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.

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Why academic librarians need to stop going to library conferences

ala conference - 'the stacks'
The vendors at the ALA conference, "The Stacks". From flickr.com user Squid!

And start going to the conferences our users – especially the faculty we work with – go to.

OK, we don’t have to completely stop going to library conferences, but unless we engage with our users more fully, I think we run the risk of being forgotten.

A bit of background.

At the ScienceOnline2010 conference, two librarians held a session attempting to tell scientists and researchers about library tools that were available.  The ensuing discussion between librarians and scientists solidified some ideas that I’ve been having for a while now about the library world.

Overall, there was a disconnect between the library world and the research world.  Scientists and scholars aren’t aware of what librarians do, beyond the whole ‘buying books’ thing.  And I don’t think that librarians are spending enough time listening to scientists and scholars to figure out what they really need and want.

After reading about this discussion online, a medical researcher responded in a blog post with a rather provocative title about what he thinks librarians can do for researchers.

Librarians – we need to listen to what the researchers are saying, and we need to play an active role in the discussion.  As a profession, I think we are more insular than we should be.  This needs to change.

That’s why we need to start attending the same conferences as the scholars we serve.

By engaging more fully with our users, we will better understand their needs (perhaps even anticipate some of them), and the library conferences we do attend will be more useful.

So, to that end, even though the freebies are more plentiful, I will not be attending the ALA annual conference this summer.  Hopefully, I will head to Denver for the Geological Society of America national meeting in October.  And perhaps the year after that I will make it to the American Chemical Society conference.

The not-so-sciencey part of “Undergraduate Science Librarian”

Crucibles
Not this kind of crucible, courtesy of Flickr user Andy.Schultz

I work at a predominantly undergraduate institution where all the librarians have to be generalists at least part of the time.  As a result, some of the instruction I do falls outside of the sciences, and some of my additional projects aren’t directly related to the departments I serve.

For example, this week I will be teaching a one-shot session for a first year writing seminar.  The overall topic for this seminar is Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. A couple of weeks ago I taught a session to some local high school students who were looking for information on contemporary poets.

Back in library school, I took a class on “reference sources in the humanities”.  While the actual reference sources covered haven’t been especially useful to me, the insights into the research culture of the humanities was very helpful.  Did you know that books are much more important to scholarship in the humanities than they are in the sciences?

While I get nervous when students come to the reference desk looking for poetry information in the same way some of my colleagues probably get nervous when a student comes to the desk looking for NMR spectra, I have the skills to help most of them find the resources they need.

And when they have in-depth, senior-thesis, primary-sources-in-history types of questions, we have a well established research consultation service at my library so that I can refer them to one of my amazingly capable colleagues for the help they need.

Librarians and Open Access – What are we Actually Doing?

ResearchBlogging.org

The librarians I’ve met at workshops, at conferences, and on the web, are generally strong supporters of open access. My impression has always been that our professional philosophy of providing information to our users free of charge (to them) fits very nicely with the philosophy of the open access movement.

Recently, I’ve started to wonder if our actions with regard to open access have any correlation with our professed opinions.

A recent article in the (subscription only) journal College and Research Libraries seems to support the idea that while we talk the talk, we aren’t very good at walking the walk, so to speak.

Kristi L. Palmer, Emily Dill, & Charlene Christie (2009). Where There’s a Will There’s a Way?: Survey of Academic Librarian Attitudes about Open Access College and Research Libraries, 70 (4), 315-335 Issue TOC

In this study, the authors surveyed academic librarians about their attitudes and certain actions regarding open access.

The authors conclude that while librarians believe that libraries should be educating users about open access and encouraging faculty to publish in open-access journals, they aren’t actually engaging in conversations about these activities. Librarians are also hesitant about devoting library resources to support open access.

One significant problem with this study was the failure to examine the publishing actions of librarians.  The actions discussed in the article mainly involved reading about open access and talking about open access with colleagues and faculty.  I was disappointed when reading the article, because to me, publishing in open access journals is one of the highest profile actions a librarian can take in support of open access.

In fact, if librarians are to have any credibility with others when we encourage them to explore open access publishing options, shouldn’t we be publishing in open access journals ourselves?

Symptomatic of the problem seems to be the lack of high-impact open access journals in library and information studies.  Open access journals in librarianship exist – there are 96 listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals website – but many of these service particular countries, specialties or publish infrequently.

This is something that librarians can change – publish in an open access journal, then talk about the experience with your colleagues and the faculty at your institution.  Support your beliefs with measurable action.

UPDATE – A College and Research Libraries Pre-print was posted this morning – The Open Access Availability of Library and Information Science Literature (PDF) – indicating that 27.5% of articles from the top 20 library journals could be found in open access full text online (either on the publishers website or in an institutional repository). So we aren’t publishing in OA journals, and we aren’t self-archiving most of the time either.

Are recent developments in scholarly communication relevant to undergraduates?


SCIENCE!
Originally uploaded by
viscousplatypus

On a weekly basis, a new article or editorial comes out discussing the shifting paradigm of how scientists communicate with one another.  According to many, the journal article – the mainstay of scientific communication – is about to undergo a major metamorphosis as blogs and new journal concepts affect how science is done.  A recent report from the Science Online London 2009 conference exemplifies this.

I am very excited about these changes, and I spend some of my time checking out real-time science blogs like Useful Chemistry, participating on online science networks like Nature Network, and exploring what PLOS ONE has to offer.

But how relevant are all of these new changes to the average undergraduate?  Do they need to know about them?  If they don’t need to know now, will they in the near future?

Most of the writing assignments I’m seeing are still asking students to find traditional scholarly articles as the only sources for their papers.  Most of the faculty at my small undergraduate institution are still very traditional with regard to scholarly communication.  A (very) few faculty still have to be convinced that an online journal is acceptable, and I wrote an email a few months ago explaining that PLOS Medicine is a highly regarded journal.

Until a consensus develops around what is scholarly and what isn’t in the online world, how are undergraduate students (who still need help telling apart a review article and a piece of original research) supposed to navigate these on-going changes?

In the short term, I don’t think that undergraduates need to know a lot about these developments, beyond their own personal interest in science blogs or online science news.  For the time being, a science student can successfully navigate his or her undergraduate education without an awareness of the scientific blogosphere or the concept of open science.

As much as I would love to share my excitement of all of these fascinating changes, I don’t think students need to know about them.  At the moment, I teach students about the basic differences between review articles, primary research articles and news articles.

In the future I will probably talk about blogs and social networks and how to access primary data sets – I’m looking forward to it.

Libraries and the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013

The ever popular Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013 has been published, once again making me feel old and young at the same time. Several items on the list pertain specifically to libraries:

4.  They have never used a card catalog to find a book.

This is excellent! Despite the many deficiencies of our current OPACs (and the deficiency of the acronym OPAC), our online catalogs are infinitely superior to their paper predecessors.  We have spent a lot of time in our library trying to our OPAC, and we will soon be directing our users to Worldcat Local instead of our own catalog because Worldcat Local has a much better search interface.

14.  Text has always been hyper.

For our incoming freshman, born in 1991, the internet has pretty much always existed.  They didn’t have an A ha! moment when discovering Amazon.com for the first time, thinking about how it changed book buying.  These students have probably always assumed that information could be found online, and the idea of a CD-ROM encyclopedia is probably pretty funny.

34.  They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.

Although eBook readers have taken off in recent years, especially with the introduction of the Kindle, the ability to read a book on a computer screen has been around for ages.  Recent developments in book standards from SONY and other eBook manufacturers, Barnes and Nobles release of an eBook store without a stand alone reader, and many other recent developments in the eBook market make this a time of quick change in how books are accessed and read.

72.  Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.

I think that students will have less tolerance for the way that different types of information are segregated.  We have traditionally segregated books, articles, reference materials etc. physically and online by telling our users to use different search tools to find different materials.  Why?  How often does it really matter?  Certainly some assignments ask students to find X number of articles, books etc., but often they just need appropriate information.  Shouldn’t we be able to search across all kinds of material and make decisions about appropriateness of the format once we find it?

Read the list – it will make you feel old as you think “I remember that!” and you may feel young if you look at items and think “Hmm, I didn’t know that existed.”

Faculty Outreach


Handshake

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.