Archive for the ‘Changes in the Profession’ Category

What is a Library Function, or, When should the mission creep? Instruction Controversies.

Monday, February 13th, 2012

About Aaron McCollough

English Literature Librarian, University of Michigan

An interesting conversation is brewing on the ILI-I listserv (beginning with this post http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/ili-l/2012-02/msg00125.html) over the range and limitations of “library function” and “mission creep.” The specific question pertains to citation instruction and related questions of academic integrity. Although it is pretty well established in the various Information Literacy guidelines (ACRL, AASL, etc.) that knowing how to “use information” is a key student learning outcome (along with knowing how to locate and to evaluate information), there is plenty of room for debate about what “use” means. Thus, the poles of the discussion on ILI-I seem to be: proper citation is a writing issue and therefore outside the scope of library function–on the one side–and–on the other side: proper citation is both a writing issue and a library issue… we need to be collaborating with writing programs insofar as we can.

I’ve refrained from entering the fray up to this point. In part, my feeling is that others have expressed my basic position, which is something like this: we all recognize that the world of information is changing in deep ways and at fairly high velocity, and we also want to foster student learning in whatever forms that world is taking, so “mission creep” might not be the right analogy here. In addition to this, I’d add that I think proper citation and a focus on academic integrity are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spheres of overlap between the information literacy goals tacitly operating in most introductory writing course learning outcome statements and potential growth areas in library-based information literacy instruction. In other words, I think “writing issues” are “information issues” and that they are the responsibility of many programs/units (including writing programs and writing centers, obviously, but also libraries). I also think that framing this responsibility as a new burden rather than a new opportunity is unfortunate. I’d rather view it as a way to think about demonstrating our value in new ways. Evolving.

Don’t most of us LES members have a vested interest in seeing library instruction and writing instruction finding fellowship, especially as writing pedagogy trends towards focusing more on They Say, I Say-style engagement with the moves successful writers make and less on the traditional “research paper”? Shouldn’t we be trying to articulate what the library can offer students trying to make successful writing moves, and–anyway–isn’t this a vital question in how to “use” information?

ARL Guide to Fair Use for Librarians

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

About Aaron McCollough

English Literature Librarian, University of Michigan

Yesterday, in a conversation with faculty and graduate students, the question of fair use came up, as it often does. This time the problem had to do with making streaming copies of Iranian and Chinese films available (in their entirety) to students for class. This is a sticky problem of course, because “legitimate” streaming versions of these films are not easy to get. Asynchronous access to streaming films is extremely appealing to faculty, because it doesn’t cut into class time. Currently, there isn’t any easy solution. No news there. Happy to learn, however, that the ARL Guide to Fair Use has just been made available. Hardly filled with solutions, it is nevertheless a nice asset in the ongoing effort to identify what we can and cannot do in good conscience…

 

http://www.arl.org/pp/ppcopyright/codefairuse/index.shtml

ALA Awards in Cutting Edge Library Services 2012

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

About Aaron McCollough

English Literature Librarian, University of Michigan

ALA (OITP & LITA) has announed the winners of this year’s Cutting Edge Technology in Library Services awards. These are pretty cool projects. Even though these are very *techie* (in many senses) projects, they hold promise for all kinds of exciting implementations by our users.

Take a look:

 

  • Snap & Go, Contra Costa County Library, Calif. 
    Using QR (Quick Response) codes, Snap & Go serves as an innovative delivery mechanism for traditional library services. From local transit ads to posters to newspaper ads, Contra Costa County is delivering instant access to library materials and services to cardholders with mobile phones. By scanning the code with a reader on their phones, users are directed to downloadable e-books and audiobooks, virtual museum passes, interactive reference service, account and catalog search and readers’ advisory tools. QR codes placed on popular titles take readers to “read-alike” lists created by library staff. Usage of the library’s mobile site has increased 16 percent since Contra Costa implemented Snap & Go. http://guides.ccclib.org/qr
  • Participatory Platforms for Learning, New Canaan High School Library, Conn.
    New Canaan’s Participatory Platforms for Learning program strives to cultivate curiosity throughout the learning community and encourage experimentation with new tools for content creation, publication and participation. The program includes deploying the full complement of Google applications; advocating a culture of intellectual freedom; using Twitter for current events research; and using Facebook groups for students to record their research process and provide feedback to others in the group. The program enmeshes learning and the “real world” to teach students digital citizenship by encouraging them to become responsible information consumers, creators and contributors in the public domain. Their online portal is at: http://nchslibraryannex.blogspot.com/
  • Map Warper Toolkit, New York Public Library, New York
    The Map Warper toolkit allows staff and the public to virtually stretch (or geo-rectify) historical maps onto a digital model of the world à la Google Maps or OpenStreetMap, transforming old atlases into interactive spatial environments. Participants also can go deeper, tracing and transcribing specific map features into a growing public database. The project adds to the historical and scholarly record while engaging library patrons in building digital resources. The service is managed by the NYPL Labs group, developed in collaboration with EntropyFree, an open source geospatial software firm. The tools are in the process of being published to an open code repository for other libraries, scholars and cultural heritage workers to use and build upon. http://maps.nypl.org
  • Gimme Engine, Scottsdale Public Library, Ariz.
    The Gimme Engine mobile website helps customers find a great book to read based on a library staffer’s recommendation and review. Gimme combines library catalog MARC data, content enrichment service images and descriptions and library staff book reviews on Goodreads.com to create a unique experience. Gimme, which was developed with monies received from an LSTA grant, was created to meet a need stated by both library and non-library users; they wanted book recommendations powered by library staff. The Gimme engine is a creative solution to meet these customer needs. You can use Gimme for yourself by visiting: http://gimme.scottsdalelibrary.org

(original press release may be found at American Libraries news page).

Evaluating Digital Scholarship [PMLA]

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

About Aaron McCollough

English Literature Librarian, University of Michigan

All of us are faced with new questions about collections in the massively-networked digital age. The Modern Language Association has commissioned a special batch of articles on the subject of “Evaluating Digital Scholarship,” which is freely accessible on the PMLA site.

 

Susan Schreibman, the editor of the section, has this to say:

The series is introduced by Susan Schreibman, Laura Mandell, and Stephen Olsen, with contributions by  Steve Anderson and Tara McPherson (‘Engaging Digital Scholarship: Thoughts on Evaluating Multimedia Scholarship’), Geoffrey Rockwell  (‘Engaging Digital Scholarship: Thoughts on Evaluating Multimedia Scholarship’), Bethany Nowviskie (‘Where Credit Is Due: Preconditions for the Evaluation of Collaborative Digital Scholarship’), Jerome McGann (‘On Creating a Usable Future’), and Katheleen Fitzpatrick (‘Peer Review, Judgment, and Reading’).

These articles provide an important intervention as digital scholarship and digital scholarly methods and practices are becoming more mainstreamed into traditional academic work

For the most part, these pieces are not directly addressed to the questions and concerns of library collections, but the entire conversation is highly relevant for us, and I hope we might begin some conversation here regarding that relevance.

 

 

Post-text scholarship? What do English Lit. Librarians think?

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

About Aaron McCollough

English Literature Librarian, University of Michigan

Last week over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, Brian Matthews broached the subject of “post-text scholarship” and its relationship to the English major of the future. A presentation claiming that “Film & Media” are poised to become the “new” English major prompted his thoughts .

This may be true in a sense. It may be that “new media studies” are poised to overtake the study of literature in terms of popularity and pride of place in the academy. It is harder to believe that it will simply replace the English major or that English major will stop doing what it has been doing for the last century plus in exchange for a new curriculum. That is, of course, open for debate, but my sense is that new media studies is developing as its own discipline, sometimes overlapping significantly with English departments, sometimes growing into its own department. Also, new media aren’t that new. The cost of entry has dropped in the last decade from prohibitive to nearly nil, and distribution networks like YouTube have emerged where there once were none. As a result, proponents of multimedia literacy are well-positioned to argue for greater institutional attention to the subject. I think they are right to do so. This gets us back to an old question about the English major, however. Is it about Literature or about composition? Many (maybe most) people would say both, but the American academy is littered with all sorts of bureaucratic arrangements that suggest the question is unresolved. Some writing programs are securely housed within the English department. Some are fully independent. Some live in a space somewhere between departments. Then there are the writing centers. Some English departments are wholly separate from the “writing program” as such or partner with the writing center as a kind of service outpost. Some times these centers are basically departments in their own right, sometimes they are part of a bigger service enterprise (like the library).

My point is that thinking of New Media as the English major of the future might not be the best way. For many situations, it just isn’t accurate. Also, it feels like a scare tactic. English department chairs certainly can’t afford to ignore the popularity and power of New Media, and there will undoubtedly be a significant increase in English/New Media course offerings over the next decade, but YouTube videos and written argument is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Matthews’s post is interrogative for the most part, of course:

Imagine that the majority of students coming to your desk/office/studio are not writing a term paper but developing a video-based argument–using sound, data, images, and so forth. If this is how they are being evaluated, how do we help them? And likewise, if this is a major output for faculty and researchers, how do we enable them?

We tend to be a very text-based operation. And even as we migrate to digital content, it’s still text. What does this mean in a film-focused world? What’s the role of the library in a post-text world?

My feeling is that many silent assumptions are being made here. Certainly, we (the library, and we English Lit. subject specialists) need to be adapting to increasing “post-textual” needs, and based on local experience I can say that we are. But are we really heading for a “film-focused world” or a “post-text world”? Are we really meant to believe that A/V-based argumentation will be a replacement rather than a complement to “traditional” written argumentation? I’m skeptical, and it’s not because I’m old and set in my ways (although I may be both of those things).

I could go on, but I’d rather open things up for conversation. What do you think? Am I right to be skeptical? If you don’t share my skepticism, maybe you have thoughts on how we should be preparing for the future of video-based argument? Also, what about the other side of English department work (i.e., making new knowledge about literature, most of which is “historical” and “text”)? Whence Literature in an English major replaced by New Media studies?