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.

Remember That ACRL Membership Survey – Part 3

This is the final installment in our report on the ACRL Membership Survey. We hope you have found it informative, and we appreciate your comments on these issues. The latter section of the report is devoted to something called the “opportunity analysis.” Here is how it is described:

The intent of the gap analysis is to identify the variance between the importance members place on various activities and their current levels of satisfaction with those same areas. By measuring the gaps between importance and satisfaction, ACRL can identify the relative “opportunity” of pursuing a variety of strategies.

Here are the top 12 opportunities that ACRL may choose to pursue:
* Creating awareness of librarians as respected authorities on knowledge management
* Increasing libraries’ influence on higher education and research environments
* Increasing the visibility of academic/research librarians
* Increasing the technological competencies of librarians
* Developing academic and research librarians as leaders and experts in information
technology application
* Educational programs that help you develop new skills and capabilities
* An ongoing campaign that communicates the value of academic and research libraries and
library staff to the campus community
* A strong voice that encourages local, state, and federal government to support libraries
and improves government relations
* An up-to-date web site containing a breadth of resources for academic and research
librarians
* Encouraging widespread adoption of information literacy across the curriculum Standards
guidelines to help improve library services
* Influencing accrediting entities

It sounds like ACRL is already actively pursuing some of these requests or has done so in the past. For example, recall the series of Chronicle of Higher Education ads promoting academic librarians. That addressed numbers one and two on this list. Clearly members want more of this activity. Based on other charts in the report it’s clear that ACRL members would like the association to help them achieve respect and recognition among their colleagues and within the higher education industry. The report also provides the top recommendations from members in four areas: communications; professional development; advocacy/leadership;general library issues. Some of the top recommendations are repeated on these lists, but there are also others that didn’t make it onto the top list.

Again, as I review these “opportunities” it looks like ACRL is already providing services in many of these areas, for example, “communications that keep you updated on ACRL news and events” or “e-learning” (webcasts, virtual conferences, etc.). But you could also make a case that ACRL, as it moves in the right directions, needs to do more to promote these resources to the membership and – as we have seen in this report already – do more to make events affordable, do more to involve younger members of the profession and do more to make events and services easy to obtain at the local chapter level.

Finally, here are some of the key recommendations the report makes for action ACRL will want to take in responding to the needs of the membership:
* ACRL should first ensure that it is effectively communicating the outcomes of current advocacy and leadership efforts (i.e., Council of Liaisons, Scholarly Communication, etc.).
* ACRL should showcase effective practices and publish articles in higher education publications and periodicals about how librarians and libraries are making meaningful contributions to the broader campus environment.
* ACRL should attempt to provide opportunities for ACRL members to speak/present at other higher (that’s an interesting one!).
* ACRL should ensure that any new efforts in the advocacy / leadership arena, are balanced with commensurate attention to professional development offerings (it’s clear that the greatest number of members cited professional development opportunties as the single most important ACRL service they desire)
* To ensure future viability of ACRL, it is critical that future marketing, communications and product development are informed by generational preference. For example, younger members place higher importance on professional development than do those nearing retirement. Therefore, ACRL should work strategically to ensure that younger members have ample opportunity to enhance their skills and advance in their careers. (I don’t think we can say enough about the importance of this one, and if comments received to part one of this report are an indicator our younger colleagues feel much more needs to be done to get them engaged in ACRL – and it may be that opportunites to do more at the chapter level are being missed).
* Finding ways for senior members to maintain a purposeful connection to the profession will be an important focus in the coming years. These members will likely need to stay current with technological developments in the field, which will enable ACRL to develop and market specific educational programs geared toward late-career members. Also, since these members are naturally predisposed to “support the profession,” it will be important to develop programs and services that tap into their desire to mentor, consult, and otherwise give back to the profession.

In summation I would conclude that the membership survey is mostly good news for ACRL. It’s clear that members are far more satisfied with the delivery of services than in past years, and when you look at what members’ report as their priorities and what ACRL is already doing to address those needs, it appears ACRL is a responsive professional organization. It is also clear that ACRL is faced with some significant challenges if it wants to remain relevant to academic librarians. The growing age divide in the membership is going to need attention soon or else we’ll have an association that is dominated by those on the cusp of retirement. ACRL must find ways to bridge the gap between its established senior members and the many new and younger academic librarians that are feeling alienated from the association.

Perhaps the ACRL leaders should look to some of the actions that Leslie Burger is taking to mend the generational meltdown that was left in the wake of Michael Gorman’s ALA presidency. What are good starting points? Bring in younger academic librarians to serve as advisors to the ACRL Board, make better use of new communications technologies to reach them, prioritize their involvement at the national level and national conference (ACRL already offers loads of scholarships to encourage new and younger members to attend), and create more intergenerational mentoring programs. ACRL already offers some of the highest quality professional development programs you can find anywhere and it needs to build on this strength. And as far as moving their professional development programs into the virtual environment, it’s no exaggeration to say that ACRL is the trendsetter among ALA divisions with its e-learning and virtual conference offerings. And since the report indicates that newer and younger members value professional development as their highest priority, ACRL needs to leverage its outstanding professional development to reach those members. But are we offering the types of professional development programs they need? We’ll only know through the establishment of better forms of two-way communication with the membership.

Start here by providing your comments. What can ACRL do for you and the membership to be as relevant as possible to members of this profession? Now that you know more about the results from the membership survey, what would you like to see ACRL do next? ACRLog invites your guest post on this topic. If you’d like to contribute a guest post on this topic please contact me directly.