C&RL Spotlight

Scott Walter

“Learning analytics,” or the use of technologies “that enable the analysis of student data in order to identify learning weaknesses so that faculty, advisers, and even librarians could intervene with corrective action,” has emerged as a focus for ACRL this spring.1 Last month, Megan Oakleaf (Syracuse University) provided an overview of learning analytics initiatives in higher education and academic libraries as part of a three-part series of ACRL webinars, and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Andrew Asher (Indiana University) focused on privacy and ethical considerations needing attention in any learning analytics program. This month, I will join colleagues from the University of Minnesota and Lewis & Clark Community College to present the final webinar focused on how to bring the library into campus-wide learning analytics initiatives.2

Research into library contributions to learning analytics programs on campus can also be found in the May 2016 issue of College & Research Libraries, which includes a study by John K. Stemmer (Bellarmine University) and David M. Mahan (Manhattan College) of the relationship between undergraduate student use of library resources and student learning outcomes. The collaboration on this study between the library and institutional research reflects the ways in which library data can be included in broader efforts being undertaken to consider the library as a contributor to institutional recruitment, retention, and student success strategies, and complements the case studies to be explored in the learning analytics webinar also being presented this month. As with our last issue, which brought together C&RL and the Assessment in Action program, this serendipitous pairing of research being presented in the journal and practice being described in the webinar offers clear evidence of the ways in which ACRL publishing and continuing education programs can come together as an important resource for members.

In addition to the Stemmer and Mahan study, and an editorial cowritten by me and Emily Drabinski (Long Island University), the May 2016 issue includes the following articles:

  • Luke Swindler. “New Consortial Model for E-Books Acquisitions.” Abstract: E-books constitute major challenges for library collections generally and present fundamental problems for consortial collection development specifically. The Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) and Oxford University Press (OUP) have created a mutually equitable and financially sustainable model for the consortial acquisition of e-books coupled with print titles needed to support instruction and research across the disciplinary spectrum within a transitional framework that is acceptable to users, while moving both libraries and publishers to a decidedly electronic environment for monographs. Working with YBP Library Services, TRLN and OUP developed a flexible vending model for systematically increasing e-book acquisitions in tandem with reducing print intake over time and keeping net costs constant that other consortia and publishers would find useful. This article focuses on creating an acceptable and sustainable model that allows libraries to shift to e-books and the implications for traditional cooperative collection development. The research reports on the principles undergirding the pilot, how it developed, challenges encountered and lessons learned, librarian and user reactions to this format shift, and resulting philosophical and practical evolutions in consortial approaches to monographic acquisitions and understandings of what constitutes cooperative collections success in a digital environment.
  • Katie Greer, Amanda Nichols Hess, and Elizabeth W. Kraemer. “The Librarian Leading the Machine: A Reassessment of Library Instruction Methods.” Abstract: This article builds on the 2007 College and Research Libraries article, “The Librarian, the Machine, or a Little of Both.” Since that time, Oakland University Libraries implemented changes to its instruction program that reflect larger trends in teaching and assessment throughout the profession; following these revisions, librarians undertook a new study to assess the effectiveness of online library instruction in face-to-face courses in comparison to the hybrid model that had been in place. The study’s design and its results serve to contribute to discussion of best practices in information literacy pedagogy, online learning, instructional design, and the role of the librarian therein.
  • Amanda L. Folk. “Academic Reference and Instruction Librarians and Dweck’s Theories of Intelligence.” Abstract: This article introduces psychologist Carol S. Dweck’s entity and incremental theories of intelligence and explores the prevalence of these theories in academic librarians who participate in reference and instruction activities. Based on existing research, it is possible that implicit theories of intelligence could affect the ways in which librarians conduct information literacy and library instruction, as well as reference interactions. This article intends to provide a foundation for understanding if further research concerning theories of intelligence, instructional design and pedagogy, and reference practice in academic libraries is warranted.
  • Fatih Oguz. “Organizational Influences in Technology Adoption Decisions: A Case Study of Digital Libraries.” Abstract: The purpose of this study was to understand the organizational level decision factors in technology adoption in the context of digital libraries. A qualitative case study approach was used to investigate the adoption of a specific technology, XML-based Web services, in digital libraries. Rogers’s diffusion of innovations and Wenger’s communities of practice were the theories used to frame the study. The data collected through interviews were triangulated with documentary evidence and a comprehensive member check. Four organizational level influences identified when making technology adoption decisions in the context of digital libraries were organizational structure, management style, focus and direction of the program, and relationships with external entities. Attributes including program size, organizational culture, and availability of financial resources contributed to these organizational level influences, whereas program size did not appear to have an effect. Informal communication mechanisms were found to inform and influence the decision-making process.
  • Rumi Graham. “An Evidence-Informed Picture of Course-Related Copying.” Abstract: Recent changes in Canadian copyright law have prompted Canada’s educational institutions to re-examine their need for a blanket copying license. Users’ rights under the amended Copyright Act now include fair dealing for purposes of education, and the Supreme Court has established that copying short excerpts for classroom use can qualify as fair dealing. This study looks at one university’s examination of copied course materials made available via library reserve, course-packs and its learning management system, and likely sources for copyright permissions, when needed. Results suggest that fair dealing is the most important and the institution’s blanket license is the least important basis for permissions clearance over a semester’s worth of copying.
  • John K. Stemmer and David M. Mahan. “Investigating the Relationship of Library Usage to Student Outcomes.” Abstract: This study connects library user surveys, a common library assessment technique, to institutional data to demonstrate the value an academic library brings to student learning and student outcomes. Using regression techniques, the study identifies multiple significant correlations, both positive and negative, between student use of the library and student learning and outcomes as measured by retention, graduation, and grade point average. The library factors associated with student outcomes change over the course of the four-year undergraduate experience. Methods used in this study could be a model for other institutions seeking a means for assessing the library’s relationship to student learning and outcomes.
  • Joan E. Beaudoin. “Describing Images: A Case Study of Visual Literacy among Library and Information Science Students.” Abstract: This paper reports on a study that examined the development of pedagogical methods for increasing the visual literacy skills of a group of library and information science students. Through a series of three assignments, students were asked to provide descriptive information for a set of historical photographs and record reflections of their experiences via blog posts. The three separate versions of the image descriptions submitted by the students were analyzed to discern changes using descriptive statistics, and their blog posts were examined to identify recurrent themes using the constant comparative method. Findings associated with the image descriptions indicate that students’ skill in describing the photographs show a modest increase across the three versions. Analysis of the blog postings revealed an overarching theme of frustration associated with the experience of developing image descriptions among the students. The underlying reasons for their frustrations are examined, and suggestions are provided for further increasing students’ abilities to describe images.

Online forum on Assessment in Action recording available

Following the release of the special issue on Assessment in Action (AiA) in March, C&RL sponsored an online forum with AiA authors from Anne Arundel Community College and Grinnell College on March 24, 2016. The recording of this session, attended live by almost 150 participants, is now available at: http://crl.acrl.org/site/misc/fora.xhtml.

One final note

This will be my final C&RL Spotlight column, as I hand the reins over to our incoming editor, Wendi Arant Kaspar (Texas A&M University). We created the Spotlight to promote continuing engagement among the journal and its readers once we made the transition to e-only publishing, and I have been pleased to see it routinely found among the most accessed features of each issue of the News in which it has appeared. I look forward to continuing to see new “spotlight” features in the coming issues as I transition from editor back to “engaged reader.” Thanks to ACRL’s David Free and Dawn Mueller for their support of the journal (and the column), to the members of the C&RL Editorial Board for their leadership and assistance in the design of these columns, and to the C&RL authors and readers who gave us something to write about.

1. Bell, SJ.. , “Keeping Up with … Learning Analytics. ,” accessed April 11, 2016. ,
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2. Association of College & Research Libraries, “ACRL e-Learning Webcast Series: Learning Analytics—Strategies for Optimizing Student Data on Your Campus. ,” accessed April 11, 2016. ,
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