analysis of the cultural history of sugar in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Next up was Gerald Patout of The Historic New Orleans Collection, who shared experiences and discoveries from the development of a bibliography of New Orleans cookbooks and related texts. Third was Susan Tucker from Tulane University’s Center for Research on Women, who played video clips from the Louisiana Culinary Oral History. Finally, Jason Block, an internal medicine resident in Boston who earned his MD at Tulane, spoke about the effects of environmental factors (and particularly fast food establishments) on obesity.

When I described this session to a friend, she immediately asked what it had to do with libraries. “But that’s the beauty of it,” I responded. “It started from libraries and went out into the world from there.” Each panel was distinctly different in topic and perspective, and the cumulative effect was powerful. What it boiled down to was a message about the importance of food in our lives for survival, health, and pleasure, and how that importance has changed in the past several hundred years. The culture of eating has shifted from scarcity to abundance, a circumstance that brings both benefits and dangers. From worries about pesticides and fat to grocery shelves filled with endless ingredients, our experience of food will never be the same.

Scholarship in a Read/Write World

There have been a couple of fascinating articles on scholarship and social networking published recently. First, historian Roy Rosenzweig asks “Can History Be Open Source?” He recommends that if teachers are worried about students’ use of Wikipedia, they should consider it an opportunity for information literacy: “Spend more time teaching about the limitations of all information sources, including Wikipedia, and emphasizing the skills of critical analysis of primary and secondary sources.” But he thinks historians might also learn a thing or two.

If the Internet and the notion of commons-based peer production provide intriguing opportunities for mobilizing volunteer historical enthusiasm to produce a massive digital archive, what about mobilizing and coordinating the work of professional historians in that fashion? That so much professional historical work already relies on volunteer labor—the peer review of journal articles, the staffing of conference program committees—suggests that professionals are willing to give up significant amounts of their time to advance the historical enterprise. But are they also willing to take the further step of abandoning individual credit and individual ownership of intellectual property as do Wikipedia authors?

The editors of Nature ask a similar question. Maybe scientific publishers should rethink peer review by drawing on the “wisdom of the crowd.” The traditional peer review process was driven, in part, by the scarcity of outlets for research. Only the most significant could be chosen when the costs were so high. In an online world, maybe the evaluative work could be done after publication.

Scientific peer review is typically a process of ‘pre-filtering’ – deciding which of the many papers submitted should be published. By contrast, Digg [a potential model] is a ‘post-filter’, deciding which of the many papers published are most interesting to a group of readers. Today, scientific publishing does the first kind of filtering pretty well, and the second hardly at all. Word of mouth aside, citation analysis, tracked in databases such as ISI and Scopus, is the only good way to determine what the collective wisdom has decided are the most important papers, and this takes years to emerge. Is there a faster and better way?

Maybe so – and maybe emerging social networks are offering some inspiration for how to adapt the “read-write web” to scholarly communication of all kinds. Certainly, there are many unanswered questions – but that’s the kind scholars like best.

Go Where They Are (And Go Now!)

I’m pleased to share this post from our guest ALA Conference blogger, Kim Leeder. Kim is the Special Assistant to the Dean at the University of Arizona Libraries. She also maintains her own blog, Park Ranger for the Intellectual Commons:

Library news delivered to RSS feeders. iPods loaded with course reserves. Library profiles on Facebook. As academic libraries scramble to keep up with the technologies so effortlessly adopted by their students, the University Libraries Section gave librarians at ALA Annual an opportunity to pause and reflect on the issue. At the ULS President’s Program, “Use What They Own, Go Where They Are: Plugging the Library into Student Gadgets and Habitats,” Nancy Davenport and Lynne O’Brien addressed the topic before a packed room.

The two speakers expressed great enthusiasm for the ways libraries can take advantage of new technologies, peppered by the concern that libraries shouldn’t use technology for its own sake. Davenport, President of the Council on Library and Information Resources, emphasized the fact that students are becoming increasingly wired and that libraries need to meet them on their own turf. When looking at ways to use technology, she explained, librarians should be trying to bring content to the places (and the media) where students feel most comfortable. O’Brien, Director of Duke University’s Center for Instructional Technology, reviewed Duke’s digital initiatives (such as their iPod First-Year Experience program), which have been created to spur educational interest in new technologies and foster instructional innovation.

Overall, the message from both Davenport and O’Brien was that libraries should be moving ahead quickly to provide content in formats that students can easily incorporate into their wired lives. Despite the repeated assertion that libraries should not use technology for its own sake, and that we should ensure that it furthers educational goals, this cautionary message may have been lost in the sauce. The issue of how to assess the effectiveness of technology in delivering content and advancing students’ education was not addressed during the presentations, and received only a brief nod during the Q&A. So the question we are left with is this: ARE libraries using technology for its own sake?

The ACRLog blogging team thanks Kim for her excellent post.

Honoring Ray English – ACRL Academic/Research Librarian Of The Year

One of the best ACRL traditions that occurs at ALA conferences is the reception that follows the ACRL President’s Program. The focus of the reception, other than general schmoozing, is to celebrate the winner of the ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. The winner of the 2006 award, Ray English, Azariah Smith Root Director of Libraries at Oberlin College, was honored at the reception. The award, sponsored by YBP Library Services, recognizes an outstanding member of the library profession who has made a significant national or international contribution to academic/research librarianship and library development. In the photo below from the well-attended reception, Ray English receives the award from a representative from YBP. To the left of English is Dr. Camila A. Alire, Dean of University Libraries at the University of New Mexico, ACRL President for 2005 – 2006. Congratulations to Ray English on receiving the ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year award.
ray english receives award
(click on thumbnail for larger image)

Stopping By The ACRL Booth

ACRL’s booth on the convention floor at the ALA Conference in New Orleans received quite a bit of traffic despite being located off in a far corner of the exhibits (although near the ever popular Internet Room). In this photo I’m at the booth with Lori Goetsch of Kansas State University, and a current member of the ACRL Board of Directors.
(click on thumbnail for larger image)