This Week in LIS - 5 March 2010

Weekly news and updates from Luther College Information Technology Services. To receive email updates, please sign up here.

Headline of the Week: Future Thoughts on Research Help

There are a few things that would pop into most minds when you mention a library. Books certainly would. These days, computers, databases, electronic journals might also jump out. In terms of services, reference and circulation are likely the two functions that also would come easily. In the days when libraries were solely physical buildings with physical materials, these service points were fundamental to accessing and using the information in the library. Librarians at the reference desk provided the guidance necessary to locate the best information quickly (without computers or keyword searching), and since everything was a physical item, they had to be checked out to be used.

Today, the percentage of library interactions that involve a physical component is miniscule compared to the total number of transactions completed daily. That is not a surprise given the reliance on virtual informaton: ebooks, databases, full-text journal articles, finding aids, course guides … all delivered online. No check-outs needed … and in a world of hyperlinks, finding the information we want is a mouse click away.

Yet with these changes, libraries have been slow in many cases to rethink services that have been primarily based in the physical world. Research help or reference service is one such area. The following chart shows the means of all reference interactions at Luther between September 2007 and January 2010:

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And the following chart displays the location where those interactions took place:

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See a common theme? While the majority of our user interaction is now online, a barely measurable number of our reference/research help transactions have moved there. This is a pretty big disconnect. One could argue that we have served more than 5,000 individuals over that time period (two and a half years). However, the LIS website averages this same number of unique visitors each week during the school year. Extrapolated out over two and half years, that comes to a total of around 375,000 unique visitors. My guess is many of those visitors would have benefited from assistance. However as we are structured today, how would we even begin to go about doing so?

To be clear, this is not necessarily a case against physical reference or physically-based reference services. These are necessary and should continue in an appropriate fashion. It is more a case for consideration of providing these services at the location wherever it is needed. Today, that place is online. How we accomplish that in a practical manner is a good conversation our staff are beginning to have and one I hope will provide us with a new roadmap for stepping up the interaction we have with our community.

Reviewing where these transactions can best take place is one piece of the puzzle. The second piece is considering when these transactions should occur. Below is a chart showing reference queries by day of the week:

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And the following chart shows reference queries by hour of day:

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Analyzing this data is a little more complicated given that interactions are much more likely to occur when our physical service point is staffed (given that we know nearly all our transactions occur there). Yet there are clearly times when the need for assistance is greater than other times. And some of these heavier use times do not coincide with hours the physical service point is staffed. Mornings tend to be more lightly used than later in the evenings. If we reconsider where these transactions might take place, what implications does this have for hours? In a recent news story regarding the Postal Service discussing whether or not to drop Saturday service, a lawmaker made the comment that it seemed somewhat non-sensical to curtail service when you are actually wanting to build volume. How does a comment like that play out given our usage patterns (and staffing levels). Do we really need less reference service, more reference service, or just different reference service?

These are all questions we’ll be discussing in the near term. Do you have thoughts? I’d love to hear them as we continue to chart a course for this important service in the future.

LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS. Among the topics discussed this past week were:

  • Several spaces in the library will be receiving new carpet, some of which will be installed next week. Areas include the Archives, Staff Lounge, Rare Book Room, group study spaces, and faculty carrels.
  • Renovations are in full swing in the former Help Desk area.
  • We reviewed the agenda for the LIS General meeting which included a discussion of information literacy, a look at Mahara ePortfolios, and an update on our research/technology help desk.
  • Our student advisory panel will meet in late March.
  • Planning for the Annual Report is imminent. With our summer planning day earlier this year our timeline will be accelerated some.
  • We discussed the Ideas website ( and efforts to encourage participation.

MISO Moment: Interest in Learning More About the Online Library Catalog

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In order to assess information service at Luther, Library and Information Services participates in the Merged Information Services Organization Survey administered by Bryn Mawr College. Luther has administered the survey twice in 2007 and 2009 to all faculty, staff, and a random sample of students.

Each week, we profile a datapoint from the survey that illustrates how the Luther community currently uses LIS services.

NITLE Opportunities

As a member of NITLE (National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education), Luther has the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of developmental and training programs intended for faculty, librarians, and information technologists. Events listed at the link below are currently open for registration by Luther participants. LIS Staff who are interested in participating in an event should speak with Christopher Barth. Faculty who are interested in participating should speak with Lori Stanley. Participation is contingent upon available funding and program acceptance.

Upcoming NITLE events:

Event Date Description
Electronic Books Mar 8, 2010 For those who wish to explore electronic books, from uses and pilots of the ebook on liberal arts campuses to the emergent possibilities that new devices offer.
Using Technology to Teach Contemporary Political Conflicts Mar 11, 2010 For faculty and staff interested in how new technologies can be used to teach about contemporary political conflicts.
Instructional Technology Leaders Conference Mar 24, 2010 For leaders in instructional technology and academic computing with responsibility for integrating technology into the curriculum.
NITLE Summit Mar 25, 2010
Augmented Reality’s First Educational Applications Apr 12, 2010 For those who wish to explore augmented reality, a recently evolving technology for layering digital content over the physical world, and its potential uses on liberal arts campuses.
Online Exam & Assessment Tools in Teaching Language Apr 15, 2010 For faculty and academic support staff involved in the teaching of languages.

A full list of events (sortable by registration deadline) is available at

Upcoming LIS Training, Instruction, and Professional Development Opportunities

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

Course Format Date Location Enrollment
Using YouTube to Reinforce Class Content Faculty Development Mar 9 2010 – 3:30pm 4:30pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
New Faculty Teaching Group Faculty Development Mar 10 2010 – 9:15am 10:15am Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Open
Remote Access Options Product Demonstration Mar 10 2010 – 3:45pm 4:45pm Dahl Centennial Union – Mott Open
Nursing 232: Research Methods for Nursing Library Instruction Mar 11 2010 – 11:00am 12:00pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Closed
Music Senior Paper/Project Library Instruction Mar 16 2010 – 11:00am 12:00pm CFA 217 Open
Music Senior Paper/Project Library Instruction Mar 16 2010 – 2:30pm 3:30pm CFA 217 Closed
Navigating Facebook Privacy Skills Training Mar 16 2010 – 3:00pm 4:00pm Open
Music Senior Paper/Project Library Instruction Mar 16 2010 – 8:00pm 9:00pm CFA 217 Closed
Reason Web Training for non-academic departments Workshop Mar 17 2010 – 2:00pm 4:30pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
Reading Group: Health, Sustainability, and Social Justice: An Interfaith Dialogue on Contemporary Ethical Challenges Faculty Development

Repeats every month on the Thursday until Fri Apr 16 2010 .

Mar 18 2010 – 9:40am 10:30am
Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Closed
Using iMovie Product Demonstration Mar 18 2010 – 12:30pm 1:30pm Open
Reason Web Training for non-academic departments Workshop Mar 25 2010 – 9:00am 11:30am Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
New Faculty Teaching Group Faculty Development Mar 31 2010 – 9:15am 10:15am Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Open
Research World Cultures and Ethnic Groups with "eHRAF World Cultures" Database Faculty Development Apr 6 2010 – 2:30pm 3:30pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open

Internet Resource of the Week: Timebridge

Google Calendar is a great solution for managing a schedule, and as Luther’s main calendar system, it provides core functionality for many on campus. However there are some cases where Google Calendar does not meet all needs. Scheduling with individuals off-campus, or proposing several times for an event are not natively possible. In steps TimeBridge. It connects with Google Calendar, and allows someone to create an event with anybody (only an email required). Up to five proposed times can be selected and TimeBridge will collect RSVPs and automatically finalize the event once a time is found to be convenient. It is also possible to create a public web page showing free/busy times that also allows individuals to schedule a free time. The basic service is free, and paid accounts offer telephone and web conferencing options.

On the web at

Quote(s) of the Week:

  • “Simplicity is a high risk affair because it means you are betting that fewer features will deliver greatest value.” – John Maeda
  • “There’s a statistical theory that if you gave a million monkeys typewriters and set them to work, they’d eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Thanks to the Internet, we now know this isn’t true.” – Ian Hart
  • “Patterning your life around other`s opinions is nothing more than slavery.” – Lawana Blackwell
  • “People confuse being specific with being accurate. Having details and numbers doesn’t mean you understand why those things are the right choices.” – Scott Berkun

Image of the Week: When I Was Your Age …

Links of the Week


The links and media above are selected from material posted to, which gathers links and comment on the worlds of libraries, technology, higher education, culture, intellectual property, copyright, information, ethics, design, professional identity, leadership, and the future. The full content feed is available by Daily Email Digest or “RSS“:

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Christopher Barth, Executive Director of Library and Information Services at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

This issue is Volume 4, Number 22 (#149)

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