Author Archives: Brian Mathews

July 18, 2014, 8:51 pm

DID AMAZON JUST CHANGE THE WORLD? Unlimited Kindle Books is a Game Changer (if they can license everything)

Amazon just announced an All-You-Can-Read service: Unlimited Kindle. It offers a collection of over 600,000 eBook titles for a low price of $9.99 per month. If this truly includes all Kindle books—it is a game changer.

book1Take this Elsevier title for example. It sells for $102. Under the new model I could access this and hundreds of similar high quality titles for just $10 per month.

 

book2Or textbooks. Why pay nearly $200 each when you can probably get all your books for the entire semester for just $30. (3 months of access)

I did some quick math and it would cost us about $300,000 per month to offer this service to our campus community. Or about $3.8 million annually—perhaps less depending on how summer enrollment is configured. Obviously Amazon will want to sell to individuals and not offer an institutional rate, but hypothetically that’s the ballpark.

It will be…

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July 17, 2014, 2:36 pm

A Liaison for a Classroom Building? Curating a Learning ecosystem.

It is very common for librarians to serve as liaisons to academic departments. They teach classes, purchase materials, answer reference questions, assist with research endeavors, and generally get involved with the odds-and-ends of those units. Some librarians also liaise with defined user communities such as first-year students, international students, or students associated with particular residence halls.

This classic approach enables librarians to connect their expertise with different user segments that likely share similar needs, interests, or perspectives. In short, these librarians serve as the human interface of the library.

But things are changing. I think we are in the initial phase of the next evolutionary step of the librarian as liaison. I touched upon this in my last post about the shift from “knowledge service provider to collaborative partner.” ARL is also…

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July 7, 2014, 5:59 pm

SHIFTING FROM A KNOWLEDGE SERVICE PROVIDER TO A COLLABORATIVE PARTNER: notes from an ARL strategic thinking session

I highly recommend reading:  “ARL STRATEGIC THINKING & DESIGN – membership meeting Columbus May 5–8, 2014.” It is one of the most thought-provoking items I’ve seen from library-land in quite a while.

As someone on the younger side of library leadership, I sometimes worry about my role over the next few decades. Will it involve dismantling the print collections that librarians have invested the last century building? Will budget cuts greatly reduce staffing levels? Will we be constantly justifying our existence since everything is online?

arl_listThere is a general bleakness about the future of higher education itself so it is easy to worry about the long-term stewardship of our organizations. That’s what I appreciate about this document from the ARL sessions —  it presents an optimistic and opportunistic, bold vision for the future. Thanks ARL.

Here are some highlights:

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June 5, 2014, 5:44 pm

IMPRINTEDNESS: shifting from a service to partnership mindset

I’ve been thinking about the phrase organizational imprinting a lot. The idea goes that organizations are formed around the economic, political, social, and technological realities of their time and that it is challenging to move on from the starting premise. It’s another way of saying “but we’ve always done it this way.”

This imprinting concept appears frequently in the retail literature: “the lens through which an organization views the world can be so badly obscured by its founding context that the organization becomes unable to change.”

Doug Stephens (consumer futurist) offers these examples:

  • Best Buy, founded in a world without the Internet, struggles today to find relevance now that online retail is ubiquitous and product selection has been redefined.
  • Blockbuster video was born during a time without streaming digital content, and became victim of web-based…

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May 29, 2014, 3:57 pm

Why I Gave Up Google Glass: form, function, and fashion

I’ve enjoyed using Google Glass. It connected me with faculty in new ways—from pedagogical experiments and brainstorming about research and instructional needs, to serving on panel discussions and informal talks about applying technology in new ways.

glass_panel

Faculty panel @ Virginia Tech talking about Glass.

I has been interesting watching Ralph Hall (Assistant Professor, Urban Affairs & Planning) build a Glass Community at Virginia Tech. As new invitations to purchase the hardware become available, this group actively recruits faculty and staff from around campus to join the team.

Here is a paper from our emerging tech folks.

And here is a video of Ralph and I talking about our experiences:

I’ve enjoyed this experiment but I’ve decided to give up Glass. There are three…

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May 9, 2014, 7:20 pm

LIBRARY BINGO: finals edition

Finals kicked off today at Virginia Tech. I have to admit that I actually like this time of the semester because of the intensity that students bring. I love being surrounded by mass-productivity!

I was looking through our school newspaper this morning and found a library-themed bingo card. There are a lot of tongue-and-cheek elements, but it was nice to see this unexpected and unsolicited shout-out for the library. I think they could have done some more unusual things (like someone spinning) but we’ll take the free publicity.  Enjoy:

lib_bingo

 

 

 

 

Blog Break: I have a handful of posts in the works but I’m planning to take a short hiatus. I hope to get back to blogging on June 1… if not sooner.

April 28, 2014, 1:45 am

Are Hackathons The Classrooms Of Tomorrow? My journey to the frontier of education

VT Hacks, 2014.

Last weekend I unexpectedly stumbled into a learning community. It was at a hackathon on my campus called VT Hacks. I was familiar with these types of events at places like Facebook and even in academic libraries, but this was my first opportunity to attend one.

I knew people would be writing code, but I didn’t anticipate the wide range of hardware that they would be programing: quadcopters, glass, Kinect, iBeacons, 3D printers, leap motion, Pebble watches, Fitbits, oculus Rifts, and Raspberry pi. It was eye opening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent a total of ten hours across three days observing and interviewing participants. I knew I wanted to blog about it, but I wasn’t exactly sure what my angle would be.

VT Hacks (which happened over Easter Weekend) drew together over 400…

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April 18, 2014, 2:37 pm

Google as Place – two years later

Two years ago this week I visited the Googleplex. It was a mind-stretching experience. I also went to PARC, d school, the lobby of IDEO, Facebook, a handful of startups, and a few accelerators. It was a fantastic and exhausting journey. Google stood out for its blend of hospitality and the sheer shock-and-awesomeness of the place.

As I reflect back– these are the things that stuck with me:

Everything you’ve read is true! Google consistently ranks highly in the best places to work listings. Nap pods. Yoga studios. Meditation spots. Childcare. Laundry. Free shuttles. The bikes. It’s all there. I knew that it would be but seeing it live is unbelievable—in a positive sense. It was like being on a movie set. It was the most amazing and comforting place I could ever imagine.

Diverse spaces. I was able to visit four different buildings. While they each had “the Google look &…

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April 15, 2014, 3:15 pm

WHAT IF OBAMA PAID FOR YOUR ELSEVIER SUBSCRIPTION? The Cost of Universal Knowledge Access

What if Obama paid for your Elsevier subscription? Or rather—what if the federal government covered the expense? Package it as a STEM or innovation initiative– something along those lines.

This is a hypothetical question, but obviously the free thinking from last week has carried over.

The short of it: there is a lot of conversation around open access and federal mandates for data and publications, but that feels like a slow road. The prestige of commercial journals is too ingrained—so how about a different approach?

What if we changed the scale? Instead of individual libraries (or consortiums) battling it out with the likes of Elsevier and other academic publishers (I’ll never forget the audacity of Nature’s 400% increase!) — what if the government purchased access to major academic journals (and eBook packages?) for all citizens. Or all households? Or for anyone…

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April 9, 2014, 4:56 pm

NO CLASSROOMS, JUST EXPERIENCES: “free thinking” the future of higher ed

I’m serving on a “Student Experience Task Force”— which among other things is exploring the relationship between residence halls, classrooms, laboratories, dining facilities, student centers, libraries, gyms, and outdoor spaces across my campus—with an eye toward long-term strategies. This is a yearlong process.

Our first assignment was to “free think” one possibility twenty to thirty years from now. These ideas were not expected to be grounded in reality— but to intentionally be provocative, disruptive, or transformative.

a_desk_for_every_student

Virginia Tech: Burchard Hall. A desk for every student

Mine was to do away with classrooms. Instead of lecture halls I would give every student their own desk or workbench—similar to what you find in architecture departments. There is an amazing community that forms around…

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