Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Plans and Wishes for Fall 2012

The Fall semester begins next week, so I thought I'd share a few things that are going on here.

First, we're going to try and assess our instruction efforts this semester. We've never done this before, and after considering various options, we're going with a bare bones half-sheet of paper containing four or five questions for students to answer. We thought about using SurveyMonkey, but ultimately I think this will be simpler and we'll get better participation. It's a start, at least. Next semester we may tackle the tricky business of peer evaluation. 

Over the summer, we deactivated our twitter account and created a coherent plan for our Facebook presence. There was no unique content coming from the twitter account recently, and I noticed we were predominantly being followed by people and entities that had very little to do with our college population. I still think twitter has great potential as a communication tool, but it just wasn't doing much for our library. I'm glad we tried it; we can always try it again differently in the future. Meanwhile we have a schedule for who will be adding content to our Facebook page, and we wrote up some guidelines.

A few weeks ago we debuted a new website. I use the word 'we,' but the credit really goes to one particular librarian who did most of the work. It's making me revisit my thinking about how to best provide services. I'm not trying to be a jerk when I say we serve a population of students who do not always know what they want. They might think they know what they want, but often that's because they don't know what we have. The challenge for the library web site is to teach them what's out there in a relatively intuitive, unmediated way.

Simultaneous to the new web site, we're debuting a discovery service, from EBSCO. (It's labeled EasySearch on the web site, and it's also commonly abbreviated as EDS.) I think it will particularly help the students we don't see in person -- those who don't look for personal assistance and who don't get specialized library instruction. One thing I'm worried about is that some of our collections decisions might be influenced by whether or not a resource will integrate well with EDS. I have mixed feelings about this, because I want our collections to be used, and I think EDS will increase our usage numbers, but I hate to turn down good content just because a parent company somewhere decided not to play nicely with EBSCO.

Earlier this summer when the instant messaging program we were using (meebo) disappeared, we signed up for Springshare's chat service. It was so straightforward, and the transition was so seamless, that it would barely be worth mentioning -- except that, as with other Springshare products, it continues to improve. Most recently I noticed that there are cool new sound effects. Next I hope to see a button that lets you modify your status without disconnecting, so that when I momentarily leave my computer to assist a patron, a chat patron isn't left wondering why I'm not responding. 

On an individual level, I'm trying to move forward on several projects that involve working with people who are in adjunct or part-time positions. It brings to mind the difference between long-term and short-term thinking. Hiring people for the short term encourages short-term thinking, which would inherently seem like a bad thing. On the other hand, what if in certain situations the library could actually benefit from a little less long-term thinking? It is now possible to form electronic collections that could quickly change according to need. One year we could get an entire back run of a journal online if a particular adjunct faculty member wanted to use it in his/her class. The next year when she's no longer working here, we could get rid of it in favor of something else. Point-of-need collections, created using à la carte and patron-driven acquisitions processes, might actually be a very practical direction for a community college library that is more subject to external (short-term) economic forces than a research library. Actually, the idea of being able to easily and cost-effectively modify an entire collection is pretty exciting. Community colleges have a far shorter institutional histories than universities, and maybe their libraries have never truly needed to collect for the long term in the first place.

There's plenty more going on, but I think that's enough for right now!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

August Break

Around this time every year I take a week or two off from blogging. There is a lot of planning going on in the library as we head toward the Fall semester, so I'll be back later this month to talk about what we're up to. In the meantime, here are some of the titles on my reading list:

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers - Eggers has a new one out; I'm catching up.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - This was mentioned here, and apparently it's being made into a movie.

Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte - Referred to in this post. Again I'm playing catch-up.

Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christenson - The New Yorker had a profile of the author recently, & I haven't read this but have been meaning to for a long time.

American Visions : The Epic History of Art in America by Robert Hughes - Hughes passed away earlier this week, and I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't read any of his work. I'm not sure this 600-page tome is the best place to start, but we'll see.