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The sessions I attended focused primarily on Collection Management (aka Weeding and e books), and assessment, with a selection of other interesting tidbits along the way.
Assessment: At Georgetown in the library, the staff took photos, every hour on the half hour from 8:30am to 11:30pm of highly used study areas. Utilizing this information they could see where students chose to study first, they could tell how long they studied in those areas. They found clear location and furniture preferences and identified when the lines developed where the printers were. They also discovered that individual carrels were used less often than group tables. When asked in the Q&A about the need to get permission before taking pictures of studying students, the librarian responded, “We are in DC, so we are among the most surveilled people on the planet…so, no, no one was concerned.” A second library in the same panel discussion created seating charts putting similar characterized spaces, then tracked the use of each throughout the day. Then they coded the usage and determined what furniture to remove and what to purchase to replace it. The third panelist decided to do surveys that asked questions like, Why did you choose to use this space? With answers like: quiet, computers, comfortable, outlets, space for group work, near materials, other. My brain is abuzz with assessment options that will make use of all three of these. Best quote from the session: “Statistics should be used like a drunk uses a lightpost: more for support than enlightenment.”
In the Collection Management arena, I learned of an initiative started at the University of Michigan to evaluate the use of e-textbooks over print textbooks and why students might choose one over the other. Their initial assumption was that students would choose based only on cost. But in fact, students chose based on many factors. They liked the portability of an ebook, but found that some faculty were not willing to allow them to use them for open book tests. They like the ability to mark up e texts, but found it difficult to concentrate, and were distracted by Facebook. The researchers asked the question: “If there were no difference in price, what would you prefer?” Their study showed that students would choose print over e unless e was much cheaper. But there does seem to be a change in acceptability. In 2010, 3% of students said that ebook only is preferred, in 2011, the number went up to 6% and in 2012, the number went up to 14%. (Another assessment methodology they used was to put out sheets of paper throughout the library that said “My ideal textbook is…” and had students fill out the sheet, and take pictures of themselves with the sign, posting it to their instagram account. The responses ranged from “good old fashioned textbook” to “free and online” to “reads to me.”) (Ahh, the library instagram account is another thing we should do…)
Perhaps the best session that I attended was entitled “A Data-driven Deselection Approach for Managing Low-Use Print Materials.” It was a panel discussion with three college libraries in Michigan, (including my alma mater, Wayne State University), that had utilized SCS, Sustainable Collections Services, to create a “Disapproval Plan” of materials that were eligible for weeding. They each used slightly different approaches, but the goal was to take the emotion out of the weeding process and provide a series of tools that made it easier to weed titles than to keep them. I look forward to utilizing such a service soon!
I also attended a session on the ACRL Value Project in which ACRL is going to provide training to librarian team leaders in how to assess the value of their proposed programs to the larger institution. ACRL received funding through and IMLS grant to train up librarians because they saw a need to fill the gap in our ability to demonstrate value. The session updated all in the audience about the need for the Project, reviewed the criteria for submitting a proposal, and announced the first 75 successful libraries. The second round of grant submittals will be next Spring, and ZSR is planning to submit a proposal, so get ready for that. The Project will run for three years, and ACRL hopes to provide this training to librarians in 300 libraries in total.
In a session that was at the room farthest from the center of the conference as you could be, during an unappealing just after lunch timeslot, James Neal, Dean of Columbia University Libraries spoke enthusiastically about defending our right to fair use to a completely packed room. There continues to be a lot of interest in this subject. Additionally, a session on Library Ambassadors discussed a pilot project where in the University of Southern California had a program, providing a thousand dollar stipend for each library ambassador. They used them for peer-mentoring and trained them to provide information on library services. They hired one for each residence hall and the library ambassadors were the point of first contact for all of the students.
Finally, the closing keynote with Maria Hinojosa an NPR host and journalist, was an education on the plight of the undocumented in the United States. During her introduction it was mentioned that Maria Hinojosa had worked to eliminate the term “illegal alien” from being used by journalists in stories about undocumented workers. She was amusing and moving and energetic and enlightening. She was a terrific story teller, and she heightened my sensitivity to the issues surrounding the immigration reform debate today. I left feeling more energized, even after three pretty long days of sessions. Now, to implement!