Thursday, November 29, 2007

They grow up so fast ....

OK, so moving off topic for just one post. Please forgive a proud and some what awestruck father. I took Sam for his first driving lesson last night at the high school parking lot. He did really well. In a Mini with a stick shift no less. How the years fly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Think of us as your librarians

If you are Rollins faculty that is.

The librarians have been working hard on fine tuning the way we communicate and work with faculty. We have had a liaison program for a number of years but it lacked clear goals. Departmental/program assignments seemed to be based more on librarian interest, not a more coherent principle like disciplinary relationship, geographic location of departments, or nature of the student or faculty (e.g. graduate v. undergraduate, pre-professional v. liberal arts.) Librarians did not receive initial training or continuing development in liaison.
There was little connection between collection development, acquisitions, and liaison. This meant there was little sense of responsibility for discipline specific databases/resources. Over time some duplication had developed with more than one librarian feeling a sense of responsibility for the same department. Finally there was no assessment of the effectiveness of liaison. There was even a problem with the name, "liaison." A word that librarians imported from the military that means something to us but didn't mean much to the anybody else.

So over the last few weeks we have defined clear goals and expectations, cleaned up the division of department and programs amongst librarians and dropped the name "liaison." Instead we are now talking about "Your Librarian." Our goals are:

1. Partner with faculty to improve student information literacy.
2. Work with faculty and the Collection Development Librarian to develop the collection in appropriate disciplines.
3. Communicate with faculty in our areas and encourage them to communicate with us.
4. Seek innovative projects, services, and resources in partnership with faculty and students to improve library support.

We are rolling this out over the next few weeks with redesigned webpages ( will add links when these are ready) for each librarian, an announcement at the next faculty meeting, and a special issue of our newsletter. We should be set to go when everyone gets back in January. Then we will treat the Spring semester as a transition period when we work out the kinks. We have a couple of big projects in which the librarians will have to work with faculty (the beginnings of a systematic weeding of the collection, and the review of our print journal subscriptions) which should provide good opportunities for librarians and faculty to build relationships. Over the summer we will review how this is going and make adjustments.

This really isn't a huge change. There are lots of examples of our librarians developing great working relationships with faculty members and developing a sense of responsibility for a certain section of the collection. The difference is we how to do this in the future in a more intentional and strategic manner, and hopefully achieve more in terms of information literacy and a better collection.

Oh, one more thing. This program is aimed at Rollins faculty, but only because they are one of our best routes to Rollins students.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Transitioning to Electronic-Only Journals Workshop

Interesting workshop on Monday. I really appreciated the participation from our faculty, Mario D'Amato, Tom Lairson, and Barry Levis. They gave us a broad spectrum of opinions about where we at Rollins should be going in terms of this issue. Also from our librarians Mary Throumoulos, Dorothy Mays, and Yvonne Jones. All of whom also had a broad spectrum of opinion.

I found a couple of things really interesting. The first is that the ARL libraries are moving very aggressively from print to digital journal collections. This means we cannot rely on them to play their traditional role of library of last resort for print collections. So if we care about the ultimate preservation of this literature in this format (and I think we have to, if not specifically as librarians at Rollins College with the mission and resources to support the curriculum, then more generally as professional librarians) this means that we cannot depend on the insurance of ARL libraries to retain print journals while we move quickly to digital versions. But, since we do not have the resources to preserve these print resources for the long term on a scale that is meaningful for the wider society, I don't think we can not act and avoid this migration from print to digital.
Secondly, if the colleges that participated in the workshop are representative of liberal arts colleges then Rollins is by no means moving too fast from print to digital. Some libraries are being forced along this continuum by circumstances beyond their control. Others -- often with the support of their constituents -- have decided to move more quickly.

If Ithaka had a hidden agenda in organizing this workshop it was to make sure that libraries act strategically and plan for this this move rather than being forced into it. To this end, we developed the following plan:

  1. We have reaffirmed that our default format for current subscriptions is digital. We will only continue to subscribe to print based on cost, availability, or user need.
  2. During the current academic year, we will review all existing print subscriptions to ensure that we are following through with (1). The liaison librarians will lead this review coordinated by Mary.
  3. Over the next two years, we will improve our data collection and use for both print and digital journals. Liaisons need to be able access to this data and use it, preferably in real time. Collection of data needs to be automated as far as possible. Data about usage, price, licensing, vendor, contract, and notes about history and decisions etc. should all be stored in one place.
  4. Over the next two years, we will continue to integrate our indexing of print and electronic resources. Adding MARC records for our online journals to the catalog is a big step in this process. We should continue to work on making our paper publications accessible through our electronic indexes (e.g. Serials Solutions A-Z list, and hence the link resolver) even as our paper holdings decrease. The more we can give print and digital the same access points, the easier it will be to make the shift between them.
  5. Over the next three years, we will reconsider the whole concept of a print backfile of the journal literature in relationship to our mission. We will find an effective balance between a legacy print collection, a digital collection, and access to a wider range of the journal literature, perhaps through a "pay per use" arrangement, with the overall aim of better serving our users and shrinking the footprint of the print journal collection.
  6. Over the next three years, as the print journal collection shrinks we will actively seek uses of the space for people not print collections. This could mean group study space, contemplative space, or a learning commons, or something not yet imagined. Use of this space should be aimed at most effectively serving the core educational mission of the College.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Future Reading

Thanks to Susie Robertshaw for pointing out a good article in the November issue of the New Yorker by Anthony Grafton about the various current large scale digitization efforts and the future of libraries. I really like the way he uses library history to illuminate his view of our future as one in which, "these streams of data, rich as they are, will illuminate, rather than eliminate, books and prints and manuscripts that only the library can put in front of you."
That is not a particularly challenging conclusion. I worry it is bit too comforting for librarians, especially ones who don't work in the world's great libraries like the NYPL. But I think that academic librarians can take some comfort in the fact that people will need help learning the techniques that enable them to recognize the need to take what Grafton calls the "narrower path" to thorough research. Here are a couple more quotes from this article that I think make the point.

"The rush to digitize the written record is one of a number of critical moments in the long saga of our drive to accumulate, store, and retrieve information efficiently. It will result not in the infotopia that the prophets conjure up but in one in a long series of new information ecologies, all of them challenging, in which readers, writers, and producers of text have learned to survive."

"The supposed universal library, then, will be not a seamless mass of books, easily linked and studied together, but a patchwork of interfaces and databases, some open to anyone with a computer and WiFi, others closed to those without access or money. The real challenge now is how to chart the tectonic plates of information that are crashing into one another and then to learn to navigate the new landscapes they are creating."

When librarians and faculty help students learn to survive challenging information ecologies and chart tectonic plates of information, we are helping them become more information literate. It was a challenge in the ancient Mediterranean world and it will continue to be one in the digital world.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Social networking

Interesting that Rollins will be hosting a couple of workshops that will be much concerned with social networking software and OCLC just published "Sharing Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World."

Not surprisingly, they find that the general public and two sub-groups -- college students and U.S. library directors -- see little role for libraries in building online social networks for their communities. The public think libraries are for learning and information, not for socializing.

I agree (not with the socializing part. As an undergraduate I spent a lot of time socializing in this reading room at Sheffield.)

I don't think we have much of a role in building social networking sites. I just don't think that our users are invested enough in the information resources provided by the library to devote much time and effort to linking them to friends or to find friends via a common interest in our resources. If there is a role for libraries in social networking, then it is in us joining existing networks like facebook and making our resources and services open to existing networks. Brian Matthews at Georgia Tech is on to something with this, but I don't think he is building seperate networks.

Odd that OCLC concentrated on this aspect of social networking.

Transitioning to Electronic Only Journals Collections

On Monday Rollins is hosting a new workshop from Ithaka on "Transitioning to Electronic Only Journals Collections." Six institutions are sending teams to the workshop: Birmingham Southern, Furman, Hobart & William Smith, Macalester, St Olaf, and of course Rollins.

This is the first of three such workshops that we are hosting here at Rollins this year. The other two are a pair of NITLE workshops on social networking softwares: "Social Software for Education: Collaborative Learning and Research Practices" and "Emerging Technologies and the Liberal Arts Campus." But more about those two later.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of Monday's workshop. We are not planning to go "electronic only" in terms of journals any time soon. We see the future as a hybrid of print and digital, albeit increasingly weighted towards digital particularly in terms of mainline peer-reviewed scholarly journals. But this will not be a clean process. In some cases the move from print to digital will so change the journal that the word journal (see sense B I 6) will no longer be relevant. In the others the move may never take place. I am not sure, for instance, that small literary magazines will ever stop being published in print even though they may also have quite well developed web-based versions.

In any event this will be a tough transition for most libraries and the communities they serve. One recent example of how tough this could be comes from Sandia National Laboratories. I am not sure of the whole story of what they are doing with their library, but the library profession is abuzz with opposition to what is described as closing the physical library and moving to online only library services and collections. Sandia announces this move here. Here are the Special Library Association and the American Library Association responses. Obviously, this concerns more than just journals, but my guess is that online journal access is a big part of this.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We have a winner!

Professor Rosana Diaz-Zambrana of Modern Languages has won the first Annual Olin Library Interlibrary Borrowing Prize. She is the member of the Rollins community who borrowed the most items via our interlibrary loan service during 2006-07, borrowing fifty items in all. Apart of the honor of this prize she also won a cup of coffee (thanks Barbara) from the Bookmark Cafe.

Rosana had lots of lovely things to say about the ILL service and Shawne Keevan who dealt with most of these requests. I can only agree, Shawne does a great job managing to get all kinds of materials from libraries large and small from around the world. Rosana's requests can be really challenging since she requests materials in Spanish, often published in Latin America and the Caribbean, and often out of print.

She was happy to hear about some of the improvements we are working to put in place in our service including software packages that:

  • Automatically authenticate so that users do not have to repeatedly type in their personal information and can also track their outstanding requests.
  • Automatically populate ILL request forms with the bibliographic data from our databases.
  • Significantly speed turnaround time.
  • Automatically deliver digital versions of articles to the user.

Shawne and the Digital Library Group are currently investigating what our options are and, if things work out well, we will implement many of these changes in the summer of 2008.

The Sandspur, November 5th edition

There are a couple of interesting items in the Sandspur this week. The first concerns the importance of local libraries. Unfortunately, it isn't about any local libraries around here. It looks as though the paper just took it off the wire. I suggested to a Rollins student who is interested in literary culture that he may want to respond. I hope he does. The second is more interesting and actually has more to say about the continuing relevance of this local library. The print version is more visually appealing since it includes pictures, but of the nine students asked for their favorite place on campus to study or just relax, four mentioned places in the library, often more than one. Interestingly, most chose quiet, contemplative spaces, rather than more social spaces. The spaces were the Tower Room, the 1st floor cubicles, a 1st floor table, the 24 Hour Lab, and the Pillow Room, and one was pictured in a rocking chair on the loggia.

Monday, November 05, 2007

We are not in Kansas anymore

I was off on Hallowe'en for my birthday. But it seems everyone had a great time in my absence. What a world, what a world ....