Yes, why? In a year that offers us BookExpo America in New York and the ALA Annual Conference in even more glorious San Francisco, why, oh why did I choose green, sustainable, community-oriented Portland? With its green, sustainable, community-themed ACRL Conference? Here’s why:
We are all dealing with myriad questions concerning ebooks, ebook platforms, ebook providers, and ebook usage, so it was an absolute delight to be able to attend three separate sessions on the subject: “Ebook Showdown: Evaluating Academic Ebook Platforms from a User Perspective” by Christina Mune and Ann Agee (San Jose State University), “Ebrary on the Radar” by Julie Linden, Angela Sidman and Sarah Tudesco (Yale University Library), and “Exploring the Student Ebook Experience” by Kendall Hobbs and Diane Klare (Wesleyan University).
Ebook accessibility and user-friendliness are issues that come up frequently at any academic library these days. Students and faculty voice their frustration when they are unable to access, print, annotate, or down-load material that “seems to be” available via the library, and library staff (myself for one) find it time-consuming and complicated to compare the various platforms and stay informed about changes in the services they provide. Christina and Ann shared with us the results of the San Jose State University Ebook Accessibility Project, comparing 16 academic ebook platforms (both aggragator and individual publisher platforms) for accessibility and user-friendliness. Their platform evaluation summary is available to all , and gives you the content formats (PDF, HTML etc), search and navigation options, and printing and downloading policies of the various platforms. It also tells you which platforms allow text adjustments such as annotation, font resizing and zooming, and whether they provide text-to-speech services and language support (e.g. dictionaries). Save it, print it, enjoy. As the speakers acknowledged, this evaluation took place in June – August 2014 and does not take into account recent changes in the platforms, neither is this an exhaustive study of all platforms available, but for my use it will do nicely thank you very much.
Kendall and Diane from Wesleyan University referred to recent literature review articles on academic ebooks and stated that these frequently focused on how often ebooks were used rather than how they were used.
In 2011, Wesleyan University, along with two other smaller universities in their consortium, piloted a “collaborative collection development project for a patron driven acquisition program for ebooks”. They looked at the quantitative use of ebooks, but also created and performed a qualitative study “to determine what undergraduate students think of, and how they use, e-books”. This study was repeated annually, and questions based on the findings from the first three years were also incorporated in a MISO survey in 2014.
Kendall and Diane presented some interesting findings from the four years of the study: they found an increase in the use of ebooks, but while students became more used to the format they did not increase their level of sophistication with using ebooks. Instead of using available features such as highlighting or annotating, they preferred to print or create PDF-versions of the material to hand-annotate or use PDF tools with which they were more familiar.
There was also a “nearly universal preference” for scrolling through a document rather than having to click from page to page (oh, can you hear the echo from your own institutions?).
86% of the students still preferred print over ebooks if they had to choose, but three out of four preferred to have access to both.
The ebook features that were considered most important by the students were printing, creating PDFs and downloading material.
When asked what they would like e-books to be
like in five years, most respondents wanted “more intuitive
interfaces” (they found existing advanced functionality difficult to find, and did not necessarily recognize or correctly interpret labels and icons). They also wanted to be able to use an ebook more like they use printed books, to be able to flip through it, use sticky notes, highlight and annotate a.s.o.
Furthermore, they wanted new features that print does not provide, e.g. to be able to work with others in different locations, to share notes and to incorporate video features, sound and “other formats which print cannot include”. As the speakers aptly commented, at this point “few e-book platforms seem to do much to take advantage of the opportunities available with newer technologies”.
The conclusion, as I understand it, was that there is much work to be done by ebook providers when it comes to making material accessible in ways that the students want, and by us librarians when it comes to teaching them where to find and how to use the features that are already available.
Ebooks and PDA issues were also dealt with at the recent Bibsysconference in Trondheim, and if you missed it you can view recorded presentations or read the pdfs here. (See Grydeland and Løkse in particular for an interesting presentation about PDA).
Panel session: “A tale of two libraries: adapting outdated buildings for a sustainable future”. As previously mentioned, the University of Oslo Humanities and Social Sciences Library is in the process of planning and applying for funding for an extensive renovation of the first and lower level floors of the library in Georg Sverdrups Hus. Furthermore, an extensive technical upgrade of the interdisciplinary Undergraduate Library at Sophus Bugges Hus is already underway. I therefore wanted to hear what Margaret Bean (Head of Science Libraries, University of Oregon) and Jill McKinstry (former director of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library, University of Washington) had to say about the renovation and updating of their respective libraries. Architecht Becca Cavell (Fellow of the American Institute of Architects), joined them for a panel session, and between the three of them they touched on all the stages of a renovation project; needs assessment, the planning and funding process, and the construction and reopening stages.
Both libraries are housed in robust midcentury buildings (I believe the term “brutalist architecture” came up once or twice), and both had to be modified rather than replaced. As one of the speakers stated, “the most sustainable building is the one you already have”. Both universities are also flagship universities of their state, so there was a certain standard to be upheld.
Needs assessment: one of the reasons for the renovation of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington (UW) was, according to Jill McKinstry, the ever-increasing demand for more study spaces, more team spaces (makerspaces) and more flexible study areas. This was a common denominator for both projects (and ours). They wanted light and openness, and the architects focused on “the space in between” the more stationary areas. They also focused on the need for a variety of spaces, some quiet, and some collaborative.
The UW library building was constructed in the early seventies, and what they really wanted now was a “high-speed, high style, limited budget makeover”. Recently completed, they managed to stay within the expected time frame of 22 months due to a considerable team effort.
At the University of Oregon campus, the Price Science Commons and Research Library (UO) had much the same needs for new and more flexible learning spaces. In spite of being located in a building that was, in Margarets words, “unattractive and uninspiring”, they have had an extraordinary 72 % increase in users, “who all seemed to be in the library at the same time”. However, they also needed to fix a leaky ceiling, and, being located in the basement with no visible entry from the outside and no natural light, they needed a new, visible entrance. They also wanted to spruce up their sunken courtyard, since it was “dark, dirty, and only good for stepping outside to get cellphone reception – as there was none inside”.
Funding process: When they applied for funding to upgrade the Odegaard (UW) library, the concept that Jill believes “sold” the project successfully to the funding agencies was “enhancing learning spaces” (also a central concept in the GSH application). They also stated that they wanted to improve both formal and informal learning spaces. After considerable effort, they received a 16.575 million dollar grant to redo their 43-year-old building.
At the UO Science Library they recieved a pledge of 9 million dollars from a generous private donor to redo the library, after he had taken a tour of it. The donation has subsequently been matched with a 9 million dollar grant from the state, and construction is now underway with hopes of completion in July 2016, nine years after the first donation.
Planning and construction: Dialogue is key in large renovation projects. They involve many stakeholders: library management and staff, university administration, funding agencies, students and faculty, and of course the architects, construction companies, and so on. For the Odegaard (UW) project they developed a set of Planning principles of shared vision for Odegaard: they wanted the library to be “future-oriented, student-focused, integrated and partnership driven, and information driven”.
The planners worked extensively with their IT department, which was vital to the success of the project. Jill’s advise was to talk about your problems and challenges rather than what you want, as it makes for a more rewarding dialogue.
They went to conferences together with the arcitechts, they looked at other projects, used webinairs etc. and in 2012 they moved into trailers behind the building, with the construction people and the architechts in trailers nextdoor, easily accessible.
Drastic measures were taken to open up the existing space. The iconic but underused staircase was demolished, opening up the whole first floor (there was also an issue with noise from the stairwell. Sounds familiar, UBO?). Staircase before demolition:
First floor after renovation. Flexible, open, more natural light (sorry about the lack of images here – they are all under copyright restrictions) :
Jill described the study spaces on the third floor as “dark, carpeted, with huge and heavy tables, heavy chairs and lots of beige”. Students preferred to use the window alcoves instead :
They removed the heavy furniture, added more flexible solutions and decided to place study booths in the spaces between the windows:
In addition, they moved all offices off the first floor (freeing up yet more space for students), and glassed in the whole third floor study area, making it super quiet. They added a 350 computer learning lab, and glass sliding doors and writable glass walls to the active learning classrooms. Smaller tables and movable chairs gave them more flexible spaces.
By the way: the color scheme of the new UW library is white and grey, with splashes of orange. No, excuse me, “Poppy”. As Jill pointed out, ”Orange” is hopelessly outdated in a 70’s kind of way, while Poppy is all the rage. Whatever, dude.
At the science library in Eugene (UO), they asked the students and faculty what they wanted from their new and improved library, and what they wanted was more flexible space, a new visible and attractive upstairs entrance, and visual branding as a science building. The undergraduates wanted cellphone coverage and a cafè. With free coffee. The graduate students were adamant about keeping the book collection. And they wanted a cafè. The faculty wanted improved classrooms. And a cafè. With quality coffee.
The library had to reduce the footprint of the physical collecton, and made the critical decision to cut their collections in half. Through aggressive weeding. In one year. They replaced their printed journals with online resources, and print-only sources were moved to the math library (located nearby) . They also decided to remain on site during construction. The cost of moving was too large, and there was nowhere else to go.
Teaching faculty helped in the design of classrooms, makerspaces, and quiet spaces, and they developed subject specific department rooms for each science department, tailored to the students and faculty. The planners added an energy-efficient glass wall entrance, which is sunscreened by the use of aluminum mesh – showing the dna sequence of the zebrafish.
They are also planning to beautify the atrium downstairs with outside tables and chairs, and adding Wifi access throughout.
The UO project has environmental concerns high up on their list.
They are cutting the number of entry doors in half, and are glassing them in, creating a vestibule. This will save energy on heating, and work as noise containment. There will be extensive use of LED lighting, and they will reuse water.
At the UO library they are including both staff and users in the project by using surveys, and by putting up posters for the students in the foyer of the library, asking them to comment. There will be a Café.
Reopening: UW created wayfinding guides for the reopening of the library. However, the students seemed to find their way around themselves, and there were very few complaints.
(The renovation of Odegaard project has since received several awards for interior architecture, design excellence, library interior design etc.)
Additional resources: I finally found a photostream of the Odegaard (University of Washington) renovation, it shows the magnitude of the project. Check it out!
The American Library Association (ALA) and Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has put together a resource page for planning of academic library building design.
Did you know that MLA offers video tutorials on how to use their bibliographic database? I teach how to access and use MLAIB all the time, but had no idea until I happened to meet the person who actually makes them. She uses Camtasia, and tries to stay within a three minute limit for each tutorial. If interested, take a look! All MLA tutorials are hosted on YouTube.
At the University of Oslo, we are now half-way through our very first MOOC: What Works: Promising Practices in International Development , a six week course created by the Centre on Development and the Environment (SUM) in partnership with faculty at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford. So it was perhaps a bit premature of me to attend a panel session on Open Educational Resources for MOOCs, but the theme was interesting.
It makes sense to use OERs in MOOC courses, you want the course material to be as “open” and accessible as the course itself, but, as librarian Gene R. Springs could tell us, things are not that straightforward. He registered for 114 MOOCS available from the Coursera platform to find out how much of the course material was really “open” and in accordance with David Wiley’s 5 r’s: an OER is considered open if you are able to:
the content. As it turned out, only 22 of the 114 courses had material that could be considered “free only”, while the remaining courses contained material that to some extent had to be paid for.
At the University of Mississippi, reference librarian Brian Young had followed and surveyed a group of teachers in their work to find OERs for a course instead of using traditionally sourced material. His findings were consistent with Springs’ in that there was a lack of awareness among the faculty about the accessibility of material – e.g. they put ebooks on the syllabus with single or three-user licenses, making it difficult for the whole class to access a text simultaneously.
The faculty also found it daunting to stray from their ingrained practices to find online materials instead of using tried-and-true texbooks.
So what does this low adoption of OERs and OA content mean for librarians? According to Young, one of the lessons learned from the survey was the need to better market existing library-licensed and purchased resources. Springs concluded that “MOOCs and OERs require more education”, and that our efforts to educate our teaching faculty in how to find and use OERs has to be intensified – by being “Open Access advocates on our campuses and with our own research”. Hm.
This conference is a two-for-one for me, the exhibition hall is a great place to check out the latest from publishers and content providers. I don’t hang around the Elsevier stand much, and curiously, neither does anyone else:
Portland is made for walking, the hotel is quite far from OCC but there is Much to see along the way. Vintage in Burnside:
Whole Foods, the most ridiculously overpriced grocery store in the West, but wonderful.
No. you are not taking it home!
Today (Wednesday 25) was the day for pre-conference workshops with a limited number of participants, and I signed up for this one a long time in advance. There seems to be a shared need in academic libraries everywhere for more information literacy / library instruction, and an equally shared lack of resources to perform said instruction.
At NIU, even though they had increased student information literacy classes by 50%, a survey showed that students were still unable to find the material and sources they needed. The library applied for, and received, a grant that enabled them to develop nine animated videos produced by an external animation company, as well as to create supplemental video tutorials that were made in-house.
Michelle Guittar, Molly Mansfield, James Rosenzweig, and Kimberley Shotick (all from Northern Illinois University), and Mackenzie Salisbury (Georgia O’Keeffe’s Museum Research Center), hosted the three-hour pre-conference, and the four main sections of the workshop were: 1. how to plan / research a video tutorial project, 2. “how to create conceptual videos through collaboration”, 3. how to create instructional videos using free software such as Screencast-o-Matic, Jing, and Camtasia, and 4. how to use analytics to assess the use of these tutorials.
There were some interesting lessons to learn from the project at NIU. The survey they conducted before starting to make the tutorials showed that:
According to the NIU librarians, two categories of video tutorials are needed: One that deals with more conceptual material and can be used over time, without having to be updated whenever there is a change in a database or user interface (e.g. the difference between a public library and an academic library), and one that deals precisely with how to use the resources and that can be changed and updated when needed.
Through their work with both the animated videos and the self-made video tutorials, the group had come up with the following “Best Practices for Creating Online Tutorials” (I have paraphrased some of them):
There is also budget and time constraints to consider: for animated explainer videos (made in collaboration with professional animators etc), they estimated a 4-8 week production process, while simple video tutorials made by librarians themselves can be made for very little money and in a comparatively short time. (Nothing really new there).
The NIU tutorials are all uploaded to YouTube, and can be embedded in the relevant library web-pages etc. YouTube is owned by Google and can therefore make use of Google analytics. This is useful to see how many times a video has been viewed, but also to see which websites the viewers come from and where they go after viewing the video.
I have to stop there, too tired to make much sense. More later.
Conference rooms are dreary, even in Portland:
My workshop partners: Jeremy (Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar), Randal (University of Notre Dame), Erica (Columbia Theological Seminary), and Zem (University of Michigan):
I think I learned as much from these guys as from the workshop, and that’s the whole point of going to a conference.