This Week in LIS - 17 September 2010

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

Headline of the Week: The Value of Academic Libraries

This week the Association of Research and College Libraries (ACRL) released a report addressing a critical challenge not only for academic libraries, but also for higher education broadly – defining and communicating value. The full report is available online and was compiled by Dr. Megan Oakleaf of Syracuse University (Dr. George Kuh, Luther ’68 and current Luther Regent served on the Advisory Committee for the report). The report is recommended reading though it raises conflicting thoughts for me as we consider the questions raised by the report and how they translate to our work here at Luther.

I think the report is spot on when it comes to defining the work and value of libraries within the context of their host institutions, in our case our colleges and universities. There is a strong call for better assessment of what our users need and the importance of delivering tools and resources to meet those needs. There are also direct calls to link the outcomes of the institution to the work of the library (graduation rates, job success, other areas of student and faculty achievement), and to better connect ourselves to accrediting and assessment bodies to be better positioned to tell the story of how libraries create value and improve the product of our institutions. These ideas are good, sound and should have focus for libraries seeking to deliver user-centered services with value.

Here at Luther, our Library and Information Services organization has developed a list of organizational goals that focus directly on the work of our users and our support of Luther broadly. Our mission statement also directly affirms our commitment to supporting and fulfilling the mission of Luther College, and the students, faculty, and employees we serve. The report affirms these priorities and our overall philosophy of service within the larger institution.

However, I can’t help but sense a more troubling undertone that runs through the report – encapsulated partly in this sentence from the Executive Summary:

Community college, college, and university librarians no longer can rely on their stakeholders’ belief in their importance. Rather, they must demonstrate their value.

I read a few conclusions into this statement:

  • Historically, our profession has been complacent about understanding the importance of value.
  • Currently, our stakeholders are questioning the value of the services we provide.

I take the release of this report as something of a call-to-action and it will be interesting to see how a response develops. I agree that we have been complacent about understanding our own value with a somewhat egocentric view of the importance of library service and information literacy. We’ve had willing accomplices to this end in faculty, and I believe have relied on the fact that in the information-scarce world, we held all the currency. In the information-abundant world, that is no longer the case and everyone from the students to the faculty to the executive suite realize that libraries may not be as central to information service as they once were. Thus the increasing questions about our value – and the importance on finding it and communicating it.

The report includes a lengthy list of next steps that are recommended. I find this list to be a little too introspective, with a slight slant of “if we study and document this enough, then we’ll prove that we really do add value.” The assumption there is that we are adding value in everything we do. I don’t know that that statement is universally true. Indeed, what happens if after studying the impact of libraries on graduation rates we don’t find significant correlation? I would have preferred to have seen a stronger push to challenge our assumptions about the work we have done in the past, and that perhaps value isn’t just documented, it is created. The report’s conclusion does draw this out:

When academic librarians learn about their impact on users, they increase their value by proactively delivering improved services and resources—to students completing their academic work; to faculty preparing publications and proposals; to administrators needing evidence to make decisions. Indeed, the demonstration of value is not about looking valuable; it’s about being valuable.

I would have liked to have seen more in the report about how we create value. While the report recommendation that we “Determine what libraries enable students, faculty, student affairs professionals, administrators, and staff to do” pushes in this direction, I’m struck that this has to be a major recommendation of the report. The implication is we are either not doing this or not doing it well. What does that say about our profession?

The question of how we create value is a great one and one that I think we need to continue to discuss here on campus in our context. I look forward to having more of those conversations and continuing to advance many of the ideas in this report as we seek to push beyond in creating real value for Luther.


LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

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


LIS Ideas

This spring, LIS launched a community website to gather ideas for how we can improve existing service, help prioritize proposed new services, and figure out what other services can be retired. Since that time, LIS staff, as well as Luther faculty, staff and students have visited to add their votes and ideas. TWILIS will periodically highlight some of these ideas and signal how LIS intends to respond.

Student laptops
Require incoming students to have a laptop. Require that it meet minimum specs.

Response: There has been a good discussion about this on the Ideas site and the general idea of requiring students to have technology in order to expand adoption has merits and challenges. It is an initiative that is much bigger than just LIS, and would need to involve significant coordination with the administration and faculty in order to connect it with curricular goals. It also comes at an interesting time in the evolution of technology. Just this week, Best Buy released figures that suggest the iPad has cut into laptop sales by 50%. If that holds true, significant investment in laptops may not be the right path to pursue. Does that mean investment in some sort of tablet makes sense? Perhaps, but that technology is too new to consider wide-scale deployment in order to achieve significant benefit.

What is most important is that we continue to evaluate how best to improve information fluency among our students – including providing them the opportunity to use current and future technologies in ways that are relevant and useful. We do that well in some areas and not so well in others. While I don’t see us pursuing a laptop program in the near future, it is an idea that will continue to be around and as the technology infrastructure changes, may become a more compelling opportunity to pursue.

Have you thrown your two cents into the idea pot? If not, we welcome you to do so at http://lutherlis.ideascale.com/.


Notes from LIS Council

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

  • Statement of Responsibility / Mobile Phone Changes
    We are still working with the Dean of Students office to finalize the definition of directory information. Marcia is drafting text describing policies on mobile information.
  • Ropes Course
    Diane is coordinating a final date and time with Greg Lonning and will publicize the date/time shortly to those interested.
  • Student h: Drive Quotas
    Quotas were reduced this summer. New students received 1GB. Existing students with less than 1GB already online were reduced. Those with more than 1GB kept their old quotas.
  • Sustainability Link on all campus workstations
    Diane is following up with exactly what the request is given that we’re not 100% sure where the links are being requested.
  • Blog Headlines
    Generally, we’d like to have the titles to blog posts express a complete idea with both a subject and a verb. This is more helpful for those outside of LIS and Luther. Chris will make a blog post with suggested guidelines.
  • GoPrint for LIS
    We’d like to move forward to get GoPrint functioning on staff LIS print queues in the library.
  • DRI Recruitment
    We have approval to begin this recruitment and will be doing so very shortly.
  • 50% Recycled Content Paper
    Luther has as part of our strategic plan to move toward 50% recycled content for paper. Because this paper has poorer-quality fibers, it can create issues for printing and copying. We’ll be referring information to the Sustainability Council for review and possible revision of our goal.
  • Recent Art Acquisitions Wall
    The Fine Arts Collection would like to exhibit new acquisitions in a prominent location on the main floor of the library. They’ve suggested the location just around the corner from the elevator (where the large painting now hangs).
  • LIS Ideas
    We discussed a proposal to require student laptops.
  • IT audit management issues response
    Three issues were raised, each relating to security for Datatel. Two recommendations have been implemented and the third requires a significant infrastructure upgrade.
  • CNI
    Luther’s membership in the Coalition for Networked Information includes two registrations to the annual Task Force meetings. The next meeting is in December.
  • Dress Task Force
    Still looking for a final volunteer for the group.
  • Library Faculty Carrels
    We have a request for use of a carrel and are working with the Dean’s office to resolve the request.
  • Project Directory Review
    We’ll review this next week.

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
Geospatial Coffeehouse Project: Coffeehouse Assessment and Planning Dec 9, 2010 Join colleagues for informal, open-ended discussion about support, teaching, and research with geospatial technologies in the liberal arts. Today’s topic is “Coffeehouse Assessment and Planning” and will be moderated by Sean Connin (NITLE).
Digital Scholarship Seminar: Infrastructure and Support for Digital Scholarship in the Clouds Dec 10, 2010 Seminar organizers encourage faculty, instructional technologists, librarians, and others interested in digital scholarship, digital humanities, and related projects to attend this seminar in institutional teams, if possible.
Geospatial Coffeehouse Project: Topic To Be Determined Nov 18, 2010 Join colleagues for informal, open-ended discussion about support, teaching, and research with geospatial technologies in the liberal arts. Today’s topic will be announced, and will be moderated by Justin Grigg (Alfred University).
Geospatial Coffeehouse Project: What Are You Doing On Your Campus? Sep 23, 2010 Join colleagues for informal, open-ended discussion about support, teaching, and research with geospatial technologies in the liberal arts. Today’s topic is “What are you doing on your campus?” and will be moderated by Carol Cady (St. Lawrence University) and Alex Chaucer (Skidmore College).
Geospatial Coffeehouse Project: Teaching with ArcGIS 10 Oct 28, 2010 Join colleagues for informal, open-ended discussion about support, teaching, and research with geospatial technologies in the liberal arts. Today’s topic is “Teaching with ArcGIS 10” and will be moderated by Sharron Macklin (Williams College).
Digital Scholarship Seminar: Digital Scholarship Projects Nov 12, 2010 Seminar organizers encourage faculty, instructional technologists, librarians, and others interested in digital scholarship, digital humanities, and related projects to attend this seminar in institutional teams, if possible.
Digital Scholarship Seminar: Undergraduate Digital Humanities Courses Sep 24, 2010 Seminar organizers encourage faculty, instructional technologists, librarians, and others interested in digital scholarship, digital humanities, and related projects to attend this seminar in institutional teams, if possible.
Digital Scholarship Seminar: Oxy’s Mellon-Supported Digital Scholarship Summer Institute for Faculty Oct 22, 2010 Seminar organizers encourage faculty, instructional technologists, librarians, and others interested in digital scholarship, digital humanities, and related projects to attend this seminar in institutional teams, if possible.

A full list of events (sortable by registration deadline) is available at http://www.nitle.org/events/calendar.php


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
Research in Nursing: Health Care Management Library Instruction Sep 21 2010 – 11:30am 12:00pm Valders Closed
Voice Seminar Library Instruction Sep 21 2010 – 6:00pm 7:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Closed
Password Management Faculty Development Sep 23 2010 – 11:00am 12:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Open
THD 243: Costume History and Design Library Instruction Sep 23 2010 – 12:45pm 1:15pm Closed
Reason Web Training Workshop Sep 23 2010 – 2:00pm 4:30pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
ART 104: Foundations: Visual Thinking Library Instruction Oct 4 2010 – 2:30pm 4:30pm Rare Book Room – Preus Library Closed
REL 312: The World of the Bible Library Instruction Oct 8 2010 – 8:00am 9:00am Rare Book Room – Preus Library Closed

Quote(s) of the Week:

  • “The goal of the copyright industries is to make sure that digital goods have all of the restrictions of physical goods (i.e. can’t be copied freely), but none of the legal advantages of physical goods.” – Court limits right to sell used software
  • “A teacher who can be replaced by a machine should be.” – Arthur C. Clarke
  • “The best way to find the needle you’re looking for in that haystack is to organize the hay. We need to understand how pieces of information relate to each other, or they’re not useful.” – Using Human Effort to Make Semantic Search Useful

Image of the Week: Reference Desk Made of Old Books

This desk is made of recycled books. These pictures don’t do justice to how lovely it looks : very tactile and appealing. TU Delft architecture bibliotheek

» via Recylcart


Links of the Week

infoneer.pngThe links and media above are selected from material posted to pulse.infoneer.net, 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“:http://feeds.feedburner.com/infoneer


Next Issue

The next issue of TWILIS will be published on Friday, September 24, 2010.


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 5, Number 3 (#170)

Content is made available under Creative Commons license. Creative Commons License