Getting your friends and colleagues to share what they know

One of the things I love about working in an academic library is the steady opportunity to learn about new things.  I learn things when I help students, work with faculty and talk with my colleagues. Over the last couple of years I have worked to organize an informal series of workshops to help librarians and faculty share the things they know with each other.

It started a couple of summers ago, when the newly formed Instructional Design team at my library organized a series of technology workshops.  We each took turns sharing new websites, apps and other tech tools that we liked and used in our work.  I thought this was great, and I loved hearing about all the things my colleagues knew about.

Classroom chairs
CC-BY image courtesy of Flickr user James Sarmiento

Last summer, I wondered if they were going to do the same thing.  At the same time, the Scholarly Communication team in my library was hoping to do some workshops for library staff about things like open access and the Elsevier boycott.

At this point I took over getting things organized, and twisted the arms of my colleagues to put together workshops about things they were knowledgable about.

It was a rather selfish move on my part – I wanted to learn about the things my colleagues knew.

With help from colleagues, we brainstormed things that we wanted to learn about and recruited folks to present on those topics. I wanted the workshops to have an informal feel: I sought out hands-on workshops and discussions more than formal presentations.  I also asked the simple question: why don’t we invite folks across campus to these workshops?  There was no good reason not to, so we sent campus wide emails advertising the workshops that would be over interest to folks beyond the library.

The first summer I organized the workshops, all of the speakers were library staff members.  This year, I asked for workshop topics from our CIT office on campus and a couple of faculty who are doing some interesting things. I’m excited about the workshops they will be presenting.

Now, we are a small institution with a small number of faculty.  I needed to be realistic in terms of my expectations of attendance: we weren’t going to be filling lecture halls.  Attendance at the 2012 workshops varied widely, from a low of 4 to a high of 16 folks from the library and across campus. For our small campus, I was quite happy with these numbers.

At the end of the summer, I sent an evaluation survey to campus faculty and staff and got some great feedback regarding workshops to hold again, ways to improve communication about the workshops and suggestions for future workshops.  One of the less tangible benefits of the summer workshops was the way in which the existence of the workshops (and the emails announcing them) added to the library’s reputation as a group of folks to talk to about scholarly communication issues or some instructional technology issues.

Here are some of the workshops we have lined up for this summer, relevant to staff across campus:

  • What’s In a Name? The Many Facets of the Word ‘Editor’
  • Mendeley
  • Zotero
  • Time Management for Busy Geeks
  • Gmail community roundtable: labels, searches, filters, labs and more
  • Copyright and Creative Commons
  • Trends in peer review: third party peer review services
  • In praise of paper: an open discussion about our favorite paper based tools
  • Introduction to R: Free and open source program for statistics and data analysis
  • Reading your Copyright Transfer Agreement
  • Video hosting and sharing with Ensemble
  • Managing your online professional identity
  • Open Educational Resources
  • Instant Response System

I’ll be leading a couple (Mendeley, Trends in Peer Review) and attending almost all of them.  I’m excited to learn about some interesting things from my smart and talented colleagues.

Does your library have a professional development program?  How do you facilitate the exchange of knowledge between library staff?


Managing your scholarly identity

When someone Googles your name, do you know what they will find?  When a colleague, student or potential employer go searching for your scholarly record, will they find accurate information?  When you are looking for a collaborator, a reviewer or a potential hire what sources do you trust for reliable and up-to-date information about that scholar?

Have you Googled yourself lately?

Unfortunately, faculty websites and college faculty profiles can often be absent, out-of-date, or impossible to find.

Enter the database of scholars.  There are several types out there – those that require registration and constant maintenance by individual scholars, those that automatically pull data from other sources, and those that do a bit of both.

My college has recently acquired access to one of the latter, Scholar Universe.  SUNY has negotiated with Scholar Universe (normally a subscription database) to provide open searching of SUNY scholar profiles.  Check out my SUNY colleagues and especially my SUNY Geneseo colleagues.

Faculty at my institution are now confronted with their public profiles, and a renewed interest in making sure that the information available about them is accurate and complete.  Yesterday, in collaboration with the Office of Sponsored Research, we held a workshop for faculty on editing their Scholar Universe profiles and otherwise managing their scholarly identity.

So, what can an individual researcher do to take control of their scholarly identity?  Here are some of my thoughts:

First, know how others see you.  Google yourself.  Do vanity searches in the databases used in your discipline.  Are you happy with the results?  While a database might not list all of your publications (because of which journals they choose to include), is a list of your publications available online?

Second, if you see wrong information – correct it.  Is your webpage 8 years old?  Make a few updates.  Remove time sensitive stuff like office hours and course schedules so that it doesn’t get so easily out of date.  Add stuff that won’t get out of date like publications, current and prior affiliations, and expertise.  If you see wrong information in a database or on another website, try to correct it by contacting the editor of the site (of course, sometimes this just isn’t possible.)

Third, add to the body of scholarly information available about you.  Create profiles on Nature Network or Mendeley and include your list of publications.  Post a copy of your CV (if you don’t know how to post a document online, try using Google Docs to upload a copy to the web). Assuming you have permission to do so, upload a pre-print of your publications to your website, an institutional repository (ask your librarian) or a disciplinary repository.

Fourth, do what you can do help scholars find all of your publications in one place, especially if you have a common name.  Register with to collect all of your publications in one place, and make sure that you only have one identity on Scopus.

What else can a researcher do?  How do you manage your scholarly identity?

Faculty workshops, discussions and library initiatives: My big ideas and plans

In addition to my normal stuff (library instruction, reference, web design, committees) I’m been thinking about various discussions/workshops/plans for the future I’d like to pursue over the next few months:

lightbulb. Courtesy of Flickr user Tim Cummins
  • A faculty workshop about managing research and teaching information.  Most faculty are overwhelmed with information for their scholarly activities.  Some of them are familiar with citation managers (Endnote, Zotero, etc.) but not all.  I’d like to offer a workshop to discuss various free and not-free citation and document managers, as well as bookmarking tools like Connotea, CiteULike, delicious and Diigo.  I’ve explored many of these tools.  Some work for me, some don’t.  Faculty may appreciate being introduced to some of them.
  • A faculty workshop about creating assignments that effectively teach students literature research skills.  Some faculty aren’t interested in having a librarian come to their class and teach an information literacy session.  Would they be interested in how to make their assignments a bit better?  I recently chatted with a faculty member and gave him some feedback on a library assignment that he regularly gave his students – it hadn’t been updated in years, nor had he ever received feedback.  I was able to tell him what questions we were seeing at the reference desk.  He was thankful for the feedback.  I’m not sure that faculty would respond to a workshop like this, but it may be worth trying.
  • A series of campus-wide discussions.  The new “Scholarly Communication” group at my library is starting to think about ways to engage the college faculty and what role the library (and librarians) play in promoting/assisting/recognizing faculty scholarship.  We are talking about hosting (with the teaching and learning center) a discussion on open access.  Perhaps there could be a series of discussions about trends in Scholarly Communication:  digital humanities, sharing data, discovery of research via social networking, unusual new publications (incorporating video, for example).
  • Preserving student scholarship.  Each Spring, SUNY Geneseo hosts Great Day: “a college-wide symposium celebrating the creative and scholarly endeavors of our students.”  After Great Day, some of the posters are displayed for a year or two in the library or other academic buildings, but many are lost.  What if the library tried to preserve digital versions of these posters and presentations in an institutional repository?  What would be involved (organizationally)?  How do we deal with copyright?  What options do we offer students? Creative commons? Transfer copyright to Geneseo?  Maintain copyright?  Access?
  • Should I try to convince library staff to adopt an open access policy for their publications?  Gold?  Green?  (See Peter Suber’s excellent introduction to OA for definitions.)  Would folks object to such a policy?
  • I would love to have a discussion with library staff about the future of librarianship.  Recent discussions at the ScienceOnline2010 conference, friendfeed discussions, blog posts and other items make me think about where my profession is headed.  I would love to sit down with my colleagues to chat about it.  Trying to find a time when more than two or three of us can get together?  That’s the challenge.

There’s the list that I thought of this afternoon.  Nothing groundbreaking, but it should keep me busy for a little while.

Institutional repositories and small institutions

On Friday morning I attended an excellent pre-conference workshop at ScienceOnline2010 lead by Dorthea Salo.  You should read her very interesting article about repositories called “Innkeeper at the Roach Motel“.  The workshop was mainly a discussion with librarians and researchers about the uses, possibilities and problems with institutional repositories.  Most of the participants were from larger universities – those with graduate students and larger faculties than the institution I work at.

For a small institution like mine, having our own institutional repository might not make sense.  We probably don’t have the library staff to run it well.  So what are our options?

Well, first there is a SUNY-wide institutional repository.  Each SUNY campus has some space on it – and each campus seems to be using it for very different purposes – some are using it for archiving documents, some are using it for internal communications.  At the moment SUNY Geneseo isn’t even listed.

Other options include disciplinary repositories.  The most well known is for physics, math and other related fields.  Some of our faculty have deposited pre-prints here.  For our faculty with NIH grants, PubMed Central can be the repository of choice.

But for many of our faculty, their only way of archiving their papers may be to post them on their own personal website, where they might not be as easy to find.

How much does this matter?  How vital are institutional repositories to public access to scientific information?  As publishers grant open access to journal archives and more high quality open access publications become available, will repositories have a function in the future?  I don’t know the answers, but I’ll be paying attention to folks like Dorthea to see how this might work out.

Faculty Outreach


Originally uploaded by Aidan Jones

Apparently, our day-long meeting last Tuesday started out as a collection development retreat.  Somewhere in the planning, our collection development librarian realized that we needed to take a step back and talk about how we communicate with faculty in general.  The topic is related to collection development through the library liaison program (or lack there of).

And so, as a result, almost all of the librarians at my library gathered off campus for a full day of discussion about what we are currently doing to reach out to faculty, what we wish we were doing, and what will be possible for us to do in the future.

I am one of the few librarians at my library with a very firm group of “constituents” – the science departments.  We have never had the staff to develop a complete library liaison program and have concentrated our energies on information literacy instruction, rather than hiring subject-specific bibliographers.

In our day-long retreat about faculty outreach, we were able to identify areas where we have been successful at reaching out to faculty (instruction), areas that we need some improvement in (collection development), and areas that we haven’t even dipped our toes in yet (scholarly communication).

After a lot of discussion, we were able to come up with a few goals for faculty outreach for the library as a whole:

  • Organize a faculty luncheon for department chairs, faculty reps, and other interested parties to discuss library issues (especially resources).
  • Improve and update our social networking presence.

We also decided to set a few goals for ourselves.  I wanted to set myself a few modest, concrete goals that I could check off (or not) at the end of the year.

  1. Contact each of my departments about visiting a department meeting for 10 minutes to discuss library resources and services
  2. Meet with Chemistry faculty to talk about changes to our chemistry information literacy program.
  3. Advertise our science-related library workshops to the science faculty

This is in addition to my normal reference, instruction and web design duties.  Perhaps I will write another post at the end of the year to see if I was able to meet my modest faculty outreach goals.

Chemistry Librarians


Originally uploaded by Brian Hathcock

Today I attended a small workshop held at the University of Toronto for chemistry librarians. It is an exciting group to be a member of (or at least a partial member, since I work with all the sciences). There were presentations from fellow librarians, a chemistry faculty member, and several vendors. It was a long day (rush hour traffic in Toronto is crazy!), but well worth it.

The vendor presentations were interesting, but reminded me that vendors really need to learn to edit their presentations. I know that your latest product is the best thing ever, but if you are allotted a half-hour time slot, please make sure that you only take a half-hour!

This was a great learning experience for me. I am not a chemist, and listening to my librarian colleagues discuss resources and the ways they assist faculty and students helps me understand how chemists work. I am slowly catching on, but I have a lot to learn.

As a relatively new librarian, it is vital for me to learn as much as I can about the literature of the disciplines I am responsible for, but it is also important to learn about the culture of those disciplines. This is something that takes time, and I am just at the beginning.

I was able to share with my colleagues some of the work we have been doing in information literacy instruction in chemistry, and get some wonderful feedback from librarians and chemistry faculty regarding the future of our program.

Scholarly Communication 101

Open Access
Open Access

Today I attended one of the ACRL Scholarly Communication 101 workshops, held at the Uniersity at Buffalo.  It was an excellent workshop and met my expectations perfectly.

I have presented information about new forms of scholarly communication in the past, including Nature Network and, but I was missing some basic information, and this workshop filled in the gaps nicely.

Some interesting factoids about scholarly publishing

  • STM publications make up 84% of the $19.1 billion industry
  • 91% of the dollars spent on journals go to the for-profit publishers
  • Papers in the for-profit publications only account for 38% of citations

The business model of publishing scientific papers isn’t really working, and right now everyone is trying to figure out what to do about it.  Publishers are clinging to traditional business practices (getting content from scholars for free, charging libraries a lot of money for access).  Library budgets are shrinking, and we can’t afford to purchase access to everything.

One possible solution:  open access models of publication.

I am a big advocate of open access, and this workshop explored some of the advantages of the model.

One example that struck home with me was the story of a faculty member approaching the library and asking that his publications be archived in their institutional repository.  The library had to tell him that unfortunately, this wasn’t possible:  the faculty member hadn’t retained the right to his publications.  Typical author agreements normally assign copyright to the publisher.  The publisher occasionally grants certain rights back to the author, but not always.

Open access publication would allow a researcher to do what he or she wants with the results of their research.

The educational mission of universities encourages us to encourage open access publication.  Open access allows more readers to learn from the research conducted by scholars.

Libraries and librarians should do everything they can to encourage their faculty to publish in open access journals, or at least retain the copyright to their work.  Some libraries are assisting authors in paying author fees in open access publications.  Other libraries are publishing open access journals.  Some libraries are supporting consortia that encourage open access publication.  At the least, librarians can help inform their faculty about opportunities for open access publication, and educate them about the benefits to themselves, their colleagues, and their students.