Monday, December 22, 2008

Texbooks in the Library

I am still frustrated with finding way that issues, problems can be tracked within our library. I just thought of starting a personal blog with some of the issues I see, just so there is some sort of time line, but I realized I already have a library blog going, I could post here about these issues.

Here are a few e-mails from the fall 2008 semester on the issue of textbooks in the library. I am sure we will run into this problem again come January, but for now, I don't think any of us have the time or energy to expend on this, but I think this issue should still be kept in some sort of queue:

>>> Maira Bundza 9/29/2008 >>>

I am still getting textbook questions, where the book is not available at the bookstore. It seems to me that this year this has been more of a problem than other years. Are we in on some sort of discussion between faculty the bookstores and the libraries about textbooks? I understand that it can be difficult to order the correct amount of books, if the number of students is unknown. I am so thankful for those rare classes that do ask the library to purchase a copy of their text and put it on reserve, so the students can at least prepare for their classes. I believe it was Wayne State (someone I talked to recently) that as a rule purchases all the text books needed for undergrad classes and puts them on reserve. (I'm trying to imagine the space that takes up, but then again they had a pretty big space behind the circulation desk.) I know that is not our policy and I understand the reasons, I am just saying I got the sense that it was a bigger problem this year than previous years (that is why I am copying Maria, maybe it's just me), and if there is any way in which we could make life less frustrating to students...

>>> Maria Perez-Stable 9/30/2008 >>>
No, Maira, it's not just you. I hear the same thing (the bookstore is out of books) and I just cringe. To me this is an indication of something not right at our university. I don't recall this happening in my own student days. At the last ACRL I saw a poster session (and maybe it was from Wayne State) where they got a pool of funds and bought some of the textbooks from some of the lower-level lecture classes to put on reserve.

I actually DID find the poster session and have sent the librarian an email. Let's see if she responds. Yes, I do think CD would be the place to start the discussion.

>>> Barbara Cockrell 9/30/2008 >>>
We can discuss this at to tomorrow's CD meeting if you like. I cant say I am very keen on the idea. Apart from budgeting for this need the major issue would be the organization/administration of it. If someone at Central Reference is willing to take responsibility for identifying the classes and books that we would supply that might help convince me. I do not feel that I have the time to take this on at present and I do not want to be responsible for determining which classes are selected and which are not. Its not realistic to think we would purchase all the textbooks that are required each semester - you only have to look at the number of books in the bookstore to realize what an undertaking that is. The other problem with textbooks is that they change pretty much every year not significantly but enough to warrant publishers coming out with a new edition so that they keep their profits healthy so we would constantly be having to update editions etc. Then there is the whole business of managing the reserves. It would definitely represent some serious work and a change in what we have seen as our role here. However we can certainly talk it over and see what other members of the committee think.

>>> Terence Hudson 09/30/08 >>> - from the bookstore
Sorry you guys are being put in the middle of these situations. If you walk down our textbook aisles you'll see that we are far from out of textbooks. Without knowing the particulars concerning which books they are looking for, I can't give you exact reasons for our outages. It could be any number of reasons, such as the number of students enrolled in the course surpassed the number of books requested, or another instructor is using the same book but did not place an order.

We are not the only source for textbooks here at WMU. The private off campus bookstore and any number of online sources compete with us for sales. Knowing this, we do not order 100% of the books needed for many classes. If we did, our shelves would be bulging with even more leftover textbooks right now. That would not be an appropriate use of university funds. Its a real balancing act with every single title we carry, of not buying too many books and yet not running
out. We try to error on the side of the customer but do get caught short sometimes. To help students get copies of out of stock books, we do place special orders that arrive in 3-5 days in most instances.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Slavic Studies Conference 2008 in Philly

[I have a blog etiquette question – is it best to mention people’s names or not? Is it a good thing or a bad thing to be mentioned in other people’s blogs? I’m going to go with not mentioning them for now, but can always put names in later.]

I started attending some American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS) conferences when I realized that all Baltic collections in research libraries were in the Slavic departments, and that the bulk of conversation was happening here, not in the Slavic and East European Section of ALA. I believe I attended about three of these conferences while at the Latvian Studies Center, once chairing a panel on Baltic library issues. Since working at WMU, I had only attended one, but when the head of the European Reading Room from the Library of Congress asked if anyone would be willing to research and present on what has happened to the book chambers (I’ll explain later) of the former Soviet republics since they gained independence in 1991, I volunteered to do the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Thus I had reason to attend the AAASS 40th annual conference in Philadelphia, held November 20-23, 2008.

Our Presentation
Book chambers were government institutions in each Soviet republic that were responsible for receiving deposit copies of every published item, compiling statistics about them, and documenting each item to create a national bibliography. These were lists of all books, periodicals, sheet music, etc. as well as indexes to the articles in all the periodicals published in the republic. This was all published monthly and annually. I knew something about the situation in Latvia, and was able to talk to the right people when I briefly visited Latvia last March. I found that in all three Baltic States, the responsibilities of the book chambers had been mostly taken over by the national libraries. (To my colleagues at WMU – if this is of interest to anyone, I could do a brownbag lunch presentation.)

I presented with people from the University of Pittsburgh, Library of Congress, and British Library. The chair had researched Armenia, the discussant had information on Georgia, so between all of us we covered 13 of the 15 republics, and intentionally not focusing on Russia, since most in the AAASS audience knew what is happening there. The hardest job was to get information on the Central Asian republics, as they did not have information on websites and often did not respond to e-mail inquiries. Our panel was well attended with a full room of over 30 and lots of questions and a lively discussion. I got a couple of offers to publish my presentation. I plan to publish it in an article, though I think the five of us will also have to come up with a unified article on all the republics.

Digital Access
There was a session on digital projects and issues. The most fascinating idea I heard was about putting Russian (or whatever language) texts online in digitized form and asking the general public to translate them. Then an editorial board of some sort would put a stamp of approval, but the amount of texts made available to the public would be much larger and could grow by this wiki method.

Hidden Library Treasures
We heard about three different “hidden treasures.” The speaker from the British Library explained how BL librarians are being given 10-12 week sabbaticals to research some aspect of the BL collection. She had looked at how the Polish immigrants of the early 1830’s were depicted in Britain. She had identified 3000 periodical articles, 80 popular songs, some plays and a few novels written about the Poles. The Brits were supportive of Polish independence and the poor Polish immigrants, such that some Brits pretended to be Polish.

A representative from the Frick Museum Research Library in New York City talked about all the books, images, catalogs, etc. available there on East European art, though the Frick concentrates on Western European and American art. They catalog each ephemeral item, even announcements of exhibits. I hadn’t thought about the importance of art images, especially to that art, which is no longer around. They also have an art periodicals index going back longer than The Art Index, and there are plans to digitize it.

The last “hidden treasure” was in the Wolfsonian collection in Miami Beach, FL. This is a “museum and research center focusing on how decorative arts, material culture, and design help shape our interpretation of the world.” ( The collection was donated to the Florida International University by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., who had spent his life collecting books, periodicals, prints, objects, etc. on architecture and design including an extensive collection from Eastern Europe, especially the Soviet Union, Russia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

Grand Duke Alexis’ visit to America
I was reluctant to attend this session, but it was the bibliographic session in the time slot, and I was exposed to the fascinating story of the visit to America by the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia in 1871-72. (His father was emperor Alexander II.) The presentations were based on materials available in libraries and one woman is writing a whole book on this visit. This was the first major contact between Russia and the U.S. and the papers of the times are filled with accounts of the balls and receptions organized for him. The most highly publicized event was his buffalo hunt with Buffalo Bill and General Custer. The Grand Duke gifted books to several libraries including the University of Michigan.

Childhood in Russia
I attended one totally non-library session on childhood in Russia at various historical time periods and sat in on the tail end of another session. What struck me about these sessions was that there was substantial academic criticism by the discussants, which was useful to the presenters as they were getting good feedback before they published their article or book. I didn’t see it in the bibliographic sessions or in library conferences in general. I wonder if there is a place we do this in my profession.

Baltic Collections in the U.S.
The last session I was able to attend was on Baltic collections in the U.S. Two Lithuanian librarians talked about the two major Lithuanian community archives in Chicago and Connecticut. The Estonian representative talked about the Estonian Archives in the U.S. in Lakewood, NJ and read remarks by a man who was unable to attend about Latvian collections. This was the first time I officially heard that the Slavic, East European and Baltic reading room at New York Public Library was closed, though it had come up in conversations at the conference. The most interesting presentation was about statistics on Baltic collections in research libraries throughout the country. There were two graphs depicting the Estonian – Lithuanian – Latvian collections in 16 major research libraries. The first graph showed recent (1990-2005) Baltic imprints and the other showed 1800-1989 Baltic imprints. This did not include exile publications, as those statistics are harder to tease out of library catalogs. Baltic dissertation output since consists of around 250. They are still looking at how many of those were dependent on library collections.

One very interesting fact that came out during the questions and comments time afterwards was that Michigan State University has received and endowment from a Lithuanian for the annual purchase of Baltic materials. They would be interested in collecting retrospectively, so they might be willing to take Latvian book donations.

On the Conference itself and Philadelphia
I don’t have a real sense on how many attended the conference, since there was no opening plenary or keynote speakers, but there were over 500 sessions and about 1300 presenters listed in the conference program. I was surprised that there were no projectors in any of the presentation rooms that I attended. In one of our sessions all three presenters lamented the fact that they had brought along interesting visuals. I too had a PowerPoint, but then I might not have gotten through in 20 minutes. The other observation I had was that in some of the sessions a presenter had not shown up and someone told me that was usual for this conference. I think we had one of the few full panels.

I did not stay at the hotel, but heard that on the first night they had all been woken up in the middle of the night and herded outside for some perceived emergency. And they could not use the elevators. I was glad I was staying with friends.

I met one of the venerable Latvian historians, who has now retired. I was able to give him a lift to the house where he was staying – not far from the downtown hotel in the old part of Philadelphia with narrow streets and nice old houses and apartment buildings. I was staying with friends out in the country near Quakertown, so I didn’t have chance to see anything of Philadelphia, except one restaurant, the convention center and a wonderful indoor market, that was across the street from the conference hotel.

Taking a moment to enjoy the relief of a job well done, I will then take a deep breath and prepare to work on my article and maintain contacts with those colleagues where we could work on some joint project.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Michigan Librarians gather in Kalamazoo

Michigan Library Association Conference 2008
October 22-24, 2008

, MI

Though I had some obligations at work, so I was traveling back and forth between downtown and campus, I still feel I got to attend all but one session that I wanted to see. If you have time to read only one thing, read about the last session I attended – I think that was the most important one for me.

Slammin Around the World
Nice presentation by five public librarians of books and films that introduce us to different parts of the world. One presenter talked about graphic novels, one about films, one about “intellectual books,” and the other two had general fiction books that addressed different parts of the world – the kind of books I really like. I will check to make sure we have all the books and films they have on their list. I should also make a guide listing these books, and include ones like this that I have read, maybe other librarians could contribute. This would make the list personal and not overwhelmingly long.

The Psychology of Influence and Persuasion
Dan Norris – keynote speaker
This was an interesting look at how small things make a huge difference in how people perceive things, commit to them, etc. The applications to library work were a bit tentative, but still there. Here’s what I got out of it:

  • Don’t say “it was nothing” or “no problem” when someone thanks you for your help. At least say “thank you”, or even something like “I’m sure you would have done if for me.”
  • Maybe hand out something after an interaction like at the desk. (People like gifts that are personal and unexpected.)
  • When trying to convince others about a project – give stats on other libraries doing this.
  • Gain trust by subtly showing authority –“over the last 10 years I have seen…”
  • Get commitment by asking people – and have them commit in a public arena.
  • Let people know if there is a budget cut coming up, so can prepare to help.
  • Ask people what the library meant to them when they were growing up.
  • Frame it cooperatively: “here’s how we support you in the community,” “here’s how we can work together.”

Tech Tools for Reference: A Public and Academic Library Perspective
Holly Hibner from Salem-South Lyon District Library and Christine Tobias from MSU introduced a wide variety of tools for use in our daily work.

The Michigan Evergreen Project – Michigan’s First Open Source Group Catalog
With presenters from MLC and the Grand Rapids Public library, they described a new open source ILS system that has been piloted by GRPL and recently come online. It is mostly being researched by public libraries and MLC is acting as the facilitator. I was mostly interested in hearing about this as a possiblity for my union catalog for small Latvian libraries project. It looked good until they showed the cataloging module. I will be working with non-librarians and the MARC record will not be comprehensible to them. I will still look into this.

Web Presence of Instructional Materials
Two librarians from Wayne State presented on ways of ways of saving and sharing instruction materials with other librarians and users.
This repeated some of the tools mentioned in the previous section on tech tools, but had more for our academic work. We may want to share files in many formats: Powerpoints, PDF/Word documents, Screencasts, Audio, Video, Images (of library, screenshots, etc.), Multimedia (more than one of the above), Link lists, HTML pages. Each of these formats can be saved for free on one of the many open source tools on the Web, and that provides a URL for each item. These URL’s can then be saved in a database, which they created in Zoho Creator, with metadata for each item. This is now a searchable database of instructional materials.

Re-visioning the Reference Collection
Last, but definitely not least, and I would say the most important ideas I took home from the conference, was Wayne State’s tale of reducing their Reference Collection by 81%. I actually saw the collection when I visited Wayne for a meeting earlier this fall, and I took pictures of their minimal reference book collection. Now I got to hear about the process.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Library Assessment Conference 08 – Overview

This overview ended up being a synthesis of what I learned. The conference Web site includes presenter’s PowerPoints where available:

Assessment defined
Since WMU is currently defining assessment as mainly about student learning outcomes, it makes it hard for libraries to come up with appropriate assessments, as we usually do not teach semester long courses. If that was all there was to assessment, then three quarters of this conference would have been irrelevant and even LibQual would not be considered an assessment tool. (One contentious commentator called it just an evaluation tool.) Assessment is a complex concept, and the goal is a Culture of Assessment, where people automatically assess to improve what they do. One person said that instead of having a Culture of Complaint, turn it into a Culture of Assessment. Even better, someone called it a Culture of Improvement. I understand assessment in libraries as a way of gathering data on our collections, services and space, and the needs and activities of our users to improve the learning, teaching and research experience of the whole Western Michigan University community.

Organizational culture

  • Assessment goes hand in hand with strategic planning
    • “No action without a plan, no plan without data” Rick Luce
  • Most research libraries have an assessment person, sometimes combined with marketing or communications, sometimes just a designated 15% spent on assessment
  • Most research libraries have an assessment committee, as do we, though it has not been very active and has focused mostly on LibQual
  • Employee satisfaction and input
    • Employees are users too and good judges of quality
    • Employee satisfaction important in good service
    • ClimateQual, a tool developed by UofMD to measure staff perceptions about their libraries
    • Interview or survey individual employees
    • Focus groups and retreats
  • Gather data in a timely manner and pass it to appropriate people for implementation
  • One place for data – so all can access – Penn has - DataFarm
  • Important to present data visually – see PennLibrary Facts
  • Master Blog Communication System
    • One blog per group (committee, task force, project)
    • Put up agendas before meetings
    • Minutes of meetings right after meetings
    • Allows comments
    • People can set up alerts
  • What will the scholar in 2050 expect us to have saved? (Question from Betsy Wilson, UW)
  • Need frameworks and models that reflect our values (Stephen Town, Univ. of York, UK
  • Rick Luce had many good guidelines on being a successful organization
  • Great if can work with consultants – one option is Jim Self (UofVA), Steve Hiller (UofWA), and Martha Kyrillidou (ARL) will come to libraries and help them set up better assessment programs (known as the Jim, Steve and Martha show)

Assessment of Place

  • Mine LibQual comments to inform planning of space
  • Space consultants can be useful
  • Surveys – ask what they do in the library, how often they come, how long they stay, when
  • Observation – visit different areas of the libraries and record how users use space – alone, in groups (2-3, 4+), what furniture they are using, if they are using personal or library materials, their laptop or library computers
  • Facus groups to get at details of issues found by other methods
  • Involve staff in findings and planning
  • Identify affordable changes
  • U of Chicago redid their wayfinding study – give novice library users 3 books to find and follow them around to see if they do find them – after the first study they redid signage and maps

Information Literacy / Instruction

  • The Education Testing Service (ETS) test is now called iSkills
    • Sounds like quite a few institutions are using this, but some of the preliminary results did not sound promising
  • SAILS mentioned briefly
  • Megan Oakleaf (Syracuse) and Lisa Hinchliffe from U of IL Champaign-Urbana did a study of 437 instruction librarians and asked if they assess their instruction sessions, if they have data, and if they have used the data. (228 respondents actually use the data) Some reasons for not doing this, besides lack of time and resources:
    • Questions about whether the results actually measured IL
    • Lack of knowledge and skills
    • No centralized support or commitment to gather this data
    • Lack of a conceptual framework
  • One school developed a self-assessment tool
    • Worked closely with teaching faculty
    • Based on ACRL standards
    • Students reflect on own research and learning process
  • Some moving away from instruction on demand, as develop Info Lit program within the curriculum with faculty
  • When Info Lit is imbedded in the general education program, e-portfolio systems (like our iWebfolio) can keep track of papers over the years


  • READ (Reference Effort Assessment Data) Scale – with little effort gives insight into ref
    • Six point scale given to each reference question answered
    • 1: typical directional question that takes less than a minute
    • 6: working with PhD student or faculty over hours or days
    • 2-5 in between - have to train and calibrate across those who answer
    • Keep track of questions on and off the desk
    • Include in person (also WRAP), phone, e-mail, chat
    • Good for scheduling staff
    • Can be used in online system like Desk Tracker
  • Cornell did systematic quantitative and qualitative analysis of it’s reference questions
    • Transaction type, duration, mode, question content, date, time
    • As a result have closed ref desk during summer hours in undergrad study library
    • Thought of reference work as research assistant, information central & problem solver
  • University of Pennsylvania reference consultation form
    • Even more elaborate than at Cornell, but worth looking at for ideas
  • Heard a few instances of reduced reference collections
    • Idea – let’s keep track of what is used in our reference collection (even by us), probably by call number, so we can start weeding

Other assessment Tools and Methods

  • Univ. of Rochester anthropological studies
    • Learn from Rochester, but need to find how our students function
    • Ask students to map out where they go during a typical day and when
    • From their studies, as we well know, everyone has a cell phone, so make our phone number(s) more prominent – on home page, in stacks

Monday, August 11, 2008

Latvian Collection at University of Washington

I spent 15 years collecting Latvian books and other materials at the Latvian Studies Center (LSC) Library, but when Latvia became independent and the Latvian Program at Western Michigan University closed, the nationwide Latvian community could no longer maintain a library. I found a home for it in various institutions, but the primary one was at the University of Washington, which had just started a Baltic program. Michael Biggins, the head of the Slavic and East European division was willing to take it in. Since I was visiting Seattle and UW, I had to visit him and my “child”, as I used to call the LSC Library, before I had a real child. All 12,000 or so books I sent are cataloged, and Michael proudly showed how the Baltic history collection had grown from a couple of shelves to quite a few sections of books. I was most familiar with the literature section, which was shelved in about 16 sections, with about 4000 books. My original collection has been supplemented by regular additions from Latvia – about 250 new books a year. Having this solid Latvian collection has been leveraged to similarly grow the Lithuanian collection (9 sections in literature or about 2250 books), and Estonian is evolving too (4.5 sections or 1100 books). Of course, Latvian materials end up classified in various parts of the library, but the easiest sections to see were the DK’s for history and PG’s for literature, though I had also sent them microfilms and Latvian materials were in various sections of the N’s for art. Since there is a separate art library that focuses on North American and Western European art, this section is just for other art, often in the language of origin. Music too has Latvian materials and the choir director at UW is especially interested in Baltic choral music, so they have asked cataloging to provide additional tagging to be able to pull these out as a Baltic Choral Collection. The UW choir has visited the Baltic States with concerts, and has a Baltic repertoire. With the growth in interest in the study of cinema, they are also purchasing Baltic films.

I met the two catalogers that have worked on my collection – Jake and Nadia, and felt an instant affinity towards the people who had lovingly processed “my” books.

Besides getting books through an exchange program with the National Library of Latvia, they are also subscribing to 40-50 periodical titles. The newspapers in Latvia seem to be especially difficult to obtain, as the online access and archive are held by a private company – Lursoft, which does not allow for institutional subscriptions. The Estonians, on the other hand, have great free access to their news archives.

The Slavic & East European (including Baltic) collection does get used, circulating about 25,000 items (out of 400,000) per year.

I liked their pre-searched lists of new books. See their New Arrival in International Studies by country. You just choose your country of interest and see the books received in the last months, with a link to the catalog record.

One of the digital projects at UW is the William C. Brumfield Russian Architecture Collection. He is the eminent scholar on this in the states and has published numerous books, some in Russia. Brumfield teaches at Tulane in New Orleans, so Hurricane Katrina accelerated the motivation to get everything digitized quickly. There were challenges with metadata describing both the photograph and the building. They have gone with the METS system that lets them catalog the building as the core item, but also allows for full descriptions of the photo.

A woman at UW has photographed 12 members from each local Baltic community, included a short oral history, and an artifact from their own family albums. This exhibit will be traveling to the Baltic States next year and there is talk of expanding it.

Notes from Seattle

Another wonderful conference and visit to a great city. Barbara and I spent Sunday visiting the Olympic peninsula, beginning with a ferry ride across from Seattle. The day started overcast, but cleared up into a glorious sunny day. The environment is very different, dominated by evergreen trees, lushly green, and bodies of water all around. We stopped off at an authentic Native American store/gallery and a lavender farm, where we picked some lavender, before heading into the Olympic National Park. The center of the park is full of huge snow-capped mountains, so there is no road through the park. You can just drive around them and take various roads in towards the mountains. With our time limit, we did two of these drives.The first was to Hurricane Ridge, through an amazing old growth forest, up quite high with a magnificent vista of many of the mountains, including Mount Olympus itself. You could see that it and a few others are covered by glaciers. They have a lot of blizzards up there and the snow just gathers and never completely melts. As we took a hike around, we came to a couple of spots that still had snow. The other thing that was incredible up here was the variety of wildflowers – blue bells, blue lupines (one of my favorites of all time), Indian paintbrush, including a pink variety that is unique to this area, and many more.

The second drive was in along the Elwha River. We could drive in around 10 miles up the mountain and then we had a 2.5 mile gently sloping hike in to some natural hot springs. The drive was through a forest in areas thick with huge ferns and trees overgrown with moss. Once we started hiking we could really appreciate the immensity of the trees. We got to ford a few streams and finally got to the hot springs flowing out of the mountain side in a half a dozen places. At some, people had put up stone barriers to create a shallow basin to catch the hot water. The first and largest already had a few people in it, another had a single gentleman, but we found one we could have to ourselves. What a wonderful feeling after the long climb, even if we did smell a bit like sulfur afterward.

The only thing with ferries is that they have a limited capacity, and as many people were heading back to the city, there was a three hour wait at the ferry, so we ended driving around the southern tip of Puget Sound and getting back to the hotel fairly late.

The conference was held at the University of Washington student union, a 20 minute walk from our hotel. The campus is beautiful with interesting old (and new) buildings, huge trees and lush bushes and flowers everywhere. As one local said, things grow so well, you almost have to struggle to keep it trimmed back.

In the center is a huge fountain and over that on a clear day you can see Mount Ranier. It was really clear only on Monday, Tuesday morning I was still able to take a picture, after that it disappeared into the mists.

Barbara and I had different opportunities to see downtown Seattle. She attended the reception at the Oly mpic Sculpture Park, I walked around it later. We went into the Seattle Public Library (maybe a separate post), but only I got to see the guys throw fish at the Pike Place Fish Market.

The most surprising thing to both of us was the hilliness of Seattle, it reminded us of the steep streets of San Francisco – made for interesting driving. We left plenty of things to visit if we get back here for ACRL – the Space Needle, art museum, aquarium, Science Fiction museum, etc.

I do feel obligated to mention the weather. While we were there, we had beautiful, sunny, even hot weather. Since this was an assessment conference, they had “assessed” when to hold the conference and showed us charts on precipitation, where it is usually very high, except in July and August. The town isn’t all air conditioned, as I saw in a home I visited, or even the student union, where we had to stop using one of the ballrooms, as it was too hot. And it doesn’t get that cold. There aren’t heavy freezes, so people can grow palm trees, but on the other hand, it is hard to grow tomatoes, as there isn’t enough sun. I also understand that there is a lot of variation. The town of Sequim (pronounced Squim) is one of the sunniest places and a favorite retirement town. That’s where we visited the lavender farm.

Monday, May 05, 2008

LOEX 2008 - Elmhurst Library

The pre-conference for LOEX was an introduction to and tour of the Elmhurst College Library, about 15 minutes from the conference site.

Designing Library Spaces with a Focus on Information Literacy

In 1999 the Elmhurst College Library got funding to redesign the main floor of the library. They spent 2000-01 planning, writing up the project, working with an architect and in the summer of 2002 the library was closed and construction was done.

The requirements that were passed on to the architect centered around information literacy – focus more on instruction, than print resources, so most of the books and bound periodicals were cleared out of that floor. They weeded out 10% of the material and all bound periodicals went to other two floors.

The resulting space is unlike any I have seen before:

As you walk into the library, there is the check-out desk on one side and the café on the other. The café is an elegant crescent with tables and chairs and serving simple fare of coffee, soda, cookies, chips, granola bars. They wish they had pulled in a water source, so a more extensive menu could be offered. This is popular with students and even professors use the space for conferences with students.

The central space is the classroom with 30 work stations in clumps of 4 or 6 computers, each on a 60x27 table, so more can gather around it. The room is non-rectangular, somewhat fan shaped with two glass walls, so students can see when instruction is being done, and when there is no instruction, they can go in and use the computers. The students have named it the Fishbowl, so for library week, they went and decorated the windows with fish.

The reference desk has been much reduced – it has two chairs, two computers, but open to the room, so students come and sit down to ask for help or just talk, or get a piece of candy. The desk is staffed by paraprofessionals, as the 6 librarians spend most of their time teaching (250-300 sessions a year). Reference is just an extension of the instruction.

The computers are set up in configurations of 4, back to back, with extended tables for each, where four people could easily gather around.

There is a comfy chair reading area and about a quarter of the floor is still bookshelves, but low ones to open up the space and let the art be seen. The shelves contain current periodicals and the much reduced reference collection. The library had money at one time to purchase art from a group of Chicago artists, who graduated from the Chicago Institute of Art in the 70’s to early 80’s. These are displayed on the walls throughout the library and add a wonderful touch of color and interest.

The architect talked about the process. After the library had written up the specifications of what they wanted – to think young and that it had to be multi-use, they drew a bubble diagram of the different zones they planned for the library.

The library was not a badly used building to begin with, but with the renovation it is now a super used building (they haven’t kept actual data). Circulation has stayed the same (instead of dropping) and the number of reference questions and instruction sessions has gone up a lot. The teaching faculty participated in the weeding process, so they had no complaints about the weeding, but a few had fits about circulating videos, so they backed off on that innovation.

What they do with the staff they have is quite amazing. They have 6 librarians, 13 paraprofessionals and 20 student workers for a population of 2800 students, 10% grads. Librarians do all the teaching and have divided liaison responsibilities differently. Each has a science, a big department, a hard to work with department, an easy to work with department. Each is also the head of some department in the library, like access services, tech services or reference/instruction. They also provide much of the tech support for the university. They administer Blackboard and teach instructors to use it. They help faculty and students with most software related technical problems. They offer a credit course “Chicago’s great libraries.”

Another interesting factor is that the public library is right across the street, so they collaborate on collection building, and have only about 20% overlap. I wish Kalamazoo Public was closer to us, so we could send students down for some of the things they need.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Latvia trip March 2008

This was a whirlwind of a trip, where I had to take care of some personal business, but I got to see quite a few relatives, friends and colleagues in a short amount of time.

Professionally my goal was to visit the Bibliographic Institute of the National Library of Latvia to gather information for a presentation I have to give at a Slavic studies conference this fall. When I first visited Latvia as a librarian for the Latvian Studies Center in 1990, it took me quite a while to understand their library set-up and the role of the Bibliographic Institute (BI). It maintains statistics on publishing throughout the republic, later country and publishes the national bibliography - an index of all publications and all articles in periodicals published in the country and about the country. In 1990 the BI was independent, but it is logical that it is now a division of the National Library. The descriptions created for this national bibliography are modified for the catalog and our Library of Congress considers their cataloging qualitative enough that they use these records for their catalog.

Lots of interesting topics arose in our conversations, for instance the issue of authority files. Latvians tend to butcher non-Latvian names by writing them as Latvians would pronounce them, for example Dzeimss Dzoiss (James Joyce) and Ijans Makjuens (Ian McEwan). Now in the days of electronic databases and non-Latvian users, they have to add the original spelling authority files.

Of course they have tried to keep up with the explosion of technological advances, but have entered the game a little late. They have been creating the indexes with the help of computers since the late 1980's and, but do not provide access to the international databases we use regularly. Full text is minimally available - mostly from a company providing full text for pay to newspapers from 1994 and some journals from recent years. They have moved from a print index to online and CD-ROM, but with the availability of Internet connections throughout libraries in the country (thanks to the Bill Gates Foundation), they will be dropping the CD-ROM version this year.

Another fascinating project is to retrospectively convert all the old bibliographies and indexes. I remember being amazed at the extent of indexing done in the Baltics - all on catalog cards in rooms full of card catalog cabinets. The main reading room in the National Library today has only one room of computers, the other is still the card catalog. It didn't look like they would ever be converted, but with advanced scanning and character recognition programs, they are beginning to convert this mass of bibliographic information. They have the book descriptions entered back to 1920. The old orthography and hand written cards are a special challenge.

Since Latvia still does not have a single building for their National Library, it is scattered throughout the capital city of Riga. I left the Bibliographic Institute in Old Town and went to meet Director Andris Vilks in the main building that also houses the administrative offices. He gave me the background I needed for my research on the changes in the National Library over the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The new building project for the library - The Castle of Light has taken so long to start, that people have lost enthusiasm and are now opposed to the government wasting money on the building. Some question the need for a building in today's online information world, others don't like the architectural design, created by Gunars Birkerts, a Latvian architect from the Detroit area. (It seemed more appropriate when it was first proposed over 10 years ago.) Others are upset that some interesting old buildings were razed to clear space for the new library.

I enjoy the way traveling abroad gives me glimpses of other lives. On the long flight there I sat next to a man from LA who was going to Uganda to distribute Bibles for the Gideons. (They have already provided Bibles to all the new hotels that have been built in China for the Olympics.) In Sweden I had an Iranian taxi driver, that had lived there 20 years. He asked what city I was from and I had to tell him that Kalamazoo was near Chicago. "Oh, gangsters!" Still. Another man was returning to visit his sick father from Italy, where he has taught English for the last 28 years. A young woman from Germany was visiting her boyfriend, who had an internship at Princeton. All interesting lives.

My friends and relatives were very interested in who we were going to elect as our next president. One thought that if we elected Obama, it would mean an end to our racial problems. Others were intently watching the dollar and our economic woes. Though I have seen incredible progress in Latvia, especially in living conditions, they too seem to be in a building slump. Banks are no longer lending money for building projects, and some have over-borrowed to build their dream homes or projects.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Michigan Academy Annual Meeting 2008

Not only was this year's Michigan Academy meeting conveniently located on our own campus, I thought we had some very interesting presentations. It was great there were a lot of presentations from Western, as I learned about new things happening in my own institution.

An Improved OpenURL Resolver Menu System. George Boston and Deborah Mouw, WMU - George and Deborah talked about the way they redesigned the SFX system to work for us, and I think it was a very worthwhile process to be shared with others.

Reordering the Ordering Process and Workflow in Acquisitions. Randle Gedeon, WMU - We don't really get to find out what others are doing in their units, and this was a good overview of the changes down in Acquisitions.

Using CONTENTdm at Central Michigan University Library. Ruth M. Helwig, CMU - Very interesting to hear about the process (I am obsessed with processes) of getting an institutional depository going at CMU.

How Can Using an Online Storage Material Request Form Facilitate Document Delivery? Birong Ho, WMU - Again a very useful process to share with others.

Beyond Access: Transformation of Primary Source Materials. Sheila Bair, WMU - Totally fascinating. I knew our Civil War diaries were cool, and that a lot of work went into digitizing them and adding metadata, but Sheila just made this snippet of history come so alive. She got a lot of questions, which showed that her topic and presentation were very engaging.

Institutional Functional Analysis of Archival Records: A Practical Application at Northern Michigan University. Marcus C. Robyns, NMU and Jason Woolman, University of British Columbia - This presentation made me realize how little I know about archive work. I don't even know how Sharon and her crew organize all of our institutional archives. Marcus addressed ways to keep track of the ever changing university structure and important records, a daunting task.

Principles and Practices for Library Outreach to First Year Students. Jane P. Currie, Hope College - Jane reviewed programs to first years. What I liked best was their flexibility at Hope. For a while they tried one thing, then when that wasn't working as well as they would have liked, tried something else.

First Year Experience at Western Michigan University Libraries. Dianna E. Sachs, Western Michigan University - Dianna had a nice overview of the programs we are offering FYE students.

Learning Outcomes, Instructional Design, and the 50-Minute Information Literacy Session. Sara D. Miller, Michigan State University - Sara's presentation had the most implications for my own work. I admire her undertaking instruction in this manner - dividing the class into 5 groups, each finding a different type of resource for the class (a scholarly article, background information, opinion piece, book and website) without instruction. Then each group presents what they found and she gently guides them to better tools. She said it was a real eye opener to see how they really search.

Women Library Leaders as Trailblazers: Mary Spencer and Loleta Fyan. Sharon Ladenson and Portia Vescio, Michigan State University. - Interesting to hear about early Michigan State Librarians and the challenges they faced. One had little formal education, while the other was the first professionally trained state librarian. Michigan has had women State librarians from 1869 to 1968. Laurel has studies these ladies herself and her questions afterward were about the use of archival materials.

On the Family Track: the Effect of Motherhood on the Tenure and Promotion of Library Faculty in Higher Education. Elizabeth Bucciarelli, Eastern Michigan University - Elizabeth had found almost no research on the effects of motherhood on library faculty, so the research she did find was mostly about faculty at universities in general. She plans on doing an in depth research study on this topic. One interesting factor came up in discussion, that librarians might be more supportive of each other than other faculty, as we work together more closely.

Research Behavior of Graduate Engineering Students as Evidenced by Citation Patterns in Master’s Theses and PhD Dissertations. Edward J. Eckel, Western Michigan University - I hadn't seen this aspect of Ed's citation analysis. His results weren't surprising, that PhD dissertations use more scholarly resources than Master's Theses, but there was interesting information on the type of resources used by engineers.

Using Toolbars to Deliver Library-Related Information. Michael C. Sensiba, Wayne State University - Mike talked about toolbars that can be customized to provide links to library users without them having to go to the library home page. It wasn't clear to me why students would download this toolbar, but it it definitely cool and great alternative for library resource users - including ourselves.

Data Curation: A New Frontier in Faculty-Librarian Collaboration. John M. Potter, ITT Technical Institute - This was the last presentation in a long day of presentations, but it is an interesting idea - that librarians could help teaching faculty manage the data sets they create. In the beginning I thought this was just an extension of an Institutional repository, but it is actually a lot more, and there is now a degree available in data curation.

Samuel Tietse from France and Carol A. Zeile from Alma College did not present.

Friday, February 15, 2008

ACE Internationalization Collaborative Annual Meeting

Faculty Engagement in Comprehensive Internationalization
February 1 - 2, 2008, Washington, DC

Comprehensive Internationalization

Though this has been the focus of the last few ACE meetings, I think I really understood this concept better this time. I think WMU is striving for comprehensive internationalization, but I now see that it needs a much more organized effort to really make it happen. The process involves the following:

1. Select a leadership team
2. Articulate global learning outcomes
3. Conduct an Internationalization Review
4. Develop an Internationalization Plan

Why do we need to do this?

  • Small number of our students get abroad
  • Non-traditional students have even less time to study abroad
  • Faculty may still be lukewarm about internationalization in the curriculum
  • We are not always good at connecting things we are already doing

Learning Outcomes
It is important to get internationalization into the whole fabric of the university, so it is not considered an add-on, but part of what we all do, with outcomes in:

  • University mission statement
  • General education
  • Departmental and class outcomes

Internationalization Review - Self Study
This is an important piece of the comprehensive internationalization process and it was suggested not to rush this process, and involve as many people on campus as possible in the conversation.

  • Environmental scan – compare to other universities
  • Internationalization inventory – what doing already
  • Survey & do focus groups with faculty, staff & students

Faculty Involvement
Internationalization needs to be faculty driven, because when faculty members are not on board, internationalization will not be implemented effectively. Some ideas from the meeting:

  • Fund for international initiatives
  • Mini-grants for developing short term study abroad, or internationalizing course
  • Survey faculty
  • Hold conferences and workshops
  • Visit departments with a small group
  • Send faculty overseas
    • Encourage applying for Fulbright & other grants in unusual places
  • Work on professional organizations to encourage teaching global perspective
  • Have proactive leadership leading discussions, providing examples
  • Create a support and reward structure
  • Include in tenure and promotion considerations
  • Work on current grad students – they will be future faculty members
  • Explain initiatives to faculty advisors, so they can inform their students

Staff and Administration
Get all players involved – administration, faculty, staff, and students

  • Student affairs, admissions, budget, career services
  • Open programs to staff too
    • One school has staff (including custodial, cafeteria, office) accompany freshmen on trip to UK
    • Have staff do logistical planning and then come on trip


  • Internationalization linked to improved student retention and engagement
  • Parents and students come in with expectations of study abroad, but few do
  • Innovative advising techniques – “Picture Yourself Global”, “Get Global!”
  • First year experience – live and learn together, go abroad first semester, etc.
  • International Café (Hawaii)
  • Support international clubs
  • Involve international students in classes and co-curricular activities

Other issues

  • International and Multicultural – more institutions are integrating these, ACE is holding a symposium in June
  • International service learning – can be major draw

Internationalization Across the Curriculum
To give those students who don’t have the opportunity to study abroad, and even those that do, to experience and reflect on international and global issues. Some ideas and issues:

  • Designate certain courses as “international” – some don’t like the “I” designation
  • Some go abroad, some explore an ethnic, cultural group in the area
  • Use the knowledge of international faculty, staff and students, multiculturalism in class
  • Draw on global issues –global warming, health, environment
  • Create courses that fulfill various requirements – program, ethics, internationalization
  • Parallel to writing across curriculum – don’t want people saying “someone else will teach that” – involve in everything
  • Co-curricular events – international education weeks, festivals, community involvement

Study Abroad
So that it can’t be said that this is just partying in a different time zone, goals must be clear for the study abroad experiences. Students must be adequately prepared.

  • Articulate outcomes
  • Debrief – K-College does an overnight retreat afterwards
  • Ask them to reflect, write papers
  • Ask questions about how their discipline handled in other country
  • Have students do workshops for others
  • Assess
  • Goal could be at least one study abroad program for each department (Juniata)
  • Work with financial aid
  • Global Connections Experience (Arcadia, PA) – must spend a semester in a community other than their own.
  • Global Design Studio (IUPUI) – an architectural service learning project throughout the world, but currently focused on New Orleans and Indonesia – helping to rebuild after disasters. Involves, engineers, journalists and other departments and local communities and businesses.
  • Global Learning for All (Kennesaw State University, GA) - A Quality Enhancement Plan project for accreditation affected the whole campus and made all the international efforts more cohesive. Impressive changes in five years.
  • Global Learning Certification -(Kennesaw State University, GA) – some may choose to get this additional certification, which should be useful in getting jobs.
  • Ground water project in Bangladesh (Wagner, Staten Island, NY) – project involved chemistry, environmental studies, biology.
Internationalization Laboratory
ACE Internationalization Collaborative offers this opportunity to 8 institutions every year, to go through an extensive process to move to the next level in internationalization. Timing is important and this
might be a good time for WMU with new president and dean. Doing this with ACE gives more weight to our actions. The lab includes:
  • A site visit
  • Meeting with cohorts at beginning and after 6 months
  • Monthly meetings with Barbara Hill
  • Meetings with leaders throughout campus
  • Writing a report including a plan for the future

Some definitions:

Global – denoting the systems and phenomena that transcend national borders

Global learning – international, global, and intercultural learning

Globalization – avoid, because it has negative connotations

International – focusing on the nations and their relationships

Intercultural – focusing on knowledge and skills to understand and navigate cultural differences

Internationalization – process by which institutions foster global learning

Comprehensive internationalization – strategic and integrated approach to internationalization – articulate internationalization as institutional goal, develop internationalization plan, bring together the different aspects of internationalization

Co-Curricular activities - previously known as Extracurricular Activities are activities that education organizations in some parts of the world create for school students. They serve to promote a variety of activities which all school students must attend alongside the standard study curriculum. (from Wikipedia)

“Inter” Framework – intergenerational, inter-cultural, international, interdisciplinary, inter-institutional

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Internationalizing in DC

I’ve just gotten back from a great conference in DC. I love to travel and go to conferences, especially when I’m “in the flow” and I keep meeting interesting people or things happen. First of all, I missed the snow storm by hours and got out of Kalamazoo and Detroit more or less on time. Then I had a great conversation on the plane to DC (no middle person), with a guy who spent most of his career in mental health, used to lead the drug and alcohol abuse programs in Maryland, now is evaluating health programs throughout the country. Since my first job was in a state hospital in Ohio, we had lots to talk about. My favorite story of his was about a group of dispirited vets, and the problem of foster care kids needing a place to stay between homes. He had gotten an old house for the kids that needed a lot of repairs, but had no funds. The vets stepped in and fixed and painted the house, just asked that it be called Rainbow Beginnings. He told me to look out for the George Bush Center for Intelligence (CIA) sign on the drive to my friends’ house. Made me smile each time I passed it.

The conference was the American Council on Education (ACE) Internationalization Collaborative annual meeting. I know it’s another absurdly long title. But WMU is part of this collaborative of higher education institutions that are trying to work towards better international programs. The buzzword this time was “comprehensive internationalization.” Western has some pretty impressive programs going, but we are still looking at how to make sure every graduate is ready to function in the ever changing global environment, even if they don’t do study abroad or don’t hang out with our international students.

I attended one of the pre-conferences that was focused on doing an Internationalization Review, and extended process of evaluating where you are and where you want to go. I am in an International Education Council (IEC) working group trying to review the state of Western’s internationalization across the curriculum, but I think we might need to think more broadly about reviewing all of our internationalization efforts and seeing how they interconnect or could connect. I also found myself thinking how we could apply this to the library. We are doing this with our strategic planning, various task forces, LibQual and other initiatives, but I’m not seeing where we are going clearly. Maybe it’s just me.

The conference itself consisted of plenary sessions with panels, and breakout discussion groups on the topic presented either by discipline or type of institution we represented. Many interesting projects and initiatives were presented. Some stick out in my mind:

Global Design Studio (IUPUI) – an architecture professor works with his students on real life situations throughout the world and has students design appropriate housing for people who have lost their homes in disasters like Katrina in New Orleans and the tsunami in Indonesia. They work with local communities as well as local companies to make sure they are fulfilling actual needs. This has expanded way beyond architecture into an interdisciplinary project, where students and faculty from other university departments are involved - environmentalists, health workers, social workers, journalists, and more.

Arcadia University (PA, outside Philadelphia) has a couple of amazing things they do with their freshmen. First of all they take every freshman, 500 of them, to the UK during spring break. This 8 day trip is often their first outside the country, so there is a lot of preparatory work, lots of hand-holding, debriefing, etc. and they only charge the students $300. Arcadia also houses the Center for Educational Abroad, which is a service providing study abroad opportunities for students from many universities, so they have the staff and facilities in place overseas. The other part of this project that was really exciting was that to chaperone the students, they ask staff to come along – and not just staff from the international office – this includes all staff – custodial, cafeteria and office workers throughout the campus. The second freshmen project is that they have some freshmen do their first semester abroad. They actually get much more individual attention that they would on the US campus, and the experience solidifies a cohort that stays together through graduation, an event that happens at a much higher rate than usual.

The most library oriented thing I did was my meeting with the head of the European Reading Room at the Library of Congress. I am going to be on his panel about the changes in book chambers in the post-Soviet republics at the Slavic studies conference in November. We will look at how many of these national bibliography agencies have been incorporated into the national libraries. After discussing our panel, we had a wonderful Indian dinner prepared by his French wife. (He specializes in Romania.) Is that international enough?

During a break on the second day, I just had to stretch my legs and went outside to find a beautiful sunny day. As I walked down the block I came upon the Society of the Cincinnati, with a sign that their museum was open for a couple of hours on this day. I couldn’t resist peeking in. The guide swooped down on me and asked how much time I had – 15 minutes – OK, she’d give me a 15 minute tour. And here I was going to stretch my legs and cool my brain, but got an intense lecture on Larz and Isabel Anderson, who built this house by 1905, to have a place to entertain when the Congress started sessions –I guess it was THE place to be. He was an ambassador, she the richest woman of her time – her father controlled the Boston Harbor for a while. When Mr. Anderson died in 1937, the building and most of its contents was donated to the Society of the Cincinnati – an exclusive club of male descendants of officers of the American Revolution - both Lafayette’s and Washington’s men. The Society is an historical and educational organization that promotes knowledge of the Revolution. The house was amazing, as could be expected. Marble floors, paintings including a massive painting by Villegas that no museum wanted and was brought to town on their yacht, choir stalls taken out of some poor European church – for decoration, not religious reasons. Of course I was a few minutes late to my next session.

After the conference was over, I needed to air my brain, before heading to an evening with my friends. I went to see the Vietnam Memorial. It definitely has a reverent aura around it, especially in light of the ongoing loss of American lives overseas. I hadn’t climbed up to see Lincoln’s memorial since my parents took me there as a child. That huge, gleaming white sculpture also left me in awe. I was there just at dusk, so I saw the incredible view from the Lincoln Memorial, down the reflecting pool towards the Washington Monument transform in the changing light. I seem to remember quite a few movie moments occurring here. On the way back to my car I saw Einstein’s memorial. I loved the clumpy sculpture (I am sure there is a more sophisticated term for this) of this brilliant man, in his rumpled sweater and sandals, casually sitting with one foot up, papers in his hand. Though the sculpture is substantially larger than life, it looks like he was a short man. At his feet is a celestial map.

To end my delightful experience, at my friends, we played Cranium – I was partnered with my 10 year old goddaughter, and we had fun guessing each other’s charades, songs, drawings, spelling words backwards, running around the house finding things, figuring out words in categories. We tried to do most of it in Latvian, but some of the word games had to stay in English.

The Regan National Airport was also a new adventure, as I have always driven to DC, never flown in. I somehow didn’t realize how close it was to downtown and the main mall – just across the river in Virginia. It was strange to be greeted by the Washington Monument as I was driving away from the airport. Leaving this morning I had my first experience with a new safety contraption that shot bursts of air from head to toe. This was looking for explosive chemicals on me. Ah yes, we must be especially vigilant for terrorists in the capital. But as we were taking off above the city, and I saw all those government buildings, I realized that there is a lot of power concentrated in one area that could be vulnerable to attacks by those who hate us. Though we have given them plenty of reasons why, it was still a bit disconcerting.