Open Access Week at SUNY Geneseo

SUNY Geneseo celebrated Open Access Week for the time this year.  It was a modest series of events, just one guest speaker from a local University and a small panel of faculty members from Geneseo talking about their experiences with open access.

The events were not very well attended for a variety of reasons, but those who attended were able to see some wonderful presentations.

Charles Lyons, Scholarly Communications Officer and Business Librarian at the University of Buffalo gave a presentation at our first event.  Charles provided a great overview of open access, with a particular emphasis on the motivations for scholars to consider open access options.  The traditional argument (from the library perspective anyway) tends to focus on the Serials Crisis – the steady higher-than-inflation increase in journal costs over the last 30 years.  But scholars are rarely thinking about the costs associated with institutional  journal subscriptions.

Instead, Charles focused on two primary concerns of scholars.  The first is the idea of sharing scholarship for the greater good.  Scholars don’t publish to make money (because they don’t make money).  They publish because they want to share their findings.  Making scholarship open access (either green or gold) can work toward the greater good by providing greater access to that scholarship.

The second main motivator towards open access is the idea of being a part of current innovations in scholarly publishing.  The basic journal article has been around for 350 years.  Peer review (distinct from editorial review) came into vogue in the middle of the 20th century.  Open Access is one of many innovations in scholarly publishing, and scholarly publishing needs to move forward if scholarship will move forward.

Our second event was a panel discussion featuring Geneseo faculty who have been involved in open access:

The format of the panel allowed these scholars to talk about their experiences and some of the issues associated with open access: how do most faculty perceive the label “open access”?  What are the disciplinary differences in this perception?  How do open access journal differ (or not) from subscription journals?  What was the review process like?

I really enjoyed this conversation, and learned a lot from the faculty panelists. My goal is that this is just the beginning of a campus wide discussion about open access and the future of scholarship.  We’ll see.

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Faculty, librarians and student research skills: are we on parallel paths?

ResearchBlogging.orgOne of the themes I’ve been writing a lot lately is that department faculty and librarians aren’t talking to each other as much as they should, especially in areas that they are both concerned about.  One of the biggest areas we need to be talking more about concerns student’s library research skills (or information literacy skills).  Librarians aren’t doing a lot of publishing in disciplinary college teaching journals, and we aren’t going to a lot of disciplinary conferences.

So when I saw two articles in the August/September issue of the Journal of College Science Teaching written by department faculty that included heavy doses of information about teaching library research skills, I began to be convinced that departmental faculty and librarians are on parallel paths with this issue.  It is wonderful that we are both exploring these issues, but the fact that our paths don’t intersect may lead to frustration on both sides.

Davies-Vollum, Katherine Sian, & Greengrove, Cheryl (2010). Developing a “Gateway” Course to Prepare Nontraditional Students for Success in Upper-Division Science Courses Journal of College Science Teaching, 40 (1), 28-33

Kitazono, Ana A (2010). A Journal-Club-Based Class that Promotes Active and Coorperative Learning of Biology Journal of College Science Teaching, 40 (1), 20-27

Both of these articles describe courses in the sciences in which information literacy skills make up an important part of the course content.  In both cases, the faculty consulted a librarian for assistance in teaching students about database searching, and the authors of both articles found this assistance to be helpful. But in both cases, the authors don’t cite a single article about information literacy from the library literature.  This is hardly surprising – these articles would be almost impossible to find in the typical databases used by scientists.

In a completely un-scientific perusal of articles from library journals concerning information literacy in the sciences (i.e. those that were on my computer or filed in my desk), I find that librarians aren’t citing this disciplinary literature either.

So we are both trying to figure out how to equip students with the skills they need to effectively search, locate and understand the scientific literature.  We are both writing articles about classes and exercises that can help students develop these skills, but we don’t seem to be talking to each other about these issues, at least in the formal literature about college-level science teaching.

I have had a lot of interesting conversations with faculty about how to develop these skills.  How can we move this discussion from informal hallway conversations into the formal literature?

I think this is up to the librarians.  I don’t think we can expect the faculty to start reading the library literature.  We need to keep our eyes on the disciplinary literature, take the opportunity to publish in them when appropriate, and present at disciplinary conferences.  And maybe get out of the library occasionally.

A small collection of resources about the University of California ‘negotiation’ with Nature Publishing Group

This week, the University of California announced a possible boycott by faculty and researchers of Nature Publishing Group.  UC felt they had to act after NPG was proposing a 400% increase in the UC site license subscription cost.  The proposal is for faculty to stop submitting articles to the journal, stop reviewing articles, resign from editorial boards, etc., in addition to canceling subscriptions to NPG journals.

Open Access - one solution to exorbitate journal prices

Official resources about the ongoing issue:

A small selection of commentary by people smarter than me:

Is this the start of something?  I emailed the Chronicle of Higher Education article to the faculty listserv at my institution, and one person actually responded saying ‘thank you’ for sending along the article.  The library is just now formulating plans for an Open Access Week event on Campus – could this raise faculty awareness of some of these issues?

Is this what was needed to bring the problems with the scholarly research and publication economy to light?  Or will all of this be forgotten by the time the fall semester starts?

I guess we’ll find out.

What should my students call me?

During one-shot library instruction session, the issue of what to call the librarian instructor rarely arises.  Now that I’m teaching a geology class again as an instructor, the “what should students call me” question comes up.

Title options for the Royal Opera House website registration form
Title options for the Royal Opera House website registration form

Students often take the path of least resistance – they don’t call me anything.  Emails don’t begin with a salutation and there is rarely a need for them to refer to me by name in class.  I used to give extra credit on quizzes and exams if students could correctly answer the question “What is your instructors name?”  Fewer students than you would think got it right.

So far this summer, the students who call me anything seem to default to “Professor Swoger”.  Is this appropriate?  While I am the instructor for the class, and I certainly like to profess things, none of my official titles contain the words “professor”.  My “budget title” says Senior Assistant Librarian, my “local title” says Visiting Reference Instruction Librarian and the title on my business cards says Science and Technology Librarian.  We don’t use the term librarian as a title in the same way that professor is used.  “Librarian Swoger” sounds a bit odd.

Generally, I don’t correct students if they use the title Professor, but I do correct them if they default to “Dr. Swoger”.  I don’t have a PhD, so that title doesn’t apply.  I also have a sense that Professor also applies to PhD recipients or folks with the appropriate job title.

I’m kind of ambivalent about telling students to use my first name.  Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t.

Of course, I could be Mrs. Swoger, but I always look for my mother-in-law when that is used.  I prefer Ms.

So, when I send my class an email, how should I sign my name at the bottom?  Perhaps I’ll try to be consistent by the time the course ends, or I could follow the lead of my students and just not sign my name at all!

Working with faculty to manage resources

Librarians and classroom faculty spend their time thinking about different things. Classroom faculty concentrate on teaching their students the subject matter, while librarians tend to focus on the resources students need to learn those subjects.

I just started two important dialogs with faculty about our library resources:

  • The Chemistry department and I need to make a decision about whether to move the web version of SciFinder, or stick with the client version for now.
  • Subject guides for Astronomy and Physics have been neglected for years and were missing several vital resources. As I update these guides, I am asking for assistance from the Physics and Astronomy department to make sure that the resources included in the guides are the resources their students are using.

I’m waiting to find out how engaged the faculty will be in these discussions. My initial overture was an email explaining what was going on. I will probably follow this up with in-person discussions. I have found that a quick trip over the an academic department can save a lot of time typing up emails, and leads to a better overall relationship. As the semester draws to a close, classroom faculty get very busy with final exams and projects and it is often easier for them to express their opinions in a quick face-to-face conversation.

Looking for Astronomy Resources

In my quest to update the science subject guides at my library, I have started in alphabetical order with Astronomy. The astronomy subject guide is one of the least used guides at my institution, and it does not have many resources listed.

In my quest to update this resource, I am employing several strategies.

  1. Adding appropriate resources from our list of paid databases
  2. Adding resources I am already familiar with that may be useful in astronomy
  3. Examining other subject guides created by specialty librarians at larger universities on the subject
  4. Working with the astronomy faculty to add resources that they point their students to

Since I am not an astronomer, part of this process involves learning about the literature research methods of astronomers, and the needs of these particular undergraduates at my institution.

A few of the resources I will be adding to the guide include: