Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Library Guides and Course Management Systems

During the past several years we have used Springshare's LibGuides extensively, to support instruction and to bring attention to various collections, services, and events at the library. (We do not currently have LibGuides CMS, formerly CampusGuides.) Recently we've begun to worry that the guides compete with the college's online course management system. The library has no wish to manage online courses, but we are starting to encounter faculty who understand LibGuides differently from librarians.

For librarians, LibGuides are a straightforward yet personalized way to highlight relevant parts of the library's collections and services. In my own experience, I have had the most success when I build a LibGuide for a particular assignment -- an assignment that has specific objectives but also some flexibility in terms of requiring students to perform some independent research. At other libraries, I notice that LibGuides are successfully used to replace paper pathfinders or hand-outs; the web-based LibGuides are far more malleable than either of those. There are usage statistics to see if anyone hits the content, and the guides support interactive features such as chat and forms.

Meanwhile, at least where I work, faculty who teach in person are looking for stable online space to easily organize their course materials and make them available to their classes. 'Course materials' can include hand-outs, syllabi, supplementary readings, and information about assignments. So while it's great when the library creates a LibGuide for a particular assignment, a LibGuide doesn't cover an entire semester, and even from my librarian perspective it seems weird that only a portion of a course would be supported this way. I mean, it makes the library look good, but it puts the rest of the college in a somewhat awkward position.

Then there are those faculty who teach online and/or have adopted the college's course management system to host their course content. From within the course management system, the LibGuides can get a little lost lost, as they just appear as a link.

The library has a functional relationship with those who administer distance education. As I write all of this down, it seems like the next logical step is a conversation with them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Is This Also Called Burnout?

Lately I've been worrying that I'm becoming stupider.

When I assist students at the reference desk, I'm often familiar with the assignment they are working on, and so I forget to listen to them fully. I recognize this as a type of arrogance or lack of humility that can develop when desensitized to students who are at the very beginning of their academic work; I've also observed instances of it in interactions between faculty members and students.

Then there are the times I catch myself being curmudgeonly about technology -- even here, on a weblog. I complain about the experience of reading online while expecting someone to read my own online posts. I can appreciate the grand tradition of technology-based dystopias, but it seems foolish to imagine having any influence on the sea change in information consumption.

Projects that would have once seemed simple now seem dishearteningly difficult and complicated. I can't tell if I was naive in the past, or if I am too easily defeated now. Along similar lines, I find I have less to say; I am surprised and outraged by less. Was I over-reacting in the past, or have I become complacent? I am also becoming weary of fighting for libraries. To me, the benefit of libraries and librarians is maddeningly obvious, and so why am I constantly in the position of reminding even those people in my own institution?

Upon re-read, it sounds like I'm ready for a holiday! Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Comfort of Libraries and Print

Even I -- a librarian intimately familiar with the trend toward majority electronic library collections -- as a patron have caught myself counting on the warehouse function of libraries. I frequently depend on the fact that my libraries will have a printed copy of something that I particularly want to read.

In a way, libraries fit right into the access instead of ownership model that many people take for granted with film and music services. It's just that the access point for books was established hundreds of years ago and is commonly supported with public money. With this in mind, how can anyone say libraries are obsolete? Is it because the market for books is beginning to include e-books in addition to print? Thanks to vendors such as OverDrive, ebrary, and Wiley, libraries are in that game too. I have trouble swallowing the idea that the availability of e-books means the end of printed books.

Many people who work intimately with printed media find themselves in a love-hate relationship, in terms of occasionally feeling overwhelmed by sheer quantity. There are days when having every last bit accessible online, instead of having to deal with the physicality of it all, sounds very attractive. However, as much as I am dependent on technology for my basic productivity, I'm disappointed when there's a book I want to read closely and I only have access to it as an e-book. What's unclear is whether there are enough people like me for printed versions of books to continue to exist.
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Added 11/12/12: Omitted here is mention of electronic reading devices -- when I'm disappointed with only having access to an e-book, I'm referring to browser-based academic e-books.