Monday, April 28, 2008

This is a library — we’re not supposed to be cool.

The title of this post came from an interesting article in today's NY Times about user behavior in the Reading Rooms at the British Library. It seems that the Library liberalized its policy about access to the rooms when they moved to their new building in St. Pancras and some of the long time users are objecting to the number and type of people now using the space -- too many noisy undergraduates who are not serious enough about research evidently.

This is the classic conflict within library spaces -- how to attract new users and allow for new forms of use while enabling traditional silent study to continue -- that I have written about before. Of course this being the British Library it comes with overtones of a national crisis, class, and generational conflict. What the article missed is why the BL is liberalizing access. The current British government has made it clear that some portion of the Library's funding will be dependent upon increased use of the facility. The Labor government, to their credit, is not interested in encouraging even more exclusivity at taxpayers expense.

Fundamentally, every library faces this because every library is an expression of the society from which the library grows. As that society changes and conflict arises the library becomes one possible locus of conflict. This can be serious, as in Sarajevo in the 1990's or less so as in Olin at the moment.

Actually, I have not heard any comments about noise in Olin for a while. I wonder if that is because our efforts to encourage quiet and noisy use on different floors is working, or some set of quiet users have given up on us. I hope it is the former, not the latter. I am sure we will find out when we repeat the LibQual survey next year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Publishers did not take the bait.

I just got back from the Florida Library Association annual conference in St. Pete's. I gave this presentation (it is best viewed using IE.) I hope to turn this into an article soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Olin's version of the New York Lions

The NYPL has its lions, Patience and Fortitude, we have our peacocks, and ours are live! This pair have been spotted on campus before. On Sunday morning Les Lloyd spotted them enjoying the Library's atrium and patio. They must have wandered around Lake Virginia from the Genius Reserve, where a resident flock have lived for many years.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My first podcast

Last year Kara Malenfant, Scholarly Communications and Government Relations Specialist -- which has to be one of the longest titles in libraryland -- at ACRL) interviewed me for a promotion of the ACRL Legislative Advocates program. I have enjoyed being an Advocate. ACRL is looking for more volunteers. If you are interested, find out more here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Research on the Web

I have just finished teaching a one credit course that the librarians teach here at Rollins. It is called "Research on the Web. " Three weeks of three 50 minute sessions. Pretty short, so it really just ends up being an introduction. But an introduction to what? Each librarian uses a different syllabus, content, and obviously teaches in different ways.

I chose to cover different forms of content or providers on the web (search engines, government information, digital books, digital archives, open access journals, images, and Web 2.0.) The assignment was to create a wiki that consists of a a series of annotated webliographies on any acceptable topic the students chose. So the first couple of class sessions were about wikis using Wikipedia as an example (this was also an opportunity to talk about wikipedia in general) and about evaluation.

We could have produced the same assignment as printed Word documents, but I wanted to make the point that the students are both consumers and producers of information on the web since the wiki is opening available, although it can only be edited by class members. But I found some other advantages to using a wiki. For instance, I can comment on the students' work on the page, simply by editing the wiki myself and I received an e-mail each time a student edited a page. Finally, the next group of students get to develop the site -- the cumulative, cooperative web.

I enjoyed the class. they were a good group of students, though 8 a.m. for three days per week was tough on all of us. It felt much too short to me. I think the students could have used more time to search, there are obviously many more forms of content and providers we could have explored. Also I found myself talking about the economics and history of information far more than I expected (or perhaps the students wanted.) It made me think about possibly teaching a more extensive course on the history and economics of information. Time was, the course would have been call the "History of the Book." I think it would be fun to teach an updated version.