Saturday, March 31, 2007

ACRL 2 -- librarians and technology

A recent theme in librarianship (recent as in 3 maybe 4 years) is this idea that everything is now different. A combination of digital technology and the so called Net Generation has changed our tradition role. At this point one is usually subjected to a hectoring tirade about how we have to keep up or die. It gets a bit exhausting after a while.

I was subjected to it today at a session called "Keeping Libraries in the Flow: Being Relevant in the World of Amazoogle." The trouble with this is that, like every other generation, this on is not monolithic. Rather than being all digital all the time I find that they are very selective about what technology they use and when. The other problem is the idea that librarians are not adapting to change and seeking new ways of doing things. Obviously this is not true. There are certainly Luddites and curmudgeons in the field but there are also quite forward thinking people and most -- of course -- are like the Net Generation: selective about what technology they use and when.

There were some interesting things that also seemed to be consensus positions:

  • The current model of the "just in case" reference desk is doomed.
  • As is the locally maintained catalog
  • Librarians must integrate themselves and their services and resources into the educational process.
  • Planning needs to speed up and improve.
It will be interesting to see if these come to pass.


I am at the ACRL Conference. Strange to say this is the first time I have attended so I thought I would record some things. I am going to do this in bits, so expect more of these.

First, at 3000 people it is 10 times smaller than ALA and all academic librarians so I have met lots of friends, far more than I would meet at ALA. I like that.

Sessions, as usual, are a mixed bag but there have been some useful things.

Luz Mangurian, had some helpful things to say from a brain biology perspective about improving learning: emotions matter, show your students you care, sleep is important to memory retention, group learning, interactivity, discussion, and getting them to do the work all really work. We know this, I just wish we practiced it more! The other thing she said that I think is very important is "exclude the irrelevant." I always tell librarian teachers to show a model of success (in using a database etc.) before you get into the possible problems etc. Since she emphasizes the importance of emotion in learning it is no surprise that she describes online education as "the McDonalds of education."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Off-campus access

We just made the jump from OneLog to EZproxy to provide off-campus access to our restricted databases for the Rollins community. Back in the fall Steve Kahana, a student and Mac user who was unhappy with OneLog's PC-only solution, promised to donate two books to the Library if we found a way for him to access the databases etc. form off-campus. Here he is making good on his promise.
Incidentally this was a good early experience for us of people from the Library and IT working in a cross-departmental team. It also feels like the first substantial change in library operations that I have been able to help happen since I arrived.
Other comments include, "This is excellent, thanks!" "A big thank you to you from all of us Mac users!!! Thanks so much!!" and "As far as I can tell, this is GREAT, because now I can actually GET ON THESE VARIOUS D-BASES from off campus, which I could not do before!"

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Power in the 21st Century Library

No, this is not some arcane discussion of Foucault, knowledge, and information services in the post-modern world. I really mean power. Regular readers (in the vain hope that there might be such people) will remember that I wrote some time ago about transforming the experience of entering the library. I am delighted to say that many of these ideas have been taken up by the administration. Facilities installed power outlets on the loggia in anticipation of the imminent arrival of furniture. The idea is that if you put rocking chairs and power in such a delightful location then students will begin to linger there, meet their friends, and use the wireless network. Well it seems two at least can't wait until the furniture arrives, simply adding power is enough.

Thus the issue of power. We used to think that what we needed to do when building a new library was put as many network jacks in as many places as we possibly could. We were wrong. Wireless has become ubiquitous, but battery power is still a precious resource. Have you noticed the cluster of salespeople around power outlets in airport waiting rooms, like zebra mussels around an warm water outlet? Well students exhibit the same behavior in libraries and other academic buildings. So my mantra (at least until someone develops a reasonable wireless power solution) is put power everywhere.