LISdocstudents is an unmoderated email discussion list for doctoral students in Library and Information Studies, working at any institution. The purpose is to communicate with other doctoral students about shared issues, be they intellectual questions in the field, problems facing emerging academics on the path through graduate school and into academic careers, issues having to do with trends in higher ed and LIS as a discipline, or other topics that seem appropriate. Announcements are good too. Doctoral students in LIS are the main constituency of the list, but masters students, graduate students in other fields, and professors are invited to participate.
Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information
1. Nature of the Award
1.1 The award shall consist of $1,000, given annually to a graduate student who is working on a dissertation on the philosophy of information (broadly construed).
2. Purpose of the Award
2.1 The purpose of this award is to encourage and support scholarship in the philosophy of information.
3.1 The scholarship recipient must meet the following qualifications:
(a) Be an active doctoral student whose primary area of research is directly philosophical, whether the institutional setting is philosophy, information science, media studies, or another discipline; that is to say, the mode of dissertation research must be philosophical as opposed to empirical or literary study;
(b) Have completed all course work; and
(c) Have had a dissertation proposal accepted by the institution.
3.2 Recipients may receive the award not more than once.
4.1 The Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information is sponsored and administered by Litwin Books, LLC, an independent scholarly publisher.
5.1 Nominations should be submitted via email by June 1, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
5.2 The submission package should include the following:
(a) The accepted dissertation proposal;
(b) A description of the work done to date;
(c) A letter of recommendation from a dissertation committee member;
(d) An up-to-date curriculum vitae with current contact information.
6. Selection of the Awardee
6.1 Submissions will be judged on merit with emphasis on the following:
(a) Clarity of thought;
(c) Relevance to our time;
(d) Evidence of good progress toward completion.
7.1 The winner and any honorable mentions will be notified via letter by July 1.
ACRL has embarked on the important, even urgent, initiative to support academic libraries in articulating and demonstrating their value to their institutions at a time in which higher education in general finds itself constantly defending its value. Accountability at numerous levels, from our federal government to our university boards of trustees, is the clarion call of the day. Assessment, accountability, and value have been inexorably linked over the past several decades. Assessing the impact of [information literacy instruction, freshman seminars, general education, fill in the blank] on student learning and achievement is both a means of being accountable to our stakeholders (parents, policy makers, tax payers, etc.) but also demonstrating our value (Why should we continue to exist?). For many academic librarians, specifically those invested in information literacy (IL) instruction programs; the assessment movement has been beneficial insofar as it has meant that IL has become central to many college and university assessment efforts. It has been very satisfying to have our work validated as core to the undergraduate curriculum. However, like many aspects of the curriculum, the value of IL instruction programs is in question, as are the many other services, contents, and processes of the academic library. Assessing the value (financial, impact, or otherwise) of these services, use of contents, and efficiency of processes becomes our means of proving (being accountable) our relevancy in higher education. For instruction librarians this has meant a move from simply recording how many students we’ve reached (whether through classroom instruction, online tutorials, research appointments) to developing IL learning outcomes that are assessed at the course level as well as the institutional level. While we appreciate the growing adoption of IL learning outcomes in core curricula, it is worrisome that it may be simply to satisfy external pressure (i.e. accrediting agencies). Because ultimately the pressure from both external and internal stakeholders is framed in economic terms—return on investment. As educators, the value of assessment should be because it informs our practice (and praxis).
Published in 2010 the Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report prepared by Megan Oakleaf claims that academic library stakeholders “tend to focus on two” particular ways of defining value: financial and impact value (p. 22). The report takes as a given that academic librarians will need to prove that we manage our financial resources well and somehow bring money into our institutions (p. 22). However the report also recognizes that the more meaningful piece for librarians may be in demonstrating “impact value:” “This position posits that academic library value is not primarily a financial concept; rather the value of information is its contribution to making improvements in users (Wilson, Stenson and Oppenheim 2000, 3-4)” (p. 24). Nonetheless impact value as described in the report still pivots on a conception of value as an economic construct of sorts, a return on investment embodied by an improvement in the user. The term “improvement” suggests that information has increased the value of the individual. Information, as object and commodity, and teaching and learning may indeed increase the market value of the individual, but for many information literacy instruction librarians the value of teaching is not measureable in economic terms but is instead that which “transforms”. In other words the transformative value is that which develops critical consciousness, a broadening of one’s worldview in order to appreciate the multiplicity of perspectives and the complexity of any given issue or situation. Transformation may alter but not necessarily improve or increase impact value (i.e. retention, graduation rates, career success, GPA, etc.).
A recent follow-up to the 2010 report, Connect, Collaborate, and Communicate: A Report from the Value of Academic Libraries Summit (Association of College and Research Libraries, 2012) does attend to some transformative values, for example “academic intimacy” (p. 12), yet seems to ignore these in their “Actions for the profession” items. In the spirit of action item 3.3, “to “Build a community of practice to engage and sustain professional dialogue about library value,” we’d like to consider the integration of our understanding of library value with our professional values.
Some of the foundational Core Values of librarianship (American Library Association, 2004) include free access to information, democracy as it hinges on an informed citizenry and the First Amendment’s mandate to free expression, the public good, and social responsibility. Is the concept of value as articulated in the ACRL value reports antithetical to these core values expressed by ALA?
In a recent post from In the Library With a Lead Pipe, Emily Ford asks us to consider the “why” of what we do as an intervention in what she sees as failed attempts to demonstrate our value. Ford recommends that the library community develop a philosophy of librarianship. She suggests that engaging with philosophy will enable the library community to move from practice to praxis—professional practice informed by theory, or a philosophical framework. Perhaps we need only look to our Core Values to articulate a philosophy of librarianship.
Barbara Fister emphasizes the importance of Ford’s recommendations (Fister, 2012, August 28) and also shares thoughts on value and values in a recent post (2012, September 19), stating that:
“We librarians seem anxious to prove our value these days, but what we really should articulate more clearly and loudly is our values. When we focus on defending our existence to our administrators, we end up…with a focus far too narrow, too parochial, too myopic to ensure that our values inform what libraries should be.”
We’d like to see this conversation grow on the apparent disconnect between articulating our value with our values, especially in relation to information literacy instruction. We have submitted for consideration a proposal for an ACRL Instruction Section Current Issue Discussion Group at ALA Annual with the hope that other instruction librarians are also concerned about the apparent disconnect between our value and our values. However, it is likely that the proposal is too philosophical to be accepted, so we’d love to get your feedback here, at the Library Juice Blog, or via personal email.
Can we articulate our Core Values while also demonstrating our value in economic terms? Do we risk losing our value as defenders/providers of equity of access, free speech, intellectual freedom, and the public good if we concede to the narrative of crisis fueling the value initiative? How do we fit our Core Values into our information literacy learning outcomes? Is it possible to re-orient the conversation in order to re-value conceptions of value?
Lua Gregory & Shana Higgins
American Library Association. (2004). Core values of librarianship. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/statementspols/corevaluesstatement/corevalues.
Association of College and Research Libraries. (2012). Connect, collaborate, and communicate: A report from the value of academic libraries summits. Prepared by Karen Brown and Kara J. Malenfant. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.
Fister, B. (2012, August 28). The self-centered library: A paradox. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/self-centered-library-paradox.
Fister, B. (2012, September 19). What libraries should be: A values proposition. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/what-libraries-should-be-values-proposition.
Ford, E. (2012, August 8). What we do and why we do it? In the Library With a Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2012/what-do-we-do-and-why-do-we-do-it/.
Oakleaf, M. (2010). The value of academic libraries: A comprehensive research review and report. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.
Wilson, R. M. S., Stenson, J., & Oppenheim, C. (2000). Valuation of information assets. Loughborough: Loughborough University.
I recently encountered some interesting data on the academic book market, in an article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, by Albert N. Greco, Robert, M. Wharton, and Falguni Sen, titled, “The Price of University Press Books: 2009-2011.”
According to data from YBP, in 2011, the total number of books published by university presses was 12,104, and the number published by commercial scholarly and professional publishers was 52,148. I was interested to see that commercial scholarly presses were a much bigger part of the market for scholarly books than university presses. Included in the category of commercial scholarly book publishers are big ones like Routledge and SAGE on down to small ones like Parlor Press and Litwin Books. (Since Litwin Books is on the YBP core list of publishers, we were counted in these stats.)
Also interesting to see in this data were the average prices per title charged by university presses and commercial presses. In 2011, the average price of a book from a university press was $61.04, and the average price from a commercial scholarly and professional publisher was $85.17. The authors of the article state that they assume there is no qualitative difference between titles published in the two categories.
At Litwin Books and Library Juice Press we have been pricing our books much lower, with the idea of making them affordable to individuals and not just institutions. The average price of a book from Library Juice Press is $24.80, and the average price of a Litwin Books title is $26.86. While it might seem that our prices are ridiculously cheap for the market that we are in, it has to be stated we are only publishing paperbacks thus far, and the data I saw did not separate prices for hardcover versus paperback editions. Paperback editions from other scholarly publishers, though usually higher than ours, are mostly in the same range. (It’s my personal opinion that hardcover pricing for libraries is a scam, gaming on the fact that many years ago, when library collection policies were set, paperback books were manufactured poorly and hardover books lasted much longer. With current manufacturing techniques, quality paperbacks are just as durable as hardcover books, with the exception of those with sewn bindings, which are far from the norm.)
I just listened to the latest episode of Steve Thomas’s podcast, “Circulating Ideas,” with academic librarians Lauren Pressley and Lynda Kellam. Towards the end of the show, they discussed how they’re teaching their students to evaluate information but questioned how they’re doing with the “finding things” part. “Are they [the students] making the connection that they can go to their public library to do this kind of work?” asked Kellam. “How are we making that jump into – what does this mean for when you get out of here?” Kellam and Pressley pointed out that in school, the students are educated with resources that may not be available to them once they leave. How does information literacy as it’s taught in college library labs translate into living in the real world after they graduate? And, as they put it, how do you make the connection to the public library in an instructional “one-shot”?
A few months ago, I talked to a librarian at one of the City University of New York (CUNY) campuses who had also started thinking about how the concept of “lifelong learning” fits into what he does at work. I don’t know whether he’s been able to incorporate any new techniques into his instruction, but I think it’s a great thing for academic librarians to consider. After all, we spend many more years – decades – navigating life and (ideally) learning as we go along than we do figuring out how to limit proprietary periodical database results to peer-reviewed articles just because the professor told us to. More recently, a colleague and I met with a few librarians (including the marvelous Alycia Sellie) at one of the local CUNY campuses. We talked about creating handouts that would cross-reference community college and public library resources, and we brainstormed programs at the public library that could supplement academic library instruction (such as “Got a Paper?” clinics).
Because, of course, we in the public library are already seeing your students, academic librarians – at least in my system in NYC, we get lots of CUNY and other college students coming to the reference desk, usually in search of books on their various syllabi. Sometimes we have what they’re looking for, but often we have to gently explain that the public library doesn’t have any university-level economics textbooks, much less the 12th edition of the one that their professor has assigned. Many times the patrons are just accustomed to going to their neighborhood library when they need a book or articles or “information,” and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to disabuse them of that notion – even though at this stage in their life they need to realize that we’re more likely than not going to refer them back to their school.
In California, LILi (Lifelong Information Literacy) is “a group of librarians from various types of California libraries, investigating information literacy definitions, standards and instruction in California, in order to craft effective models of lifelong, sequential information literacy instruction.” Maybe one day we’ll have something similar in New York City (and in your town or city as well) that formally brings together school, public, and academic librarians. But regardless of whether it’s institutionalized – how can academic and public librarians work together now to prepare students to handle all of the information needs they’ll encounter throughout their lives?
Barbara Fister expresses a welcome dissenting view regarding the death of libraries and reading in the current Inside Higher Ed: “The End of the Twilight of Doom.” I agree with what she says, especially regarding the problem of high level administrators believing the hype about the death of reading, and the danger that it poses to library budgets.
Simmons College’s continuing education program is offering a course in Libraries and the Alternative Press in August, taught by yours truly. This course is a good professional development activity for those wanting to do something to enhance their professionalism without the expense of attending another conference. Simmons’ other courses also look very interesting (especially Maria Accardi’s course which starts tomorrow, “Changing Lives, Changing the World: Information Literacy and Critical Pedagogy.” Enrollment is presently open for both of these courses.
Starting probably in September, Library Juice Academy will be offering courses along these lines. Watch this space for news.
An illuminating article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week: “The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia,” by historian Timothy Messer-Kruse. It illustrates a problem with the protocol in place on Wikipedia that operate to attempt to ensure objectivity. This problem is one that academics who work on Wikipedia articles are likely to run into, because it tends to prevent new knowledge from making it into an article. Apologies if this article requires subscription access; most university libraries subscribe and should let you in from home using a proxy server if you are affiliated with the institution.
If you’re headed to the iSchool conference, something to read if you haven’t yet is a paper that was rejected for inclusion in the 2008 iSchool conference, by Jonathan Furner and Anne Gilliland, both professors at the UCLA School of Information (officially an iSchool). It’s titled, The Humanistic iSchool: A Manifesto. I am very much down with the program of making information studies more humanistic. There is a lot of progress being made at UCLA along those lines, though judging from the fate of this paper in 2008, there is opposition to the idea…
Just a tip of the hat to our friend and fellow Library Juice blogger Alison Lewis, who was honored at the National Distance Learning Week Awards Ceremony as an outstanding online instructor. Alison is the author of Literary Research and British Modernism, from Scarecrow Press, and the editor of Questioning Library Neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarian, from Library Juice Press.
Here is a guest post from Julie Teglovic, an MLIS student at the University of Denver, where students have been protesting a decision regarding the library…
Library as Space: University Students Want Books
This April, the paper books at the University of Denver’s Penrose Library began a move into a storage facility 10 miles away in preparation for the library’s gutting and renovation. I, like most students not hearing otherwise, assumed that the move would be temporary, until I happened across the “Keep the Penrose Library Book Collection on Campus” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/savethestacks) in early May. According to this page, secret dealings had been made “behind closed doors and at the last minute” by the university Chancellor and Board of Trustees, culminating in a decision to retain 80% of the books at the storage center and return 20% to campus after the renovation.
About six students and a few faculty members, led by undergraduate English and Psychology major Brandon Reich-Sweet, united to disseminate information through the Facebook page and a website (www.savepenrose.com). They distributed online and paper petitions, contacted news outlets and university officials, made t-shirts and signs, and organized check-out/sit-in protests in and around the library. Because of these efforts, as of right now, university administration has agreed to return 50% of the books to campus (this is according to library faculty and student organizers; no official communication to students has been released).
Concerns over environmental sustainability and transparency were important to the group’s arguments (books will be driven by truck to and from the storage facility indefinitely, and neither students nor library staff were asked for input on the initial decision), but perhaps more interesting here are this group of non-librarians’ deep concerns about the library, its space, and its purpose.
I’ve read a lot in library school thus far about adapting to survive, about the need to see the library as community space, meeting space, and cutting-edge technology space. As gaming space, video-editing space, music-recording space. I’ve taken classes on ebooks and seen the skills requirements for programming languages and systems analysis on academic librarian job descriptions. Librarians want to redefine their collective image, to be tech-savvy and rethink education; we champion webinars and iSchools and digital repositories as solutions. Penrose is certainly not the first academic library to move a large number of books off-campus. Some students supported the Chancellor’s original decision and spoke out in the student newspaper The Clarion, asking why a book that’s never been circulated should gather dust. They argue that the way students learn has fundamentally changed in the last 20 years, and by designing a library with more collaborative learning space, the university is responding to this change.
Yet the (mostly undergraduate) students protesting—the library users, not the librarians—organized this movement and voiced—loudly—a different opinion: they want the books. As symbols of academic rigor, as visible history, as an elegant reminder of long-form reality itself to Brandon—the pages mean something to them. The millennials we jump to categorize as attention-deficient and gadget-crazed are perhaps more attuned to the emotional, existential, and intellectual redemption that a brick of words, a collection not on a screen, can provide than we as a profession would like to acknowledge. “The decision by a group of number-obsessed business-types to remove almost all of the books from a LIBRARY was really just a small symbol of a broader cultural trend,” Brandon says in an editorial for the Clarion. He writes about “Things without meaning…the terrible anxiety that comes standard with existence in modern human society…The victory of the Save Penrose movement then is not only one of logistics but one of meanings.”
The Long Island University Faculty Federation is on strike. Librarians are included. Information is available at the LIU Faculty Federation home page.
University of Western Ontario Librarians are on strike. (Link goes to recent news from the Faculty Association.)
From the press release announcing the strike:
“It is with great regret that we make this decision,” said Bryce Traister, UWOFA President. “We simply haven’t seen enough movement on the key issues important to our members. We find it disrespectful and I am personally disappointed that administration didn’t see fit to address longstanding challenges.”
Outstanding issues at the table include: a long-standing pay gap of 20 per cent between Western Librarians and Archivists – most of whom are women – and colleagues at comparative universities in Ontario. Other issues include staff complement and workload.
At my university, there is a group of student tour guides who give tours of the campus to prospective students and their families. The library is included in their tour, and it is often amusing to listen to the misinformation about the library that they sometimes include. We periodically provide updated information, and the tour guides are trained each year, but errors are always present and we accept them with good humor.
What was harder to chuckle about not long ago was overhearing a tour guide give an explanation of the reference desk followed by an explanation of the nearby “Media Hub.” It went something like this:
(Spoken in a sad tone): “Over there is the reference desk where there is a librarian who can, um, help students find things to use for their research papers and things, and they are experts in different subject areas … There is a reference desk on each floor.” (In our building with four floors, there is Circulation and some student technology help on the first floor, reference on the second, student technology help on the third, and nobody on the fourth.)
“Moving over this way, that is the Media Hub, which is self-explanatory.”
It seems to me that we’re getting our message out okay regarding what we do, but most students here don’t connect to the service we are providing once they hear us describe it. It seems to me that overworked faculty members are not scrutinizing students’ papers to the point where the students would see any need for our help. So we say, “We can help you get a better grade,” but I think that from the students’ point of view it is hard to see how we could possibly do that, given the more immediate obstacles to better grades that they experience. There are exceptions, of course, and most days those are enough…
Julia Skinner has posted a thoughtful review of Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods to her blog. Her review will give readers a good sense of whether the books is for them.