STS Unconference Notes: ALA Annual 2014
Thanks so much to Spencer Davis for following our conversation and writing up the notes for us. We appreciate your work!
(Kathy Szigeti, facilitator)
The session flowed as a free flowing conversation with individuals asking questions that were relevant to them and then the rest of the group answered. These are an extrapolation of my notes and the recollections I have.
Topic 1 – Space in the Library
How does one justify getting new space in the library verses what fit on the shelves and what is appropriate? Also they need to make the case that they are a library and need advice on what to do and how to explain this to administration and others?
The amount of dollars that are paid into the collection wind up being a sizable investment. Those are concrete numbers that administrators and staff can see. Showing them where that money is going, into materials that then get weeded or outdated may show staff what they need.
Another way of phrasing the information.
If one considers information like food then one knows that food has a 'best buy' date on it. After a certain point it just goes bad.
One person spoke about the Renovation of the Carnegie Mellon libraries which wound up being not to the pleasure of the Dean and President. A potential solution on what to do with/in the Library can asked by the librarians: what do you want to do in the library space? Should there be more study rooms, more books, classrooms, computers? All people need to communicate what they want, what they would like to see done, and know that the others have heard them and are on the same page.
Another way of phrasing the information. Comic between waiter and guest with the guest complaining about the meat.
“What do you mean you ordered the prime rib, I wanted beef.”
“It is beef.”
“I want something thick and juicy, something I can bite into. Don't give me that fancy stuff give me meat.”
Off-site storage of materials is another option. It removes the materials from the physical space but still leaves them accessible.
Topic 2 – Impact of Research and how librarians affect it?
How do librarians impact on research, researchers?
There is a discrepancy between what can be measured and what is valuable. Numbers that can be measured give only certain bits of data. Gate counts, circulation of books, number of questions at the desk only show that the library and resources have been used but do not give a greater meaning to the impact of the library upon research. Obtaining that kind of information, of a meaning impact is very difficult or impossible to obtain.
Ideally we'd like to say that because the library was open X researcher looked up information on Y to make conclusion Z. Thus we can show an immediate impact on the research thus reaffirming in everyone's mind that the library has a needed and meaningful existence. How does one create such a situation in real life when research goes on for years, over the course of multiple institutions and perhaps thousands of information sources?
Numerics have an immediate application in circulation and can help determine what materials are used, not used, and are no longer needed. A question came up about keeping older texts which are obviously out of date but have historical value. The reason to keep them would be for the historical contrast and so that individuals have the ability to go back and say 'Oh, this what people thought about this subject back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.' Removing the older texts frees up space but also limits the information that people can find, especially if it is the last copy of an out-of-print item. The Florida Academic Repository allows for digital copies of said items to be deposited there, but that is only a local chapter. If their hardware fails or the data is lost, poof. All gone. What is needed is a central warehouse of information whose job is collect and store for posterity a copy of every material ever printed. No editing of information, just storage and retrieval.
Topic 3 – Library verses Librarians
Then there was the question of the librarian. What value do they add? They are the subject expert and the person everyone goes to if there is an issue. People revere the library, it helps the schools, the community, allows for this and that and blah blah blah. Everyone likes to talk about how great and wonderful the library is but not willing to shell out money to support it even though they just exclaimed its virtues. One slight problem. A library itself does not do much. A library, books, databases are all tools and cannot assist a community by itself. The staff and librarians who run the library make those tools available and accessible.
Some folks even commented that the American Library Association should change its name to the American Librarian Association.
Topic 4 – Embedded Librarianship
How to get invited to staff meetings and show faculty you can help?
One way one individual got access to staff meetings was through a new dean at their school. It created the opportunity for new ideas to be exchanged. One idea was to ask to be invited to the monthly staff meetings. Issues are that one needs a new dean and typically one doesn't want to wait that long.
Another way was to assist one individual, help them and show them how beneficial the library and the library staff can be thus creating an advocate to help promote the promise of the library. This works so long as the individual is there and/or willing to think of the library as an asset. Once they go, well then you're back to square one.
Having office hours in the department has both pros and cons. The pros are that if one is located at a key point, aka in a high traffic area, then people start to recognize the staff there. People can identify you as 'hey, you’re the subject librarian!' which is all well and good but how does one rate relationships with faculty and students in library metrics? Is there any way to measure that and what does it mean? The librarians are also there, easily accessible to the faculty and students when they need them. The cons are that it really depends on where the individual from the library is located. If you're not in a high traffic area, just shoved into a corner someplace where nobody will see you, then it may not work out.
Topic 5 – Professional Development
What do people do to continue to gain skills and such?
The ALA immediately came up as well as local chapters. SLA, science boot camps, virtual conferences such as Library 2.014, MOOCs, and webinars.
Topic 6 – Data Management
How does one get faculty to use the library, or librarians, as a tool to help facilitate their research. After all, they are the experts on the subject.
Each person will need to adjust to their needs and circumstances accordingly, but in general the response went along this line. Ask the faculty about their research and get them to tell you all about it. Assuming they are interested they should be more than willing to discuss it with you. This will be the hard part, you'll need to listen to them. Listen and wait and be patient until you know enough about what they do to say 'okay, here's how I can help.' Find out what their needs are, as researchers what do they require because they can't be an expert in all subjects!