Monday, April 23, 2012

Way to Hell

It is said that the way to Hell is paved with good intentions,   and my good intentions to blog regularly has also ended up on the way to Hell.    It is hard to believe that I am almost at the end of the stay here at the Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo,  and I have only posted once!   #epicfail!   The intention was to flesh out observations and thoughts on the trends that have stood out … 

So what have I been doing in the 7 weeks that I have been here?    I ’m based in the Information Resources Services Section of the Dana Porter Library and have been included in the Library Review Advancing Scholarship and Research Working Group.       I’ve sat in on research training sessions;  attended a pre-ARLIS Conference Workshop on Film Studies;  visited the libraries at the University of Guelph and Wilfred Laurier University;  had discussions and conversations with individual librarians;  tootled off to San Francisco for a mid-programme meeting;  and had some thinking space to try to make sense of,  and crystalise what I have observed, sharing these observations and ideas with colleagues back home.

So  here are some trends that have  stood out for me :-    
·         The repurposing of library space for scholarly and research purposes by moving material to storage (with some really hi-tech automated retrieval system.   Together with this, making sure that there is  flexibility of library space and furniture.   Making the space central to the students’ lives and academic studies by focusing on making the students feel welcome …   that the library is their space, and not  belonging to the librarians!

·         The development of Research Services and Scholarly Communications whether this was stewardship of scholarly digital services  (institutional repositories, electronic theses and open access hosting) or providing  specialized reference services and support including Data Management Services and Curation.       Support for all things data, is new on the academic library horizon here in North America.   It is the *hot* topic under discussion everywhere.    And it is a conversation that the research libraries in South Africa have to start having sooner rather than later.    There are evolving roles for librarians here.       The libraries often take the lead on their campuses,  working closely with the equivalent of a research office.        My intention is to blog more fully about this, so watch this space.

·         Digitization of collections whether this is outsourced or sponsored or run in-house  -      Digital Humanities is the area that is getting much attention

·         The importance of Assessment kept coming up, particularly during the first three weeks of the Illinois visit.     

·         Consortia.  I am  impressed by the way consortia works here in Canada -  the power and support that is provided for research services.     We need to look at leveraging the power and support that our current library consortia provide (or don’t provide).     But that is a whole another posting.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Overwhelmed ...

This is the 4th week of the visit to North American Research Libraries, and the end of the first week at the University of Waterloo Library in Canada.   And the first opportunity that I have had to reflect on the rather hectic and jam-packed first three weeks.       I will put up some retrospective blog postings in due course, but thought it might be useful to post the report (with some additional commentary)  that I sent through last week.  (I know that another report is due this week,  and that will be my task a little later on today.)

Below covers the first couple of weeks of the programme with the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs:- 

I’m not going to go into any great detail about the specifics of what was covered in the sessions, but  rather to give my general impressions and takeaways.    Certainly I have come away with a good understanding of how librarians interact with researchers and what it takes to provide real research support -   in some cases, we, in South Africa, are doing what these librarians are doing, and some of the issues and challenges are the same.       But at the same time, I’ve been left with some -aha moments as well as questions about  South African academic libraries.

What stands out for me are issues around:-
  •  the repurposing of space for research/scholarship support whether this is bringing together of smaller branch libraries (as in the newly formed International Area Studies Library at the University of Illinois in U-C)  to promote interdisciplinary research or removal of lesser used material to storage freeing up floor space for people.  
  •  Support for scholarly work including the space (physical and virtual) and programmes including digital  scholarship, providing advanced research services and the marketing of these services
  • Data  -  especially the curation and management of data and assisting with setting up of data management plans  (especially with the National Science Foundation funding requiring a data management plan in the grant proposal).      (I'm going to blog a bit more about this in a separate posting.)
I was very excited about the library we visited at Upshot Marketing Agency’s special library service,  The Source.    This is not your typical  or traditional library, nor , I think, the usual corporate library.   The library’s mission is to empower Upshot with consumer and marketplace intelligence designed to spark new ideas for strategic and creative development.    The line of business they are in, is very volatile and it was a case of becoming indispensible in the face of this volatility -   something that I think can be applied to research support that academic libraries support.    Key words here are market intelligence,  research for concept support,  competitive intelligence,  innovation.   The library is also involved in fostering a learning organization, to share what needs to be done to stay ahead of the game  - to give their teams the edge over other marketing agencies.   

We saw several examples of remote storage models -  Oak Street (at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign) and University of Chicago with the automated remote storage retrieval.     This allowed for repurposing of space.    But not only this,  the speed of fulfilling these requests was amazing....   5 - 15 minutes at the University of Chicago. 

The other topic that came up in the various sessions in the different libraries was some form of  patron driven acquisitions where some of the book budget has been set aside for this.  

 We also visited Center for Research  Libraries which started out as consortial off-campus storage for 10 large mid-west academic libraries and now has 265 member institutions.  Perhaps at some stage, we need to reconvene the old  conversation about a consortial off-campus storage.   (This is probably going to be raised a group concern or recommendation.)     Something that perhaps can be considered or raised with SANLic is the possibility of South African academic libraries subscribing to the digital collections of CRL -   as with other libraries in Australia and Hong Kong.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Library Day in the Life Project Round 8

I've been lurking on the edges of the Library Day in the Life Project for a couple of Rounds now ...   and haven't seen any South African librarians on the list (yet),  so here goes...     I'm a subject librarian at the University of Cape Town

This week, so far, has been very busy as we are heading into the start of the new academic year.   The library is filling up as Orientation Leaders bring groups of  wide-eyed first years through the library on a campus orientation.   If this is towards the end of the day,  these first years look glazed over, suffering from information-overload.        

But I am also preparing for the overseas leg of the Carnegie Research Librarians Academy.   There is a presentation to prepare for that, as well as doing as much of the pre-start of the academic year preparations as I can,  given that I am not going to be around for a goodly chunk of the first semester.    And trying to finish off a library guide on assisting our academic staff to track their own research. 

So this week has not really been a typical week.   And in fact,  there is no typical day (even once the academic year starts),  although somewhere in the day,  there will usually be a stint at the information desk.

I'm here at work at about 7.30 am -  depending on traffic, after doing the school run -  and find parking very easily.  (We have a huge parking problem on campus -  early birds get the parking, late birds end up circling and parking almost halfway up Table Mountain.)

Monday saw an early morning stint at the information desk followed by working on the library guide, then dealing with email, either responding to requests for setting up sessions for new students in my subject areas or quickly dealing with other queries or talking to colleagues and students who drop in.     I keep fiddling with the library guide  -  whipping stuff in and out.    And getting those colleagues who drop in, to give an opinion.  I've got to keep remembering that this is to assist staff in tracking their own research.   

I am going to be hosted by the University of Waterloo Library in Canada for about 7 weeks,  as part of the Research Librarians Academy,  so Monday afternoon saw the first Skype session with my host!    (And in the middle of the session, a student knocked on the door to ask for assistance!)  Nibbled on my lunch at my desk, while checking my Google Reader.      Where did those 1000 unread feeds come from? 

Tuesday was a looooong day.  There was a general staff meeting for the entire library first thing in the morning ...  our libraries were actually closed and only re-opened at 10 am.     Again, continued fiddling with the library guide ...   but then ran into technical problems (not sure if it was me or our network ....    screenshots wouldn't display! ).     Was going to assist a colleague with a library tour for our Social Development Honours students,  but only a small number of students arrived,  so my help wasn't needed.  (My colleague had recently  taken over the Social Development subject responsibilities from me ...).  

As part of the University's Welcome to new students,  there are two Open Days for Parents where our Vice Chancellor (or one of the Deputy Vice Chancellors) addresses the parents, and they then go off to attend talks by the relevant Deans, and hear about life at the university and what their children can expect.   There are information stands in one area of the campus, and tours to the facilities including the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library.    Tuesday evening was the second of the Open Days.   The first of the groups of parents arrived at about 3.30 pm  -  I was one of the "tour leaders" showing parents around the library.  (Love doing this ...  we have an awesome library!) and was here until 6.30 pm.    

Wednesday saw a short desk stint -  had to get a colleague to stand in for part of the shift, as there had been an invite to attend a departmental staff meeting for one of my subject responsibilities ...     I need to tell them that I will be gone for a while and what the interim arrangements are.    This was followed closely by an appointment with one of my academic colleagues who wanted to get her My Citations (Google Scholar) set up ...  which was great because this is what the library guide is all about!!

Together with my colleagues,  we then headed over to information talks to incoming groups of first year Humanities students.      The library always gets a slot.   My colleague, Alex, does the speaking while the other librarians provide a supporting presence and be introduced.    Previously,  we wouldn't accompany him, but would catch the students in the library as they were on the campus tours,  dish out library waterbottles and say a few words.    But this is not feasible now, so we accompanied him, taking over some print examples of reference books,  and journals.        We recently put together a series of slides about the Humanities Librarians (for the information slide show the library has running near the entrance and at the information desk) and this was shown ...          we certainly did not expect the thundering applause and laughter we had    (-:  

Then it was back to cover the information desk until closing time at 5 pm. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I did with the Prize money ....

I have been very honoured and excited to have been named 2nd runner up in last year’s Librarian of the Year competition.  It was amazing to have been nominated Western Cape Librarian of the Year, so coming in the top three of the national competition was a bonus -  a real professional boost!   I was awarded R10 000 generously sponsored by SABINET.   I was also fortunate to have had some extra financial support from UCT Libraries.

I used this money to attend the 18th International Conference on Learning which was held from 5 – 8 July at the University of Mauritius.      I registered   on the Monday and then took the opportunity for a professional visit to see Mr Cader Nunkoo,  the librarian in charge of Rose Hill Public Library.   It is a small library, situated next to the municipal building in a garden setting.

The conference attracted more than 300 delegates from all over the world, coming as far afield as Australia, Estonia, Russia, Malaysia, the States, Turkey, India,  and of course Mauritius  (and it made the evening news.)     And there were quite a number of South African academics as well, including three of us from my own institution.    

The conference provided a forum for talking about the nature and future of learning from early childhood, school, technical and vocational, university and adult education, where research and reflections on education were discussed.   Workshops and colloquium sessions completed the rest of the physical conference line-up.  It was also possible to do a virtual presentation -  these weren’t broadcast at the conference, but are available via the Conference Youtube channel.   

I am always interested in seeing how other conferences manage, and saw that sessions were chaired by by Graduate Scholar Recipients -  attendees  who had applied and received grants to attend the conference,  in return for facilitating these sessions.   And often, they were presenting as well.   

Something that I hadn’t seen before was “Talking Circles” which were supposed to give people a chance to ointeract around key ideas away from the formalities.   There were two facilitated sessions for each stream of discussion e.g. Technology in Learning or Adult, or Vocational, tertiary and professional learning.   During the first circle, participants would introduce themselves and talk about common issues, and the second session would take the discussion further and come up with possible solutions and then later report back at the closing plenary. And these sessions could be informal or structured depending on the facilitator.    Not very successful, because much depended on the facilitator …   but an interesting idea nevertheless.

As an academic librarian, I attended sessions on a variety of topics of interest to higher education -   and of importance to the work and support we provide  -   academic literacy, teaching teams, academic performance of first years, underprepared postgraduates and plagiarism in student writing.     Many of these papers were presented by  Education academics or Academic Development Units or similar units including Writing Centres from institutions across the world including South Africa.    And in almost every one of these papers, libraries and librarians were not mentioned at all.   I kept putting my hand up and asking …  and got back,  yes of course we worked with our librarian,  couldn’t do it without our librarian,  our librarian is the best ….  But none of this came out in the papers, not even a “by the way” mention.     Are we really that invisible?  

But what was even stranger for me  -  although I do think that it was just at this particular conference -  was that I was the only librarian at an international education conference!     (I have seen papers by librarians in earlier issues of the journal  “International Journal of Learning” which contains conference proceedings,  so it must have just been this one.) 

So this set the bees in my bonnet buzzing.  I’ve always kept an eye on what other academic libraries are doing for their students, particularly regarding information literacy skills and collaborating with  individual academics,  and units like Academic Development Units and Writing Centres.   

What collaborations are happening or are we working in parallel universes?    I know that we aren’t,  that there are collaborations going on  -   so here is a challenge to myself and other librarians out there:  
if you are involved, please share these with your colleagues whether it is at seminars, workshops, or conference presentations.   And not just library conferences,  but look for the opportunities at other conferences, even co-presenting with your academics.  

Thank you to LIASA and sponsors, SABINET,  for making my conference attendance possible,  and to  UCT Libraries for the additional financial support.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

On another Quest

I have been fortunate enough to have been selected to attend the Research Librarians' Academy, a 2-week residential programme, held at Mont Fleur in Stellenbosch. I'm here with colleagues from UCT Libraries, Wits, University of Pretoria, UKZN, Stellenbosch and Rhodes University. This is the third or is it the fourth group to be exposed to the academy. So here I am, on another quest! In the beautiful setting of Stellenbosch, away from home and work.

There is an official blog for the Research Librarians' Academy.

The aim of the Research Librarians' Academy is to equip academic librarians to provide research support integrating skills, scholarship, and technology in a South African library consortium, generously funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. There are a number of elements to this which include the residential programme, a research space (research commons) in the library, and a research portal. As part of the residential programme, some of the attendees will be sent to the States to spend two months in a top research library.

On this particular programme, we are being exposed to the top researchers in the country. On Monday, guest speakers were Prof Wieland Gevers, the General Secretary of the Academy of South Africa, who gave an overview of research;. John Tosh spoke about history; Zeblon Vilakazi from iThemba Labs spoke about research in nuclear physics; while Cyrill Walters and Maryna van der Heever spoke about their stays in the States.

Tuesday was a really full day with presentations on becoming a researcher, and then looking at different domains and epistemologies.

There are fuller reports from the participants on the blog.
So here I am, on another quest....

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Blogging in Africa

Well, here I am in Addis Abba with the Centre for Educational Technology at the eLearning Africa Conference presenting a blogging workshop. Have blog, will travel!!!!
But my luggage didn't make it on to the plane from Jhb. Seems there was a security reason, but we reckon the plane was so full, there wasn't room.

Ended up buying a t-shirt at the airport ..... Tony blogged about it last night and Andrea and I look like twins!!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Looking back ...

After neglecting this particular blog for a while, not really having time to reflect on how I have used the experiences having other a-Ha moments, and what I have accomplished in terms of the to-do list ... it is now time.

I was certainly aware of my own personal growth and development while away, and my continuing personal and career development and the direction that I have been moving towards since my return.

Pretty easy to list is to compare what I wanted to do on my return and what I actually accomplished. And satisfying as well.

* A number of presentations on the experience and observations to colleagues at work at a colloquium, to the branch, and to the Public and Community Libraries Interest Group and the Support Staff Interest Group. Each presentation had to be adapted for the audience, as what interested one group might not interest the other. The Fall 2004 Associates were very generous with their photos, sharing them to be used to illustrate presentations.

* Article for Cape Librarian on SALLP experience -- again I was aware that the target market was going to be public librarians, so I chose to report on the more "public library" aspect of the programme.

* Customer Service using FISH philosophy -- Alvina Matthee, Nazeem Hardy (who was in the second SALLP contingent) and myself did a presentation at the branch Annual General Meeting last year. It was great fun! Judith Siess (the Invisible Librarian) was in the audience and contributed to such a lot towards the success of that session. My own institution has bought the Fish! training materials and it has already been used by me in a session with our student assistants.

* Explore possible ideas about electronic reserves -- this conversation has started and is something our library is currently exploring.

But even more exciting is my growing involvement with Library 2.0 technology -- blogging, wikis, rss and so on. And this all arose out of my experiences in the States and this blog which I shared with colleagues. More about the blogging experience in the next few postings.