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Propositions about the future of academic collections (Part 1)

I’ve been thinking about library collections and how they’ve changed over the past decade (again, culminating MLIS coursework is full-throttle until December). This week, I thought I would share six propositions for the future of academic library collections. Think of them as mini-Taiga statements that highlight the current state of collection development practices and philosophies but also present crucial factors that may determine the future of collections. Your thoughts are welcomed in the comments!

 


 

Proposition 1: In the battle between ownership and access, “access” has become the predominating paradigm.

Miller’s (2000) analysis of the period between 1980 and 2000 shows that the two paradigms that predominated collection management in the late 20th century were “ownership” and “access.” Libraries struggled to find a balance between the storage and preservation of information resources and the ability to provide constant and immediate access to them. This struggle was highlighted by the emergence of electronic resources, increased serials costs, the splintering of the academic publishing landscape, and the ubiquity of personal computers. Whereas libraries once fell decidedly upon the “ownership” side of the equation, the 21st century academic library is driven primarily by the “access” model of collections development, especially when it relates to serials acquisitions. The shift has not been entirely to one side, nor is it likely to ever shift completely to an all access model. However, the preference for ownership still predominates librarian education (Tucker and Torrence, 2004) and there is even some evidence that academic libraries may move back toward increased ownership with regards to digital materials.

Martell (2009) goes a step further to argue that the next paradigm in collection development will be what he calls “sAccess”: a social access model. Martell looks at the predominance of social networks and virtual communities and predicts that the next paradigm shift will focus on finding ways to provide resources to users within these spaces. Current licensing agreement models and format incompatibilities will make this difficult, but if academic libraries continue to push for increased ownership of digital materials, it is likely that we will see librarians trying to find ways to push this material into these spaces.

 


 

Proposition 2: Co-operation and collaboration will be even more necessary to maintain collections at a level of access that patrons will accept.

Academic libraries have been working together to share the responsibilities of collection development since the creation of the Farmington Plan at end of World War II (Evans and Saponaro, 2005). Current programs like OHIOLink and Link+ in California are testaments to successful resource sharing. It is generally acknowledged within the literature that libraries will not survive in isolation: resource sharing is a necessary activity. This is especially true for electronic resources. Consortia like SCELC, the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium, established in 1986, bring libraries together to leverage purchasing power and maximize limited financial resources (Atkinson, 2006; Horava, 2010; Kinner and Crosetto, 2009).

While the success of consortia is indispensable, it will not be enough. Collaboration will be necessary in other areas as well. One such area is advocacy. According to authors like McGuigan and Russell (2008) and Atkinson (2006), libraries need to work together “against” publishers, not maliciously, but in order to create a more realistic purchasing market and to make resources more accessible. If librarians do not advocate for standardization of digital material, more affordable pricing models, and increased ownership of e-resources, commercial enterprises like Google or Microsoft will ultimately step in and do the job for them; and librarians risk being excluded from the negotiating table. This is especially true with regards to academic publishers. For the most part, libraries are the only market for scholarly presses. Librarians need to work together above and beyond institutional boundaries rather than functioning as isolated buyers. It will require renewed entrepreneurship and stronger leadership to make this happen.

More to come…

 


 

References

Atkinson, R. (2006). Six key challenges for the future of collection development. Library Resources & Technical Services 50(4), 244-251.

Evans, G.E. & Saponaro, M.Z. (2005). Developing Library and Information Center Collections. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Horava, T. (2010). Challenges and possibilities for collection management in a digital age. Library Resources & Technical Services, 54(3), 142-52.

Kinner, L. & Crosetto, A. (2009). Balancing act for the future: how the academic library engages in collection development at the local and consortial levels. Journal of Library Administration, 49(4), 419-437.

Martell, C. (2009). sAccess: The social dimension of a new paradigm for academic librarianship. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35(3), 205-206.

McGuigan, G.S. & Russell, R.D. (2008). The business of academic publishing: A strategic analysis of the academic journal publishing industry and its impact on the future of scholarly publishing. Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, 9(3).

Miller, R.H. (2000). Electronic resources and academic libraries, 1980-2000: A historical perspective. Library Trends, 48(4), 645-70.

Tucker, J.C. & Torrence, M. (2004). Collection development for new librarians: advice from the trenches. Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 28(4), 397-409.

Final semester…

I’m in the last semester of MLIS course work at SJSU. Each day, I sit down to write (and will do so until December): a [for me, tortuous] process of self-reflection and synthesis. I thought I would share bits and pieces, in lieu of other more timely topics, to help me flesh things out. So I hope you don’t mind, dear reader, but I’m using you. 😉

Individuals are an essential component of information use: the senders and receivers of data. In Diffusion of Innovations, Everett Rogers explains how new information (i.e. “innovation”) moves among members in a social system. Individuals are one of the four essential elements of the process of diffusion, which he defines as “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system” (1995) […] Librarians often choose to focus their efforts on either the social system or the individual depending on the type of service they set out to provide. At the reference desk in academic libraries, for example, we use our professional knowledge of human information behavior (e.g. Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process) and strategies for one-on-one reference interactions (Taylor’s question negotiation) to help users locate information online and on the shelves. This approach centers on the needs of the individual and utilizes our understanding of how individuals usually behave when confronted with an information need. Conversely, when developing system-wide models for information literacy instruction, we can use our knowledge of how people seek information in networks (e.g. Savolainen’s information source horizons) to build embedded staff programs that put librarians right into the spaces where students are likely to need information-seeking assistance, such as course management systems, classrooms, and group study spaces…

And so on and so forth.

References

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th edition). New York: Free Press.

Savolainen, R. (2008). Source preferences in the context of seeking problem-specific information. Information Processing & Management, 44(1), 274-293. doi:10.1016/j.ipm.2007.02.008

Taylor, R. S. (1968). Question negotiation and information seeking in libraries. College & Research Libraries, 29, 178-194.

Best cogsci abstract ever?

Birds don’t know shit:

In Roberts et al. (2009), pigeons failed an intuitive information-seeking task. They basically refused, despite multiple fostering experiments, to view a sample image before attempting to find its match. Roberts et al. concluded that pigeons’ lack of an information-seeking capacity reflected their broader lack of metacognition. We report a striking species contrast to pigeons. Eight rhesus macaques and seven capuchin monkeys passed the Roberts et al. test of information seeking–often in their first testing session. Members of both primate species appreciated immediately the lack of information signaled by an occluded sample, and the need for an information-seeking response to manage the situation. In subsequent testing, macaques demonstrated flexible/varied forms of information management. Capuchins did not. The research findings bear on the phylogenetic distribution of metacognition across the vertebrates, and on the underlying psychological requirements for metacognitive and information-seeking performances.

Beram M.J. & Smith, J.D. (2011). Information seeking by Rhesus monkeys (“Macaca mulatta”) and Capuchin monkeys (“Cebus apella”). Cognition, 120(1), 90-105.

Meaningful integration: personal and transformative change in academic libraries

The popularity of embedded librarian programs in academic libraries is no doubt one result of the profession’s need to redefine its service model in a time of dramatic changes in information architecture, production, and access. As Alison Head and Michael Eisenberg’s 2009 report, “Lessons Learned: How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age” [pdf], shows, students bypass librarians in order to access academic resources the vast majority of the time. We gave up our roles as information gatekeepers in the last century and, not soon after, began to see our roles as information guides slip away as well. Our response: redefine the role of the academic librarian in the research process.

The professional literature provides a number of successful examples of embedded librarianship: Tumbleson & Burke (2010) focused on the relationship between faculty and librarians in Blackboard for distance education students, going beyond simple course integration. Librarians at the Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University and Purdue University Libraries embedded librarians outside the library to become partners in faculty research (Brandt, 2007; Kolowich, 2010). Kesselman & Watstein (2009) provide a number of other successful examples, including one program at Rutgers which brought together librarians, faculty, and students from the Food Science, Nutritional Sciences, the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, and the School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies to solve real-world problems in the food industry (the librarians also helped faculty co-write the grant for the program).

All of these projects are examples of meaningful integration. I’ve been ruminating on this phrase for a few weeks now, trying to think of ways in which our services can be meaningful to students and faculty. It isn’t enough to simply be useful, though that is certainly one aspect of it. I started writing down a list of characteristics that, to me, help define “meaningful integration”:

Library services must be transformative.

If we want to make a difference, we have to change the way students perceive information resources, research, and, in turn, our role in the process. We need to elicit change that shakes the foundation and produces visible (preferably measurable, but I’ll take visible) results. Notably, we have to inspire change in individuals and so:

Library services must be personal.

While we make broad sweeps to change what we do, we also need to focus on the relationships we have with individual faculty and students. If social media has taught us anything over the past decade, it’s that the individual has a tremendous impact on local communities and social groups. Dramatically changing one person’s perception of the library (or research, or information, etc.) has the potential to ripple outward to others. To make these personal connections happen, we need to be “close to the metal” of academic life, whether that be faculty research or student coursework, and so:

Library services must be where the action is.

Every connection starts with a shake of the hand, be it face-to-face or virtual, but we need to be there, standing next to our user, to make it happen.

Each of these characteristics work together to bolster the effects of the other. It seems to me (and I haven’t quite worked out the “how” yet) that the three are inseparable and indispensable if our aim is to become meaningfully integrated into the shifting information landscape. I would even go so far to say that they provide a recipe for success regardless of any and all future changes in libraries, the academy, and information architecture.

And there you have it: your strategic plan for the day. =)

Thoughts?

 


References

Brandt, D.S. (2007). Librarians as partners in e-research: Purdue University Libraries promote collaboration. C&RL News 68(6), 365-367, 396.

Kolowich, S. (2010, June 9). Embedded librarians. Inside Higher Ed. Available at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/06/09/hopkins

Kesselman, M. A. & Watstein, S. B. (2009). Creating opportunities: Embedded librarians. Journal of Library Administration, 49(4), 383-400.

Tumbleson, B.E. &  Burke, J.J. (2010). When life hands you lemons: Overcoming obstacles to expand services in an embedded librarian program. Journal of Library Administration, 50(7-8), 978-988.

Jenkins on transmedia storytelling

Yesterday, Henry Jenkins posted a follow-up to his Comic-Con discussion of transmedia storytelling (video above), which he defines as: “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.” He differentiates this from other transmedia activities like transmedia branding or transmedia activism. “Ideally,” he says, “each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”

This immediately reminded me of something we do in libraries, museums and archives (LAM) all the time: the exhibit. The LAM exhibit can exist across multiple platforms (display case, print publication, website) and utilizes a variety of formats (books, artifacts, still and moving images, digital interactive maps). Back in 2003, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Brooklyn Historical Society created a project entitled “Worklore: Brooklyn Voices Speak,” an exploration of the working class in Brooklyn from the 18th to 20th century. The collaboration included a traveling exhibit, public program and lectures, curriculum guides for elementary students, an online exhibit that included narratives and oral histories, and an online game called “Can You Make Ends Meet in Brooklyn” in the Early 1990s?” that allowed players to choose a type of work and see how those consequences played out in terms of personal finances (unfortunately, the website does not appear to be active any longer).

Creating a LAM exhibit that exists across different media is a similar activity to transmedia storytelling, but it comes at the story from a different angle. Rather than creating or extending a story, LAM exhibits attempt to recreate a narrative of cultural experience told through the perspective of people and objects that made up that narrative. The content of these exhibits serve some of the same functions outlined by Jenkins by offering a backstory, mapping a world, providing other character’s perspectives on the action, and by deepening audience engagement.

For librarians and instructors, the discourse surrounding transmedia could not be more relevant to the work we do. We seek to engage students in thinking about the ways in which the nature of information is changed as it moves from one platform to the next, how the choice to present information in one medium to the exclusion of others affects how we interpret it, and how we can convey meaning through these actions.

It doesn’t appear that we’ve fully agreed upon a definition for transmedia, but that shouldn’t stop us from using the term and discussing it. I recommend following Jenkins’s writings if you are interested in such things. His posts never disappoint.

What are your thoughts on transmedia storytelling? How do we do it? Are we doing it right? I’m especially interested in hearing about ways you’ve integrated it into instruction… but it’s the comments so do what you will 😉

How I do it

Normally, this blog focuses on issues related to information literacy and instruction at academic libraries, but since this week is Library Day in the Life week, I’m digressing for a few posts to discuss what I do as a cataloger and library supervisor. Today was a fairly normal day: cataloging, meetings, lunch with colleagues. So instead of boring you with details of what I did, I thought I would show you the tools I use to get things done:

 Hardware:

  • Dell Optiplex 755 with Windows 7
  • dual monitors
  • barcode scanner
  • mouse and keyboard (nothing special)

Software:

  • Microsoft Outlook (for email and tasks)
  • Oracle Calendar (for scheduling)
  • SirsiDynix Symphony (for working on local records)
  • OCLC Connexion (for importing records)
  • Notepad++ (for notes, scribbles, quick document production)
  • Firefox
    • Meebo (for chat and virtual reference)
    • Hootsuite (for monitoring social network chatter)
    • USC Libraries OPAC (for cataloging)
    • some music or radio page (varies depending on my mood)

Email:

I don’t spend a lot of time organizing my email. What’s the point? Outlook’s search functionality is strong enough that I can always find what I’m looking for. I have four folders for all my email: Inbox, Sent, Processed, and Saved. Nothing stays in my Inbox for more that 24 hours. Everything is either dealt with and moved to the Saved folder, deleted, or put in the Processed folder if it has additional contingencies. I have a 1-touch policy when it comes to email: once I touch the file, I have to deal with it. Emails that come from listservs are automatically grouped into subfolders so I can quickly browse the threads and are auto-deleted after 1 month.

Tasks:

Most of my job requires responding to issues as they arise, but I do have some ongoing projects that need constant assessment and management. So I use Outlook for task management. All my tasks are grouped into two categories: Next Actions or Waiting. The idea is that I either do the task as soon as the context is right or I wait until a contingency is removed. I also have a list of Projects that I use to remind myself of all my areas of responsibility.

Scheduling:

I wish I could also use Outlook for my Calendar, but the university uses Oracle. And since everyone else uses it, it makes sense for me to use it so that I can coordinate schedules with other staff.

Cataloging:

Sirsi and OCLC are my two constant companions in this regard. I use Sirsi for local catalog work and OCLC for searching other catalogs, name authorities, and importing records. I also constantly refer to Cataloger’s Desktop and ClassWeb for reference.

Notepad++:

The god of all notepad programs. I use it for everything from taking quick notes to writing memos and drafting project reports. I only throw my text into Microsoft Word if I need special formatting.

Firefox:

All the programs above are docked in my left-side monitor. Firefox occupies its own monitor on the right. I keep it open to the USC Libraries OPAC so that I can do quality control on my cataloging work, but I also keep open tabs for Meebo and Hootsuite to keep track of what the internets are buzzing about. I also like to have some music playing (since I don’t work near other people) so I usually have KCRW, KUSC, Twit, 5by5, or some other streaming radio service open. This keeps me sane. =)

 


And there you have it. Those are the tools that help me maintain a constant level of productivity. I don’t know that having dual monitors and a handful of programs all open at the same time is right for everyone, but it works for me. =)

Current research: July 2011

One way I stay up-to-date with the general discourse  of academic librarianship (and, specifically, information literacy) is by regularly reviewing scholarly publications. While blogs, Twitter, and other online networks let me know what librarians are thinking at this very moment and offer a more organic approach to peer learning, refereed publications clue me in to issues that are significant enough that someone was willing to spend months, possibly years, or their professional life investigating them.

Unfortunately, my life is an out-of-control batting machine right now, I’m the poor schmuck locked in the cage. The four articles below have been sitting on my desk for few weeks now. Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to read them more closely, but in the meantime, I wanted to call your attention to them.

Carlson, J., Fosmire, M., Miller, C.C., & Nelson, M.S. (2011). Determining data information literacy needs: A study of students and research faculty. Portal: Librarias and the Academy, 11(2), 629-657.

From Abstract: “This paper articulates the need for a data information literacy program (DIL) to prepare students to engage in such an “e-research” environment. Assessments of faculty interviews and student performance in a geoinformatics course provide complementary sources of information, which are then filtered through the perspective of ACRL’s information literacy competency standards to produce a draft set of outcomes for a data information literacy program.”

Daugherty, A.L. & Russo, M.F. (2011). An assessment of the lasting effects of a stand-alone information literacy course: The students’ perspective. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(4), 319-326.

From Abstract: “The authors wished to measure the degree to which a library information literacy course establishes a foundation for life-long learning.”

Mestre, L.S., Baures L., Niedbala, M., Bishop, C., Cantrell, S., Perez, A., & Silfen, K. (2011). Learning objects as tools for teaching information literacy online: A survey of librarian usage. College & Research Libraries, 72(3), 236-252.

From Abstract: “Based on information gathered from two discussion sessions moderated by members of the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section’s Online Learning Research Committee a survey was conducted to identify how librarians use course/learning management systems and learning objects to deliver instruction. […] A description of a ‘Toolkit for Online Learning’ created by the Online Learning Research Committee is provided.”

Snavely, L. & Dewald, N. (2011). Developing and implementing peer review of academic librarians’ teaching: An overview and case report. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(4), 343-351.

From Introduction: “This article is intended to explore peer evaluation of teaching in higher education in general and of library instruction in particular, then propose a methodology for the development of a set of practices of peer review of course-related library instruction for an individual institution […].”

Enjoy!

Out in front, but out of the way

“We must look with cold and hard-headed rationality at our current practices and ask ourselves not what value they offer, but rather what value our patrons believe they offer. If what we offer our patrons is not perceived as valuable by them, then we have two choices: change their minds, or redirect our resources. The former is virtually impossible; the latter is enormously painful. But the latter is possible, and if we do not undertake such a redirection ourselves, it will almost certainly be undertaken for us.”

The above quotation comes from an editorial in the July 2011 issue of The Journal of Academic Librarianship. In it, Rick Anderson, Associate Director for Scholarly Resources and Collections at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library, discusses the current plight of academic research libraries: that patrons’ perceptions of libraries, particularly their value and use, have moved beyond our organizational design and there is little we can do about it.

If you enjoy reading “future of libraries” talk with overtones of the apocalypse (see also Taiga), then Anderson’s article offers tasty hors d’oeuvres. He answers the question “Can the research library go out of business?” with a definitive “Yes” and goes on to describe what that might look like.

I recommend reading the article in full, but I want to touch upon one aspect. We’ve suspected for some time that reference transactions were declining (over 60% per FTE since 1995 according to one study Anderson cites), partly because more information is easily found online but also because students’ perceptions of their information searching skills are strengthening. They may indeed still need librarians in certain situations, but they don’t think they do.

Anderson doesn’t believe we can change this perception. I tend to agree. Rather, I think we should be working even harder to integrate our resources seamlessly into our students’ daily lives in ways that encourage [self-initiated] discovery: embedding resources in course pages, using search discovery layers, making ourselves available at the students’ point of need in both physical and virtual spaces (but mostly virtual), and building programs and projects that encourage complex human-information interactions. We can be leaders, but the kind of leaders that stay out of the way.

It isn’t important that students know librarians are behind it. Most probably don’t care if it’s us or our IT department or Google. They only care that it works and that it helps them get things done. Thoughts?

 

Reference:

Anderson, R. (2011). The crisis in research librarianship. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(4), 289-290.