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C&RL Spotlight

Wendi Kaspar is C&RL editor and policy sciences librarian at the Texas A&M University Policy Sciences and Economics Library, email: warant@library.tamu.edu

My first job as a librarian was for a large software company (which shall remain nameless), working in the research library supporting one of its divisions. Almost all of the questions would come by email (at the risk of dating myself, this was the mid-90s) either directly to me or triaged through a request system. I handled questions about market research, software algorithms, trademarks, and anything else that happened to come up. It was a great place to work—one of those beautiful campuses, where the lounge is stocked with free soft drinks and you can come in when you want because everyone puts in much more than 40 hours a week. I learned a lot at a time when computers were transforming libraries.

However, I really missed a more high-touch environment where I had the opportunity to work with patrons face-to-face. So I started applying for, and ultimately took, a position in an academic library as a subject specialist and liaison librarian. It was exactly what I was looking for—building rapport with students, collaborating with faculty, and innovating services with peers. I was fortunate to become embedded with the programs I served and was in position to be responsive to their demands as their needs changed due to technological, political, or social factors.

So time marched on, and libraries became even more dependent on technology, to the point that my job in the academic library now looks a lot like the position back at that software company. Much of the communication is by email, the resources used are almost entirely computer-based, and those meaningful consultations with students and meetings with faculty are fewer.

I find this somewhat disconcerting and, as I consider the trajectory of higher education and academic libraries, I am left with the conclusion that the work will only become more computer-mediated.

As much as I prefer the high-touch environment, I feel it is critical for the library to be where the students and faculty are —and more and more, they are online and not on-site. For librarians to contribute to their institutions, they need to support the students where they learn, where they seek information, and where they have questions. For librarians working directly with collections or systems, information technology offers a number of solutions and ways to increase access for patrons. For research or public service librarians like myself, I feel that the challenge of building rapport and developing relationships is in effectively using technology to reach out to students and faculty, anticipate what they will need to succeed in their classes, and research and provide a framework around the information environment.

Enter the huge focus on artificial intelligence—in the news, in academia and even in our own conferences. This is coupled with the rhetoric in business news and HR practice on retooling and reskilling people and professions, which sounds a lot like the rhetoric all those years ago when the Internet was going to replace libraries.

Perhaps I am being too alarmist? Or maybe too old-fashioned?

Certainly, the number of online colleges and universities is growing, not just the ones that might be considered diploma mills. Reputable institutions such as Arizona State and MIT are enlarging their online presence and offerings and many others are doing the same, responding to a growing nontraditional student body, aligning education with practice and industry needs, and seeking solutions to accommodate more students that mitigate the issues of space constraints and class sizes.

I expect we have all seen the changes in teaching taking place—flipped classrooms, online classes of hundreds of students and faculty streaming recorded lectures—using technology to be responsive to the changing environment and the needs of the student body. There are challenges and opportunities there that are transforming not just higher education, but academic libraries as well.

So, what will be the impact in academic libraries? We took on the online catalog, the Internet, and then the discovery system without a hitch. But that addresses how libraries as organizations contribute—how will librarians, as professionals, engage with the new environment? If we need to be where the students (and the faculty) are, how do we do that effectively?

This year, the ACRL 2019 Conference seeks to engage with these questions. The theme is “Recasting the narrative of what it means to be an academic library professional in the 21st century, adapting and leading the transition to new roles.” ACRL members and librarians in the profession recognize that our roles are changing. Certainly, the authors in the April Special Issue of College & Research Libraries recognize the fact that we are not just advocates of open access but instigators of it; that we provide information and reference services where students are now, regardless of medium; that we are critical in empowering students to engage effectively with information; that we adopt new technologies to enhance the student experience and remove barriers; and that we seek to lead and have a seat at the table as higher education transforms itself.

“Same Question, Different World: Replicating an Open Access Research Impact Study” by Julie Arendt, Bettina Peacemaker, and Hillary Miller. To examine changes in the open access landscape over time, this study partially replicated Kristin Antelman’s 2004 study of open access citation advantage. Results indicated open access articles still have a citation advantage. For three of the four disciplines examined, the most common sites hosting freely available articles were independent sites, such as academic social networks or article-sharing sites. For the same three disciplines, more than 70 percent of the open access copies were publishers’ PDFs. The major difference from Antelman’s study is the increase in the number of freely available articles that appear to be in violation of publisher policies.

“Leading the Academic Library in Strategic Engagement with Stakeholders: A Constructivist Grounded Theory” by Fiona Harland, Glenn Stewart, and Christine Bruce. The current diversity and disparate needs of stakeholders present significant challenges to academic libraries globally. The constructivist grounded theory presented in this paper recognizes the guiding role of the library director in responding to this problem and the need for different strategic mechanisms for engagement with various stakeholder groups. Key contributions of this work include establishing a strategic framework for engagement with stakeholders and tentative suggestions for various types of university libraries. The implications of this research include the need for outward-looking library directors, an evidence-based approach to stakeholder engagement, and the encouragement of a customer-focused organizational culture among staff.

“If Research Libraries and Funders Finance Open Access: Moving Beyond Subscriptions and APCs” by John Willinsky and Matthew Rusk. Following the examples of SCOAP3, in which libraries fund open access, and eLife, in which funding agencies have begun to directly fund open access scholarly publishing, this study presents an analysis of how creatively combining these two models might provide a means to move toward universal open access without article processing charges (APCs). This study calculates the publishing costs for the funders that sponsor the research and for the libraries that cover unsponsored articles for two nonprofit biomedical publishers, eLife and PLOS, and the nonprofit journal aggregator BioOne. These entities represent a mix of publishing revenue models, including funder sponsorship, APCs, and subscription fees. Using PubMed filtering and manual-sampling strategies, as well as publicly available publisher revenue data, the study found that, in 2015, 86 percent of the articles in eLife and PLOS acknowledge funder support, as do 76 percent of the articles in the largely subscription journals of BioOne. Such findings can inform libraries and funding agencies, as well as publishers, in their consideration of a direct-payment open access model, as the study a) demonstrates the cost breakdown for funder and library support for open access among this sample of X articles; b) posits how publishing data-management organizations, such as Crossref and ORCID, can facilitate such a model of funder and library per-article open access payments; and c) proposes ways in which such a model offers a more efficient, equitable, and scalable approach to open access across the disciplines than the prevailing APC model, which originated with biomedical publishing.

“Increasing Leisure Reading Among University Students with Audio + Text Devices” by Annie Jansen. This article reports on a study investigating leisure reading among university students using Kindle devices. The study employed a pre-post reading engagement survey of a cohort of 21 college students. Students participated in the study by completing self-reported surveys before and after a semester-long reading engagement program. The program involved preloaded audio and e-books on Kindle Fire devices, giving students the option to read, listen, or read and listen simultaneously. The students were selected by their enrollment in either a reading improvement class or a comparative literature class contained within a multilingual student course cluster. All students either struggled with English language skills, based on SAT scores, or were ESL students. Students indicated in the presurvey results that they spent less than one hour weekly reading material. In the postsurvey results, analysis shows that students were more interested in recreational reading materials, noting that they were likely or very likely to read or listen to books outside of class material in the future.

“Evolving and Enduring Patterns Surrounding Student Usage and Perceptions of Academic Library Reference Services” by Jodi Jameson, Gerald Natal, and John Napp. This descriptive study analyzes results from an 18-item survey that assessed students’ usage and perceptions of library reference services at a comprehensive public metropolitan university. Among 235 surveys completed between November 2016 and January 2017, the majority of respondents represented the “Generation Z” population of college students, 18-to-24 years of age. Quantitative and qualitative findings revealed patterns of reference service usage, perceptions of librarians, and barriers and facilitators to seeking help from a librarian. These findings can inform decision making to improve marketing and outreach to students regarding general reference services, reference models, and liaison roles.

“Implementing the ACRL Framework: Reflections from the Field” by Don Latham, Melissa Gross, and Heidi Julien. In an exploratory study, interviews were conducted with 15 librarians to learn about their perceptions of and experiences with the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Participants reported that they are implementing the Framework implicitly rather than explicitly, and their instruction has become more interactive and hands-on. A key strategy to success has been getting buy-in from other librarians and faculty. The participants have encountered a number of challenges in implementing the Framework, including time constraints within the one-shot model of instruction and resistance from some librarians and faculty who feel that the Framework is too highly conceptual to be practical for students, many of whom lack basic information literacy skills. Finally, participants indicated it is difficult to assess learning based on the Framework.

“Student Constructions of Authority in the Framework Era: A Bibliometric Pilot Study Using a Faceted Taxonomy” by James W. Rosenzweig, Mary Thill, and Frank Lambert. Using bibliometric data and a faceted taxonomy first published by Leeder, Markey, and Yakel, this pilot study examines student constructions of authority generated from a sample of 60 research papers by students in a freshman-level English composition course. The taxonomy classifies each source using subfacet attributes of author identity, editorial process, and publication purpose facets that, in combination, provide insight into how students navigate today’s information ecosystem. The findings suggest that students use a similar array of sources regardless of their demographic background or their academic ability and that the characteristics of these sources have important implications for information literacy instruction and collection development.

Copyright American Library Association

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