Wednesday, October 11, 2017

OER, Publishers, and Libraries


The website Inside Higher Education featured a story yesterday about how Cengage is moving to support OER with its new OpenNow service. Very interesting - especially how they are offering value-added services on top of the OER content to
create “value-added digital solutions that help institutions use OER to its best advantage.”. Of course, their "open" solution contains a lot of ifs. IF you want to use content on your own platform, it is supposed to be free. If you want to make use of their frameworks, it will be $25/student/course , which is reminiscent (if less expensive than) the course codes and, going even further back, the CDs and DVD's that shipped with their texts and had to be purchased with each book.

Of course, the publisers are looking at this as another opportunity to find revenue where they expected to find none. But be very cautious when you consider this. What resources are you being asked to pay for? Are you paying for course structures and frameworks? Test banks from other texts? Are they resources that were repurposed from their original content?  Are you paying for content that you might already be paying for somewhere else? 

This last question is where your library comes in. Libraries license a lot of online content from publishers like Cengage, EBSCO, Elsevier, and others. This content comes as collections of ebooks, article databases, reference content, and in other forms. Your library pays for its institutional users to access and use these materials pretty much 24/7/365, anywhere our users are and in ways that make sense to their own circumstances. Given that we are already licensing these products, and paying for the right to use them as freely as we can (obviously, limits exist, and they vary between publishers), it does not make sense to pay for them in some other way - by marketing to a different set of people on our campuses, and trusting to our usual information silos to hope that one hand doesn't know what the other hand is spending money on.

What I am suggesting is simple. Check out OER resources, and use what makes sense o you and your circumstances. And take a look at what the publishers are offering; ask lots of questions, and make sure that you understand what you are getting. But talk to your librarians, too, and make sure you don't commit to a product or service that w may already be receiving. Let's work together to make sure that our students have access to quality resources in as cost-effective a way as possible.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Libraries, Librarians, and Balance

For anyone reading this blog who is from the planet Zebulax (just wanting to see if anyone gets the obscure reference), it is election season here in the US. It's an interesting time in the best of circumstances, especially in the age of social media, as partisans of one side or the other rush to support their candidate / cause with information from one source, while the other side brings in their sources to refute them.This particular election cycle is one of the most partisan and divisive ever, according to many pundits, and so the need to evaluate information critically is perhaps more important than it has ever been for our electorate. Many of the sources of information that people rely upon are biased. This is not a shock - most people are biased in one way or another. The challenge - well, ONE of the challenges - for information consumers in this day and age is learning to recognize bias and to make judgements about what they read based on this.

And VOILA! This is now an infomercial for the importance of Information Literacy. Wait, what? The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has had standards - and now, a Framework -  for information literacy for over 15 years. Borrowing more directly from the previous version of the Standards:

"Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:
  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally" 
The new Framework looks different from the older standards - but at its core is the understanding that students need to understand some core  / foundational knowledge and skills (referred to in the Framework as threshold concepts). Whether we are students or not, we all will go through our lives as consumers of information resources. To be knowledgeable consumers, we need to develop an understanding of the elements that go into acquiring and exercising this knowledge that can be applied through our lifetime.

Librarians are not any more or less biased than any other segment of the population, IMO. Where we differ from others is that our job - our purpose - is to do our best to put our biases aside when working. Article 7 of our Code of Ethics says "We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources" Or as one of my professional idols Barbara Fister wrote in her Library Babel Fish blog for Inside Higher Education put it so eloquently today, "The use of the phrase “politically correct” in this election cycle has positioned free speech as a thing conservatives and libertarians defend against liberals, progressives, and members of minority groups, but as PEN points out, it’s something that is valuable and valued across the board. It’s certainly not something the left should cede to the right just because discussing race, ethnicity, sexuality, and social justice is fraught and difficult...
...In libraries and across campus we have to achieve a balance. You are welcome here, and so are you. We stand for a diversity of voices, and we are against censorship. There’s nothing inconsistent in that, nor is that a bland kind of neutrality, a non-position."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Libraries as Connection-Makers...

Most of us take for granted that the world is online. Some people think that Internet access is simply a given wherever they go, and that they should never ever face a time when they can't get to Facebook or Snapchat. And as we try to teach our students, library resources are available most of the places you will go.

So it might shock you to know that, according to a report of the International Telecommunication Union, over 50% of the population of the planet is offline. And in Africa, that percentage jumps to nearly 3/4 of the population.

But we live in one of the most connected countries in the world, you say. Surely this really doesn't apply to folks in the United States? Well, you might be surprised. It is certainly true that the United States has a LOT of well-developed network capacity. And with the prevalence of mobile phones with internet access, many parts of the country are reasonably well-connected. But if you live in rural America, you are far more likely to have spotty cellular reception and fewer opportunities to connect to high-speed broadband Internet than those living in cities of any size, and certainly lower than those living in larger cities.

A LOT of money has been churned into the effort to make the Internet as ubiquitous as electricity - according to, just under $174 MILLION dollars have gone into broadband access in this state alone. But even with that degree of investment in infrastructure, over a quarter of a million Illinois residents have NO access to a wired Internet connection in their homes, while another 685,000 have only one provider available, leaving them with no choices as to how they can connect. Take a look at the maps on the site - see where the connection gaps are located. A hint - the most likely places with no or only one option are rural.

Now, factor in cost. Even if all the world's information WAS free (it isn't), and it WAS on the Internet (again, it isn't), the Internet itself isn't free. Low-income residents are therefore more likely to not be able to afford broadband access, or are spending a much higher percentage of their income in paying for such access if it is available. Hmmm - coincidence that the poorest countries in per capita income are also the least connected? I don't think so.

The moral of the story? Libraries of all kinds, especially those that serve rural and /or low-income areas, are an oasis of resources to their communities. As competition for budget dollars becomes more and more cutthroat, and as more people lose access to services that help them maintain their quality of life, update skills, and continue their educations, libraries have a role to play in their communities as connections between the underserved and resources that they need. People go to libraries to print resumes, to search for jobs, to find information that might help them improve their lives - whether through learning a new skill or by improving their minds. Or even by giving them a chance to recreate a bit between classes or after work. And as a community college librarian, I am proud to say that we do our part to address ALL of those needs.

There is a saying - Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries. So when you hear about budget shortfalls and cutbacks, don't forget the impact that can have on your library. And by extension, don't forget the impact that can have on its community in many different ways.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Why Reference Matters

More from Dave Tyckoson, a past-President of the Reference and User Services Association {RUSA} division of the American Library Association, and now associate dean of the Henry Madden Library at California State University - Fresno  ...

 Here are some selections from a column that he wrote in Booklist back in 2014:

“Why do we still need reference librarians when we have Wikipedia/Google/Internet/[fill in the blank]?”

It’s the question that we have all heard before in one variation or another. After all, we live in a world in which every individual has instant access to more information than at any previous time in human history. With any networked device, we can all find information, take classes, make purchases, listen to music, watch videos, get directions, see what our friends are doing, and find out about just about anything. In this connected world, why do we need libraries—or reference librarians?

It’s a valid, but naive, question. The popular image of the reference librarian is of someone who dispenses answers. The question assumes that what librarians do is dispense facts. Do you need to find a biography of Einstein? The dates of the Norman invasion? The distance to the closest star? The names of the seven dwarfs? You used to ask a reference librarian. But with the Internet, people no longer need to ask those questions—they can find that information themselves. So they naively make the assumption that reference librarians are no longer needed.
The problem with the question is that it misses the more subtle—and more important—nature of libraries and reference service. Yes, we sometimes give out factual answers. But most of the time, the questions that we get have no single answer. Is global warming real? Does listening to music while asleep improve memory skills when awake? Do diet soft drinks increase a risk of cancer? Are the beaches nicer in the Caribbean or in Hawaii? We help our users with many more of those kinds of questions than we do for factual ones—and we always have. Finding facts is easy—answering complex questions is difficult. And it is for those complex questions that reference librarians are needed...
... But the biggest impact of the reference librarian—and of the library—is on the community. Every library is designed to serve a specific community. Public libraries serve the people of a specific city or county. Academic libraries serve the faculty, staff, and students of a specific college or university. School libraries serve the students and teachers of a specific school. Medical libraries serve doctors, nurses, and patients at a specific hospital. Law libraries serve the attorneys and staff of a specific law firm. Each library is designed to add value to the specific community that it serves.

... Reference librarians serve as advisors, recommending the best information sources for each community member. Reference librarians serve as searchers, using specialized skills to retrieve the best information from the overwhelming number of documents available. Reference librarians serve as evaluators, identifying which sources are credible and which are not. And reference librarians serve as instructors, teaching community members skills to make them information independent.

The library—and the reference librarian—exists to serve the community. By interacting with reference librarians, community members become more information literate. And when a community is composed of members with a higher degree of information literacy, it becomes a better community. Libraries and reference librarians help the community learn and grow. Libraries and reference librarians help the community survive. Communities become better places when libraries and reference librarians are part of them. And that is why we still need reference librarians."

This does not diminish, in any way, the importance of other library staff. We all play a part in providing library services, and we are all here to help our communities in any way that we can.
All of our jobs are not glamorous. We check out books, maintain the stacks, request materials from other libraries. We select books, AV materials, online databases, and work with faculty to make sure the collection is current and relevant. We catalog and prepare new materials for circulation, and maintain records in our catalog to help you find what you are looking for there. We try our best to help get you around campus and to to help you get your papers printed, direct you to assistance with Canvas or computer problems, or connect you with your counselor.  And we work together as a team to see that you have your information needs addressed. We get it right more often than we don't - but that will never stop us from looking for ways to do it better. And we are going to ask you for your help from time to time as we evaluate resources or services to help us do that.

A Quiet Place To Study...

We have been surveying our students (and doing a separate survey of faculty and staff) to ge their feedback on how happy they are with Library services. The results have been a little surprising, in both good and bad ways. But that's why we are asking - we don't want to just cruise along doing what we have always done with no regard to what our users are asking for.

We are getting ready to meet as a staff and talk about the results of the most recent student survey. But we have taken one early action in response to comments received in the survey - we are going to be trying some new ways to help keep noise under control. Normally, library staff tend to be shush-averse (contrary to our stereotypes). And the building renovations done in 2010 did do a lot to help reduce the "echo chamber" quality of the building. But last year, and even more so this year, we have noticed comments from students about noise disruptions in the Library. And since we are really the only space on campus that has any kind of a quiet-study mandate, we are going to try to make this a priority this year. Here is the first step:
EVERYONE knows what the mute symbol means, right? No particular language difficulties to deal with there. We have posted a number of these signs around entrances, over computers, and on tables, just to reinforce that we are supposed to be a quiet study area.

We don't expect it to be silent - that's just not realistic. But through reminders, working on arranging our study and casual furniture, and other activities, we want to try to make sure that our students have at least one place they can go on campus when they need a quiet environment for studying. While we can't give students everything they ask for - longer hours and special cell charging stations are not in the budget, though we are looking at some alternatives for charging cell phones and other electronics - we need to do what we can do.
We will be reaching out to faculty and staff for other ideas as well, since we have a lot of meetings here in the building, as well as offices for some of our adjunct faculty, and we all need to work together to make sure our students know that we are listening, and trying to find ways to improve your experience here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Libraries Do...

As the nature of physical libraries change, and as the types of materials and services that are offered evolves, librarians at all types of libraries hear a lot about how the need for libraries is disappearing. We hear how young people don't read (um, no - ever heard of Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, and a few others that Sarah can tell you ALL about?), how ebooks are the future and no one uses print anymore (um, again, no - surveys from different kinds of sources continues to show that most people still prefer print for extended reading). And especially fun is the bit about how young people are all technology experts and libraries know nothing about technology... SMH.

It can be pretty discouraging when people, especially in educational settings who should know better, ignore your resources and don't require their students to use them. That's OK - we will keep working with the folks who come in and continue to reach out to those that don't. But as budgets get tight, libraries look like mighty attractive targets for budget cuts - you know, because we don't bring in revenue (kind of the point, we're not here to sell resources to students) and because we don't teach students (um, you might want to rethink that one as well - the amount of clock hours of library instruction that happen at college and university libraries every year would likely shock some folks, just saying...). So the question gets asked again - "What do libraries do?"

Every librarian can go on about what we do, and the value of libraries - and given half an opportunity, we will. But a colleague shared this posting from a blog, and it answers the question so well that I will share it with you instead of giving you MY version of this speech (and apologies in advance - I have not found the attribution for this yet. When I do, I will correct the oversight)...

Dave Tyckoson, associate dean of the Henry Madden Library, California State University–Fresno, noted that the question got him thinking and he replied at length. His response synthesizes many of the answers I received, so I have quoted from it extensively. He says:

“Over the years we have stopped doing things such as filing catalog cards, revising looseleaf services, and mailing articles through interlibrary loan, but those are all pretty minor activities. And each one has been replaced with something that is the equivalent process done in a better way online. But all of those activities are just tinkering with our processes. To answer your question, I chose to look at the bigger picture of what libraries do and how that is evolving.
The way that I define libraries, we have four primary functions that we do to support our community. We have done [them] for a long time and I believe that we will continue for the foreseeable future.
1.     Collecting and preserving information. No matter what the information is, what format it takes, where it comes from, or what language it is in, libraries continue to build collections of interest to their communities.
2.     Organizing information. What began as simple (yet effective) author lists of books now includes MARC records, FRBR, RDA, and metadata. How we organize information has changed significantly, but I see no time in the future when librarians will stop organizing the information in their collections.
3.     Assisting users. Whether we call it reference or research or just plain help, librarians provide personal service to make sure that each person finds the information that meets his or her needs. Whether it is an individual or a group; through face-to-face, telephone, email, or chat assistance; finding a single document or researching a broad subject area; librarians are there to help. This is the service that personalizes the library for members of the community. As long as libraries serve communities, people in those communities will want help—and librarians will be there to provide it.
4.     Promoting information unique to the community. This is the newest function of libraries, having begun in earnest only in the last two decades. This area also reflects a change in what is valued in the collections that libraries build. In olden times, when information was relatively scarce and hard to find, the library was often the single source for information for the community. In today’s world, where information is abundant and instantly available, it is the unique information in the collection that has the greatest value. Librarians are the ones digitizing these resources and making them available to the rest of the world. Commercially published books, journals, videos, and music can easily be replaced, but this local information cannot. This role is not only not going away, it is becoming increasingly important. [This is more of a function at universities, where institutional repositories are more common, though I expect to see it at our level as things continue to develop]

I do not see any of [these] as something that we will stop doing. We will continue to build collections, we will continue to organize collections and develop access tools for them, we will continue to help people seeking information, and we will increasingly digitize and promote local information. How we do those things will vary over time, but that we do them will not. We will probably purchase less published information and spend less time cataloging it, but we will increase our efforts in helping people find and use it and will definitely do more to digitize and promote local information. Tomorrow’s tools will look as different from the ones we use today as the iPad is from the card catalog. But tools are not what is really important.”


Friday, March 4, 2016

ALERT - Library Hours Changing...


Beginning Sunday, March 13th, the hours for the Library will be changing to the following:

Monday - Thursday:  7:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Friday:                       7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday:                   CLOSED
Sunday:                     2:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

These will be the new hours for both the Fall and Spring semesters.  New Summer hours will be:

Monday - Thursday:  7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Friday - Sunday:        CLOSED

Between semesters, and generally on days when classses are not in session, our hours will continue to be 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday [but always check our website for more info]. Between the end of the Spring semester and the beginning of the Fall semester, the College is typically closed on Fridays.

The Library has maintained a significantly larger schedule than many other community college libraries in Illinois, even some that are considerably larger than Lake Land. When our head count numbers were high, we felt that we should keep those hours - and even as we saw those numbers begin to drop as more resources became available online, and as college enrollments began to stabilize and then decline, we had kept the extended hours. And despite surveys that showed students wanted even more open hours, we have continued to see in-person usage numbers decline.

But the desire to maintain a large number of open hours had to be balanced against the need to be fiscally responsible with our budget and with College resources. So as reducing hours and staffing costs became a more urgent need, we looked at the times when the building is being used the most, and the new schedule is an attempt to stay open during times when we see the most foot traffic, and to concentrate our staffing during those hours. So we hope that the compromise will address both physical AND fiscal needs, and prevent the need to reduce staffing further.

Thank you for your understanding of the need to make this adjustment, and please let us know what else we can do to help you adjust to the changes the new schedule brings.