This Week in LIS - 21 May 2010

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Headline of the Week: In Time, On Demand and More Than a Little Binary: The Future of Collection Development in the Liberal Arts

Speaking honestly, one of the more perplexing challenges I see in the future is determining the role and composition of the liberal arts library collection. Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal writes in today’s issue:

But the digital revolution sweeping the media world is rewriting the rules of the book industry, upending the established players which have dominated for decades. Electronic books are still in their infancy, comprising an estimated 3% to 5% of the market today. But they are fast accelerating the decline of physical books, forcing retailers, publishers, authors and agents to reinvent their business models or be painfully crippled.

“By the end of 2012, digital books will be 20% to 25% of unit sales, and that’s on the conservative side,” predicts Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of the Idea Logical Co., publishing consultants. “Add in another 25% of units sold online, and roughly half of all unit sales will be on the Internet.”

Reflect on that statistic for a moment – in less than two years time, 20% to 25% of book sales will be digital. Today it is 3% to 5%. The game changers here are e-readers. Finally, we have compelling portable devices that make consuming an electronic book feasible if not enjoyable. Amazon’s Kindle cracked the shell, though the price and narrow focus of the device kept it somewhat limited in the market. Smartphones have opened the crack slightly, though the smaller screen size again has served to govern wholesale adoption Along comes the multi-function tablet devices (the iPad is only the first of many) that now bring true multi-functionality to a device that can deliver an effective ebook experience. The shell is now broken wide open, and we won’t be turning back.

Closer to home, this spring for the first time I have heard a steady stream of comments from students regarding their positive uses of ebooks in our collection. Comfort level is rising among both consumers and libraries for digital delivery. There are cautions in the transition that I see in my own use of ebooks. The tendency to keyword search and to dive tactically into a text for particularly sections is strong for me. I think this will make the challenge of writing long-form monographs greater for authors in the future. But that’s not the only challenge ahead. Libraries, and particularly liberal arts college libraries have many:

  • Access to Ebooks – While many may purchase devices capable of ebook delivery, not everyone will. How will we make these materials available to everyone?
  • Digital Rights Management – Physical books come with a pretty easy rights management model – only one person can read it at a time. Electronic books obviously break this model. Libraries need to work with publishers to develop a reasonable system to manage use of ebooks in a library model.
  • Publisher Business Models – Today’s business models for publishers are built on marketing physical items to bookstores. They do not contemplate virtual items to consumers. This is a big disconnect and one that will involve a bloody and difficult transition. Libraries will be torn down two paths … the traditional monograph path where we buy one-off items, and the likely desire of publishers to market large tracts of ebooks as one entity for licensing (rental). Journal publishers went down this road first, and while many libraries were lured in by the large title lists these large packages included, we’ve since realized the majority of these titles are pretty useless in our collections. So while they large pre-packaged collections make it easy to build a collection, there is considerable question about how useful that collection is.
  • Google – And of course, Google aims to deliver all the content we have digitally. We will need to learn how that business model will work and then ask tough questions about how important it is to keep physical copies of little-used books on shelves in libraries like Luther’s.

I believe books will persevere and will remain a fundamental medium for information use and consumption. But their purpose will change. They may become more transitory (they are recyclable after all). They may become more specialized in what type of information is best delivered via print. Change is coming however, and sooner rather than later if the analysts are to be believed.

With the road bending ahead of us, we’ve begun to think about how we can position ourselves for the future. One area we’d like to push more into is on-demand collection development models that rely on our ability to quickly acquire needed materials instead of the in-case model where we buy materials and hope someday they’ll be used. We actually do fairly well at that with about 75% of the items we buy circulating within five years of purchase. But that still leaves 25% of our items that are not used. In times of tight budgets that’s a lot of resource remaining idle. By working to scale back on the just-in-case purchases, we can make our collections more useful and flexible to address where we’ll be in the years ahead.

There is no formula to achieve this, just a philosophy and awareness of where the road may go. Collection-building has and always will be an art, not a science, and we are committed to collecting the best and most appropriate collection for Luther’s academic program. While how we do that will certainly change significantly in the coming years, we hope to only improve the service and quality of resource we provide … in print as well as in bytes.

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:


LIS User Profile: Ben Moore

Ben Moore

Before returning to Luther after he graduated in 2002, Assistant Professor of Art Ben Moore attended the University of Iowa to get his Master of Fine Arts in Painting. Moore also taught at the University of Iowa and spent some time in Venice painting as well. In addition to his art background, he also has been a part of a small group the makes Java-based video games on the Internet called Random Thoughts. As an Assistant Professor, Moore teaches classes on painting, drawing and computer art as well as a course titled “Foundations of Art and Design.”

Moore commented that he enjoys the use of the library as a whole as well as the lab in the Center for the Arts that he uses for teaching computer art. He encourages his students to use the library’s collection of art books and magazines as well as the internet for inspiration and research on art forms and artists. Being able to check out projectors and sound systems for class and cameras for projects is another service Moore enjoys.

Library and Information Services (LIS) provides integrated library and information technology support to the Luther College community. The combined LIS organization was created in 1997 when the Library and the Computer Center administratively merged. Library and Information Services (LIS) maintains a number of public use facilities. Preus Library is the predominant facility, in addition to a number of computing facilities distributed across campus.

- Contributed by Adam Kobler ’11

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:

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
Advising and Vocation at Luther College (Day 1 of 2) Faculty Development May 26 2010 – 9:00am 4:00pm Baker Commons Closed
Advising and Vocation at Luther College (Day 2 of 2) Faculty Development May 27 2010 – 9:00am 4:00pm Closed
Reason Web Training Workshop Jun 2 2010 – 2:00pm 4:30pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
Grading for the Sake of Learning (Day 1 of 2) Faculty Development Aug 17 2010 – 9:00am 12:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Nansen Open
Grading for the Sake of Learning (Day 2 of 2) Faculty Development Aug 18 2010 – 9:00am 12:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Nansen Open

Internet Resource of the Week: openbook

Note: This week’s site may or may not be SFW (suitable for work) … but that’s sort of the point. Link through at your own risk … Much bellyaching has transpired regarding Facebook and their blossoming privacy settings which increasingly seek to open data to the Internet. There are good business reasons for Facebook to want to do this, and their are good privacy reasons why users of Facebook don’t. Openbook is a site that serves as a search engine for content that people make available publicly via Facebook. The point of the site is to illustrate how thin privacy may be on the site, as well as how poor we are at protecting our privacy. The content returned are Facebook status updates, and you can’t search by user, only terms. But results include names and photographs. Again, this site only contains information made public by these individuals (and it is visible to Google and other search engines).

Are you a Facebook user? If you haven’t checked your privacy settings lately, it’s not a bad idea to do so. Here’s one of many guides to help you do so.

On the web at

Quote(s) of the Week:

  • “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” – Mark Zuckerberg-
  • “The best way to predict the future is to design it.” – Buckminster Fuller
  • “When you look at the variety of public schools that have worked well in the U.S. — in cities big and small, and in suburban and rural areas — you wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea to throw a stultifying blanket of standardization over the education of millions of kids of different aptitudes, interests and levels of maturity. The idea should always have been to develop a flexible system of public education that would allow all — or nearly all — children to thrive. One of the things Bard has shown is that kids from wildly different backgrounds — including large numbers of immigrant children — can thrive in an educational environment that is much more intellectually demanding than your typical high school.” – A Very Bright Idea
  • “Although today’s academic library users may feel that browsing is an ancient scholarly right, the practice is in fact no older than the baby-boomer faculty who so often lead the charge to keep books on campus. Prior to the Second World War, the typical academic library was neither designed nor managed to support the browsing of collections. At best, faculty might be allowed to browse, but it was the rare academic library that allowed undergraduates into the stacks. To this day academic-library special collections—real treasure troves for scholars in the letters and humanitie—remain entirely closed to browsing.” – The Myth of Browsing
  • “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” – Aldous Huxley

Image of the Week: UK Survey proves “death of email” premature

Click through for full size

As one might expect, the data in the report (collected and processed by Nielson) shows a 65 percent increase since 2007 in the average amount of time each participant spent online.

Social networking and blogs were the fastest-growing sector. … On average participants spent 13.5 minutes out of every hour on blogs and social networks.

Video of the Week: Google Launches Google TV

Links of the Week

infoneer.pngThe 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 30 (#157)Content is made available under Creative Commons license. Creative Commons License