NASIG 2013: Collaboration in a Time of Change


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CC BY 2.0 2013-06-10
“soccer practice” by woodleywonderworks

Speaker: Daryl Yang

Why collaborate?

Despite how popular Apple products are today, they almost went bankrupt in the 90s. Experts believe that despite their innovation, their lack of collaboration led to this near-downfall. iTunes, iPod, iPad — these all require working with many developers, and is a big part of why they came back.

Microsoft started off as very open to collaboration and innovation from outside of the company, but that is not the case now. In order to get back into the groove, they have partnered with Nokia to enter the mobile phone market.

Collaboration can create commercial success, innovation, synergies, and efficiencies.

What change?

The amount of information generated now is vastly more than has ever been collected in the past. It is beyond our imagination.

How has library work changed? We still manage collections and access to information, but the way we do so has evolved with the ways information is delivered. We have had to increase our negotiation skills as every transaction is uniquely based on our customer profile. We have also needed to reorganize our structures and workflows to meet changing needs of our institutions and the information environment.

Deloitte identified ten key challenges faced by higher education: funding (public, endowment, and tuition), rivalry (competing globally for the best students), setting priorities (appropriate use of resources), technology (infrastructure & training), infrastructure (classroom design, offices), links to outcomes (graduation to employment), attracting talent (and retaining them), sustainability (practicing what we preach), widening access (MOOC, open access), and regulation (under increasing pressure to show how public funding is being used, but also maintaining student data privacy).

Libraries say they have too much stuff on shelves, more of it is available electronically, and it keeps coming. Do we really need to keep both print and digital when there is a growing pressure on space for users?

The British Library Document Supply Centre plays an essential role in delivering physical content on demand, but the demand is falling as more information is available online. And, their IT infrastructure needs modernization.

These concerns sparked conversations that created UK Research Reserve, and the evaluation of print journal usage. Users prefer print for in-depth reading, and HSS still have a high usage of print materials compared to the sciences. At least, that was the case 5-6 years ago when UKRR was created.

Ithaka S+R, JISC, and RLUK sent out a survey to faculty about print journal use, and they found that this is still fairly true. They also discovered that even those who are comfortable with electronic journal collections, they would not be happy to see print collections discarded. There was clearly a demand that some library, if not their own, maintain a collection of hard copies of journals. Libraries don’t have to keep them, but SOMEONE has to.

It is hard to predict research needs in the future, so it is important to preserve content for that future demand, and make sure that you still own it.

UKRR’s initial objectives were to de-duplicate low-use journals and allow their members to release space and realize savings/efficiency, and to preserve research material and provide access for researchers. They also want to achieve cultural change — librarians/academics don’t like to throw away things.

So far, they have examined 60,700 holdings, and of that, only 16% has been retained. They intend to keep at least 3 copies among the membership, so there was a significant amount of overlap in holdings across all of the schools.

NASIG 2013: Knowledge and Dignity in the Era of Big Data


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CC BY 2.0 2013-06-10
“Big Data” by JD Hancock

Speaker: Siva Vaidhyanathan

Don’t try to write a book about fast moving subjects.

He was trying to capture the nature of our relationship to Google. It provides us with a services that are easy to use, fairly dependable, and well designed. However, that level of success can breed hubris. He was interested in how this drives the company to its audacious goals.

It strikes him that what Google claims to be doing is what librarians have been doing for hundreds of years already. He found himself turning to the core practices of librarians as a guideline for assessing Google.

Why is Google interested in so much stuff? What is the payoff to organizing the world’s information and making it accessible?

Big data is not a phrase that they use much, but the notion is there. More and faster equals better. Google is in the prediction/advertising business. The Google books project is their attempt to reverse engineer the sentence. Knowing how sentences work, they can simulate how to interpret and create sentences, which would be a simulation of artificial intelligence.

The NSA’s deals that give them a backdoor to our data services creates data insecurity, because if they can get in, so can the bad guys. Google keeps data about us (and has to turn it over when asked) because it benefits their business model, unlike libraries who don’t keep patron records in order to protect their privacy.

Big data means more than a lot of data. It means that we have so many instruments to gather data, cheap/ubiquitous cameras and microphones, GPS devices that we carry with us, credit card records, and more. All of these ways of creating feed into huge servers that can store the data with powerful algorithms that can analyze it. Despite all of this, there is no policy surrounding this, nor conversations about best ways to manage this in light of the impact on personal privacy. There is no incentive to curb big data activities.

Scientists are generally trained to understand that correlation is not causation. We seem to be happy enough to draw pictures with correlation and move on to the next one. With big data, it is far too easy to stop at correlation. This is a potentially dangerous way of understanding human phenomenon. We are autonomous people.

The panopticon was supposed to keep prisoners from misbehaving because they assumed they were always being watched. Foucault described the modern state in the 1970s as the panopticon. However, at this point, it doesn’t quite match. We have a cryptopticon, because we aren’t allowed to know when we are being watched. It wants us to be on our worst behavior. How can we inject transparency and objectivism into this cryptopticon?

Those who can manipulate the system will, but those who don’t know how or that it is happening will be negatively impacted. If bad credit can get you on the no-fly list, what else may be happening to people who make poor choices in one aspect of their lives that they don’t know will impact other aspects? There is no longer anonymity in our stupidity. Everything we do, or nearly so, is online. Mistakes of teenagers will have an impact on their adult lives in ways we’ve never experienced before. Our inability to forget renders us incapable of looking at things in context.

Mo Data, Mo Problems

NASIG 2013: Losing Staff — the Seven Stages of Loss and Recovery


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CC BY-ND 2.0 2013-06-10
“Autumn dawn” by James Jordan

Speaker: Elena Romaniuk

This is about losing staff to retirement, and not about losing staff to death, which is similar but different.

They started as one librarian and six staff, and now two of them have retired and have not been replaced. This is true of most of technical services, where staff were not replaced or shifted to other departments.

The staff she lost were key to helping run the department, often filling in when she was out for extended leaves. They were also the only experienced support staff catalogers.

The stages:

  1. Shock and denial
  2. Pain and guilt
  3. Anger and bargaining
  4. Depression, reflection, loneliness
  5. Upward turn
  6. Reconstruction and working through
  7. Acceptance and hope

The pain went beyond friends leaving, because they also lost a lot of institutional memory and the workload was spread across the remaining staff. They couldn’t be angry at the staff who left, and they couldn’t bargain except to let administrators know that with less people, not all of the work could be continued and there may be some backlogs.

However, this allowed them to focus on the reflection stage and assess what may have changed about the work in recent years, and how that could be reflected in the new unit responsibilities. The serials universe is larger and more complex, with diverse issues that require higher-level understanding. There are fewer physical items to manage, and they don’t catalog as many titles anymore, with most of them being for special collections donations.

They are still expected to get the work done, despite having fewer staff, and if they got more staff, they would need more than one to handle it all. Given the options, she decided to take the remaining staff in the unit who have a lot of serials-related experience and train them up to handle the cataloging as well, as long as they were willing to do it.

In the end, they re-wrote the positions to be the same, with about half focused on cataloging and the rest with the other duties rotated through the unit on a monthly basis.

They have acceptance and hope, with differing levels of anxiety among the staff. The backlogs will grow, but as they get more comfortable with the cataloging they will catch up.

What worked in their favor: they had plenty of notice, giving them time to plan and prepare, and do some training before the catalogers left.

One of the recommended coping strategies was for the unit head to be as available as possible for problem solving. They needed clear priorities with documented procedures that are revised as needed. The staff also needed to be willing to consult with each other. The staff also needed to be okay with not finishing everything every day, and that backlogs will happen.

They underestimated the time needed for problem-solving, and need to provide more training about basic cataloging as well as serials cataloging specifically. There is always too much work with multiple simultaneous demands.

She is considering asking for another librarian, even if only on a term basis, to help catch up on the work. There is also the possibility of another reorganization or having someone from cataloging come over to help.

[lovely quote at the end that I will add when the slides are uploaded]

NASIG 2013: The Value of Serials in Academic & Special Libraries


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CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 2013-06-10
“Xwi7xwa Library Interior 4” by UBC Library

Speaker: Megan Oakleaf

She had written a report for ACRL on the value of academic libraries, so this will be a take off on that as it relates to serials in libraries.

There has been a shift in the literature from talking about the stuff/products/collection to the service we provide to help our users do things with the stuff.

What is value in the context of serials? Some people equate the value of the serials collection to the level of satisfaction of the users. This is not a compelling metric in times of economic uncertainty. Another measure of value might be service quality, but the data from LibQual doesn’t get at it very well. What about input/output? We’re pretty good at counting volumes/titles, but this also not compelling.

Usage just tells us that a lot of people downloaded a lot of things, and not much more than that — certainly not what they did with it, if anything. Information as a commodity (i.e. users would have to spend $$ to get the content we provide) or ROI still doesn’t get at the real value of the information to the users, and getting to that number doesn’t really tell you how much users would spend if they had to.

Right now, impact is the trendy measure of value. It’s about how much good the users do with the serials collection that your institution values, rather than how good of a collection you have.

The context for value matters. It might be the institutional or organizational mission, goals, strategic priorities, or focus areas.

Higher education values student recruitment/enrollment, student learning outcomes, retention/completion, and career success. Where do serials contribute? Academic success, yes, but the volume count given by tour guides doesn’t impress. Journal articles in required reading and papers, and one way to measure the value would be the dollar amount of the reading/reserve lists. Alumni access is becoming more popular as graduates recognize the value of library resources after they complete their degree.

Higher education is also concerned with faculty recruitment, tenure, promotion, teaching, and grants/patents. ILL and delivery service is important — Oakleaf says she won’t go anywhere else without finding out about that first. Make sure the faculty hiring process includes some time at the library. With tenure and promotion, serials librarians can play a role in helping junior faculty determine where to submit articles and how to find citations. We need to articulate the connection between faculty output and library resources.

Higher education is concerned with institutional prestige and local & global workforce development. Libraries are the main draw for local economic forces, and providing access to walk-in users can show value.

Serials collections can save time and have an impact on the bottom line. In the medical environment, serials collections can save lives and provide patients with valuable information to help them maintain and improve their own health.

What are the focus areas of your institution? Where do serials intersect? How do you communicate that value to the people for whom it matters?

We need better data about use. We need to know more than what we have now. We need to correlate usage to GPA, but we can’t do that until we know more about who is using the content. And, no, we can’t prove causation.

We need use data that doesn’t exist. We need to know at what use should be there based on needs/requirements, but isn’t.

What does your communication about the value of serials look like? What concept of value is it based on? Even better, can you show that this will increase the things that your institution values?