Posts Tagged ‘ academic libraries ’

Summary: Trends, Ideas, Looking Ahead #erl14


ER&L 2014 did not disappoint.  The three great keynote speakers offered a good frame for describing the breadth of topic the conference typically offers. Opening keynote, Barbara Fister, reminded us that where the issue of the 90s was ownership to access, today the issue is toll access to open access.  Fister approached her topic by challenging the passive language that predominates library missions and our somewhat hypocritical promotion of “lifelong learning” when it comes to providing access.twittererl14_chris
Fister encouraged us to find more activist methods that connect us and our patrons to the open access and scholarly publishing issues, including devoting portions of budget and staff time to OA projects. (Check.)  Expanding our neighborhood. (Check.) And beyond that, finding and offering solutions to problems. “Do more than negotiate favorable terms; provide alternatives to market driven economy that is eroding our mission.”  Sarah Dutton shared her research and consulting practice in resilience, addressing the negative biological effects of constant disruptive change and the potential solutions that personal practices of resilience can offer.  Soundbites include: “Embrace vulnerability, failure, resilience through connection.  Pay attention to “being” in addition to “doing” in our work” (Durant, Red Sage consulting).  Will maybe begin exploring possibilities for bringing her in for future organizational development related programming in my library.
Finally, Brent Hecht shared some brilliant applications of data mined from open information sources, primarily Wikipedia. With this data he showed how English language bias could be found in Wikipedia and how that led to better shared knowledge applications using alternative data visualization models.  You might check out some of other wiki-applications in the Resources at the end, as well as a great summary of this closing keynote by eclectic librarian, Anna Creech.
The concepts the keynote speakers offered echoed across multiple presentations I attended revealing several trends in each of these areas  and leading to some key ideas for actions, areas to begin looking ahead and keep in mind, and useful resources to refer back to.


Pulling these ideas into areas specific to e-resources, one constant refrain was how to maintain agility and resilience when e-resources continues as an increasing portion of budget and a small portion of organizational staffing resources.  While there is justified need for increased staffing or addressing staffing to e-resources, it remains perhaps most problematic that a majority library workflows remain predominantly centered on print — not just technical services workflows, but also content development and access services.  (ALL SESSIONS, but #erl14humanterms specifically addressing collection development, #nexuserm specifically to Access Services)
    How organizations understand and begin to address this revealed an interesting interplay, debate maybe, between e-resources=”someone(s)” vs. e-resources=”everyone”.  There were many different approaches to workflow and reorganization based on how you conceive of e-resources management in these two ways.  Those who divide by format, aka the e-resources=someone(s), see it as a way to address the problem they see that the continuously changing nature of e-resources requires staff to devote more focused time in e, not divided time in both p and e (MIT).  Alternatively, the everyone does e-resources model argues that it can’t possibly be focused or siloed in this way and requires on-going communication, coordination, check-in, training, and evaluation.  The questions I was left with was, “which one best supports your organizational or staffing strengths?” (ALL SESSIONS, #erl14humanterms specifically “e should be our core”, #nexuserm).
    Both TERMS and NASIG Core Competencies for E-resources [in] Librari[es]  popped up in various context, including addressing organizational analyses of e-resources workflow interdependencies. (#nexuserm, TERMS workshop). Both were also mentioned as a way to advocate for staffing and to frame team development and training (#erl14humanterms).  This lead me to the idea of using TERMS as a workflow checklist, or a documentation tool in my department. But perhaps more broadly, and following the “e-resources everyone” model, why not  make a survey where people can identify whether they feel certain activities/workflows (TERMS) and competencies/skills (NASIG CC for E) fall within their responsibility?
    Workflow analysis and restructuring was prevalent, and approaches had some commonalities such as positions and workflows re-aligning with libraries strategic plans, including many creating digitization programs to manage OA resources and born digital assets.  Key points repeated about these workflow analyses efforts emphasize:
  1. it will take time (years!)
  2. it will be painful
  3. it will require concerted attention to information management.
    Information management also stood out as a critically important goal and ongoing activity in its own right, with repeated emphasis on visualization/process maps, and with common sets of success measures, including:
  1. reduce reliance upon email and human memory,
  2. automate hand-offs and notifications,
  3. promote ease of access to existing documentation,
  4. improve visibility of (and to those responsible within) the entire life cycle. (Duke, MIT, TERMS).
    Related both to information management and shared/open knowledge, using wiki as a conceptual model, specifically for workflow and procedures documentation was mentioned frequently, as were various perspectives on the readiness (or lack of) on the part of new ILS systems to address our key  information management needs.  I still agree with the vendor who said at ALA Midwinter, and I repeated in a session at ER&L: “You can’t tell [vendors] soon enough that you are considering ILS migration”.  However, given all this,  I began to admit and come a little bit closer to acceptance with (kind of) the point that these new ILS systems are not quite ready for what we really need. But, what are we supposed to do in the meantime that is NOT EMAIL!
    Other bits here and there related to nagging e-resources needs to address include: needs in usability, navigation, mobile access, DRM & Licensing, E-books (#nexuserm).  Perpetual access problems to solve include the problems with providing proof of payment, whether license language should be specific or vague,  and the fact that even new ILS systems still rely on outdated DLF standards, not covering all fields that are needed.


In addition to a few ideas in workflow and information management, I jotted down some other, perhaps less thought-out, ideas to consider working on here at home.
  • Working with external vendors and user services office (in our case the Centers?) to establish training and promotion of e-resources.
  • Establishing paid fellowships/apprenticeships to deal with staffing issues and practical learning opportunities for graduate students. (#erl14humanterms)
  • Standards vs API and open source: should move toward outcomes based partnerships and work. (Playing Nicely)
  • How can we apply “dogfooding” in the library organization: internal customer service as you would external customer service. (Playing Nicely)
  • Access Services is demand driven, E-resources Management is workflow based, challenge or opportunity? (#nexuserm)
  • E-resources troubleshooting as Access Services function, could benefit from merged service desk, merged tracking tools. (#nexuserm)
  • Information Mgmt: consolidate storage places for title list spreadsheets with the licenses (Duke)
    Looking ahead to some specific e-resources trends on a more immediate horizon, I noted some takeaways from the presentation on Streaming Video is an E-resource — both commercial and digitization of local assets.  I also paid attention to a bit I overheard from publishers that the short-term loan model for demand driven acquisition is problematic, unsustainable (#niso #dda).
   Also, on the more hazy horizon, the concept of how we support OA resources management in our organization came up, as this is strategic priority in my library.  But, we still don’t exactly have clear answers.  Jill Emery & Graham Stone, who lead the TERMS project for e-resources management, are building on that approach for a new project, Open Access Workflows in Academic LIbraries (OAWAL) to gather collective techniques and workflow approaches for open access resources management. Other OA projects mentioned for which to keep on the look out include: Bluejar (like Knowledge Unlatched, crowd-sourced funding for making books open access) and Pivots (not monographs, but shorter e-bits of content — of interest for online learning).

RESOURCES to Read, Explore

– (Lightening Talk)
– OpenStreetMap, Omnipedia, Atlasisfy (Closing Keynote)
– Catalog 2.0 by Sally Chambers (2013) recommended reading for thinking of transitioning ILS. (Playing Nicely)

Listening to [Google Generation] Users #erl13

The ER&L 2013 conference began with a great intro by ER&L founder Bonnie Tijerina who provided her personal theme for this year — bridging our community with other communities and cross-pollinating ideas. Introducing the keynote speaker, it seems an apt theme, as we aim to continually bridge the ER community with our user community.

Michael Eisenberg (University of Washington Information School) provided an overview of the Google Generation (1993-2013) and their information seeking habits informed by the results of the Project Information Literacy. Reminding us of the “stack of needles” information environment in which we and our user find ourselves, Eisenberg offered insights and possible responses to the information needs of this generation. He also offered some interesting projections for the ??? (to be named) Generation of 2013+, like GoogleMS (a Google Microsoft merger) and brain-controlled environments (Google glasses, as a start).

Project Information Literacy (PIL) has to do with questions of how people find information, what they do with it, and what problems are encountered along the way.  Eisenberg presented the findings of the study and provided an excellent worksheet with one column outlining all the results, and another (blank) one for the takeaway lessons for libraries.

The results may not surprise librarians or teaching faculty.  These users have expectations for perfection, and yet believe the best approach is Google.  Their course research sources are limited, but do include course readings, databases, instructors, and, yes, Wikipedia — ignoring faculty recommendations to avoid it and just intentionally not citing it. Their personal research, however was quite different.  Here users start with Google and Wikipedia first.  Don’t you?  Takeaway: Librarians should consider Wikipedia as another social media resource for being where their users are.  Begin reviewing, updating, and writing content here — where users can find it!

Other results of the study emphasize that there are legitimate reasons for all-familiar user procrastination, including multiple jobs, studying, and extra scholarly-curricular activities. Takeaway: Have we changed our thinking and staffing and services to accommodate this or are we just judgers?  Their needs change across the academic year for which opening later hours at crunch time is insufficient to address.

The study also shows these students are in fact applying evaluative criteria to online resources and are asking for help, but still they are not asking librarians.  These users consider librarians as assistants with resources.  Given the stack of needles, they don’t need help with resources.  So what do they need?

What the Google Generation needs goes back to a generation-ago of LIS research — formulating research questions, understanding the research process, and the ability to assess themselves through it!  Carol Kuhlthau anyone?  While K-12 prepares students in writing techniques alone, it is lacking in the steps of the research process. Helping users understand the development of research ideas and managing the process/project of research is a critical need for which Eisenberg challenged the audience of mostly ERLs to think of solutions beyond one-off instruction.

Another interesting portion of the PIL study results was the handout (faculty syllabi) assessment.  [Six out of ten – not sure of this stat, but most!] handouts refer students to print resources and almost none to relevant databases.  Takeaway: Librarians should offer to faculty help with updating these.   At my institution, I attended a new faculty luncheon in which “front loading” course design/content was recommended again and again, especially for new faculty.  So that you “do it right the first time” and recycle/tweak the content in ongoing years.  This and these PIL results continue to make me wonder how the library can help the front loading process both from a distributing the workload and “getting it right” perspective.  This is a big opportunity area for the library to play the role it talks about playing in outreach, course design, copyright, information literacy, etc.

Another surprising finding  was that the library desktop/laptop was seen as a valuable tool in how it helped avoid distractions in ways users’ own technology might not.  This continued a more tried and true notion of the nature of focus and an emphasis on the library as place (they liken it to a monastery). Users used terms like “IT fasting” and noted it requires planning ahead (with parents, with peer expectations, etc). Takeaway:  All of this would be good marketing and outreach ideas.


What was great about this keyonte, besides the useful data shared, was Eisenberg’s approach to put it back on librarians.   This included an actual audience participation in completing the sections of  the PIL results/Library Lessons handout.   My group had the result:  “Defining the task and assessing the process are harder than finding the resources”  One tool my library uses to help with this is an assignment planner tool  (which could use a new name, maybe).  Another interesting suggestion was to use information literacy language that makes sense to user, like using the term credit vs cite, or calling it an article search engine rather than a database.

All of this also supports of the oft-repeated concept that we are transitioning the librarian/library from content to service — which was also highlighted in the closing session, The Courage of our Connections: Thoughts on Professional Identities, Organizational Affiliations and Common Communities by Rachel Frick (well-played ER&L, well-played).  So, have we told our users about all this?  Have we trained our librarians?  Have we adjusted our library spaces? Takeaway: What are we going to do about it?  I would encourage you to find out more about the Project Information Literacy research, and share with your communities what you’re doing about it!

Strengths in Action

((cc) BY-NC-ND) by praecepitum

I am about to start back to work from a 10 week vacation of strategic planning.  Yes, I meant to call it a vacation not because my email backed up, or because deadlines were missed, or others had to pick up the slack of my absence.  It is because I feel as energized as if I’d been spending that time relaxing on the beach and sipping a cool beverage while trusting someone else to  watch the kids.  I’ll admit (let my freak flag fly)  — I do  LOVE strategic planning!  But beyond just being weird in this way, I want to talk about one explanation for this energy (and why I’ve bolded these key words).

Strategy is one of my top five strengths.  I also have Learner, Analytical, and (thank God, or nothing would ever get done) Activator.  My fifth strength, Individualization, means in a nutshell that I’m also good at seeing others’ strengths.  This has all brought me to a point recently where I am just bursting to tell a wider audience about Strengths,  specifically the breakthrough I had using my strengths in this most recent work experience,  and why I continue to promote Strengths in work and life.  A wonderful and succinct background on the  Strengths movement can be found here.  So, I’ll just briefly touch on the concept and focus more on my own experiences.

At my library, I work with the staff  and organizational development council who secured a grant to build individual and organizational awareness of our strengths.  This  groups’ strengths work started a couple of year ago when we traveled together to see Marcus Buckingham speak.  Buckingham is a very engaging speaker. It certainly helps to be smart, funny, handsome and have a British (Australian?) accent, but he is best known, I think, for taking Strengths beyond a mere personality test to a practice, a movement.

After this talk, I ran out to get a book — any book — that would get me the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment.  My results are from the book Strengths Based Leadership.  However, my 20/20 hindsight advice to you is pick up any other book than this one.  I was anxious to get started and this was the only one in the student union bookstore at the time.  I am currently re-reading through the Buckingham versions — try this to get a test, then  this and this — which I recommend as more approachable starting points.  The other key wisdom to getting this and taking it beyond a personality test, is have someone or group of someones go through the test with you and talk about the results — better yet, a certified strengths coach.

((cc) BY-NC) by Joming Lau

I know it sounds like a racket, especially to academic-minded individuals, and hey, it is in a way because it is a business, for-profit product.  But let’s take it from Creating the Agile Library(1995!), shall we?  Libraries will need to increasingly adopt more business and for-profit models of organizational agility to survive 21st century pressures.  Are they not already? Not all, mind you, but certainly some. Beyond that reason, though, what can we actually learn about the effectiveness of this “better mousetrap”?

I can tell you what I learned from reading and talking about it within my HR and development circles.  I can tell you a great deal more about it from working with my team, learning their strengths and how we might use them together more effectively.  The most powerful lessons came to me from a combination of all of this and what Buckingham pointed out in the video above:

At some point in your career you will be using your strengths most of the time [rather than just some of the time] and it just doesn’t feel the same.

While I feel like I’ve kind of been using my strengths throughout  my career, the lightbulb for me is how different I feel after spending 10 weeks  intensely using my strengths.  Not only am I happier and energized, but I found myself functioning way better at things I usually struggle with.  I’ve been quicker to engage in conversations (my husband is both thankful and annoyed). I didn’t stumble for words in our unit’s  f2f meeting.  I even had several new ideas and have pitched them to folks.  In the language of strengths, this is managing weakness.  But it didn’t feel like managing.  It felt fluid, more like swimming or sailing.  What’s more (and to the point of Strengths), I found where I usually excel, I excelled better and faster.  I  taught, lead, and problem solved off the cuff  — a credit I think to better practice in pulling my learner, analytical, and strategic strengths into action (activator strength).   I tell you the pistons were firing this week in ways that I know are strengths-based, because it’s what the books said they would do.

A final point about my vacation ties back to that Strength Based Leadership book I started with trusting the kids.  Sure, there were things that during my strategic vacation my staff had to deal with in my absence.  Not a lot, but some.  The point is I trust my staff with our work in large part because I know their strengths and they know their strengths.  Email did get backed up, but it got tackled it much quicker.  Imagine if everyone’s strengths were put into play in this way. We would not neglect to attend that development opportunity because no one else can cover our work for us.  We wouldn’t have to laboriously cross-train skill sets to make that happen. We all would begin to trust ours and our colleagues’ strengths and our organizations will be the better for it in all the ways that matter.


Buckingham & Clifton (2001). Now, Discover Your Strengths. New York: Free Press.

Buckingham (2007) Go Put Your Strengths To Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance. New York: Free Press.

Buckingham & Coffman (1999). First Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Haricombe, L.J. & Lusher, T.J. (1995) Creating the Agile Library: A Management Guide for Librarians. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

better mousetraps is a term Jim Govan (1977, as cited in Haricombe & Lusher, 1995) used to refer to “potentially useful ideas  that we should examine carefully and then employ as best fits the local situation” (p2).

the truth about reference

It’s been quite a month in my personal life, and no wonder  I never got back to filling out that last truthberry picking post.  I see some where I have no memory of what I found interesting at the time.  But, others, like Sheehan’s recent  ALA Techsource post on AI and reference,  are still relevent and worth building on, as other insights and starting points toward my big research interest  — the reapplication of the reference interview to interorganizational communication/information seeking — have come about since then.

It is also ARL stat collection time.   I serve on team monitoring a shared email account for e-resources troubleshooting questions (think of it as a distance cousin of virtual reference) and annually question whether I am supposed to count these as reference transactions.  For your information, ARL defines a reference transaction as:

…an information contact that involves the knowledge, use, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more information sources by a member of the library staff. The term includes information and referral service. Information sources include (a) printed and non-printed material; (b) machine-readable databases (including computer-assisted instruction); (c) the library’s own catalogs and other holdings records; (d) other libraries and institutions through communication or referral; and (e) persons both inside and outside the library. When a staff member uses information gained from previous use of information sources to answer a question, the transaction is reported as a reference transaction even if the source is not consulted again.

I’ve always held, and our head of reference agrees, that we should count them.  But as distance cousins, the majority of questions we get are referrals from the real reference folks who are, thus, already counting them.  This year we may have more transaction to count as we have begun putting our face (our email address) out there a little to assist more directly with things like persistent linking, when resources are on order (and not yet available), and when we know there are likely to be problems with e-resources.  The latter two actually pick up the slack for what our ERM ought to be doing for us —  but that’s another post.  So, what I ultimately mean to point out here, is two-fold:

1) technical services libraries are increasingly access service librarians (our email troubleshooting group  is a concrete example).

2) as a result (and in addition to our counting transactions in this new role), we ought to look at the ARL definition above more closely.

Garden Libraries - The Imaginarium Garden (courtesy of Southfield Public Library, Southfield, MI)

My guess is traditional reference or public services librarians translate these transactions primary as a service to users wherever they are — as in “the library as place” and that place is inside and outside the library (in the Union, dorms, faculty offices, or even via email, IM, social media).  By seeking these reference stats of their colleagues, traditional reference librarians do concede that they aren’t the only transactors with our users.   But, I wonder how many interpret that definition to apply to transactions with people inside the library who work there?  This internal reference transaction among colleagues, I argue, is an activity technical services librarians have long been doing but perhaps not historically thought of as a reference transaction. Some examples of this I’ve thought of might be when we are helping reference staff to answer more technical questions (maybe we should count these twice!), when we help a subject liaison by pulling together reports for collection management, and maybe even when problem solving organizationally and seeking information about each others’ workflows in order to put a bigger picture together.

As for and how to go about answering my research question, this leads me back to Sheehan’s post and whether a direct reapplication of the theory behind the reference interview is the way to go, or whether so much changed both in reference (going virtual) and technical services (going reference) that a new theory is needed.  In addition to my own fascination with AI, the post connects to a debate about 2.0 vs. f2f communication that has stalled me in starting my research.  The post, specifically, led me to ask this question: has the stigma of ‘why’ questions in the reference interview (see Dervin & Dewedney, 1986) diminished as a result of more open sharing in social media?  Or is it (as Sheehan seems to point to) precisely because it’s online that this openness in social media occurs, but the f2f human interaction still requires the finesse of something like neutral questioning?

Other questions I’ve mulled over, related to the ARL stats definition, are whether there are too fundamental of differences in the reference transaction (and the use of reference interview skills) when the players are our working peers than when between librarians and students, faculty, or community users.   I’d be interested to know what you think and suggestions you may have for methodological starting points.

Comments below or emails to atruthbrarian[at]gmail[dot]com are welcome.

Dervin, B., & Dewdney, P. (1986). Neutral questioning: A new approach to the reference interview. Reference Quarterly25 (4), 506-513.

truthberry picking

New thing.  I read the American Libraries Direct newsletter each week and often fill my browser with tabs of the items I find most interesting, sharing some in facebook, others via email to library colleagues.  It occurred to me today that I could use this as a blogging opportunity and aggregate my favorites here.  My hope is that perhaps  my research foci will emerge out of this effort and that you, dear readers (if you exist), may find common narrowed interest.

So, truthberry is actually the more common Rasta reinvention of the word library.   That I more often call it a truthbrary (and ourselves as truthbrarians) is just to make the connection a little clearer.  But how nicely it serves my purpose here for the berries of truth I picked out of the interwebs this week.

It occurs to me Zotero will also be my dear friend in this effort.  So, stay tuned.

Why non-academics should be following the Georgia State U case (Copyright Librarian blog)  Did I mention this might be my favorite library topic?

…a ruling against fair use at Georgia State would do a lot to establish that any time a copyright holder is willing to sell a license, not taking them up on it is inherently infringement.

As an ACRL Legislative advocate, I’m always looking for succinct pointers to help communicate the value of academic libraries.  When talking about the library remember N3P3: an advocacy talking points framework for academic libraries (Ubiquitous Librarian blog) is a useful start.

A few nods to my Learner strength and some good tips for organizational effectiveness from your desk to your desktop.

And, finally, because Borders declared bankruptcy and, thus, closed in my town while the little (and very awesome) local bookstore around its corner remains, a tribute:  Independent Bookstores in New Orleans say they’re thriving (, via AL Direct June 8, 2011).  Also, yet another reason I am bummed to not be going to ALA New Orleans.

Collaborating with Faculty Part I: A Five-Step Program

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share one of my favorite blog’s latest post, Collaborating with Faculty Part I: A Five-Step Program — a well written article by Kim Leeder, reference and instruction librarian at Boise State University in Boise.

The ideas she presents here tie into many of the staff development action groups I’m involved in at my library (Communication & Collaboration, Strengths – well all of them, really); to a recent University-wide Faculty/Staff Leadership Summit (a focus on self-reflection); and most importantly, to our Library and University Strategic Directions (connecting the libraries to teaching & research, and energizing the educational environment — particularly undergraduates).

The post was a follow-up to content that was presented very recently at ACRL. Here is an excerpt:

As Jean S. Caspers describes, we can look at librarian-faculty relationships as occurring along a continuum of  three stages: parallel work is the most basic sort of relationship in which we’re working alongside each other for similar goals; cooperative work involves basic coordination of efforts; and collaborative work is the deepest type of partnership (21).3 Sometimes having parallel goals is enough, but collaborative work is more likely to yield the greatest benefits for student learning or research.

That said, it’s time to discuss the five-step program. It begins with a little self-reflection.

Leeder makes it clear that while simple, it is not easy.  And I fully realize my place in promoting it seems all too easy since in my professional role I am not expected to have such, if any,  directly collaborative relationship with teaching faculty.  But I believe there are lessons for all of us.

So where are you along this continuum?

truthbrarians and copyright

I was so glad to see this post on copyright-knowledgable librarians highlighted in American Libraries Direct this week. It gives me opportunity to agree and briefly follow-up on a previous post of my own on the matter.

My favorite point this Copyright Librarian blogger points out is the context that librarians bring to the issue of copyright.  The reason that we know what we know and can impart this wisdom effectively to others is because we had to learn it in the context of doing.  And that context of doing is the same or very similar to the context of need for faculty or other library users.   Moreover,  as librarians who value integrity of knowledge, we don’t just half-ass our learning in doing — we research.

Few copyright specialist attorneys have extensive experience with academic publishing, but academic librarians – they have an amazing view of the whole system and life-cycle of scholarly publishing.

The post goes on to illustrate a small survey comparing faculty and librarian knowledge on copyright matters relative to the use of textual quotations, use of images, and course reserves.  The latter which I was happy to see the least margin of difference between the two.

And what’s more, the post references another little blog (before I knew what blogs were) entry of yore — one that made me want to be a librarian!

In summary:  we are cool, we are knowledgable, and we’ve got image issues to overcome.

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