Deep breath, deep breath.
I was very excited to be starting this MOOC (only my second as such after completing the Google Power Search MOOC last year. I also started a Social Psychology MOOC but abandoned quickly, 10000 participants, I lacked connection with anything, anybody, although the subject matter was very interesting)…and then other things get in the way. But…my PD is my responsibility. Sure my supervisor knows I am doing this & has encouraged me to do this MOOC, but I am doing it in my time, Which means me…making…time! [Those who know me, know my penchant for ellipsis!]
I graduated in 2001 and have only ever worked in academic libraries (with a brief interlude for a year as a graduate at the federal Parliamentary Library). So as such, when reading, I am always thinking of applications to my academic library. The connected, hyperlinked, responsive, participatory library – how does that *fit* with my academic library experience?
I tend to think of our users, or customers, patrons (I tend to call them students, but they are also staffs – academic and professional).call them as you will as a captive bunch in a way. Our students find and use information everywhere; we know they don’t come to the library website first, who does? Students use Google, Google Scholar, other students, their lecturers, tutor, a wide range of strategies and staff (including library staff) to help them find *stuff*. We know that student’s lecturers often say in an assignment…”use library resources”, “use peer- reviewed & scholarly”, “find five current journal articles from databases”…so it is often not a willing visit, but more a necessary one to pass an assignment? Library resources as a hurdle, a jump to get over?
How does an academic library fit in a hyperlinked, participatory environment? All the readings mention connection, conversations and engagement. Participatory libraries are about the “power of the community” (Casey & Savastinuk, pg 59, 2007), and I think this is where academic libraries are behind a lot of public libraries who see engagement and participation very much as part of their core business. It’s my belief that many academic libraries tend to act or think that the library has the power, the upper hand, the resources in our relationships with students? Our resources can be hard to use. We have so many platforms, databases, ways of searching, so many ways of access to journals, articles, ebooks! We jokingly talked in a meeting quite recently that it would be great to have one multidisciplinary database, instead of the hundreds that we subscribe to. Simpler to explain, show, instruct.
We do survey our users. In Australian academic libraries a lot of libraries use a common survey instrument every two years. The data is used to benchmark university libraries across Australia. Although we are very keen to get a lot of survey responses back from our clients (to make the survey as statistically significant as possible), we often don’t feed back how we have heard and (importantly) responded to survey comments. We ask for all this data, but what have we done in response to user feedback?
I know that we are endeavoring to serve the ‘long tail’ by offering an academic library *experience* regardless of whether the user is on campus or not. Some of our users may never set foot in a physical library and it’s our role to make sure their experience is not disadvantaged because of this. This means we need to offer point of need assistance, and offer a range of ways to engage and opportunities for users to give feedback and seek help. Our virtual users are very important. Access, more access and breaking down the barriers will lead to “demonstrating the value of our institutions…” (Stephens, 2012). Academic libraries are not immune from budget cuts, even though it is public libraries in recent years that have seen heavier cuts. Getting “buy-in” (Casey, 2011) is essential. Buy-in from our academic library users, and not just the respected, published academics but from our huge student body. The potential in this participatory world is quite endless and remarkable.
I have heard about the Cluetrain Manifesto for years now, and regret not reading parts of it earlier. Both fantastic and almost sobering to know that this was written over twelve years ago. I think it is important to be reminded about how chaotic, liberating, random and subversive the web is, and what possibilities this means in an organization. I found myself nodding whilst reading the chapter, and wishing that some of my managers were reading this as well.
Part of my role is social media and engagement and communication with students and staff. I am giving a presentation at the end of this week on our library experience with social media. I will post my presentation notes here as well as so much of the hyperlinked, participatory library relates to real user engagement. I have made mistakes along the way, and I intend on sharing some of my mistakes and tips.
To end this post, a local reference. We have just had a federal election in Australia, and a timely piece was written in an online website called ‘The Conversation’. The article is called ‘Forget mines: Rudd and Abbott should look to libraries to drive our next boom’. In it Beckett says “..our libraries deserve a new name to reflect their changing role in our society. They’re digital learning hubs, public education commons, and lifelong learning centres. As such, they also deserve the attention of our political leaders”. We need to meaningfully engage, participate in conversations, communicate with the full range of users and non users, including (and importantly) politicians.
Beckett, D. (2013, September 6). Forget mines: Rudd and Abbott should look to libraries to drive our next boom. The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/forget-mines-rudd-and-abbott-should-look-to-libraries-to-drive-our-next-boom-17822
Booth, M., McDonald, S., & Tiffen, B. [UTS Library]. (2010, February 7). Library of the future in plain English [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLelhZHb3G8
Casey, M. (2011, October 20). Revisiting participatory service in trying times [Web log post]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/
Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, NJ: Information Today. [chapters 2 and 5]
Stephens, M. (2012, February 17). The age of participation [Web log post]. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/02/opinion/michael-stephens/the-age-of-participation-office-hours/
Weinberger, D. (2001). The hyperlinked organization. In C. Locke, R. Levine, D. Searls, & D. Weinberger, The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual (115-159). New York: Basic Books.