Professional Development

Charleston Conference 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015 11:28 am

At the Charleston Conference I generally seek out sessions that focus on liaison- or user-related issues, but a dominant topic of recent years–user preferences for print or electronic books—seemed to have loosened its grip on the Conference, and I had the opportunity to explore a diverse range of topics. So, pleasantly enough, my notes are not filled with frantically scribbled statistics and formulae that dissolve haplessly into broad generalizations along the lines of “If E then P, but also If P then E, maybe.”

In “Collections as a Service,” Daniel Dollar, Director of Collection Development at Yale University Library and self-styled grief counselor (see below), argued that collections are not an end in themselves, and that one may move away from acquiring books in certain areas when there is no near term anticipation of use. He makes data-informed decisions, guided by a collection development philosophy of collecting materials that align themselves with research and teaching needs as well as with strategic developments. He outlined five data “stories:”

  1. Approval titles consist largely of print YBP titles for English language, plus European plans. They found that Harrassowitz circulation statistics were decreasing for approval titles (circulation rate goes up to about 15% compared to YBP’s 60% after a few years), and so adjustments guided by the circulation data were made, transitioning some money away from the European plans to e-books. In addition they expanded shelf-ready services since English language titles are used so heavily.
  2. Borrow Direct is an “Ivy Plus” service (the Ivy League schools plus Stanford, MIT, and Duke) used mostly by graduate students requesting materials, so to accommodate this need the libraries may have second and third copies of titles.
  3. Print books, always singled out as important for immersive reading, reveal declining use statistics: undergraduate circulations decreased 47% from 2006-2015, and graduate circulation decreased 51% from 2011-2015.
  4. Ebrary Academic Complete has been in place since 2003, including a “deep dive” in Religion, Philosophy, and Psychology. 42% of Ebrary is available in print at Yale, but there is diversity of use: for 45-50% of the titles both print and electronic were used, 10% electronic only, 25-30% print only, and 25% were not used. So he believes that there is a role for the “good enough” concept (e-books in lieu of print), even in areas of the humanities.
  5. E-resource usage (with print circulation flat) shows e-books and e-journals going up. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library predictably distorts the numbers somewhat, with significant expenditures and use in humanities-related primary source materials, which continue to grow. But if one takes out the Beinecke, e-resources show 70% use, monographs 18%.

So where is this leading? There is an inexorable movement towards digital and e-resources, accounting for most of the resource collections expenditures. But there are clear differences among the various subject libraries: for example, 90% electronic use for the medical library, compared 10% for the art library. Collection development and management are part of multiple networks, in Yale’s case Ivy Plus, HathiTrust, and CRL. He acknowledges that he plays in part the role of grief counselor because there is some sense of loss and concern for the scholarly record. He singled out the need to work closely in particular with graduate students, for help in understanding emerging areas of scholarship, or very narrow areas of inquiry in which they pursue their research.

The panel discussion on “Size, Perception, and Power in Library/Vendor Relations,” included librarians from a range of large and small institutions: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (the largest public university library system in the country, and second in size to Harvard), Appalachian State, UNC Asheville, and Caltech. The discussions focused largely on the question of how smaller schools with less name recognition and smaller budgets fare in the stratified arena of sales and acquisitions. Librarians from smaller libraries, both on the panel and in the audience, spoke to the challenges at times of even obtaining responses from vendors: the Caltech librarian had previously worked at a small school with “ZERO” name recognition, and both institutions were approximately the same size, but now at Caltech she finds that there is no problem with vendors getting back with requested information. The assumption appears to be that the smaller school library could not afford products, but ironically her previous institution had a substantial endowment. Moreover, smaller schools, she pointed out, often do not have the luxury of waiting a year to see if statistics improve. Vendors were not universally deplored, however; it was noted that they may contribute to improved use of a new resource by providing turn-away numbers or pointing out if a resource was omitted from a LibGuide. By contrast, the UIUC librarian, from a Tier 1 Research Library, enjoys all the expected major name recognition. She pointed out that with size comes a multiplicity of relationships, and it is important to open up vendor visits to the larger community. Clearly the impact of a product is larger, with a corresponding amount of potential feedback compared to smaller institutions, although in smaller libraries, librarians may wear multiple hats and therefore can give feedback from multiple perspectives. The speakers also addressed ethical issues inherent in the tension between larger institutions’ priorities and wishes, vs those of smaller ones: UIUC will get what it wants, and it will not necessarily be what is best for smaller libraries. Consortial efforts exist to counter the relative powerlessness of small institutions. But smaller libraries have less of a voice regarding their interests and price issues; if such an institution drops a subscription, how much will it matter? The UIUC librarian pointed out that if a large school buys a product, it is not necessarily an endorsement and the product may not be relevant to smaller schools’ priorities and needs. One should not assume that a larger library made the better decision; it made the best decision for what it needs. A show of hands at the beginning revealed a commendable number of vendors in the audience, but I was not aware of any of them participating in the give and take regarding the issues raised in the presentation and discussion!

Who knows how many conference attendees were lured by the alliterative title of Doug Way’s “Saying Sayonara to the STL: Strategy, Scale and Systematic Abandonment in the Ebook Marketplace”—but I was also drawn by his place of employment, since he is AUL for Collections and Research Services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I earned my library degree and worked for many years at the beginning of my library career. He began by asserting that he likes DDA; what he dislikes is the notion that one size fits all. Scale is an important consideration, and UW-Madison is a Research 1 institution, with 43,000 students, of whom 12,000 are graduate students. The local environment is significant: what kind of users there are and how many, the mission of the library, attitudes and dispositions, and level of faculty engagement. He noted that librarians expressed disbelief when confronted with the actual amount of of e-book usage and surprise at the fact that the highest EBL use was in the social sciences, not the STEM fields. Librarians may express dissatisfaction from a lack of clarity (why they are doing what they are doing) and from workflow problems (which often are homegrown–we did it to ourselves). So they decided to reboot the e-book program. The strategy was not a collection development policy and not a values statement, but an internal document with a short to medium term frame, guiding areas of focus and emphasis. There was an emphasis on efficiency of access and price, flexibility, and choice. Preference was given to providers who allow resource sharing, offer content without DRM, allow simultaneous users, ensure access by way of perpetual licenses, and preservation options such as Portico. A task force reviewed the DDA program with a familiar EBL $250 price cap, $50 cap STL, and purchase after 3 STLs, for a collection of 23,000 titles.

The program was taken down due to a long list of challenges and problems: workflow inefficiencies (albeit locally created ones), scale (a limited budget and the limited size of the candidate pool of 23,000 titles–vs 900,000 print titles), the limited ability to increase access to content, price increases for the STL cap, publishers pulling out including top publishers (CUP, OUP, PUP), and the opportunity to effect “systematic abandonment.” He cautioned against a reluctance to abandon dying or declining services when declining services neglect or stunt the growth of new and growing services– the trap of sunk costs. He turned to Academic Complete for a 3-year contract, with its top use titles, multiple users, purchasing options for long term access if titles will be going away. (In response to a question about the missing front list in Academic Complete, he responded that AC is but one part of the entire strategy.) They have also started a pilot with Project Muse with evidence-based access, selecting individual titles for long term access, ILL rights, and DRM free e-books in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The revised e-book program goals include increasing the number of e-books available to users (now 250,000 at lower annual cost), saving money over the existing DDA program, and experimenting with EBA acquisition models. There is continuing increased e-book use. He said that they may return to STL, perhaps as a supplemental program. With announcements of the death of STL, publishers have the hatchet, as he phrased it. They can raise the price of STLs, but he for one does not have more money hidden around the office. If publishers raise the price and pull e-books, then he will not buy the books. It was rather stunning to hear that the UW-M library system has had a flat budget since 2000; a library probably does not recover from that kind of extended deficit and resulting lacunae in its collections. He stated that he needs books that get used; in addition, he noted that the school is both a top ILL lender and borrower. He acknowledges that everyone prefers print but given a choice between waiting for ILL, requesting from offsite, many users choose immediate access—another nod to the “good enough” notion.

Charleston 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 11:00 am

Unseasonably warm weather, severely overcrowded rooms, and as many varieties of head cold as there are attendees: the Charleston Conference might not be for everyone. You have to really like acquisitions. Which, fortunately, some of us do.

James O’Donnell, Arizona State’s University Librarian (and a Classicist) gave a keynote-style talk about the need for libraries to embrace the changes that online education and resources have brought. He referred to a “universal collection” in which barriers are broken down between institutions, and called for access to be extended as far as possible. We shouldn’t think of libraries as stable collections or storehouses of information, rather as active and ever-changing “makers of knowledge.” As online education becomes more prevalent (at ASU it is huge), providing online access to our print collections becomes a truly essential function, because so much unique material exists only in that format. Mr. O’Donnell spoke intelligently and convincingly, as classicists tend to do.

Doug Way from Wisconsin (about whom Carol has already written and I will write a bit more later) participated in a panel about industry consolidation in the book-jobber business. Recent acquisitions of YBP by EBSCO and Coutts by ProQuest have sent tremors through the admittedly tremor-prone Technical Services world; there is an increasing sense that we libraries have exactly two choices; and as Mr. Way noted, options equal power, whereas fewer options mean less leverage for the customer. It is quite true, and we have already seen some of the ramifications of consolidation – a term which the companies involved, incidentally, seem to find hurtful. The question of whether book jobbers like YBP and Coutts will continue to play well with a variety of ILS/LSPs, regardless of corporate parentage, is presently unanswerable. As Mr. Way said, we need to see proof of neutrality. Press releases promising continued cooperation are inadequate.

At a “Lively Lunch” session (interpretation: you don’t really get a lunch break), Will Cross and Darby Orcutt from NC State led a very participatory discussion of emerging practices for providing non-academic video content in streaming format. All attendees contributed to the conversation. This was helpful in and of itself, as people in this line of work (i.e. my line of work) often feel as if they are trying to figure these things out on an island. Talk centered around legal questions pertaining to Fair Use, the TEACH Act, and libraries’ good-faith wish to deliver their professors the content they need for instruction. I have repeatedly confronted these issues in my time at ZSR (working with more colleagues than I can name) as we continue to seek solutions for provision of commercial content, especially in cases where the only version is not available to the educational market. To wit: Transparent. But take heart! I happen to know that Molly and Kyle are making important efforts in this area.

And now, about those short-term loans. Carol has already written about Doug Way’s presentation on Wisconsin-Madison’s “systematic abandonment” of this model of ebook acquisition. She also stated, correctly, I think, that we needn’t do the same at this time. On a side note, I found the idea of systematic abandonment oddly compelling: the relinquishment of dying or declining services so as to create opportunities for growth. It made me think of a tree falling in a forest, leaving a hole in the canopy that lets in new light and opens up space for fresh growth. Of course, the tree also crushes innumerable other plants; I haven’t worked out that part of the metaphor yet. At any rate, short-term loans and demand-driven access in general are changing before our eyes, as publishers try via STL price hikes and embargoes to make some money out of this whole ebook thing. Evidence-based acquisition (EBA) seems to be one direction that libraries are going, and I’m sure we’ll have conversations about that in the future. At “Will It Ever Settle Down? The Impact of Rapidly Shifting Ebook Business Models on Libraries and Publishers” David Givens from Loyola-Chicago spoke hilariously about his institution’s initial googly-eyed embrace of DDA and STLs and eventual significant reduction to the program’s breadth due to the aforementioned changes in pricing models. By now they have reduced their DDA pool by two thirds. It’s hard to say where we’ll be in two years, but it’s safe to say that it will be somewhere else; as it always is.

Other programs I attended included such various topics as acquisition of books in “squiggly languages;” Europe’s stricter online privacy laws and Google’s mandate to remove personal information about individuals from its web searches upon request; strategic, as opposed to speculative, collection building; a review of the literature on library users’ satisfaction with ebooks; and an effort by librarians at multiple institutions to create an acquisitions data standard, with emphasis on linked data, for an increasingly interconnected world.

And on Saturday afternoon, after the conference ended, this is where I fished. You can’t see the huge redfish that I caught, because it is still out there.


The Charleston Conference 2014, via Ellen D.

Friday, November 14, 2014 3:55 pm

I attended the 34th annual Charleston Conference November 5-8, where the theme, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” inspired myriad presentation titles, including the opening address, “Being Earnest in the New Normal.” Presented by Anthea Stratigos of Outsell, Inc., a firm which offers strategic marketing for libraries, the talk was rife with market-based jargon rather than the libraryland lingo that tends to lace most presentations. She urged libraries to get better at delivering our branded experience via strategic marketing (there was a passing reference to “brand halo”), and limned the current landscape of the information industry: vendors struggling with growth, talent gaps for sales and analytics, changing cost structures, and, since vendors need to bring growth to stakeholders, mergers designed to create such growth. She listed the elements that constitute the strategic marketing that libraries need to develop: have a strategy and mission (only 50% of libraries have this); build a target market map (administration, key user groups, services and offerings); complete a needs assessment (understand what users want); weed and feed a portfolio of services; and brand and market internally, delivering “wow.” Finally, she urged libraries to do the things that matter to our marketplace, establishing a portfolio that spells out what to drop or add, moneys to request, and for which targets. She urged moving one’s institution from a passive posture to a more active stance, while not getting too far ahead: the balancing act involves avoiding an innovation curve that might disenfranchise stakeholders, who have their own points of view.

Several sessions broached the issue of students’ responses to e-books, and I attended a number of these.

“How Users’ Perceptions of E-Books Have Changed – Or Not: Comparing Parallel Survey Responses” was presented by librarians from the University of Florida: Steve Carrico, Tara Cataldo, Trey Shelton, and Cecilia Botero. The group discussed surveys taken in 2009 and 2014 at the University of Florida. The surveys took the form of pop-ups on library computers, urging users to “Help us make better decisions: take our survey.” During those five years, there were slight declines in the percentages of users who had ever used e-books (77% to 76%) and those who had used e-books from the university library (66% to 56%). The caveat may be that users may not know that something is an e-book, or that it is from the library; they also had trouble distinguishing between book chapters and journal articles. Significantly, they often prefer to wait for print books via ILL for a week, rather than use e-books. Students noted problems with ease of use, reading, and the pleasure of reading. Aspects of e-books singled out as grounds for disapproval and dislike include eye strain, access problems, annotation problems, love of print (the feel of print books), dearth of titles, navigation issues (e.g. inability to flip through pages), lack of graphics, portability, DRM, poor quality, and reliance on technology. In addition, they complained of finding it hard to locate or to remember where a portion of text is situated: all e-books look and “feel” alike. Unsurprisingly, a greater amount of experience affects awareness of issues. Among the notable comments was the familiar observation, that students feel that they do not read as carefully in e-books (distractions seem to abound in that environment), and they do not focus as well. Of those not using e-books, 32% were undergraduates; so ironically, library users among whom many are digital natives do not really like e-books. As one user succinctly proclaimed, “No paper, no soul.”

“Are We There Yet? A Longitudinal Study of the Student E-Book Experience,” by Kendall Hobbs and Diane Klare of Wesleyan University, reflected the fourth year of data-gathering in what has become an annual presentation of an ongoing ethnographic study by the CTW Library Consortium (Connecticut College, Trinity College, and Wesleyan University). They found that although more students have encountered e-books, this has not translated into a preference for e-books or greater sophistication in use. However, their strong preference for print diminishes somewhat after participation in library sessions guiding them in the use of e-books. Initial interviews asked them how they use e-books, what e-books are, then to find and use an e-book, and additionally included surveys of preference for print or electronic, devices used, and gauged familiarity with searching, downloading, highlighting, annotating, and copying/pasting material. The studies found that over the years, the number of e-books used has increased, but not the degree of sophistication in using e-books and their advanced features, despite the fact that e-journals have become well integrated into students’ research strategies. 70% had used library e-books, but half of them only 1-2 times per semester. 86% prefer print for both academic and pleasure reading, and they use print and e-books in different ways: e-books for discovery (searching and skimming the text), but they prefer to have print when careful, close reading is needed for serious study. They like the physicality of print (the very thickness of books), being able to flip through the pages, and even the ability to use post-it notes (some students rank books according to the number of sticky-notes posted in them; those books with the most notes are obviously deemed the most useful). They also like to hand-write notes or outlines, feeling that this makes them more engaged with the text; it gets into their brains better than is the case with mechanically copying and pasting. They want everything at hand when writing their papers; they do not want technology to get in the way, requiring them to navigate through multiple platforms. They cited problems with finding functionality since icons are not always comprehensible. Finally, students have two goals: they want their own print copies, and they want easy access with more intuitive interfaces.

I myself find such findings to be consistent with my own experiences in BI and PRS sessions. I always go over the use of e-books, and when I ask how many students prefer e-books, at most 1-2 students raise their hands. I acknowledge the ambivalence surrounding e-books, but then emphasize that despite a generally shared preference for print, the library’s e-book program offers a troika of advantages: immediate, simultaneous access to a larger number of books than we could afford to purchase in print. I also show them how to print out selected content, including how to determine in advance (under the Details tab) how many pages the book’s publisher permits for printing or copying. It is difficult to gauge response to this information in classes, but in one-on-one encounters in PRS sessions or at the reference desk, the relief is apparent.




Charleston 2014 According to Carol: Kanopy and E-Books

Thursday, November 13, 2014 4:56 pm

Illinois State University spoke about their experience with Kanopy. Two key observations about impact:

  • After starting DDA, they saw an increased number of requests to license non-DDA Kanopy titles – suggesting that some percentage of faculty users treat Kanopy as a standalone database.
  • ISU had previously bought streaming rights to some individual titles, which they hosted locally. When these titles were duplicated in the Kanopy DDA set, the Kanopy version generally had more use. This implies that the Kanopy versions are either more useful or more easily discoverable.

At Wake Forest, two Kanopy DDA films have already been used enough to trigger a purchase, and this is before loading the MARC records or doing any promotion beyond a single ZSReads article.

Two librarians from Wesleyan University did both qualitative (anthropology-style + usability) and quantitative (survey) studies of student attitudes and behaviors regarding e-books. Their observations:

  • Having personal control over a copy was most important, e.g. printing or making a PDF.
  • E-books work best for discovery. Print is better for deep reading.
  • Students read just what they need to write the paper. This holds true for print books and e-books.
  • Students are not interested in pirating per se, but they prioritize easy over legitimate.
  • Indexes to e-books are still exact reproductions of the paper format. The index terms are not hyperlinked; therefore, the index does not get used.

I saw two presentations on e-books featuring the always interesting Michael Levine-Clark from Denver. In the first presentation, he was on a panel that included reps from Wiley, OUP and YBP. They focused on the rapidly increasing costs of short-term loans, i.e. the one-day rental fees paid for the DDA books. Rebecca Seger from OUP presented on the economics of publishing a book. In a nutshell, OUP could predict the revenue streams for print but not for DDA. However, Levine-Clark pointed out that in the aggregate Denver spends the same amount on book content regardless of the existence of DDA. It’s just spread around differently. (At WFU, ZSR is actually spending more on monographs since the advent of DDA.) Any total reduction in monographs spending (at Denver or nationally) is due to journal inflation, which both Oxford and Wiley engage in. Since Denver is facing a flat budget, if current trends continue, their monograph spending (print or e) will be $0 by 2020. The panel did not offer any concrete suggestions on resolving the crisis beyond general statements about publishers and librarians working together.

The second presentation explored e-book usage in the Humanities. Levine-Clark had a national data set, and he compared usage in Humanities vs. Social Sciences vs. STEM. Then he compared the disciplines within Humanities to each other. I quickly realized that – based on usage patterns – Linguistics & Communication act more like the Social Sciences than Humanities. One interesting thing that he noted: The number of use sessions per 100 books available is lower in the Humanities than in Social Sciences or STEM. He did not speculate on a reason, but personally, I wonder if this reflects an oversupply of Humanities research compared to the demand for consuming Humanities research – especially since Humanities faculty are often specifically evaluated by whether they have published a book.

Imagine for a moment that ZSR cancelled its DDA plan: What might take its place? The two main alternative purchasing models are subscriptions (e.g. ebrary) and the Big Deal. I attended two sessions that probed different aspects of the Big Deal model. For e-books, Big Deal purchases are usually brokered directly by publishers (instead of by aggregators like EBL and ebrary). They generally do not have any DRM, and the books can be used by unlimited users. After UNC-Charlotte serendipitously discovered that they had 30 course adoption books within their Big Deal packages, they began deliberately promoting this idea with the faculty. They ultimately paid $14K for 117 additional titles. (They purchased some books one-by-one in addition to the Big Deals.) The bookstore was a good partner. A faculty member who used this program for his Film Studies course talked about how this program positively impacted his teaching.


  • He did not feel morally obligated to use every single chapter in the textbook, since the students were not required to pay out-of-pocket for it.
  • A corollary: he felt free to use single chapters from various books.
  • He likes a tech-free classroom, yet he still found ways to use the text within the class session.

Sidebar: This generally works for “course adoption” books. Rebecca Seger had helpfully explained the distinction between a “course adoption” book and a textbook. A textbook is something like Intro to Statistics, 18th edition. A “course adoption” book is something like The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan: adaptation to closed frontiers and war, which was not expressly designed as a textbook, but was indeed adopted for course use by a faculty member at WFU. Publishers do not know in advance which general monographs will become course adoption books. Generally, publishers do not sell multi-user textbooks to libraries, since that harms their lucrative (extortionate?) textbook revenue stream.

The last presentation I attended painted a less rosy picture of the Big Deal. Miami University thoroughly analyzed 2.5 years of usage statistics for Big Deal e-books purchased in 2012. Only 19% of titles had a use. Just three books (by their titles, clearly textbooks) accounted for 17% of downloads. Miami’s FTE is roughly 15K, or twice that of WFU. Therefore, I speculate that WFU would see only 10% usage if ZSR were to purchase this kind of package. Every time I have investigated the pricing of one of these packages, I have noted that the discount for buying in bulk does not even come close to accounting for the nearly inevitable low usage rates. While packages differ as to subject coverage, the ones that cover everything published by Publisher X in a given year are the worst deal, as there is no price break for the large swaths of content (e.g. agriculture) that would see virtually no use at a school like WFU.

While the Big Deal for journals is frequently (and sometimes with justice) maligned among librarians, the extra you pay for the journals without any previous subscription (i.e. likely low-use journals) rarely exceeds more than 10% of prior spend. I would not advocate for pursuing the Big Deal model for monographs unless publishers begin offering much steeper discounts.

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.

Susan @ the Charleston Conference: Talking About Providing Value

Friday, November 16, 2012 9:13 am

Earlier this year ZSR Library participated in a research study. The six month study was commissioned by SAGE and conducted by LISU, a national research and information center based in the Department of Information Science at Loughborough University. It sought to study how libraries show evidence of value to research and teaching staff and we were one of 8 case studies from the US, UK and Scandinavia. A final report with findings and recommendations was published last summer.

I was invited by SAGE to come to the Charleston Conference to co-present on the results of this study. My co-presenter was our old friend and colleague, Elisabeth Leonard, who now works for SAGE. Elisabeth reported on the results of the study and my job was to show the practical side of how we demonstrate value at ZSR Library. (My part of the presentation starts on slide 29)

Working Together, Evolving Value for Academic Libraries/Examples from One Library from Susan Smith


I was disappointed that home-front obligations on either side of our presentation schedule meant that I didn’t get to the conference until late Friday and so missed most of it. I’ve heard about The Charleston Conference for years, but since it isn’t in my area of responsibilities, I’ve never attended. I still didn’t get to attend any concurrent sessions, but I got the opportunity to see the energy of the conference and enjoy the final general session, a debate on the proposition that “the traditional research library is dead.” Arguing “yes” was Rick Anderson, Interim Dean, Marriott Library, Univ. of Utah against Derek Law, Professor Emeritus, University of Strathclyde, who emphasized his “no” position by wearing a traditional kilt! It was a spirited debate sprinkled with good-natured humor. My favorite line was delivered by Rick (note to all my cataloger friends, don’t shoot me!): He referenced the growing view that cataloging is dead by disagreeing. Instead, he said, catalogers are the “walking undead.” (laugh here). Twenty-first century polling was included as part of the session. Before the start of the debate, attendees were invited to text their yes or no position on the issue. At the end of the debate, a second poll was conducted to see if the debaters had changed peoples’ view. The end result was that the majority of attendees agree that “the traditional research library is dead.” The Conference Blog has a detailed report of what Anderson and Law had to say to support their positions and how the vote went. It was a fun session and makes me want to figure out a way to justify coming back next year.

I did manage to get in a little photography time (it was CHARLESTON after all), so I dragged myself out before dawn Saturday morning so I could watch the sunrise. My morning photo efforts are available on my flickr site.
Sunrise 6

Sarah at the Charleston Conference

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 11:20 am

Last Friday, Nov. 5th, I attended the Charleston Conference in Charleston, SC and presented my paper which I am co-authoring with Dr. Seong-Tae Kim on “Core Resources on Time Series Analysis for Academic Libraries: A Selected, Annotated Bibliography.” Here are the slides from my presentation:

I also attended the morning plenary session on “What Can Our Readers Teach Us?” by John Sack, Associate Publisher and Director, Highwire Press, Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources. Highwire interviewed 25 researchers, mostly scientists and some postdocs. However, clinicians were not interviewed. Sack presented the results of their study. Users read articles to keep up with what they already know and use PubMed, Web of Science, and Google Scholar; Google is used at the end of scholar discovery to catch things at the edge. Users read books for unfamiliar topics and use Amazon and GoogleBooks. In order to keep current, email alerts in PubMed and Web of Science and emailed Table of Contents of journals are utilized. However, discovery, browsing, and serendipity are missing. Sack posed the question, “What’s the iTunes for research literature?”

In the afternoon, I attended the session on “Next Generation Science Journals: Challenges and Opportunities” by Moshe Pritsker, Co-founder, JoVE: Journal of Visualized Experiments, which is a journal that recently became accessible to ZSR Library. JoVE covers Neuroscience, Immunology, Developmental Biology, Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Plant Biology, Psychology, Medicine, and other subjects. It is the first and only video journal accepted for indexing in PubMed. Most video articles come from scientists at Harvard, MIT, Yale, NIH, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, etc. JoVE has also set up a videographer network in the U.S.

Janet Carter, Collection Coordinator from UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, provided a librarian’s perspective on next-generation science journals. Factors considered in deciding to license journals include the following:

  • New journal indexed by PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus
  • Faculty and/or student recommendations v. direct mass marketing strategies by the publisher/vendor
  • ILL borrowing history
  • Costs-can our budget support the subscription?
  • Licensing agreement elements

Renewal issues:

  • Faculty serving on Editorial Boards
  • Faculty publishing in journals
  • Usage statistics
  • Impact Factor, SNIP, Eigenfactor
  • Business model changes
  • Faculty input

Recommended Practices for the Presentation and Identification of E-journals

Hawkins, L. (2009). Best Practices for Presentation of E-journal Titles on Provider Web Sites and in Other E-content Products. Serials Review, 35(3), 168-169.

I also attended the afternoon plenary session on “I Hear the Train a Comin'”, which compiled insights from scholarly communication experts on the future of publishing, libraries, and academic technology. Joseph Esposito’s presentation was enlightening and here are some highlights. Esposito quoted Niels Bohr: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” New trends in publishing include publishers seeking growth in new territories in Asia, Eastern Europe, new classes of accounts (government) and direct to individuals. Supply-side publishing represents the evolution of Open Access, which is responsive to the need to make research results available. Public Library of Science, BioMedCentral, and Hindawi’s authors-pay models are successful. Demand-side publishing is the traditional model where the user pays. New methods include direct marketing to consumer (D2C) and collecting customer data, which is a privacy minefield. Attention publishing is borrowing from cable TV and Netflix, where publishers don’t sell books, but monopolize attention. Essentially, it’s the “Big deal” for consumers.

Another unexpected highlight was finding a Korean restaurant called Mama Kim’s in Charleston. Overall, it was a great conference to gain perspective on the bigger picture of publishing, libraries, and collection management.

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