Recap of Common Myths

After several days of postings both on this blog and on the Libnet listserv, some consensus has emerged regarding the most prevalent myth about libraries.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common responses:

9     Libraries are no longer needed because everything is on the Internet (or the Web is equivalent to library databases)

6     Librarians do nothing but “read” and have read everything in their libraries

5    Everyone working in a library is a “librarian” (or you don’t need a degree to be a librarian)

4     Libraries are mostly about books

4     Libraries are “safe” places (or libraries are responsible for protecting kids)

3     All librarians are middle aged women with buns

3     Librarians know everything

3     Patrons are our bosses because they “pay our salaries”

2     Everything in a library is free

2    All librarians do is check books in and out

I originally posted the question as I was thinking about how to answer a question from our Foundation Director. While the responses above represent all types of libraries, I do agree that the top myth is very relevant to academic libraries in particular. So  much has been said about this that I’m not going to add anything here. But after I meet with the BOD, I will let you know their comments.

Thanks to all of you for your input.


Tenure for Librarians – Is It Worth It?

About once a year or so, I feel the need to say something about tenure and faculty status for academic librarians. Not quite “defend” our position, but at least take stock and reevaluate that position. Am I feeling defensive? Well, perhaps just a little. The truth is, library faculty play a different role than other departmental faculty and it can be a little bit difficult being in the minority.

A lot of misunderstanding exists about the responsibilities and contributions of library faculty. Much has been written about it in the library literature, but today I came across an article published in 2005 by Catherine Murray-Rust, Dean of Libraries at CSU – Fort Collins, in the Chronicle of Higher Education that sums it up very well. Here are a couple of quotes:

First, why librarians need tenure: “At a time when higher education is under attack, and libraries make the national news as partners with Google, the role of the library in academe is anything but certain. The comforting metaphor of the library as the heart of the university no longer resonates. Libraries compete openly for resources with other campus units and are expected to deliver increasingly expensive and sophisticated information services to ensure the university’s success in research and teaching. … Librarians can no longer afford to stay within the walls of the library and the confines of their profession. To ensure that libraries have a say in the future and help shape their institutions’ activities in important areas like digital scholarship and information literacy, librarians need to be at the table, in on the deals, and in the classroom. They need to lobby for new visions of library services and collections. They need to become astute politicians and fund raisers.”

Second, the benefits: “The inescapable conclusion is that the performance of libraries and librarians is being evaluated in new ways, strongly influenced by the development of new technologies for teaching and learning, radical changes in scholarly communication, and increasing demand for resources. … The best way to increase the odds that librarians will be visible on the campus and play a vital role in the changing world of higher education is to give them faculty status. When they participate in university governance, they provide a unique viewpoint — and develop political and negotiating skills. And when they collaborate with other faculty members, they have a better understanding of the academic enterprise, including conducting research.”
Chronicle of Higher Education: Volume 52, Issue 6, Page B10 (9/30/2005)

Having worked in academic libraries where librarians did not have tenure and in my present tenure-track position, I can attest personally that tenure for librarians is beneficial to the University. In my current institution, librarians are able to collaborate much more extensively with other faculty members. I firmly believe that our efforts in partnering with other academic departments to further the research and instructional mission of the university benefits students.

Beacons of Hope

This article from Inside Higher Ed by Russell Olwell was very inspiring for me on this Tuesday morning. For those of us at public institutions, this is a reminder of mission. As one person commented on this posting, we have an opportunity to “provide education for students of all ages who have limited means. It is a calling to which we can be proud to respond.”

Jobs, News and Views for All of Higher Education – Inside Higher Ed :: Understanding the Class of 2015

“Finally, going out to schools and talking about our college has made me realize just how important institutions such as mine, a large urban regional public institution, are. Regional public institutions are not glamorous places to work, and receive little respect in the media or in the academy. They are often trying to bootstrap themselves into research institutions, without the resources of the private and flagship institutions in the state.

However, when you visit schools in working-class areas, universities such as mine are real beacons of hope, where students of limited means can come for a four-year degree. While flagship institutions might be important for their sports teams and teaching hospitals, they are viewed as being as financially and academically out of range as the Ivy Leagues by many families. Four- year regional institutions and two-year colleges are viewed by many families as their real hope for attaining and maintaining a middle class existence in a time of massive economic uncertainty.

While many colleagues on my campus are hoping to bring in students from better high schools, or refocus our institution towards graduate degrees, or increase our G.P.A. and test score requirements, going on the road to a middle school in a non-affluent area can put it in perspective for a faculty member.

In this humble cafetorium sit our future students and parents, and they need our university to be accessible, affordable and safe. They need to meet people who teach there and feel comfortable that we will help them and their children have a better future. They may not have all the preparation we want them to have, but they have done what they could.

As faculty members, if we saw where our students were coming from more often, would make us more gratefully to have them arrive in our classes each September. While it may put come dents in the car, holes in the tires, and raise the gas bill, it would give faculty a stronger sense of the mission and role of our institutions at a time when their existence cannot be taken for granted.”

Burn Out

In the last two months I have taught two workshops on blogging for faculty. I’ve tried to make the argument that using RSS feeds and blogs to keep up with developments, news, and trends in their disciplines will save them time. I’ve been met with some skepticism but I do believe that once faculty get accustomed to using an RSS reader, they will find it convenient. However Laura Cohen, on her blog Library 2.0 (excerpt below), points to how RSS feeds as well as wikis, listservs, and more may be contributing to a world in which the growing number of different venues for accessing important information in one’s field may make it too difficult for faculty to keep up. On the whole, though, I think that new methods of scholarly communication have and will continue to encourage collaboration amongst colleagues and will help support the growth of highly specialized sub-disciplines.

Library 2.0: An Academic’s Perspective: I’ve Got the Bandwagon Blues
Let’s consider the options for keeping up with our profession. I’m beginning to see a rapidly-accelerating fragmentation in our professional scene. I’m not just talking about RSS feeds – and there are inklings of a backlash out there as colleagues talk of deleting feeds from their readers. There are so many places we need to go to get the full picture, to become fully informed, to fully participate.


I really loved the post below from Barbara Fister at ACRLog. I’m picturing our library with giant earbuds. Our library is six stories tall. It would certainly capture students’ interest. The ETS’ ICT exam measures not only computer skills but also information literacy skills. We have been interested in a trial here on our campus. I just hope the jazzy new name doesn’t make it sound too frivolous to spend a lot of money on.

The ETS has renamed its ICT exam to iSkills to make it sound more relevant and hip. At least they didn’t call it iSkillz. I’m guessing people got tired of explaining the acronym – or correcting people when they assumed the C stood for computer. But in the rush to be cool, I wonder: Should UDub rename its LIS program iSchool? Should we drape giant white earbuds over our libraries to make them appear more plugged in? iDoubt it.”

The Value of Interlibrary Loan

One of our faculty members emailed me this article today, and I found it very rewarding. In an environment where we are continually asked to do more with less, to introduce new resources every semester, and to justify our existence, it’s wise to occasionally take stock of what we are doing well and it’s nice to know that our efforts make a difference. In the article below an American scholar studying in a foreign country is faced with the reality that free interlibrary loans are not universal and learns to appreciate the value of interlibrary loan that she received at her home institution.

Chronicle Careers: 3/14/2007: What Goes Around
Even more heartening is Gorman’s observation that interlibrary lending is “the only professional service I can think of in which the provider pays the cost.” The faith our libraries show in the ability of that service to somehow, someday, contribute to a greater good is remarkable, and yet usually goes unremarked.

Creative Commons

The following link is to a very nicely done explanation of Creative Commons licensing. What is that? This is an important tool for higher education because it allows academics and others to control the copyright of their own works. Most importantly, it can allow the author/creator of a work to specifically allow certain kinds of use without the need to obtain permission. ELI7023.pdf (application/pdf Object)

While you’re at the site, check out some of the other “Seven Things You Should Know About”. This is a great series from EDUCAUSE to help you keep up with the latest technology.

Speaking of keeping up with the latest, I found this link on Steven Bell’s The Kept-Up Academic Librarian. I highly recommend it!