Books – And Libraries To Hold Them – Still Essential

The University of Chicago has previously been in the higher education news because it is bucking the trend of some peer institutions to reduce or eliminate campus space for books. At Chicago they are planning a $42 million expansion of the Joseph Regenstein Library to make room for 3.5 million volumes. As part of the planning process the University conducted a survey that collected information on the library usage habits of 5,700 students. While the survey indicates that students prefer to use online journals over print, it clearly shows that heavy digital media users are heavy physical media users. The poll findings will be presented Thursday, Nov. 17, at a conference titled “Space and Knowledge,” which will explore the use of libraries on campus. If any of our ACRLog readers attends the conference please consider sharing your notes as a blog post here at ACRLog.

Positive Press For An Academic Library

Every now and then we see a good story in the mainstream media about the positive contributions libraries make to their communities. Not surprisingly, those stories tend to feature public libraries. Occasionally the subject of the article is an academic library. This past Sunday the Star Tribune in Minneapolis featured an article about the innovations at the University of Minnesota’s Walter Library designed to lure students to the library. As with most articles of this type the student quotes reflect their attraction to Internet search engines, but some acknowledge that the library provides invaluable and time-saving research assistance – and good coffee. After reading the article and exploring the web site at the University of Minnesota Library, I find their balanced approach to reaching out to students provides a good model. Recognizing students’ preference for search systems that provide a Google experience, they’ve developed the “Undergraduate Virtual Library”. It looks to be a federated search system that mimics the features of a simple search engine, but with a slightly busier interface. But they also promote a variety of user education programs to help students improve library research skills. It demonstrates that while it is important to acknowledge changing student behaviors by offering new and different approaches to research, academic librarians can offer balance by continuing to support the essential values of user education.

Open Access Comes to C&RL

ACRL has announced that content from College & Research Libraries will be made freely available on the ACRL Web site six months after publication, and that back issues from 1997 – are already available.

This is welcome news to those of us who have been calling for ACRL to provide leadership in this area for the past few years. I have to believe that our message to faculty about the need to commit to open access alternatives for Tier One scholarly journals can only be made more effective by being able to demonstrate that our own professional association has made that same commitment in regard to our most highly-regarded, peer-reviewed journal. It would be nice to see other leading LIS journals make this same commitment, but it was absolutely imperative that ACRL do so, and I’m excited to see that it has finally happened.

I’m also happy to see that the announcement clearly articulates ACRL support for author self-archiving of material published in C&RL. I had to do some digging myself earlier this year to determine ACRL policy on this issue as I was preparing to place a paper that I presented at the ACRL meeting in Minneapolis into our institutional repository (KU ScholarWorks). Lots of good news in this announcement!

IL Catches the Wave

The Association of American Colleges and Universities has published a new report, Liberal Education Outcomes: A Preliminary Report on Student Achievement in College. The report “documents the emerging consensus among educators, the business community, and the accreditation community about a set of key learning outcomes that are essential for all college students in the 21st century.”

Information literacy is one of the handful of key learning outcomes.

I know, we’ve been making waves about this for years, but now – hey, surf’s up! We seem to be reaching a point where information literacy is widely recognized as a key part of what it means to be educated. This is likely to be a widely-read document. Time to place a few strategic calls, ask some of your favorite power brokers to have a cup of coffee. We made the wave, now let’s catch it.

Another finding of the report is that “little national data is available on how well students are achieving these key outcomes.” They find some value in standardized testing, but it’s not the only answer.

[T]he best evidence about students’ level of achievement on liberal education outcomes will come from assessment of students’ authentic and complex performances in the context of their most advanced studies: research projects, community service projects, portfolios of student work, supervised internships, etc. Institutions can and should use a common framework of liberal education outcomes to report externally on students’ level of accomplishment, but they should help the public understand that the standards for advanced accomplishment take different forms in different fields. The key accountability question to ask of campuses is whether they currently expect all their students to undertake complex projects and capstone assignments that are assessed for advanced liberal education outcomes.

All of which suggests we might want to make sure information literacy is part of our institutions’ common framework and that we become as aware as we can of all the assessment initiatives on our campuses that might help us find in student work the evidence that we’ve made a difference – and where we may need to improve.

Good Fences Make Good News?

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

While most of us are all for openness, the public editor of the New York Times points out that there are “Cracks in the Wall Between Advertising and News” – partly because of shrinking advertising revenues for news operations and partly because the consolidation of the industry means those revenues are more important than ever – the goal is to make shareholders happy; informing the public has to come second.

Emerging advertising models have contributed to the dismantling of the wall by harvesting information about readers and using it in ways that traditional broadsheets would never dream of. Why shouldn’t journalists follow suit? Well, they have ethics, for one thing…

Here’s a case where good fences make good journalism- just bad business partners in an era when advertising relies on a not-so-cuddly Cookie Monster to find its audience.