Yesterday, I attended Columbia University's Book History Colloquium, which is sponsored by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where Andrew Stauffer, associate professor of English at the University of Virginia, spoke about “Traces in the Stacks: 19th-Century Book Use and the Future of Library Collections.” Observing the trend in academic and research libraries towards moving tangible collections offsite, and sometimes de-accessioning them, in favor of digital versions, Stauffer is concerned about the implications for scholarship.
Stauffer offered a richly illustrated tour of selected books found in the open stacks at libraries such as those at Columbia and Virginia, mostly focusing on 19th Century English-language literature. He showed example after example where correspondents wrote inscriptions, notes, doodles, and even extended correspondence to one another, on the pages of books. These books were held in family collections for decades and later incorporated into library collections during the expansion of collections in the mid-20th Century. The copies with this unique marginalia are distinctive and, even though the books themselves were mass produced and are held in general collections, many individual copies are not interchangeable with others.
Today, there is interest across many academic libraries in limiting the growth, or even reducing the size, of tangible print collections. While many libraries have acted on journals back files, government documents, and other serials, there is widespread interest in reconsidering monograph collections. For example, this spring, OCLC, CIC, and OSU hosted a symposium focused on opportunities to rethink the ways that print book collections are managed, shared, and preserved, especially in the wake of large-scale digitization. In his remarks, Stauffer made special reference to Constance Malpas's paper on Cloud-sourcing Research Collections.
Stauffer expressed concern that in managing down book collections, libraries will reduce what he evocatively terms the "bibliodiversity" of our library collections. In particular, he is concerned about the loss of "the greatest extant archive of the history of reading" –readers' markings. In response, he has been leading projects at a number of universities to review various library holdings to identify readers' markings and to begin estimating how widespread they are. At this point, he estimates that 5-10% of 19th Century English-language literature books have markings that are valuable enough to be considered for long-term retention, and he is beginning to think about how best to target works at greatest risk.
I continue to share the conviction that a format transition for books will look rather different than the one we undertookfor scholarly journals. Stauffer's work is providing additional evidence to help academic libraries find the right balance in revamping their management of collections without sacrificing those items that will be valued for scholarship.
ASERL Webinar: Roger Schonfeld on "What Role(s) the Library Should Play in Support of Discovery"
Discovery is one challenge that libraries face both strategically and managerially as they navigate through large-scale change. It is equally an example of the opportunities they can find by explicitly addressing their changing roles in a well-designed decision-making process that incorporates evidence and judgment. While many libraries have invested in a new generation of discovery services in recent years, many libraries have also held a long-standing vision for their fundamental role in discovery --serving as a primary starting point for research.
Rebecca Griffiths Presents on Best Practices in Collaborative Multi-Campus Online Learning
Rebecca Griffiths is presenting on "Best Practices in Collaborative Multi-Campus Online Learning" as part of a plenary session at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the North Carolina Conference of Graduate Schools (NCCGS). She will be joined by Matthew Rascoff, vice president for technology-based learning and innovation in the University of North Carolina system, and Scott Jenkins, vice provost for academic affairs and undergraduate programs at North Carolina A&T.
For more information about this event, please see the NCCGS website.
MOOCs in the Classroom? Results from a Controlled Study of Blended MOOCs in Public Universities
Join Malcolm Brown, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative director, and Veronica Diaz, ELI associate director, as they moderate this webinar with Rebecca Griffiths, Ithaka S+R's Program Director for Online Learning.
Technology: Its Potential Impact on the National Need to Improve Educational Outcomes and Control Costs
On Monday, October 13, 2014, William G. Bowen delivered the opening address at Rice University's De Lange Conference, "Technology: Its Potential Impact On The National Need To Improve Educational Outcomes And Control Costs." We are pleased to publish it here as an Ithaka S+R issue brief. Bowen, who is president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and also president emeritus of Princeton University, was the founding chairman of JSTOR/ITHAKA and continues to serve on ITHAKA's board.
The paper explores the extent to which higher education in the United States is falling short in satisfying the nation's need for improved educational outcomes and how technology might be employed to overcome the significant hurdles colleges and universities face. But, technology is not a panacea, and Bowen believes that faculty roles and higher education governance itself will need to evolve if we are to reach our goals of having more students attain degrees in less time and at a lower cost.
This spring, Ithaka S+R will be publishing, in conjunction with Princeton University Press, Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education. This book, co-authored by Bowen and Eugene M. Tobin, touches on many of the themes in this paper. To receive an announcement about its publication, please use our sign up form.
William G. Bowen
Deanna Marcum is moderating "The Spaces Between: A Research Agenda between Libraries, Publishers, and Vendors" at the Charleston Conference on Thursday, November 6, from 12:45pm - 2:00pm. The panel includes Joseph J. Esposito, Processed Media, Roger Schonfeld, Ithaka S+R; and Susan Stearns, Boston Library Consortium.
Evidence-Driven Decisions on Library Space in the Digital Age: A Pre-CNI Workshop
The future of the monograph is of great interest to many humanists, scholarly publishers, and academic librarians. Last year, I wrote an issue brief, Stop the Presses: Is the monograph headed toward an e-only future?, that suggested the monograph's digital future would prove to be much more complicated than what has been experienced thus far for journals. Yesterday, ARL’s fall forum, provocatively titled Wanted Dead or Alive – The Scholarly Monograph, served to confirm that the possible transition from print to digital format may in fact be an opportunity to revamp the nature of scholarly communications for the humanities. Here are some highlights.
The morning featured an opening keynote and panel that worked to imagine the form of the scholarly monograph. Laura Mandell, director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities at Texas A&M and a literary scholar, spoke about transforming from a monograph to what she called a “virtual research environment.” She argued that static forms of disseminating scholarship will give way to interactivity, so that a reader can examine the underlying primary sources and data to reach one’s own conclusions while reading a work of scholarship, reaching down towards the primary sources. In describing a future where “we will communally examine evidence,” Mandell seemed to envision a role for the author more as facilitator of a dialogue about a given set of evidence than as the authority on that evidence. While the discussion was engaged and wide-ranging, what stuck most with me was Mandell's observation that "the paradox for English [graduate students] now is that while it is very difficult to get tenure and promotion for digital projects, it is very easy to get a job," suggesting troubling pipeline incentives.
The panel that followed engaged richly with all these questions, although using somewhat different formulations. Stefan Tanaka, a UCSD historian, suggested that the form of the monograph – the impenetrable academic analysis – restricts scholars’ audience and sterilizes the joy of learning. He suggested a number of ways to rethink the way that history is organized – moving away from linear narratives, or towards problem-based rather than place-based instruction – which would suggest a very different future for the monograph, the textbook, and the course reader. Perhaps because he focused on history rather than literary criticism, Tanaka's approach was more about moving up from the primary sources towards their analysis. Timothy Burke, a Swarthmore professor, touched on a number of related issues, including especially how digital scholarship is recognized. He emphasized that digital scholars have to assume the burden of explaining their work, time and again, but that some translational efforts, such as a panel of experts assembled by a scholarly society, could be helpful for peer review and tenure case efforts. David Schulenberger took more of an economist's perspective. He spoke convincingly about the need for humanistic scholarship that is more accessible to the general reader if for no other purpose than to serve as an enabler for interdisciplinary scholarship, and he emphasized that some of the challenges facing efforts to reshape the monograph are generational and therefore transitory. In the discussion period following this panel, Tanaka spoke suggestively of the heartbreak for a scholar to have time to write a book only to a standard "good enough for tenure" rather than crafting the best possible work on a given topic. And there was general agreement that, as Burke suggested, "we have allowed...a lot of the purpose of scholarship to turn into a type of productivism," where work is created for its own sake, rather than in response to the needs of one's scholarly community or audience.
It was extremely interesting to hear about some of the major initiatives taking place globally. Roger Tritton shared some key highlights of Jisc’s National Monographs Strategy, which recognizes the essential connections among licensing strategies, changing business models, digital platforms, and library systems. Even if a national-level strategy would prove elusive in the US, such systematic thinking about how to draw disparate elements together in a way that supports the real needs of students and academics has relevance to all. At Athabasca University Press, leadership from now-retired university president Frits Pannekoek helped to bring forward an open access strategy for monographs, journals, course books, and soon textbooks as well. An organizational synergy, given Athabasca University’s mission and the real personal commitment of its then-president, unquestionably helped to pave the road for innovation in these areas. It was refreshing to have untraditional business models, such as advertising, on the table during this session.
Elliott Shore of ARL spoke about the AAU/ARL prospectus for an institutionally funded first-book subvention. First books are an especially challenging issue, and it is reassuring that AAU and ARL are spearheading new thinking in these areas, since challenges facing PhD programs and the tenure track are richly if problematically connected from the dissertation through its revision as the first book. Don Waters of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided an overview and update about the foundation's contemplation of a broad rethinking of humanistic scholarship and scholarly communications. Waters made clear that Mellon does not have an ideological perspective in support of open access but rather is looking for opportunities to ensure that the humanities stay relevant and vital as the role of text changes in our society. To this end, Mellon is considering support for the universities that serve as the home for humanists, to help support the placement of their scholarship on a more open basis at presses.
There were a number of other excellent presentations, and many good respondents and facilitators. As I reflect, there were several key themes across the day: moving away from bolstering the monograph and towards supporting the humanities; issues of audience and whether and how it might be deepened or broadened; and the possibility of a reduced role for the author as expert authority. The efforts coming out of Mellon, AAU/ARL, Jisc, and beyond, have a tremendous opportunity to shape our response to these themes.
For more on the Fall Forum, see Colleen Flaherty's piece in Inside Higher Ed, "Can the Monograph Survive?"
Ithaka S+R's Roger Schonfeld and Ben Showers of Jisc will speak on "Nurturing Leadership, Innovation, & Skills for Data Analysis & Decision-Making" at the 2014 RLUK (Research Libraries UK) meeting on November 13 at the Library of Birmingham.
Sustaining Digital Resources
Sustaining Digital Resources
Ithaka S+R's "Sustaining Digital Resources" course kicks off in January 2015, with applications due on October 15. Wondering if the course is right for you?
During this webinar, course director Nancy Maron, Ithaka S+R’s Program Director for Sustainability and Scholarly Communications, will answer your questions about the course, its goals, and the application process.
We hope you will join us!