Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have a safe and happy holiday season 2009

I will be heading out to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season. This is a quick note to let my three readers know that blogging here will pretty much pause until next year. It is also a chance to wish all of you out there a merry and safe holiday season, whatever the holiday you choose to celebrate. Please, I beg of you folks, if you drink, do not drive. If you drive, please put the cellphone down and pay attention to the road. We do not need unnecessary tragedies this season or just a bad situation on the road. In fact, two days ago, we had an 8 car or so pile-up in South Broadway Avenue (the area I live in), and it was basically due to a combination of tailgating and impatience. Please, be careful out there. Have a good time. Peace to all.

In the meantime, I have done my traditional holiday posting. You can find my holiday posts over at The Itinerant Librarian. So go on, stop by, and be amused for a while.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Article Note: On a history of reference assessment

Citation for the article:

Logan, Firouzeh F., "A Brief History of Reference Assessment: No Easy Solutions." The Reference Librarian 50.3 (July 2009): 225-233.

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

I am doing readings on assessment of reference services lately since our director wants me to look into the topic. A big reason for it is connection to accreditation, namely the accreditation agency wants stuff on assessment of services, so the hot potato eventually makes it to me. As I am doing all this reading and evaluation of what we do now, one of the questions in my mind is what exactly do we want to assess. I am still pondering that one. In the meantime, Logan's article was one of the items I read.

This article basically provides a historical look at assessment methods for reference. You get a sense of what has been tried over time, how the concept of assessment has changed and evolved, and a bit on pros and cons. If you want to get a sense of assessment methods out there that have been tried out, this is a good place to start.

Some notes:

  • "The dilemma is what to actually count and how to count it? Does a hash mark really reflect the reference transaction? And does a statistic adequately represent the quality and value of reference?" (225). This is one of the questions I am struggling with at the moment. We do have a basic hash mark tally sheet at the desk; we started keeping daily statistics this year after I did some advocating for it. I am aware the method is not perfect, but we needed something better than just doing a sampling one week during the school year, usually close to the end of the semester.
  • Logan discusses Samuel Green's 1876 piece in Library Journal where Green defines reference standards. Some of the things Green proposed are still with us today. I particularly like the line of "a librarian should be as unwilling to allow an inquirer to leave the library with his questions unanswered as a shop keeper is to have a customer go out of his store without making a purchase. . . ." (qtd. in 226). Basically this is a reminder to do our best and accept nothing less. And yet there are times when some staff do need to be reminded of something as simple as this. However, I would be wary of the comparison of a librarian to a shopkeeper. A library is not a retail establishment, no matter how often certain people wish to establish the image of libraries as businesses.
  • The article also discusses the work done in obtrusive and unobtrusive observations, such as the 55% rule and Weech and Goldhor's. From the later, "it was also recognized that patrons seemed to care less about the accuracy of the help they received than the friendliness and helpfulness of the librarian" (228). For me, that confirms my experience where we may not always have the answer (we may have to refer someone elsewhere; we may not have a particular material or item available in our library, so on), but as long as you take care of the patron with friendly and professional service, the patron will be satisfied (or at least appeased). This type of study marks a shift in reference assessment from accuracy of the service to patron satisfaction. Patron satisfaction seems to be the dominant form of assessment now. Even though Logan claims that by the decade of 2000, we have moved to outcomes for assessment, I think a lot of libraries are still more focused on the satisfaction aspect. The surveys (for the library as well as campus services) we have done here mostly deal with satisfaction of patrons. For instance, reliance on tools like LibQual+, which mostly measure perceptions and satisfaction. I think a lot of lip service is paid to the idea of evaluating outcomes, but a lot still goes back to patron satisfaction and perceptions.
  • "In the 2000s, a new vocabulary emerged. The emphasis in the literature was no longer on the numbers or even the quality of reference so much as it was on the role reference plays in instilling 'lifelong learning' skills and how reference contributes to 'information literacy'" (230). There is a move to the teaching or educational role of reference services. The question then becomes how do you measure that. Personally, this would be the kind of thing I would like to measure. Philosophically, I have always believed in the link between reference and instruction when it comes to helping our students.
  • Here is the catch on patron satisfaction surveying: "Although patron satisfaction is an essential component of successful reference service and assessing satisfaction is useful, it has historically been proven that patrons are not good evaluators of quality" (230). This is probably the same reason why one should take student end of year evaluations of classes and professors with a big grain of salt. A lot of variables can be involved in these kinds of surveys including mood of the patron at the time. Logan goes on, "many people want a reference librarian to alleviate or confirm their uncertainties. Satisfaction surveys can measure whether the service was quick and whether the librarian was courteous and professional, but they do not seem to be able to measure the accuracy of the answer or the quality of the sources offered" (230). Yes, I think it is important to measure if your librarian or staff member is courteous and professional. However, one still has to look at the quality and accuracy of that service as well. I wonder if we, as a profession, actually put any stock in quality and accuracy, or if it is just all about satisfaction. It's the mentality of keeping patrons happy so they will keep coming no matter the cost. I am pondering standards of service at this point, measuring the quality of the service in terms of resources offered to patrons as well as professionalism in service.
  • "Individual departments should develop their own list of qualities associated with good reference service. This list should include behavioral characteristics (i.e. attitude, ability to communicate, and approachability), basic knowledge of resources and collections, subject knowledge, and reference skills (the ability to discern appropriate level of help, when to refer, use of resources, time limitations, interviewing technique, relevance, accuracy, perspective, and bias)" (231). Note that it is crucial to tailor this to your specific library.
  • "There is no ideal measurement tool, but every reference department must nonetheless examine its service, not because of danger of extinction, but to set proper departmental priorities and define and articulate its level of commitment to meeting people's information needs" (231).
In the end, I have to concur with Logan: there are no easy solutions. But if we are to learn, grow, and provide good service, we have to keep looking for those solutions.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Article Note: On Off-Campus Students Using E-Books

Citation for the article:

Grudzien, Pamela and Anne Marie Casey, "Do Off-Campus Students Use E-Books?" Journal of Library Administration 48.3/4 (2008): 455-466.

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

In brief, the author's study did find that rates for e-book usage had gone up. However, the article does raise various questions that, given current conditions, make me say we should not be jumping on the e-book bandwagon just to get rid of the print collection. Some brief notes:

  • The definition of e-book: "Electronic books (e-books) are those that are the equivalent of a print book in a digital format. They are read on a computer or other digital reader" (455).
  • Yes, some challenges might disappear: "If a library can provide a comprehensive e-book collection to off-campus users, the challenges associated with shipping, costs, delays, and customs regulations when sending to other countries should disappear" (456). I don't think we send books overseas, so the customs issue would not be applicable to us. However, e-books do not come with challenges of their own, which at least the authors do mention.
  • Some findings from the article's literature review about trends of use: "In a further analysis of the same data, they determined that faculty and students in the humanities tend to use e-books only if there is no print available, and they prefer print books (Levine-Clark, 2007). In a study at Simmons College in 2006, the investigators discovered through survey and observation that students browse or scan e-books for specific information but do not intend to read them in their entirety (Hernon, Hopper, Leach, Saunders, & Zhang, 2007)" (qtd in 457). The issue of scanning would seem to match our own observations here. That is if the students do open the e-book. We still have some degree of resistance to e-book use. However, when they do open the book, they are just scanning for specific pieces of information. Overall, from reading this part of the literature review I got the impression that usage trends vary by subject and by local and very specific needs at times. No major generalizations can be made.
  • The one thing we do not have here, which makes a significant difference to collection development: "The university library has an annual acquisitions budget allocated by the university" (458).
  • E-books as cumbersome to off-campus students: "Off-campus students, who were interested in the e-books for ease of accessibility, found the process to access them very cumbersome" (459). I think this is probably the main reason e-books are not taking off as well as a lot of administrators would like. Here, at this time, we get at least 2-4 calls a month, give or take, for off-campus access issues related to e-books. We have a few e-book collections, but the usual "culprit" tends to be NetLibrary. From authentication issues to the PDF reader just not opening to a plethora of other complications (some out of our control, such as the student trying to access the e-book while at work, and their workplace has a firewall), we get the brunt of bad karma, so to speak, when the e-books do not work as they should. And then there are the students who just get frustrated and choose not to call us at all about the issue, giving up instead. As long as the process is not seamless, e-books are just not going to take off, let alone, replace the print collections. At this time, I don't see this getting solved any time soon.
  • Another question I had as well from the study: "In addition, there is no way to determine what constitutes a use. Did the student read the book, a chapter, or a page? Did the user search for just the section needed or access the book and decide not to use it all?" (465; emphasis in the original).
  • "Some ideas for further study in this area would be to survey students for their patterns of use, their satisfaction with e-book platforms, and their suggestions for new titles" (465). These are things I would like to know as well.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Article Note: On Faculty Library Use and Tenure Impact

Citation for the article:

Ovadia, Steven. "How Does Tenure Status Impact Library Usage: A Study of LaGuardia Community College." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 35.4 (July 2009): 332-340.

Read via ScienceDirect.

The bottom line is that this article is a look a library usage patterns for faculty, in this case the faculty of a community college-- LaGuardia CC, which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. In addition to my usual interest in reading the LIS literature, I wanted to look at this because we are looking at assessment yet again in my workplace. I asked myself if we could or should do a similar survey here for the faculty. After all, we seem to be consistently surveying students (and not just us. The campus is notorious for survey overkill, but that would be another post). So, I wondered if for a change we could investigate the faculty and learn a thing or two. The electronic version of the article has the survey instrument, but not if you get it in print.

Ovadia begins with the customary literature review after the introduction where we get a brief survey of other faculty library usage studies. When compared to student library usage, there are not that many studies done about the faculty and their library usage patterns. An issue that comes out in surveys like this, and whic I would have to consider as well if we were to do a similar survey, is the issue of privacy and how much faculty may want or feel comfortable revealing about things such as publication history or their educational backgrounds. It seems that the more anonymous faculty feel they can be, the more candid they are. And for our purposes that would probably work at an initial stage.

Ovadia used a SurveyMonkey web-based survey, but he also sent it via campus e-mail. Apparently, response might improve if sent to the departments and asking department chairs to encourage faculty to complete it. This may be another thing for us to consider. I hate to say this, but faculty in general tend to be notorious for not replying to e-mail (not just here, but at least in the campuses I have worked). Oviada does report that low response rate was a problem.

In the end, what Ovadia found was that faculty seem to use library resources based on comfort levels. For instance, those who are tenured represent a higher percentage using the library for their personal research (339). This would be because they are familiar with the library given they have been working for the campus for a longer term than those who are not tenured yet. However, the survey also revealed that another possible reason for non-usage may be lack of materials in the library that the faculty need. This could be something we may find out ourselves if we were to conduct a similar survey. Anecdotal evidence indicates some faculty here have expressed that concern. Given budgetary constraints here, I am not sure how far we could go in addressing some of the issue, and for print, you have to add space restraints. Yet, I would like to conduct the study anyways as way not only to assess our services but our collections.

One of the solutions that can be implemented right away identified by Ovadia is implementing more outreach. Ovadia writes that "more faculty outreach, especially to new faculty, could make newer faculty more more comfortable using the LaGuardia library as well as more familiar with the resources available" (339). Here, we do an open house for new faculty at the beginning of the Fall semester where they can meet their subject liaisons and learn about resources available to them in their areas. Getting a good turnout is a bit of an issue, but it is still a worthy idea. I am exploring additional ways of outreach as well.

Ovadia also admits that some of his results may be influenced by the fact that other larger academic libraries are within easy reach of the faculty. That would not be an issue here since there are no large libraries nearby (unless you want to take the two hour drive to DFW, or the much longer one to Austin for instance). So, we would look more at ILL services as part of the survey. Overall, the article is worth a look as a model on how to survey your faculty to see if your library meets their needs and what to look for.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Facing World AIDS Day 2009

I do this because someone has to help fight ignorance and educate others. I do it because I am a librarian, and as such it is my mission to provide accurate, reliable information to my patrons and readers. I do it because it is the right thing to do. I did not realize it, but the last time I did this was back in 2005. Time flies, and a lot has changed since then. I am glad that, in spite of my busy days, I am able to take some time to blog about this. This December 1 marks the 21st anniversary of World AIDS Day. Did you know that a total of 33 million people now live with HIV/AIDS, and more than one million of them live in the U.S. ? Here is another fact:

Every 9½ minutes someone in the US is infected with HIV. I got the facts. Act Against AIDS:

The badge above comes for the Nine And a Half Minutes website, created by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). I found that and other links with a little bit of searching and digging. This is not an exhaustive list. It is meant to give folks a place to start in terms of gathering information and getting educated. It is also meant to provide a small sample of what is available out there. As always, if you have questions, you can visit your local reference librarian. My professional friends and I will be happy to help out.

You can start learning more by visiting the U.S. Government's site: AIDS.GOV: Access to U.S. Government HIV / AIDS information
Visit Access to U.S. Government HIV/AIDS information.

This site is an information portal with a lot of information and resources from how to find a testing site to educational materials. From the site, "provides access to Federal HIV/AIDS information through a variety of new media channels, and supports the use of new media tools by Federal and community partners to improve domestic HIV programs serving minority and other communities most at-risk for, or living with, HIV." They also have a blog, which you might consider looking over and adding to your feed reader here.

Medline Plus has a topic page on AIDS that may be of interest. It includes interactive tutorials, news, medical information, and even materials for our Spanish-speaking friends.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has an AIDS/HIV Awareness page here. It includes a nice overview of the history of World AIDS Day here, with facts and resources. For example, did you know that "the World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988."

If you have a spiritual bent, the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church has a page of "Worship Resources for World AIDS Day." It is a small collection of poems, prayers, and inspirational stories. They also have a resource page. I am putting this as an example that there are some religious groups who actually care.

Here you can find UNAIDS (The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS). You can find links to various publications, art, blogs, and resources. You can find statements about World AIDS Day from various UN officials here. Some are videos, others are text.

And here is the site of the World AIDS Campaign.

Over here is the British National AIDS Trust's site for World AIDS Day.

Over here is the site for the Light For Rights Campaign. From the site, "Light For Rights events are happening in cities and towns all over the world and will bring thousands of people together on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2009, to honor those we have lost to AIDS and to highlight the fundamental rights we all share. "

If you want to learn more about the legal angle and rights, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has a World AIDS Day page discussing their advocacy work to prevent discrimination against those with HIV and AIDS as well as other resources.

And I just found this website for the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. The NLAAD actually takes place on October 15th (I did not know this. Just learned it now). However, I am adding it to this list because it provides much needed information and perspective for the Latino community. You can find a variety of resources here as well. The video they feature on the front page is worth watching.

In the state, I could not find as much. The press release that UT San Antonio is hosting some events came up. You can read about it here. "Activities will include a poetry slam, free HIV testing, awareness expo, candlelight vigil, music and a photo booth where students will get the chance to personalize a statement on how they will "face" HIV/AIDS." This should be the type of thing that more campuses here in Texas, and in the United States should be doing (and yes, I am looking at my own campus, which shines by its absence).

However, you can get some additional information on AIDS/HIV via the Texas Department of State Health Services. This was not as easy to find, so I am happy to dig it out for any locals out there.

And after some very deep digging, I managed to find the site for Tyler AIDS Services. This "is a full-service HIV/AIDS facility serving Tyler/Longview and many of the 32 North East Texas communities. " I am glad to see there is a local resource. I always try to include local things on posts like these when I find them.

(Crossposted to The Itinerant Librarian and Alchemical Thoughts).