Start Your Engines People

It’s official. The “Call for Participation” for the ACRL 13th National Conference, to be held in Baltimore from March 29th to April 1st, 2007, is now available. From the official site comes this description:

The ACRL National Conference offers a forum for an exciting and energizing exchange of ideas on research, practices, developments, and visions in the field of academic and research librarianship. The conference theme, “Sailing into the Future – Charting our Destiny,” recognizes that coming together with other bright minds during the national conference gives many of us a chance to discuss, think, and dream about the future for our libraries. We believe that—as in past conferences—this forum serves as the compass and map to sail beyond our major challenges and truly chart our own destinies.

This call for conference proposals will also appear as an insert in the November 2006 issue of College & Research Library News. I’m looking forward to being there and blogging some sessions.

How Do I Subscribe To ACRLog

We have received a number of requests from ACRL members who would like to subscribe to ACRLog. Unlike an e-mail newsletter or a discussion list, this weblog has no “subscribe” option. To follow the ACRLog regularly, use a news aggregator to capture new posts as they are added to ACRLog. I would recommend that those new to the process of using a news aggregator to capture the RSS feed of a blog take a look at my RSS tutorial page – and I include links to a number of other popular RSS tutorials. It explains how the process works and how to use Bloglines, a popular, free, web-based news aggregator. Bloglines is not the only news aggregator, but it comes well recommended. Here is a preview of using Bloglines to subscribe to ACRLog.

Begin by going to the Bloglines site (you can enlarge the images below by clicking on them) and clicking on the “sign up now” link to acquire a free account.

Within minutes you will receive an e-mail that requires you to confirm your new account. After that you are ready to subscribe to ACRLog. When you first log in to Bloglines you may see a few default blogs in your “feed” list – which shows the blogs to which you are subscribed. You can use the “edit” option to delete those later. Next, click on the “add” link shown below:

adding a subscription on bloglines

Next, as illustrated in the screenshot below, type in the URL for ACRLog (http://www.acrlblog.org) into the “subscribe” box:

bloglines subscribe box

Next, click the “subscribe” button to the right of the box where you just typed in the ACRLog URL.

From the next screen, shown below, choose to subscribe by putting a check in the box – if you are presented with more than one feed to subscribe to – choose the one that has “atom” at the end of the URL – as shown below:

Next, scroll down to the “options” area and as shown below, click on the “subscribe” button to complete the process:

As you become more comfortable with Bloglines and add more feeds, consider creating folders to organize them. When you are done, you should now see ACRLog as one of your feeds. The left frame show the subscribed blogs, and the right frame shows the posts available to read. Here is what it will look like:

A common question is “What happens to the posts after I read them?” After you log out, or if you click to view another one of your feeds, all of the posts you just read are automatically deleted from the viewing area. However, if you need to retrieve previously read posts, there is an option to retrieve them again – up to a month ago.

Another frequent question is “How will I know when I receive a new post from ACRLog?” While most folks get quickly accustomed to checking their aggregator everyday, especially as they add more RSS feeds, if you do want to be reminded, Bloglines offer the “Bloglines Notifier”. It is an easily installed add-on that sits in your task bar and reminds you to check Bloglines as new posts are received:

To find the link to the “Notifier” scroll down the left panel that contains all the feeds until you come to the “Extra” section. Click on “tips” and then scroll through the tips until you come to the one about the Notifier.

I hope this will introduce our readers who are new to the world of RSS and news aggregators to a tool that will make it easier to “keep up” with ACRLog – and many other blogs and news sources as well.

Whither ACRLog?

The launch of ACRLog last week generated some buzz among library blogs, but also some questions. Since this blog is a work in progress, it’s worth collecting some of those comments to think about how they might guide future developments.

InfoMan started out with an easy one, asking if we should pronounce the name of our endeavor as “A-C-R-L-og” or “A-C-R-log”. For the record, I have no idea. I’ve been using the latter, but I’ve already found blogs where that has resulted in our parent organization being referred to as “ACR,” so maybe that won’t work.

DrWeb was excited about the potential for our fostering a “discussion of overarching ideas, issues, and matters of debate within the college and research library community.” I agree, but how do we identify those ideas, issues, etc., and, from a design point of view, how do we build them into the architecture of this site? Do we, for example, adopt Hisle’s still-excellent listing of top issues? Do we create feature discussions on issues identified either by the ACRL President or as part of the ACRL strategic plan? More broadly, how do we allow for grassroots discussions of issues while being, at the same time, the “official” blog of ACRL? Again, I don’t have the answer, but it’s something that we on the Advisory Board will have to look at as this project gets off the ground.

But, it was really John Dupuis who asked the questions where the rubber hits the road, for example, how do we expand the list of contributors (both at the “comment” and the “posting” level) to better reflect the broad diversity in the college and research library community? We’ve asked ourselves that a number of times, as we have asked how to bring the best of the college and research library-oriented discussion happening on other blogs into this discussion space. One way, of course, is for interested library bloggers to seek appointment to the ACRL Blog Advisory Board (see this month’s C&RL News). The BAB is an editorial appointment like any other and there are terms of appointment that follow the guidelines established throughout ACRL. If you want in, volunteer. There have to be others ways, though, and we’d like to hear your ideas.

Finally, one blogger (and I apologize for not saving the link) asked some very important questions, e.g.: (1) how does an ongoing blog sponsored by an ALA division complement the information, discussion, and community already available by other means, both official (e.g., ACRL electronic discussion lists) and unofficial (e.g., blogs such as those mentioned above); and (2) how does an ongoing blog integrate the periodic increase in official blogging that have started to revolve around conference reports. The PLA blog provides some insight, but, like everything else, this is a moving target.

We welcome your input and hope to see more of you on the “comment” logs and (some of you) in the volunteer stream for new BAB members after Midwinter.

Report from ACRL-NJ: Quarantine the Plagiarism Plague

I recently attended an all day ACRL-NJ conference on plagiarism. NJ librarians have really taken the lead on this issue, spurred on by Rutgers University librarian Vibiana Bowman’s book of essays, the Plagiarism Plague. Previously I hadn’t thought too much about plagiarism, conceding the issue to disciplinary faculty and wondering what the librarian’s role could be. Librarians at least need to begin to inform themselves on the various issues surrounding plagiarism, such as defining what plagiarism is, gauging if it is on the rise and if so what are the causes, and then figuring out what we can do about it. Plagiarism seems to be on the rise throughout our culture, not merely among college students. Librarians can provide information about citation, develop tutorials, and be part of an overall culture that discourages academic dishonesty. In giving an overview of the legal issues of plagiarism detection services, Luis Rodriguez (Montclair State) made a point that stuck with me: he connected plagiarism to student learning. This seems to me a fruitful possible way to tie together plagiarism with information literacy.

Let’s Get On The Right Train Right Now

After an EDUCAUSE session last week a colleague asked if I’d read the column in the latest issue of EDUCAUSE Review (n-d ’05) that “slammed” libraries. Fortunately I was at the one place where finding a copy of ER is not a problem. Paul Gandel’s piece, “Libraries: Standing at the wrong platform waiting for the wrong train” doesn’t quite slam academic libraries, but he does take them to task on two counts: hastening their own marginalization and failure to innovate. It’s a good read, and it’s important for authors to send a call to arms when change is imperative. But when it comes to spotting trends it seems Gandel is late arriving at the train station. Pointing out that academic libraries are suffering from a case of diminishing relevance and innovation is nothing new. Bell and Shank have written in depth about marginalization issues and authors as diverse as Coffman, Tennant, Pace, and others criticized librarians and our system vendors for lacking innovative.(note – registrations required to view some links)

Gandel wouldn’t be the first author to make points made previously by others, and sometimes there is no harm in reminding us we need to do better. He is also writing for a different audience – our IT colleagues. Where I do find fault with his article is that it identifies problems but offers no solutions. Granted, this is just a two-page article, but surely there can be a better balance between what’s wrong and how we fix it. Lack of innovation? Has Gandel walked through the poster sessions at an ACRL conference? Has he joined or visited an online learning community where academic librarians are exploring cutting edge ideas? If he had I think that instead of implying that Amazon and Google offer models we should adopt, he’d be identifying solutions that promote better user education programs and the integration of library resources and services into those places where learning occurs. Yes, we absolutely must rethink our policies and procedures for digital environments. There’s no question we must offer systems that balance ease of use and sophisticated algorithms that yield high quality results.

To truly avoid, as Gandel puts it, “being rendered obsolete in an increasingly digital world” we all need to work hard at putting ourselves and resources where the learning is happening. If we do that it should help our faculty and students to make better use of our collections and reference services – two areas that Gandel finds particularly problematic. I agree with Gandel that our old “just put it out there and hope they find it” model of librarianship needs improvement. But there are many librarians that are advocating change as well as libraries that are innovating so they can avoid being marginalized. I encourage Gandel to discover them. When he does I hope he uses his space in ER to share this information with his IT audience. He should encourage them to work with the campus library to make sure it is technologically well equipped to support the library’s effort to achieve relevance and sustainability in the digital landscape.