Libraries Receiving a Shrinking Piece of the University Pie

In his article, “Libraries Receive a Shrinking Piece of the University Pie,” Phil Davis at the Scholarly Kitchen responds to a new graphic from the American Research Libraries (ARL). According to Davis, libraries have struggled with tight budgets since the 80s, all while remaining relevant and resilient through huge technological shifts. Davis also suggests that the budgets of universities have grown larger, therefore, the graph illustrates, “that universities have failed miserably to keep their own spending under control.”

The campus library at my university is usually very crowded. It is a quiet place to study and nap, but it is also a place people go to eat, socialize, attend events, conduct research, do fundraising, relax between classes, check email, read the newspaper, etc. The bulletin boards are prime advertising space and are always slathered with paper. There is no denying the community presence of the library. At a time when the State of Florida may cut huge amounts of funding to universities, the libraries will have to absorb even more (and more devastating) cuts. We have to keep advocating for libraries and letting our government and universities know that libraries are crucial social learning hubs.

Random House Makes Deal With Libraries

Check out this story, “Random House makes history, says it will sell books to libraries with no restriction on number of loans,” by Dennis Johnson at Melville House.

The emergence of ebooks has proven to be a difficult venture for libraries for a number of reasons. With physical books a library buys copies from a vendor, and when the books get worn out or updated the library simply buys more copies. With ebooks, the book is not physical but digital. Publishers have been reluctant to sell ebooks to libraries at all, and the ones who do (namely, Harper Collins), put a limit on how many circulations each “copy” of the ebook can have. Random House is the first of the major publishers to agree to sell ebooks to libraries at a slightly higher price than regular books but with no limit on the number of loans. This move should help alleviate some of the tension that has been building between the two interests, at least for a while.

Though it seems like an ebook will last forever, there are reasons to doubt. The formats and file types will eventually evolve, as will the methods of delivery. Libraries will continue their endless task of updating the catalogs to reflect current technology and formats.

Digital Divide

The digital divide is a complex issue. Many Americans do not have access to the internet. Some people have access but the access is not adequate for the user’s needs. Some people have access but they are not “web literate.”

The internet is increasingly being used for all kinds of government programs, from food stamps to unemployment. How does a person with no access to the internet apply for these programs? What will happen to these people as technology and its use advance without them? The smaller the gap in the divide, the harder it is to reach those left behind.

As librarians, it is crucial to be aware of this issue. We can work on community outreach and support for people who are not web literate, as well as those who need to use the library for web access. This issue is not going to go away, and librarians will be at the front lines trying to provide for those on the other end of the divide.

Check out this infographic from Mashable and think about what we can do to bridge the divide.

Online Classes in Library School

I just finished reading “Should Online Coursework be a Library School Requirement?” from Hack Library School. As a current student in an almost entirely online MLIS program, I would say that having experience in online classes is helpful in a lot of ways. However, the fact that ALL my classes are online is, I believe, detrimental to the development of real world interaction in a library and/or community setting. I have created a shortlist of pros and cons, from my perspective, of online classes in library school.

Pros

  • I have learned a ton about Web and Library 2.0. Taking online classes merely accelerated my understanding of these resources.
  • Chances are, assuming I actually get a job in a library, I will need to be able to help students with their online classes. Online classes are gaining popularity, and as a librarian, I will need to have an understanding of them.
  • Online classes force me to manage my time more wisely. I have to be self-motivated. These acquired skills will be very useful in my career.
  • I have become much more proficient in online database searches. Since I no longer go to campus, I spend more time at the library website.
  • Having to interact with my peers in an online environment has given me a chance to see the myriad ways of communicating and collaborating through the web. I have used discussion forums, chat rooms, virtual class sessions, Google Docs, and good old email to work with my instructors and peers. It can be done, and being forced into online classes has helped me see the many possibilities.

Cons

  • Nothing beats face-to-face discussion. I realize that even in a classroom setting, there are those who choose not to participate. However, discussing topics in an online setting can be fragmented, confusing, and totally boring. I would rather sit down in a room full of people and listen to just a few lively voices than sit and stare at my computer screen.
  • I am not getting any experience in a physical library. This has a lot to do with the way that my program is set up. There is simply not enough involvement between the Library and the School of Information. This NEEDS to change. It is ruining my experience.
  • Total isolation. Very few of my classmates know me. I have only met 2 of my professors (out of 3 semesters worth of classes). I do not feel like a person; I feel like a digital representation of myself.
  • Some professors are not very good at online teaching. In fact, I have had a couple classes where the instructors had no real presence at all.
  • Online classes are very time consuming. I think this is one of the major pitfalls of online class newbies. They think, for some reason, that online classes are easy and they can spend a minimal amount of time on them. Nope. These classes are hard and take a lot of time and effort.

I think there are definite values in taking online classes, but I also think that they should not serve as a replacement for traditional classes. There should be a balance, as with everything.