ACRL President’s Program in a TiVo®-lutionary Age

Frances Maloy, ACRL President, 2004-2005, opened the ACRL President’s Program on Monday, June 27, 2005 with a report on the year in review and a statement on the organization’s progress that brought cheers and applause. Frances set the stage for a terrific program saying, “After being President for a year, I have concluded that ACRL rocks!”

Awards and Speakers
The 2005-2006 President-Elect, Camilla Alire, was introduced. She noted marketing and advocacy to be her passions and priorities for the upcoming ACRL year. Awards were presented to libraries and librarians who demonstrate excellence and employ best practices. A humorous video created by Pierce College Library followed and introduced the members of their 2005 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award-winning institution. The Time for a Reality Check: Academic Librarians in a TiVo®-lutionary Age program speakers presented next as a panel.

Beloit College Mindset List
Tom McBride, Keefer and Keefer Prof. of Humanities, Beloit College
Ron Neif, Director of Public Affairs, Beloit College

Tom and Ron complemented each other well as joint-presenters, which is not surprising since the duo has represented the Beloit College Mindset List in various forums since the project’s inception in 1998. Ron clarified that the purpose of the list is not to provide a historical chronology of adolescents’ lives (or to insult students… or to make us feel old), but rather to raise awareness that students entering college today have been influenced by a society different from our own. Generational differences create unique reference points. Tom shared anecdotes of reactions and criticisms to the project, while emphasizing its usefulness. The Mindset List can be an interest-grabbing marketing tool that let’s the public know what institutions of higher education are good at. That accomplishment, Tom asserts, is “clos[ing] the intergenerational caverns that can hinder education in colleges and libraries.”

Some predictions for the Class of 2024?

  • Most students entering college in Fall 2020 will have been born in 2004 or 2005.
  • They have never purchased a CD.
  • Some of their grandparents may have served in Vietnam.
  • Courses have always been electronic.
  • Gas prices have always been above $5/gallon.
  • Libraries are thriving institutions of vital knowledge and information :)
  • Thousands of requests to use the list are received each year from organizations like NBC and MTV, clergy who work with youth, U.S. Armed Service recruiters, institutions of higher education and even other countries (e.g. New Zealand).

    Here and There Simultaneously

    David M. Silver, Assistant Prof., Dept. of Communications, Univ. of Washington and founder of the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies

    David described himself as a teacher first and foremost, which came across in the thoughtful nature of his presentation and the easy relationship he quickly developed with the audience. As a library advocate (my descriptor of choice), David sees technologies like DVDs, TiVo, mp3s, and cell phones as a part of college students’ cultural reality. Like the facts and figures organized into Mindset Lists, such realities influence the relationships students have with their libraries and vice-versa.

    While students may be physically rooted in one spot, their minds are often focused on happenings elsewhere (e.g. communicating with friends across campus via text-message while studying). Students are comfortable living “here and there” simultaneously and academic libraries need to adapt to users in this TiVo®-lutionary age. (TiVo® is a television accessory that automatically finds and records programs you want, as the online ad states, “all while you’re out living life.”)

    Although we cannot directly instill curiosity or a desire to know more in students, libraries can work to create a public space that encourages contemplation, provides room for questions and promotes active learning. “We are living in an age of annotation,” David said, where cultural history is constantly being “reconstituted and redistributed.” Libraries can encourage student participation in the growth of cultural memory by acting as, or contributing to, the “information commons” on campus. Such public places offer a crossroads where students check email, study, meet friends, mingle with faculty and perhaps learn something new from a display of art or academic work.

    At the University of Washington, for example, the library used public space to display of political cartoons from around the world after 9/11 where individuals could write notes and follow threads of commentary. In addition, libraries offer reading materials that can transport the inquiring minds of adults and children alike to distant lands and new realms of thought ripe for exploration. Libraries can indeed become a “pinnacle of the simultaneous ‘here and there.’”

    Additional Notes
    David is also co-director of The September Project, a grassroots effort that looks to community organizations like libraries- academic and public alike- to plan engaging awareness events on the weekend of September 11.

    In the abundance of information sheets, books, pamphlets and vendor give-aways collected over the course of the conference (FYI, I am now the proud owner of little red object that enables me to open, clean and write on CDs), this session distributed two handouts I feel are note-worthy for their content and simplicity:

    1) a 10 page program brochure including the President’s Report to Council- an asset for ACRL members in attendance, and

    2) to-the-point evaluation forms (which I saw being returned!)- a great tool to further future program planning.

    Overall, an interesting and inspiring program. I walked away with a better understanding of student library users and their expectations based on culture and circumstance. Librarians will do well to ponder the sometimes weighty, but often quite enlightening, realities of generational change and cultural evolution when reflecting on how to provide more effective services.

    DLTIG Table Talks

    Knowing people’s busy schedules and delays caused afternoon shuttle bus travel, Holley Long, coordinator of the Digital Library and Technology Interest Group (DLTIG) Table Talks, asked the initially small number of attendees to gather around two large tables. As discussions began in King Arthur’s Court- a conference room of the Intercontinental Chicago sporting swanky medieval décor, the number of participants grew till each table had representation from libraries, museums and similar institutions across the country.

    DLTIG Table Talks Talk at my table began with a resounding agreement on the importance of project planning. Organizational issues were zeroed in on, and thoughts/ideas/potential solutions shared in response to questions like:

  • Has your collection development plan been translated to incorporate digital collections? If not, how can one harmonize a current plan to address and include digital formats?
  • Is too much attention given to the development of “sexy” collections while the content and management of more core collections get short shrift?
  • With purchase of electronic databases packages our libraries look more alike. Will digital libraries allow academic libraries and similar institutions to create a new, unique identity? And is this actually important to our users? Our administration?
  • Participants also found value in connecting with colleagues and sharing practical knowledge on the technical issues surrounding metadata standards, software alternatives, and institutional repositories for digital thesis and dissertations. In the near future, notes from these table talks will be posted on the DLTIG website: http://www.ala.org/ala/lita/litamembership/litaigs/diglibtech/digitallibrary.htm

    Book Cart Drill Team World Championship

    Over the past couple of months, book cart drill teams have been practicing, rehearsing routines, and eagerly awaiting the first-ever Book Cart Drill Team World Championship. Anticipation is in the air… finally, today, Sunday June 26, the day has arrived!

    For the Pitt Crew from the University of Pittsburgh, pictured here prepping carts for the event, all eyes are on first prize- a full-sized gold book cart from sponsor Demco. Numerous members have been quoted saying, “Burn rubber, not books!” and “Ohmygod, did we remember the CD?” before breaking into spontaneous dance steps.

    Here in Chicago and need a break from pre-planned conference sessions? Come over to the North Exhibit Hall Lobby at the McCormick Place Convention Center, 1:30-3:30 pm and cheer on your favorite team!

    An Ongoing Relationship Takes Work (Take 2)

    With over 250 conference-goers in attendance, the Searching Digital Resources: Designing Usability into Digital Interfaces session sponsored by the LITA Electronic Publishing/Electronic Journals Interest Group on Saturday, June 25 was bound to have some good energy flowing, even with the 8:30 am start time. The room hummed with conversation as people clustered about the door while more chairs were brought in to accommodate the crowd.

    The User

    The user quickly took center stage in this discussion about the usability of library web pages, online catalogs and search protocols. “People don’t read, they scan,” said Frank Cervone, and user interfaces must be designed accordingly.

    And, noted Steve DiDomenico, if the students and faculty you’re surveying are not retrieving the desired results, “something is wrong with the site, not the person.” This point provoked laughter from the crowd and hinted, once again, that librarians need to remember that the digital interfaces we design are not for us, but instead the patron who wants the information they need in a quick, easy and accurate manner.

    “All good software needs a good interface,” stated Mike Visser, Endeavor Product Manager, who sees usability testing as a cycle:

    Understand -> Design -> Evaluate

    Which leads us to what libraries like those at Northwestern University are doing…

    The Libraries

    Active maintenance of an ongoing culture of assessment is key. Such practices enable an institution to remain relevant and meet their users’ needs. But, as one audience member questioned, how much does incorporating usability studies cost in terms of time, resources, and $$$? With an institutional shift in priorities recognizing the importance of such studies, Frank says, these factors will not be barriers.

    The Northwestern library web site- with changes implemented based on a series of comprehensive usability studies discussed by Frank Cervone, Steve DiDomenico and Jeannette Moss- will be well-worth checking out once it’s up and running: http://www.library.northwestern.edu

    What you see will not be a final product; this digital interface is designed for change.