Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Revolutions of Rising Expectations

I just finished reading an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled, "Struggling to keep up" (thanks Colleen). Basically it was about the digital divide in academia. There was always a resource disparity between well funded elite universities and colleges and the rest of us. Scholars and students of my generation expected to have to travel to distant libraries in order to access rare material. Interlibrary loan was a tedious process of searching through what seemed to be miles of the National Union Catalog and waiting weeks for the material if you were lucky enough to find something. Now it would seem, the same scenario is being played out by scholars across the country looking for proprietary digital resources. People are less tolerant of this situation than they were in the past. The false sense of information ubiquity at no cost makes us chafe at the thought that others have access to material we can't get to. Undergraduates seem satisfied with the resources they pay tuition dollars for. It is our researchers and scholars who are becoming more and more dissatisfied with this state of affairs.

Within the University of Wisconsin System we are trying to find ways to address the digital divide between the comprehensive universities and our large research institutions. Currently the System libraries are looking at ways to provide document delivery for articles from high priced journals that our faculty need to support their research. Here at UW - Eau Claire this research takes on added importance because so much of it is predicated on faculty - undergraduate collaboration. As new faculty come to our university, having experienced the wealth of resources available at their post-graduate institutions, they are expecting more from us. We need to work together to find ways to satisfy those expectations.

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