Friday, October 23, 2009

Educause Center for Applied Research

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 report was released the other day. This is the sixth in the annual series and it always has something of interest.

Use of the university library websites seems much more promising than the 2006 OCLC !--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 College Students’ Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resouces, where they found that only 55% of students used the library website at least monthly. The ECAR reports that 94.6% of students used library websites on a weekly basis. Of course, 90% of those student use social networking sites on a daily basis.

Another point that caught my eye was that 73.1% of the students reported they were using their library website for classwork during the period when the survey was taken.

Students were asked to rate their information literacy skills and not surprisingly that are very confident about their abilities to search online, find information and evaluate it. This has real impact on how we approach information literacy instruction. Many students believe they have the skills they need already.
Over 30,000 students assessed their abilities. 80% said they were very confident in their ability to search the Internet effectively and efficiently. (p16) A third felt they were experts.
The survey also asked students to assess their ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of online sources. Fifty-one percent felt they were very skilled expert in evaluating online information.

Students also felt pretty capable in legal and ethical aspects of accessing and using online information. 48.4% felt they were very skilled to expert. Only 17% felt they were not at all skilled or not very skilled in this area.

Handheld Internet Access

Just over half of the students surveyed report that they own an internet capable handheld device and another 12% plan to purchase a device with that capability in the next 12 months. Use of those devices to access the internet is more variable. About a third access the Internet daily and another third have never accessed the internet from their device. Cost and the wide available of other avenues to the internet are the main reasons for people not using handheld devices for Internet access. The ubiquity of internet access won’t change but the cost of mobile internet access is likely to drop. Librarians are thinking about how to provide their resources to handhelds this supports those efforts. The majority of students accessing the internet on handhelds are looking for information (76.7%). The information sources listed in the survey report seem more personal presently; news, weather, sports and specific facts are mentioned. Chances are that as mobile internet use becomes a more common part of students’ lives academic use could grow. In focus groups electronic reserve was mentioned as a possible use for handheld devices.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Textbook Rentals

One of the proposed solutions suggested to address the textbook affordability issue. Various states, including Illinois have evaluated the feasibility of establishing textbook rental programs as a way to help students better afford higher education. Many of the UW System colleges and comprehensive universities, including UW Eau Claire have textbook rental programs. Studies, like the one done by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, have focused on universities providing textbook rentals. This upcoming academic year will see publishers getting into the act. A recent New York Times article reports on this new development. Maybe this provides an answer to publishers who view the used textbook market as a threat to their business and students who see that market as their best source for recooping their textbook costs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fair Use Evaluator

I just learned about a new tool from the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy, the Fair Use Evaluator. This tool walks a person through the evaluation process of deciding whether their use of copyrighted material falls within the provisions of Fair Use. As you go through the process you can click on statements for and against Fair Use for all four of the issues that help determine fair use. The tool then calculates the pluses and minuses and creates a time stamped .pdf document that documents the process of deciding whether or not to use copyrighted material. It should be very helpful in documenting someone's good faith effort to exercise their fair use rights as they make use of protected material.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Technician - Textbooks available on reserve

The other day I learned that the D.H. Hill library at North Carolina State University is collaborating with their campus bookstore to provide one copy of every required course textbook through their reserve desk.Technician - Textbooks available on reserve

This is an impressive attempt by an academic library to address student's needs for relief from the continual rise in the cost of textbooks.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Textbook Affordability

Today I received my University of Denver alumni magazine and learned that a professor there is trying to address the high cost of textbooks through electronic texts. The magazine reprinted an article from October, 2008 about Daniels College of Business professor Don McCubbrey's work to solve the textbook affordability problem facing his students. He worked with his graduate students to develop an electronic book that would be affordable. But Professor McCubbrey was thinking about the cost of textbooks in a more global manner. If textbooks are too expensive for students in the United States, what does that mean for education in less developed areas. Working with Richard Watson of the University of Georgia, Professor McCubbrey founded of the Global Text Project. The Global Text Project's goal is to marshall the resources of the United States to bring 1,000 electronic textbooks to students in the developing world and help education around the world.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Is a New Era Dawning

A friend of mine asked me, in relation to libraries and cloud computing, if we were at a point where libraries were at a point where they were willing to forego the localization and customization that commercial ILS vendors provide for what OCLC be able to provide with their plan to provide web-based library management systems. His premise is that current commercial ILS vendors are responsive to library needs and adapt as needed. While I agree that librarians can make incredibly unrealistic demands on vendors, I'm not sure I agree with the assumption that current commercial vendors are particularly responsive or agile. Certainly this has something to do with the fact that the library automation market is limited with customers of finite resources. That may be the reason that vendors have not been able to keep up with the changing expectation of our users.

I'm not sure if cloud computing represents an answer to the challenges currently facing librarians and ILS vendors but the environment is inexorably changing. The idea of splitting out different ILS components and selecting the software packets that work best for individual libraries makes a lot of sense in my mind right now. At the CUWL meeting we were talking about having our patron database managed by the campus student/personnel system and library acquisitions/finances managed by the campus financial system. The idea of running our acquisition system through campus financials scares me to death but it makes sense budgetarily. In the current budget crises these types of efficiencies may be forced upon us. I remember going through an ILS vendor migration and the trade offs that change brought. I came to realize that no, one vendor had a product that worked well for all of our library's needs. At the same time I visited the library of the Universitat Freiburg. There they had one system developed for circulation, one for the catalog and one for financial management. Each was developed separately but all interacted with each other. I would like to see an environment where libraries could buy a circulation system from one vendor, a commercial financial system and a cooperatively developed open source resource discovery system. I don't know if current vendors have a business model that would support them being able to survive by selling there systems as discrete packets. They don't have the resources to invest in the r&d needed to keep up as it is. I'm convinced that the library automation business is just another of the businesses that libraries interact with that is facing a business model crisis; just like publishers.

Friday, June 5, 2009

CUWL Day Two

The second day of the CUWL conference started out with product demos from ExLibris and OCLC. The representative from ExLibris spoke about Primo and there new venture Universal Research Discovery and Delivery (URD2). The URD2 initiative looks like their attempt to address the issues that Marshall Breeding discussed yesterday. If it works, the system will harvest data from the library's ILS, DSpace, CMS, institution website and also "deep search" the library's licensed journal articles. They are also looking at ways to merge workflows in the back end that better link ebooks, licensing, journals and print.
The commercial concerns are being pressured by open source developers to better address our needs. The best quote I heard was the ExLibris rep describe open source developers as "a distraction" rather than a legitimate competitor.

OCLC continues moving steadily into the ILS world. We heard about their "web scale management services". As I understand it this initiative is a way to provide a "cloud computing" solution to manage library workflows. If this works it would take the OCLC cooperative model to our management processes. The example given was how libraries all have vendor files that they maintain individually. An OCLC cloud management service could provide a central shared space where libraries could cooperatively update one shared vendor file.

In the afternoon I attended a round table discussion of how system libraries are developing our electronic theses and dissertations repository. More and more Wisconsin universities are moving in this direction. UW-Eau Claire is moving deliberately, if cautiously, in this direction also. Dorthea Salo talked about the new software that the Digital Collections group is implementing. This software should make our system easier to manage, maintain and preserve. The big issue that came out of this was that CUWL needs to start thinking about data management. There is one project just beginning where a group at Madison is curating an archeology dataset. They are working with an archeologist who cataloged the results of excavations done in the first half of the 20th Century. In that period excavations could be much more comprehensive than what can be done currently so there is a lot work to be done to provide access to the data. The project looked very exciting. When I asked who provides a model for libraries moving into data curation, Dorothea said that Purdue is very active in the field. They have created a data curation department, D2C2.