C&RL Spotlight

Scott Walter


At ALA’s Annual Conference in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to speak with John Palfrey about his new book (and the star of my summer reading list), BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google (2015). Among the topics Palfrey engages in this book is the question of staffing and professional development for librarians pursuing their work in a constantly changing environment. “With the rapid emergence of the digital environment,” Palfrey writes, “and the quick shift in user expectations, librarians have been forced to learn new skills every year in order to serve their patrons effectively” (p. 137). Changes in the academic library profession, the emergence of new types of positions, and the impact of these changes in pre-service and continuing professional education for academic librarians, are topics that have been regularly considered at ACRL conferences and in ACRL publications, including The Expert Library: Staffing, Sustaining, and Advancing The Academic Library in The 21st Century (2011).

Therese F. Triumph (Rutgers University) and Penny M. Beile (University of Central Florida) present a study of the academic library job market in the September issue of C&RL, “The Trending Academic Library Job Market: An Analysis of Library Position Announcements from 2011 with Comparisons to 1996 and 1988.” Employing a similar methodology as the earlier studies, Triumph and Beile find some consistency across time (e.g., the importance of the ALA-accredited degree and previous professional experience for many positions), but also find evidence of the increasing diversification of the academic library professional population. The current study, for example, documents the proliferation of new position titles over the past several years, as well as the increasing specialization of many positions, e.g., in areas such as metadata, scholarly communications, and web services. Triumph and Beile also conclude that an increasing number of positions are “crossing” traditional divides in library organizations, i.e., between public services, technical services, etc. With implications for strategic human resource planning, professional development planning, and re-thinking organizational structures, Triumph and Beile provide support from the academic library sector for the more general conclusions that Palfrey draws about the library professions writ large.

Other articles appearing in the September issue include:

  • Therese F. Triumph and Penny M. Beile. “The Trending Academic Library Job Market: An Analysis of Library Position Announcements from 2011 with Comparisons to 1996 and 1988.” Abstract: The primary objective of the study was to describe the number, types and titles, requested qualifications and skills, salary information, and locations of positions advertised in 2011 on the ALA JobLIST and ARL Job Announcements websites and in the print version of the Chronicle of Higher Education for purposes of determining the current state of the academic library job market in the United States. To investigate changes in the academic library job market and identify emerging trends over a 23-year period, results also were compared to studies that analyzed position announcements from 1996 and 1988. Content analysis of 957 unique academic library job advertisements revealed relative stasis in the market regarding the number of positions advertised, presence of administrative duties, geographic distribution of positions, and, to some extent, educational requirements. However, other comparisons were more dynamic. Specifically, there has been a decline in foreign language skills and prior work experience requirements over time, while computer skills are increasingly sought. Perhaps most striking is the proliferation of new position titles that have emerged over time, which serves as an indication that library positions are becoming increasingly specialized.
  • Forrest E. Link, Yuji Tosaka, and Cathy Weng. “Mining and Analyzing Circulation and ILL Data for Informed Collection Development.” Abstract: The authors investigated quantitative methods of collection use analysis employing library data that are available in ILS and ILL systems to better understand library collection use and user needs. For the purpose of the study, the authors extracted circulation and ILL records from the library’s systems using data-mining techniques. By comparing these data to records of books acquired in a four-year period, the study reveals generally good collection use as well as some unmet collection needs. The study also offers a method of compiling and sharing these multiple types of usage data among work groups to create feedback mechanisms to inform the work of selectors and suggest modifications to collection development practices.
  • Kirsten Kinsley, Rachel Besara, Abby Scheel, Gloria Colvin, Jessica Evans Brady, and Melissa Burel. “Graduate Conversations: Assessing the Space Needs of Graduate Students.” Abstract: This article discusses the preferences, habits, and needs of graduate students as they relate to spaces for research and study. The findings are based on a large-scale ethnographic study of graduate students at Florida State University conducted between 2010 and 2013. Using a variety of ethnographic methods, researchers found that graduate students have diverse needs and unequal access to appropriate spaces and resources to meet those needs. Libraries can help fill the gaps left by home and academic departments by providing a range of spaces offering different noise levels, resources, and other amenities.
  • Francine May and Alice Swabey. “Using and Experiencing the Academic Library: A Multisite Observational Study of Space and Place.” Abstract: This study examines how students are using academic library spaces and the role these spaces are playing in the campus community. Data were collected on five campuses (two community colleges, two undergraduate universities, and one technical institute) via observational seating sweeps and questionnaires. The study found remarkably similar usage patterns across all library types. Academic pursuits remain the most common activities, despite perceptions of the modern library as a social space. The library as a place to study is shown to be a complex topic, with noise, need, and personal preference influencing experience. The research provides libraries with evidence to demonstrate their support of student learning and engagement within their institutions.
  • Brian Detlor and Kathryn Ball. “Getting More Value from the LibQUAL+® Survey: The Merits of Qualitative Analysis and Importance-Satisfaction Matrices in Assessing Library Patron Comments.” Abstract: This paper examines the merit of conducting a qualitative analysis of LibQUAL+ survey comments as a means of leveraging quantitative LibQUAL+ results, and using importance-satisfaction matrices to present and assess qualitative findings. Comments collected from the authors’ institution’s LibQUAL+ survey were analyzed using a code-book based on theoretical insights of customer satisfaction with library features. Qualitative findings extended the quantitative results and yielded key recommendations that were new or unclear from the quantitative results alone. Importance-satisfaction matrices were beneficial in pinpointing primary and secondary opportunities for improvement, areas to place continued emphasis, and areas where expectations were exceeded.
  • Ilka Datig and Beth Russell. “‘The Fruits of Intellectual Labor’: International Student Views of Intellectual Property.” Abstract: In this paper, we report on the results of a study conducted at New York University-Abu Dhabi in the fall of 2013. Our goal in the study was to gain a global college student perspective on issues related to intellectual property, including copyright and plagiarism. We found that, contrary to popular opinion, most of our students have a solid understanding of the nature of intellectual property rights, as interpreted within the North American higher education community. In addition, the majority of our students view violations of intellectual property rights and norms, such as plagiarism, negatively.
  • Patrick L. Carr. “Serendipity in the Stacks: Libraries, Information Architecture, and the Problems of Accidental Discovery.” Abstract: Serendipity in the library stacks is generally regarded as a positive occurrence. While acknowledging its benefits, this essay draws on research in library science, information systems, and other fields to argue that, in two important respects, this form of discovery can be usefully framed as a problem. To make this argument, the essay examines serendipity both as the outcome of a process situated within the information architecture of the stacks and as a user perception about that outcome.

Next online forum scheduled for October

Are you interested in determining the impact your library has on campus? The October 2015 College & Research Libraries Online Forum will highlight two studies which explore the role libraries play in student success. John K. Stemmer and David M. Mahan will join Felly Chiteng Kot and Jennifer L. Jones to discuss their articles: “Investigating the Relationship of Library Usage to Student Outcomes” (http://crl.acrl.org/content/early/2015/06/11/crl15-704.full.pdf+html) and “The Impact of Resource Utilization on Undergraduate Students’ Academic Performance: A Propensity Score Matching Design” (http://crl.acrl.org /content/76/5/566.full.pdf+html).

Each forum gives readers the opportunity to engage in live, thought-provoking discussion with C&RL study authors. More information about the time and date of the session will be available shortly at the College & Research Libraries Online Fora site. at http://crl.acrl.org/site/misc/fora.xhtml.

Special issue on Assessment in Action

The March 2016 issue of C&RL will be a special issue presenting research conducted as part of ACRL’s “Assessment in Action” program (www.ala.org/acrl/AiA).

Guest editors Kara Malenfant, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, and Debra Gilchrist have selected seven article proposals from AiA project teams that took part in the one of the first two years of the program.

Copyright 2015© American Library Association

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