In the November/December MLA News, Ellen Detlfesen writes, “Are Library Schools Teaching What the Next Generation of Librarians Needs to Know?” This Medical Library Education brief discusses the ALA’s Core Competencies of Librarianship. She cites the critics of these competencies highlighting (although not necessarily advocating this view herself) the threads of criticism that, “the competences overly emphasize the status quo and promote a ‘traditional’ view of libraries.”
A criticism around which I particularly resonate revolves around the question about whether the competences are still, “oriented to the physical library of the twentieth century and not to the ‘library of the 21st century’ “
I am a particular advocate of the notion that a library is not a physical space, but rather a collection of services (and possibly resources that may or may not reside in the same location where they are utilized) provided by knowledge professionals. Note I intentionally do NOT use the term information professionals as I dislike being referred to as an information professional. If you follow my blog over time, you will note that I find the notion of being equated to the term “information” is not at all an adequate description of the work of being a librarian. I don’t look down upon information workers, but to me, that is more what computer programmers do. To me the heart and soul of being a librarian is helping our users turn information into knowledge.
This links (in my mind at least) to the next idea about which I feel rather passionately (which might seem counter intuitive to some given my last assertion about the library not being a physical place). Too often (far far far too often) we seem to equate the skills and the 21st century library as being analogous to “emerging technologies.” I’ll return to this idea in a moment.
Back to, “Are Library Schools Teaching What the Next Generation of Librarians Needs to Know?” (Detlefsen, Ellen G. MLA News, November/December 2009). Some of the pros of the ALA Competencies document include an emphasis on, “the necessity for practitioners to adopt a proactive approach to continuing education beyond that which is acquired in ‘library school.’ ” This is described as being driven by, “the perception that the world, especially in the arena of technology is changing more rapidly than programs of professional education can handle.” I applaud the idea about the critical importance of nurturing the, “habit of lifelong learning.”
I agree that it is important to identify emerging future trends. What I disagree with is the definition or limitation of emerging future trends with emerging technologies. The article does highlight some good sources for noting future trends and some excellent sources do include trends that dig deeper than the mere technologies that drive the trends. An example is pulled from Inside Higher Education that highlights outsourcing of many library services (I have also commented on this trend in this blog). Note that this trend is independent of any technology that might enable that outsourcing to happen.
I disagree, however, with MJ Tooey’s emphasis on identifying, “emerging technologies that will reach mainstream use in education organizations within the next 5 years.” First of all, look back 5 years and see how accurately any of those predicted the technologies that are so hot today. The specifics of the technologies might vary rapidly, and aren’t so very important. I’m also disconcerted that this column highlights the MLA’s Medical Informatics Section’s annual program on emerging technologies as an important educational component. Sure its an interesting session, but I personally have never felt it to have much impact on my work one way or another. And bear in mind that I work in an entirely digital world. My whole professional world revolves around all manner of technology. Maybe that’s why I don’t romanticize emerging technologies. To me they are tools nothing more nothing less. In order to make a provocative point, I am possibly overly highlighting the technological focus of the Library School Curriculum debate.
I wish I could better articulate why I think this is the wrong thing to emphasize. The technology itself isn’t so very important. Emerging technologies are just tools and often ephermeral. What is important is being able to look beyond the specific of any technological change and understand how that technology (or any technology) may radically change how we operate as librarians. We also need to look beyond the specifics of technologies to ask ourselves about what are our underlying fundamentals as a profession. One of the ALA Competencies as a matter of fact is, “Foundations of the Profession” — odd I don’t find that notion to overly tie us to the 20th century physical library. Wouldn’t we have some sort of “Foundations” no matter what vision of the future in which we live. The key question becomes what are our Professional Foundations (and that might become a topic for a future posting.
Other ALA Competencies….
– Information Resources
Hmmm ok, that might be an area that we need to at least question. What information resources are important in our current environment? Are information resources are still important in today’s environment? I would argue that information resources are vitally important in today’s environment. Our relationship as librarians to the vast ocean of information resources that our users encounter is vitally important. We may not be “purchasing” information resources and we may not be the sole gatekeepers of information resources, but look at Google — information resources still very much exist and our users still turn to them. The question then becomes, What role should the librarian play in relationship to information resources?
To be continued…. Tomorrow we pick up with Organization of Recorded Knowledge and Information….
Sometimes I worry that I perceive that I’m overly negative about the profession… to the contrary I’m personally optimistic about the future of librarianship. I just try to keep pushing my personal beliefs about how the future will become brighter.
I was planning on writing about the article in the November 16, 2009 Chronicle of Higher Education, “Ethicists Prod NIH to Spend Money Investigating Conflicts of Interest,” (Paul Basken, Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/16/2009, accessed 11/17/2009). This article reports on a letter sent to Francis Collins, new director of NIH. This letter states, “”The recent disclosure of ghostwritten articles, physician payoffs, and the use of academic opinion leaders to increase markets for FDA-regulated products,… indicate that ethical lapses may permeate biomedical research.” I have touched upon some of the ghostwriting issues in previous blog postings.
Why does this matter to librarians? I think we often look to NIH funded research as a sort of gold standard that seems to be above the fray of pharmaceutical issues. As we teach evaluation, we might also need to focus on looking at all funding aspects and other sources of influence on the biomedical research and reporting process.
Then I became intrigued by an article in the Advice column, “Sorry I’m Late” (Michael Munger, Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/16/2009, accessed 11/17/2009). Now I have a confession to make, I’m chronically punctual. Once upon a time I was never ever late for anything and I had little if no tolerance for people who were late. Then my mother moved in with me. I’m learning in the world of being a caregiver that all things are not completely controllable and I’m letting go of time a bit. Just a bit. When I’m at work, however, for the most part I really really strive to be on time for meetings and other professional obligations.
This article is a cute characterization of types of people and reasons why people are late for meetings.
The Platonic traveler.
…Chronically late people live in the imperfect world, but believe they can travel inside their own minds. If their house is 11 minutes away from the campus, without traffic or stoplights, then they assume that they can actually travel from their home to the meeting room in 11 minutes. Of course, there are school buses, problems with parking, garbage trucks blocking the alley, and so on…
…You have to allow for the average length of the trip, not the trip in the world of Platonic forms.
The paradox of the busy.
The busier you are, the more likely you will be on time. Busy people manage their time well because it is valuable…
Incompetent people believe they are busy, but they are just inefficient…
For this group of latecomers, the closer their office is to the room, the later they arrive at the meeting.
The first will be last.
Mr. First shows up, parks his folders, sees the room is empty, and heads for the coffeepot…
This article concludes with the thought that, “We tend toward lateness because each of us hates waiting more than we feel bad about making others wait. But manners and conventions are precisely about solving that sort of problem. So let’s work together.”
In these times when issues of rudeness are in the news (a lot it seems to me), this was an interesting perspective on another aspect of rudeness. This may not be the largest ethical question of the day, but just think what a nicer world it would be if we could manage to start and hence end our meetings on time.
Thursday’s Library Journal posted a news brief about Harvard’s Libraries futures, “Harvard Task Force Urges Centralization, Collaboration, and Access (vs. Acquisition)” (Norman Oder Library Journal, November 12, 2009 accessed November 16, 2009). A Harvard University task force on the future of libraries describes their vision of a 21st century library that includes, “knitting together the university’s robust and disparate library units, collaborating with peer libraries, and emphasizing access to materials rather than acquisition.”
Library Journal has summarized an except of their recommendations as follows:
1. Establish and implement a shared administrative infrastructure…
includ[ing] many information technology functions; most preservation functions; and certain significant technical services such as acquisitions and cataloging.
2. Rationalize and enhance our information technology systems.
3. Revamp the financial model for the Harvard libraries.
The current system of financing library materials and services impedes efforts to collaborate across the different parts of Harvard University, and often establishes incentives for actions that aid one part of the library at the expense of the whole…
4. Rationalize our system for acquiring, accessing, and developing materials for a “single university” collection.
The Harvard University Library system needs to rationalize the manner in which all parts of the University collect and provide access to materials, and orient its focus more clearly toward ensuring access, as opposed to the current default model of building collections by acquisition….
5. Collaborate more ambitiously with peer libraries and other institutions….
Although this report dealt with Harvard specifically, there are many elements of this that can be applied to variety of library institutions.
I think one of the most critical steps that all libraries need to take is figuring out how to break down traditional barriers to centralizing “administrative” infrastructure and/or tasks. It just doesn’t make sense within one system, consortium, or even geographic region to have many institutions conducting the same tasks at an individual site by site level. There are so many obvious efficiencies of scale to be gained. It seems like the only obstacles in the way of this (not just at Harvard but in any institution and/or institutions) are traditional and/or political.
For now I’ll skip over most of the other comments. The last point: collaborate more is another one that can’t be stressed enough. This report is discussing not only collaborating within one institution but also between institutions (like among peer institutions). This is another area where there could be great economies of scale and also synergistic innovations.
Oops I forgot another important part. This is quite the trendy concept these days, but it doesn’t make it any less valid. And drum roll please, this concept is the one of access vs. acquisition. This touches upon the age old question of just in time vs. just in case. Another variation of that theme would be access vs. ownership.
Everyone seems to be having task forces, committees… There is a lot of TALK about building and developing the library of the future… Now of course we’re ready for action. What I want to see is some major institution taking some really radical steps that truly break out of the old mold.
To be a bit trite (or is it cliche…) the future is now!!
Back in June I had posted about a collaborative column in JAAPA. (seeLibrarian Clinician Collaborations). The column written by Jim Anderson and Susan Klawansky addresses questions posed by Physician Assistants. The November 2009 column highlighted 2 items of current relevant interest to me.
The first question is , “Do you recommend Google Scholar? When I use it, I am not sure what databases it is pulling information from or whether it omits certain databases. Is there any advantage to this resource over Medline?“
The answer focuses on the benefits of Medline and in my opinion provides an excellent and balanced answer. The highlights of the answer begin saying, “Medline, for many purposes, will probably be the best database to search for answers to clinical questions.” This is followed by brief reasons why this is the case. The answer to this question ends with a description of a good role for Google Scholar saying, “Google Scholar searches some portion of full text, which Medline does not, and Google Scholar searches content beyond journal literature. So, Google Scholar, for all its limitations, can be a valuable adjunct when trying to locate articles on obscure or extremely specific topics” The entire content of this answer is a quick but worthwhile read.
Since our Health Sciences Library has recently been discussing adding Google Scholar to our Quick Links on the newly updated library’s website, I found this answer both topic and edifying.
The second question in the month’s column is, “I see patients in a private practice setting without academic access. Can you advise me on how PAs and other providers in my situation can access medical literature?“
This question gets to the heart of my world. I can’t tell you how often I deal with this question. Here in NC we are fortunate to have an option of for individual clinicians to subscribe to a package of resources which have been selected to be of interest (we hope) to practicing clinicians. This answer highlights some options in Washington State such as HEAL-WA. Loansome Doc option is also explored.
An aspect of this question which we are now focusing on in NC — very recently — is the notion of whether clinicians working in private practice need different resources than those working in hospitals. We are also examining the role and access to point of care resources in private practice and the integration of these resources into Health Records. This questions become even more timely in the world of ARRA monies and the potential for monetary implications for places that don’t bring electronic medical records online.
We have recently been having an online discussion about the merits of adding Google Scholar to our Quick Links resources list on the Health Sciences Library web page.
I love the way reading articles sparks ideas in my mind that send it off in directions that the author might not have even imagined.
Again — I’m so impressed with this project and wish other professional journals would incorporate similar columns. Good job!!
A couple of items from the Wired Campus in the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my eye this week (and its only Tuesday)…
“Columbia and Cornell Libraries Announce ‘Radical’ Partnership” (Howard, J. Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/28/2009)
This radical partnership relates to plans by the libraries of these two institutions to, “jointly transform their operations.” The project called 2CUL (pronounced too cool) will focus on 3 areas: “managing electronic resources and other nuts-and-bolts library work, building global-collecting capabilities, and creating a digital-preservation infrastructure.” They are planning on creating a shared library information management system to accomplish their goals.
What I find interesting isn’t that there is a collaboration like this happening, but that it has taken this long for this type of collaboration to emerge. I also find it interesting that this type of collaboration is being characterized as “radical”. To me it seems more logical. Then again this is the type of thing our AHEC libraries have been working on for the past several years. We have been moving to managing electronic resources centrally. This model just seems to make sense especially for smaller (compared to academics at any rate) hospital libraries. It will be interesting to see how the details of working with licensing and access and all the other publisher based specifics will play out. There is, of course, the difference between management and ownership. Even if publishers won’t work out joint purchases it could still be possible to centrally manage the collections.
“The Latest File-Sharing Piracy: Academic Journals” (Terris, B. Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/30/2009).
A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Informatics examines a file sharing site used by medical students and professionals to obtain non-open access journals for free. According to the Chronicle there was an 83% success rate in finding articles. The ethical implications of this aren’t covered in the article but the article does hint at the ethical questions saying, ““In the field of medicine, ethics plays a pivotal role, and yet the site displays activities by medical students, teachers, and practicing professionals that are ethically dubious.”
I wish I could say I’m surprised by this, but given what I know about medical residents sharing subscriptions to some licensed resources, I’ve had inklings of these types of behaviors for quite a while. What will be interesting to watch is to see how publishers uncover the original source of the articles from personal subscriptions or from institutional subscriptions. Since most medical students have a good network of access to articles, I’m wondering why they would feel the need to resort to free sharing. Is it the time (they can’t wait for access from an article not owned by their institution) or is it the money (they can’t afford the what 8$ ILL fee??). As we seem to be noting of late there have been some ethical oddities in the relationship between medicine and publishing, so again this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. I guess the next logical question should be, what role can librarians play in shaping responsible behavior in our consitutents in regards to resource access?
I’ve been out of the office for 3 days conducting usability testing for our new/updated site. We went to 3 locations and worked with 9 users/testers. I’m not attempting to write our findings here … that would be a bit premature (to say the least).
Although I had been checking email while I was out of the office and although I was working on our site, our project with our typical user groups; its amazing how out of touch I feel with the library world. This is odd since I was spending all my time testing in libraries. I was reading tonight trying to find something to write about and it felt like it had been weeks since I had thought about macro issues.
Since I’m feeling a bit out of touch with the types of macro issues about which I usually post and since my mind is still caught up in all things usability, I think I’ll do a brief de-brief (ha ha) (or not…)
We tested a range of users running the spectrum of occupations and familiarity with our existing site. We were sort of following one Jacob Nielsen’s rule of thumbs about the number of users. He has stated that, “It takes only five users to uncover 80 percent of high-level usability problems” — Our testing uncovered overwhelming consistency across the spectrum of our users. Which was good news for us moving forward.
Here are my interesting observations about the testing… From my highly unscientific observations on this topic, the biggest variable that seemed to result in differing comments or concerns with our testing was one occupational factor: being a librarian. The librarians we showed the site to, seemed to have issues, concerns, or ideas that fell out of the spectrum of things that were being experienced by the other users we tested. This wasn’t hugely surprising, but it was interesting.
This next observation about which much has been written is that there did also seem to be some usage issues based on age. Since so much has been written in other places about this; I’ll just leave it to say that we (or rather I) did note it to a small extent.
I found a usability testing “tutorial” hosted at the University of Texas at Austin. (accessed 11/2/2009), this was the basic outline of how we conducted our tests. (although I found this tutorial after we had already planned and completed most of our testing).
Tomorrow… back to the salt mine. Maybe I’ll be feeling a bit more inspired tomorrow night…