This Week in LIS - 14 September 2012

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Headline of the Week: “…One (Degree) in Liberal Arts…”

This week’s Bloomberg Businessweek magazine features a provocative cover story entitled “Debt for Life.” Its subtitle claims it provides “The Scandalous Truth About Student Loans”. The emotional hook includes a number of (pictorial) cases of individuals that have amassed student debt and the implications on their lives associated with paying them off.

The article by Peter Coy challenges the idea that college is a good investment from a financial point of view; at least for some disciplines. It restates the prognostication that college debt in the next “bubble” after housing topped one trillion in March. It challenges the integrity of merit based scholarship. It explores the relationship of college debt to bankruptcy protection. Modulo a couple of encouraging points about online learning possibilities, the alternative structure of our local University of Minnesota – Rochester and the durability of some institutions despite the rate of change, it paints a rather gloomy picture for the cost of college and value of college.

I expect there is a degree of truth in most of the claims if you sufficiently qualify the situations. Most of them are drawn from materials published earlier. It was frustrating to read as he painted all of higher education with the same dismal brush. The overall situation seems much more complicated and nuanced and one can imagine alternative points of view coming from some of the same facts.

Nevertheless, this is the message that readers of Businessweek are getting. Some of them may well be parents of our prospective students. Telling our specific story becomes more important. Considering our responses and seizing new opportunities remains important.

I was therefore encouraged when I read an interview by Antonio Regaldo of Andrew McAfee in MIT’s Technology Review magazine. You may recall he was co-author of the e-book Race Against the Machine (along with Erik Brynjolfsson) that I have referenced in the past. In that book they talked about how much more quickly IT technology is developing in recent years and that IT is more and more able to take on roles that were once thought to be undoable by machines. This in turn is impacting the distribution of wealth as well as the labor markets. In this interview McAfee was asked “What is your advice to the individual, or to the parent educating a child?” He replied: “To the parent, make sure your kid’s education is geared towards things that machines appear not to be very good at. Computers are still lousy at programming computers. Computers are still bad at figuring out what questions need to be answered. I would encourage every kid these days to buckle down and do a double major, one in the liberal arts and one …the sciences.”

It seems we do both of these quite well. We may be in just the right spot to successfully navigate the onslaught on higher education by the media and to position ourselves to deliver the value that meets the needs of future students.

Suggested Reading:

When Machines Do Your Job, Technology Review, MIT, September/October 2012, pages 70-71.

Debt for Life, Bloomberg Businessweek, Sept. 10-16, 2012, pages 61-69.

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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 Operational Agenda
    • Council members will be reporting on LIS operational views (metrics for processes and status of projects) regularly at LIS Council meetings. This week’s reports included the following:
    • Archives
      • The research space has been re-designed leveraging tables from Hovde that were displaced by the new furniture improving the space for archive researchers.
      • August archives reference interactions increased over July.
      • The Nordic site was instrumented with Google Analytics. 66% of the visitors are new visitors. There were 191 unique visitors including 4 email reference questions. ~30% of the traffic was direct traffic, 58% was referral, ~12% was from search.
      • Project Updates
        • Nordic: 81 box lists scanned from Vesterheim
        • Postville Project: Additional refinements to Omeka
        • Records Management Policy Training: Additional work on presentation and planning for implementation
        • Homecoming Preparation: Class of 1962 presentation complete, Class of 1987 requested, Hoslett lecture presentation in process.
    • Network & Systems
      • Network registrations peaked in the 1st weekend and now about 20 new devices are registered per day.
      • Overall registrations on our network: 10,000
      • Connected Wireless Users: 1633
      • Internet Usage: peaking at 350 Mbps near midnight, average ~150 Mbps (daily 5 minute average). We have recently updated our bandwidth to 380Mbps.
    • User Services
      • There are currently 1,094 open tickets including problems reported to the Help Desk, work items, etc.
      • Closed: 8,983 tickets closed since we moved to our new tracking system May 31, 2011.
      • Tickets created, year to year: far fewer in July 2012 than 2011. One explanation is that there were more people changes (i.e. more NESU/Exits) in 2011. There are also far fewer records now created in our tracking system per NESU/Exit.
      • Project updates
        • Spaces: Furniture for Hovde is here. Damage to whiteboard reported. Multimedia planning is in progress.
        • Faculty Roll: Meeting with Nursing (including Rochester faculty) and Music this Fall because they are rolling Summer 2013. Will be checking in with other departments regarding LIS needs.
        • Staff Roll: Gathering inventory information in preparation to begin roll.
        • Labs & Software: We have a new license/subscription for VoiceThread. The URL is:
        • Technology Help Desk: Hired John Dimit, former LIS Technology Help Desk student worker, as temporary Help Desk Specialist. He started 9/13.
        • Circulation Desk: Transitioning the iPad Mobile Classroom pilot managed by Rebecca into a standard process managed by Eddy.
        • Collaborations: The basement AV room was used by a production company working on behalf of the college on Sept. 8.
        • The Norse Writing Center check-in process is being automated.
  • New Items
    • LIS Website
      • A number of options for the LIS Web Migration (from Drupal to Reason) were discussed.
    • Speech & Debate Center
      • The new Forensics organization plans to meet 8-10 p.m. Wednesdays in Room 100 (new Speech & Debate Center). We had anticipated that they would meet earlier in the evening. Eddy will monitor sound levels to see if this is compatible with students studying at this time.

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
ZOTERO Workshop Workshop Oct 3 2012 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
Creating a Faculty Website Using Reason Workshop Oct 15 2012 – 2:00pm 4:00pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
ZOTERO Workshop Workshop Nov 7 2012 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
ZOTERO Workshop Workshop Dec 5 2012 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open

Training and instruction is provided to the Luther Community through Faculty Development Sessions, Library Instruction Sessions, Product Demonstrations, Skills Training, Workshops, 1-on-1 Sessions, and Online Materials. To schedule a session, contact the LIS Technology Help Desk at x1000 or enter your request online at

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

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