Thursday, July 23, 2009

ALA Annual Conference, Chicago, IL 7/10-13/09

I focused on Sociology and Reference at this conference, attending the Anthropology and Sociology Section's Sociology Discussion Group, the ANSS Membership Committee meeting (I'm joining this committee), and RUSA's 15th Annual New Reference Research Forum. Picture to the left is Loyola University's Information Commons (see more below).

The Sociology Discussion Group featured a presentation with Q&A by Ross Housewright, a research analyst from Ithaka (a non-profit that includes JSTOR and Portico). Ross's presentation focused on a 2006 study that Ithaka had done of faculty and librarian attitudes and preferences for research. The survey was sent to 4-year colleges with 4100 responses from faculty and 350 responses from collection development librarians. The data is in ICPSR and available as a white paper on Ithaka's site. The survey discusses much of what has been discussed across the Sheridan Libraries lately, in discipline groups and the Collection Management Council about how faculty prefer to access library resources and in what format. Ithaka's study shows patterns by discipline with results that are familiar to us--Humanities still big users of print and the library building, with Sciences at the other end of the spectrum, online, off-campus access. Social Sciences falls in the middle with Sociology in the dead center. Ross showed us findings that indicate that Economics is trending like the sciences with pre-prints and online access very important. The study asked faculty and librarians what aspect of the relationship between faculty and librarians was most important--gateway, archive, or buyer. Faculty rate the buyer aspect as most important while not surprisingly, librarians see the gateway role as most important. The study also asked faculty to rate the reasons why they publish where they do. Highest rating went to "current issues circulated widely and well read by scholars in the field." Least important was "freely available." We have a long way to go to sell faculty on open access. We had a lively discussion about the study and how the results compared to our own experiences with faculty, so much so that Ross couldn't finish the presentation, but I look forward to reading the white paper.

Regarding the ANSS Membership Committee meeting, I'll simply report that it was co-chaired by Jen Darragh, who is joining us in August as Data Services Librarian, and she did an excellent job! She'll be a real asset to the library.

RUSA's 15th Annual New Reference Research Forum had three presentations. The first was from the recipients of the Reference Research Grant, Julie Gedeon and Carolyn Radcliff, from Kent State, who administer WOREP (Wisconsin Ohio Reference Evaluation Program). We used the WOREP survey in the RCO last fall and received a call from Carolyn as a follow-up for the grant. WOREP has been used since the 1980s and the administrators used the grant to study what makes reference service successful and what are the trends, focusing on data collected from 2000-2008, where 72.9% of the transactions were deemed successful. Factors that contribute to success are: enough help, enough time, clear explanations, knowledgeable librarians, courtesy, and professionalism. WOREP administrators saw that over time, more instruction and explanation were incorporated in the reference transaction, more active collaboration, the librarians weren't as busy (a trend), and more time was spent. Factors associated with lack of success are: too much information, more in-depth information needed, information couldn't be found, information not relevant, different point of view needed. From this study, administrators recommend reference librarians play to their strengths--attention to patrons and professionalism, enough time spent and follow up offered. The second presentation came from an academic librarian and a public librarian in Kansas on the effectiveness of online tutorials. They looked at straight HTML tutorials versus streaming media and performed studies that deemed the streaming media was more effective, using verbal and visual cues, and participants reporting more confidence (and more correct answers) using the video tutorial. The final presentation came from reference librarians at a North Carolina academic library and focused on Teachable Instants in Instant Messaging. They posited a set of theories about librarian behavior that should take place in chats--reinforce positive behavior, make thoughts transparent, show, don't tell, provide active learning, be the welcome wagon, make introductions, and share secret knowledge--and went through dozens (or hundreds!) of IM transcripts to see if these stragegies were used. 62% of them used at least one strategy and they noted lots of missed opportunities. Conclusions were that reference transactions are instructional opportunities; many librarians take a pass on the opportunity to teach; and librarians require training in instructional strategies. Presenters are publishing this as a chapter.

Visit to Loyola University's Information Commons. On Sunday, July 12, Liz Uzelac and I went north to Loyola University in Rogers Park, and toured their Information Commons (invitation extended by the Info Commons Director, Leslie Haas, on a listserv and seconded by our own Jeannette Pierce). Liz and I were able to talk to library director Bob Seal, who told us the Info Commons was built in 18 months (!). It's Silver LEED certified and was absolutely stunning (it would be hard not to be when you walk in and see Lake Michigan before you). It's connected to the Cudahy Library and in fact, it was decided to close the Cudahy entrance and have a single entrance through the Info Commons (I'm blanking on the reason; Liz may remember). Jeannette has transplanted the Info Desk/RCO model to the IC but they lack the proximity to each other that we have in MSEL (and need to keep in the BLC). Plans were in place before she joined Loyola. The Info Desk is on the second floor and the RCO is several yards away from it and not in its sightline. Jeannette told me that sometimes librarians sit at the Info Desk with the student worker and tech support and use the RCO for appointments. Building use has jumped and it sounds much like MSEL in terms of busy-ness. Group studies can be reserved online and there's a mix of Macs and PCs (20% Macs, 80% PCs). In their instruction classroom, instruction sessions can be taped (although not viewed simultaneously).

McCormick Place is incredibly inconvenient for exhibits (too far from everything else and shuttles take a while). ALA exhibits seem to focus more on public libraries than academic ones. I asked a few technical questions at the EBSCO booth but they were really more set up for sales and took my card and said they'd get back to me :)

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