Professional Development

Author Archive

Steve at ALA Annual 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016 5:20 pm

The ALA Annual Conference in Orlando was an unusual one for me, in that it marked the end of my four-year stint on two committees, CC:DA (Cataloging Committee: Description and Access) and the Continuing Resources Cataloging Committee. For eight conferences over these past four years, the meetings for those two committees have dominated my ALA experience (especially CC:DA which always involves a 4.5 hour meeting on Saturday and a 3 hour meeting on Monday). It’ll be interesting to see what Midwinter in Atlanta is like without those two committees eating up the bulk of my time.

But that’s in the future. As for ALA in Orlando, CC:DA continued to be on of my major obligations. This committee develops ALA’s position on RDA and entails reading and voting on proposals to revise RDA. This past year has been very quiet on the proposal-front, especially since Midwinter. Now, the fact that we had relatively few proposals compared to years past (particularly my first year) could mean that RDA is just about finished and doesn’t need much further tinkering, but I doubt it. I think it’s probably due to the fact that the draft of FRBR-LRM (Library Reference Model) was made public in March. The FRBR model provides most of the conceptual underpinnings of RDA, and FRBR-LRM is a big enough change to the model (it adds new entities such as place and timespan) that it will have ripple effects that will change RDA. I think the cataloging community is holding their breath until FRBR-LRM is finally officially adopted by the RDA Steering Committee (RSC), before trying to figure out what it means for the future of RDA.

And, according to a presentation by Gordon Dunsire, the Chair of the RSC, FRBR-LRM will likely be revised, but it will remain substantially unchanged from the draft model. Dunsire also talked about the development of RDA application profiles, which can be set locally and which provide guidance to catalogers using RDA in original cataloging. In addition, Dunsire touched on an interesting problem related to the attempt to adopt gender-neutral language in RDA, because English is the primary language of RDA, and it is then translated into other languages. Gender-neutral uses of terms in English do not make sense in languages where nouns are gendered (for example, “actor” can be used for men or women in English, but in French, “acteur” is for men and “actrice” is for women,” and it sounds bizarre in French to call a woman an “acteur”). This problem will have to be ironed out by the translation teams.

In addition to this RDA business, I also heard a fair amount about BIBFRAME. At the Cataloging Norms Interest Group meeting, I heard about LC’s BIBFRAME pilot project, which started in October, 2015. This involved having LC catalogers create original catalog records in both MARC and in BIBFRAME, using the BIBFRAME Editor software. The project was difficult, because searching BIBFRAME (or BF) data was problematic, they couldn’t create authority records in BF, and they couldn’t import BF. BF 1.0 has been replaced by BF 2.0, so hopefully some of these problems have been resolved. During the pilot project, one of the lessons learned was realizing that catalogers are too used to thinking about cataloging in terms of filling specific MARC fields rather than the more conceptual ideas of RDA. Furthermore, the mismatch between RDA terminology and BF terminology caused problems (for example, BF has a work record, which combines the RDA/FRBR concepts of work and expression). Additionally, catalogers still continue to think in terms of ISBD, which is no longer a constraint in a post-MARC world.

The problems involved in using BF were also touched on at the Continuing Resources Cataloging Forum, in a presentation by Kevin Balster of UCLA. He pointed out that BF 2.0 and the BF Editor are out of synch, and that BF has many unspecified and/or unconstrained domains and ranges, and that it is not yet ready to handle recording serial holdings. So, BIBFRAME still has a ways to go.

Getting back home from Orlando was far more of an adventure than I would have preferred. I was already scheduled for a fairly late flight that left me hanging out at the airport in Orlando for about 5 hours before taking off, and when I landed in Atlanta, I found out that my 11:20 pm flight to Greensboro had been delayed until 6:45 am the following morning. I asked for a flight to either Charlotte or Raleigh, figuring I would rent a car and have to go pick up my bag in Greensboro the next day. But, as luck would have it, I was given a seat on a flight to Raleigh, just one row in front of Chelcie. She lives in Greensboro, so she kindly offered to drive me to drop me off at the airport in Greensboro, where I could pick up my car and drive home (I had Delta deliver my suitcase to my house the next day). That’s cooperation, and the power of Z!

Steve at 2016 NASIG Conference

Tuesday, June 21, 2016 5:23 pm

On June 7th, I flew out to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the NASIG Conference, and for my last NASIG Executive Board meeting as Past President–completing my three year stint as Vice President/President/Past President–even though the conference-proper ran from June 9th to 12th. My duties as Board liaison to our Conference Planning Committee and as fundraising coordinator (a job that goes to the Past President and involves soliciting sponsors and vendors at our expo) meant that I was often too busy to attend conference programs, but I did manage to make it to a few interesting sessions, which I will highlight.

T. Scott Plutchak, the Director of Digital Curation Strategies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, delivered the conference’s initial plenary address (or as NASIG calls it, a Vision Session) entitled “Dialectic On the Aims of Institutional Repositories. Plutchak talked about two articles about institutional repositories (or IRs), one by Raym Crow from 2002 and the other by Clifford Lynch from 2003, to frame his discussion of how IRs have developed over the intervening decade-plus. In Plutchak’s reading, Crow is interested in using IRs to challenge traditional models of scholarly publishing and to use IRs to demonstrate the importance of faculty research. Lynch, on the other hand, wants to use IRs to provide access to new types of digital scholarship, to preserve material that might be lost, and is primarily interested in transforming scholarly communication, not scholarly publishing, per Plutchak. In the years since these articles were published, IRs have grown to host a wide variety of content, and there is increased awareness in academic circles of the importance of preserving data. Traditional peer review has continued in various publishing models, including Green Open Access models. Crow’s concern about using IRs to demonstrate the importance of faculty research has fallen by the wayside. Plutchak points out that this was a good idea at the time, but it hasn’t really held up, and that IRs are not necessarily a good way to showcase faculty research. However, IRs can be very good as research management systems that provide metadata about and general preservation and management of faculty research. Plutchak then addressed what he sees as the inner contradictions of the Green Open Access model, which he argued is parasitic on traditional non-open access journals, because it relies on a robust environment of peer-reviewed journals. Accordingly, it is not an effective transition model, because the OA models will always be outnumbered by the non-OA journals. Furthermore, he argued that it is intellectually dishonest for librarians to tell publishers that embargoes aren’t needed to protect their business interests, when we know that a lack of embargoes threatens their business model. Plutchak further criticized the Green OA model by noting that OA journals may not provide the best version of an article for the users needs. It may provide an acceptable version, but not the version of record. With these considerations in mind, Plutchak argued that we need to reassess the role of open access in institutional repositories (which may be better suited to managing research and data).

Another interesting session I attended was “The Canadian Linked Data Initiative: Charting a Path to a Linked Data Future,” presented by Marlene van Ballegooie, Juliya Borie, and Andrew Senior. They discussed how, in September 2015, the five largest research libraries in Canada (University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, McGill University, Universite de Montreal, University of Alberta) formed a joint initiative to develop a path toward linked data. They were inspired, in large measure, by the American group Linked Data for Production, or LD4P, which consists of six large institutions. The Canadian libraries realized that they were somewhat behind the curve and needed to catch up, while recognizing that such an large undertaking cannot be accomplished by one institution on its own. The group has developed a number of cross-institutional working groups to coordinate their activities, which primarily are focused on educating and training their staffs about linked data issues. They also have a BIBFRAME Editor Working Group, which is investigating how to make practical use of the BIBFRAME Editor tool developed by Library of Congress as well as the BIBFRAME Scribe tool developed by Zepheira. The presentation got more technical than I can really get into here, but my big takeaway from this session was the importance of collaborating with other institutions to facilitate learning and training about linked data, because the members of the initiative are right: this is too big a think for any one institution to tackle.

Overall, the conference seemed to be well received, and the worst management issue I had to tackle as Past President and liaison to Conference Planning was a recurring struggle with the hotel management to keep the bar open later than 10:30 pm. I’m relieved to have rotated off the Executive Board, but I’m not quite out of the woods yet, as I’m going to chair the Program Planning Committee for next year’s conference. Out of the frying pan, etc.


1st Annual Wanda K. Brown Staff Development Day

Friday, May 27, 2016 11:10 am

On Thursday, May 19th, ZSR held our first annual Wanda K. Brown Staff Development Day. The all day event was open to the entire staff, and was well received, despite the frigid conditions in the Auditorium.

The day began with a wonderful two-hour session by Shayla Herndon-Edmunds, Director of Diversity Education at Wake Forest. Her program, “Unconscious Bias: Is It Saving or Sabotaging You?,” discussed the problem of unconscious or automatic bias and how it can over-ride our more rational, thoughtful mind.

Shayla’s session was followed by a series of eight short, 15-minute presentations by the staff and faculty of ZSR. Every team was represented by at least one presentation. Before lunch, we heard from Mary Reeves about the Criterion Film Collection, from Thomas Dowling about beacons, a new technology that pushes information out to mobile devices, and from Mel Rutledge about his work creating digital biographical files in Special Collections. After an all-library pizza lunch in the Staff Lounge, we continued with sessions from Barry Davis, who spoke about the multimedia equipment that is available in the library for check-out and use, Chelcie Rowell, who spoke about the task management application Trello, Hu Womack, who talked about his work helping to develop a First Year Experience course at WFU, and Carol Cramer, who gave tips about how you can manage your email with an inbox zero philosophy. The short sessions concluded with a one-act play by the Resource Services players called “Code REaD,” a comedy-drama that illustrated how a rush e-book purchase is processed.

The day concluded with a very fun Wake Forest trivia contest called “Wake, Wake Don’t Tell Me,” which was ably and entertainingly MC’d by John Champlin, the Assistant Director of the PDC. The contest included a scavenger hunt round that sent the attendees scurrying around campus.

The Staff Development Committee welcomes your feedback on this event so that we can improve it in the future.

Steve at North Carolina Serials Conference 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016 12:35 pm

On March 21st, Chris and I got up really early (can’t say “bright and early” because it was before sunrise) and went to Chapel Hill for the 25th North Carolina Serials Conference. While there were a number of interesting sessions (including one on using the free tool OpenRefine to manipulate metadata), I’m going to focus on just one session, which I think might be of the most general interest to everyone in the library, because it doesn’t just focus on serials or metadata. The session, presented by Megan Kilb and Matt Jansen of UNC-Chapel Hill, was called “Visualizing Collections Data: Why Pie Charts Aren’t Always the Answer,” and it offered tips and advice on how to present data.

The presentation grew out of their need to evaluate the TRLN consortial deal on Springer e-resources. They found that pie charts aren’t always (actually are almost never) the best way to present data, which matches research that has shown pie charts to be sub-optimal for human comprehension. Pie charts get confusing if they have more than 4 or 5 categories, they treat everything as a proportion, they make readers have to compare areas/angles, and the values are only available via labels.

Research into the accuracy of human interpretation of graphical data is on a continuum. The most intelligible graphical data from most accurate to least accurate is:

  1. Position
  2. Length
  3. Angle/Slope
  4. Area
  5. Volume
  6. Color/Density

With this info in mind, alternatives to the pie chart might be the bar chart (because length is easier to perceive), or a simple table (if you have only a few values to consider). Regarding other graphical representations of data, if you have a graph, be aware that backgrounds, particularly lines, can be distracting. Lines and other detail can make it hard to read values of dots on the lines. Stacked charts (charts with multiple jagged lines, each representing different values) can also be problematic, because there may be confusion over what the overall height of columns mean. They require the user to do visual math, which is difficult. Alternatives to this might be to make lines next to each other (rather than on top of each other), or represent each line as a slope, which emphasizes different rates of change.

In addition to attending the conference, I also represented NASIG (as Past President) at our sponsor table, giving out literature and talking up the organization.

Steve at ALA Midwinter 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016 5:48 pm

I know that it can be kind of difficult to read these conference entries thoroughly, especially when they discuss areas of librarianship that aren’t in your bailiwick, so I’ll give the headline for my Midwinter 2016 (with more details to follow, if you’re interested): the governance of RDA is changing, and the bibliographic models that underlay RDA are changing, and nobody is really sure how either of these developments will shake out.

First, let’s talk about the governance changes. I’m one of eight voting members of CC:DA (Cataloging Committee: Description and Access, the committee that develops ALA’s position on RDA), and at our Saturday meeting, we heard a presentation from Kathy Glennan, the ALA representative to the RSC (RDA Steering Committee), the body that ultimately determines the content of the RDA code, about changes to the structure and membership of the RSC (which was called the Joint Steering Committee, or JSC, until last November). The JSC had representatives from constituencies who use RDA, including ALA, the Library of Congress, the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, the British Library, etc. The new structure, which will be fully in place by 2019, limits the membership of JSC to one representative each from six regional groups (North America, Latin America & the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania). The North American group will consist of just the U.S. and Canada. Mexico will be in the Latin America & Caribbean group, while other potential members of the North American group (Bermuda, Saint Pierre and Miquelon (had to look that one up!), and Greenland) have not yet adopted RDA. So, the United States and Canada will go from having three representatives on the RSC (two for the U.S., one for Canada) to only one representative for both countries. How this will be worked out is still being discussed. One idea proposed was to create a small committee (perhaps with the three reps who used to go to the RSC) that would function like a tiny RSC for North America, with one of the members of this group attending the actual RSC on behalf of North America. This proposed group has the suggested name of NARDAC (North American RDA Committee), which, when pronounced, sounds like the name of a villain from a 1970’s episode of “Doctor Who.”

The other major change to RDA was discussed in our second CC:DA meeting by Gordon Dunsire, the Chair of the RSC. Gordon is a brilliant guy, who usually talks about a mile over my head, but I think I got the basic gist of his presentation. As a re-cap, RDA is based on the FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) model. If you’ve ever heard us catalogers talk about the distinction between Works, Expressions, Manifestations and Items, that’s what we’re talking about. FRBR not only models bibliographic entities, it also models people (as individuals and groups) and subjects. Well, the FRBR models are being revised. The new model FRBR-LRM (FRBR-Library Reference Model) is expected to be published during the first quarter of 2016. It will describe new entities including Place, Timespan, and Collective Agent. What FRBR-LRM will look like after it is vetted, revised and finally accepted is obviously unknown as of yet. But, once FRBR-LRM is in place, it will most likely mean that there will be new entities that need to be described by RDA, which will mean a revision of the code. The changes could be minor or they could be enormous, there’s really no way to tell quite yet.

Stay tuned for more developments.


Steve at NASIG 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015 5:35 pm

Okay, so by now you know what’s coming: I apologize for being so darn late in writing this blog post. I lost my notebook! The dog ate my homework! I had to see a guy about a thing! I know there’s no good excuse for writing about a conference almost two months after it happened, but I promise I’ll not get that far behind again.

Anyway, the 2015 NASIG Conference in Washington, DC (well, technically Crystal City, Virginia, but close enough) was a very special one for me, because I served as president at this conference. Also, it was our 30th anniversary (there was a nice party to celebrate) and NASIG did its first joint program with another organization (the Society for Scholarly Publishing, or SSP) since 1992. Presiding over the conference was a fun if slightly nerve-wracking experience, as it entailed far more public speaking than I am comfortable with (for the record, I am comfortable with approximately zero public speaking, so, more than that).

Chris and Derrik have both written about the conference proper, so I think I’ll delve into the joint program with SSP a bit. Now, full disclosure, I was on the planning group that organized this event, so I might be a little biased in my reporting. The joint program was called “Evolving Information Policies and Their Implications: A Conversation for Librarians and Publishers,” and it consisted of three keynote addresses, one each by a publisher (Jayne Marks of Wolters Kluwer), a librarian (T. Scott Plutchak of the University of Alabama, Birmingham), and a vendor (Caitlin Trasande, formerly of Digital Science), a panel of two intellectual property lawyers (Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law at American University, and Michael Remington of the firm Drinker Biddle & Reath), and a closing panel with all five previous speakers.

Although each of them brought up interesting points, (especially Jayne Marks conversation about how publishers are experimenting with new models and tools for their customers, but it is difficult to fully develop them because every customer wants their products customized and personalized to such an extent that the publishers are constantly stuck in development), I will focus on Scott Plutchak’s keynote, which addressed the problems related to preserving and providing access to research data sets. Plutchak emphasized how current and trendy this issue is with the memorable phrase, “Data is the new bacon.” However, research data sets are also enormously difficult to manage. Plutchak said that managing research data sets is a “wicked problem.” This is not just a snappy way to refer to the problem, but an actual term from social planning. Wicked problems are problems that have edges that are hard to define, that require a multi-disciplinary approach, and that is probably not solvable in one permanent way, but that can be mitigated and managed (an example might be urban planning). According to Plutchak, when it comes to preserving and providing access to material, “Publications are easy, data is a beast.” One of the complicating factors is that now, not only are funding agencies often demanding data set deposits, so too are publishers, which means researchers are getting hit from both sides. Plutchak argues that managing data sets is an institutional issue, not just a library issue, and the problem can’t be handled like we do with institutional repositories for publications (which are easy, but data is a beast). To manage data sets, not only will libraries need to be involved, but also academic research offices, information technology departments, faculty, etc. If researchers are going to be successful with grants, we will need to have infrastructure, policies, and resources in place to manage their data sets.

Plutchak’s keynote address was probably the most interesting and share-worthy of the conference content I was able to attend and focus on without having to do presidenting. Between welcoming folks to the joint program, opening and closing the conference, doing a drawing at the first-timer’s reception, introducing a keynote speaker, conducting the all-conference business meeting, installing my successor as NASIG President (the intrepid Carol Ann Borchert of the University of South Florida), speaking at the 30th anniversary celebration, and conducting the NASIG Executive Board meeting (which I actually enjoyed), I was kept quite busy. But I have to say, it was very cool to be comped the hotel’s presidential suite. All in all, it was an exhausting, but extremely satisfying experierience.

Steve at ALA Annual 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015 5:15 pm

This year’s ALA in San Francisco was, in some ways, an usual conference for me, while in other ways, it was the same thing as always. The unusual part was that I flew out with Mimi and Shane the Saturday before the conference started and had nearly a week of vacation before the conference began. The usual part was actually the conference itself, because once again, my conference activity was consumed with committee work and BIBFRAME and RDA stuff.

Like Lauren, I attended the BIBFRAME Update Forum, but I had some different takeaways, which I’ll share. The first speaker, Sally McCallum from Library of Congress, described how LC has their catalogers experimenting with inputting BIBFRAME descriptions, keeping the records in a triple store. They have found that it is not easy to transform MARC data into BIBFRAME data, and are looking to see if the BIBFRAME dichotomy between work and instance records is clear and useful for catalogers. At present, they are focusing on how catalogers can search the data. They are not looking at end user searching, they are not doing acquisitions processing, they are not managing holdings and circulation using BIBFRAME, and they are not even looking at how they’d go about distributing records. So, it’s very early days for them. They do have 19 million former MARC descriptions redone as BIBFRAME works and instances, which is an awful lot of data to work with. Despite the fact that LC still has so much work to do with BIBFRAME, Beecher Wiggins of LC said that their plan is to have data ready to be broadly distributed in five years. We’ll have to see. As Lauren mentioned, the forum also featured brief presentations by ILS companies to discuss how they are preparing for BIBFRAME. The main thing I got from each of them is that they are all working on training among their staff and they’re all listening to/asking questions of customers to see what kind of things they’d like to see in a BIBFRAME-based system.

During the conference I also attended a total of seven hours of meetings (split across two sessions) of CC:DA (Catalog Committee for Description and Access), the committee that develops ALA’s official position on RDA. Normally, these meetings are super inside-baseball and of no interest to anyone who isn’t really into RDA rule, but there were three pretty interesting things to share out. (Trust me there was plenty of super-inside baseball stuff at these meetings, like the seemingly never-ending discussion of a 154 page report on machine-actionable data.) This stuff may still be too inside-cataloging for most folks, but I’ll take a stab at describing it:

1. The Library of Congress Authority File is going to get a massive automated re-vamp thanks the wizardry of Gary Strawn at Northwestern University (who our own Kathy Martlock worked with on a project…brush with fame!). These changes will not involve changing the 1XX or heading fields, but will involve adding lots of good stuff to the attribute fields that enrich the descriptions of authorized headings. Over 3.5 million authority records will have ISNIs added to them, which I know will make Lauren quite happy. This project was described as a “heart transplant” for the LC authority file.

2. The Functional Requirements models, FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Data), and FRSAD (Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data), are being consolidated and will have major revisions in the next couple of years. That means that the conceptual models that underlying RDA will be going through major revisions, which are pretty much guaranteed to have major impacts on RDA.

3. The governance structure for RDA is going to become more international and is going to be entirely revamped. Back when we had AACR2, pretty much whatever the US and the UK said was it. Which made sense, because AACR2 stood for “Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd ed.” But RDA is trying to be more international. So, the proposed plan is to have an RDA Board, which will consist of six representatives, one each from North America, Latin America & the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. We’ll have to see how this develops, but it could have a major change in how much input ALA has on RDA.

Okay, that’s probably enough conference stuff for now. On our last night in town, Jeff and I joined Thomas, who still had another night to go, taking in an A’s game in Oakland. Although the stadium is a concrete bunker with all the charm of a parking garage, it was quite fun. The stadium is also the home of the Oakland Raiders, and the huge Raiders banner at the front gate that read “A Commitment to Excellence” had Jeff and me wondering if this was meant as some sort of Northern California hipster irony. But the big Athletics sign across the seats was kinda cool.

Steve at UKSG 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015 5:27 pm

Sorry for being so late with this. April and May just ate my life. I know it’s no excuse, but it’s what I’ve got. Now, on to the post.

Late last March, NASIG sent me to the UKSG Conference in Glasgow, Scotland as the president and official representative of NASIG. UKSG is the older sister organization in the United Kingdom on which NASIG was based at its founding, and much like the governments of the US and UK, NASIG and UKSG have a “special relationship.” Since I will be doing a lunch and learn presentation with Mary Beth and Mary S. in July on the experience of traveling abroad for a conference, I will save the more fun stories of traveling for that event. With this post, I’ll stick more to the content of the conference, by talking about a few of the sessions that interested me.

I sang for my supper at the opening session of the conference, bringing greetings from NASIG to the attendees of UKSG (about 1,000 librarians, publishers and vendors). Just after the opening session, we heard a fascinating talk by Geoffrey Bilder of CrossRef, called “The Four Strawmen of the Scholarpocalypse.” Bilder talked about how the scholarly system incentivizes lots of publishing by scholars, not necessarily increased quality. The number of citations a publication receives has become more important than how good it actually is. The pressure to publish more has led to an explosion in the amount of material published in each discipline, which leads to scholars doing more shallow reading in their research. Bilder argued that the current tenure system is counter-productive, because putting people under pressure doesn’t make them work smarter, it makes them try to figure out how to get by in the system. Bilder argued that distorted incentives and rewards in the scholarly publishing system causes “smart people to do dumb things for smart reasons” (which may be my single favorite quotation from a conference presentation ever).

Another really interesting session I attended was “Two of Us: Library/Press Collaboration” by Andrew Barker and Anthony Cond, both of University of Liverpool, Barker from the library and Cond from the University of Liverpool Press. The two speakers received a grant to explore making open access electronic text books available to students. The first step was Barker and Cond had to recruit academics at Liverpool who were willing to write the text books. They had to strenuously court and also pay a professor from the School of Management to write an “Essentials of Financial Management” text book, but they were able to talk a history professor into creating a guide for using primary sources just out of the goodness of his heart. In both cases, they tried to take advantage of the fact that the books were electronic resources, by making them interactive with videos and links. After the books were written, the UP did the editing and preparation of the publication files. The Library will handle the technical end of mounting the files and making them available, as well as handling their maintenance. The material should be available late this year. Overall, it sounded like a fascinating collaboration between a university library and a university press.

The conversations I had with British colleagues were also extremely interesting and gave me a better picture of the differences between our systems of higher education. The UK is way way farther ahead of the US on matters of Open Access, but they have government mandates (instituted by a Conservative government of all things!) that place many stringent OA requirements on scholars. Also, private institutions of higher learning are extremely rare in the UK, unlike here in the US. Another interesting fact was that there are relatively few library-related conferences in the UK (unlike the US where new library conferences seem to spring up like topsy), and there is no equivalent of ALA, so what conferences there are tend to have pretty high attendance. And the model of librarians as faculty does not exist in the UK, so our experiences in the faculty system sound very foreign to them.

In closing, I’ll say that Glasgow is a fantastic city, and that the UKSG folks were wonderful hosts. Plus, the experience of attending a conference in a foreign country was pretty amazing and I would highly recommend it, if you get the chance.

Steve at 2015 LAUNC-CH Conference

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 5:51 pm

Once again, I have to apologize for being so late in posting about a conference that happened in March (the 13th, to be precise), but March and April really were the months that ate my life.

So, the 2015 LAUNC-CH Conference. I found the most interesting session was the opening keynote, “Fostering Digital Literacy in the 21st Century,” by Jeffrey Greene, a professor in the Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies program at UNC-CH. Greene argued that Marc Prensky’s conception of the digital native is false. Why? Because the digital divide is still a very real thing and poor kids without access to computers are not digital natives, even if they’re part of the same generational cohort. Also, human brains don’t really work any differently in a digital environment, except in the most superficial ways. Plus, he argues that genuine multi-tasking is not possible, at least one activity suffers during multi-tasking. And finally, and perhaps most controversially, he argues that learning styles are bunk. Research has shown that there’s really nothing to learning styles. While it is true that the more ways we encounter information, the better able we are to master that information, no single style works best for one person. Greene went on to state that digital literacy, among other things, involves the knowledge and skills to understand tasks, make plans, and to navigate, critique, and integrate multiple sources. For Greene, a digitally literate person would be able to understand tasks, make plans, enact strategies, monitor their progress, evaluate and adapt, and essentially self-regulate their digital world. A more advanced type of digital literacy would involve thinking like a scholar, which leads to extensive, targeted searching, critical evaluation of sources, better integration of information, and deeper understanding of information. He wants students to become effective curators of digital information. (He also said one of my favorite sentences I’ve ever heard at a conference, “You can’t be intrinsically motivated about everything. That’s a crazy person.”)

I also saw Ellen, Kaeley and Leslie give a great presentation on their LIB 250 class, I did not know my colleagues were such fantastic presenters! There was also a very interesting, if somewhat underdeveloped, lightning session by a UNC-CH SILS student, Jaci Paige WIlkinson, called “Beats That Collected Dust: Hip Hop Sampling & Academic Metadata,” which discussed how because hip hop is often based on sampling, the music is effectively an inter-related text, with references to earlier recordings. She argued that we could use linked data to link derivative works and original works to show where samples came from. There seemed to be a lot of steps missing from her argument, but I think the short time frame really worked against her. I’d definitely be interested in seeing what her more developed research finds.

Steve at the 2015 NC Serials Conference

Sunday, April 19, 2015 8:10 pm

Sorry, I’m so late in writing about a conference that happened on March 6th, but the month of March and the first half of April pretty much ate my life. Anyway, Chris, Derrik and I drove to the conference, which started late due to a weather delay caused by a slight ice event (remember how crazy this winter was)? I was going to the conference to attend, but also to present and to staff an exhibits table on behalf of NASIG, so I was wearing three hats.

The most memorable session was the opening keynote given by Katherine Skinner of Educopia. If you’ve never heard Katherine speak, you really should if you get the chance, she’s always fascinating. She’ll be speaking at the E-Books Freakout on Friday, April 24th, so you should come. Her talk at the NC Serials Conference was called “Taking Action in a Critical Moment: From Innovation to Impact.” Skinner argued that innovation (as in an invention) would not solve the problems of scholarly communication. She said that we need a change to the system, not to look for left-field innovation to provide a magic bullet to solve our problems. She argued that innovations don’t typically come from the center, they come from unexpected locations, while system-wide changes require system-wide involvement. The problems associated with scholarly communication are system-wide, not merely incidental to a specific location. She pointed out that we in higher education (and really everywhere) are good at focusing on the problems in our own institution, rather than the system as a whole. She also made the very salient point that the problems of scholarly communications has essentially become the sole burden of librarians, even though they shouldn’t be. But, she argued that situation may be changing, as the problems in scholarly communications have started hitting scholars themselves, particularly in states that have seen massive cuts to higher education like Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. She argued forcefully that librarians need to work together with scholars and other parties involved in the scholarly communication process to to try to find systemic solutions to the problems we face in scholarly communication.

I also gave a presentation at the NC Serials Conference, although I’m not nearly as good a public speaker as Katherine Skinner. I was invited to speak about the changes going on in NASIG over the last year or so (basically the time since I became NASIG president). In late 2013, the NASIG Executive Board decided to appoint a task force to revise the vision and mission statements of the organization. The old ones were too focused on phrases like “the serials information chain” and didn’t reflect the fact that NASIG is also quite involved with electronic resource management and scholarly communications. I campaigned on the idea of revising these statements, so I was totally on board with this process. I recruited a task force, including our own Lauren Corbett, to update our vision and mission statements. The membership approved them in November, 2014. Related to that, the Board also discussed changing our official name from the North American Serial Interest Group to just NASIG. The old name made folks think we’re only interested in print serials, and “interest group” made us sound like we’re a smaller part of a larger group. We proposed the name change and the membership approved the change to simply NASIG on Feb. 2nd, 2015. Also, in the spring of 2014, the list moderators of the SERIALST listserv came to the NASIG Executive Board to ask us to consider NASIG taking on the management of the listserv. The founder and lead moderator of the listserv, Birdie McLennon, tragically passed away early in 2014 and her institution wasn’t interested in keeping the listserv. So NASIG took on the management of the listserv and its archives, using a commercial service. We also started a task force to develop a set of core competencies for scholarly communications librarians (to go along with NASIG’s sets of core competencies for electronic resource librarians and print serials librarians). We developed a formal code of conduct for our conference and other NASIG events. We became a strategic affiliate of the Library Publishing Coalition. We also looked at the possibility of hiring office staff for the first time in our history. And we’re doing all this while planning for our 30th anniversary conference in Washington, DC in May, which will not only include a 30th anniversary celebration, but also a joint program with the Society for Scholarly Publishing. Plus, we’re proud sponsors of the Wake the E-Books Festival coming up on April 23rd and 24th. We’ve been kinda busy.

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UNC Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference
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ZSR Library Leadership Retreat
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