ER&L 2014 — Freeing Knowldege: A Values Proposition

Barbara Fister at Left Coast Crime in 2008.
“Barbara Fister” by Mark Coggins

Speaker: Barbara Fister, Gustavus Adolphus College

She looked at a number of library mission statements, and they have a lot of passive terminology like “providing” for people and “life-long learning”. Our missions should be stronger to mirror the value the people see in libraries and our most deeply-held values.

Sometimes we’re more assertive. Take the Darien Statements from a few years ago, for example. “The purpose of the library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.” Char Booth says we’re shape-shifters, which is why we’re uncomfortable with these grandiose statements. But underneath all this, libraries remain the mavens of the information world.

We’ve internalized the commercialization of library services (from being like Barnes & Noble to becoming a copy of the Apple Genius Bar), to the detriment of our core values. We’re not a consumer good, but we are being viewed by some as such. Faculty, for example, consider us to be the purchaser of the things they need, and much less so a partner in information literacy.

We’re not Google or Amazon — we don’t spy on our users. So, it’s harder to figure out what our users need. And, our focus is hyper-local compared to the global data collected by G & A. Then there’s the financial piece — life-long learning means something different when we can’t (or won’t) provide access to our eresource once the student becomes an alumnus.

In the journal cancelation wars, big and global tends to win out over the small and quirky. But, now we can’t even afford the big and local, so we’re relying on ILL. “We’ll get it to you somehow.” The library isn’t really free to all, as much as we may want it to be.

One possible solution is to create communities of interest that isn’t limited by affiliation. We need to stop thinking of providers of stuff for a limited community, and to expand to connect our broader communities to knowledge. We need to work collectively across our borders to connect our infrastructures and services.

We need to provide alternatives to the market-driven philosophy that is destroying and corrupting our information ecosystem.

Another world is possible. Some associations, for example, are shifting their journals to open access models as they can. Some libraries are setting aside parts of their budgets to support open access experimental projects. The Oberlin Group is in conversations about creating a collective open access university press run by their libraries.

She spoke at length about faculty and library leadership opinions on this, which are pretty much what you would expect, and then went on at length about why we need open access, which is again, pretty much what you would expect.

We need libraries without borders.

NASIG 2013: Collaboration in a Time of Change

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

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

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: Adopting and Implementing an Open Access Policy — The Library’s Role

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 2013-06-10
“Open Access promomateriaal” by biblioteekje

Speaker: Brian Kern

Open access policy was developed late last year and adopted/implemented in March. They have had it live for 86 days, so he’s not an expert, but has learned a lot in the process.

His college is small, and he expects less than 40 publications submitted a year, and they are using the institutional repository to manage this.

They have cut about 2/3 of their journal collections over the past decade, preferring publisher package deals and open access publications. They have identified the need to advocate for open access as a goal of the library. They are using open source software where they can, hosted and managed by a third party.

The policy borrowed heavily from others, and it is a rights-retention mandate in the style of Harvard. One piece of advice they had was to not focus on the specifics of implementation within the policy.

The policy states that it will be automatically granted, but waivers are available for embargo or publisher prohibitions. There are no restrictions on where they can publish, and they are encouraged to remove restrictive language from contracts and author addendum. Even with waivers, all articles are deposited to at least a “closed” archive. It stipulates that they are only interested in peer-reviewed articles, and are not concerned with which version of the article is deposited. Anything published or contracted to be published before the adoption date is not required to comply, but they can if they want to.

The funding, as one may expect, was left out. The library is going to cover the open access fees, with matching funds from the provost. Unused funds will be carried over year to year.

This was presented to the faculty as a way to ensure that their rights were being respected when they publish their work. Nothing was said about the library and our traditional concerns about saving money and opening access to local research output.

The web hub will include the policy, a FAQ, recommended author addendum based on publisher, funding information, and other material related to the process. The faculty will be self-depositing, with review/edit by Kern.

They have a monthly newsletter/blog to let the campus know about faculty and student publications, so they are using this to identify materials that should be submitted to the collection. He’s also using Stephen X. Flynn’s code to identify OA articles via SHERPA/RoMEO to find the ones already published that can be used to populate the repository.

They are keeping the senior projects closed in order to keep faculty/student collaborations private (and faculty research data offline until they publish).

They have learned that the policy is dependent on faculty seeing open access as a reality and library keeping faculty informed of the issues. They were not prepared for how fast they would get this through and that submissions would begin. Don’t expect faculty to be copyright lawyers. Keep the submission process as simple as possible, and allow them to use alternatives like email or paper.