Last week, my new issue brief on discovery came out. Since its release, there has been some very interesting discussion on the topic. I've tried to bring together some of the commentary from Twitter and blogs here and to suggest some future directions these imply for our community.
A point of departure for the paper is an analysis of library directors' responses to the strongly worded statement “It is strategically important that my library be seen by its users as the first place they go to discover scholarly content." While I have used the strong agreement with this statement to suggest that respondents wish for the library to serve as the discovery starting point, some members of our community believe that while the starting point role may erode it may remain essential for the library to play a role in discovery. For example, Lisa Smith suggested surveying a parallel statement: "It is strategically important that my library be seen by its users as a key place they go to discover scholarly content.”
It is also worth looking at how discovery matters affect different members in our community. Rob Townsend of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences noted that shifts in discovery pose a "particular challenge for humanities," which seems right given that many discovery environments are optimized more for the journal literature than for the diversity of materials that humanists value. Casey Kane remarked that current awareness "is much more of an issue in the sciences than in the humanities." While immediacy may be most significant in scientific fields, current awareness is important for scholars and researchers of all stripes, and the importance of the book review as a current awareness tool for humanists is notable. And it was interesting to hear from Fred Stielow that at an institution as non-traditional as the American Public University System, the library is returning to a curatorial role of developing what he called "pick lists" to help faculty members build course reading lists that can also serve as "controlled launching pads" for student research projects.
Bloggers have picked up on several other themes in the paper. Chris Bulock supports some new directions for discovery, such as a rethinking of current awareness and a curiosity about whether "opt-in personalization for library systems would allow us to respect our users’ privacy, agency, and better enable them to do the things they want to do." And Gavia Libraria (the Library Loon) suggests that some of the ways in which current awareness may be shifting will impact the trust and authority that publishers are able to provide at the title level for journals. These comments only serve to increase my interest in whether current awareness could become a strategic "master switch" for libraries and content providers alike.
Several commenters suggested that controlling discovery should not matter to the library, at least in the long term. Mike McGrath noted significantly that nevertheless "delivery takes place in or via" the library. On Twitter, John Mark Ockerbloom stated the case clearly: "I'm fine with discovery starting elsewhere, as long as readers end up with resources they need...often...library resources." But Pongracz Sennyey suggested a long-term possibility, that while his college's discovery service's single point of entry was a requirement that has served to increase content usage, over time it points towards "one more step towards distintermediation."
We have already heard from several libraries that this issue brief is serving as a jumping-off point for their discussion and internal planning processes. Discovery has clearly emerged as a big issue facing academic libraries, begging for real evidence and systematic analysis to support sound decision-making.
In the age of the ubiquitous single search box, what role do libraries play in the discovery of scholarly resources?
In this Issue Brief, Roger Schonfeld explores how the vision that the library should be the starting point for research—a vision many library directors hold—is often in conflict with the practices of faculty and students. As users migrate to other starting points, librarians could invest in ways to bring them back. But there is also an opportunity for librarians to re-think their role and perhaps pursue a different vision altogether.
Webinar: Learn About Ithaka S+R's Sustaining Digital Resources Course
We knew we needed to do sustainability planning, but weren’t sure how to get up the mountain or even where the trailhead was. This course was central to get us on the path.
—2014 course participant
We are pleased to announce that Ithaka S+R will be offering its highly successful course, Sustaining Digital Resources: A Course for Digital Project Leaders, again in 2015. If you are responsible for the future vitality and impact of a digital initiative, we encourage you to apply. The application deadline is October 15, 2014.
Beginning in January 2015, this intensive course will provide digital project leaders with the tools and skills they need to plan for the ongoing sustainability of the resources they have created. During the five-month program—bookended by onsite workshops in Princeton, New Jersey—participants will learn from expert faculty how to apply core business strategy to their projects. Working with a community of peers from across the academic and cultural sectors, participants will test and explore a range of sustainability models and develop an action plan to map the future progress of their digital resources.
The application form and more information about the course, including the full schedule and tuition rates, are now available on our website. Course director Nancy Maron is also hosting an informational webinar on Thursday, September 25, at 1:00 pm (EDT). Several participants from the 2014 class will be on hand to discuss how the course challenged them to create comprehensive sustainability strategies for their own projects. We hope you can join us for the webinar and look forward to seeing your applications.
Nancy Fried Foster Speaks on "The Student-Centered Library" at Montgomery College
Nancy Fried Foster, Ithaka S+R's senior anthropologist and noted researcher on students and libraries, will deliver a lecture on "The Student-Centered Library" at Montgomery College. Foster's seminal book, Studying Students, resulted from her work at the University of Rochester Libraries, where she was employed as director of anthropological research.
Academic authors in the humanities and social sciences often wait three or more years to see the first reviews of their scholarly monographs. Why does it take so long? As Oona Schmid, director of publishing at the American Anthropological Association (AAA), describes in our latest issue brief, it is because book reviewing still relies on a print-centric system. Thanks to funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the AAA is now developing a prototype to completely re-imagine the book review process to make it both "faster and cheaper." With a speedier book revew workflow in place, Scmid argues, publishers, authors, and the larger scholarly community all stand to gain.
For more information about the AAA's new book review prototype or to get involved, email Oona Schmid.
The Library Assessment Conference took place last week in Seattle, a valuable forum for those gathering and using evidence in support of library management and planning. I attended, with my colleague Alisa Rod, Ithaka S+R's surveys coordinator. The program included a diverse set of presentations on topics from information literacy to space planning. Ithaka S+R's local surveys were also featured in a number of sessions on the program.
Developing the Ithaka S+R Student Survey
Alisa and Heather Gendron, head of Sloane Art Library and coordinator of assessment at UNC Chapel Hill, spoke about how the Ithaka S+R local student survey was developed and tested. Heather spearheaded a cognitive interview process to ensure that the language of the survey questionnaire is well-suited for the population of students who take it, resulting in a variety of modifications. Alisa reviewed other aspects of the development and testing of the questionnaire and methodology, including her use of factor analysis to quantitatively evaluate the questionnaire following the pilot testing of the survey at six higher education institutions. This testing and improvement process is a real advantage of using a community survey such as the Ithaka S+R instrument, and I was glad to see the lively interest in the methodological techniques used to develop and test our survey questionnaire.
Maximizing response rates
Later in the program, Alisa spoke with Debbie McMahon of Baylor University about techniques for maximizing levels of response to surveys of faculty members. They shared practices and tips for achieving buy-in with key library staff such as liaisons, for structuring invitations and reminder messages, and for crafting incentives that help to achieve project objectives. We focus carefully with each local survey participant on techniques for maximizing responses, and we are constantly adapting our implementation guidelines to provide distinctive best practices for reaching various groups of faculty members and students.
Surveys and strategic planning
Lisa Hinchliffe, coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, organized a panel that focused on how to "close the loop" to establish real impact from survey projects. Eric Ackerman, head of Reference Services and Library Assessment at Radford University, spoke on LibQual and some of the service adjustments that its findings made possible. Heather Gendron spoke about running both the Ithaka S+R faculty and student surveys in the context of a major strategic planning process that has refocused the UNC Chapel Hill libraries on supporting the research lifecycle. Finally, Elizabeth Edwards, assessment librarian at the University of Chicago, described the Herculean task of performing a kind of meta-analysis of ten years' worth of assessment in preparation for a new library director and in anticipation of fielding the Ithaka S+R survey of graduate students. All three institutions have translated survey findings into various types of real impact.
Heather also spoke on a panel with Andrew Asher, the assessment librarian at Indiana University Bloomington, that looked at the Ithaka S+R local surveys in different institutional contexts. Chapel Hill and Indiana—two large research-intensive public universities—have both now run the local student and faculty surveys. This gave them the opportunity to compare findings from students and faculty members within and between both universities in order to enhance situational awareness in the context of campus-specific strategic priorities.
In an earlier post, I wrote about my LAC presentation on the potential role of assessment in library decision making.
There were many other terrific presentations on other topics, and overall it was interesting to see a real focusing of effort on the outcomes of assessment, which I believe is a vitally important issue for our community in coming years.
Last week at the Library Assessment Conference in Seattle, I gave a talk on "Vision, Alignment, Impediments, Assessment." As academic libraries face a variety of strategic issues, I argued, they need to consider how to implement evidence-based decision making processes more broadly in their institutions. There's a significant role for the assessment community in building such processes, and as libraries continue to invest in assessment, they have the opportunity to use data to address their challenges.
I reviewed some of the key strategic issues that face many academic libraries today, things like
- finding the right balance between collecting and community engagement,
- future format choices for books,
- the role of the library in support of discovery,
- the role and purpose of the library's spaces, and
- what sustainable roles there may be for supporting teaching and learning as pedagogies change rapidly.
Whether these are exactly the right issues for any specific library, my essential message was that library leaders can build decision-making processes for strategic dilemmas such as these, and not just for operational matters. Deanna Marcum and I covered some of the ways in which such decision-making processes can be structured in our recent issue brief Driving with Data. I believe there are real opportunities for library leaders to draw on the capacities of their assessment and user experience teams to bring evidence to bear in support of strategic issues.
I am grateful to Anne Cooper Moore (Southern Illinois University) and Scott Walter (DePaul University) for serving as panelists and sharing the library director’s perspective. They offered valuable reactions to my remarks, helping to focus our attention on the importance of identifying university priorities, and especially student success, in developing strategy for the academic library.
Rebecca Griffiths Discusses Social Network Mapping Study at EDUCAUSE 2014
Earlier this year, Ithaka S+R, in partnership with the Association of American State Universities and Colleges, the League for Innovation in the Community College, and Syndio Social, and with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, embarked on a project to analyze social networks among college and university faculty, staff, and administration to see how these networks advance innovation across campus.