Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Information literacy thoughts of the day

Today I was feeling a bit brain fried from all this blogging so for a bit of fun I was messing around with our new mac and decided to make a little vodcast of what I've been thinking about today. This was unrehearsed and unscripted so please be kind. This is in no way a comprehensive overview of all my thoughts but simply a glimpse inside my brain in a short moment of time. enjoy



    Whilst I love everything you're saying, I'm beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that all this Research is designed to hog the new Mac Room.

  2. First, fish are awesome. Second, my problem with the idea of library 2.0 is that it ultimately advocates making the library more visible, more central to students' life. If we're going to do that, we need to think Facebook and somehow become the hub, and I don't think we can do that. The class will always be the hub, and that's where students will base out from.

    I'm not sure what the answer is, to be honest. I can't help but feel the library is a concept on its last legs. :/

  3. What! I really disagree! What is wrong with libraries being more visible and I would argue that the library is already central to MANY students lives.
    I recently heard a new educational theory that 'learning occurs outside the classroom' because it's how you apply what you hear in class that enables contextual learning. Libraries are absolutley hubs for students to gather and study together and thereore learn!!!
    BTW - The library I'm at is on Facebook and it does work. If you've read my previous posts you'll be sure to know that your last comment baffles me. The library as a concept will continue to evolve along with the social, cultural and technological practices this concept is embedded in.

  4. Trust me, I know all this. (This is the same Sean you work with, Sophie! :) )

    To be honest, I'm unsure. If open-access journals become successful, if more and more free sources of information dominate the market, etc. then we're kind of stuffed. Google can, and will, index that stuff faster than we can. And as you've said, students can and will hit Google before they hit us; that's their hub, and I don't think we'll coax them out of it.

    On the other hand, if those models fail financially, if they need a subscription based revenue source, then the library remains the best way to provide that information academically. (No, I'm not happy with the idea of a library as merely a resource budget, but there it is. I'm pretty sure that for many users, that's exactly what we are.)

    The worst case scenario is that declining standards simply ends up allowing students to use worse and worse material, forcing us out.

    My problem remains: Our old role as information gatekeepers is dead. No question. But it has still not been answered if we have any new role. I'm prepared to believe we might not.

  5. Thanks for being devils advocate. I still completely disagree with every single thing you're saying.

  6. For what it's worth, I'm not convinced we don't have a future, either. But I was very swayed by a talk at the last New Librarian's Symposium which basically argued that discussions of the library's future have never seriously taken the argument that it might not have one. I'll see if I can find it...

    Found it:

  7. as new educational environments develop, the classroom is definitely not the hub - especially because in some contexts, there is no classroom, no physical coming together of the cohort.

    imho, i think students' hub is the web, full stop. there are nodes scattered around the web that represent particular places that they frequent - facebook, their favourite search engine, twitter, wherever comes next - but ultimately, i don't know that students really care where on the web services and resources are positioned. It's about whether they can find services and resources when they want them. the web is the hub - that's their environment.

    student's couldn't give a shit that libraries buy millions of dollars worth of content in aggregator databases and that it's all authoritative and whatever else. they care that they can find the information that they want and need, when they need it, in the format they want it. in a student's mind, if they do a google search, they should find everything. and who's to say that attitude is wrong? rather than focus on directing students back behind our walls, why don't we figure out some way to expose all of our content through google? are we focussing on the wrong problem here? yes, we want students to be literate in their use of information, but surely the answer is not to force them to use our clunky interfaces?

    beyond exposing collections, i think what we need to do is position libraries well within the web - everywhere and anywhere within the web that our students/users are going to want to find us. (just as a half based aside: i've done this during first semester as an educator: i've been actively online and available to students - via email, skype, twitter, phone, through elluminate. it's worked reasonably well, but i could push this further by embedding myself in the learning spaces.) do students want to find us in facebook? i think the answer is probably not. but we absolutely need to be in the spaces where they are searching for information. i'm not sure what that looks like, exactly (beyond exposing our collections through search engines), but i'm interested to follow along with your thought processes here, sophie, and see where you take us!

    ugh, sorry, stream-of-consciousness rant!

  8. "in a student's mind, if they do a google search, they should find everything. and who's to say that attitude is wrong?"

    FWIW, that's exactly the attitude that does make me afraid. Once that attitude is there (and it is) then marketing shifts to meet it. Google is great for the web, where metadata controls are few. But it's damned lousy for academic information. Students have come to see one search box as a good thing, instead of being the awful limitation it is.

    I do concur with a previous post of Sophie's -- IM shouldn't just be about tools. We need to ingrain a way of thinking; the kind of way that sees a single search box and wants to know why that's all they have.

  9. while a student's world view is "google knows all", then i think we do need to get our content out this way. yes, perhaps a single search box is not the be all and end all, but i have to tell you, i'm a librarian (and, as an online services librarian, my business was largely search), a researcher, and a teacher. and i think a single search box rocks. if i'm starting out with a new topic, i probably don't even have the right language to construct a complex boolean search.

    you've hit the nail on the head by saying "marketing shifts" to meet the attitude that google is the be all. so much of our info lit instruction has focussed on "this is what the library has and it's great". shouldn't we actually be focused on developing the skills our customers desperately need right now (ie how to make that single search box work for you, and how to evaluate, synthesise, analyse info), rather than trying to push customers back behind our walls?

    i just don't see how a single search box can be considered only as an 'awful limitation'. i think this is bibliographic snobbery! we've been trying for years to get students to use advanced search functionality and we keep coming back to the google-ification of search. if they want a single search box, shouldn't we show them how to make that work, and shouldn't we expose our content via the most popular single search box of all, so that there's quality content there for them to find?

    i disagree that google is lousy for academic information. i think that's an oversimplification. how is it lousy? (not trying to be antagonistic - i'm really interested in your perspective on this)

  10. I'm sorry Sean but I agree with everything Virtual Librarian says and still disagree with everything you've said. Thanks Virtual Librarian for saying what I wanted to say, only with more gusto!

    Imho, don't expect them to come to our walled garden, expose our collections via google, make our IL discoverable in their online worlds, nothing wrong with a single search box.

    We absolutely need to create a culture of evaluating, synthesizing and analysing information so students can still find academic info in google and wherever else they look. Whether they know it or not they're accessing our library databases when they get the full text via google - do they need to know that? Is that a marketing opportunity?

    Sean, why are you afraid of change? Libraries will never cease to exist. They just might be very different from the way you think of them now. Personally, I'm excited by the prospect of an unknown emerging future. It is what we make it!

    But then I am known to be the ultimate optimist.

  11. It is a limitation; that's not an opinion, it's a simple fact. With multiple search boxes, I can search author, title, subject heading. I can combine them. When you lump everything into one search box, you can't unless you start getting into awkward syntax tricks, and that's not the right direction either. (And to be fair to Google, the advanced search options do allow this; although even there they have their flaws. Why on earth were LC subject headings not part of Google Books? None the less, the emphasis of the idea is to remove the addition fields, so my point stands I think.)

    I agree with you when you say we need to address skills; tricks like pearl growing and the like should be standard. But even though tools shouldn't be all we teach, understanding what tools you have is an important part of the game. As the proverb says, when all you have is a Google, every problem looks like a nail. What we need to do is imitate what made Google successful, which actually was not its single search box -- Yahoo before Google had that. What Google did right was have a revolutionary relevance algorithm, and cut the heck out of any distracting detail. These are good lessons, but the single search bar isn't the one to learn.

    Why am I afraid of change? Well, mainly because in this case I think the change is against us. Some technologies are terrific and I think they have amazing possibilities; had RFID and Augmented Reality been taking off a while back I'd have heralded them as the sacred tablets of library. But these days, they seem... a bit anachronistic. RFID has amazing possibilities, but it's irrelevent once everything goes electronic. (Which is the way I think it will pan out.) Augmented Reality can do some incredible tricks, but again, if you're just going to be in front of a screen, it's all you need.

    The fact is that we're just not as required as we used to be. When information was trickier to access (and without electronic indexing, it is) the specialist is more useful. Information is becoming ever easier to access, and I don't buy the argument that there's more information so we're needed to sift. One, there's always been loads of information. Second, Google's doing the sifting, not us.

    Maybe I'm wrong. Hell, I'm probably wrong. If Sophie is the ultimate optimist, I'm probably the ultimate pessimist. I've simply never been geared to expect good things to happen. But in this case, I do think there are ominous signs. In all likelyhood, some librarian tasks will remain crucial; particularly collection development. (I do think in the end open-access journals will not prove viable, and that means good academic information will require money, which in turn means someone has to choose how to spend that money. And that's a collection development librarian.) But other tasks I'm less certain of. I simply don't see the library as a physical location really surviving long term. I don't think reference is as important as it used to be either, largely due to the Google factor mentioned above. And heck, even the collection thing I might be wrong about -- User-developed collection isn't an idea I think works yet, but someday a company might work out how to do it neatly. (But it's unlikely. Such systems are very open to abuse.)

    I think libraries as we know them are doomed. And there will be fewer librarians around. We won't vanish, but we will be hidden. Half of us will be unseen, working with collection development at the university.

    The other half will be the other end of a computer session, working via remote access to assist patrons, and we're more likely to be employed by a publisher, not a university. In fact, we'll be serving patrons from many different libraries.

    That's a pretty bleak future. And, as noted, I'm a pessimist. But I don't think it's implausible.

  12. Side note: Wow that's long, and geeze, that came out even more pessimistic than I think I really believe. The details are right but my language is really loaded.

    Shorter, less God I'm Depressed version: The library as we know it won't survive; it will be replaced by an entirely online equivalent. There will still be a need for librarians, but we'll be working in very different capacities and we certainly won't be working as directly with patrons as we used to.

  13. i've used up my quota of decent thoughts for today, so i'll leave the full scale rebuttal to sophie.

    but, one rebuttal i will make is this: i'm pretty sure most public librarians will tell you that there's no chance of the library as we know it being "replaced by an entirely online equivalent" at any point in the foreseeable future.

  14. Oh yeah, I'm thinking academic library here, since that's where I work. That said, public libraries have the threat of full-scale extinction. Despite how insane that would be, we've seen plenty of proof that many councils view them as a non-essential service.

  15. I decided to write a new post rather than another comment. See today's post for my response.

    BTW I had to google to term 'pearl growing'?

  16. Hi Sophie. Not getting into the pessimism/ optomism debate here, but wondering whether you've seen Ryan Deschamp's great list of "Top Ten Zero Tech Libray 2.0 No Brainers for Public Libraries ? Has some good stuff there that is at least tangental to what you were thinking about here...