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@tamu.edu

It seems like the discourse on the value of the MLS surfaces in a very periodic way in the profession, either in the scholarly literature or less formal venues and day-to-day interactions. Certainly, it is not uncommon to hear from peers in other departments or from university administrators that they are surprised that practicing librarians, even those with faculty status, are not required to have a PhD. Studies and surveys are rampant through the library literature that explore the perceived value of the master’s in library science (or library studies, librarianship, information sciences, etc.) within different contexts, kinds of institutions, and positions.

The debate about whether an MLS is critical for academic librarianship is still going strong, particularly with regard to emerging areas of librarianship, such as technical experience, niche expertise, or data skills. This is not new. It has arisen when there are certain trends or paradigm shifts in the profession or in higher education. It may be prompted by new technologies or new roles. We have seen it with the introduction of the online catalog and computer systems, with the focus on evidence-based practice, with the growing significance of data, with the push for open access, and more. The profession is always evolving—as embedded as it is in higher education priorities and developments.

The response of practicing librarians to these factors is both pragmatic and inspiring, demonstrating the optimism and can-do spirit of librarians. When we see a problem or a question, we turn to our skills to find an answer or information to address the issue. We take this ethic and apply it to our professional development and professional tasks—we seek out information or experts, working outside of traditional boundaries. Because of this flexibility and desire to learn, librarians are in a unique position to promote collaboration and bridge the silos along departments and disciplines that seem to be prevalent in higher educations. In some ways, we are advocates for interdisciplinary research and activity.

The September issue of College & Research Libraries includes an article that again explores the long-debated question in the profession about what degree is essential—in this specific case, what degree is necessary to lead in libraries. This survey of ARL directors reports their own perceptions and experience. Certainly, this has implications for the obvious management activities. Reading this article has prompted some related questions for me. Does the education and/or credential of the library leadership affect the ability of the library to be effective in terms of how it is perceived? This question is truly dependent on the stakeholders or constituency that is being asked. In academic libraries, the answer will be very different based on the audience—librarians, library staff, students, faculty patrons, other departments on campus, parents, university administrators, donors, legislators, other institutions or academic libraries, the public at large . . . the list doesn’t end. Does the leader of an academic library need to be all things to all people? The position description for the head of the library would look like an encyclopedia (and, unfortunately, I have seen some that resemble one).

So, how crucial the credential and the signal it sends to those to whom the director reports, those who can determine the fate of the library? Does it make a difference in building rapport and meeting the expectations of those stakeholders? Is it critical for the library director to have the visible credential in order to make its case for funding, space, or more positions to be involved in strategic planning?

It raises the interesting question of the message that is sent when the top position in an academic library (dean, director, associate university librarian) has a PhD—or doesn’t. How do provosts and university presidents, college deans, or department heads perceive the academic expertise (as indicated by the credential) of head of the library? And what does it mean for the fate of the academic library and its efforts?

I hope you will find food for thought in this and all the other articles in the September issue.

“What Degree Is Necessary to Lead? ARL Directors’ Perceptions” by Russell Michalak, Monica D.T. Rysavy, and Trevor Dawes. In 2018, after a failed search for a new ALA Executive Director, ALA members put forth a ballot initiative to determine whether the educational requirements for the position should be modified, in part, to expand the potential applicant pool. With this research, the authors examined if current ARL administrators hold an MLS/MLIS and whether current ARL administrators felt it was necessary for library administrators to hold an MLS/MLIS. Additionally, the researchers examined ARL administrators’ perspectives regarding whether it was necessary for them to earn additional degrees to achieve their highest library administrative position, and whether they felt their degrees prepared them to be successful in the position that they currently hold.

“Borrowing Latin American Materials in the Big Ten Academic Alliance: A Case Study for Consortial Data Analysis” by Hilary H. Thompson, Austin Smith, Manuel Ostos, and Lisa Gardinier. Inspired by the 2017 Big Ten Academic Alliance Library Conference’s collective collection theme, the authors undertook a study to better understand the consortium’s resource-sharing needs for Spanish and Portuguese materials published in Latin America. The authors employed multiple technologies to expedite gathering, reconciling, and analyzing data from different sources, making this project an excellent case study for consortial data analysis. In addition to presenting the methodology and key findings, the article encourages academic librarians to use resource-sharing data to inform cooperative collection development in area studies to build distinctive collections supporting consortial and national resource sharing.

“Collaboration, Consultation, or Transaction: Modes of Team Research in Humanities Scholarship and Strategies for Library Engagement” by Megan Senseney, Eleanor Dickson Koehl, and Leanne Nay. With the rise of digital scholarship, humanists are participating in increasingly complex research teams and partnerships, and academic libraries are developing innovative service models to meet their needs. This paper explores modes of co-working in humanities research by synthesizing responses from two qualitative studies of research practices in the humanities and proposes a taxonomy of multiperson research that includes collaborative, consultative, and transactional research partnerships among scholars, graduate students, academic staff, and a range of other potential stakeholders. Based on an analysis of humanities scholars’ self-described research behaviors, we provide recommendations for academic librarians who are developing and sustaining service models for digital scholarship.

“Being Seen: Gender Identity and Performance as a Professional Resource in Library Work” by Tatiana Bryant, Hilary Bussell, and Rebecca Halpern. While much of the literature on gender in librarianship approaches this issue at an organizational level, this qualitative study investigates how individuals working in libraries perceive their gender identities as a resource for their professional goals and how this intersects with other social identities, including race and sexuality. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach to analyze in-depth interviews with 29 librarians from a variety of backgrounds, we developed four overarching themes: Visibility and Connection to Library Users, Credibility and Presumed Competence, Lack of Awareness and Hyperawareness, and Being Your Authentic Self and Concealing Yourself.

“Ebook Rate of Use in OhioLINK: A Ten Year Study of Local and Consortial Use of Publisher Packages in Ohio” by Amy Fry. This paper examines publisher ebook package use in the OhioLINK academic library consortium between 2007 and 2017 alongside use of the same titles at individual institutions. With nearly 100,000 titles acquired over ten years from three publishers and available to users at more than 90 institutions, the picture of ebook use this study presents is unique in its breadth and scope. The data show that, consortiumwide, close to 100 percent of titles were used, with their initial use overwhelmingly taking place within one year of their publication date. At individual institutions, the rate of use was far lower and never exceeded the rate of use of print books at the author’s own institution. These findings have important implications for how institutions approach ebook acquisition to maximize rate of use of ebook collections.

“Exposing Standardization and Consistency Issues in Repository Metadata Requirements for Data Deposition” by Jihyun Kim, Elizabeth Yakel, and Ixchel M. Faniel. The authors examine common and unique metadata requirements and their levels of description, determined by the data deposit forms of 20 repositories in three disciplines—archaeology, quantitative social science, and zoology. The results reveal that requirements relating to creator, description, contributor, date, relation, and location are common, whereas those regarding Publisher and Language are rarely listed across the disciplines. Data-level descriptions are more common than study- and file-level descriptions. The results suggest that repositories should require detailed study-level descriptions and information about data usage licenses and access rights. Moreover, repositories should determine metadata requirements in a standardized and consistent manner.

“A Comparative Study of Perceptions and Use of Google Scholar and Academic Library Discovery Systems” by Kyong Eun Oh and Mónica Colón-Aguirre. Google Scholar and academic library discovery systems are popular resources among academic users for finding scholarly information. By conducting an online survey with 975 users from more than 20 public research universities across the United States, this study comparatively investigates how and why academic users use these two resources. Results show that the ways participants used both resources were similar, and both were perceived as highly accessible and useful. Academic library discovery systems’ perceived comprehensiveness, subjective norm, loyalty, and intended use were higher than Google Scholar, while Google Scholar’s perceived ease of use, system quality, and satisfaction were higher than academic library discovery systems.

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