Annotation: Badges for Higher-Ed Assessment

Buell, C. (2013, August 30). Using Badges to Quantify Learning Outcomes at UC Davis. Edcetera. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from

This article examines the use of badges to measure learning outcomes in higher education, especially as developed by UC Davis and Joanna Normoyle, who won an award for the innovation at the Digital Media and Learning Competition. The idea is to quantify and standardize higher-level thinking skills gained throughout the course of a university degree and award a digital badge for the achievement, potentially making them useful to future employers trying to determine the skill-set of a candidate or even simplifying the process of credit transfer between universities looking for equivalent coursework. Badges in such a system also can be useful for helping learners to track their progress and customize an academic program. UC Davis is officially launching their program with students this fall. By extension, I could see this as an easy, practical way for academic libraries to jump in, partner with departments and get involved in assessing and communicating the information literacy of students.

Annotation: Personal Information Management

University of Minnesota University Libraries. (2013). Managing Your Information. Current Awareness and Personal Information Management. Retrieved September 22, 2013, from

This academic library guide provides multiple ideas and resources for people seeking ways to manage their personal information collections. The library promotes its own services, such as subject librarians and a PIM blog for researchers, as one would expect since most libraries exist to serve their specific patrons, but I did not feel like the reader had to be affiliated with the University of Minnesota to benefit from the information. The website has separate pages that go into greater detail for citation management, productivity tools, alerts and feeds, personal archiving, and social networking. Each section has links to explore that develop the topic even further with examples and further research. Not all of the suggestions are geared toward academic researchers, however, and the guide also offers its audience general ways to keep their lives organized, recognizing that everyone has their own approach to the subject.

An Opportunity to Earn Our Keep

Corrall, Kennan and Afzal discuss bibliometrics and research data management services in their 2013 article from Library Trends. Because of internet research and e-resources, university library services have changed though their mission remains the same–supporting learning and research activities. The authors paraphrase Ball and Tunger’s (2006, p.563) argument that “libraries need to cease resembling museums and become efficient ‘business enterprises.’” Typically, I resent notions of commercialized learning, but this smacks of Library 2.0 and “3.0,” and I do think that’s something that we need to keep working toward.

There is a gap and therefore, an opportunity, for academic libraries to offer services using bibliometrics and data management for trend analysis, publication strategies, faculty reviews, grant writing and job applications. As it turns out, bibliometrics is a home-grown research area and specialization, not something LIS has imported or borrowed from other fields, but even this study gives evidence that libraries need to get going on putting it into practice.

The survey used by the authors targeted academic libraries in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK. While many of these libraries had bibliometrics and RDM programs in place and/or plans for more, many of the librarians stated that they didn’t feel prepared with the knowledge, skills or confidence they need to implement them. There is a call for LIS curriculum for RDM, even in the form of electives and short courses on data curation, technical skills and ICT skills (information and communication technology? …British vocab, I guess). 

The authors point out that most MLS programs prepare their graduates with a “general education for all library sectors” (p. 664) and that such specialties may not be applicable to all. I can say that even after working in my field for six years, there are parts of my job that my first Master’s did a lousy job of preparing me for and I have had to do-it-myself–we can say that professional schools need to add X or Y to their curriculum, but there will always be something lacking. I’m glad that someone is paying attention to what academic libraries could do and prepare themselves for so that they stay viable. Actually, we all need to do that!

Preview of the “Annual Review”

Jill Emery and Graham Stone described the reviewing process in chapter 6, “Annual Review,” of Techniques for Electronic Resource Management (2013). The process itself is pretty straightforward and the authors offer several valuable tips. For example, it is a good idea to divide your resources into batches and schedule yourself to review each quarter, making sure that you are allowing time to meet cancellation notices if you need to. Another wise piece of advice is to compare new licenses to the existing contract to be sure that unwanted changes haven’t snuck into the deal.

Since we often have access to usage statistics, this data should also play a big role in the decision-making process for continuation or cancellation. COUNTER-compliant usage data makes it easier to compare usage across vendors, with indicators like cost-per-use or percentage of total e-resources budget. Like they say, you can prove anything with statistics, and it’s nice to see how a vendor fits in among its peers—where it’s apples-to-apples, not apples-to-Volkswagens.

You can check up on vendors to see if they are actually providing compliant data by finding their listing (or lack thereof) on the COUNTER website. Even if they aren’t COUNTER-compliant and you still value their service, you should ensure that they minimally are sending you some kind of usage data in some form. However, besides usage data that comes directly from the vendor, it’s also smart to keep track of trouble, outages and downtime on your own. This could be useful in your decision-making process when searching for loser products, or even getting a refund or lower price on renewal.

Emery and Stone suggest that many vendors are open to re-negotiation once they realize they might be on the chopping block. This came as a surprise to me, especially after learning about the Big Deal packages of databases. If your library subscribes to a Big Deal plan, prices and amounts of content seem to be fixed. I would be surprised if vendors would be willing to allow you to negotiate a smaller package or drop your number of simultaneous users in that context. With Big Deals dominating large percentages of material budgets, the ability to have a bargaining chip on the vendor is definitely appealing—however, wouldn’t it mean that re-negotiation would actually change the deal into a “medium deal”?

Patron-Driven Acquisition: What happens when everyone relinquishes control (at least, for a few areas)

For a library to pilot a patron-driven acquisition program, it has to be willing to trust that the materials its patrons select are worth the money. The safeguards often put in place by librarians before triggering an auto-purchase (such as paying 10% for several short-term loans before purchasing) crank up the price, but also demonstrate that the title is in demand and has proven its usefulness. The librarian has to give up control of the selection process and trust that the money won’t be wasted. I like that the patron is given the power to show through their actual research process what they are looking for.

Is it strange that I no longer expect that industry to work to provide products based on the wants and needs of its clients? It’s just good business to do this, yet we’ve gotten so used to just accepting whatever is put in front of us, like it’s our parents telling us to “Eat your vegetables; they’re good for you.” The one-size-fits-all business model has become the norm.

Yet, here in two of our readings for this unit (Herrera, 2012, and Hamel et al., 2012), we see examples of academic libraries (University of Mississippi Libraries and University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries) who were able to successfully collaborate with e-book aggregators to create PDA programs aligned with their institutions values, missions and budgets! Both reports expressed concerns that they were still working to resolve, but also that the projects had been worth pursuing. Barb Hamel of UW-Madison Libraries came to speak to our class live and echoed Herrera’s conclusion: PDA e-books have a place as a PIECE of a collection policy. There also has to be room, especially in the budget, for a regular [print and database] collection too.

Polanka & Delquie, in their chapter of the 2011 book, Patron-Driven Acquisitions: History and Best Practices, provided a useful analysis of the aggregators providing PDA e-books, all of which seemed to offer fair and logical options for their clients. I think the authors were right to conclude that the evolution of such programs will depend on the market, the roles of librarians and the adoption of e-books. If libraries are able to create successful PDA systems, their patrons get what they are interested in AND their vendors earn a steady stream of e-book sales from the libraries, without the cost of shipping and binding and processing. Win-Win-Win.

In five to ten years, however, I wonder if these vendors of PDA systems will still be as “nice” and responsive to the libraries they serve—or if we will be back to the big guy telling the little guys “how it’s going to be”…

Silencing the Cynic

Traditionally, I am distrustful of business-types who primarily appear to be only interested in profit to the detriment of their customer and competition. Survival of the fittest may be reasonable to expect, but so is ethical behavior. I want to believe that there is more good in these deals than I think.

It doesn’t seem right to me to encourage publishers to prey on the scholarly clientele, many of whom are partially funded by public tax dollars (as with public schools or universities). Good business practices thrive from win-win situations, so the optimist in me hopes that there is more to the “Big Deal” business model for delivering digital academic content to libraries. What truly goes on behind the scenes?

Zac Rolnik’s article in the Serial Librarian in 2009 suggests that content selection has been taken away from the library (i.e. the bibliographer) and given to the Big Deal publisher, who has the power to pad the subscription with unsolicited content. These freebies are potentially wasteful, so it would seem better for libraries to choose what they want–if they could actually afford to do it this way. If I shush the cynic in me for a moment, I then consider that, since they have taken on the role of the bibliographer, it is in the publisher’s best interest to do a good job of matching content to the needs of the library because if not, at some point they risk losing the client. I would be interested in knowing HOW they approach this–what content gets selected for inclusion in a bundle and how does it vary from institution to institution?

Hopefully content does vary from institution to institution based on needs/focus, but we know that pricing definitely does. This is where I put my cynic cap back on. In 2012, Strieb and Blixrud discussed the rates of nondisclosure clauses in contracts between libraries and publishers. Knowing that libraries tend to believe in the idea that “information wants to be free” and are often subject to open records laws, it is curious to me that a publisher would ask them not to share the pricing they have agreed to, unless they are concerned with protecting a profit margin. It is a lot harder for a vendor to extract extra money out of a rookie negotiator if it is common knowledge what everyone else is paying.

To me, the refusal of three of the Big Seven publishers to sell e-books to libraries also points to greed. Why should they let libraries lend their e-books out if they can force more readers to purchase (instead of borrow) the books they want? Perhaps libraries aren’t going to get 5s across the board on their ALA Ebook Business Model Scorecards, but it would be nice if publishers would start negotiating in good faith with libraries soon.

Overview of ERM: How do these librarians do it?!

Even though I was quite aware of the necessity for librarians to be charged with electronic resource management responsibilities, the lit review by Emery and Stone and the white paper from the Association of College and Research Libraries made me feel like I was entering into a very abstract field of study. I can’t say I really understood what these kinds of librarians actually do, especially as I tried to learn the jargon and acronyms. Weir’s descriptions of the processes and Galadriel Chilton’s behind-the-scenes explanations (via our webchat) brought the “Overview” of ERM to a level where I felt like I finally understood. (I must have saved the best for last, right? Perhaps the Emery/Stone and ACRL articles would be more meaningful to me now and merit a second look!)

The e-resource life cycle seemed pretty transparent, probably because there are a lot of parallels to the selection/evaluation/curation life cycle of print resources. There are differences of course, especially in regards to negotiation and vendor interactions, but even the renewal process of an e-resource could be analogous to the weeding decision-making process of a book (keep it/sell it/toss it/replace it). Adding the technological layer in ERM is definitely unique though: we don’t troubleshoot or teach patrons how to use books. Because they have to work with tech and customer service, this is why the job description of an ERM librarian has become hybridized.

Some advice in regards to ERM from Galadriel Chilton of UConn Libraries:

  • Learn what you can about this growing field and position yourself. Start by monitoring ALA joblist for these kinds of jobs and try to develop the the skills they require. It’s okay if you don’t have them all, of course, but it’s a good start.
  • It is important for ERM librarians to interact with their users so that you know what they actually need and want from your resources.
  • ERM librarians need to have good relationships with publishers, vendors, etc. We depend on them–but they also depend on us to create a good product. We need to be vocal and tell them what we’d actually like to see from them.
  • Librarians often hesitate to negotiate. When making a licensing deal, a librarian should never sign without asking, “How much lower could it [the price] be?” She recommended this book on negotiation by Ashmore, Grogg and Weddle.


Sink or swim.

When Brian Matthews of Virginia Tech started talking about vacuums and Roombas in his “Think Like a Startup” article, I felt like giving him a big high-five. Because if businesses (or libraries or schools or lots of other places) that want to be successful, this is exactly how to approach forward motion: it’s not just about building better features; it’s about new processes.

Matthews warns of all of the the ways that the traditional academic library could be dismantled by transferring and outsourcing services to other departments of a university. For example:

  • What if the Office of Research managed campuswide electronic database subscriptions and ondemand access to digital scholarly materials?
  • What if the majority of scholarly information becomes open? Libraries would no longer need to acquire and control access to materials.
  • What if local museums oversaw special collections and preservation? (p. 2)

Maybe I don’t love graduate-level academic research enough, but I didn’t really disagree. [Almost] all of his transfers of domain seemed reasonable to me… Yes, this probably confirms that I’m not really cut out to be an academic librarian in a university at this point (or else I would be more protective of them, maybe?). These are, however, examples of how libraries in general are going to be deemed obsolete and no longer valuable as institutions if the stakeholders don’t step forward to find their new roles.

It starts with attitude. And loving your academic library is not enough. You have to ADVOCATE for it.

Allow me to step up on my soap-box [again].

Last Saturday, I completed my first (and only) triathlon in Pardeeville, Wisconsin. It was a sprint triathlon, so don’t be too impressed: I’m no IronMan. The triathlon was purely a Bucket List thing for me. I HATE SWIMMING. Hate it. I don’t swim well. I would rather pick up dog poop. I hate it that much. Did I mention that I hate swimming? Because I really do hate it.

So in my triathlon, I had to swim a quarter-mile. I was a novice, which meant that I was slow and inexperienced when it comes to triathlons, so they basically give you a head start and don’t mix you in with all the rockstars. I guess, usually, they let the novices have about 10 minutes to get going in the water so they can watch attentively for struggling swimmers (like me) and try to protect them from being trampled (or whatever the word for a water stampede would be). The problem for me was that this time, the head start wasn’t really an actual head start, it was the normal three minute spacing they do between all of the age groups. So soon there were like a hundred strong, fast, young men churning toward me and I was faced with a choice: Panic or not? Sink or swim?

Sink-or-swim is more than just a clever saying, as I can attest. It’s real. And sinking is especially unpleasant in real life because you can die. Or be in agony for a couple minutes until some lifeguard hopefully pulls your panicked self out of the water.

By the way, I swam. It was scary and not pretty, but I made it. In our professional life there are so many strategies to handle a sink-or-swim situation, no matter if you work in a school or a library or a business. The choice is simple–you swim. Hard. You choose to work while you’re at work. You choose to perform your job with an eye for improvement and intentionality. Like Matthews said, you think like a start-up.

You do NOT just show up to collect your paycheck. You do NOT just go through the motions. Yes, I’m talking to you, the one standing by the door with your coat on a minute before closing time. What are we, in middle school, waiting for the bell to ring so that we can rush into the hallway and gossip–you know, where the “important” stuff is? I don’t care if you have a kid to pick up from daycare. Your lack of commitment shows. Yes, family comes first, fine, but other people with families still manage to be professionals and not middle-schoolers.

So contribute. Use your brain. Pay attention. Work together. BE FULLY PRESENT.

Can you tell that I am a Millennial? (I guess I was born on the cusp, but close enough…) I think my rants, which stem from the observation of colleagues early on in my career, are pretty typical of the frustrations that young professionals have been experiencing. Ty Kiisel, in his Forbes article, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme–Millennials in the Workplace” said:

For the most part, the millennial generation is responding to the workforce in the way we’ve trained them to—they question, they challenge and they want to do it better. Sure, sometimes it makes their older colleagues a little uncomfortable. We probably want the same level of respect we gave our bosses—back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. With that said, the challenge for business leaders today is harnessing the talent and drive of the younger workforce to create the products and technology that will change the world. As the times, and the workforce changes, we need to reconsider how we lead people and get work done along with it.

When it comes to libraries, as Lisa Kurt, William Kurt and Ann Medaille put it, “Those libraries that do not adapt to Millennials’ expectations about work and play may find that they are unable to retain talented young librarians” (p. 11).

There are a lot of people out there trying to encourage a giant wake-up call to libraries. I think it’s that movement called Library 2.0… We don’t really want libraries to fail and close. We do want to retain talented young librarians.

Motivated by their creative fervor, start-up librarians are an exuberant bunch. Nurture that exuberance. They are a pivotal asset to your library. Their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and experimental nature might be the key to unlocking the “next big thing” at your library. (Jones, K.)

Amen, Kyle Jones. I just think it’s sad that we have to say this kind of stuff out loud. Over and over. I guess there will be a certain point that we might look at a sinking library (or school or business or whatever) and we will have to just shrug our shoulders and say, “We tried to warn you. You could have listened. We were trying to help.”

Personally, I plan on swimming. Even if it’s hard sometimes and I hate it. It’s the best thing for me. And when it’s over, you look back and say, “Yeah! I did that! And I’m kind of proud of myself now too!”

What we really want

When I was in grad school the first time (2005-2007), I got my Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Man, I’ve got to find a better way to describe this period in my life… it was epic and I have lots of stories, but it’s just awkward now that I’m “going back for more” grad school torture.) I imagine this is pretty common knowledge in the library world, but in case you didn’t know, Illinois’ LIS program is consistently highly ranked (number one in 2009 by U.S. News and World Report). It also has the biggest public academic library in the country. It crossed my mind while I was at Illinois that maybe I should’ve been working on a MLIS instead of my MATESL, but hindsight’s 20/20. (I felt a little better when I discovered that Wisconsin is actually ranked just a little higher than Illinois for a specialty in School Library Media, which is my thing. On Wisconsin!)

Anyway, to get to the point, as a grad student with one of the premier academic libraries at my disposal, I wanted nothing more than to never set foot in the library at all. As I was reading Dempsey’s “Always on: Libraries in a world of permanent connectivity”, I kept thinking about how and what I used the library at the University of Illinois for.

Here were my uses:

  1. Digital reserves
  2. Online searches of academic databases of scholarly articles that I didn’t have access to outside of being a university student. (For the record, at the time, accessing the online academic article databases at Illinois was a major pain–it was really hard to remember how to “get in” and definitely not intuitive or teach-yourself. Even the librarians complained about how obtuse it was. I hope it has improved, because for my program there was no way around it.)
  3. Meeting in the physical library for group projects when we needed computer access and my TA office was awkward or crowded.
  4. The occasional hot beverage or snacks from the little coffee kiosks in the entrances while working on said group projects.

Never once did I enlist the services of a reference librarian for anything more useful than to point me to the whereabouts of whatever section of the library. Oh–I guess there were two semesters where I took my “Academic Writing for International Graduate Students” classes on a field trip there for a library tour and orientation by the reference librarian. If I needed a real book, I had the option of requesting it online and having it “routed” to me in a padded envelope and delivered directly to me to my TA mailbox/office. I think I did this twice.

I’m pretty sure that I was not alone in these feelings/habits, at least among my grad student friends. I wonder if grad student attitudes toward libraries have changed since 2007. I suspect that the perceived usefulness of an academic library to its users really depends on convenience.

On a side-note, I was really please that Dempsey mentioned marketing for libraries in his paper… in fact, in light of a scholarly conversation I had in class last week, I think I foresee a budding interest in this topic for me. I haven’t had any ah-ha! moments on the subject quite yet, but my antennas are up.