Improving How We Support New Professionals: The Resident Librarian Program

Temple’s Resident Librarian program is now in its third year, and we have started the recruiting process for our 2nd cohort of resident librarians. I sat down with the program administrators Richie Holland, Director of Administration,  and Sandi Thompson, Head of the Ambler Branch library, to learn more about how they incorporate an assessment process to insure that this important initiative is successful.

NT: Tell me a little about the resident librarian program here at Temple. What was the impetus for initiating the program?

RH: Well, this has been on my back burner for a long time. The University of Delaware had a long standing program named in honor of civil rights leader and historian,  Pauline A. Young. Here at Temple Libraries, our overall goal is to provide mentoring and support the diversification of librarians in the profession.

As the library’s Human Resources person, I’ve attended several meetings at ALA and I participate in the ACRL Residency Interest Group. I reached out to colleagues at other institutions with programs like this, and also talked with participants in resident programs. There is a bit in the formal literature, but most of my “research” was talking with others with experience.

ST: And then we also had the Temple/Drexel/Penn staff development day, with Jon Cawthorne. He’s also part of the ACRL Diversity Alliance.

NT: What does a successful program look like? What are you aiming to accomplish?

ST: We want to instill in our resident librarians confidence as they move into a career position. They will have experience in several areas of librarianship, and have solid accomplishments, or projects that they’ve completed.  They know what it takes to be a professional. And of course we want them to thrive in their next professional job.

We had to think about how best to accomplish this. For instance, we deliberately organized the program to fit the interests and needs of the resident. They take responsibility for developing a program tailored to their interests and the experience they want.  Then we provide them with lots of support – regular meetings with us, with their mentors, with site supervisors, and healthy travel support. We picked the brains of residents at other libraries on how to structure our program to make it really attractive to prospective applicants.  One thing that came out loud and clear was to hire more two, providing the librarian with a ready cohort.

Once our resident librarians were in the program we set up different ways of “checking in” with them to insure all was going smoothly. For each rotation, the librarians wrote up their experiences, and we talked with site supervisors about what was working; the strengths and weaknesses for each experience.

NT: I know you have been carefully tracking on the program over the last two years. Tell me about some changes you are making this next cycle, based on that experience.

RH: Yes,  we asked the current residents to provide us with feedback, as well as others involved with Temple’s program. We made a couple changes to the job description.  For instance, candidates need to know they will be working with diverse management styles, and be amenable to that. Of course, that flexibility is a life-skill for all of us. Since we’re building a culture of assessment here at Temple, we added language about decision-making informed by data.

We want to recruit candidates who are a good fit for these positions, and having the right job description gives a more accurate sense of what the resident experience is like.

We’re also evaluating the timing of the different rotations – we did four, some libraries do as many as five. We want the librarians to have adequate time to complete a substantive project in their rotations. Then of course in their second year they stay in one department.

With each step of the process, from recruitment to the program structure itself, we’re continually tweaking, to make sure it works for everyone.

NT:  We don’t always think of “assessment” taking place in the HR area, but you both have modeled a process that fits that definition – you identified a goal, or something you wanted to accomplish, you conducted research into other programs, you set up the program and sought feedback continuously and from multiple sources on how well the program was working and how it could be improved, and then finally, you are making adjustments to improve the program going forward.

So thanks for sharing the process.

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ACRL Conference Points the Way: Reports from the Field

Last week many of us headed down to Baltimore (along with 3400 other librarians) to attend the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) biennial conference. By all reports, it was great learning experience, plus it’s always fun to catch up with colleagues from here and other institutions. Since there was so much going on, I asked my Temple colleagues to share their highlights.

We were all inspired by the keynotes – an exceptionally diverse and stimulating set of speakers included data visualization “rock star” David McCandless (Information is Beautiful), writer and feminist Roxane Gay on the meaning of diversity, and our amazing Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden.

Steven Bell reports that he was asked about Temple’s new library about 100 times. He attributes this to his participation in the panel discussion Ready or Not? Pressing Trends, Challenges, and Tech for Libraries – about the NMC Horizon Report 2017 Library Edition.

Fred Rowland found Andrea Brooks’  Shifting the Discourse: Information Literacy as an Opportunity to Address Intellectual Virtues  of interest, the concept that intellectual virtues like open-mindedness, self-awareness, respectfulness, curiosity, and flexibility are embedded in the ACRL Framework. Citing Jason Baehr, Brooks argued that instruction librarians should invest more energy in instilling these intellectual virtues in the students they are addressing. Also provocative for Fred was Addicted to the Brand?: Brand Loyalty Theory as a Means of Understanding Academics’ Scholarly Communication Practices Cara Bradley applies the perspective of branding theory from marketing to understand the role “brand” plays when scholars and scientists choose to submit their work. Open access journals might compete for effectively if attention was paid to this kind of branding.

The panel Rebecca Lloyd found particularly interesting was Reference: The New Dirty Word. She reports, “The topics addressed were very similar to the discussions we’ve had here about shifting librarian roles, student worker training, librarian visibility, etc.  Even though it wasn’t new territory, it was reassuring to hear that other libraries are also struggling with these questions and finding that no matter which approach they choose, there are trade-offs and aspects of the service model that need further improvements.  The main take-away was that there is no “right or wrong” on the future of the reference desk.  It’s individual to each institution and there are variety of viable paths forward.”

A presentation that stood out for Natalie Tagge was Nicole Cooke’s invited talk, “How would you like to be remembered? Expanding your pedagogy and professional practice”. The presentation described Univ of Illinois’ School of Information Sciences classes dedicated to issues of diversity, social justice, and race, gender and sexually, attempting to infuse these concepts throughout the curriculum.

A useful session for Erin Finnerty was,  ‘Everything you wanted to know about predatory publishing but were afraid to ask.’  providing a comprehensive snapshot of the current state of predatory publishing, as it relates to the role of librarians and researchers.  Erin reports that “the Q&A session was particularly fruitful, and she gave useful recommendations for educating the different members of our user community – undergrads, pre-PhD students, faculty, etc.”

I asked my colleagues what they thought they might try here at home. Natalie says this: “I may consider experimenting with making course guides organized by research process instead of organized by type of source. I saw a poster (Pathfinder or Pedagogical: Transforming Course Guides for Student Success) about a research study indicating that students retained more from guides organized around the research process. I think this could actually work well for any instruction sessions focused on evidence based practice.”

Noting how many academic libraries are involving students for peer support, Steven would like to continue our own conversations about how work and train students in making such a program a success here.

Assessment continues to be of interest.  Several of us attended Metrics Selection across the Research Life Cycle, featuring Chris Belter, the Bibliometrics Informationist at the National Institutes of  Health Library. She pointed out (perhaps this is obvious) that metrics need to be question centered, and that having “lots and lots” of metrics, though each imperfect, allows us to triangulate to establish a better view of reality.  Erin notes that NIH has an “incredibly informative LibGuide that outlines their major data aggregation and visualization tools, and provides article recommendations and examples of their work.“ Take a look at: http://nihlibrary.campusguides.com/bibliometrics

Annie Johnson’s take on the conference: “The best part of ACRL was meeting people from other libraries who are working on similar initiatives and projects.”  Rebecca also enjoyed networking: ” I am still quite new to being a ‘history librarian,’ and it is very helpful to chat with librarians at other institutions who are dealing with similar responsibilities and challenges.”

Congratulations to Annie on her poster presentation, as well to Steven Bell (a panelist and a poster-presenter).  And thanks to everyone who shared their ACRL stories.

Finally, the food highlights: Jack & Zach’s lunch counter veggie burger,  falafel, beets and an ancient grains salad from Cava Mezze, broiled rockfish, and for me, a sausage, peppers & provolone sandwich to take out and eat on a park bench, once it hit the 70s.

Note: The ACRL conference proceedings are freely available online at: http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2017/ACRL2017_A.pdf  All 778 pages.

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Grounded or Toppling Over? The Three-Legged Stool of Assessment Culture within the Organization

Today marks my third year at Temple University Libraries – a good time for reflection on how the organization has developed a culture of assessment. One thing I have learned. An assessment librarian does not a culture of assessment make. The practice of continuously asking questions of ourselves, our value to the institution, considering the metrics and research methods appropriate to those questions and values – it takes time to embed that practice into our work.

When I interviewed for this position, I began my presentation to the staff with this slide, composed of a word cloud based on definitions of the word culture:

I asked, “What would a culture of assessment look like?”, suggesting that it meant having a shared value system among staff about the benefits of assessment practice in how we do our work – that practice then becomes a pattern of behavior and is incorporated into the thinking about our work and  improving our service to users. I think this concept still holds true.

Organizational Development

A culture of assessment must be more than the “doing” of assessment. It requires us to analyze, reflect on, and act upon our findings. For instance,

  • We must consider changes based on our focus group data, our surveys, our usability testing, our interviews with faculty.
  • We must then share our findings with staff and external audiences, and make explicit the changes we are making (or not) based on research findings.

This feedback loop is essential, and is continuous.

How do we empower our staff with the skills to do that research? It’s easy to gather data, but we need methods that insure the data and their interpretation are sound. This constitutes the organizational development aspect of building culture – in which assessment is not limited to a few but all staff are empowered with the skills to participate.

Strategic Planning

In 2014 here at Temple Libraries/Press we established an annual strategic action planning process that included an expectation for assessment with each objective. As new initiatives and ongoing ones are considered, we ask ourselves:

What does success look like? Ideally, that answer will be more than a count, but a measure of impact or growing reach into our communities.

  • Is our instruction program effective? How do we know that our students are incorporating critical thinking skills into their research and coursework?
  • Are we reaching new audiences? How are those communities engaged in our programs and how might they support the library in other ways?

These measures of impact (and return on investment) are much harder to determine. Gathering that evidence requires a commitment to planning and sustained support for a robust technical infrastructure for data collection, analysis and access.

Finally, a culture of assessment requires that these questions of effectiveness, self-examination and advocacy are systematically integrated into the fiber of the organization.

  • Are we reviewing our operations in light of our values for transparency, developing staff and collaborating across departments?
  • At budget time, do we review our spending and our work flow efficiencies as we justify new funding requests?
  • When a position goes vacant, do we reconsider that position within the organizational direction and new priorities?

In my three years I’ve learned (and as Lakos and Phipps discussed 13 years ago*) that organizational development, strategic planning and assessment serve together to balance that three-legged stool, and only with alignment in these areas will the stool stand firmly on the ground.  Equally essential are the staff, the participants in this culture, that bring assessment alive as a true shared value for the library.

Three years in and we are definitely on the ground.

*Lakos and Phipps, Creating a Culture of Assessment: A Catalyst for Organizational Change (portal: Libraries and the Academic, Volume 4, Number 3).

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From Assessment to Leading Change in Windy, Wet Atlanta

Coke is king here in Atlanta, so I was surprised to see comedian Paula Poundstone with a Pepsi for refreshment during her hysterical stand-up routine in front of 500+ librarians at the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting. She made much fun of our love for meetings, meetings to discuss meetings, and meetings to discuss those discussions.  I’m more fortunate than some, with only four official meetings to attend, from the ARL Survey Coordinators meeting to the editorial board meeting of ACRL Library Trends & Statistics, LLAMA Assessment Organizational Practice and ACRL’s Assessment Discussion Group. Thank goodness for the comedic relief of Poundstone!

But it was a productive conference, and I had the opportunity to learn quite a bit as well as meet up with former colleagues.  That’s one of the highlights of conferences for me. We learn from these personal networks as well, of course. At the ACRL Assessment Discussion Group, one of our topics was what libraries are doing to support student retention. Anne Moore (former colleague at New Mexico State, now Dean of Libraries, UNC-Charlotte), updated us on what’s going on in her library.

At UNC Charlotte card readers are installed throughout the library – outside study and instruction rooms, at the circulation desk, outside the building, and at the Speaker Center. (This space  is run by Communication Studies and is more than a presentation room. It is staffed with graduate students who can coach and critique practice presentations). Space user data is connected to not only Banner data (for demographics) but also responses to the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement). This is all pulled into a SQL database to which Tableau points, allowing UNC Charlotte  to create compelling data visualizations that demonstrate relationships between use of the library spaces (accessible to all, 24 hours a day) and students’ grades.

An ongoing programmatic theme for ALA is the future of research libraries, changing roles of library staff and strategies for supporting that change.

One of the best was Joseph Zolner’s Managing Change & Fostering Innovation. Hofner is Senior Director, Harvard Institutes for Higher Education. He led the ACRL Leadership group through an activity where our table came up with an initiative (ours was to increase diversity in ACRL membership, and then identify various types of change resistance: from loss of control to fear of uncertainty, to recognition of real threats. To learn more, take a look at Rosabeth Kanter’s article, Managing the Human Side of Change in Management Review.

Kathleen deLong (University of Alberta Libraries) spoke as part of an ACRL program on Leadership for New Roles. Referencing the Transition Leadership Wheel, she spoke of the need for balancing opposing “forces.” Capitalizing Strengths but Going again the Grain; Instilling a Sense of Urgency yet Being Realistic and Patient. Key to getting the right balance is trust.

Good message, and one that resonated with me.  Change is hard for us all, but trust and balance are key.  And I suppose, being true to our core values. Like Paula and her Pepsi.

 

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Assessment Reflections 2016

January is a time of reflection – this post is just that, some ideas that sparked my interest last year, with hopes of delving into them more deeply in 2017.

Sunday morning’s radio listening was doubly-rewarding, as I heard two of my favorite woman in media: Krista Tippett, host of On Being: The Big Questions of Meaning, interviewed Maria Popova, the creator of Brain Pickings, an amazing weekly compilation of her reflections on vast and deep reading in a range of literature, from science and philosophy to poetry and children’s books. Popova covers deep territory in the interview, from the perpetual process of identifying self, to the balance of acquiring new information (easy) to thinking and knowing (hard). She has real skepticism about our pursuit of productivity, or the illusion of busyness as real productivity. But back to assessment.

Are We Using the Right Data?

Towards the end of the conversation Tippett asks Popova how she measures success; what external success might look like. My ears perked up. This is a question I am continually asking of my colleagues, as a way of considering appropriate measures for assessment. Popova describes how she used to pay attention, and “hang her sanity” on metrics such as Facebook likes and retweets. They are “so tempting and so easy because they’re concrete. They’re concrete substitutes for things that are inherently nebulous.“

But she says now, the “one thing that I’ve done for myself, which is probably the most sanity-inducing thing that I’ve done in the last few years, is to never look at statistics and such sort of externalities. But I do read all of the emails and letters — I also get letters from readers. And to me, that really is the metric of what we mean to one another and how we connect and that aspect of communion.”

Popova’s words eloquently express thoughts I’ve had this year related to data and meaningful metrics. We talk of data-driven decision making, but is the data we are using the right data? Can numbers alone measure success?

If we are going to make changes based on evidence, whether qualitative or quantitative data, we need to agree on those measures of success. Decision making for organizational change comes about through a collaborative negotiation of shared program goals and agreement as to how success will be evaluated.

Assessment and Organizational Structures

I’ve also been thinking a good deal about how assessment and organizational structure are connected. This year I participated in many teams, (Single Service Desk Design, Physical Collections, the Ithaka Religious Studies Faculty project, the Data Dashboard group). It makes sense, as much of our work in assessment necessitates a team organization.

I think these projects work well, are exciting and promote mutual learning – because of some factors:

  • there is a common goal – sometimes there is a formal charge, but not always.
  • they bring together interested staff members who bring expertise, but also a motivation and belief in the project at hand
  • they also allow for a less departmentalized, “silo’ed”, work towards innovation and problem solving. Teams work best if there is partnership and collegiality rather than hierarchy.
  • and ideally, teams engaged with research and assessment use their findings to promote organizational change

But that organizational change only comes about with agreed upon evidence for those changes.

So in my own role as assessment librarian, I battle with these two, almost contradictory things, all the time. How do we balance our value for data-driven decision making, while recognizing that these measures are imperfect in describing the complexity of real life and what is truly meaningful? Your thoughts, welcome!

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When Numbers Fail Us

The recent election demonstrated in a powerful way the limits of data, in this case a multitude of polling numbers, towards understanding, or planning, for our  future.

hillary-wins

New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/presidential-polls-forecast.html

As an assessment librarian who counts on numbers to tell a story, I could not help but take this “failure” to heart. In our talk of data-driven decision making – what are we missing? Are we not asking the right questions? Or do our lenses (rose-colored glasses?) prevent us from seeing the whole picture?

I touched on this topic at the recent Charleston conference, where I participated in the panel Rolling the Dice and Playing with Numbers: Statistical Realities and Responses.

I discussed balancing the collection of standard library data elements over time, in order to discern trends, with the changing nature of metrics required to provide a meaningful reflection of the 21st century library’s activities and resources.

Last year, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL, ALA) formed a joint advisory task force to suggest changes to the current definitions and instructions accompanying the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Academic Libraries (AL) Component.

For example, the IPEDS instructions for counting e-books originally said to “Count e-books in terms of the number of simultaneous users” – a problem if we have a license with no access restrictions. Another example is IPEDS’ request that libraries NOT include open access resources, including those available  through the library’s discovery system. Not only can this be a difficult number to collect, but counting only the resources “we pay for” goes against the library’s value of making available quality, open access resources to its community.

A continuing discussion on library liservs is related to whether our traditional metrics were “meaningful”. The question was prompted by the publisher of Peterson’s College Guides requesting we report a count of a library’s microforms. We must ask ourselves, “What sort of high school student selects a school based on the library’s collection of microfiche?”

Increasingly, I am frustrated by the “thin-ness” of our metrics, the data that we use to measure ourselves and our success. Not just that it doesn’t tell a robust story. But it also seems to pigeon-hole us with an out-dated notion of what the library does and the service it provides.

Usage metrics are proxies, but are not measures of success. We need to dig deeper. Our instruction statistics demonstrate growth in sessions and students served. Yes, we reach out to faculty and we may be asked back into the classroom.  But are we able to demonstrate real learning? How are we demonstrating effectiveness? For instance, we might be more deliberate and systematic in collecting data related to our partnerships with teaching faculty –  developing better course assignments; end of year feedback loops on student learning.  These are harder, a little fuzzier, but arguably more important, measures of our library work.

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Lighting the Path with Assessment

path-of-light

Every two years librarians engaged with assessment gather together to share stories, methods, and research findings. We inspire one another as we work toward creating a culture of assessment at our institutions. This year 600+ of us met in Crystal City (between Arlington and Pentagon City) at the Library Assessment Conference sponsored by the University of Washington and the Association of Research Libraries. Conference organizers invited keynote speakers with the expectation of providing us with provocative food for thought —  these two did not disappoint.

Lisa Hinchliffe (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) spoke of Sensemaking and Decision-Making.

Hinchliffe noted that higher education is experiencing increasing competition and financial pressures. This environment requires libraries to “pivot” – to re-consider what is central to our work and what we can leave behind.

  • What is the new work we can do?
  • Are we prepared to step up fast enough so that our funders can see our value fast enough?

The value the library creates is not just economic, although shared services and collections DO create economic value, as important are the values of equality-building (i.e.  inclusion, equity and social justice).

And assessment can serve as a map, or compass, towards the future – a kind of strategic guide. While an assessment program allows us to see different directions that are possible, it can not tell us which path to choose. The path must be selected based on how best we align our resources to our goals. How best to demonstrate, with evidence, our outcomes and value. Yes.

The next day we heard from Brian Nosek, University of Virginia, on Promoting an Open Research Culture. Nosek also directs the Center for Open Science (COS).

Through several participatory activities, Brian demonstrated that we can not help but experience the world through our own mind. Once we see a picture, it can be hard to see it another way. We all looked at the Horse and Frog Illusion, and while half the room saw a horse, others saw a frog. Try it out here.

In the research world, this idea relates to open access to data. Crowdsourcing the analysis of data makes for a more accurate and neutral picture of reality. Silberzahn and Uhlmann reported on an experiment with 29 teams of researchers, all answering the same research question with the same data set.

They found that the overall group consensus was “much more tentative than would be expected from a single-team analysis.” Crowdsourcing research, or bringing together many teams of researchers can “balance discussions, validate scientific findings and better inform policymakers.” (See the article in Nature)

Nosek went on to describe the Open Science Framework as an infrastructure for creating more open workflows that increase process transparency, accountability, reproducibility, collaboration, inclusivity and innovation. Exciting and important work.

So how does this apply to assessment? If nothing else, perhaps it will make us more humble as we talk about decision-making with data. We need to recognize that the data can tell many stories, and if we are to be honest and diligent in our work, we need to be open to the many ways in which those data can be interpreted and used.

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Finding the Sweet Spot for Library Instruction

This month’s issue of The Journal of Academic Librarianship features the research findings of Barbara Junisbai, M. Sara Lowe and our own Natalie Tagge, Education Services Librarian at the Ginsburg Health Sciences Library.  Natalie and I talked about her compelling assessment project and its implications for practicing a more strategic approach to library instruction.

Nancy: What was the research question that you had?

Natalie: Well, the abstract to the paper nicely sums it up. We were looking to assess the impact of programmatic changes and librarian course integration on students’ information literacy skills.

Nancy: Since the research was conducted at your former library, can you tell me a bit about the school and the context for the research?

Natalie: Sure. Our study was conducted at Pitzer College, one of five undergraduate colleges that make up The Claremont Colleges. The library serves as the academic core for all the colleges. Of course each of the colleges has a personality, Pitzer is informally known as the “hippy” school! It’s small (1000 students) and the focus is on liberal arts college with strengths in environmental and interdisciplinary studies.  All the students across Claremont are required to take a First Year Seminar and  the seminar includes broad learning goals that include information literacy.

Nancy: How did you decide on your methodology?

Natalie: We wanted to use a rubric for a couple of reasons. We knew we wanted to look at research papers, the final product of the First Year Seminar. Rubric assessment is a good way for multiple people to evaluation/score work. Papers were collected from three consecutive years of First Year Seminar classes, a total of 337 papers from 44 courses. The librarian component for these classes changed between 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively, allowing us to gauge impact of the librarian engagement with the class on the quality of student work, as expressed in the final paper.

Nancy: How did you develop the rubric you used?

Natalie: We didn’t want to re-invent the wheel. Carleton College had already developed a rubric that was well aligned with the ACRL (Association of Research and College Libraries) standards for information literacy.  The rubric is designed to assess written work in three areas: attribution; evaluation of sources and communication of evidence (integration of sources into the paper). We asked for permission to edit and use Carleton’s tool,  and also had the opportunity to review it with Megan Oakleaf, who is an expert in rubrics and instruction assessment (Meganoakleaf.info/publications.html).

Natalie: In addition to applying a rubric to the papers, the final product of these classes, the degree of librarian involvement was scored on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being no involvement and 4 representing practically a co-teaching arrangement. This method was to determine the optimal mix of librarian involvement that would yield positive results on student papers.

Nancy: Will you tell me about your findings?

Natalie: Faculty collaboration with librarian had a demonstrated impact on student IL skills. But there is a faculty librarian collaboration “sweet spot” which is the “intermediate level” of collaboration.

This can include many things. For instance, the librarian is listed on the course syllabus as a trusted resource. There is often an online course guide. Ideally, the librarian visits the class twice – the first time to introduce the library and the second time to conduct an assignment-related session. Often there will be a course assignment that includes use of the library – like a bibliography attached to the paper. This proved to be was the optimal level of involvement, the most strategic.  Librarians self-reported this information, but we also used our instruction statistics.

Faculty also needed to hear this message – that assignment design, and a strategic instruction session, is the most impactful for improving students’ information literacy skills.

Nancy: How did you use the results of the research?

Natalie:  We presented to faculty the findings as a way of advocating for the benefits of library instruction. The research served as a basis for discussions with faculty. For instance, the one short session does not appear to be the best – a little bit more librarian involvement would lead to good gains in information literacy.

Nancy: Do you have thoughts on how this research would translate here at Temple?

Natalie: Temple has a very different population, and in particular, the students served by the health sciences library. So we need to look at the classes and the possibilities within the curriculum, being strategic and targeting the classes we spend time providing outreach to.

Nancy: Thanks, Natalie. Important research. I like especially that you used it to work with faculty to dialog about the different ways, and most strategic ways, librarians could work with their class and students. Thanks for sharing.

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Assessment Anytime, Anywhere

mm-machine

Yesterday’s staff carnival was a fun affair – lots of opportunity to meet new colleagues and learn about all the different areas of the libraries and press. Thank you Continuing Education Committee!

The Library’s Assessment Committee hosted a table, nicely appointed with displays of Association of Research Library reports ( to which we contribute), examples of data visualizations, and this blog site featured live on a laptop. We had the opportunity to introduce many staff members, and not just new ones, to the work we do.

We sponsored a numbers quiz as well. You can take in now (see below), but you won’t get a “prize” of peanut M&M cleverly dispensed from a gum ball “machine.” As typical of our collaborative efforts, the dispenser was on loan from Cynthia Schwarz and crafted by her grandfather! To tell the truth, it was the highlight of the table.

The quiz seemed like a fun way of challenging and impressing staff with the levels of activity here at the library, from the numbers of downloaded e-journal articles to the reach of our programs into the university and community.

After the event, I thought that I might have used this “assessment” in a different way. I might have tallied the results and presented them here. Just as a way of demonstrating a kind of assessment in a fun way.

So this time around we’ll do the quiz online and save the answers, conducting a brief assessment of how well staff have memorized these numbers. Just kidding, but do

numbers-quiz

Take the quiz

And let us know if these numbers surprise you.

 

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Speaking of Scholarly Communication: Interviews with Faculty

Last week staff from Reference & Instruction, Access Services, the Press, Digital Scholarship Center, Special Collections,  Digital Library Initiatives, and Library Administration gathered for a conversation to share findings from a series of interviews we librarians had this past spring. Annie Johnson, with Greg McKinney, Rebecca Lloyd, Steven Bell and Kristina DeVoe talked with 7 faculty members in the humanities and social sciences about their use of social media, how they view open access and new trends in scholarly communication.

In a separate project, as part of the Ithaka S+R disciplinary research, Fred Rowland, Rebecca Lloyd, Justin Hill and I interviewed 12 faculty from Temple’s Religion Department. Our interests were similar: How do faculty choose where to publish their scholarship? How do they view new forms of scholarly communication? Are they using Twitter or other social media to share their research?

Here is some of what we learned:

Choosing a Publisher

Faculty continue to select publication venues based on the prestige of the publisher and journal. While there is no codified “list”, it is common knowledge in a discipline. The benefit of publishing with traditional publishers continues beyond tenure and throughout a scholar’s professional career – as merit points are assigned based on this prestige factor. When seeking an outlet, faculty “do not take chances” – typically, smaller, more focused journals are not ranked as highly.

Faculty seek a press who will actively market their book. They favor those publications with an efficient turnaround time, particularly when they are on the tenure “clock”. This urge for expedited publication  means they tend not to pay much attention to copyright and license agreements when signing off on the rights to their work. And the journal subscription cost is not a particular concern.

Open Access

Faculty we spoke with, all from the humanities and social sciences, do not consider that open access journals have the degree of prestige they seek. Many feel their tweeting and blogging, serves the purpose of making their research widely accessible. This very public activity makes it less incumbent on them to publish in formally open access journals.

That said, there was a wide range of attitudes about open access – from one scholar who is an advocate and very deliberate about his choice of open scholarship, to those who understand this to be the equivalent of posting one’s scholarship on a “random web site.” Graduate students are interested in new models for disseminated their research, but put off by the idea of an Article Processing Charge. Although this business model is not used in the humanities, the mis-information persists.

Discussing the various business models for journals let to a lively discussion about the library’s role in this kind of work. Many libraries, and ours as well, have a fund to support these APC’s associated with publishing in an open access journal. Our cost for a subscription has turned into a different type of cost. Annie, our Scholarly Communication specialist, attests, “Library supports dissemination of research to the world’ and this is how it fits within the Library’s mission. This is an expansion of the library’s role in supporting the scholarly apparatus.

New Modes of Scholarly Communication

For some, Twitter has replaced academic conferences for learning of trends in the field. A faculty member referred to it as the “new water cooler”. We spoke with a faculty member who archives his tweets to use as a journal for tracking his scholarly path. Other scholars were wary of social media – as scholars thinking about sensitive topics in religion, they may feel vulnerable about posting on potentially controversial topics. The disciplines certainly have different cultures of social media use.

Research into  Practice

Many Library/Press staff already follow Temple faculty and Temple authors on Twitter. It’s a way of providing support, of staying attuned to news and trends. We discussed tools like, “If This Then That” and Hootsuite for managing social media in a more efficient way.

To better support faculty and their questions about publishing issues and in  particular, license agreements, we discussed a kind of KnowledgeBase or closed archives online that would provide Temple scholars with suggestions for alternative license language, particularly for areas that are negotiable. The tool, useful for librarians and faculty, could provide definitions for better understanding of pre-prints and post prints. While faculty have awareness of “better and worse” agreements, they have little free time to think about it.

Thanks to all who participated in the conversation. It was great to share our findings with colleagues and to discuss practical implications  based on the research. For those interested in hearing more of the Ithaka interviews with religious studies faculty, please take a look at our Final Report.

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