Charleston Conference 2012: “Accentuate the Positive!”
Nov. 8-10, 2012
For the first time, I attended the Charleston Conference and found it very rich and wide-ranging in its content, with myriad sessions, plenary and concurrent. I had no trouble filling my dance card, choosing to emphasize user- and liaison-related issues. Highlights from particularly useful and interesting sessions follow.
“Integrating Discovery and Access for Scholarly Articles: Success and Failures”
Anurag Acharya, Founder and Lead Engineer, Google Scholar
Acharya reviewed the progress (with shortfalls) that Google Scholar has made towards reaching its goal of being the single place to find scholarly literature, where researchers around the world can both discover and access articles. Discovery is limited to what one has access to, and that is at times tied to one’s area; however, increasing interdisciplinary work makes connections where previously none were known. He pronounced Google Scholar the largest scholarly source on the planet, comprising output of major and mid-size publishers and societies, and most smaller publishers, but conceded that access remains a crazy quilt with many pathways: library subscription, consortial subscription, free archival access, OA, pre-pubs, and individual subscriptions. Approaches to subscriber links have been variable: internationally it has worked well for libraries making explicit requests since there have been activist groups, such as the National Library in Australia. Not so well in the U.S., however, since most consortia have not seen it as their role, although some have stepped up, notably VIVA in Virginia and GALILEO in Georgia. Ultimately this helps to level the playing field for everyone. He noted as well Archive Access, initiatives taken by journal publisher to give free access to older articles with “succinct” moving walls. There are now 70 partners, including Oxford, Sage, JSTOR, and PNAS. This highlights public access that publishers provide, allowing researchers worldwide access and leveling the playing field. In addition, Developing Country Access covers all IPs in developing countries as offered by Highwire Press Program, and the JSTOR Africa Access Initiative, IP-based, requires libraries to sign up. Integration is similar to subscriber links, and can be specified by country, adding per article links.
“Does Format Matter? Comparing Usage of E-books and P-books”
Christopher Brown, Professor, Reference Technology Integration Librarian / Government Documents Librarian, University of Denver, Penrose Library
Michael Levine-Clark, Associate Dean for Scholarly Communication and Collections Services, University of Denver
This session addressed the question not only of comparing use of electronic and print books, but also the validity of such comparisons. The project began with the purchase in 2008 of the package of Duke University Press e- and p-books, through which 841 titles were available in both formats (the print were almost free and appeased faculty concerns!). They tracked cumulative circulation data every December during 2009-2011 as well as e-book usage data during that same time span. However, before proceeding to explanation of the results the presenters emphasized the interesting point that one cannot really compare use of the two formats-or at least it is like comparing apples and oranges. With print books, one counts check-outs (sometimes to faculty who can renew books until they retire), carrying potentially many uses; i.e. there is one check-out statistic but an unknown number of multiple uses within that loan period. By contrast, with e-books each use can be tracked: one time “in” the book is one use. In addition, there were additional complications: title variations, ISBN complexities, and multiple-volume issues. According to the counter, 36.7% of the e-books were used, and 66% of the print books were used, and 325 titles were used in both formats. There also were stats for “P Used, E Not,” and “E Used, P Not,” etc. At the end of the day, their observations were as follows: “Use of E does not seem to lead to use of P” and “Use of P does not seem to lead to use of E.” Furthermore, when both formats were used, they were used at a higher rate than average and at an apparently more meaningful level as measured by pages viewed and user sessions. Their suggestion posed at the end of the session was that if the dual format use increased, then perhaps the preference is for good content, and not so much format per se. Different formats may be used for different reasons and purposes. Despite all the statistics displayed rapidly across vanishing screens, this was an intriguing session and underscored the ambiguities in tracking use and user preferences.
“Keep Calm and Carry On: eBook Success @ Undergraduate Libraries”
Mary Barbosa-Jerez, Head of Collection Development, St. Olaf College
Cathy Goodwin, Head of Collection Management, Coastal Carolina University
Roberta Schwartz, Technical Services Manager, Bowdoin College
This session examined the e-book issues faced by smaller, predominantly undergraduate schools that lack the resources and staffing enjoyed by larger research institutions.
St. Olof College, with 3000 undergraduates, has a striking faculty demographic: a high percentage of newly minted professors with both expectations and familiarity with digital materials, so e-books are a non-issue for many newer faculty. In addition, nearly 90% of students study abroad, so e-access supports an important program at the school. These elements have facilitated a shift from “just in case” to “just in time” philosophies, and access rather than ownership. The goals outlined by Mary Barbosa-Jerez were: creating a seamless patron experience, offering multiple simultaneous users, universal downloading ability to all devices, quality MARC records, perpetual access, and relative stability of collection titles. Mary described herself as an early watcher rather than an early adopter, requiring that a system has to meet what she really wants. Experimentation outside of larger e-book collections has been challenging. She suppressed old Net-Library titles because of the single user access feature, which does not match her policies.
Cathy Goodwin of Coastal Carolina University described her institution of fewer than 9000 students (a few graduate and one doctoral program approved, plus a distance eduation program) as “state-limited” rather than state-funded. She pronounced NetLibrary a dreadful model, having preferred to go with ebrary’s Academic Complete subscription in 2009, and the Springer e-book collection. She purchases more for the curriculum, not so much for faculty research. She sent out a three-question survey to faculty, essentially asking if this was a good use of departmental funds, garnering a 17% response rate, including 33% tenture-track faculty, which was generally positive. She listed several familiar challenges, including multiple platforms, inconsistent modes of access, the e-reader proliferation which complicates access, and the need for a better aggregator model. In order to assist users, librarians have prepared a LibGuide for “Ebooks @ Kimbel Library” which has tabs for their various assorted families of e-books. (Another librarian in the audience pointed out that her library at Johns Hopkins also had a LibGuide for e-books: E-Books: How to Find Electronic Books and Resources in the Library’s Catalog.) Cathy’s concluding advice was an inspirational “Good luck!”
Roberta Schwartz of Bowdoin College in Maine, an all-undergraduate institution, outlined the collaborative approach taken by Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby for both print and e-book purchases: they are able to share each e-book among the three colleges, including the MARC records. They share a catalog and collections with the intention of minimizing frustration, and have acquired packages from Oxford, Duke, Cambridge, and Springer. She noted that students do not seem to favor e-books if they need to read the entire book; it is okay for only a few chapters, anthologies, etc., and they do favor the remote access. But despite such caveats, she acknowledges that e-books are a large part of the future landscape.
“Great Expectations: New Organizational Models for Overworked Liaisons”
Steve Cramer, Business Librarian, UNCG
Amy Harris, Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Coordinator, UNCG
ZSR liaisons met with UNCG counterparts earlier this year to discuss workload issues, so it was interesting to hear how this problem has been pursued at UNCG. The litany of responsibilities is similar, and there were many heads in the audience nodding in agreement: research instruction, outreach, collection development, weeding, embedding in classes, assessing both instruction and collections, developing online learning objects, and addressing scholarly communication issues–the list goes on. The question posed was whether such expectations are realistic!
Steve and Amy gave an overview of organizational structure vis-à-vis liaison work: a decentralized liaison structure with no official liaison leader, liaisons not really held accountable, most of them based in reference but spending most of their time on liaison activities. The Head of Reference acknowledges this mismatch.
Then came a “Perfect Storm:” a large weeding project, large budget cuts, reduced liaison staffing despite a decade of campus growth, increasing expectations of liaison responsibilities for bibliographic instruction, increasing research consultations, embedded librarians, evaluation of databases, creating LibGuides, collection assessment, outreach, and promoting scholarly communication issues. The consensus: this was an unsustainable workload.
In response, the Dean convened a Liaison Collection Responsibilities Task Force in March of this year to survey how other libraries deal with the complex array of liaison responsibilities in possibly innovative ways, and to recommend alternative organizational models for the range of collection development and public services of liaisons. The UNCG librarians discussed the issue with WFU colleagues, searched library literature (to little avail), raised questions at conferences, researched library web sites, and contacted libraries with interesting models. Most academic libraries have decentralized liaisons organization, such as Utah State, for example. Johns Hopkins and Villanova have more centralized departments for liaison work. Some libraries have co-liaisons in teams. Minnesota, Duke, Kansas, and Washington formally prioritize the responsibilities of liaisons, prioritizing engagement over collections.
The liaisons are considering a variety of proposed options: subject teams with coordinators for BI, collections, and reference; teams retaining a departmental structure; or having liaisons partnerships with subject components; or having subject teams with functional responsibilities. They would prioritize academic departments with the most teaching, and enable more teamwork, create more full-time liaison positions, and encourage more liaison partnerships. As next steps, they plan to implement task forces to address specific issues, and to provide staff support for collections projects.