Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

Daily Newspapers Consider Radical Change

I take a commuter train to work. My unscientific survey reveals that out of every ten newspaper readers, nine are reading the highly condensed, mostly infotainment and poorly reported – but free – commuter’s newspaper. The tenth person is reading the Philadelphia Inquirer. So it’s no wonder that this country’s metropolitan daily papers are considering radical change. Ideas under consideration include highly condensed versions a few days each week, eliminating paper editions on some days (see the web version those days) or eliminating home delivery most days in order to save gas. Previous ACRLog posts have pointed to the similar experiences of academic libraries and newspapers. Both mediate information to an end-user audience and are being displaced by other information providers. People pay for print newspapers. Libraries are free to end users; it hasn’t helped us avoid a similar fate. According to a recent BusinessWeek article, newspapers aren’t waiting to find out what they offer that can’t be replaced. They are exploring new ideas for reaching their communities in print and online. Some additional insights were offered by Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the NYT, when he spoke at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Executive Leadership Forum (See “Upheaval in News Business” on 6/10/08- no longer free). Keller said the NYT is discovering new “creative energy” by merging their online and print staffs, and supplementing in-depth articles with blogs and reader forums. Despite those efforts many expect one or two metropolitan dailies to shut their doors permanenly or at least cease publishing a print edition. Let’s hope the academic library’s similarities with newspapers ends there.

Web Surveys Have Inherent Problems

In an ACRLog post written a while back I expressed some concerns about the rise of library research being conducted by e-mail surveys. Want to research the use of clickers by academic librarians? Just send out a “take my survey” announcement to several discussion lists. It’s fast, it’s easy and it’s reliable. Well maybe you get two out of three with online surveys. Now experts are beginning to question the online survey; they may have too many weaknesses. According to an article in BusinessWeek, there are inherent problems with online surveys. The key problem is that the pools of respondents “rarely represent the larger population”. Online surveys have a tendency to attract opinionated people; they tend to respond to every survey while others ignore them all. While there are also problems with obtaining reliable results (the same surveys conducted just weeks apart had wildly different results), owing to their ease and convenience online surveys are here to stay. To improve representativeness and reliability, survey firms are mixing their methods. The surveys are still online, but they are randomly contacting individuals by phone or e-mail and inviting them to participate. That adds more statistical rigor to the web-based survey.

Follow Tips and Ideas for Speakers

We can all use some good advice to improve the quality of our presentations. A while back I recommended taking some time to watch videos of great presenters; you can learn a great deal by seeing the experts at work – and I provided some of the top sources for these videos. If you prefer to just read presenting tips to get ideas on how to do a better job, I have a suggestion for you. Take a look at Alltop’s new “speaking” section. Alltop is a site that compiles, on a daily basis, articles and posts from a wide range of news and blog sources. I sometimes use their education page to find posts for Kept-Up Academic Librarian. At Alltop Speaking you can quickly find tips on everything from the pros and cons of giving out your slides as a handout, to getting a presentation started, to being a better panelist. It’s also a great way to discover new presenting blogs. So take a look. It may just lead to better presentations.

Did You Try Talking To A Librarian?

Take a look at the blog Burnt Out Adjunct where the author has a post titled “Google Is Not Research“. BOA writes:

These students are not agog at the level and breadth of information available to them. Rather, they expect to be able to, within a few key strokes, to gain access to whatever information they seek. And, with aggregated search engines like Yahoo! and Google, they are, to a large extent, able to accomplish this…The cranky, if well-meaning professors, once confronted with such a bibliography, stare at the creatures seated in front of them and wonder, probably correctly, if these poor deluded punks have ever set foot in the hallowed halls of the school library. They haven’t. In their minds, they do not need to.

Read the rest, but as I did I kept asking myself, has BOA ever talked to one of the institution’s academic librarians. I doubt it. Collaboration could be a wonderful thing…if faculty, even the adjuncts, gave a thought to inviting us to participate. Or maybe we need to work harder to reach them. Anyway, you can see my comment to the post.