Professional Development

Author Archive

NC Serials Conference 2014 (Ellen D.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014 11:31 am

I attended the 23rd annual North Carolina Serials conference in Chapel Hill on March 14, presented by the NCCU School of Library and Information Sciences. The keynote address, “Altmetrics: Finding Meaningful Needles in the Data Haystack,” was a fast-paced and informative presentation by David Crotty, Senior Editor at Oxford University Press. Arguing that we do a poor job of measuring the impact of a scholar’s work, he proposed moving beyond the conventional metric for measuring the impact of publications, the Impact Factor, in favor of alternative metrics, i.e. altmetrics. Advanced technologies now permit the tracking of individual published papers in order to assess the impact of a scholar’s research. He described the impact factor as “One metric to rule them all,” and argued that is slow, difficult to compare among different disciplines, favors review articles over primary literature, creates a ranking system influenced by a small number of highly cited articles, and gives a false implication of accuracy. In short, it is an archaic practice.

Altmetrics.com, Plum Analytics, and Impact Story are examples of altmetrics sites that track citations as well as social media captures and mentions. PLOS and Nature have incorporated this approach, making it possible to look at an individual paper rather than averaging it in with all its neighbors. However, he acknowledged the challenge of separating the signal from the noise in altmetrics, noting that popularity is not to be equated with quality, nor attention with impact. A grand finale of thought-provoking questions drew the session to a close. Does altmetrics favor researchers skilled at social networking (he noted that James Watson, of DNA fame, has no twitter account), with the result that sensationalism (e.g. the sex habits of fruit bats) and navel-gazing are encouraged in the resulting echo chamber? When does good faith effort in the legitimate dissemination of information becoming gaming the system (for instance, marketing one’s publications all over blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media)? Does social media count for impact when we spend an average of 15 seconds on a web page? Does marketing become a core activity, so that researchers must change their behaviors and self-marketing becomes unduly important? To what extent do altmetrics reward non-research efforts? Finally, he proposed that altmetrics do not measure quality as much as attention, and although this can be useful, the final challenge for human judgment remains to assess whether a paper is as good as the level at which a journal sits.

The break-out session I attended in the afternoon was an NC LIVE talk presented by Emily Guhde, Online Services Librarian, and Jill Morris, Assistant Director, entitled “Making Usage Data Meaningful: A Consortium’s Attempt to Better Understand eResource Usage.” They described a benchmarking project that NC LIVE commenced in April 2012, to study electronic resource use among member libraries within a variety of library peer groups. They noted two different perspectives: that of the consortium, using data to make decisions about NC LIVE services and to decrease cost per use, and the perspective of libraries, concerned with what kind of use should be seen at their own libraries, and what should be done to improve use of resources. The study had three objectives: to identify peer groupings of North Carolina libraries, to identify data points for measuring the use of databases (AcademicSearch, Masterfile and Wall Street Journal, Learning Express Library, and Simply Map), to develop a framework for creating usage benchmarks in each peer group, and to analyze and report the qualities of high use libraries. They considered access and authentication, content and collections, awareness and outreach, community characteristics, and library characteristics. In their analyses, they used cross tabs, difference of means tests, and multiple regression. They found, repeatedly, that no one library is at the top or the bottom for all resources, that database use varies widely even among peer institutions, and that flexible peer groups may be more useful than permanent peer groups. To single out four-year college and university libraries: in the top 1/3 of peer groups, 94% authenticate with a local proxy, 82% use direct links to NC LIVE resources, 53% have a high number of librarians per 1000 FTE, and 41% have NC LIVE Committee representatives (as opposed to linking to the NC LIVE website, using passwords to authenticate, and displaying the NC LIVE search box). All of this is relevant to planning for future NC LIVE services related to usage data and to resource selection that takes place every three years, which they are doing now for 2015-2017.

The closing session was presented by Donna Tolson, Library Strategist at the University of Virginia, and Peggy Myers, Director of Library Development at UNC-CH, and was entitled, “Telling Your Story: Effective Packaging of Assessment Data.” Tolson directs assessment staff, focusing operations on strategic priorities of the library and the university, and she pointed out that assessment is not just measurement: one has to make something of it, and quoted Lord Kelvin’s adage that “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” At Alderman Library and the University of Virginia libraries system, internal management and library staff are the greatest creators and consumers of data, and she re-packages that information depending on whom she is talking to. For instance, as she put it, managers “speak library,” are interested in details, value the big picture, and assessment should stay in that language. The Dean translates library, is interested in implications, and values strategic data. The profession compares and contrasts, speaks library, regards consistency as paramount, values new approaches to shared issues, and agrees on definitions and talks about the same stuff, while vendors speak library, are interested in controlling data, and value our business. Thus, selection and packaging of data vary according to different audiences and purposes and is significant in the impact and usefulness of data.

The NC Serials Conference is outside of my usual peregrinations, but I found the sessions all interesting, thought-provoking, and the entire event enjoyable. ZSR Library was well represented with Carol, Chris, Derrik, Jeff, and Steve all in attendance.

 

 

Charleston Conference 2013 (Ellen D.)

Monday, November 18, 2013 10:41 am

Charleston Conference 2013
Nov. 6-9 “Too Much is Not Enough!”
With the looming confluence of two dire developments, de-selection AND e-books, these rather fraught issues were the inevitable themes of several sessions I chose to attend at this year’s Charleston Conference, held November 6-9.
“Not So Fast:” Researcher Preferences for Print or E-Books,” presented by two librarians from McMaster University, Janice Adlington (Collections & Information Resources Librarian) and Wade Wyckoff (Association University Librarian, Collections) offered an interesting counterpoint to some aspects of e-books issues as we manage them. The library has no approval plan, but librarians do firm ordering for both print and e-books on a title-by-title basis. They purchase front list titles from Oxford, Harvard, IEEE-Wiley, Springer, with some consortial arrangements, and add more e-books than print per year, with a total now of 4000 unowned EBL titles. Unlike ZSR’s compassionate policies, they do not provide intentional duplication of print and electronic, and there is no ILL for print if the e-book is owned (with few exceptions). ILL is unmediated, and 25% of requests are rejected. Predictably, there has been faculty and graduate student pushback, providing anecdotal evidence as well as lengthy, detailed, and persistent complaints regarding a specific e-book package. The librarians felt that they needed more structured input in order to develop more nuanced collecting strategies and to better support those most likely to engage deeply with texts (and to discern more than the squeaky wheels). So they devised a 7-point survey (using Survey Monkey) covering demographics, general preferences, and usage, plus an open-ended content box-and garnered strong opposing viewpoints. The survey went out to faculty, graduate and undergraduate students alike. Many individuals use both formats, and all levels of response preferred print books, particularly among the undergraduates. The Humanities and Social Sciences were over-represented, reflecting the importance of monographs to their scholarship, and they strongly prefer print. The Sciences change to a greater acceptance of electronic. The open question box pulled in a wide range of comments. Some saw benefits to both formats. The EBL and Ebsco platforms provoked negative comments. Even among the scientists, print was seen as offering a richer learning experience, easier to browse and assess for relevance; as one person put it, one can’t put one’s finger in the page to refer back. By contrast, e-books are fine for reference and scanning. There were frequent remarks on the use of the printing option and downloading to tablets, in order to have easier access to sections they needed. Humanities showed the highest use of printing and downloading to tablet or reader, but not as many downloaded to laptops as in Science/Engineering. One science professor confessed to buying print to avoid reading e-books. The comments included reflections that with e-books one reads less intently, and one doesn’t absorb enough information; one can’t double back; one MINES e-texts but READS print books; there is greater difficulty reading closely and retaining information; one is more likely to read a print books in its entirety.
As a result of the survey, the librarians changed their approaches. They stopped buying the front list from a problematic publisher. They will continue print for the Humanities, with the traditional scholarly academic monographs. They will also re-think their ILL policies and revisit acquisitions policy, addressing the question of buying print if they already own the e-book title. They plan to exercise caution in weeding print based on e-book availability for their legacy print collection. Interestingly, they remove the short term loan availability for e-books if they buy print. They wondered if e-book records encourage print circulation, a question to address perhaps in the future. They had expected greater enthusiasm for e-books. They were hit by the EBL textbook policy, and fear that as a consequence faculty are re-considering e-books and do not trust them now (even more than before?). Afterwards, in the discussion, one person stood up and pointedly asked, “Why are we doing this?” if there are so many user problems. Are we just solving our problems but not our users’ problems? Someone else pointed out that there are moral problems if users have to pay to print out texts when they cannot read print. And finally, one attendee from Germany gave an international twist to the survey’s findings: in Germany the preferences for print fall along similar lines.

 

Perhaps not too many collection management projects involve comparing one’s library holdings with those of the State Library of Norway. This unique relationship emerged from the session, “Janus-Faced Collection Ecology: De-Selection and Preservation at St. Olaf College Libraries,” presented by Mary Barbosa-Jerez , Head of Collection Development (and clearly not of Nordic origins, she acknowledged). “Janus,” with its allusion to facing the past as well as the future, suggests being mindful of unique cultural heritage holdings as well as future space needs for books and collaborative areas. In addition to supporting the St. Olaf College curriculum, the Rolvaag Library serves as the primary book repository for the Norwegian-American immigrant community, with formal ties to the Norwegian American Historical Association. The St. Olaf libraries had never been subjected to comprehensive collection assessment or to systematic weeding, and with pressing space issues, a weeding project was devised that included identifying, segregating, and protecting (as well as enhancing discoverability of) culturally important materials (the library was “off the charts” in terms of unique holdings associated with the Nordic communities). The speaker emphasized the cultural heritage not only in terms of library holdings, but also in terms of culturally based attitudes. As a self-isolated culture of frugal savers, every gift had been regarded as important. High pride in the work of forbearers meant that each item should be saved by the sub-culture; other holdings included items that had been selected carefully by well-loved faculty members. These attitudes, she noted, were at odds with the reality of physical space and the library’s mission. A vault valuation project for the Nordic-American collection reflected the value of Nordic-American Imprints and began by segregating heritage materials for protection. This process was based on identification of heritage criteria and involved coding in OCLC. She achieved stake-holder buy-in by means of a library faculty committee educated in the issues involved, and the conversation regarding de-selection always included a preservation element. She held multiple meetings of all concerned parties, reported on progress, gathered feedback, and got recommendations for the next step. Billing the undertaking as a pilot de-selection project meant that it was a low stress but high impact test. She insisted that de-selection decisions would be restricted to decisions and actions of the library staff; there had been so many preliminary conversations that additional reiterations would be redundant. In the end, a separate space was identified for heritage collection items, and genuinely deselection-worthy items could be identified as well and disposed of accordingly. She emphasized the importance of awareness of one’s unique holdings, as well as the future paradigm of one-in-one-out for the library’s collection management.

 

“Transforming a Print Collection” was a (heavily) statistically-driven presentation by two librarians at Temple University faced with the wondrous prospect of a new library on the horizon: Fred Rowland (Reference Librarian) and Brian Schooler (Head, Acquisitions and Collection). Naturally, the structure was not to be a 50 million warehouse for print ; the library already has an offsite storage and retrieval facility (1.1 million volumes in the library and 4 million offsite). As a preliminary planning step, they wanted to achieve a sense of the importance of print among various disciplines and developed two independent but complementary projects to track patterns of print use. They looked at recent circulation in the past 2.5 years and grouped them into publication dates with call numbers. They found that 21% of the N and M classes had circulated within that time span, 15% of history, and Humanities overall 14.9, compared to 10.4% in the STM fields, underscoring the relative importance of monographs. A broader overview of the circulation history revealed that 33.3% of the collection had circulated since 2010, then 30% dating from the 2000s, 17.9% from the 1990s, 11.1% from the 1980s, and 6.6 from the 1970s. Pre-1980s publications were stable at the low level of 3-6%. Tracking the linear curve of this, the Humanities showed a steeper jump from the 1970s to the 1980s, more so for history and yet more so for the Arts. Then there was some leveling off in the 2000s and in more recent years. Specific classes have different patterns from the broader categories, but the multiple lines of color for various LC sub-classes became rather messy slides, by their own admission. The Humanities showed more heavily used older materials; so those disciplines benefit from a larger amount of older materials in open stacks. Overall, they saw strong circulation of new books within 10 years of publication date. For the past 10 years, 55.2% of the collection had circulated, with 1.6 average circulations per book. 10% of the books account for 48% of total circulation, and 25% of books account for 76% of total checkouts. Humanities make up 51% of all the books, and 52% of Humanities titles have circulated. 53% of total checkouts are Humanities while English books circulated at around 59%. The peak of checkouts occurred in 2008/2009 after which they have been decreasing, perhaps attributable to buying fewer print books and more e-books. The session ended rather abruptly when time ran out and we all resigned ourselves to the respite from the relentless rain of statistics.
Lynn was one of the panel members in “If the University is in the Computer, Where Does That Leave the Library? MOOCs Discovered” and made a compelling presentation on our contributions to what she defined as MOOCs’ role in contributing to the social imperative in global institutions’ quest for high quality education, and highlighted ZSR’s-and Kyle’s-roles in meeting those needs. The first speaker, Meredith Schwartz of Rittenhouse Book Distributors wittily outlined the life cycle of many innovative efforts: Technological trigger > Peak of inflated expectations > Trough of disillusionment > Slope of enlightenment > Plateau of productivity. Perhaps we are avoiding the trough of disillusionment by having had reasonable expectations as ZSR embarked on its own version of a Pilgrim MOOC’s Progress.

 

Rich in both content and relevance, Charleston is a conference I look forward to attending again in future years. In the meantime, the conference theme (“Too Much is Not Enough!”) emblazoned on the sturdy conference bag seems very suitable for re-purposing as a shopping bag.

Poteat Lecture 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013 11:52 am

A number of English faculty have presented the Poteat Lecture since the award was established in 1997, and I was particularly interested in attending Professor Mary DeShazer’s lecture this month as she was recognized for her scholarly achievements as Professor both of English and Women’s and Gender Studies. Her lecture, “Representing Breast Cancer in the Twenty-first Century,” was a moving reflection of both her earlier and current scholarship: her first book on the subject, Fractured Borders: Reading Women’s Cancer Literature, and now a second study, Mammographies: The Cultural Discourses of Breast Cancer Narratives, to be published in June. The impetus for the earlier work was the death of a close friend from a recurrence of breast cancer, and this later book examines the changing approaches of post-millennial illness narratives, the autobiographies and memoirs (“autothanatographies” as she termed them) that recount and probe a devastating illness. She noted that different issues inform these more recent discourses: genetic testing for the BRCA gene that raises ethical issues regarding preventative measures, a greater willingness to question the medical establishment, and the exploration of environmental toxins as contributing factors (but cultural and political silencing as well, unfortunately). She cited a shocking predictive statistic: rates are increasing so rapidly in the developing world, that in the next decades some 70% of breast cancers will arise there.

With the term “mammographies” in the title, she alludes both to the imaging technology and to the documentary accounts that map the experience of disease. The post-millennial works she focuses on are often collaborative and visual: photographic narratives representing cancer as well as graphic narratives (i.e. cancer “comics”-a rather oxymoronic concept). An example of the former is Catherine Lord’s The Summer of her Baldness: A Cancer Improvisation, which encompasses both sexual identity issues as well as Lord’s breast cancer. The Scar Project, from which Prof. DeShazer drew a number of images in her handouts, aims to make breast cancer visible while it questions the pink ribbon perspective on the disease. Miriam Engelberg’s Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person: A Memoir in Comics tracks the recurrence of disease, and Stephanie Byram’s Knowing Stephanie is a collaborative but elegiac book with photography by Charlee Brodsky.

After surveying these works, Professor DeShazer discussed some of the broader aesthetic, ethical, and social issues raised by breast cancer narratives. There is the question of informed consent-who has the right to take and publish personal narratives or photographs that have become essentially momenti mori, and whose interests are served in doing so? She touched on the politics of prostheses, and the view that breast cancer culture can be considered pseudo-optimistic. At the end she concluded eloquently that these narratives of illness can be transformational, empathetic encounters that change the inner world of another individual: one looks again, “quietly and differently.”

EllenD at Charleston

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 3:20 pm

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.

 

 

 

EllenD at NCLA

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 12:48 pm

I attended this year’s NCLA Conference in Hickory on October 6, and went through the usual pre-conference dithering over sessions to attend. Although I would have enjoyed one presentation on researching Civil War ancestors, given the approach of the War’s sesquicentennial and a recent summer pilgrimage to Gettysburg with two keenly engaged family members, I opted for a pragmatic topic of interest, “Patrons Left to Their Own Devices: Library Databases and E-Readers.” The four presenters, Lynda Kellam and Amy Harris of UNCG, Mark Sanders of ECU, and Lauren P., succinctly covered the attributes, virtues, and vices of the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Sony Touch, and nookColor eReaders. Their varying designs, capabilities, and ease of use were covered both from old gen and new gen perspectives, with a quick round at the end of “Why I Like My —–.” One recurring theme was the continued challenge for libraries and their patrons regarding the integrations of e-readers with library e-books and full-text library databases. No magic wand in sight at the present moment.

I attended the REMCo Luncheon and thoroughly enjoyed not only the food and the speaker, but also especially a chance conversation at our table with Philip Cherry III, Vice-Chair/Chair Elect. He had attended that Civil War Ancestors session, and told me how he was involved in a fascinating project involving tracing Onslow County slaves who had participated in the War. As an example, he recounted how the name of one former slave, who had been on a large Onslow plantation raided by Union troops, shows up in a later census in the Lake Pontchartrain area, with the right age. Now his descendants are cooperating with the project to determine if it is indeed the same individual, since their ancestral tracking stops at that census; no one has any idea, of course, as to how he ended up in the New Orleans area. One can easily imagine the challenges of such a project, given the vagaries of plantation slave and African-American soldier record-keeping, as well as the vicissitudes of post-Emancipation struggles of former slaves. The luncheon speaker was Nooma Rhue, of Preserve Pro, Inc. An archivist, library director, and author, she discussed the impetus and experience behind her book, Organizing and Preserving Family History and Religious Records. Her experience had commenced at Johnson C. Smith University, where she had been tasked with organizing the Inez Moore Parker Archives, then in a state of absolute disarray. This led to a career in archival work melded with community engagement, all buttressed by a strong sense of mission regarding the importance of preserving family and religious archives.

In the afternoon, I spent a couple of hours volunteering for Sarah at the Conference Store, trying to emulate sales techniques for pushing items that needed to be sold (e.g. the unique Dewey Decimal-embellished coffee mug that would otherwise need to be shipped back to ALA, or time-limited Conference T-shirts). It was fun to chat with people as they came to browse and buy. Oddly enough, I constantly had to suppress an impulse to keep statistics….

Humanities Institute Spring Launch

Friday, March 25, 2011 12:24 pm

On March 18, I attended the opening day keynote address for the Humanities Institute Spring Launch.

Dr. Edward Ayers, currently president of the University of Richmond, was the speaker. His is a familiar face to me since for many years he served as Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Virginia, and he regularly wrote columns for the alumni magazine at UVA, where I received my M.A. His accomplishments and influence as an advocate for the humanities, specifically in digital and public humanities, are broad-ranging: an earlier online history project, The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War, remains a celebrated and honored digital archive of thousands of primary source materials from two communities, northern and southern, in Pennsylvania and Virginia during the Civil War. More recently, he has been co-hosting a public radio call-in show, BackStory with the American History Guys (which he described as “Car Talk” for American history buffs). He has also received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the NEH Digital Humanities program to support “Landscapes of the American Past: Visualizing Emancipation,” which will employ digital mapping in order to reveal where, when and how emancipation emerged from the Civil War as well as social changes that took place during that period.

The lecture itself examined the issue of innovation in the humanities. “What does America want from us,” he queried–”dog-eared volumes or new theories on post-anything?” He countered that humanists are always innovative, in the courses they teach and in the research and scholarship they conduct. He tracked the institutional embodiment of the humanities, given the fact that he has now “bitten the apple of administrative experience,” and traced the timeline of the humanities in academia and the various crises that have arisen. In the 1930s the humanities became part of institutional requirements and the post-war years were their golden age. The 1960s became a period of efflorescence for the humanities, with President Lyndon Johnson’s creation of the NEH and a marked increase in humanities degrees, which peaked in 1972. But by the1970s the job market for advanced degrees in the humanities began to disappear after years of saturation, and although the 1980s became another period of ascendance, albeit to a lesser degree, the relative position of the humanities has since then stabilized and remained largely the same for the past 20 years. However, the crisis of graduate students entering the job market is, in his words, “heartbreaking.” (And I was but a couple of rows behind two very long rows of Visiting Assistant Professors in the English Department, sitting collegially and staunchly together.) Ayers believes that there is no loss of interest in the humanities: the humanities, social sciences, and sciences each enroll approximately 18% of students and the proportion of English majors has remained relatively stable. But since humanists are famous for being resistant to change –because innovations have sometimes come at the expense of the humanities– we need to clarify the innovations we do desire. The golden age will not return. Humanists need to work with the social momentum of the times and to shape that momentum ourselves. He cited his experiences as an administrator, of hearing repeatedly from alumni who specifically remember a faculty member and a class, but conceded that some people remain impervious to our charms of nuanced critical and contextual thinking! In a time of multi-cultural and gender identity interests and awareness, and as internationalism ties together the various areas of the humanities, humanists need to get over any disdain for subjects taught on another floor of a building or the other side of the parking lot, and to realize that all teach profound, life-changing things. He noted at one point that libraries give access to the humanistic archive and that because of e-journals and other digital resources, humanists and the humanities enjoy a vaster audience. He then spent some time showing us the signature project of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, which deals with the hidden patterns of the Civil War. This involves mapping Richmond’s slave market and digitizing some 3000 pages of the secession debate in Virginia, where slavery is mentioned more than 1000 times in the debates– thereby addressing the question of the extent to which the Civil War was about states’ rights or slavery. He deplored the fact that as we approach the 150th anniversary of the end of slavery, and freedom from perpetual bondage for 4 million people, there is no marking of it. Implicitly, this digital project is an information-rich marker.

Dr. Ayers was a very engaging and thought-provoking speaker, and it was personally interesting for me to see the personality behind the UVA magazine columns I read for so many years.

Metrolina Conference 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 2:37 pm

Metrolina 5th Annual Information Literacy Conference

17 June 2010, Charlotte, NC

This was the first Metrolina Information Literacy Conference I’ve attended, with a program that prompted some dithering over which sessions to choose-always a positive sign.

“Information Literacy Examined in Multicultural Context,” presented by keynote speaker Dr. Clara Chu of the Department of Library and Information Studies at UNCG, was the most thought-provoking of all the talks. Grounded at once in theory as well as in personal conviction and at times painful life experience, the lecture commenced by stressing the vast amount of information that inundates us every day, but adding that although we now have unprecedented access to diverse sources of information it is also difficult to distinguish information from noise and inaccuracy. Professor Chu defined a range of types of diversity: human diversity as broadly encompassing physical differences, life experiences, and personal preferences; cultural diversity as different beliefs, values, and personal characteristics; and systems diversity as variable organizational structure and management. She singled out the importance of critical literacy which fosters diverse ways of looking at information , questioning attitudes, values, and beliefs, and enabling one to uncover social inequality and injustice, as a means of being an agent of social change.

Multicultural literacy is the knowledge of culture and language. From feminist studies Chu singled out positionality, whereby one recognizes what one brings to the table in terms of social demographics, cultural characteristics, and language. She listed evaluation criteria for multicultural content or multimedia materials:

  1. Objectivity or bias such as racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, homophobia, or ageism; this is characterized by unrealistic representation, imbalance, omission, stereotyping, and fragmentation. For example, a library may have information about a community but not BY the community, inadvertently omitting their own voices. Counter-narratives tell the other story, affording perspectives that run counter to the presumed ones and alternatives to the dominant discourse.
  2. Language diversity, variance within languages, and language bias, once again bearing the potential for racism, sexism, homophobia, or ageism with loaded terminology, ridicule, exaggeration, mispronunciation, slander, or offensiveness. She raised the question of whether libraries are doing enough to provide multi-language access, and suggested using an approximate tool such as google translator.
  3. Subject, such as scope, authority, authenticity, and accuracy.
  4. Resources imbalance or selectivity, invisibility or omission, scope, diversity of format perspective and language.

Finally, she addressed cultural competency, which includes ethnic competence and an awareness of one’s own cultural limitations. By way of example, she listed characteristics of American culture: self-expression, equality, and informality, achievement, self control of destiny, individualism and authority in non-authoritarian relationships. By contrast, a Latino/a patron might be characterized by allocentrism (community orientation), simpatico, familialism, personal space issues, time orientation, gender roles, and respect for authority. Cultural competence also includes openness to cultural differences, utilizing cultural resources, and acknowledgement of cultural integrity. Multicultural literacy, she emphasized, is prominently one of the literacies of the twenty-first century.

“Classroom 2.0: Bringing Interactivity into Library Instruction,” presented by Jenny Dale, Amy Harris, and Lynda Kellam of UNCG, was an engaging and predictably interactive session. Prefacing the session with a nod to instructional design, which is intended to make the knowledge transfer happen in a deliberate, systematic, and appealing way, the group went on to advocate for interactivity as a means of engaging students and distributing power and responsibility. A few “Think-Pair-Share” sessions demonstrated the merit of interactivity as we variously pondered and proffered rationales for interactivity or the merits/demerits of our assorted libraries. Another exercise actually got us out of our seats as we wandered about the room in a modified reprise of the old “Sardines” childhood game, bearing slips of paper and searching for research statements and related keywords where we might all legitimately congregate together. It is always enormously helpful to get ideas for interactive strategies, so this was a particularly useful, pragmatic session.

“Teach Smarter Not Harder: Classroom Tips and Techniques,” with Sherry Bagwell, a retired educator from the Greenville County Schools, SC, was the one session that proved to be less than useful. The brief summary in the conference program had not indicated that the intended audience was in fact public school librarians and teachers, so although there were numerous tips and suggestions, they were not really germane to our higher education setting-and happily so, since many referred to problematic situations and behaviors, which we seem to be blissfully ignorant of and largely immune to, as far as I’m aware. She outlined core beliefs in the primacy of caring and the inevitability of conflict, and warned against attaching rewards to grades or to behavior. Behavior can be changed and good behavior must be taught, and good discipline is timely discipline. There was some discussion about different types of teachers: authoritative, permissive, and authoritarian, and the situations in which various approaches might tend to emerge.

Finally, I attended Mary Scanlon’s excellent session, “Increasing Intellectual Engagement in an Info-lit Class for Business Majors.” Her voice projecting valiantly through the ravages of persistent laryngitis, Mary described challenges in teaching an advanced business research course, as well as considerations in devising solutions. She cited numerous distractions for students: the numerous and diverse types of resources, databases and web sites, and the elusive critical thinking process that may or may not enable a student to connect a need with a germane resource. She sought approaches that would hold the students’ migratory attention spans and assignments that would reinforce knowledge and engage students with the research materials. She nonetheless had to bear in mind students’ frequently articulated expectations of the appropriate workload for a one-credit course(familiar, anyone?). Mary offered numerous tactics, including the following:

More graded, hands-on activities, including student presentations (e.g. students responsible in groups for teaching databases)

More of the course grade dependent on intellectual engagement with material (via the class blog and discussion), worksheets, and quizzes

In order to focus students’ attention, she consolidated the syllabus to four primary topics: company information, industry information, market research, and accounting information; and she covered fewer resources, two or three per topic with more time devoted to each and attention to drawing parallels among the resources.

She devised worksheets that were essentially guided note-taking, and were completed during class sessions. In these worksheets students were to describe contents and to list tools for refining a search and for managing results. Quizzes reinforced class content and applied tools learned in class, and written reports, 2-3 pages in length, required the use of certain resources, and were skill-based, involving critical thinking and integrating information from multiple sources.

Tactics to engage student attention included daily group presentations, weekly blog postings, and class discussion. Students had to teach databases, for which she provided initial orientation by way of jing videos.

In conclusion, course components that worked well included the worksheets, quizzes, written reports, database presentations, the final presentation, and the frequent feedback. Less successful were the information topics which did not seem to engage the students, who failed to think through all the issues. These topics were e-readers, Google Books, the decline of print newspapers, and Net neutrality, and the discussion that ensued offered suggestions for alternative topics or approaches. Outcomes for the course included higher grades, better coursework –especially the reports, and course evaluations.

This was a very useful, focused conference, and I hope to attend more in future years.

LAUNC-CH March 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 2:03 pm

LAUNC-CH 2010

The theme of this spring’s LAUNC-CH conference, which Steve and I attended on Monday, was “Creating a User-Centered Library.” As ever, it offered an impressively wide range of pragmatic presentations, this time revolving around the issue of user-centricity.

The keynote presenters, Mike Olsen, Dawn Hubbs, and Barbara Tierney, all of UNC -Charlotte, led off with macro- and micro-perspectives on the issue, “What Do You Do?” User-Centered Ethnography at UNC-C’s Atkins Library.” Olsen, Associate University Librarian for Information Commons, recounted how the library hired a professional anthropologist to do usability testing, querying a group of eight students on how they worked and how they could perhaps do so “better and smarter.” The impetus for this stemmed from the absence of a University Librarian for many years, as well as a head of information commons, so the sentiment was that they needed to re-address their purpose. The result was a re-designed library, both physically and virtually, with an interesting array of approaches, some novel, some more familiar. Easels now permit students to write about what they like and don’t like: for instance, students want more of a streamlined Google look to the library’s web site and the library has emulated a library Smartphone app, similar to Duke’s mobile site. Barbara Tierney, Head of Information Services, listed their university-centered services. A Public Services Committee meets monthly with representatives from every public service area. They instituted a user-centered forum to address the question of how students (4 on the panel) do their work; from this it emerged that students are in their own personal networks, unlikely to consult either faculty or staff, and they prefer to use information from their peers. They are not sophisticated in the way they use the library, and are generally blissfully unaware of library resources, are satisfied with finding the easiest way to research, and Google is uncontested king. Smart phones are devoted to social networking only, untainted by research purposes. Atkins’ user-centered initiatives promote library resources and services such tactics as blanket emails, embedding resources in course pages, attempting to keep students tech savvy, showing how to use specialty software, having library staff present at orientation programs, publicizing services in all areas of the university, and having librarians involved with various university programs and centers. There are also eight “Learning Express” modules, with both long and short versions for books, articles, and other research resources, with links to these units embedded in courseware. They were able to accomplish something we have had in mind for years: an Information Desk that is the first public service desk students encounter as they enter the library. Dawn Hubbs, Head of Research Services, noted that the library doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but in relation to other structures and programs. They have responded to students’ wishes to have a sofa room/nap area (have we truly addressed that need as yet?) as well as food in the library. There was some sentiment still to see books in the library, so reference books are now located on the first floor. There’s an ongoing conflict between quiet study and group study needs. Three public service desks are situated near to each other, for Information, Research Services, and Tech support. Incidentally, they use LibStats from UW-Madison to collect reference questions.

The two breakout sessions I opted for were: “Telling our Stories: Connecting with Faculty at Guilford College” and “Encouragement as Service Philosophy: Motivating African-American College Students to Connect with Library Resources and Services.” The first presentation was offered by Nathaniel King, Information Literacy Librarian, and Leah Dunn, Library Director, both of Guilford College. This session advocated cultivating “library evangelists” in order to approach “library skeptics” about the value of library services, whose value might not always seem readily apparent. King sees stories as a means of persuasion: when one asks library users about the library, one most often gets a story, and faculty who share stories become valuable marketing resources. Just find the faculty who can tell great stories, thereby communicating infectious enthusiasm for the library– such as their positive experiences with ILL. He outlined a range of possible tactics: getting into the campus community by attending events and informal and formal meetings, campus-sponsored faculty lunches, and supporting research and writing (for instance they have a Zotero week when librarians go into the dining hall and offer quick demos and handouts to students who stop by).

The second breakout session was presented by Judd Mortimore, a Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor of Religion at Bennett College, and Amanda Wall, a UNC-G Ph.D. student in Teacher Education. Adopting encouragement as a service philosophy, Mortimore contended, serves to motivate African-American college students to connect with library resources and services at a Historically Black College, many of whose students are first generation college students with limited research experience, are internet dependent, have research anxiety, and do not eschew plagiarism-not unlike the college student universe in general. They embarked on a library instruction promotion program, and as a result went from 11 to 90 sessions between 2006/07 and 2009/2010, and patron counts of 14,661 to 25,911. They have developed approaches and services with instructional and programmatic emphasis on fostering a perception of encouragement in students. Ms. Wall presented the scholarly undergirding for this approach, discussing a seminal study on the motivation of African-American students, published in 2003 by Kevin Cokley (“What do we Know about the Motivation of African American Students? Challenging the ‘Anti-Intellectual Myth’.” Harvard Educational Review 63.4 (Winter 2003): 524-558. http://her.hepg.org/content/3618644850123376/)

The aim was to capture social and contextual factors of self-concept, and they addressed the notion that faculty encouragement will promote positive academic self-concept. Students at HBUCs have higher motivation and confidence than those attending PWCUs. Working from the premise that the perception of encouragement is a factor in motivation, the implication for libraries is that promoting perceptions of encouragement through library services will likewise foster motivation and positive academic self-concept. He listed strategies for use in both instruction and in references services.

Instruction:

  • Emphasize relationships, not resources, e.g. student-librarian, librarian-professor
  • Address research anxiety early and often, validating the experience of anxiety
  • Know the syllabus and assignments, and engage research tasks as one who is responsible, i.e. model the experience of doing research
  • Emphasize strategies for identifying keywords and revising search strategies, and knowing when to move on
  • Model good responses to search failure and don’t “bulletproof” presentations (show how to respond to failed searches)

Reference:

  • Communicate enthusiasm, even jealousy for the research task
  • Indicate commitment to supporting the student; elicit how the student feels about the task, show interest, commitment, and confidence
  • Acknowledge confusion, anxiety, and disinterest, and respond
  • Clarify the topic and weigh potential foci
  • Identify ambiguity in assignment and encourage to seek clarification
  • Question the student’s choices
  • Model research processes and practices
  • Focus on what the student should do after the interview
  • Resist the temptation to produce the source
  • Follow up, e.g. find something afterwards to re-engage the relationship, establishing oneself as a partner in help

He cited faculty feedback which was positive, even flowery: post-instruction students exhibited more confidence, produced better and more refined topics, used the internet more appropriately, and exhibited less evidence of plagiarism. Students felt more confident with research, finding books, citation styles, and using the internet.

The wrap-up session was led by Jean Ferguson, Head of Research and Reference Services at Duke University, and consisted of querying a panel of students and one professor of Art History at UNC-CH, Dr. John Bowles. A sampling of questions and answers:

Define a library

(Prof) home base, but also books from other libraries on campus, and what can be accessed through the computer

Books and information and journals, but used online resources 10 times more; place to escape and have quiet time; the PGs, a set of shelves on the far end of Davis, also the BF section, where one can wander up and down the aisles and find great books one didn’t find in the online catalog; off campus access makes one more aware of subscription services

If you had BI classes, what was useful?

Too much information, a 3 page handout, but good experience in libraries with help on the spot; library information on course page, germane to specific assignment; asked librarian why couldn’t use Google scholar instead of journal databases; need university-specific technology information and handouts; (prof) faculty loves the library, which is extremely helpful, will do anything to get the student into the library

Where do you like to study?

Library or public places, with the best coffee shop; likes a little bit of noise; home alone, since the library has too many people and one gets too many books if one stays too long

Do you use social media in research?

Doesn’t like chat, since it’s like talking to a customer service agent, prefers personal interaction; likes text a citation for books

Information sources they like

Google and Wikipedia; (Prof) art librarians put together a resource page with most useful sources relevant to the class, uses Google and Wikipedia but knows that other faculty feel they are the downfall of research

What things have prepared you to be a better researcher?

Reference class on citation management; (prof) working in a library as an undergrad and grad student; working in a library so knows how call numbers work, can go right to the book instead of spending 15 minutes looking over the shelves

I felt that the conference’s pragmatic orientation provided much of interest and potential use, but Steve and I both agreed that we have many things in place already at ZSR and are ahead of the curve in much that was presented and discussed!

NCLA 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009 1:25 pm

Mary Scanlon and I attended the Thursday session of NCLA’s 58th Biennial Conference in Greenville, where 543 registrants converged on the Greenville Convention Center.

The speaker at the day’s Ogilvie Lecture was Mary Boone, State Librarian of North Carolina, who commenced her address by countering our awareness of parlous times for libraries by citing positive statistics for the state: NC is the 4th fastest growing state, 10th most populous, and is projected to be the 7th most populous state by 2030. On the other hand, there have been hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the traditional big three job areas– tobacco, textiles, and furniture, as a new economy has emerged based on technology, banking, pharmaceuticals, and auto-parts , yes auto-parts. She underscored the importance of NC libraries and the services they provide, despite cuts to their own resources (17.9% cuts at ECU, for instance, the home university for this conference). She singled out NC community colleges’ challenges as they try to support a new curriculum that addresses the education and training needs of the new workplaces. I’ve read, for instance, that community colleges are jumping on the bandwagon for educating in emerging green technologies. Yet community colleges have had resource cuts of 25-41%.Public library use is at an all time high, heavily used by people seeking new jobs and forced to apply online, when some have never touched computers in their lives (some public libraries have also found it necessary to take reservations for story hours!). However, she remains optimistic that one can define one’s core mission and still provide essential services. For instance, she cited innovative strategies in the face of materials cuts:librarians going into the stacks and displaying literary classics in lieu of the latest bestsellers, with the result that these venerable works are flying off the display shelves.She closed by urging us to redefine and update our mission and do different, if necessary, with less.

I attended the RASS luncheon, which featured author Jill McCorkle as speaker. She prefaced her readings with engaging and humorous accounts of her writing process, disclosing that she tends to jot intriguing snippets of conversations on slips of papers, napkins, paper towels, etc. which she then stows away for future use. She cited one such remark from this summer, coming from a woman in a grocery store who observed that “the humility had been just terrible” of late; Ms. McCorkle emphatically agreed-and added that quotation to her cache for future use.She was queried, inevitably, about her archival practices (her papers are at UNC ), and she assured the audience of librarians that she does indeed place these slips she’s used in a story in an envelope, to be archived with her other literary output. Her readings from her most recent short story collection, Going Away Shoes, were delightful, full of wit and insight.I am looking forward to finding out how the tales ended.

Each day of the conference offered a session on the greening of libraries, and not surprisingly the sessions were all highly popular, with enthusiastic presenters and audiences alike. The choice of the day was “NC Public Libraries Going Green,” presented by Jody Risacher, Director Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center, Jodi Hojosy, Green Business Program Coordinator, and Dan Barron, Chair NCPLDA Green Libraries Task Force. They offered a very interesting and encouraging overview of Green Library initiatives in NC, including the NC Green Libraries Project (Mr. Barron’s portion) and included a specific account of how the Cumberland County Public Library earned the local Green Business Certificate. That opportunity had fallen into their laps when Sustainable Sandhills approached the library as part of an initiative to assist businesses and institutions in the area with sustainability planning and to encourage them to embrace more environmentally friendly modes of business. The Library now has an informative web page, “Thinking Green, Working Green,” that is filled with information resources, including books and dvds owned by the library, as well as links to external information sources for consumers, provided by governmental and by environmental agencies and organizations.

“Utilizing Library Space for Learning Opportunities,” presented by two UNCG librarians, Kathy Crowe (Associate Dean for Public Services) and Mike Crumpton (Assistant Deans for Administrative Services) took us through the process of assessing, devising, and developing learning spaces. They conducted an environmental scan, assessed how the students use space and what they need, considered changes and updates, and began the planning and renovating processes.They considered changes in how students approach learning and studying, such as active and reflective orientations, group and individual study, technology and other resource access issues. They determined that they needed to create a larger instruction lab, expand collaboratories and group spaces, develop a Learning Commons (the new term for Information Commons), expand service areas such as vending machine and copy center areas as well as the Archives space, reduce and resituate government documents, and reduce as well the reference collection. As a means to these determinations, they used three assessment approaches, an in-house survey, observational studies, and focus groups. Focus group results revealed that the 24/5 expansion was popular as were café booths, collaboratories, group areas and vending. Many considered the library’s environment conducive to study, and confirmed the need for quiet space areas. Fortunately, UNCG has made the expansion of Jackson Library one of its highest priorities, and the proposed design will expand the tower for book stacks and create a center for academic and student life.

Mary Scanlon and Kathy Makens, Electronic Resources Librarian at Durham Public Library, presented a BLINC session on “Social Networking for Career Advancement:It’s Not Your Teenager’s Facebook.” With her usual verve and energy even at the end of a long day spent a-conferencing, Mary explained the various social networking tools and correlated them with professional uses to which they could be put– totally unfazed and undeterred by connectivity poltergeists. She discussed email alerts, useful for journal articles; RSS feeds for both journal articles and blogs; Twitter for conference and professional association coverage; and Facebook, for similar purposes. I had not heard of RT-re-tweet forwarding; or twibes -twitter tribes ,what else, graced by a librarian twibe; or Pipes for filtering the inevitable abundance of RSS feeds (used with a Yahoo account). The audience, coming from various levels of experience, was very engaged, and peppered the two presenters with questions at the end of the very informative session.

Launching a Text a Librarian Service: Cornell’s Experience with Text-a-Librarian

Friday, July 31, 2009 3:34 pm

I sat in on a couple of the concurrent sessions of the day-long “Hand-Held Librarian” online conference on July 30. I was particularly interested in hearing how a library system with the stature of Cornell University had implemented a service which we ourselves have in fact successfully launched already. The participants were Virginia Cole, Reference and Digital Services Librarian at Olin, Cornell University’s humanities and social sciences library; Baseema Banoo Krkoska, Reference & Instruction Coordinator at Albert R. Mann Library for the Colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences & Human Ecology; and Gabriel Marcias, VP of Sales and Marketing of Mosio, the makers of Text a Librarian (TAL). Bearing in mind the 85-90% Americans-with-cellphones statistics, the Digital Reference Committee at Cornell University decided to launch a service that would reach students via their preferred mode of communication. They negotiated important privacy provisions with the service provider, Mosio, in order to disassociate student phone numbers from their queries, but do retain an archive of questions which can actually be searched to find earlier answers to repeat questions. Mosio offers a Q & A technology that has been at the cutting edge SMS, and it uses the same encryption that online bankers use. At Cornell, the service operates on a first come-first serve basis, and any staff can answer; there’s a built-in alert so anyone can see if a question is taken. They market via in-house promotional material, by distributing business cards that include the number for the service, and through library instruction sessions. In the future, they hope to have all librarians offering chat, with hourly shift changes. The types of questions typically cover hours, circulation policies, resources, course-related topics, or the inevitable complaints–an excellent way to preserve anonymity while venting regarding a problem. They began this with a “stealthy” launch, in one course only, in order to test the system and methods, so this totaled 26 texts from April 20 to July 29. A particular challenge, they noted, is the ambiguous question, although some people are savvy enough only to ask precise, specific questions that lend themselves well to this mode of communication. The librarians warned that one has to be prepared for the lack of the reference interview and the general lack of dialogue. They look forward to expanding the service in the coming school year. The Mosio representative, Gabriel, singled out security, privacy, dependability, and simplicity has attributes that their system has to offer. The statistics on texting are impressive; 3.5 billion per day in American in 2008, twice as many as phone calls. He showed the screen features with one- click access to favorite research tools, Web 2.0 sites, and social networks. The issue, he wryly pointed out, is teaching librarians to text, not students, except in the sense that students are not all using reference services. It’s a promising system, but with a price tag of $1199 per year, charges are daunting, and our impending Meebo and GoogleVoice services at the opposite end of the price range promise virtues of their own!


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Social Stratification in the Deep South
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