Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Ithaka Report on Faculty Attitudes and Student Research

An article in the April 4, 2016 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the new Ithaka Report, a 2015 study on faculty attitudes regarding scholarship, publishing and student research skills.  This study has been done at regular intervals since 2000.  One of the highlights of the 2015 report is that the number of scholars who think libraries help students “develop research, critical analysis, and information literacy skills” is up 20 percentage points from 2012."  20% is a pretty good leap in 3 years. 

Inside Higher Ed reported:"Faculty members are showing increasing interest in supporting students and improving their learning outcomes, and say the library can play an important role in that work, a new study found." [Emphasis added.] This is a major shift in faculty attitudes from previous years.  In the past, while a large percentage of library directors saw a role for the library in teaching critical thinking and information literacy, the faculty did not.  So, this is a shift in a very good direction.  I hope that if there were members of our faculty who responded to this survey, they were supportive of the instruction efforts of the liaison librarians.

It is important to give credit where credit is due.  The Instruction and Research Librarians have been putting a lot of time and energy into making improvements in our first year course instruction, as well as mid-level course instruction.  Their work on consultations, meeting individually with students, has grown dramatically.  Efforts to increase student understanding of proper citations and plagiarism have led to several productive meetings with individual departments which ultimately benefit students as well as faculty.  

The recent GERC report on the first year course has recommended that we "stay the course."  But we are also aware that there are some faculty members who would like to see changes in the library instruction program for the first year course.  We'd like to hear from you.  What changes would you like to see?  What isn't working for your department?  What could we do to improve the library component to make it work for every department?  If you have thoughts to share, please use the comment feature or contact me directly. The liaison librarians will be meeting this month to talk about the GERC report and discuss the first year session, so your thoughts would be informative for their discussions.   

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments and if you are interested, you'll find the full  Ithaka Report here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Launch of the Lever Press - a new player in open access publishing

Today I’m pleased to be writing about an exciting new venture that is the result of several years of work and study {1}, a new open access publishing press that has just gotten underway.  On January 8, 2016, Inside Higher Education announced the launch of the Lever Press, an open access, peer-reviewed, digital-first publisher for scholarship in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. This press, conceptualized and developed by academic libraries in private liberal arts colleges, is founded on one of the basic principles of academic libraries: collaboration.  As stated on the Lever Press website: “Unique among open-access publishing initiatives, Lever Press is conceived, governed, and funded by a consortium of liberal arts college libraries.” The press is also a  collaboration with publishers, as it is a partnership with Amherst College Press and Michigan Press.  As shared in the Inside Higher Education article:
“Amherst College Press and Michigan Publishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library, submitted the winning proposal to found the press. They proposed a three-way partnership: Amherst College Press, launched in 2014, would supply its knowledge of getting a digital-first open-access publisher off the ground; Michigan Publishing would chip in its experience with developing tools for digital scholarship and its connection to a research university; while the Oberlin Group would keep everything grounded in the liberal arts.”

Lever press is dedicated to the principle of increasing access to scholarship and will therefore be open access.   As a platinum open access press, there will be no costs for authors nor for readers.  In this new funding model, libraries are sharing the costs of publishing.  Although most see the role of libraries as purchasing and preserving books, our role here at the DeWitt Wallace Library has evolved in the past decade to include scholarly publishing.  Our work with our institutional repository, the Digital Commons@Macalester, has expanded from preserving the work of faculty and students to publishing student online journals and  one multi-media monograph, Captive Audiences/Captive Performers. While many research institutions have their own publishing programs, the opportunity for smaller college libraries to publish has been more limited.  Recently, the University of California Press launched Luminos, their open access publishing venture for monographs, but their model is based on a shared cost model with membership fees that vary and there are still costs for authors and institutions that wish to publish.  Our model is based on pooling our money for the purpose of “purchasing” future content and paying the costs to produce that content.  

You can see an example of how the press will work by looking at the Digital Culture Books, a series from the Michigan Press.  Books in this series are freely available in a digital format, and a print copy is also available for purchase.  The Amherst College Press is just getting started with their open access, born digital publishing program.

The first meeting of the Oversight Committee for Lever Press took place on the Amherst College campus on January 25th and 26th.  I am pleased to be one of the 12 members from the colleges supporting Lever Press on the Oversight Committee.   In addition to 11 librarians, we have the Dean and Provost of St. Olaf College, Dr. Marci Sorter on the committee. One of the first tasks of our group is to select the Editorial Board will consist of faculty members from supporting institutions.  If you are interested in being considered for the Editorial Board, please let me know and I’ll explain the process.

If you are interested in learning more about the Lever Press, Charles Watkinson, Associate University Librarian for publishing and director of the University of Michigan Press, will be speaking on campus, Wednesday, March 2, at 3:30 in the Harmon Room of the Library.  

The origin of “Lever” for Lever Press was based on a quote attributed to Archimedes in which he is said to have stated, “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”   We are hoping that our efforts will make significant changes in the scholarly publishing world.  I look forward to speaking with anyone who is interested in learning more.

Lever Press Initiative.  The work and study included a survey that was administered to faculty on this campus at the end of 2013.   You can read more at the website - https://leverinitiative.wordpress.com/

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reading in a Digital Age of Distractions

This summer, a printed copy of Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children by Sarah Carr was shipped to over 600 new students, including transfer and exchange students.  Copies were also shared with all first year course faculty, student orientation leaders, and members of the President’s Council.  Sharing print copies of books is the basic foundation of our MacReads common reading program, now in its sixth year.  The topic of the book is the educational reform that took place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  The book was selected based on the International Roundtable theme this year: disparities in education.  While the MacReads program is now in its sixth year, this is only the second time the MacReads selection was connected to the Roundtable theme. Providing incoming students with a book that ties into both the Roundtable and the First Thursday speaker, and provides a good reading experience is not a small challenge. This year, we also created a Moodle course to share information about the reading, provide news of upcoming events, and allow students to share comments based on questions developed by our two faculty members who then led students in a discussion of the book on Monday of Orientation Week. Reading comments posted by students in Moodle, led me to reflect on our common reading program. At the same time, I started reading The Slow Book Revolution: Creating a New Culture of Reading on College Campuses and Beyond, edited by Megan Lacy.  In the introduction the author makes a statement that basically sums up our hope for MacReads: “Reading also helps us connect to others--to the author, to other worlds and cultures, and to other readers--and therefore has the power to bring communities together.” [p.viii].  It is the hope of creating a sense of community for incoming students that drives us in our selection of books for the common reading program.  However, as also pointed out in The Slow Book Revolution, we know that reading habits are changing in our increasingly digital environment. While we hope to create a sense of community among our new students with our MacReads common reading program, once students arrive on campus their focus will be on course readings and textbooks that will require an entirely different reading focus.  

As more students enter college having been introduced to reading on tablets or Kindles, as well as their smart phones, we’re interested in tracking how they pursue their course readings.  We’ve long known that students prefer to print out the pdfs of articles they find in our library databases, but what about when reading book-length materials?  The Kindle was introduced in 2007 and iPads in 2010.  These two devices, as well as the ability to read on smartphones, are changing how and when we read as well as what we read.  Reading in a digital format has been the focus of several publications that I reviewed this summer.  Some of the writers focused on the challenge of reading on electronic devices, because it is easy get distracted, whether by links to related materials, or incoming text or email messages, or just the ability to use Google to explore a question raised while reading.  A recent publication, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World by Naomi S. Baron, talks about how technology is changing reading and, as a result, our writing. She also points out the distinction between reading for pleasure versus the concentrated, focused reading for context. Her book is a fascinating study of reading habits and worth taking a slow read through.  In addition, Baron touches briefly on one of the topics related to student reading--a topic that members of the library are starting to explore more closely this year--electronic textbooks.

A variety of studies have been shared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on student preferences for reading print versus electronic textbooks, including  a recent study which closely monitored 17 students and their reading habits.  However, as mentioned earlier, more and more younger students have been introduced to reading online in high schools and elementary schools.  We are curious as to when, or if, the transition may occur when more students find it more natural to read on an electronic device.  It is of particular interest to us, as members of the library continue to explore developing opportunities in the open textbook movement which provides access to freely accessible electronic textbooks. Faced with increasing costs for student textbooks, the open textbook movement is looking for ways to reduce costs and enable students to have the textbooks they need for successfully completing courses.  This is important to the library because we participate in a collaborative program with MCSG that places copies of some of the most expensive textbooks used in courses on Library Reserve. For the fall, $5000 has been spent by MCSG to provide 44 copies of 8 textbooks. This is just a small portion of the textbooks required for courses.

We will continue to follow developments and the debate about whether students prefer print or electronic textbooks.  As the cost for textbooks continue to escalate, we will look for opportunities to collaborate with faculty on finding solutions that meet both teaching and learning needs. Gathering more information on student reading preferences, and on whether or not electronic textbooks provide both the content that is needed as well as a means of economic relief, are areas of interest for the coming year.  Last March, the library and CST co-sponsored a session on open textbooks that resulted in lively conversation among more than 20 participants.  This year, we hope to learn more about our faculty who are currently using electronic textbooks. We also hope to continue conversations, and look for input from faculty on whether there is interest in using or developing open textbooks, and how the library might be able to support Mac’s involvement in the movement. Ron Joslin, Research and Instruction Librarian, will be taking a lead in this area. We welcome comments and questions from faculty if interested in this topic, or if you have experiences to share on using electronic textbooks in your courses.

In the meantime, how was your summer reading experience?  Whether you were reading for scholarship or for pleasure, have you found that digital formats have transformed how you read and retain information?  Do you find reading scholarly articles online different from reading a book online?  And if so, what implications do you see for your students as you assign them readings for your courses?  Please share your comments, continuing this discussion of reading in a digital age of distractions.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Open Access Publishing and Open Education Resources

Open access (OA) does not equal free. Nor does OA publishing mean lower quality scholarship marked by the lack of a traditional peer review process. There are costs involved and most OA journal articles and books are peer-reviewed, but those two concerns persist in conversations about the merits of OA. As OA does involve costs, either by producers or subscribers, it is important to note that finding a sustainable cost model is one of the ongoing challenges facing libraries when presented with the variety of options that are now appearing regarding OA materials. While there are a number of factors that contribute to our library being involved in the OA movement, the most important factors are our interest in removing barriers to content and published scholarship and participating in activities focused on reducing costs and expenses. For this reason, the library has promoted OA through a variety of initiatives including Open Access Week each October, working with faculty to pay author fees to publish in OA journals, and looking for opportunities to post faculty pre- or post-imprints for articles published in journals that allow for deposit in our institutional repository. Last year, the library published an OA multi-media monograph, Captive Audiences/Captive Performers; Music and Theatre as Strategies for Survival on the Thailand Burma Railway 1942-1945 by Prof. Sears Eldredge. It is in the area of OA books that a number of new initiatives are capturing our attention and we see some significant changes that will have an impact on all the disciplines. We will continue to explore new funding models, such as Knowledge Unlatched, while also looking forward to continuing developments with the recently announced NEH and Andrew Mellon grant-funded Humanities Open Book project. Many of these initiatives have developed around the idea of creating and sharing books in a more cost-effective manner than currently possible in traditional publishing methods of production and delivery.

 In higher education another area of stress in terms of costs is textbooks. A recent report showed that textbook costs have increased by 800% since 1978. (See graph below) It is estimated that Macalester students spend $1096 per year on textbooks. Our library staff have worked with students in the MCSG to place copies of some of the most expensive textbooks on reserve as a means to help alleviate some of the costs students have, but another new OA trend is gaining momentum in an attempt to help reduce the costs of textbooks. This the Open Educational Resources movement.

As defined on the Hewlett Foundation OER webpage, OER (Open Educational Resources):
     “...are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been    released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.” 
Open textbooks are just one component of OER. An open textbook is intended to provide a textbook that can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed. There are many websites that have been developed around sharing open textbooks. The University of Minnesota has created an Open Textbook Library which includes open textbooks in almost every discipline. Tim Taylor, managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives and housed here at Macalester, is co-author for three of the listed titles in economics. One of the features of the U of M website is to connect faculty to reviews of materials. Currently, the U of M is looking for reviewers for the textbooks, but they are also interested in faculty who would like to develop an open textbook. There are also additional initiatives with open textbooks including:
  •  CNX.org: repository of all CC-BY content (conected to OpenStax project) 
  • OpenStaxCollege.org: open textbook publisher (funded by Hewlett and Gates foundations) 
  • aimath.org/textbooks: American Institute of Mathematics Open Textbook Initiative 
  •  COERLL - Center for Open Education Resources and Languages and Learning 
  • OER Commons - Open Educational Resources
 The question is, what if we could do more to address textbook costs? If you had access to high-quality, peer reviewed textbooks or could create your own textbook for use in your class at a lower cost, would you be interested? Maybe you are already using open textbooks or other OERs for your courses, in which case we’d like to hear from you. Open Education Week is March 9 - 13th. We’re planning to sponsor a lunch discussion on Wednesday, March 11, 11:45 - 1:00 in the library and would like to invite faculty who are interested in learning more or are already using OA materials to join us. We will post notices to the Piper with location and more details, but if you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact me or your liaison librarian.

Graph will be found in a variety of publications.  See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/04/college-textbook-prices-increase_n_2409153.htm;
visited 2/18/2015

Textbook costs for Mac, based on information from Financial Aid Office; as per email from Polly Fassinger, February 2, 2015

Monday, August 18, 2014

Collaboration Takes Many Different Forms...

Collaboration takes many different forms, but the definition of “collaboration” is to work with others to complete a task and achieve shared goals. For us in the DeWitt Wallace Library, collaborative efforts are a continuous thread throughout all of our library services. It includes the partnerships we strive to develop with faculty in order to prepare engaging instruction sessions on research strategies for library resources relevant to your courses. Collaboration includes developing strong service ethics in our student employees while also providing them with skills related to the college student learning goals. We collaborate closely with our partners in ITS for providing excellent service and support for faculty, students, and staff. Collaboration also involves working with other libraries to expand access to available resources for our faculty and student research needs. This form of collaboration is essential and requires developing and sustaining reciprocal borrowing arrangements. With the completion of the migration from our former CLICnet shared system to our new system, OCLC Worldshare Management System, we are now developing new methods for collaborating with the CLIC libraries as well as with new partners in the over 300 libraries that have selected OCLC WMS as their system for acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, and managing electronic resources, and the over 60,000 members of the OCLC cooperative. Since Macalester is no longer on a shared system with the CLIC libraries, we have worked diligently during the summer to implement new service procedures to ensure that faculty continue to have access to resources and materials from other libraries, delivered in the same timely manner that you are accustomed to. Last spring we implemented a second daily delivery from Minitex and early indications are that we often receive delivery of materials from Minitex more quickly than from some of the more local institutions. We are also exploring improved borrowing options with institutions that may be geographically located at a greater distance, but are connected via our Minitex network and provide options for rapid delivery of their materials. We will continue to monitor delivery patterns during the fall, but our service commitment is to ensure you obtain the materials you need in a timely manner. We hope you will continue to collaborate with us as we seek to accomplish the shared goal of connecting you to the resources you need. If at any time you feel you are not getting the service you are accustomed to, please contact me directly so I can address and respond to your concerns.