Breaking Though the Bubble

By Frank Winter, Librarian Emeritus
University of Saskatchewan Library

A couple of years ago I attended a talk by the renowned Australian scientist Tim Flannery concerning various issues related to climate change. One of the panelists, frustrated by the narrow focus of remarks by the other panelists, urged the audience not to limit their thinking to Vancouver (the city). He exhorted us to “break through the bubble” and think about Vancouver (the region). His phrase stuck with me and I thought about what sort of bubbles I might unreflectively inhabit. By extension, is there a bubble entitled “the University Library” that Canadian university librarians inhabit? How might they try to break through it as they engage with the challenges and opportunities that face them today?

Can we start by acknowledging that Canadian university librarians in continuing positions in publicly funded institutions have terms and conditions of work that are good by any comparative or absolute standard? Gaining job security through tenure or some other continuing status is demonstrably achievable. Individual librarians at publicly funded Canadian universities exercise a good deal of control over how their work assignments are carried out without overly intrusive management oversight. There are always individual or group cases where the situation is perhaps not quite so rosy for whatever reasons but these are exceptions.

Does this relatively comfortable status encourage complacency and a professional culture that focuses largely on how we perceive ourselves and our work and from that standpoint, how our work can assist others in their work? In Lorcan Dempsey’s phrase, this is an inside-out perspective.[1]

What are some of the conceptual bubbles that we ought to be aware of?

One bubble is not acknowledging that success in our work depends heavily on campus services provided from outside of the library. University libraries have really good infrastructure support from the central campus services in areas such as information technology and networking, physical plant, human resources, finance and other functions that public libraries, for example, typically have to manage for themselves. Without superior on- and off-campus networks, for example, university libraries would be stymied in their ability to deliver information services. Without a good caretaking staff, the heavily used public areas of libraries soon turn into unpleasant pigsties. These support services cost money and a good library manager must be vigilant that these central services receive appropriate budgetary support.

Another bubble is the presumption that the local collection is the most important service that the library provides to the university community. The implications of the concept of a collective collection for a mindset that privileges the primacy of the local print collection are significant. There may be specific areas of activity within a library in which the local collection is the most important service provided to a user community but there are others in which it might not be. Although the trend seems clear, internalizing and then communicating the consequences of this change to users and to senior university managers is difficult. Different approaches will be needed for different communities of campus users.

Many new roles are suggested for university librarians and libraries from a service provider perspective. The recent External Review of the University of Saskatchewan Library contained a typical list of current candidates: “digital humanities, scholarly communication, copyright, research data management, data visualization, and other areas of current and emerging priorities in academic libraries.”[2] They could easily have mentioned research information management services as well.

Deciding which of these services, or parts of these services, the campus community is interested in receiving from the library is challenging. Successfully engaging in any of these services will require breaking through the bubble of treating “the University Library” as an undifferentiated whole and instead viewing it as a disaggregated set of different units working with different user communities on and off campus in different ways. Each of these services involves interacting with experts from outside the library. Negotiating a mutual understanding of how these different expertises can be meshed to achieve a common goal requires that librarians be able to reify their skillsets and mindsets in a manner that can be communicated to other experts so that they can understand what value librarians bring to the table. Conversely, librarians in these multi-disciplinary activities have to be able to understand and work with the often very different skillsets and mindsets of other professionals.

Competitors abound but the bubbles university librarians inhabit may make it difficult to perceive let alone respond effectively to these competitors. Roger Schonfeld has posted some interesting observations on the evolving strategies of commercial content providers such as Elsevier.[3] The motives of the users of the pirate site Sci-Hub have been the subject of innumerable articles and comments while Google Scholar continues its prominence in the activities of people seeking scholarly information. DeDe Dawson’s recent BrainWork post addresses the topic of information privilege from the perspective of Open Access and how undergraduates will be able to access scholarly information once they leave the university.[4] David Worlock’s blog is a good place for tracking developments in the information industry that has developed to serve users in for-profit sectors.[5] He discusses many services that never appear on the radar of university librarians. For me, the bubble here is workflow. Sci-Hub and Google Scholar mesh with users’ workflows while Elsevier, in particular, seems singularly focused on building complete ecosystems for researchers to manage their research workflow. Although most university librarians know the importance of understanding their users’ evolving workflow patterns, the options available to them, and the services they actually use, it remains very challenging to alter our existing models of service delivery.

There are issues of finding the appropriate scale to work at. There is also a non-trivial element of risk. Besides the risks involved in financial and human resource reallocation in breaking through the bubbles described above, there is also the risk of mismatches between the goals of library leaders and the expectations of senior university administrators and between the library and the varied user communities on campus.[6]

Concerns about individual workload abound, as documented in numerous studies.[7] There is, however, an evolving toolkit of organizational and personal responses to resolving workload concerns.[8] In the context of workload, the basic requirement to account for our time remains relevant. Bottom line: librarians are at the university to do work that the university needs to have done. If there were not work that needed to be done, or if that work disappears, there will be fewer jobs for librarians.[9] It is quite possible, at any particular institution and for local reasons, that the institution may not be receptive or interested in what librarians can contribute to the institution’s evolving priorities and activities. In such cases, it is perfectly logical that some resources formerly allocated to the library may be directed elsewhere on campus to higher priority activities and/ or to groups perceived to be better able to deliver the required service.

Communication is key to understanding and breaking through the bubbles we inhabit. Think about how many different people you interact with physically or virtually over the course of a typical day or week or month. If they are always the same few folks and especially if they are library folks, then you are not getting out enough. Librarianship is a contact sport.


[1] Dempsey, Lorcan. (2016). Library collections in the life of the user: two directions. LIBER Quarterly. 26(4),  pp.338–359. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/lq.10170 retrieved on May 15, 2017.

[2] University of Saskatchewan.  (2016). University Library:  External Review Report. (2016). Prepared by:  Gerald Beasley Joyce Garnett Elliott Shore, March 10, 2016, https://www.usask.ca/ipa/documents/Reviews%20-%20University%20of%20Saskatchewan%20Library%20External%20Review%20Report%202016-03-10.pdf retrieved on May 15, 2017.

[3] Schonfeld, Roger C. (2017). The strategic investments of content providers. Ithaka S+R [blog]. http://www.sr.ithaka.org/blog/the-strategic-investments-of-content-providers/retrieved on May 15, 2017.

[4] Dawson, DeDe. (2017). Information privilege and the undergraduate student. Brain-Work [blog]. https://words.usask.ca/ceblipblog/2017/05/02/info-privilege-undergrad/ retrieved on May 15, 2017.

[5] See http://www.davidworlock.com/category/blog/.

[6] Schonfeld, Roger C. (2017). The strategic direction of research library leaders: Findings from the latest Ithaka S+R survey. Scholarly Kitchen [blog]. https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2017/04/04/the-strategic-direction-of-research-library-leaders-findings-from-the-latest-ithaka-sr-survey/ retrieved on May 15, 2017.

[7] Delong, Kathleen, Sorensen, Marianne, Williamson, Vicki. (May 2015) 8Rs Redux: CARL Libraries Human Resources Study. Ottawa: Canadian Association of Research Libraries. http://www.ls.ualberta.ca/8rs/8rs-redux-final-report-2015.pdf retrieved on May 15, 2017; Fox, David. (2007). Finding time for scholarship: a survey of Canadian research university librarians. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 7(4), pp. 451-462, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/portal_libraries_and_the_academy/v007/7.4fox.pdf retrieved onMay 17, 2017.

[8] See, for example, University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association. Fact Sheet: Assignment of Duties, http://www.usaskfaculty.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Assignment-of-Duties-Fact-Sheet.pdf. The Library has its own detailed guidelines on the assignment of duties. See also, for example, Workload Policy – University of Toronto Library. (2012), https://www.utfa.org/sites/default/files/LibrarianWorkloadPolicyFinal2016.pdf retrieved on May 15, 2017.

[9] Winter, Frank. (2014). Traditionalists, Progressives and the Gone-Away World. Brain-Work [blog]. http://words.usask.ca/ceblipblog/2014/10/14/traditionalistsprogressives-and-the-gone-away-world/ retrieved on May 15, 2017.


This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Revising a manuscript: Thoughts on how to organize your response to peer reviewer and editor comments

Lorie Kloda
Editor-in-Chief, Evidence Based Library & Information Practice
Associate University Librarian, Planning & Community Relations, Concordia University

Rebekah (Becky) Willson
Associate Editor (Research Articles), Evidence Based Library & Information Practice
Lecturer, Department of Computer & Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom

Lisl Zach
Associate Editor (Research Articles), Evidence Based Library & Information Practice
Managing Partner, Informatics Insights, LLC, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Red Pen

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (Some rights reserved by cellar_door_films)

The process of revising and resubmitting a manuscript for further review can be a long and sometimes challenging process. As editors for the journal Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, we see a range of responses to requests for revisions or to revise and resubmit manuscripts. Based on our experience, there are things that you as an author can do to help both yourself and your reviewers to ensure a smooth process and to increase the likelihood of having your revised manuscript accepted for publication.

The first is to read the editor’s and reviewers’ comments and suggestions carefully. These comments are aimed at improving your manuscript. Not all of the editor’s and reviewers’ comments may be applicable or relevant to your work, and therefore you may have good reasons for disagreeing with their suggestions. Not all of the changes suggested have to be made, but all of the editor’s and reviewers’ comments do have to be addressed.

One challenging thing for editors and reviewers is the number of submissions we see. The time lag between when a manuscript is originally submitted and the time when it is revised and resubmitted can be many months. To help the editors and reviewers see whether you have addressed the comments made about your manuscript and revised it accordingly, you need to identify the changes you have made (or not made) and explain why.

One way to do this is to submit a revised version of the article with the changes clearly highlighted. Using Word’s Track Changes feature can be a useful tool to do this. By scanning through a manuscript with Track Changes, it is very clear what changes have been made. However, it must also be clear why you have made the changes that you did, how you approached those changes, and why you decided not to make the changes suggested. To keep track of your revisions – which are based on the input of at least two separate reviewers and the editor – a separate document that includes a table can be very useful. (See Rebekah Willson’s template for an example of how to organize this information.)

This table should consist of:

  1. The first column should contain the reviewers’ comments. Take each comment that requires a response (either a revision or an explanation) and paste it into a separate box.
  2. The second column should contain any revisions that you have made. With a brief description of what you’ve done, copy and paste the changes you’ve made to the manuscript as a result of the reviewers’ comments. Include page numbers (and, if helpful, table or figure numbers, paragraphs, or section names), so that it is easy to flip between the revised manuscript and the table of revisions. If the changes are too long to fit into the table, just provide the description and page numbers.
  3. The third column should explain your actions. If you have made revisions, explain how your changes have addressed the reviewer’s comments. If you have not made revisions, explain why you have made that decision.

Filling out the table once the revisions have been made can be very challenging. If you start by going through the editor’s and reviewers’ comments and putting them into the first column of the table, this will help you to identify the work that must be done. Then working between the table and your revised manuscript you can proceed in a step-by-step manner to complete your changes.

When working on a manuscript with multiple authors, a helpful strategy is to create the table and add all the editor’s and reviewers’ comments and suggestions, and then add another column to assign each of these to an author to address. Following this, a meeting to reach consensus on the changes to make and to assign the work can streamline the revision process and ensure the manuscript is resubmitted in a timely fashion.

See another example of how a PhD student organizes her manuscript revisions.

What questions do you have about the peer review and revisions process?


This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

5 Reasons You Should Attend EBLIP9

by Stacy Stanislaw, Drexel University

EBLIP9 is only a month away, and we’re working hard to finalize the last-minute details to ensure this year’s conference is the best ever. If you’re still not sure if this conference is right for you, then check out these 5 reasons why we’re excited for the meeting:

  1. Innovative and instructive workshops, programs and sessions. Is evidence-based practice important to you? Do you want to learn more about applying evidence-based concepts to clinical care, your research, or your own library or other organization? This year’s conference features more than 40 concurrent sessions, pre-conference workshops and other programming events that are all things evidence-based! Check out the full program and descriptions online to see for yourself.
  1. Networking opportunities. One of my favorite parts of attending conferences is the opportunity to meet new people and see old friends, and we know many of you feel the same way. So we’ve built lots of time for informal conversations throughout the conference. Grab a coffee and chat between sessions or tour the Free Library of Philadelphia with other conference goers during the opening night reception. Registration also includes access to the conference dinner at the Crystal Tea Room, one of Philly’s famous event spaces.
  1. Inspiring key note speakers. The 2017 keynote speakers hail from all different backgrounds. Opening keynote speaker Dr. Alison Brettle, a professor in Health Information and Evidence Based Practice at the University of Salford in the UK will kick off the conference, and Drexel’s own Yi Deng, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Informatics & Computing will speak on Tuesday morning. The conference ends with a talk from Pam Ryan, the Director for Service Development & Innovation at Toronto Public Library, on Wednesday.
  1. Poster Madness! What’s a conference without poster sessions? EBLIP9 will have a collection of amazing poster presentations on everything from using assessment to develop a plan for renovating library spaces to discussions on the value of consortia for an ARL library. And of course, we’ll continue the Poster Madness tradition, where presenters have one minute to find unique and interesting ways to promote their posters before the sessions begin.
  1. With Love, Philadelphia xoxo. Philly is an amazing city rich with history, museums, restaurants, shops and more. In between sessions and during your free time, visit the Liberty Bell or check out the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art (don’t forget to have your photo taken with the Rocky statue, and then take a quick job up the museum steps!). You can also tour Drexel’s campus or visit our neighbor, the University of Pennsylvania, and then head down to the Rosenbach Museum & Library. We’ve got even more suggestions and tourism information on the conference page, and we’re happy to answer questions or help you book arrangements and tours if interested!

Those are just a few reasons to attend the 2017 Evidence-Based Library & Information Practice conference this June. Check out the conference website – www.EBLIP9.org – for more details on this year’s program, events and networking opportunities. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for immediate updates on the conference.

And finally, registration is open through May 31! You can register online for the full conference, a one-day pass, or for a pre-conference workshop. Sign up now to ensure your spot at the meeting.

We hope to see you here in Philadelphia!


This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Are we designing services with an expiration date?

Kristin Lee, Research Data Librarian
Tisch Library, Tufts University

In January of this year, I started a new job as the first Research Data Librarian at the Tisch Library at Tufts University. Librarians at Tisch have been providing research data services to the Schools of Arts & Science and Engineering, so one of my first jobs was to understand the services that have already been offered and where we might expand into new areas. As is the case in many libraries, a cornerstone of the data management services was providing consultations for researchers writing data management plans (DMPs) for grant applications to the US federal funding agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health. ‘Perfect,’ I thought, ‘I can work with this.’

Then came what felt a bit like a data librarian existential crisis – the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy memorandum calling for expanded public access to research data, among other things, had disappeared from the White House website. While this created a good excuse to go through my LibGuides and find all of the links to that memo, it also made me question everything I had been thinking about when it came to the services I was going to offer. So, as I created page after page of notes with titles like “Research Data Services”, “Data Management Services”, “Services for Researchers”, and a lot of other permutations of those few phrases, the rest of the words refused to materialize. How would I convince researchers that managing their data was in their best interest, and if I couldn’t figure out how to do that would I still have a job?

The disappearance of the memo from the White House website has not meant that the US funding agencies have gotten rid of the DMP requirements, so my job is safe and my move from Saskatchewan to Massachusetts was not for nothing – existential crisis averted. But it still made me wonder about the longevity of services designed as a reaction to specific external forces, and to think that it might be okay to plan services that might eventually have an expiration date.

Once I stopped thinking about the service list I was putting together as being written in stone I was able to start drafting some ideas.  I was able to center the researchers (who should have been my main concern in the first place) as the focus of my work instead of relying on the threat of funding agency mandates to make them seek me out.  I could think about what we would be able to do in order to actually help people make the most of their data in both their research and teaching. I reminded myself that data skills are important to students in their academic and personal lives and are transferable whether they continue to study or decide to work outside of higher education. We can give the next generation of researchers the background and tools they need to keep pushing the open science movement forward.

Considering that the shelf life of some of our services is going to be measured in years as opposed to decades, there are clear implications for the way we share our work with each other as practitioner-researchers. If it takes 3 or more years to collect data and a year between having a paper accepted and published in a peer-reviewed journal, how timely will the research be? One of my favorite sessions at the Research Data Access and Preservation Summit (https://www.asis.org/rdap/) in Seattle this year was the Institutional Snapshots where we got a very brief picture of what is happening at a variety of institutions. From this session, I was able to identify institutions to reach out to get the gory details about what had worked for them and what hadn’t with respect to research data services.

I know that the services will change over time, so much so that they become unrecognizable in the future, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth offering them now and seeing what works. Finding venues to share what we are doing, not just our successes but also our failures and the things that keep us up at night will help us get through times of uncertainty and change. What started as a “the-sky-is-falling” moment for me has let me get back to why I love being a data librarian in the first place; we can help researchers at all levels get the skills they need to solve the world’s big problems, and we are doing it as a community.


This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Surviving Conference Season

This week we are going back into the Brain-work archives to revisit tips on surviving and thriving during conference season. Happy spring everyone – let us know in the comments which conferences you are planning to attend this year and what your plans are to maximize your time and resources.


by Carolyn Doi
Education and Music Library, University of Saskatchewan
*originally posted May 3, 2016

It’s that time of year again: conference season. It seems like myself and all of my library colleagues are out there right now, presenting, networking, and gathering ideas to bring back to the workplace. That being said, not every conference experience is a positive one. Here are some of my tips and tricks for making it through your next conference like a pro!

1) Plan for success. Preview the conference schedule beforehand and prioritize the things you absolutely need to attend (committee meetings, chapter sessions, your own presentation (!), etc.) and then the ones you’d really like to see. Pick your scheduling method of choice. A colleague of mine prefers to highlight the heck out of the print schedule, while I’ve found that taking advantage of the conference apps such as Guidebook can be really handy.

Don’t forget to give yourself time to see some of the local sights as well! If there’s an afternoon you can get away from the conference or – even better – if you can book an extra day or two on either end of the conference, you’ll be happy you did. It can be really frustrating to travel across the country to only see the inside of a convention centre. Plus, exploring the city with your fellow conference attendees is a great networking activity.

2) Surf the backchannel. Find the conference hashtag and tap into real-time Twitter/Facebook/Instagram conversations to find out what folks are saying about everything from the conference sessions, venue, and the best place to grab a quick bite to eat. It can be a great way to feel engaged and connected. Just remember, if you’ve got something negative to say on Twitter, be sure you’re ready to have the same conversation in person at the coffee break.

When I’m presenting, I find Twitter provides a quick and easy way to see how my presentation went over with the audience and gives me an opportunity to answer questions or send out links following the allotted presentation time. It’s always good to include the presenter in the conversation as well with an @ mention and use the conference hashtag, so those following from afar can also tap into what’s going on. There’s a lot to consider about the merits, drawbacks, and etiquette of conference tweeting. Check out Ryan Cordell’s article and suggested tweeting principles for more ideas.

3) Making networking meaningful. Small talk can be intimidating, but it’s certainly not impossible. Fallon Bleich’s article Small Talk at Conferences: How to Survive It offers some good tips.

As much as it can be tempting to talk to the people you already know, try to also work in some conversations with people you’ve never met, or someone you’ve always wanted to chat with. When in doubt, ask them what they’re working on at the moment. You might learn something new or even find someone new to collaborate with! I’ve had some great collaborative research projects come out of a simple conversation at a conference reception.

4) Presenting like a Pro. So much has already been written about how to give a good presentation. But as a rule of thumb, whether you’re using PowerPoint, Prezi, Google Slides, or Reveal, make sure your presentation slides aren’t more interesting than you are as a speaker. Selinda Berg discussed this in a previous C-EBLIP blog post where she argued for “PowerPoint as a companion…not as a standalone document to be read.” I couldn’t agree more. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be outdone by your own conference slides!

5) Mindful reflection. Take time before the conference to set an intention for your experience there. Is there a particular problem you want to solve, certain people you need to have a face-to-face conversation with or vendors that you need to approach? Conferences can go by quickly. Make sure you’ve identified your goals in advance so they become a priority while you’re there. I like to use a free note taking system such as Evernote to write everything down. Once I get home, I reread my notes and reflect on my experience. How can I apply what I learned in my own practice or research? Who do I need to follow up with?

Everyone has their own approach to traveling, presenting, and networking at professional events. These are some of the things that have worked for me and helped to make the whole experience more beneficial and enjoyable overall. Whatever your approach, I encourage you to sit back and enjoy the ride. Happy conference season, everyone!


This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Information Privilege and the Undergraduate Student

by DeDe Dawson Science Library, University of Saskatchewan

Privilege seems to be one of those things that you don’t realize you have until you no longer have it. This is not the case for some types of privilege of course. Someone’s race or gender will, in most cases, not change during their lifetime so privileges associated with these traits may be difficult for many to recognize. But someone’s ability to access information is likely to change.

One of the most frequently asked reference questions at an academic library is actually from recent graduates: “Why can’t I access e-resources anymore?” Libraries work hard to make access to electronic journals and literature databases as seamless as possible… so much so that undergraduates often don’t realize that they are using articles paid for by the library. Not until they graduate and lose access that is.

A bright and enthusiastic undergraduate student was my guide recently for a tour of the Canadian Light Source on the University of Saskatchewan campus. She explained to our group that scientists don’t pay to use the beamlines since they are conducting academic research, whereas companies pay by the hour. The distinction, according to our guide, is that the company is conducting research for their own profit whereas the academic is going to share his research in scholarly journals that everyone can read! I might have thrown up a little at that moment. But I did not want to hijack the tour by climbing on my open access soapbox right then. Reality will come crashing in once she graduates. Or… she could continue on to grad school, and then maybe on to become a faculty member, at large, rich institutions in the Global North and remain oblivious to the information privilege she currently enjoys.

Luckily, there is a growing awareness of this privilege among academic library users:

My intention in sharing the anecdote of the tour guide is not to shame the student. I was no different as an undergraduate (actually she’s a lot brighter than I was!), and her misunderstanding is understandable. My intention is to highlight the importance of teaching undergraduates about the scholarly communication ecosystem… and all of its warts: including its financial unsustainability and inequity of access. The Information has Value frame of ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education can serve as a guide in this.

For years now I have incorporated such messages in my instruction sessions. I clearly tell students that we are lucky to be at a relatively wealthy university, so we have access to X number of journals, and X number of databases that the library pays for. Students and researchers at smaller institutions or in developing countries are not as lucky. Even members of our own community who are not affiliated with the university are not as lucky (including others on the tour with me that day).

When teaching database-searching I am hyper aware of the irony of it all. Sure, these database-specific skills of controlled vocabulary searching and refining of results lists will help students in completing that upcoming assignment – but what good are these non-translatable skills when they graduate and no longer have access to that expensive resource? Only a small portion of our students will go on to grad school and use that database again.

This is why I now include a brief discussion of Google Scholar in these classes as well: emphasizing that it is also a useful resource – and will likely be the only one they have access to once they graduate.

I am far from the first to recognize this problem: see Char Booth’s excellent blog post On Information Privilege in which she describes an information literacy session she taught:

…I opened by challenging the fallacy that information is free by diagramming the library’s multi-million dollar materials budget against the “open web,” then facilitated a discussion about the implications of a system in which significant areas of knowledge are available to a privileged few (e.g., them). This may seem like a counterintuitive approach, but among my students it was a literally jaw-dropping illustration of a paywall that none of them knew existed. Choice responses (mirrored in other classrooms where I’ve used this approach) included:

“Why in the world does it cost so much?”
“It doesn’t make sense!”
“You mean all libraries have to pay like this?”
“Why can’t we use this stuff after we graduate?”

 

I feel strongly that we librarians have contributed to this current dysfunctional scholarly publishing system by (well-meaningly) sheltering faculty and students from the costs. This has emboldened publishers to aggressively inflate their subscription fees beyond inflation (and beyond reason) because they know that the end users are blissfully unaware… and because they know that librarians have a strong service ethic and will bend over backward to provide our patrons with the resources they need.

Let’s pull back that curtain now. Undergraduates are our future researchers and our allies in advocating for a more sustainable and equitable system. Even if undergraduates don’t go on to become researchers they will be tax-paying members of society funding that research. They should understand the system that their money funds and demand change.


This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Looking back, looking around, looking forward

by Margy MacMillan
Mount Royal University Library

Margy MacMillan

 

Part of my retirement preparation has been to dispose of mountains of paper – articles, reports, illegible notes, etc. Skimming the articles, most on research in information literacy, I noticed a trend. The reason I noticed this trend in the library literature was because of a trend in current SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) work that has made me question a lot of my practices. A major theme in SoTL now is “students-as-partners”:

 

 

 

“Students as partners goes beyond the student voice and involves students as co-creators, co-researchers, co-teachers, co-producers and co-designers in learning and teaching.”

– McMaster Students as Partners Summer Institute  https://macblog.mcmaster.ca/summer-institute/about-students-as-partners/

The aspect of the trend I find most interesting is having the students involved in generating the questions. In other words – doing research with students, rather than to students. Interesting thought . . . and certainly easily transferable to other communities, public library settings, etc.

The trend I noticed in the library literature in my piles and files, as you’ve probably guessed, was an almost complete lack of research based on questions generated by library users as co-inquirers.  This may, of course, be more reflective of what I’ve been searching and reading than the actual state of library literature, so I want to be clear, I am more questioning my own work than the field in general.  So:

What kind of questions would the people who use our libraries like to ask?
What kinds of questions would the people who DON’T use our libraries like to ask?

Think about it. And then think about this:

What kind of agency would it grant members of our communities to ask them to develop questions?

Would it change how members of our communities feel about their library?

If I was at the start of my professional career instead of at the end, or if I could time travel back and do it all over, this is how I’d like to approach evidence-based practice.

There is growing evidence of the benefits of a students-as-partners approach for both the students and the other researchers (see below for starting points).  There are also strong parallels to these benefits, especially around diversifying research questions and creating agency, in the more established literatures of participatory research, community-engaged scholarship, and other approaches that are what Helen Kara (2015) describes as transformative methodological frameworks. In Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide, she includes many examples of projects using feminist, decolonized, emancipatory, and participatory methodologies that serve as a rich source of ideas for the kind of work we could be doing more of. A common feature of transformative practice is “a move from oppressive to egalitarian practices, thereby supporting a wider shift from oppressive to egalitarian societies” (p. 39). I highly recommend this book, especially for those of you engaged in the #critlib discussions, as I think it bridges critical library practice and research.

Applying some of the perspectives from critical theory to our research practices as well as to other aspects of our work may seem a daunting task. Researchers risk exposure, the often solitary rewards of spending time with the literature to answer your own questions may be lost in work with others. This may be even more the case in work with people outside of academia or the profession, who may not share the same language, research conventions, or agreed ‘standards’. But wouldn’t the resulting possibilities and perspectives be worth it for libraries? Wouldn’t the greater involvement be worth it for our communities?

sunset on the Cristalino River in Brazil

Some references and starting points….

Bell, A. (2016). Students as co-inquirers in Australian higher education: Opportunities and challenges. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 4(2), 1-10. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.4.2.8 This is part of a theme issue on students as co-inquirers in SoTL – http://tlijournal.com/tli/index.php/TLI/issue/view/15

Kara, H. (2015). Creative research methods in the social sciences: A practical guide. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Light, A., Egglestone, P., Wakeford, T., & Rogers, J. (2011). Participant-making: Bridging the gulf between community knowledge and academic research. The Journal Of Community Informatics, 7(3). Retrieved from http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/article/view/804/808

Marquis, E., Puri, V., Wan, S., Ahmad, A., Goff, L., Knorr, K., Vassileva, I., & Woo, J. (2016). Navigating the threshold of student–staff partnerships: a case study from an Ontario teaching and learning institute. International Journal for Academic Development, 21(1), 4-15.

Matthews, K. (2017). University of Queensland Institute for Teaching and Learning Students as Partners site – http://itali.uq.edu.au/matthews-studentsaspartners

 


This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Choosing the right metric for Facebook advertisements: a (very) small case study

by Joanna Hare, Run Run Shaw Library, City University of Hong Kong

Following on from my previous Brain Work blog post about Facebook Insights, for this post I would like to share my recent experiences of utilising paid Facebook advertising for our library’s Facebook page.

Starting in October 2016 my library has been experimenting with paid Facebook advertising. Using a modest budget we have run two broad categories of advert:

  1. Page Likes: An advert shown to our specified target audience to invite them to like our page.
  2. Boosted Posts: Promote a single post from our Page to help it reach both our existing fans and people who have not ‘Liked’ our Page.

This is the second semester in which we have utilised paid Facebook adverts, which means I have been able to learn from the first semester and make adjustments for the second. For this post, I would like to reflect on choosing the right type of metric to be able to accurately assess the performance of your advert.

In the first semester of experimenting with Facebook advertisements, we boosted a post promoting our citation management workshops (Fig 1). In my previous experience, I had found Photo posts had performed better on Facebook than Link posts, so I used the same strategy in this advert.      

Fig 1: The first advert promoting our citation management workshops, run in November 2016.

Fig 1: The first advert promoting our citation management workshops, run in November 2016.

 

The results of this post were both encouraging and disappointing. While I was pleased that 54 people ‘reacted’ to the post, only 6 people clicked the link to view the workshop registration page. This indicated to me that people liked the content of the post (perhaps baited by a cute kitten!), but they were not so engaged as to take the extra step to click the link and view the workshop registration page.

To address this, in the second semester I used an advert type specifically designed to direct people to a destination off Facebook. The major difference is the ‘Sign Up’ button at the bottom of the post (Fig 2.), which when clicked directs users to the workshops registration page.   

Fig 2: The second advert promoting our citation management workshops, run in February 2017.

Fig 2: The second advert promoting our citation management workshops, run in February 2017.

 

The performance of this advert was much more encouraging: while only 6 people ‘reacted’ to the post, 93 people clicked the link to visit the registration page – a number greatly improved from the previous semester. Ordinarily the low number of reactions to a paid advert would be disappointing, but in this case, a high-click through result is preferable to lots of Likes.

In terms of the impact on workshop registrations, we did record a slight increase in the number of registrations and attendees, but certainly not an increase of 93 people, meaning not all of those visitors to the registration page actually registered for or attended the workshop. This could be a reflection of the design of the workshop registration page or the process of registration. This brings us to the next (much larger!) phase in our assessment of our Facebook adverts – to investigate their real-world impact outside of link clicks and post likes.

While Facebook is notoriously secretive of about how their algorithms work, they do provide a huge amount of data to demonstrate how your content is performing – and paid adverts are no different. Ultimately this exercise taught me to pay attention to the metrics used to assess the performance of Facebook adverts, and to choose an advert template that addresses the goal of placing the advert. This whole exercise forms part of a broader strategy in the Library to adopt an evidence-based approach to the use of Facebook to ensure our efforts on social media are worth the time investment. Based on the increased outreach and engagement with our posts thanks to paid advertising, our Library will continue to experiment with Facebook adverts in the coming academic year.

Recommended reading for anyone wanting to explore Facebook advertising for academic libraries:

  • Chan, Christopher, “Your Mileage May Vary: Facebook Advertising Revisited,” College and Research Library News, 77:4 (2016): 190-193, accessed December 21, 2016, http://crln.acrl.org/content/77/4/190.full
  • Scott W.H. Young, Angela M. Tate, Angela M., Doralyn Rossmann and Mary Anne Hansen, “The Social Media Toll Road: The Promise and Peril of Facebook Advertising” College and Research Library News 75:8 (2014): 427-434, accessed December 21, 2016,  http://crln.acrl.org/content/75/8/427.full   

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Library Resources (AND, OR, NOT) Google: C-EBLIP Journal Club, March 20, 2017

By Elizabeth Stregger, Discovery & Access Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

Perruso, C. (2016). Undergraduates’ use of Google vs. library resources: A four-year cohort study. College & Research Libraries, 77(5), 614-630. doi:10.5860/crl.77.5.614

There are so many ways to get to our library content. Students can start their research with the catalogue, discovery layer, research guides, library and archives websites, Google Scholar, and of course, Google. In consultation sessions with librarians and library staff over the past year, I’ve learned a lot about how these tools are perceived and taught in different areas of the University of Saskatchewan Library. I chose this article for the C-EBLIP journal club because it includes the question: does library instruction impact students’ initial choice of search tool?

A whole bunch of “value of libraries / librarianship” questions lurk around this topic, like pesky book reviews retrieved in a low relevancy search. Does library instruction make a difference? Why bother with library discovery systems if students will use Google anyway? Why do students even need libraries if they can write a passable paper using open web resources? One of the journal club members put a stop to these questions with the following zinger: “Is it valuable for kids to go to kindergarten?”

Getting back to the article, we wouldn’t have chosen “Google vs. Library Resources” as the options in the student survey described by the author. Google is a search tool, not a resource. We thought that more appropriate comparisons would include “Google vs. library systems” or “open resources vs. subscribed content.”

The data collection for this longitudinal study began in 2008 when we might have thought differently. So much has changed since then. It is easier to access subscribed resources from Google Scholar or even Google, depending on authentication workarounds. Librarians and archivists put effort into making special collections and other OA resources more discoverable and accessible to all. In a systematic review context, Google searching for grey literature is a recognized expertise. To sum up our conversation: the emphasis is less on what the student is using and more on how they are using it.

These changes in how we think about Google and student searching prompted a discussion of the challenges in conducting longitudinal research in libraries. The survey used in this study was administered a total of eight times over four years. This is a lot of sustained effort for everyone involved. Longitudinal research is subject to significant practical challenges including attrition, which was a factor in this study. It does not have the flexibility to allow for the reframing of survey questions in response to change. These changes become limitations of the research. The discussion section of this paper included many interesting questions and observations.

The discussion section of this paper included many interesting questions and observations. One of the ideas from the discussion section that we found intriguing was the maturation effect. A lot happens in the years that students spend at university. Library instruction and faculty requirements (the two variables in this study) may have a cumulative effect on how students approach research, but there are many other influences in student life. We discussed several of the other influences that might have an impact, such as interactions with peer mentors or student library workers.

In the end, that is what I will take away from our discussion. A student’s experience is made up of lots of interactions with the library, our people, and our systems. We have less control over the variables than we think. And I’ll hang onto that zinger about kindergarten as I continue learning, experimenting, and making things better.

Academic City of Villages

by Dr. Suzana Sukovic, Executive Director, Educational Research and Evidence Based Practice at HETI (Health Education and Training Institute) in Sydney, Australia

Originally posted on http://scitechconnect.elsevier.com, December 16, 2016 . The post refers to a chapter in the book “Transliteracy in complex information environments”, published by Chandos.

Transliteracy in complex information environments (Chandos, 2017)

Transliteracy in complex information environments (Chandos, 2017)

At a time when information spurts from everywhere, numerous voices demand to be heard and traditional authorities are under scrutiny, academia occupies challenging and contested space. Particularly indicative of wider changes in the information and knowledge field are humanistic disciplines. They epitomize academic traditions in which historical resources and dialogues with the past are an essential part of academic work. Scholarship in the humanities can also act as a touchstone for and a commentary on the present.

I would like to propose that the way in which humanists negotiate the fast changing information world is based on the model I call the ‘academic city of villages’. Academics, especially in the developed countries, live in an information metropolis in which information is available in abundance and wide variety. However, academics’ everyday life is defined by norms and traditions of their disciplines which dictate the rules of their academic worlds. ‘City of villages’, a metaphor promoted by town planners of cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Dublin and Sydney, is used to present some of the dynamics of living in disciplinary ‘small worlds’ or ‘villages’ within an information metropolis. This proposition is based on my study of roles of electronic texts in the humanities and, later, research into transliteracy.

Small information worlds and a ‘life in the round’

Women who eat dirt for its perceived benefits, prisoners, janitors and retired women are people who live in impoverished information worlds, yet employ complex information practices. This insight arose from the work of Elfreda Chatman who developed an information theory of a ‘small world’ and a ‘life in the round’, showing how groups influence and determine information behaviour. Chatman (2000, p. 3) described the concept of a small world as ‘a world in which everyday happenings occur with some degree of predictability’. ‘A small world is also defined by natural philosophy and everyday knowledge’ (Chatman, 1999, 210). A ‘life in the round’ is a public form of life, ‘a “taken-for-granted,” “business-as-usual” style of being’ (Chatman, 1999, p. 207). Chatman showed that powerful social rules determine conditions and ways in which information is sought, what acceptable information is and what appropriate uses of information are. Individuals usually conform or keep socially unacceptable practices private.

Saying that the information behaviour of academics follow some similar patterns to those of information impoverished groups sounds far-fetched. However, findings emerging from my study of research practices of academics in the humanities show similarities, which are not obvious at face value.

Social types are central to the normative behaviour of a social group. ‘Legitimised others’ in Chatman’s theory are comparable with academic ‘big guns’ who need to be convinced that a piece of research can and should enter academic circle. A historian who studies contemporary religions, such as Jediism, Heathenism and beliefs in extraterrestrial life, many with a strong online presence, described ‘big guns’ in the following way:

… the big guns have grown up in a different kind of scholarship and they’re the ones who edit the journals and who run the big publishing houses. [It is] important that you convince them that you really can do real scholarship… It’s a kind of professional accreditation problem that people who work in really kind of out there fields are stuck with. (Participant 5/2)

Academic peers are ‘insiders’, people who are in command of norms and who judge what is trivial or useless: ‘They are the quintessential frame of reference for observing and controlling not only behavior, but also the information flow into a social world’ (Chatman, 1999, p. 212). When academics in my study talked about ‘students’, ‘young generation’, ‘traditional historians’, ‘big guns’ and ‘people who work in out-there fields’, they described academic social types that play a part in shaping information processes.

Secrecy and self-protective behaviours are part of living in a small world. Self-protective behaviour is apparent in situations when the need for information is recognised as potentially helpful, but is ignored, often because of the desire to ‘appear normal’ (Chatman, 2000, p. 7).  Scholars choose to make their information behaviours, such as the use of online sources, public or keep them private in relation to the norms, worldviews and possible reactions of their peers who have roles of ‘insiders’ and ‘legitimised others’. The dismissive attitude of peers to the use of electronic resources is evident in scholars’ public discourse, summarised in ‘all that crap from the net’ as a conversation topic as described by one of the study participants. This discourse observed in some academic circles is quite likely to make an individual researcher reluctant to ask questions that would reveal the extent of her or his own use, which may be seen as unscholarly or unauthoritative. The majority of study participants talked about an area where information about the use of electronic resources and digital methods was needed, but that information had not been sought. The lack of discussion about uncertainties related to the use of electronic resources and the unexpressed need for training are signs of an impoverished life-world. It does not relate to an absolute amount of information that has been shared, but rather to an undisclosed information need.

Living in a city of villages

Academic disciplines define the norms and practices accepted by a disciplinary community and set boundaries of academic small worlds. However, disciplines do not function as isolated environments. It is increasingly common that scholars work in interdisciplinary fields, and belong to different disciplinary communities, negotiating their different cultures, traditions and expectations. Even if they remain within the boundaries of a single discipline, they live in a dynamic information environment populated by international scholars. This vibrant environment can be seen as an information metropolis. At the same time, academics follow the rules of their immediate disciplinary communities, which form their small worlds.

How do scholars negotiate potentially contradictory demands? They usually have a primary discipline, but they seek information in other disciplines if that is the requirement of their projects. Boundary-crossing usually happens according to the rules of the primary discipline. In some cases, it means following traditional trails of academic authority. For example, a literary scholar in the study worked in a well-defined discipline where she has been a recognised expert. A sense of authority is based on knowing sources very well. However, to satisfy the requirements of a particular project, she had to leave the established information paths and seek information in neighbouring fields. The process happened according to the dominant academic tradition by following the advice of a colleague in the other field. In other words, the researcher does not normally leave her village in search of information, but when she has to do that, it happens according to the rules of following well-established academic expertise.

For other scholars, negotiation of different disciplinary rules and project demands require trade-offs. When a historian decided to write a book aiming to open a challenging dialogue with traditional scholars, he excluded references to all sources that he felt would not be acceptable to these colleagues. However, he introduced a style of writing promoted by interactions with electronic sources, which ‘pushed the edges’ of traditional scholarship.

Academics who visit blogs, tourist web sites and forums about extraterrestrials leave an academic neighbourhood to roam around the city and listen to stories in dark alleys and under bridges. Stories from the underbelly of the city are often socially unacceptable in established disciplinary clubs in university quarters. Scholars who frequent the clubs, but cross the boundaries of academia, often learn from the ‘dark stories’ and consider how to present them according to accepted disciplinary conventions. In non-traditional fields within traditional disciplines, it means more or less successful ‘dressing up’ of research, which Participant 5/2 described as a way of using disciplinary theories and citations to make unconventional research acceptable to the mainstream discipline. In more traditional literary and historical studies, it means taking unaccepted sources into account without referring to them openly.

Scholars who do cross boundaries against the rules of their discipline, would do so because information is perceived as critical or there is a perception that a ‘life in the round’ is no longer functioning. Rapid changes in academia, inconsistent systems of promotions and evaluation of scholarly work, as well as conflicting expectations, indicate that academic life is functioning with a number of difficulties. Participant 15/1 talked about experimenting ‘without an umpire’ in mind in the environment in which some peers are interested in experimental work with the multiplicity of resources while others do not think that it meets scholarly standards. According to this participant, scholars who work in new fields start within a traditional disciplineand gradually split away when another community takes shape.

In a metropolis, news travels fast and it is impossible to maintain local customs untouched, but that does not negate the existence and influence of small villages. The balance between the preservation of a village life and the interaction with the metropolis — sometimes threatening, sometimes alluring – is in flux even in the most sheltered villages.

It may be that other professional worlds work in a similar way, but more research is needed to establish the evidence. However, an understanding of social processes in academia helps us to enhance our understanding of knowledge processes and wider societal changes. It helps us also to provide information and professional development services tailored with deeper understanding of our clients’ information worlds.

References

CHATMAN, E. A. 1999. A theory of life in the round. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50, 207-217.

CHATMAN, E. A. 2000. Framing social life in theory and research. The New Review of Information Behaviour Research, 1, 3-17.

 


This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

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