For those who don’t know, the Big Deal is an arrangement with ejournal publishers to bundle their entire content into a large package of ejournals, while charging less than the full content would cost a library through individual subscriptions. An example is Elsevier, which provides something called the “Freedom Package” to academic libraries. For a relatively small percentage of what a library pays for Elsevier subscriptions, the library get access to everything Elsevier publishes. That’s the upside. The downside is that, once locked into multiyear licenses for these Big Deals, libraries are unable to reduce their number of subscriptions or lower their ejournal costs if they need to.
Educators are struggling with distracted students. It’s a competition for their attention. It’s time to experiment with different strategies for getting them re-connected. Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University and an expert on the psychology of technology, believes the solution lies with helping students to focus their attention, as opposed to simply trying to get them to do without their distractions. The recommended technique is actually quite simple. It revolves around that fifteen-minute time period in which students will check Facebook or for new texts at least once.
The concept of surplus value clearly works well in a marketplace context, where goods and services are exchanged for money in real time, making it easy and intuitive to think in terms of value versus cost. But what relevance does it have in the library context, where services are (or seem to be) provided at no charge?
While the debate about whether college is even worth the investment lingers on, for some the discussion has shifted to questioning what it means to be college educated – or what should it mean. Will the answer be decided by college educators or politicians, and how might the outcome impact the work of academic librarians?
Ever worry about where our profession is headed? I do—a lot—but then something happens to make me realize there is indeed a bright future for librarianship, and that library work still attracts talented, creative, and interesting people. I recently had the good fortune to meet two such individuals: Ashley and Heather Pierce. They’re sisters who both happen to work at the Harvard Law School Library (HLSL), and they’re both vibrant, motivated young women who enjoy their work immensely and are obviously committed to it.
The stock market has hit record highs, and unemployment has reached the lowest level since the recession began. Despite this good news, the library economic environment has not seen commensurate improvement. There continues to be a struggle to find the resources needed to support library collections and services, and conditions remain highly unsettled.
I was fortunate enough to see an advanced draft of The New Digital Scholar: Exploring and Enriching the Research and Writing Practices of Nextgen Students, a terrific new collection of insights into how our students approach research tasks and what we can do to improve their learning. (Reader, I blurbed it.) Now that I have a print copy in my hands, I’m reading it all over again, and I expect it will become one of those books I pull off the shelf frequently, until the pages are dog-eared and rumpled. Most of the authors are in the field of composition, though librarians and technical writers also contributed. It does a fascinating job of examining how students become information literate—and what barriers get in the way.
If you are a librarian and seek a mentor, you can get one. Our profession has no dearth of formal programs, and we even create opportunities that facilitate informal relationships. So far it has worked well, but as millennials enter the library workforce it may present a new challenge for library leaders.
Recently I was talking with a Duke faculty member and editor of a prominent scholarly journal about ways to improve access to the journal he edits. In the midst of the conversation, I found myself being lectured on the need to get scholarly publishing out from under the control of commercial publishing firms. What were libraries going to do, I was asked, to break the stranglehold that commercial publishing had over scholarship? Fortunately I had some answers for him, and a great deal of sympathy for his perspective. But it was very odd to have the tables turned on me like that; I am usually the advocate for open access and new models of scholarly communications, so it was strange to be treated, even briefly, as a defender of the status quo.
A new book reveals information about our students and the way our institutions treat them. It’s sure to draw a “this just can’t be” reaction from those involved in the higher education enterprise—and some are questioning the research—but if it’s true, academic librarians may want to be thinking more about the socioeconomic status of the students. Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality concludes that higher education may be the great un-equalizer, serving to maintain the status quo, rather than giving students the education and experience needed to move up the status ladder.