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Information literacy, instruction, and the social web

Yesterday, I took a few moments to sit down and read Greg Bobish’s recent article in The Journal of Academic Librarianship, “Participation and pedagogy: Connecting the social web to ACRL learning outcomes.” In it, he claims that a constructivist approach to learning underlies the ACRL standards for Information Literacy and, as such, Web 2.0 tools can provide a rich landscape for building instruction activities rooted in pedagogical theory and practice (as opposed to being used simply for their “shiny” qualities).

He cites five requirements of the ideal constructivist environment and links these to qualities inherent in many Web 2.0 tools/platforms:

  1. Complex and challenging learning environments
  2. Social negotiation and shared responsibility
  3. Multiple representations of content
  4. The understanding that knowledge is constructed
  5. Student-centered instruction

The first half of the article lays out his justification for integrating Web 2.0 into the academic library classroom using these five elements. But what I found especially valuable was the latter half of the article which provided an example of a learning activity for each of the 87 performance indicators and outcomes in ACRL’s standards. These are brief but they offer some unique ideas for instruction.

For example, Standard 4.3.c states that information literate students can “incorporates principles of design and communication” as part of the act of “using information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose” and “communicating the performance and product” of that act. Bobish offers the following activity for this learning outcome:

Students are asked to present the information they have gathered to a Facebook group created by the instructor. A follow-up discussion is held (either in-class or online) about how the platform influenced the way they presented their findings and how they might have done it differently if it had been an in-class presentation or a PowerPoint slideshow. (p. 61)

I love this idea! It takes a step beyond simply using Web 2.0 for its entertainment value (or just because we can) and asks students to question the platforms they use daily to communicate information, both personal and professional. Granted, some of Bobish’s examples fall into the former category (“shiny”), but most promise to provide simple ways to engage students in familiar, digital environments and reconsider the assumptions inherent in them. I recommend keeping this article on hand for when you are looking for ways to update your instructional cookbooks.

Tips from ACRL’s self-branding panel for librarians

Today, we bring to a close ALA’s Midwinter Conference for 2011. For me, it was a whirlwind tour, only spending one full day on the conference floor (instead of three). After checking in to my hotel late Friday afternoon, I wandered the exhibit floor, talking with vendors about new products, picking up arm-loads of free books, and grabbing delicious niblets of hors d’oeurve. Sunday was even briefer after deciding to head back to Los Angeles earlier than I originally planned.

On Saturday, the ACRL New Members Discussion Group held their panel on digital self branding. Brett Bonfield, Kiyomi Deards, Lisa Carlucci Thomas, and Andromeda Yelton offered their advice and talked about their experiences building a reputation online and on the library circuit. If Twitter and after-session discussion are any indication, the panel was a brilliant success. Over 40 people attended and we even got some coverage on ALA’s Youtube channel.

Here’s a summary of the best advice offered by our panelists. Thanks to everyone who came and we hope you enjoyed it!

Why should you take the time to set up an online brand?

  1. People will Google you: vendors, administrators, future employers, colleagues. What do you want them to find?
  2. It can be mutually rewarding to you and the people who could benefit from your skills and knowledge.
  3. When you have an online presence, how you present yourself in face to face situations may be seen in the context of your digital self.

What can you do to make it work?

  1. First off, it is an organic process. You may have to grow into it. So don’t panic!
  2. Building a professional brand may seem like fishing with a thousand poles. You may have to throw them all out and see which one bites.
  3. Imagine you don’t have a resume. What would you do/say/build online to highlight your skills?
  4. Find an niche and find a community.
  5. Find a way to participate, do good work, and then link back to your website.

And finally, some sobering advice:

  1. Can you verbalize how social media and online branding is helpful to your career? If you’re in academia, you should be able to do this, especially if you plan to take the time to work at online branding, because…
  2. Twitter won’t get you tenure.
  3. Be very careful about being negative in a public, online space. If you’re going to say something negative online with your real name, people will notice (and find it).

Did you attend the panel? What did you think? We are planning to continue the discussion online at ALA Connect. So if you’re interested, jump over there and let us know your thoughts!

The librarians are descending on San Diego

It’s a cool 52 degrees in Southern California this morning as librarians and vendors from across the country begin to make their way toward San Diego for the ALA Midwinter conference. I’ll be trekking down tomorrow afternoon between rush hours with no plans other than checking into my hotel, finding food, and attending the opening of the exhibits. Since I’m not flying this time and luggage space is not an issue, I can grab all the swag that my sturdy, librarian hands can carry!

If you are headed to Midwinter, check out ProfHacker’s advice for attending conferences [productively]. I’m keeping my schedule more open than I did at ALA Annual back in June, with the exception of Saturday when I have multiple parties obligations. I’m willing to be swayed by public opinion to one or another intriguing event, but mostly I want to make this quick southern sojourn as stress-free as possible. Here is my plan of attack:

Friday

  • Arrive mid afternoon. Check in. Find food.
  • 5:30am — 7:30pm:  Exhibits Hall (Convention Center)

Saturday

  • 10:30am — 12:00pm:  ACRL New Members Discussion Group (Hilton Bayfront, Aqua 304)
  • Lunch
  • 1:30pm — 3:30pm:  The World (and Jason Griffey) Interviews Vernor Vinge (Convention Center, Rm. 29 A-D)
  • [alternate] 1:30pm — 3:30pm:  ACRL/LES General Membership Forum (Convention Center, Rm. 24 A)
  • 4:00pm — 6:00pm:  San Jose SLIS Reception (Symphony Towers, Suite 3400)
  • 6:30pm — 8:00pm:  ALASC Meet-Up (Field Pub)
  • 7:30pm — 10:00pm:  Tweet-up (Basic Restaurant)

Sunday

  • 10:30am — 12:00pm:  ACRL/LES Reference Discussion Group (Hilton Bayfront, Indigo E)
  • [alternate] 10:30am — 12:00pm:  ACRL/DLS Discussion Group (Convention Center, Rm. 30 B)
  • Lunch
  • 1:30pm — 2:30pm:  ACRL Forum on futures thinking for academic librarians (Convention Center, Rm. 30)

With the exception of the ACRL NMDG and the San Jose Reception, any of those are subject to change, especially if I’m bribed, coerced, kidnapped or otherwise distracted by crowds and shiny objects (anyone remember watching the World Cup at Annual?). Safe travels and hope to see you there!

If you are heading to San Diego this weekend, what are your plans?

Anno domini 2011

Happy New Year! I hope your 2010 was as wonderful as the one I just wrapped up. ALA Midwinter is only a few days away, but before I jump onto that train to San Diego, I wanted to spend a few moments to look forward to 2011 and layout a game plan. It’s a bit hokey, but I’m going to risk dweebhood and put these out in the open. Feel free to call me out on this later in the year if I start slacking.

Last year was the “Year of Getting Involved.” I established three areas of focus (web tech, reference work, and professional acculturation) and pursued specific goals that fit within those contexts. It was my attempt to “get more involved”: I set up a domain space, I started working the reference desk, I taught a one-off instruction course for new grad students, and I volunteered for two ALA committees. While I did not achieve anything spectacular, I can confidently say that I met my goals (huzzah!) and I’m in a better place now professionally than this time last year.

2011 will be the “Year of Preparation.” In December, I’ll graduate with my MLIS from San Jose State and my fixed-term cataloging position at MPOW will come to end. Everything up until that point will be preparation for re-entering the job market, hopefully more prepared than when I first moved to LA over three years sans MLIS and sans experience.

This year, I’ll have the same three areas of focus, but I want to dig deeper. Rather than setting specific goals (which worked great last year, so no complaints there), I’ll use the three themes to guide my professional development (mostly reading and writing) during certain times of the year.

Web Tech: Dig into the code to understand how it works and how to build things.

Each quarter of 2011, I’ll focus on a particular coding language. Because I have some extra time during Q1, I’ll start with PHP. In Q2, I’ll turn my attention to Javascript. In Q3, I’ll take a breather to refresh and refine my CSS knowledge (this is also the busiest time of year for me so it will help that I already know a little). Finally, in Q4 I’ll try to learn Python. Ok, I know that is not web tech, strictly speaking, but I’ve been wanting to dive into it for years.

Reference Work: Develop a deeper understanding of the processes underlying reference services.

Each week, I will spend an hour or two reflecting on my reference work at MPOW. This involves reviewing my own performance, but also reading over the chat logs and knowledge-base documents developed by colleagues. My intent is to develop a deeper understanding of how students seek information, what works and what doesn’t, and to learn different approaches to reference service. Additionally, I want to spend a few minutes each week discovering (or rediscovering) useful resources for academic research.

Professional Acculturation: Reflect on professional academic librarianship, its roles and functions.

Even though I’ve worked at an academic library for three years, as a paraprofessional I’ve always felt a bit on the outside. This year, I want to put that feeling behind me and seriously think about what it means to be an academic librarian (especially for humanities research) by focusing on essential issues of academia. So for each month of the year, I set one topic of focus. During that month, I’ll actively seek resources on these topics and set aside time each week to review the conversations surrounding them. Those topics are: Info Literacy, Privacy, Copyright, Scholarly Communication, Distance Learning, Digital Libraries,  Net Neutrality, Future of Libraries, Academic Publishing,  Mobile Tech, Ebooks, and Open Access.

Daily Habits

In order to help me stay on track, there are three habits that I will develop: single-tasking, writing daily, and weekly review. Single-tasking will help me to focus on what is most essential for achieving my goals and writing daily will keep my mind on it. Same with the weekly review (which I do anyway as part of my GTD routine).

And that’s it! There is a lot to be said about setting specific, measurable, achievable (etc.) goals, but this year, I want to let things take their course and “ride the wave.” I’ll keep my eye on and out for things that matter, but let my professional life develop as it may from now until the end of the year. For now, we play the waiting game…

More transliteracy talk: metaphors and metonyms

The discussion surrounding the definition of transliteracy has been sending waves throughout the internets this morning. David Rothman took the concept to task in yesterday’s post, “Commensurable Nonesense (Transliteracy),” responding partially to a post by Lane Wilkinson.* David brings up a few good points about transliteracy, most notably:

  1. its lack of a definition
  2. its unoriginality

The first of these has been dealt with extensively, so I won’t do into it here. The lack of a concise definition is certainly problematic and, until one such is developed, it will difficult to bring the concept into the academic arena, much more so to the desks of administrators and policy makers. The second point, I think, deserves more attention. The ideas that make up the amorphous concept of transliteracy may not be anything that hasn’t already been discussed, but they may be beneficial to libraries and their users if the ways in which they are discussed (either conceptually or practically or as a methodology) provide unique perspectives.

So does transliteracy give us a unique perspective? Rotham asks this and essentially concludes that the levels of discourse that transliteracy provides can already be attained through discussion of information literacy. He also compares attempted definitions of transliteracy to more established definitions of other literacies.

We’ve come to a point in the discourse where the term “literacy” is used in far too many ways. One can be information literate, health literate, financially literate, digitally literate, statistically literate, or emotionally literate. How do all of these relate to the broader concept of literacy? As I was reading over these, I started thinking about this and discovered two predominant approaches: metaphorical and metonymical.

Let’s begin with a literal approach to the definition. The OED defines literate as “acquainted with letters or literature; educated, instructed, learned; a liberally educated or learned person; one who can read and write.” Webster’s Third defines it as “characterized by or possessed of learning; able to read and write; well executed or technically proficient.” Literacy is defined as the characteristic of possessing any of these traits. So a strict definition focuses on either “learning” or “reading” and this is generally how the term is used in everyday conversation. A somewhat broader definition implies understanding and comprehension, not just the ability to read and write but the ability to do it well. From here, the splintering of definitions takes off.

Literacy is then extended metaphorically to mean an understanding or comprehension of other subjects beyond written text (most of which require reading and writing): being health literate  is the ability to understand health issues and read medical documents; being financially literate is the ability to understand markets, economies, and fiscal concerns.  These “other” literacies require many of the same skills (ability to read and write, most notably, but also the ability to seek and retrieve documents) but do so in entirely different contexts. They require a specific domain knowledge which adds value to the understanding gained through simple reading comprehension.

Literacy can also be extended metonymically to mean any of the skills related to or comprising the ability to understand information. This use of the word tends to play on the various meaning of “reading” and “writing” to included activities such as choosing the right font for a business letter, evaluating a website or editorial for bias, or deconstructing body language. One is digitally literate if they have the skills necessary to navigate online or use electronic databases. One is orally literate if they have the ability to interpret the subtleties of human communication or understand the complexities of storytelling. While domain knowledge still plays a significant part, the focus here is on the ability to “read” signs (e.g. verbal, written, performed) and “write” effectively (e.g. compose, format, design)

Transliteracy seems to straddle the fence between these two uses (hence, its prefix kinda works in this regard). It attempts to encompass both the skills necessary for understanding “texts” in a [mostly digital] environment (metonymical) and the understanding of how different contexts require different domains of knowledge (metaphorical). Herein lies the problem: Which connotation of literacy are we using when we say someone is “transliterate?” Is it problematic to imply both?  And most importantly: if we imply both, how is that different from the all-inclusive term “literacy” defined in a less-than-strict way, i.e. the ability to understand and comprehend “texts” and to do it well?

Perhaps the answers to these questions could be the foundation for further development of a definition of transliteracy. Or they could be its negation. Whatever the outcome, the discussion will continue into the near future and it will be defined by its ability to add value to our understanding of how individuals interact with the world around them, one which is increasingly becoming more digital.

—–

*As a side note, I didn’t find Lane’s post to be either inaccessible or “needlessly” linguistically elite, as David suggested. It is academically sterile, perhaps, but I don’t think anyone should be faulted for trying to use language specifically and intentionally, in a way that suggests the style of scholarly communication. It deserves its place just as much as the more casual or snarky language that comprises most of internet. But then, I’m biased given that I spend most of my day in an academic library.

My favorite blog of 2010

A recent discussion thread on Friendfeed toyed with topics dear to the heart of information literacy enthusiasts. I gave up regularly contributing to FF months ago (so many social networks, so little time), but this particular conversation caught my eye and made me reconsider jumping back into that community. In short, one commenter was lampooning one of those “Top X Library Blogs” post that had suspicious authorship (remember to always check out the “about” page!). The conversation that ensued touched on issues of bias and authenticity on the web, the link economy, and then devolved into hilarious punning.

My opinion on the matter aside, I started thinking about the blogs that I love to read. There are, of course, the staples of my reading diet: In the Library with the Lead Pipe, ACRLog, Information Wants to Be Free, Academic Librarian, and a few others. But one blog caught my attention this year and I thought, in light of shill LIS websites backed by suspicious entities, I should take the time to offer a genuine recommendation of one library blog: Sense and Reference.

Sense and Reference, authored by Wilk, a librarian at a Tennessee university, has been online for over a year and covers everything from library-related technology in the digital divide to collaboration in social media, even post-[post-?]-structuralist theories in library science. Recently, Wilk has been posting on transliteracy and wrote a guest post over on Bobbi Newman’s blog. His writing style is academic and acute, but still playful and just a delight to read… unlike the drab and insufferable style of this blog 😉

If you are interested in information literacy or just generally like reading about issues related to academic librarianship, I highly recommend checking out Sense and Reference. Enjoy!

Personal information management in academia

I’ve been thinking about Personal Information Management (PIM) for the last few weeks as I’ve been wrapping up my semester course work. For my class on Human Information Interactions, I developed a short annotated bibliography for research on how faculty and researchers organize information. I initially had some trouble locating articles that dealt specifically with PIM in academia: most research examines information workers outside of the university. However, there were a handful of useful studies and I thought I would share those in case anyone else needed a good starting point.

Introduction

While scholarly communication has received significant attention from researchers in the field of human information behavior, less attention has been given to how scholars actually organize their files in the pre– and post– publication stages of research. As the world of academic research becomes increasingly digital, networked, and transparent, information scientists should turn their attention to the underlying structures, methodologies, habits, and perceptions of personal archiving in a university environment. Not only is it easier in a digital environment to track the scholarly communication process, but by focusing on these activities, we will see how digital networks are changing the ways scholars create, store, and disseminate information at all stages of research, from planning to publication and beyond.

The field of Personal Information Management (PIM) provides a theoretical and practical framework for discussing the technical details of the research process. Unfortunately, even though there are numerous PIM studies on engineers, travel agencies, financial firms, legal firms, etc., researchers have rarely turned a critical eye upon their own practices. Perhaps, as many of the works below suggest, this is due to the realization that PIM is uniquely tailored by each individual: no one system works for everyone. Those studies that do exist are fairly limited in scope, usually focusing on a single tool (e.g. email, bookmarks) or a single user group (e.g. computer scientists, graduate students). Few studies broadly discuss PIM in a university environment.

The following works were chosen because, in part or in whole, they deal with PIM in a university environment by faculty and researchers. Together, they provide a rough outline of the major concerns for PIM in academia: How much information should be saved? How will it be organized? Who should be responsible for its organization and preservation? What motivations drive information storage? What barriers exist and what are the implications for scholarly communication? For more information on PIM in general, I recommend the works of William Jones and Jamie Teevan, especially their Personal Information Management (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007) and Peter Williams, Jeremy John, and Ian Rowland’s 2009 article “The personal curation of digital objects: A lifecycle approach” (Aslib Proceedings, 61(4), 340–363).

Bibliography

Boardman, R. & Sasse, M.A. (2004). “Stuff goes into the computer and doesn’t come out”: A cross-tool study of personal information management. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 583–590). New York: Association for Computing Machinery.

Boardman and Sasse are constantly referred to in the literature that exists on how faculty and researchers organize personal information. Their research provides data and a methodology for creating an empirical foundation for PIM. In the study, information about how users in an academic setting organize information was collected across multiple tools (email, files, and bookmarks) and over time. All the participants except for one were from the university community and the majority of the participants were researchers. Using interviews, observations of the work environment, and long-term observations of file management, the authors examined the structures, maintenance, and retrieval preferences of the participants.

This research provides useful information for understanding how some individuals organize information and how they feel about their personal organizational methods. For example, the authors discovered that when users had similar hierarchies of file folders and hierarchies of email folders (termed “overlap”), users did so according to their roles (e.g. teacher) or projects (e.g. research proposal). Additionally, the users that filed items more frequently (daily) and had established organizational systems exhibited a sense of pride at their ability to organize their files over the years, even while simultaneously recognizing flaws in their system. This confirms what other studies have suggested: that the best PIM system is a highly personalized one.

Most importantly, the authors conclude that the categories used to describe information organizers in previous studies, such as Whittaker and Sidner’s “pilers” and “filers” (Whittaker, S. & Sidner, C. (1996). Email overload: Exploring personal information management of email. Proceedings CHI 1996, 276–283.), were not granular enough to describe all users. The participants in this study used multiple PIM strategies across multiple tools and did not easily fir in the previously established categories. This study provides a broader framework, based on previous research but adapted to describe the results of this experiment, for discussing the various PIM strategies.

Foster, N.F. & Gibbons, S. (2005). Understanding faculty to improve content recruitment for institutional repositories. D-Lib Magazine 11(1). Retrieved November 22, 2010, from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january05/foster/01foster.html

In this year-long study funded by a 2003 Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, Nancy Foster and Susan Gibbons of the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries system sought to understand how faculty manage information. The purpose of their research was to find innovative ways to market and adapt IR systems to meet faculty needs, ultimately increasing participation. The article’s goal is not to explore PIM, but its findings provide insight into how faculty manage personal information and the information needs of individuals in a research environment.

The authors asked faculty members what they expected from an IR system. The majority of faculty indicated that they wanted tools for authoring, archiving, disseminating, locating, and reading research. They also expressed a desire for tools to control versioning, access information anywhere, and control access by other users. Faculty want their research to be archived with similar materials (related by subject), which suggests how they conceptualize the context of their personal information in a networked environment. In many cases, faculty had already created systems and methods that met these needs without specialized software: e.g. emailing files to oneself or to family members as a versioning control system. The broad array of responses indicates the wide range of information needs.

The observations and documentation of the faculty at work were based on anthropological participant observation. The data was gathered and analyzed by a diverse team that included reference librarians, computer scientists, an anthropologist, a programmer, a cataloger, and a graphic designer: an aspect that makes the research particularly insightful. The latter half of the article is primarily concerned with how to use this information to market buy-in for IR systems. For the purposes of this bibliography, it illustrates one practical benefit of understanding how faculty organize information.

Gandel, P.B., Katz, R.N., Metros, S.E. (2004). The “weariness of the flesh”: Reflections on the life of the mind in an era of abundance. EDUCAUSE Review, 39(2), 40–5.

The authors of this commentary on the current state of knowledge management in higher education offer a CIO’s perspective on the future of personal information organization. Grandel, Vice-Provost for Information Services and Dean of University Libraries at the University of Rhode Island; Katz, Vice-President of EDUCAUSE; and Metros, Deputy CIO and Executive Director for eLearning at Ohio State University, combine their extensive experience working with various stake-holders in the information landscape of universities to offer simple solutions to the problem of information abundance and recommend ways to encourage faculty buy-in on institutional repositories.

The authors claim that before the age of the computer, there was a fairly stable equilibrium between the demand for information and the supply of people to teach that information, but that now we live in an era of information abundance. The shift from an industrial to a knowledge economy, the falling cost of computer processors, the rapid adoption of information systems for all aspects of operations, and the growing acceptance of education as a life-long process have all contributed to a growing dependence on information resources in higher education. The future promises to be an age of abundance as individuals discover and utilize their ability to archive any and all aspects of human life in digital form. This includes the production of scholarly works.

The authors suggest that we think of the information landscape in terms of “ecologies” and of individuals as the organisms within that ecosphere. How will we study these organisms? How will we adapt our ecosystem to meet the needs of these individuals? What necessities will this ecosystem requires? These questions, though not asked explicitly, are suggested as the authors discuss the roles in which administrators, librarians, archivists, and publishers play in this new ecosystem. Grandel, Katz, and Metros conclude by recommending that institutional repositories be easy to use and seamlessly integrated with [faculty] desktop systems to encourage use and provide a stress-free way of incorporating tacit and explicit institutional knowledge into the networked ecosystem of information. Their image of the future calls to mind a great university-run Memex, both individual and institutional in its scope. For the purposes of this bibliography, this article provides an institution-wide perspective on the implications of PIM when integrated into a networked environment.

Kaye, J., Vertesi, J., Avery, S., Dafoe, A., David, S., Onaga, L., Rosero, I., et al. (2006). To have and to hold. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 275–284). New York: Association for Computing Machinery.

Kaye et al. set out to discover how academics at one Ivy League university organize and archive their information and to understand the values inherent in their organizational system. The authors posed a set of questions to 48 academics, took pictures of their information spaces, and qualitatively analyzed the results. They discovered five principle reasons for personal archiving: (1) retrieval, (2) legacy building (3) resource sharing, (4) fear of loss, and (5) identity construction. While the organizational systems varied from one individual to the next, each system tended to utilize one particular medium (e.g. bookshelves, boxes, file folders, digital bookmarks) that was influenced by the organizer’s principal values (the five stated above) and work lifestyle (e.g. single office vs. multiple office).

Kaye et al.‘s study suggests that the need to retrieve information is neither the only nor the most important reason for personal archiving among academics. Additionally, the study states that no one system was significantly more effective at information retrieval than any other. Academics archive material for reasons that are not always rational (e.g. fear of loss) or immediately transparent (e.g. identity construction). Based on this knowledge, system designers should develop information systems that reflect the values inherent in personal archiving. Currently-used systems can be judged according to these values. The authors also suggest studying the relationship between personal identity and the customization of desktops, blogs, and personal websites when designing digital archiving tools.

Marshall, C.C. (2008). From writing and analysis to the repository: Taking the scholars’ perspective on scholarly archiving. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (pp. 251–260). New York: Association for Computing Machinery.

Catherine Marshall of Microsoft Research and the Center for the Study of Digital Libraries at Texas A&M University, studied the information behaviors of 14 computer scientists with a significant number of publications in their field in order to understand how they organized information related to their research. The participants in this study were more familiar with computing environments and thus illustrated more complex PIM practices. Marshall used semi-structured, open-ended interviews and observations over the course of six months to gather her data.

The participants in the study typically made an effort to archive six types of materials: (1) paper sources of their publications, (2) digital copies of the same, (3) research codes (4) data sets and logs, (5) bibliographies of related work, and (6) email. These files existed in various forms of completion, across multiple tools, and among multiple collaborators, illustrating the complex nature of scholarly communication in a digital, networked environment. Of particular note, Marshall discovers that personal archiving is more a side effect of collaboration and publication than a unique, intended process. If files are shared with colleagues via email, then email becomes the tool used for version control and storage. In her words, personal archiving is at once both “opportunistic” and “social.”

This study also raised a number of interesting questions about PIM, including: if two or more authors are collaborating on a single publication, who has the authoritative version? At what point do data sets become archive-worthy: as raw data or after the data has been worked on? Do citations stored in BibTex files need to be complete or just enough so that they are recognizable? Marshall ends by offering implications for collaborative information management, for personal scholarly archives, and for institutional and disciplinary repositories.

Winget, M.A., Chang, K. & Tibbo, H. (2006). Personal email management on the University Digital Desktop: User behaviors vs. archival best practices. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 43(1), 1–13.

This article offers a summary of the findings of a three-year project that examined the records management behaviors– particularly email management– of faculty and staff at two North Carolina universities. In-depth interviews were used to collect information about the subjects’ organization methods, retention habits, and concerns about digital information. While the majority of the article discusses the practice of record retention in the legal context of a state-supported university, it does provide some useful data for understanding how faculty and staff at a university manage their email, including: how important emails are stored; how emails are organized; and how attachments are stored.

Winget, Chang, and Tibbo discovered a variety of behaviors when it came to how important messages were stored, including saving them to a hard-drive or network drive, printing them out, moving them to a sub-folder, flagging them, moving them to another format (e.g. Microsoft Word), and leaving them in the inbox. The majority of respondents (88%) used a folder system to organize emails, most ranging from 11 to 50 folders. 89% of the respondents saved attachments outside the email program. Like other studies, this shows the variety of methods university faculty and staff use to organize information. While there are certainly strong tendencies to organize information in a particular way, no one system is shown to be more effective than another.

Winget, M.A. & Ramirez, M. (2006). Developing a meaningful digital self-archiving model: Archival theory vs. natural behavior in the Minds of Carolina Research Project. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 43(1), 1–12.

The goal of this paper was to examine how users, specifically university faculty, might choose to self-archive digital objects. The authors interviewed two faculty members, one scientist and one humanities scholar, and asked them to consider and collect what they would submit to a digital archive and discuss how they would organize it. The two faculty members took two very different approaches. The scientist intentionally excluded lab notebooks (an item the authors considered to be of great academic value), created a lengthy narrative of his career to accompany the materials that he did include, and mostly referenced his publications by providing links to PubMed citations rather than submitting the actual documents themselves. The humanities scholar provided materials related to the development of a single monograph. These included documents that illustrated the creative and iterative process of translation (of poetry) and contextualized the monograph within the scholar’s work and professional connections. For example, he included pre-prints of the work that contained notes from other colleagues.

Winget and Ramirez spend much of the article making recommendations for future developments of digital archives. Concerning personal information management, they discovered that the desire to self-archive at the early stage of one’s career is inhibited by (1) lack of need to reflect and “look back” and (2) the hesitation to publish mistakes, especially in light of a rigorous tenure process. The article also illustrates how two people can chose two radically different approaches to organizing information and deciding what information is worthy of preservation. Additionally, Winget and Ramirez point out that these approaches were contrary to archival best practices.

Zimmerman, E. (2009). PIM @ academia: How e-mail is used by scholars. Online Information Review, 33(1), 22–42.

In this study, Eric Zimmerman, Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs and Director of Research at Interdisciplinary Center Herzlia in Israel, assesses the relationships between email use and scholarly work. While not an original research question, this study, performed decades after the introduction of email, is unique in that it is undertaken at a time when it is understood, based on previous studies, that the vast majority of scholars today are comfortable using email technology.

Zimmerman surveyed 390 faculty members of the humanities, social sciences, and sciences at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. The surveys were distributed via email and paper formats and asked faculty members a number of questions regarding email use, level of comfort, skill level, and the application of email for scholarly communication. Of 17 predefined uses, faculty mostly used email for: proposal development use, manuscript submission, research collaboration, and participation in committees.

Other important findings include: (1) a negative correlation between age and self-described email skill: older users expressed lower levels of comfort using email; (2) 45% of those surveyed feel overloaded, but almost 65% expressed little difficulty in organizing email; and (3) scholars with more publications tended to use email more frequently. Additionally, Zimmerman found that while respondents view email as a benefit to scholarly work (rated on a Likert scale), when the results are broken down by school, humanities faculty generally rate its benefit lower than social sciences or sciences faculty.

The results of this study suggest that email is perhaps the most widely used tool in the scholarly communication process, serving the processes of communication, collaboration, drafting, peer-review, manuscript submission, versioning, and archiving in the publication process.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have additional resources on Personal Information Management in universities, please share in the comments

Group action is needed

“Libraries need to consider as a group options for purchase, going in some cases so far as to agree collectively not to purchase certain publications, because these publications do not conform to standards libraries have set. If aspects of such collective action are in fact illegal, then let us confirm that by pushing the envelope–always bearing in mind that we have all been carefully, judiciously taught by our university counsels to be intimidated by anything relating to legality.”

Atkinson, Ross. (2006). Six key challenges for the future of collection development. Library Resources & Technical Services, 50(4), 250.

This is madness

“We publish the smallest editions at the greatest cost, and on these we place the highest prices, and then we try to market them to people who can least afford them. This is madness.”

Chester Kerr (Director of Yale University Press), quoted in Gene R. Hawes, To Advance Knowledge: A Handbook of American University Press Publishing (New York: American University Press Services 1967), 5.