Some Progress on Middle State Standards

On March 27 I attended a town hall feedback session in Philadelphia about the draft Middle State Accreditation standards. I wrote about my concern about these draft standards in an earlier blog post. I was astounded that Middle States removed all mention of information literacy and libraries from the standards.

The facilitator for the town hall meeting gave an update on the standards before receiving additional feedback from the attendees. He stated that librarians were organized and were heard loud and clear. He stated that the removal of information literacy was an “oversight” and done because the board thought information literacy was well embedded into curriculum. Frankly I feel this explanation is a bit disingenuous. It took actual effort to remove a standard, so it was not an oversight but a deliberate action. The good news is that information literacy will be added back to the standard, although he could not say exactly how or where at this point.

Several librarians spoke eloquently about the need for information literacy to be in the Middle States Accreditation standards. Based on the facilitator comments, I have reason to believe that information literacy will appear in some form of the revised standards.

My biggest concern now is the presence of librarians and libraries in the new standards. My cynical self wonders if libraries were removed to accommodate for-profit online schools, most of which do not have adequate library services or information literacy instruction. In fact, a literature review about libraries in for-profit schools found that “the driving force behind attaining certain levels of library resources was the accreditation requirements…” (Davis, Adams & Hardesty, 2011).

I spoke about this concern in the town hall meeting. In particular, I mentioned the unintended consequences that could result if librarians and libraries, particularly in regards to collaboration with faculty for information literacy instruction, were not added back to the standards. The removal of librarian and library requirements from JCAHO Standards in 2007 has directly led to an epidemic of library downsizing and closings, even in the midst of the rise of evidence-based medicine. Many health care professionals no longer have access to information professionals who can help them find and access the best evidence to guide medical care decisions. Because librarians are not mentioned in the standards, however, they are the first to be cut in tight budget situations. I fear the same may happen to academic libraries, regardless of how important librarians are to student information literacy skill development. This would have devastating effects on student learning outcomes, as we are currently seeing in K-12 schools which are closing libraries or staffing them with nonprofessionals.

For this reason, I urge Middle States to not only include information literacy as a critical skill, but to require evidence of faculty collaboration with librarians in developing this core competency. Failure to do so will negatively affect student learning outcomes.

Davis, J. Y., Adams, M., & Hardesty, L. (2011). Academic libraries in for-profit schools of higher education. College & Research Libraries, 72(6), 568–582.

 

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Adapting to Reality

I was excited to read about Getty Image’s change to their copyright and use policy. It appears that they have read the tea leaves and rather than fight use of their images online, they are embracing it in a way that they believe will still bring them profit and a measure of control over use of their images.

Getty Images will now allow individuals to legally and freely use selected images on websites, blogs and social media as long as the user embeds the image with the code provided by the Getty website. In exchange for using the embedded viewer, the terms of service state that “Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.”

While some non-profit purists may rail against commercialization in this fashion, I think that there needs to some reasonable middle ground. I hope that Getty Images has found it. They provide access to a plethora of high-quality images that individuals can easily search for and use. On the other hand, the potential monetization of the embedded viewer allows them to continue to function as a profitable business, and therefore to continue to provide images now and in the future. Below is an example of an embedded Getty image.

I think libraries and publishers can learn from this type of give-and-take. Publishers, at  least trade book publishers, continue to resist working with public libraries, claiming erroneously that libraries will give everyone access to every ebook at all times without any restrictions. I have written about this problem in a past post.

On the other hand, I think that libraries have to take stock of the new online landscape and be willing to work with publishing systems that may include commercialization aspects if that is the key for publishers to continue to make a profit.

For example, Overdrive, a popular ebook platform used by many public libraries, funnels users through Amazon when borrowing books. The lending of the ebook is free to the patron, just as the lending of print books is. After the lending period is over and the book is no longer available to the patron, the patron is provided with a link where they can purchase the book directly from Amazon. Of course, the patron could simply check the book out again for free if they want it, realizing that they may be put on a waiting list if it is a popular book. However, they are also given the option to purchase it if they want instant and permanent access. This arrangement creates incentives for trade publishers to work with libraries as it opens the doors to other potential buyers; individuals who already know they like the book and want their own copy. Some voices in the library world claim that this type of commercialization should never occur in libraries but I disagree. It might not be needed in the print world, but I think it may be a reasonable accommodation in a world of ebooks and low profit margins. One concern that I do have about this model, and which I feel must be addressed by publishers and book vendors is one of confidentiality. Print books checked out from libraries carry certain privacy guarantees; this provides a measure of safety for members of the public to explore and read whatever they wish. Similar protections must exist for patrons using library ebook collections if they are to flourish in library settings.

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Responding to Middle States Commission on Higher Education PROPOSED accreditation standards

I am writing to express my concern over the removal of information literacy as a standard for assessment in the Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s proposed accreditation standards. In my professional opinion, an institution that meets these proposed standards and yet does not have a robust information literacy instruction and assessment program does not demonstrate academic rigor or quality; failure to consider information literacy will negatively impact student learning opportunities.

The current MSCHE accreditation standards include a detailed section about information literacy including definition, objectives, collaboration recommendations, and assessment requirements. I am at a loss as to why the new standards remove information literacy completely, rather than simplify and shorten the language in the more concise document.

The current standards state that technological competency, which is retained in the proposed standards, is considered to be “closely tied” to information literacy, and yet technological competency is retained while information literacy is removed. To be quite frank, the ability to turn on or use a piece of hardware or software is simply not as important as information literacy, which is defined in the current MSCHE standards as the ability to “determine the nature and extent of needed information; access information effectively and efficiently; evaluate critically the sources and content of information; incorporate selected information in the learner’s knowledge base and value system; use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; understand the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and information technology; and observe laws, regulations, and institutional policies related to the access and use of information.” (MSCHE, 2006, page 56).

It is critical to retain the objective of information literacy in the proposed accreditation standards because information literacy is a critical life-long skill needed for learning. Indeed, innovative learning simply cannot take place without information literacy. Students entering schools of higher education often lack information literacy skills precisely because educators mistakenly believe that digital natives have these skills when in fact they do not. A recent report from Project Information Literacy (Head, 2013) found that almost 75% of incoming first year students experienced difficulty with creating effective research strategies. These students stated that their information literacy skills were simply inadequate to perform college-level research. It is therefore essential that professional librarians and teaching faculty collaborate to provide this instruction. It is equally critical that this important work be recognized, assessed, and required in any future MSCHE accreditation standards.

The importance of information literacy, paired with innovation, is becoming increasingly recognized in the workplace. An article in Forbes, authored by a CEO (Moran, 2010), highlighted the importance of librarians in a digital age. Mr. Moran discovered that while employees who grew up as digital natives may be technologically competent, as the MSCHE proposed standards require, they are woefully unable to create effective and efficient search strategies, effectively sort through the huge amount of information retrieved to select quality sources, or evaluate the sources that they utilize. He determined that this lack of information literacy in digitally native college graduates impaired their ability to perform required tasks and detrimentally affected his business.

It is absolutely imperative that MSCHE return information literacy to the proposed accreditation standards and include language that requires and assesses professional librarian and teaching faculty collaboration to improve student learning outcomes. Thank you for considering this feedback.

References

Head, AJ. (2013). How freshman conduct research once they enter college. Project Information Literacy Research Report. Retrieved from http://projectinfolit.org/pdfs/PIL_2013_FreshmenStudy_FullReport.pdf

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. (2006). Characteristics of excellence in higher education: requirement of affiliation and standards for accreditation. Retrieved from http://www.msche.org/publications/CHX-2011-WEB.pdf

Moran, M. (2010, March). Young learners need librarians, not just Google. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/22/moran-librarian-skills-intelligent-investing-google.html

 

 

 

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Do you use QR Codes?

One app that I do not use that much on my smartphone is the QR Code Reader, QRReader.I remember the first time I saw a QR Code several years ago. Friends and I were walking downtown and we passed a realtor office. The home advertisements in the window had a strange box barcode. My more techie friend immediately knew what they were, scanned the code with his smartphone, and explained them to the rest of us.

I’m not sure why I don’t use the reader that often. Perhaps the effort to line up the barcode without really knowing what it will lead to. This article has some interesting perspective about why more people don’t use QR Codes. That said, I do find that I use them in conferences when I’m racing to capture information from a lecture slide or poster session. I found them to be very helpful at that time and place.

I am interested in how QR Codes can be useful in the library for various purposes. Currently our library has a QR Code if a student wants to reserve the group study room while they are entering the room. I don’t really know if it has been used much however. I’m also interested in exploring how QR Codes can connect disparate locations within the library collection. The article linked above discusses ways to link online and physical content with QR Codes. One use I want to investigate is connecting our Appropriate Technology Library, which is used for service-learning projects within our schools Collaboratory. The AT Library exists as books and Software and is therefore in two different places in the library. QR Codes could immediately lead students from one location to the other.

What about you? Do you use QR Codes? Does your library use them?

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Published Article: Connectivism and Information Literacy

I am pleased to announce that an article I wrote, “Connectivism and Information Literacy: Moving from Learning Theory to Pedagogical Practice” was published in the journal, Public Services Quarterly. This journal article is based on reflection and a research paper I wrote in Summer 2012 for EdTech504 in the Boise State University Masters of Educational Technology program.

The article discusses utilizing the learning theory of Connectivism for library research instruction. I believe this is the first article to overtly connect the principles of Connectivism with the ACRL information literacy standards. When I first wrote the research paper I was struck by the similarity between these two concepts and I argue that librarians should seriously consider the learning theory of Connectivism when designing information literacy instruction.

I hope that this journal article helps to improve the theoretical foundation of information literacy instruction as librarians consider various learning theories to ground their practice.

I am very grateful and excited that I was able to learn about this theory last year, write a substantial research paper about it at the time, and then take the time to expand and revise the paper for formal publication this past Spring. It has been a great experience of actually going through the peer review process for publication that I teach students about every year in First Year Seminars.

Now that I have my first publication under my belt, I’m on the lookout for other topics. And for extra time! I might focus on collection development and budgeting topics for my next foray!

The link to the article leads to the journal abstract only, unless you have an institutional or personal subscription to the journal. I do have a limited number of reprint copies I may distribute however. Please contact me if you would like a copy.

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Following Blogs for an Institution

As a librarian, I am interested in reading many kinds of blogs. I currently monitor about 100 blogs through my Feedly reader. One category of blog that I continually add to and monitor are professional blogs from faculty, staff and students at the college where I work. Reading through faculty blogs provides a quick look at what they are thinking about and finding important to their work. I can then make sure that library services are relevant for their specific interests. I consistently comment on their blogs when there is a relevant area of connection to library services. This demonstrates my interest in their professional field, as well as discusses ways that the library can better serve their needs.

Another service I could potentially offer is to collect and curate a list of faculty, staff and students’ professional blogs so that they are more discoverable by others on campus.

Current blogs I monitor written by faculty and staff at my institution:

 

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Providing Reference Using Twitter

Twitter can be a powerful resource for quick reference services. It should be in every reference librarian’s arsenal of resources. Hashtags are a powerful way to search for the best tweets about a common topic (think subject headings!). One way that I use Twitter for reference is determining whether a resource that a student or faculty wants to access is actually down when they are having access problems.

A quick example:

I tried accessing Feedly, an RSS reader, on an ipad. I was unable to access the app. However, I was able to access the site on a browser through my laptop.  I quickly went to twitter and searched for #feedly. I immediately saw tweets that indicated that the feedly ipad app was down, and that some individuals were accessing feedly through a browser while others were not. I was therefore able to narrow the access problem down to the vendor and the ipad app and simply used the browser until the ipad app was again available.

When tweeting about access issues, be sure to use appropriate hashtags and succinct but clear descriptions of the problem.

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