June 18, 2007
Two on Rethinking Reference
Two recent articles worth reading as we continue discussions both of innovative approaches to reference service, and of how to make the most effective use of faculty and staff in support of traditional reference service models.
In the May 2007 issue of College & Research Libraries, Marianne Stowell Bracke, et al. (Arizona) describe the innovative approach the University of Arizona Libraries took in assessing their face-to-face reference service, and making data-driven decisions about staffing models and schedules.
In the Summer 2007 issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly, Ben Wagner and Cynthia Tysick (SUNY-Buffalo) discuss the adoption of a "field librarian" model to reference and outreach services (see also Virginia Tech, Michigan, and others). Several UIUC librarians have adopted some version of this approach over the past couple of years, including Cindy Ingold, Paula Carns, Jing Liao, and Joe Zumalt, and the current article enumerates some basic guidelines for others interested in moving toward this increasingly common model for face-to-face reference service in the digital age.
Perhaps not everyone's idea of "beach reading," but very timely for us (and for academic libraries everywhere) as we continue to explore the issue of how to provide the best range of face-to-face library services in an environment defined by emergent user behavior.
Bracke, M. S., et al. (2007). Finding information in a new landscape: Developing new service and staffing models for mediated information services. College & Research Libraries, 68 (3), 248-267.
Wagner, A. B., & Tysick, C. (2007). Onsite reference and instruction services: Setting up shop where our patrons live. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 46 (4), 60-65
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!
April 13, 2007
Library Benchmarking Study Update
How do we stack up when it comes to world-class library services?
This is the question we are hoping to start to answer by participating in the International Library Benchmarking Study being coordinated by the University of Manchester (U.K.). UIUC is one approximately 15 institutions from around the world (with the participant list still being finalized) taking part of this study, and joins the University of Texas, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Arizona as its American representatives.
Eleri Strittmatter from Manchester visited with a number of Library units and committees earlier this Spring as she initiated the planning phase for the study. We will hold an information sharing and brainstorming meeting on Monday, April 16th, from 3:00-4:00 pm (428 Library), for anyone wishing to discuss our participation in this study or to learn more about how we might use the data we will gather for this study as a springboard for further discussions of benchmarking, either locally or in collaboration with peer institutions in the CIC or ARL.
For more information on the Library Assessment program at UIUC (of which this is a part), please visit the UIUC Library Assessment portal.