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C&CS rescheduled for Nov 19 at 1pm

November 15, 2018

Our session, Deconstructing Environmental Bias will be next week, Monday at 1pm. We still have some space if you’d like to join us for the session. Information about it is in the previous blogpost located here:

We look forward to seeing you then!

They Were Already Here

November 15, 2018

At this year’s PaLA Conference, I presented a poster entitled “We Built It and They Came: Launching a Library Workshop Series with Broad Appeal.” I enjoyed talking with the public and academic librarians who stopped by to discuss their own experiences with workshops. After an hour of continuous conversation, I realized that one question had opened nearly all of those interactions:

How did you get people to come?

To launch a popular workshop series, we naturally did more than merely “build it;” indeed, much of my poster detailed the reasons we have been successful. I explained how we named (‘Savvy Scholar’), marketed (posters on campus, website banner ad, social media), and otherwise promoted (emails to all students and faculty, in-class reminders) the initiative. Yet I left Harrisburg that day feeling as though there must have been more to it. I suspect many of the librarians I spoke with felt the same way.

Like those who stopped to speak with me, I too had felt little confidence that many students would initially attend our series when we launched it in the fall of 2017. I had heard the naysayers and read the literature. When we filled 89 seats during the intensive two-day schedule that September, however, I assumed all the steps I described in my poster had surprisingly done the trick. I suppose, likewise, that those same steps came as little surprise to those who stopped to read my poster. They are, most likely, what any library would do to get such a program off the ground. Nevertheless, conference attendees who read my poster and its ostensible reasons for our attendance numbers, were still asking:

How did you get people to come?

Though it would not make for much of a poster, I recently arrived at another “answer” for why our workshop series is successful. Namely, several strong, individual relationships between librarians and students, or between librarians and faculty, formed a nucleus with great attractive powers. Our success was not due nearly as much to the broad scope of our marketing, or our attempts to offer something for everyone, but was instead built upon a handful of people who trusted and believed in one another. As I reflect on those who attended our initial workshops, I realize that we already knew a significant number of them quite well. Those who attended multiple workshops were even more likely to have spoken with us at the reference desk—whether to say hello each morning or to ask for help with challenging research questions. Despite all the worry over attracting people, we already had a guaranteed audience.

As the ‘Savvy Scholar’ series continues, I will likely continue to hear:

How did you get people to come?

Among my many answers to that question I will now begin with the following:

Most of them came because they were already here. 

Program Reviews and the Library

November 13, 2018

For many years our librarians have participated in Program Reviews with our academic departments.  These are done approximately every five years.   At first we simply provided information about library resources that support the program.   However, our role has evolved so that we are fully functioning members of the committees.  Each committee always includes a faculty member from an unrelated department who can provide additional insights “from the outside looking in” and the librarians also function in a similar capacity. It has come to our attention that our level of involvement may be somewhat unusual. I encourage other librarians to consider increasing your involvement in program reviews.

As a full committee member I take on research about other areas of the review and assist in preparing the written report.  I also attend the sessions on the day that the external reviewer comes to campus.  After the site visit, I meet with the committee for follow-up and preparation of the executive summary.  Other committee members seem to value our skills and insights. Because I participate in so many different reviews (at least one per year and sometimes two or three), I can provide information to the committee based on my other experiences over the last twenty-two years.

This participation has increased support from faculty.   It has also given me greater understanding of each major so that information literacy initiatives can be improved.  After program reviews I have created additional LibGuides and usually receive more requests for information literacy sessions.  Although it takes a fair amount of time to serve on a program review committee, it is well worth the effort.


Sustaining Healthy Organisms: The Role of the Librarian When the Scholarly Ecosystems are Shrinking

November 9, 2018

During a recent Scholarly Kitchen Webinar on “The Future of Publisher Independence in a Consolidated Scholarly Ecosystem” offered by the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign librarian and professor Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe mentioned Roger Schonfeld’s writing from earlier this year related to the subject (Cf. “Research Infrastructure and the Strategic Decisions of Universities.” Ithaka S+R (blog), January 10, 2018). The phrase that really struck home was “lock in.” As in publishers attempting to “lock-in” stakeholders by becoming platform-based content and service providers who seek to manage the research workflow from end to end. As was also pointed out during the Webinar, this is really an idiosyncratic development resulting from many isolated business decisions rather than a conspiracy mapped out in advance, despite the disturbing thoughts about the latter which fuel the imaginations of librarians.


“What Is Researcher Workflow?” Ithaka S+R (blog), December 13, 2017.

Nonetheless, librarians cannot afford to be ostriches when it comes to the retail business models being adopted by the academic publishers with whom we largely work. A recent article about RBMs states, “the logic of value cocreation in platform business models involves versatile actors, engaged in sharing and collaborating to exchange service symbiotically” (Fehrer, et al. 2018). Which means libraries need to see themselves as relational collaborators and not simply customers. However, this takes librarians being aware of the seismic shifts going on. As the same article points out, “The orchestration of actors beyond the platform within the broader platform ecosystem—coupled with advanced technologies for analytics, artificial intelligence and autonomy, is changing the landscape of business.” In fact, within“key research areas” Fehrer, et al. articulate, “Finally, academics are encouraged to investigate the ‘dark side’ of platform ecosystems. Market concentration and collective actions may result in negative dynamics for focal actors, the economy, the environment or the society. These effects have to be explored in light of platform ecosystems.” Now the fears of Orwell’s Big Brother do start to creep in.

While the idea of publishing ecosystems that assist scholars in a streamline fashion from “current awareness” to “assessment” seems attractive, the sustainability risk, to continue the metaphor, is that the biome will shrink rapidly as the number of ecosystems diminish. The best analogy Hinchliffe gave is the how most universities use either Banner or PeopleSoft and have become either a Mac or Microsoft campus. So, what does that mean for the library-publisher relationship when it becomes increasingly just another university-vendor relationship? What does this do the role of the library as a stakeholder, if we become simply the conduit for platform-based services? What does this do to scholarship, if scholars are channeled by only a few one-stop discovery and dissemination platforms? Although it seems unlikely for large research institutions to place too many limits on its scholarly community, what does this do to libraries at mid-size and smaller schools? Even the big dogs usually only have one enterprise system, one learning management system, and one integrated library system. A healthy research environment, including the library, will have many kinds of habitats where knowledge creation, intellectual growth, natural hybridization and the wildlife of the academe can flourish.

Work Cited: Fehrer, Julia A., Herbert Woratschek, and Roderick J. Brodie. “A Systemic Logic for Platform Business Models.” Journal of Service Management 29, no. 4 (July 2, 2018): 546–68.

Strategic Change in Libraries: Timing is Everything

November 6, 2018

“You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.” – Yogi Berra

Have you found that on your campus it’s difficult to find the perfect timing? To meet. To do a database trial. To engage faculty. The list goes on.

In a modern era of doing more with less, timing is everything.

I’ve been on my current campus for two full academic years, and am just starting to figure out some of the larger-scale timings for things like when to submit the budget proposal, when annual renewals are coming due, etc. Our fiscal year runs July 1 – June 30, and we often are submitting budget proposals around mid-terms of the spring semester. Because we’re a two-year school, we experience a lot of change during the first month of each semester. This change usually includes turn-over in my part-time staff, both with professionals and student workers, so it becomes a matter of keeping the day-to-day operations up and running and the building open for students.

Yes, I felt stuck during my first year, because I inherited the old systems, policies, procedures, and subscriptions, but it did give me time to research and plan. I now have a strategic plan for the library in place, along with knowledge of timing.

Most of our annual subscriptions renew in July or August, for the start of the academic year (there are a few that are scattered throughout), and it makes sense to put new services in place at the start of a new academic year. So, work backwards… substantive changes need to be included on the budget proposal, so decisions need to be made, or underway by mid-March the previous academic year. Being a small library (only 2 professional librarians), we don’t have the luxury of being content-area experts, so we rely on our faculty to assess, evaluate, and promote the resources that support their curricula. It’s relatively easy to run usage statistics and see whether students are using a database or not, and to promote resources that are already in place. But what become a little trickier is trying to find that “perfect timing” to trial new resources…

As former teaching faculty, I take advantage of my familiarity with the ebbs and flows of the academic year. Most trial electronic databases only run for 2-4 weeks. So, we need to have them available when faculty are available (our faculty are only 10 months – so there’s no guarantee of summer availability). What works best on my campus for trials is the time between mid-terms and Thanksgiving/end-of-November. Drop/add is over, midterm grades have been submitted, the syllabus has been revised (and re-revised if necessary), large-scale projects are well underway, and finals are still seemingly off in the distance beyond that Thanksgiving holiday break…

I get my feedback from faculty prior to winter break, and can start planning adoptions, renewals, etc. when I return to campus in January and fit it into that budget proposal. Spring semester is spent researching resources not already in place, and making initial contacts to prioritize what trials will roll out the next fall.

It’s a lengthy process, but figuring out how your campus works, and having a clear mission statement, strategic plan, and goals, will help change take place. There is truth in the adage: “good things come to those who wait” – and persist!

Dana J Kerrigan is the Director of Library Services and College Librarian at Valley Forge Military Academy & College in Wayne, Pennsylvania. 

Reflections on my first PaLA conference

November 6, 2018
Jessica Showalter discusses her poster with Pennsylvania Library Association President Tina Hertel.

Jessica Showalter discusses her poster with Pennsylvania Library Association President Tina Hertel. Image: Bonnie Imler

A few weeks ago, I presented a poster at the Pennsylvania Library Association conference in Harrisburg. I’ve presented at academic conferences before, but this was the first time I presented at PaLA and a few experiences surprised me.

Big conference with small conference feel

When I arrived at the conference, I noticed that there were hundreds of attendees. However, when I interacted with conference organizers at the registration desk and at other stations, I felt welcomed as an individual rather than rushed along as part of the big crowd. They even kindly let me store my 3’ x 4’ poster behind the desk so I wouldn’t have to awkwardly drag it along to sessions—whew!

A focus on interactive sessions

As I mentioned, I’ve attended academic conferences before. I have a background in English literature, and the style at many of these conferences is usually a panel of 3-4 speakers who each read an 8-10 page paper followed by a Q & A session (although more and more conferences are experimenting with adding lighting rounds or roundtables in addition to the lecture-style presentations). On the other hand, many of the PaLA sessions were highly interactive, asking attendees to sketch wish-list floorplans or draw reflective diagrams or participate in impromptu polls. I appreciated this hands-on engagement, and I plan to incorporate it into future presentations of my own.

Networking—with co-workers

One of the biggest surprises was that not only did I get to meet library folks from other institutions, I also got to meet many other Penn State Libraries staff as well. I work at Penn State Altoona and rarely get the chance to visit other Penn State campuses, so being at PaLA let me meet library staff from some of the over 20 other Penn State commonwealth campuses and branch libraries that I may recognize by name from emails but haven’t had the chance yet to meet in person.

The value of live tweets

Following the conference hashtag on Twitter () helped me catch up with sessions I couldn’t attend. It also let me connect with fellow library folks, even after the conference ended. I’m grateful for the attendees who put time and effort into live-tweeting for their followers.

Looking forward to next year’s conference!

Jessica Showalter is an Information Resources and Services Support Specialist at Penn State Altoona’s Eiche Library. Say hello on Twitter @libraryjms

C&CS Presents: Deconstructing Environmental Conflict: Bias, News, Perspective, Nov 15 at 1pm EST

November 5, 2018

Connect and Communicate Series Presents

Deconstructing Environmental Conflict: Bias, News, Perspective

Presented by Sharon Radcliffe, CSU East Bay

November 15 at 1 pm EST (10 am PST)

Register here for the Zoom link!

Teaching students to understand different perspectives and be able to (and see the importance of) checking facts and corroborating viewpoints a, especially when dealing with controversial issues, including those centered around the environment and sustainable living, has never been so important. With an administration constantly butting heads with scientists on such basic issues as climate change and the desirable direction of energy production, students need to feel empowered to analyze, and understand conflict and sort through facts and opinions in order to form their own ideas. In this interactive presentation, the audience will discover some ways of integrating instruction in bias, (word connotations), structure of argument, and perspective into information literacy lesson or course, focusing discussion around recent environmental conflicts including the Dakota pipeline, the Mauna Kea telescope project, and the Flint Water crisis. Techniques for having students work in groups analyzing documents, media, and articles relating to an environmental conflict will be discussed, along with readings related to bias in news. The group approach fits with both a social constructivist and critical pedagogy approach to teaching. A list of sources relating to news bias will be provided, along with articles to read for background on environmental issues, including cultural perspectives. Connections between bias and language will be discussed; including how to derive clues from author’s tone, to infer purpose. How to teach students the importance of finding corroborating evidence will also be discussed. The audience will be able to brainstorm their own ideas on information literacy, evaluating news, and environmental/sustainability topics.


Sharon Radcliffe has been a librarian working in public, academic and special libraries, including the Environmental Protection Agency, for over 25 years. She is currently the Business Librarian at California State University, East Bay where she serves on the Sustainability Committee. She recently attended the Sustainability Across the Curriculum Leadership Workshop at CSU Channel Islands, sponsored by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). At CSU East Bay She has helped develop Institutional Learning Outcomes in both sustainability and information literacy and also helped draft course descriptions for the new sustainability minor. She also developed student internship descriptions for the “Academic Core” building project, which will house the new library. She is involved in many ways in promoting sustainability at CSU East Bay through her teaching and work on the sustainability committee. As library faculty library liaison for the College of Business and Economics, she also selects books for the library on sustainability from a business and economic perspective. She has taught many online courses on business research, research methodology, visual literacy, and learning theory for both RUSA and Simmons College of Library and Information Studies.

C&CS is supported by PaLA and the CRD, and we thank them for our support. The session will be made available on the C&CS page after the session. If you would like to participate as a speaker for the series, please let us know!