Higher Ed BlogCon

From the Bibliocasting discussion list:

Thomson Peterson’s, PRNewswire, and CASE are pleased to present *HigherEdBlogCon – Transforming Academic Communities with New Tools of the Social Web. * This brand-new, all-online event aims to bring together in a single Web space many of the leading players who are transforming academe with their use of the new tools of the Social Web.

All presentations will be made available on the event Web site at no charge to participants (with the exception of the live, Web/audio CASE Online Speaker Series events).

*HigherEd BlogCon 2006* will focus on the use of blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasts, vblogs, and other digital tools in a range of areas in academe. We invite you to propose presentations for HigherEd BlogCon 2006.

See the full CFP at Information Wants to be Free.

MLA Engages Tenure, Scholarly Communication Issues

For those who haven’t followed the various reports from the recently-completed annual meeting of the MLA, there were interesting discussions of re-thinking tenure requirements for faculty in the Humanities and of the role of digital scholarship as a route to tenure. An overview can be found in today’s Inside Higher Education.

As with Andersen’s Digital Scholarship in the Tenure, Promotion, and Review Process (2004), the fact that this discussion is coming from within a discipline suggests an opportunity for the academic librarian to act as an advocate and a resource for innovation in scholarly communication.

Academic Administrators: Beware If A Librarian Is On Your Search Committee

Once again, academic librarians get no respect. I came across this quote in an article in today’s online version of the Chronicle . It’s from a disgruntled job seeker who’s been the “faux finalist” for one too many searches. This refers to an institution that has already decided to hire an internal candidate, and the interview process is just a sham held to document that the search was truly open to all. The author (a pseudonym is given) seeks to provide a public service to other academic administrators by providing the warning signs that one is probably a faux finalist. Here’s the offending one:

It all starts with the search committee. Beware if it’s filled with people who have no campus authority, such as untenured faculty members, librarians, nonacademic administrators, or anyone hired only a few months ago. If it is, that’s a signal that the more senior people with real clout have better things to do with their time. If the search were truly open, then deans and top administrators would want to have some influence over the decision.

Admittedly, we don’t wield the same power as a dean or vice-president, but this strikes me as an extension of an unfortunate stereotype to suggest that academic librarians have no campus authority. I guess we do nothing all day but sit around and read books, which makes us ideal participants for sham search committees so we can ask polite questions like, “So what books have you read lately?”. I suppose like all the negative stereotypes we encounter it is best to have a sense of humor about it, and to simply do what we can each day on the job and in our relationships with our academic colleagues to dispel ridiculous notions about who we are and what we contribute to the academic enterprise.

Don’t Change The Resources, Change How Users Experience Them

That idea comes from a post to a blog I regularly follow called Creating Passionate Users. This particular post seems applicable to the BIG question we academic librarians are asking ourselves and each other these days. How do we get the users to user our resources? Time and time again surveys indicate that members of our user communities either start or do all of their research with non-library Internet resources. One response to the question takes the form of “let’s be more like the competition”. If you can’t beat ’em, just be more like ’em. Others are talking about Library 2.0, and how we need to leverage new technologies to make libraries more welcoming to the users. Well this post’s message is that if we want our users to know more about our “product” (i.e. library databases) and develop more passion for it, the answer isn’t necessarily to change it, but to change how our users experience it.

The key to creating a different experience is helping users learn. The post goes on to discuss how people engage with things more passionately once they develop the ability to recognize and understand their subtleties and nuances. I could well imagine undergraduates being able to distinguish among a set of library databases, and using each for the exact sort of research for which that database was designed. Our job is to create the learning opportunties, and get faculty involved in the process of connecting librarians and their students. If the suggestion that students could develop a passion for library research sounds too outlandish, perhaps the focus needs to be on helping students learn that library resources will enable them to develop a passion for what really matters to them – their chosen subject or discipline. If nothing else, this post reinforces my own thinking about the importance of library user education in academic settings.

Where I’m having a problem though is that academic librarians have been offering libary instruction for many years, but it has resulted in only limited progress in developing students who are passionate about using the library. I’m confident that our user education efforts have achieved successful cases, those occasional students who do become truly passionate about research as a result of what they’ve learned from academic librarians. But we certainly fall short in reaching the majority. That may be because much of our current library user education tends to allow only for surface, not deep learning. What would we need to do to make sure our users really experience our information resources in a way that gets them excited about what they are learning, and eager to learn more about and use them? I’m not sure of the answer, but I do know that if we abandon user education because the competition doesn’t bother with it (and look at how successful they are) we’ll be depriving ourselves of at least one important strategy that can increase our relevancy to the user community.