Archive for the 'library news' Category


Jun 21 2012

sloppy reading, sloppy writing

by at 3:41 pm

I don’t know why I decided to read Steven Bell’s most recent Library Journal column.  I like how there are no actors in this column; higher education “unbundles” (which, NO) and costs “soar” MAGICALLY, ALL BY THEMSELVES.  But even better is how sloppily he reads the articles he cites.  He says “Compared to those enrolled in regular degree programs, certificates holders are the ones actually getting jobs” but as far as I can tell, having looked at both articles and the executive summary of the report, the data gathered and analyzed focuses on median earnings rather than employment rates. He just says that because it fits in with his oversimplified talking points about higher ed.

Sigh.  This is the president of ACRL.  It’s disheartening.

No responses yet | Categories: library news

Apr 04 2012

library as business

by at 1:57 pm

Barbara Fister’s recent post on Inside Higher Ed dovetails nicely with the chapter I recently wrote on neoliberalism and information literacy:

“They think of these social institutions like universities and libraries in terms of what customers can get from them, and how they could get it for less. In short, they have no idea of the common good. It’s the logical outcome of the near-religious faith that markets are always right, just like customers.”

This sort of critique is increasingly necessary, as market fundamentalism has become the dominant ideology in most realms, including libraryland.  Just take a look at any column by Steven Bell.  Unfortunately, this critique is often sidelined by libraryland’s interest in navel-gazing and making sure that we all have library tattoos and are represented in Kanye’s posse.


No responses yet | Categories: library news

Mar 29 2012

privatized libraries

by at 11:16 am

A recent article from Atlantic Cities wonders Are Privatized Public Libraries So Bad?

“The bulk of the lower costs, both for the city and LSSI, comes from cutting the benefits previously afforded to librarians. Santa Clarita’s library staff has been removed from the state’s pension plan, and must instead contribute to a 401K.”


“In a 2010 New York Times article, then-LSSI chief Frank A. Pezzanite argued that public libraries are “all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way.””

This sounds just awesome for the employees, most of whom probably entered this line of work because they wanted to, you know, help people.  I often wonder why we have lost the sense that we all deserve better from our employers, that the end result should be pensions for all rather than pensions for none.

The article doesn’t even raise the issue that maybe some aspects of life should not be subject to market imperatives and the need to continually make money.

No responses yet | Categories: library news

Feb 03 2012


by at 11:41 am

Busy semester!

This recent article about digital humanities on Inside Higher Ed really gets at what I was talking about in my earlier post:

“Rather, the point is to spur students to “think critically and differently” about digital gateways and to “encourage new forms of close reading, knowledge production and interpretation” in the context of the modern information landscape, said McGrane. A peek behind the curtain, she said, can go a long way toward inculcating a healthy appreciation for the soft power of information gatekeepers and the instruments they use to exercise it.”

This is exactly the type of instruction I think librarians should be doing, and the territory we should claim.  Metadata, search algorithms, and publishing are topics we are *very* familiar with.


I usually like Annoyed Librarian but this column makes me angry.  Unions are the bad guys, really?  The private sector is super productive, REALLY?  Unions are the reason we don’t have factories like Foxconn and that is a GOOD THING.


Faculty have begun boycotting Elsevier.  This is a start, but the problems with scholarly communication practices go beyond just this publisher….



No responses yet | Categories: higher ed,library news,publishing

Jan 05 2012

pondering info lit

by at 3:48 pm

I guess my one new year’s resolution is to post more. Not because I have tons of readers, but to articulate stuff that’s floating around in my head. This is especially important right now, as I’m working on a book chapter…there’s nothing quite like extrinsic motivation, is there?

I have been thinking a lot about the notion of ‘information literacy’, partially due to the chapter I am writing, but also due to some columns and articles I have read recently. In October, the Chronicle had a nice article directed toward faculty, Getting the Most out of Academic Libraries–and Librarians, about how librarians offer some excellent services and gee, maybe faculty should talk to them (I truly appreciate how often the Chronicle includes articles promoting academic libraries and librarians).  One thing that I noticed, though, is that the article very much relied on the notion that librarians don’t teach content, but practical skills.  This distinction is really prevalent in library land, and I’m going to return to it shortly.

The other piece I read is from Barbara Fister’s always excellent Library Journal column.  In it, she argues that what librarians call information literacy undergirds higher education and that librarians and faculty are both responsible for it. Faculty, of course, tend to focus on information literacy within specific disciplinary contexts, while librarians tend to approach it as “finding good stuff to get the job done”.  While I generally agree with this, I also have a couple of critiques. First is that “getting the job done” happens within a particular context, not in a vacuum, and within a college or university environment, that tends to be a disciplinary context (or, better yet, within multiple disciplines). Information seeking is always contextual, even in the ‘real world’.  Yet most discourse within libraryland on information literacy casts it as some sort of disembodied and separate thing that librarians can teach outside of contexts (I don’t think Fister believes this).  I think the notion of information literacy as a set of skills contributes to this, as skills are merely mechanical and thus transferable from one context to the next, as does the insistence from librarians that they own and teach information literacy.

I’m trying to work this out in my mind, but I really think we should move away from this sense of information literacy and embrace the idea that librarians can and should teach both content and meta-cognition. In terms of content, I mean things like database structure, how search algorithms work, the scholarly communication cycle (and how deeply flawed it is), how disciplines are constructed and maintained, how scholarly information is organized, etc.  This is all stuff academic librarians know about, that they can claim, either through library school or their work, and it actually affects the research process.  I realize that entire graduate courses are built around just one of these topics, but I manage to sneak in some of this information when I teach BI sessions, even if the faculty member just wants me to show students how to use the library catalog.

Bringing in these topics helps students begin to think critically about their own research processes and the information ecosystem; this is the meta-cognitive aspect of what we can do and this is what students will take with them after they leave college.  This obviously cannot be taught in one 50 minute session and some students will never reach this point, but this should be where we want them to end up.  And I do think that this is another area that librarians can and should claim, because faculty are often too enmeshed in their own field and too focused on other areas to take this on (this is not a bad thing, just a thing). The privileging of the practical leaves out both of these, I think, and that’s why a lot of people are amazed that we have master’s degrees.  The ACRL info lit standards are relentlessly practical and focused on mastering skills (sigh).

I’ll continue to think on this…. :)

No responses yet | Categories: higher ed,library news

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