This Week in LIS - 10 May 2013

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Headline of the Week: Electronic Books as Class Texts

Yesterday I came across an interesting article. It seems Coursera has struck deals with a number of textbook publishers. The deal enables electronic versions of the publishers’ textbooks to be used for free during the course of the MOOCs. Right to access materials has been a challenge with MOOCs. It’s one thing to specify materials for a course and another for those taking the course to get access to them. Free courses, free materials; funded by venture investments and experimentation dollars. This will be quite useful for those most enabled and motivated and full of “grit.”

The article went on to talk about the sensitivity that students have to the cost of books and other materials for their courses. I believe this sensitivity exists independent of the course model and it is increasing. What can be done?

At Augsburg the guidance came down to consider the cost to the students in texts we chose to use. It was this guidance that led me to discover FlatWorld Knowledge. At the time their online texts were free. Now they are “affordable”. My kids sourced their books from several sources and one parameter was always cost. Talk to any of our students and they will share their stories about how they manage the cost of their books. The worst approach I have encountered is students simply not buying the books and hoping to make it through the course through lectures/discussions alone.

Preus has licensed a number of e-book collections. One, ebrary from ProQuest, contains approximately 90,000 academic books. One very useful term in the license is that it can be viewed/checked out simultaneously by any number of our users. In the last twelve months approximately 4000 books from of our ebrary were used. This is a big number but not a very high percentage. Nevertheless purchasing (or borrowing; an interlibrary loan costs about $20) 4000 books even at $20 per book would cost $80,000. This collection costs less than a tenth of that figure. The information is the same. The medium is different.

We are considering adding another e-book collection. It includes approximately 110,000 titles, only 41,000 of which are also in the other collection. Given what we have we can think about this proposal as acquiring access to another 69,000 unique academic books for much less than even the other collection.

These “big deals” for libraries are analogous to the “long tail” Netflix phenomena. You get access to an extraordinarily large set of materials and the more the collection is used the less your per usage cost is. If you take out the physical costs, the marginal cost for an electronic copy is nearly zero. That and the electronic access are key to making the “long tail” work for both consumers and providers.

How might we leverage these collections that cost about 1/10th as much at current usage levels? It seems reasonable that in a combined collection of 160,000 unique academic e-books there would be useful and meaningful texts for our students. We have seen examples of teachers choosing such e-books for assigned readings. Students do not each need to buy a copy. There are no more concerns that reading wasn’t accomplished because a physical copy on reserve was not available. Everyone has full opportunity to do the reading and be prepared for class discussion.

This seems a great way to help our students manage their book costs; use materials from the e-book collections. Librarians are ready and available to help students and faculty navigate these collections to find materials that fit their needs. I can imagine students will very much appreciate neither having to buy another text nor waiting in line to get access to a reserve copy.

Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

Coursera leaps another online learning hurdle, partners with Chegg and 5 publishers to give students free textbooks

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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
      • Rachel shared metrics on traffic to the archives including nature and duration of interactions.
      • Team members will participate in the 5th anniversary commemoration for the Postville Raid on May 10.
      • A grant application for the Historical Resource Development Program (HRDP) is due on May 15.
      • Planning continues for the Archives Leadership Institute. The pace quickens as the time gets closer!
      • The team is leading a records management survey and review. The goal is to deal with both digital and physical records.
      • A project is underway to improve the accessioning workflow.
    • Software Development
      • The target date for switching over to the new Reason based LIS website is the end of May.
      • There are a number of new solutions being considered including document imaging, loan collection, human resources searching, and box office ticketing. Candidate solutions under consideration are “cloud” based. Marcia and Paul have been working on the process by which we understand and ultimately negotiate security related considerations in such contracts. We have started with customizing a security checklist as a way to gather much more specific information about security from the vendors.
      • Marcia and Sherry Alcock have met to talk about staffing implications for the document imaging project. Marcia is also following up on some references for the vendors competing for the backfile scanning.
      • A key piece of work is underway on the Datatel SQL Server migration project. The customizations are being brought over to the new SQL Server based system. When this is done we anticipate getting a much better view of when we can plan the switchover. Thanksgiving would be good timing if we can build a schedule and staff the remaining work.
      • IT Audit material is due May 24.
  • New Items
    • Strategy Days
      • Jennifer and Paul shared the current thoughts for the LIS Strategy Days to be held this summer. We tentatively decided that Day 1 would include StrengthsFinder and a Celebration of the past year’s accomplishments and that Day 2 would include Team Sharing of their 2013-14 objectives and the setting of final LIS priorities for the upcoming academic year. In between the two days, LIS staff will meet in their teams to identify their 2013-14 objectives.
    • KATIE Support
      • With the growing use of KATIE on campus, we discussed options for providing additional training and support resources.
  • Returning Items
    • Budget
      • With remaining 2012-13 LIS funds, we made decisions to purchase: a streaming setup, replacement projectors, charter membership to ArchiveSpace, UPS batteries for the server room, and a Campus Manager appliance. Additionally, plant funds will be established to upgrade the wireless in Main, SHL, Valders and to upgrade the storage area network (SAN) during the 2013-14 year.

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
Science Teaching and Learning May 13 2013 – 3:30pm 5:00pm Open
Teaching and Learning in Compressed Terms Faculty Development May 20 2013 – 4:00pm 7:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Nobel Open
Advising at Luther: Workshop for Faculty Advisors (Day 1 of 2) Workshop May 23 2013 – 9:00am 4:00pm Baker Commons Open
Advising at Luther: Workshop for Faculty Advisors (Day 2 of 2) Workshop May 24 2013 – 9:00am 4:00pm Baker Commons Open
Science Pedagogy and Practice Jun 1 2013 – 6:00pm Jun 3 2013 – 3:00pm TBA Open
Enhancing Student Learning Through Information Literacy and Technology – Summer 2013 Faculty Workshop Workshop Jun 3 2013 – 9:00am 12:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Closed
Enhancing Student Learning Through Information Literacy and Technology – Summer 2013 Faculty Workshop Workshop Jun 5 2013 – 9:00am 12:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Closed
Enhancing Student Learning Through Information Literacy and Technology – Summer 2013 Faculty Workshop Workshop Jun 6 2013 – 9:00am 12:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Closed
Constititional Law (Day 1 of 2) Workshop Jul 9 2013 – 9:00am 12:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Mott Open
Constititional Law (Day 2 of 2) Workshop Jul 10 2013 – 9:00am 12:00pm Open
Next Generation Science Standards: Discussing implications for Luther science programs (Day 1 of 2) Workshop Jul 11 2013 – 9:00am 4:00pm Open
Next Generation Science Standards: Discussing implications for Luther science programs (Day 2 of 2) Jul 12 2013 – 9:00am 12:00pm Open
Luther Admissions: Building the first-year class Workshop Jul 17 2013 – 9:00am 12:00pm Open
Paideia 111 & 112: Reading the Works (Day 1 of 2) Workshop Aug 19 2013 – 9:00am 4:00pm Main 114 Open
Luther sudents and the ability to reason Workshop Aug 22 2013 – 9:00am 4:00pm 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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