Recently I’ve been getting some requests for what I have called The Improbable Source. An improbable source is some source students hope to find that is exactly on the topic of their research essay, especially when that topic is somewhat obscure. The example I used then that still stands out as the top of this category is “scholarly books and articles on email as a form of civic friendship.” You can double check the philosophical literature if you like, or you can take my word for it that nobody has ever published a scholarly book or article on this topic. When I first identified the existence of the improbable source, I suggested that the problem “is that they want sources that already do their work for them.” To some extent, that’s true. Almost always, the improbable source students desire is one that already supports the exact thesis they hope to argue. If they found the source, then they’d have to change their thesis. However, I now think the problem is larger than that. It’s not just about a hunt for improbable sources, but also about a hunt for unlikely conversations.
Excellent post on a phenomenon I have already encountered on several occasions in this my first semester at an academic library. I liked it so much I printed it out to have a visual reminder of this idea as I prepare future instruction sessions.
Kevin Smith at Duke draws the right conclusion from the ongoing outrage of the lawsuit against GSU.
In connection with my upcoming change in positions, I’m asking for recommendations for new blogs to follow about academic libraries and/or library instruction. I already follow a few, but only a few since my current job isn’t related to either of those things.
I acknowledge that I have been semi-absent from Tumblr and Twitter of late, for a very big and exciting reason: I’m starting a new job in January!
Long story short, my current position in Maryland is on a contract that was ending in September, then was extended until March. My job search frequently felt frustrating, but patience and persistence pay off: I have been hired as a reference (and instruction) librarian at a Christian liberal arts college in the Chicago area. My last day at my current position is Dec. 21st; my first day at my new position is Jan. 7th.
I’m super excited about this opportunity, but I’m still working out the logistics of moving 700+ miles over the holidays. Thus I’ve fallen somewhat behind on my usual reading that supplies the material for this account. For now, my focus is on packing, finishing my current work, and transitioning to the new position, so updates will continue to be irregular.
I hope to resume more regular updates around mid-January. I don’t expect the content of my Tumblr to change too much, though there will probably be more material oriented toward academic libraries and library instruction as I learn more about this aspect of reference work. :)
There seems to be a sense that if libraries can’t please everyone all the time, if they don’t have as much market share and mindshare as possible, they are not demonstrating their value and … and what? They’ll be closed? I can’t think of a single case in which that happened. Libraries ought to pay attention to the student experience, to the role libraries can play in learning, to the little human things that can make a library visit pleasant or a pain, and they should use imagination when it comes to what they can accomplish. But why does it matter so much whether students recognize our brand and find it valuable for their own self-interest? When did being liked become our mission?
A liberal arts degree might prepare graduates for life, but there is too little focus on the first job out of college. A professional education may do a good job preparing graduates for their first job, but that training is not likely to give the flexibility to prepare them for their second and third jobs. A program that combines these two approaches prepares graduates for the first job, their second job, and beyond. Students (and the parents of traditional age students) who are concerned about beginning their careers (and paying off their loans) should find this combination to be an attractive option. Employers should also prefer students who arrive as career-ready and prepared for life, in other words, with important professional skills but who are also prepared to advance in and contribute more to their businesses, institutions and communities.
Either way, I should think libraries are heavily involved in making this happen both from the perspective of providing access to resources as well as from the perspective of helping with the instruction necessary for students to be prepared to make a contribution in life (e.g. information literacy is important for voters to be well-informed).
1. Undergraduate students are not you at that age.
2. Every college/university has its own way of treating librarians.
3. For most students, asking librarian for help is a last resort.
10. You will spend more time in meetings than you can imagine.
There’s a choice academic and public libraries face. One is to focus entirely on providing access to the published information that our community members want. The other is to make libraries a platform for creating and sharing culture.
But we too have choices to make, both libraries and scholars. The next time your library spends $40 to get you an article you want to read, think about the implications. Is this really how we want to do it? Do we conduct research and write it up so that those who are affiliated with institutions that can afford to subscribe to lots of journals or can pay $40 for the temporary personal use of an article can have that knowledge, but nobody else can? Really?
If you want a depressing exposition of what you can and can’t do as a college student armed only with a mobile phone, read this article: Smartphones Bring Hope, Frustration as Substitute for Computers. It details all the limitations with smartphones as computers, a situation many poorer students with either no computer or no Internet access face. And let’s face it, without Internet access, a laptop might as well be a brick when it comes to research. Sure, many of us wrote numerous college essays on computers with no Internet access (and probably even some typewriters), but that was before most of the research material was online, back with journals and indexes were in print. With a wifi-less laptop, you could still do a lot of reading and writing, but finding and getting to that reading would be a lot more difficult. Imagine trying to all your college research and writing on a smartphone.
Dear fellow librarians, people who are returning to education as adults are easily scared away by overly complicated messages. Think about the content, timing and delivery of your messages from your customers and potential customers perspective, not from your own perspective. If you make them feel stupid or scare them off the first time they hear about you they are unlikely to ever come back because they have plenty of other ways to get just enough information that is just good enough for their purposes. Except for the very small number who are planning to take library courses they just do not need to know what a nested Boolean search is, most especially they do not need to know it in week one of their three or four year degree.
I would say that almost everyone is scared away by overly complicated messages, especially when it comes to them needing to find information to complete a task. (There’s a reason that Google is the prominent search engine! How much simpler can you get?)
Given that library systems are rather dumb on their own, librarians have been forced to focus so much effort on absurdly long and/or specific search strategies just to make the system cough up something even remotely relevant. Which is sad and somewhat pathetic. We as a profession should be able to do better than that by now. (And why are these things being taught when the search option provided by the library doesn’t even accept them? Something is wrong there.)
We’ve just added the following set of questions and answers to our FAQ for librarians, which is part of the rich package of resource pages that we’re maintaining to support users of the Code. As you’ll see, the impact of Judge Evans’ decision in the Georgia State University course reserves case on libraries following the Code should be fairly limited. The decision speaks directly to just one application of one principle out of the eight. In the narrow space where the decision and the Code overlap, they are arguably consonant in practice, though it seems Judge Evans is out of step with the library community on the theoretical question of “transformativeness.”
We hope this resource will help academic and research libraries as they determine whether and how the Georgia State course reserves decision should effect their own daily practice.
Figures. As soon as the other post goes up, I find another blog post I like on the subject. :) Some good points re: libraries are made in this post.
That doesn’t mean the decision is a total win for libraries and instructors. It’s a huge relief that most of the uses were found to be fair and that simply asserting possible financial losses would not automatically cancel out the other three factors. The judge found nothing compelling about the argument that publishers were threatened by fair use, but did imply that the fourth factor weighed more heavily if paying fees were made easy for the user. It’s worth noting that of the five infringing uses, four were from SAGE publications, and SAGE is the only one of the three plaintiffs that licensed permissions routinely for all of their books. There is now every incentive for publishers to assume all rights, leaving authors with little but the privilege of being published, and make payments slick and easy. It also provides incentives for institutions to avoid risk by simply paying up if that’s easier than thinking about fair use, simply passing the cost along to students or maybe the library. Can your students afford more expenses? How about your library? And to make things worse, the more money these licenses make, the more weighty the claim that not paying up harms the market.