May 27, 2007
What Really Matters in Mass Digitization
One of the topics addressed at the recent ARL Membership Meeting was mass digitization. That comes as no surprise, as more and more research libraries (including Illinois) begin to contribute digital content to projects like the Open Content Alliance. But, while the topic of discussion was the negotiation of mass digitization agreements, what caught my attention was a detour into the question of how research libraries will continue to maintain their distinctive character in an environment where we all have access to millions of volumes of digital content. The answer, to my delight, was service.
To paraphrase one of the speakers, in an environment in which we share access to digital content, "competitive advantage" among research libraries will no longer come from the breadth of individual collections, but from the "unique services that add value to those collections."
The content delivered through mass digitization projects, in short, becomes the focal point for expert library services designed to make certain that this content has the greatest impact on research, teaching, and learning on our individual campuses. The research library of the 21st century will be defined not only by what it "has", but how effectively it aids its patrons in making use of that content.
I wasn't looking for a strong statement in support of the key role of library services in the future of the research library in a discussion session where I expected content and metadata to be king, but I was happy to get it! Looking at the infrastructure that we've created at UIUC for targeting content of greatest interest to our users and our State to be the foundation for our mass digitization projects, I know that we're setting the stage for the UIUC Library to remain as "distinctive" by this new measure as it has always been by every other.
May 23, 2007
Gilman on Effective Librarians
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, Yale librarian Todd Gilman on the four habits of highly effective librarians: openness, responsiveness, collaboration, and communications.
Todd even manages to weigh in on the importance of assessment (and following up on the results of assessment activities), and the the future of the reference desk.
Not bad for one page!
May 14, 2007
Triangulating on Outcomes
One of the key initiatives identified in our current strategic plan is a greater emphasis on assessment of library services. Three things I read or heard last week helped me to focus on one specific approach to assessment - outcomes assessment.
Outcomes assessment has been a priority in higher education and a key component in accreditation processes for years, but our most widely-used assessment program, the collection and report of ARL statistics, focuses almost entirely on inputs, rather than outcomes. Many of us have provided constructive criticism of this approach for years, and it's clear that the academic library of the 21st century will have to pay much more attention to outcomes. Here is the "triangle of outcomes assessment" for UIUC librarians in May 2007.
First, Sandra Blackaby, Vice-President of Instruction at Walla Walla Community College, articulated how important outcomes assessment can be in convincing campus administrators to support their libraries in tough budget times in an essay in C&RL News.
Second, Sherri Schmidt, Dean of Libraries at Arizona State, responded to the recently released Top Ten Assumptions for the Future of Academic Libraries by immediately drawing attention to the fact that they missed the fact that libraries should be focusing on demonstrating their impact on student learning outcomes.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly for our local audience, there was this comment that I received from a member of campus administration at a recent retreat on strategic planning: "I see your data on your progress toward your strategic goals, but tell me how that progress has a direct impact on student learning and the student experience."
There are those in our profession who believe that the focus on assessment is simply the newest "bandwagon" that some of us are jumping on. It's not. Our campus, and campuses around the country, are increasingly interested in how we assess our impact on student learning, on the research and teaching of our faculty, and on broader campus missions and priorities. They want to hear less about the inputs we are (or are not) receiving, and more about the outcomes we help our users achieve. That is the story we have to be prepared to tell.
We have a core group of Library faculty at UIUC who are committed to conducting research on library assessment, to translating that research into improved practice in our Library, and to fostering Library-wide discussions of assessment and data-driven decision making about how we allocate our resources and how we tell our story to the campus, the community, and the state.
If my week last week was any indication, we're lucky to have them!
May 12, 2007
If You Build It, They Will Come
Last Fall, we opened our newly-renovated Chemistry Library and have used its development as one model for our discussion of new thinking about library spaces. Under the leadership of Tina Chrzastowski, Chemistry has been re-designed to take into account the increasing availability of scholarly digital information, as well as the needs of library users for new spaces that provide environments conducive both to individual study and to collaborative work.
The big question, of course, is: did it work?
If we judge the success of the renovation by the simplest measure, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Using direct head counts of users in the Chemistry Library at different times of day during Fall 2006, we have seen an increase of over 200% in library use between Fall 2005 and Fall 2006. 200% increase in use of the physical library - we won't even talk (for now) about the increased use of digital collections. The "library as place" is alive and well in Noyes Lab!
Among the strategic goals that the UIUC Library has established for the future is our commitment to create Library facilities that meet the needs of 21st century faculty and students. If people are voting with their feet, we have good reason to believe that, with Chemistry, we're making real progress toward that goal.
May 9, 2007
Scholarly Communications - It's Everyone's Job
There was a time, way back in say, 2003, when "scholarly communications" was a term associated with the work library administrators did at the campus level and, sometimes, that became attached to the work of a single librarian, often called a Scholarly Communications Librarian or a Scholarly Communications Officer. Those days are gone.
Earlier this year, the Association of Research Libraries launched its Copyright Education Initiative with the release of the Know Your Copyrights brochure. The brochure was recently distributed to all faculty on the UIUC campus, and we are poised to join our colleagues across the country who have added a scholarly communications dimension to the profile of professional services provided by liaison librarians across the curriculum.
Along with reference services, collections services, and instructional services, the liaison librarian or subject specialist of the 21st century should be prepared to provide scholarly communications services and to serve as a liaison between classroom faculty and research faculty and the scholarly communications infrastructure and initiatives support by the academic library.
This is a tall order - one on par with the expectation found in academic libraries across the country beginning 30 years ago that all liaison librarians would be responsible for teaching. At Kansas, we developed a handbook aimed at facilitating that discussion. Now, thanks again to ARL, we have some new tools for scholarly communications outreach and instruction.
With the establishment of our scholarly communications program, the launch of our institutional repository, and the network of contacts that we have across the campus and in key units like the Graduate College, these tools will help us to articulate a scholarly communications instruction and outreach program that will allow us to contribute to ongoing discussions of copyright, open access, digital publishing, and more.
UIUC has made a substantial commitment to moving forward in this area through its sponsorship of a team of librarians who will be attending the Scholarly Communications Institute this summer. I look forward to working with them and with the rest of our scholarly communications team to see how we add scholarly communications services to the already rich menu of services that we provide to our faculty and students.
May 7, 2007
Special Issue of Education Libraries Highlights UIUC Program
Education Libraries, the journal of the Special Libraries Association's Education Division, has just released a special issue on "Outreach to Minority Populations" that includes an essay by the Office of Services' Emily Love.
In "Building Bridges: Cultivating Partnerships Between Libraries and Minority Student Services," Love provides an overview of the foundation she has established for substantive and sustainable collaboration between the University Library and the array of student service and academic support programs on campus designed to support the recruitment, retention, and academic success of students of color.
As I have noted before, the idea of ongoing engagement with student services programs in support of student success is a facet of academic library liaison work that has drawn an increasing amount of attention over the past few years. Love provides a good overview of the efforts in this area focused specifically on multicultural student services, and demonstrates another area of library service where UIUC is helping to set the pace.
See: Love, E. (2007). Building bridges: Cultivating partnerships between libraries and minority student services. Education Libraries, 30 (1), 13-19.
May 4, 2007
Life on the Edge
When I was Head of the George B. Brain Education Library at Washington State, I inherited a cutely-titled newsletter dreamed up in the days before electronic discussion lists, the Brain Wave. Aimed at faculty and students in the College of Education, I quickly found that it and its electronic successors were equally important as a means of keeping my colleagues in a distributed library system aware of all the good work being done by the faculty and staff in my library.
I thought about the Brain Wave earlier this week when I saw the first issue of the Undergrad Edge, the new electronic newsletter of the UIUC Undergraduate Library. Like the Brain Wave, the Edge provides an easy way for faculty and staff of the University Library (all 500 of us!) to keep current on the evolving faces, spaces, and places that make up one of our biggest and busiest campus libraries. There isn't a department on campus whose students don't come through Undergrad on occasion, and, with campus-wide responsibilities for media circulation, reserve readings, and cash printing, it's fair to say that "The University Library Works Because the Undergraduate Library Does."
There are statistical tidbits sprinkled throughout the Edge that are likely to be more of interest to Library staff than classroom faculty, but there is also information on Undergraduate Library services that almost all of us will be able to re-purpose for our own work with campus faculty, staff, and students.
5,000 users walking through the doors each day, and close to 10,000 books circulating each month - that's what I call living on the edge!
May 3, 2007
Are We Winning or Losing?
UGL Head Lisa Hinchliffe does yeoman's work in articulating the contributions that information professionals bring to the academic experience, but the DI article still suffers from some of the same assumptions that plagued the article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that was its likely inspiration, especially the assumption that it is the physical reference desk, alone, that signifies the library commitment to providing high-quality information services.
My assumption, as I've said before, is that reference service - whether delivered face-to-face across a reference desk, in the stacks (roving reference), in a residence hall, or in an academic department (field librarians) - is not defined by the quality of its furnishings, but by the expertise of its practitioners and by their ability to adapt effectively to new information use patterns embraced by faculty, staff, and students.
The reference desk isn't losing because Internet searching is winning, and a commitment to providing reference service via IM, Facebook, or laptop deployed in a local coffee shop doesn't mean reference service is "dying." Technology is a tool that allows information professionals to be more creative in the ways in which they deliver professional service, and adapting best professional practice to the changing information environment and to the changing ways in which our users locate, access, evaluate, manage, and present information is something that reference librarians have been doing at least since someone created classification systems, opened the library stacks to browsing, and embraced the notion that the user brought something of value to the process of intellectual inquiry.
Reference service will only go the way of the Dodo (to use the CHE metaphor) if we prove unable, as professionals, to adapt to our changing environment. Today's DI article is just another example of how well we are adapting at the University of Illinois. While this certainly could mean the "death" of the reference desk as the predominant model for information service, it is also sure proof that professional reference and information service (delivered in multiple ways) is alive and well.