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  • The Ownership of eBook Content+
    January 13, 2012

    The ownership of eBook content, the durability of eBooks, digital rights management, licensing, and lending models, not to mention the rapidly changing world of eBook publishers and vendors - - all these are central to our futures and to our future (let alone continuing) relevance and importance. Carrie Russell’s post, uploaded yesterday, Threats to Digital Lending, captures core issues (http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/features/01122012/threats-digital-lending) (accessed 13 January 2012).  Russell  is the director of the Program on Public Access to Information of the Office for Information Policy at the American Library Association’s Washington Office.  Worthwhile reading to be sure! 

  • Heads Up: Austin's New Central Library
    January 11, 2012

    Touted already to be the most advanced library in the United States, Austin’s new central library is slated to open in 2015. Yes, it is a public library, but I suggest that the vision driving this ambitious project merits the attention of academic librarians as we too, think about and engage our futures. This vision has at its core the provision of the same information and community services that residents need from traditional libraries, with a focus on innovation and flexibility. Planners are doing everything they can to prepare for the future, to future-proof, if you will the new facility. Plans reflect community input through and through. Key features include energy efficiency, and a goal is for the building to earn a platinum LEED rating, signifying superior sustainability. Natural lighting, rainwater harvesting for irrigation and a rooftop garden support this goal. Ready accessibility is also a goal; car and bike garages, new bus stops, and light-rail access facilitate access by Austin residents. Outdoor reading porches, a rooftop garden, a street-level café, and a bike garage capture Austin’s unique character and natural beauty. Large book collections side by side with electrical outlets support information, reference, research, and leisure needs. A downloadable eBooks program further extends the collection. Shelves on casters allow space to be transformed as needed. Mini central libraries scattered throughout the city serve target groups.

    Innovation, flexibility, informed planning, energy efficiency, ready accessibility, large physical and eBook collections, flexible and blended spaces, a mixture of both lively and contemplative spaces, state of the art technologies, and facility design that complements the city and its diverse communities - - these are aspirations that we would do well to keep front-and-center, as we engage with solving for the academic library of the future.


  • The Library Environment in 2012
    January 09, 2012

    Pico Iyer’s The New York Times’ op-ed “The Joy of Quiet” should be required reading for anyone considering the library environment in 2012.[1]  Iyer is the author, most recently of “The Man Within My Head.” His reflections address the increasing number of ways we have to connect, side by side with the increasingly desperate need to unplug. A version of his op-ed appeared in print on January 1, 2012, and continues to generate buzz - - letters, blog posts, etc. Indeed, even Aaron Cohen Associates have weighed in.

    A little background provides context - - Aaron Cohen Associates, Ltd. (ACA) is an interdisciplinary library planning firm founded in 1972. Our consultants specialize in library space planning and design, whether for a new building project, reorganization effort or renovation of existing space. Our associates are professional library planners, librarians, architects, interior designers and organizational management consultants. Our team promotes and develops the functional building blocks for modern library spaces. [2]

    Aaron Cohen Associates LTD have built their reputation on assisting libraries around the world with new buildings, renovations and additions -- including the conceptualization of state-of-the-art technologies. Their projects ranging in size from small special libraries to very large international libraries.

    In their blog post in response to Iyer[3], they suggest “In 2012, it will be important to off-set the number of active and collaborative spaces with the number of individual spaces for contemplation and quiet.”

    And they continue “The ‘library as place’ has a special role to play in our social environment. The amount of communication available can be overwhelming; the average teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day. The average office worker today enjoys less than three minutes at a time at his or her desk without interruption. The paradox is that we can communicate anywhere anytime.

    The library of the future needs to provide spaces for reflection and quiet time something very important for ‘student success’ and learning. The functionality of the library building shouldalways include space to turn-off the communication tools and focus or concentrate.”

    Referencing Iyler, they report “the number of hours American adults spent online doubled between 2005 and 2009 (and the number of hours spent in front of a TV screen, often simultaneously, is also steady increasing).”  The blog post concludes with this suggestion - - “To off-set the constant barrage of information, libraries should be planned with quiet environments. This is not a new idea, but something to consider in the new year.”

    Fueled by experience, expertise, data, evidence, some combination of, or some variation on the above, controversies about library design, library space, and even library planning itself, - - not to mention library value, will continue well into the future. Here’s the thing - - let’s not get bogged down. Quiet vs. active spaces is, I suggest, less important than quiet + active spaces, and that is less important that our ability to design and deliver a diversity of physical and virtual spaces. Taking it one step further - - with-or-without-books is, I suggest, less important to how we effect and sustain change in the future than is our ability to design and deliver physical and virtual services and collections that meet and anticipate social, group and individual needs.


  • Fresh Start in 2012
    January 08, 2012

    Looking for a Fresh Start to 2012?

    You could begin a list of New Year’s resolutions. However, caution is in order - - consider, for example, statistics on New Year’s resolutions. Besides, weight loss, exercise, stopping to smoke/drink/whatever, alongside resolutions dealing with better money management / debt reduction - - BORING.

    You could put it (whatever “it” is) on the list.

    You could make Google your home page - - http://www.google.com/ (accessed 8 January 2012). You could use this webpage as your only webpage. You could add this webpage to your home page tabs.

    Or, you could begin playing a Google a day - - http://www.agoogleaday.com/ (accessed 8 January 2012). For Jeopardy fans, for others with a passion for daily puzzles, for those intrigued by searching, for those who just know that there is only one right answer, AND for students, faculty and staff alike, here’s your opportunity to crack the question using the full range of Google search techniques in the search box above the question. Okay, so you just want to enhance your creativity and hone those clever search skills - - a Google a day will meet your needs too! Here’s today’s question - -

    You step out of the world’s oldest subway system and see the sovereign’s official residence. What flag indicates that the occupant is at home?

    Personally, I’m less interested in trivia than I am in “search,” and less interested in daily questions than I am in deeper engagement with that very elusive - - yet near and dear, phenomena - - the “library of the future.” So, looking for a fresh start to 2012? Unwilling to engage with 2012 Mayan prophecies and the shift of the ages? [1]Consider following these posts and spend a few minutes with me considering the library of the future. Daily reflections on revisiting and reimagining the “library of the future” coming soon!

    [1]http://philipcoppens.com/2012dvd.html (accessed 8 January 2012)  

  • Customer Service Circa 2011
    November 20, 2011


    A recent “Checkout” blurb in The New York Times caught my attention. Creatively titled, “My Own Private Librarian,”[1] the piece highlighted personal librarian programs that have been implemented in institutions as diverse as Barnard College, Drexel University, Emory University, and Yale. Think personal shoppers with a twist. Sure, you know what a personal shopper is - - maybe you even have one on staff (!) - - someone whose job is to help you buy what you want by either going to the shops with you or by going shopping for you. Maybe not. Oh well . . . .

    A Sampling of Personal Librarian Programs

    At Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS) the Personal Librarian program gives library users a more personalized and direct link to the library. “Each first year student and each academic department is matched with a librarian who serves as their main point of contact for the library - a "go-to" person for all things library-related.  Of course, all the Barnard librarians welcome questions from anyone in the Barnard/Columbia community!”[2]

    At Drexel, a student’s “personal librarian is [his or her] first contact from the library. He or she is a seasoned library staff member who knows its ins and outs and can help [the student] navigate through its thousands of resources. Contact your personal librarian whenever you have a question about library resources and policies, or about doing research.” The data are compelling. In its first year, the personal librarian program:

    •matched 2,800 Drexel freshmen with 26 library staff members.

    •fielded 45 questions in response to our letters and emails.

    •welcomed 298 freshman visitors to the library in the first three weeks of class with gifts.[3]

     The Personal Librarian Program at Yale “is designed to introduce students entering Yale College to the collections and services of the Yale University Library.” The description continues “As a Yale freshman you will be matched with a Librarian, who will help you with any research involving the Library and its collections. Students doing more advanced work in their major should contact their Subject Specialist.”[4]

    Variations on a Theme

    At Oxford College, Emory University, each faculty member is assigned a personal librarian. These personal librarians function as the faculty member’s contact person for any library-related question, comment, or concern.  Some of the things these Personal Librarian can help faculty with include: meeting with the faculty member at the beginning of every semester to show you new library services and resources in your discipline; integrating meaningful research skills instruction into their classes; helping faculty schedule research skills instruction sessions for their classes; making sure the items their students will need are on physical or electronic reserve at the library; keeping them informed throughout the year of new resources, pertinent to their discipline, that become available; and finally, assisting faculty with their personal research; and answering any subject or research-related questions they may have, or directing them to the best contact person[5]


    Several questions come to mind - -

    • Do personal librarians differ from personal shoppers? If so, how?
    • What skills and experience are necessary for becoming a personal librarian?
    • Is library experience necessary? Academic library experience?
    • Is it necessary to train with an experienced personal librarian?
    • How are these services being marketed, and does marketing make a difference?
    • Do personal librarians help with recruitment and retention? Is anyone paying attention to this question?
    • To what extent does a personal librarian program equate with good customer service? Exemplary customer service?
    • How do personal librarian programs differ from the F2F or virtual information, reference, or research services we currently provide?
    • How do the services provided by personal librarians differ from those provided by subject specialists? By liaison librarians?
    • Are these programs anything more than the creative repackaging and marketing of existing services?

    Make no mistake, today’s students lead very busy lives. They juggle multiple demands and pressures, and quickly learn that their academic success hinges on successfully navigating the rigors of search and discovery. I suggest that academic librarians are well qualified for this not-so-new role - - should we choose to repackage our services and market ourselves as personal librarians.

  • It's Really Exciting
    November 16, 2011


    Okay, I’m not talking about our crazy digital information landscape, or the future of libraries, which are, I’m just sayin’, interrelated! No, I’m talking about the National Book Awards. As a University of North Carolina Wilmington employee, I am proud to give a “shout out” - - no matter what happens to "Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories" by Edith Pearlman, published by Lookout Books[1], our University’s very own imprint.

    Take a moment today to honor writing, to honor great American books. And, by all means, stay tuned tonight!

    The National Book Foundation will announce the winners at a gala in New York tonight! [2] Below is the lineup, in case you are curious:

    "The Sojourn" by Andrew Krivak, published by Bellevue Literary Press (L.A. Times review)
    "The Tiger's Wife" by Téa Obreht, published by Random House (L.A. Times review)
    "The Buddha in the Attic" by Julie Otsuka, published by Knopf
    "Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories" by Edith Pearlman, published by Lookout Books (L.A. Times review)
    "Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward, published by Bloomsbury 

    "The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism" by Deborah Baker, published by Graywolf Press. (L.A. Times review)
    "Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution" by Mary Gabriel, published by Little, Brown and Co.
    "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern" by Stephen Greenblatt, published by W.W. Norton & Co.
    "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" by Manning Marable, published by Viking (L.A. Times review)
    "Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout" by Lauren Redniss, published by It Books

    "Head Off and Split" by Nikky Finney, published by Triquarterly
    "The Chameleon Couch" by Yusef Komunyakaa, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    "Double Shadow" by Carl Phillips, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    "Tonight No Poetry Will Serve" by Adrienne Rich, published by W.W. Norton & Co.
    "Devotions" by Bruce Smith, published by University of Chicago Press

    Young People's Literature:
    "My Name Is Not Easy" by Debby Dahl Edwardson, published by Marshall Cavendish Corp.
    "Inside Out and Back Again" by Thanhha Lai, published by HarperCollins
    "Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy" by Albert Marrin, published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
    "Shine" by Lauren Myracle, published by Amulet Books (L.A. Times review)
    "Okay for Now" by Gary D. Schmidt, published by Clarion Books
    "Chime" by Franny Billingsley


    [1] http://www.lookout.org/ (accessed 16 November 2011)

  • In Praise of Librarians in Today’s “Digitally Confused World of Information”
    November 13, 2011


    If you have a minute, check out The Reality Check blog, from John V. Lombardi, and specifically his October 19, 2011 “in Praise of Librarians” entry ( http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/praise-librarians [accessed 13 November 2011]). Lombardi describes our world as a “digitally confused world of information,” and proceeds to praise librarians who, he asserts, “are transforming our world of information with creativity and imagination.” True, his focus is on Association of Research Libraries (ARL) librarians, however, having worked in both ARL and non-ARL academic libraries, I suggest that the attributes he ascribes to ARL librarians are characteristics that non-ARL librarians share as well.

    Lombardi’s “In Praise of Librarians” is as much a commentary on our information universe as it is on the role and function of academic librarians, as much reflection on the problems and opportunities we face as anything else.

    If you have any doubt of our value - - academic librarians’ value, to our institutions, to our users, spend a few minutes with Lombardi and your doubts will, I’m sure, seriously diminish if not disappear.

  • Data Dashboard, Halloween Edition
    November 01, 2011



    With thanks to Bob Humphrey, Library Web & Applications Developer, Information Systems, and the man-behind-the-Library's-statistics-dashboard-curtain!

  • The Jobs Mess, Academia, and Academic Libraries
    October 29, 2011


    Will dropouts save America? I will let Michael Ellsberg, author of “The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late” reply to that![1] Whether or not higher education is the only path to stable employment is less my interest than the skills and competencies that promise to insure success in entering and staying in, the job market.

    What skills exactly put students - - or anyone else, at an advantage in the formal or informal job market? We are hearing a lot about the value of classroom skills putting folks at an advantage in the formal market, and street-smart skills and real-world networking putting folks at an advantage in the informal market.

    What do I believe?

    I believe that critical thinking skills are key to success in the formal and informal markets.

    What am I talking about exactly?

    Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following:

    • understand the logical connections between ideas
    • identify, construct and evaluate arguments
    • detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
    • solve problems systematically
    • identify the relevance and importance of ideas, and
    • reflect on the justification of one's own beliefs and values[2]

    Other definitions of critical thinking have been proposed, of course. Even a cursory review of these definitions reveals that clarity and rationality constitute the common core across the different conceptions on critical thinking.

    Is critical thinking a matter of accumulating information? Or is it more?  Should we conflate critical thinking with being argumentative or being critical of other people? What role does critical thinking have in helping us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments? Can we really use critical thinking to enhance work processes and improve social institutions?

    Consider the following

    Good critical thinking might be seen as the foundation of science and a liberal democratic society. Science requires the critical use of reason in experimentation and theory confirmation. The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and to overcome biases and prejudice.[3]

    Earlier I stated that I believe that critical thinking skills are key to success in the formal and informal markets. Specifically, the ability to think clearly and rationally is important whatever we choose to do - - whatever field we choose to work in, whatever subject area we choose to focus on. Secondly, in the new knowledge economy, I believe that the ability to analyze information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems has never been more important. Thirdly, I believe that thinking clearly and systematically strengthens our language and presentation skills. Fourth, what about creativity? Of course there is a link! What does it mean to come up with a creative solution to a problem? Is it only about having new ideas? What about the generation, application, evaluation, and, perhaps (I’m just sayin) modification of those new ideas? Don’t those matter? Finally, consider this question - - what is the relationship of critical thinking to self-evaluation? I suggest that critical thinking is crucial for self-reflection, and therefore, for progress.

    Okay, so, you get it - - I believe that critical thinking is a critically important thinking skill. Some would suggest, and I concur, that it is a meta-thinking skill.

    If you want to know more about critical thinking, consider a Google search. There is plenty about higher order thinking skills - - what they are, why they matter, etc. Working definitions abound, as do suggested characteristics. Try to get beyond the buzz words and skill sets, beyond the overviews. I challenge you to stop and think about it.  

    I suggest that academic library staffs are key to the development and maintenance of this meta-thinking skill, a skill that, I suggest, insures success in entering and staying in the job market.



  • Books that Matter
    October 16, 2011


    By now, most readers are aware that Lookout Books’ debut book, Edith Pearlman's "Binocular Vision," has enjoyed rave reviews not to mention “center stage” status from both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

    Given this week’s news, it is worth your while to spend a few minutes with the mission of Lookout Books - -

    Lookout is more than a name—it’s our publishing philosophy. When Emily Louise Smith, director of The Publishing Laboratory, and Ben George, editor of Ecotone, teamed up to found Lookout Books as the literary imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington, they pledged to seek out emerging and historically underrepresented voices, as well as works by established writers overlooked by commercial houses. In a publishing landscape increasingly indifferent to literary innovation, they envisioned Lookout as a haven for books that matter.

     So what makes Lookout Books different? We solicit manuscripts from the pool of writers published in the department’s national literary magazine, Ecotone. We believe in developing lasting relationships and partnering with authors, setting a standard for editorial excellence, and publishing well-made and attractive original trade paperbacks. Books are vital to our culture, and we want to sustain them by rethinking traditional publishing models. At Lookout we offer authors 50-50 profit sharing, rather than the usual royalty structure, and reinvest profits in future titles. http://www.lookout.org/about.html (accessed 16 October 2011)

    You missed this week’s news? This week, “Binocular Vision” was nominated for the nation’s preeminent literary prize, the National Book Awards. The twenty Finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards were announced on Oregon Public Broadcasting's morning radio program, Think Out Loud, in front of a live audience at the new Literary Arts Center in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday, October 12. In 2011, there were 1,223 books submitted for the National Book Awards. By genre the nominees included 315 fiction titles; 441 nonfiction; 189 poetry; and 278 young people’s literature titles (YPL).  Not bad for a small, previously unknown university press. To see the lineup of finalists, visit http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2011.html (accessed 16 October 2011). Not bad for a small, previously unknown university press. Oh, right, I just said that.

    The purpose of these reflections is not, however, to join the chorus of congratulations to Pearlman, Smith or George, each of whom more than deserves a “high five” or radiant smile, or both. No, the purpose is to offer a shout out for small, independent presses and an even louder shoutout that “books matter.”

    The contemporary publishing landscape is defined and shaped by profound change. Descriptions of the new face of publishing generally include one or more of the following words, phrases or components - - all things digital, “e,” “E,” (which may be the same as “e” but whatever!), devices, online, pricing models, zero-capital cost distribution, mobile, collaborative, community, DIY - - and that’s for starters! Inside the industry, and outside, folks are talking about mergers, acquisitions, liquidations, and start-ups. They are muttering about the changing content landscape in publishing. Some folks are focused on the challenge of navigating the contemporary publishing landscape. Still others are engaged in continuous crystal ball gazing about the future of the book, or the future of books, reading and publishing all rolled up into one. The concept of “Books 2.0” is taking hold, with increasing chatter about the challenge of creating new value. It’s different out there. Everyone’s an author, editor, book developer, agent, publisher, critic, censor etc.  

    Enter into this mess - - I mean, mix, “Binocular Vision” and Lookout Books - - a book that matters and a publisher that understands that books matter. A quote on the Lookout Books site is worth repeating - -

    “Books are vital to our culture, and we want to sustain them by rethinking traditional publishing models.”

    I suggest that it is worth honoring great books and the publishers who make them accessible and by so doing, enrich our lives in immeasurable ways. A shout out, then to Lookout Books and a shout out that books matter.