Author Archives: Brian Mathews

October 9, 2014, 5:33 pm

Residual Learning Environments: “Students never leave my course”

RH2I’ve worked with Ralph Hall (Assistant Professor, Urban Affairs & Planning, Virginia Tech) related to Google Glass in the past. He has explored different ways of incorporating the hardware into his teaching practices. See: Teaching Using Google Glass and Apps.

RH3_communityWhile Glass inspired him to think differently the game-changer seems to be the portfolio of Google Apps. Ralph recently remarked that students stayed connected to his course even after the semester is finished.

This is a powerful idea. I keep thinking of residual value or appreciation. Your primary value is taking the course, but afterwards—after the grading is done – students continue to gain value as evidenced though continued use or contribution. Just as you might watch a TV show or a game and then go back later to enjoy episodes or highlights. The value extends beyond the original occurrence—beyond the prescribed…

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September 30, 2014, 3:53 pm

Learning to Pitch (make it hard for me to say no)

At conferences I often end up in conversations that go like this:

“I want to do this innovative thing but my administration won’t get onboard—what can I do?”

This is difficult because there are so many factors that need to be unbundled. A common problem I’ve realized is that librarians never learn the art of pitching. [Note to ACRL: I’m willing to do a free webinar on this topic sometime in Summer 2015.]

In the entrepreneurial world there is a lot of talk about recognizing the difference between ideas and opportunities. That’s the real challenge—separating things that might be cool from things that might help people succeed better.

An example. A dentistry librarian once told me we wanted to offer 3D printing but that his boss shut him down. As we talked I realized he had just asked about the idea and didn’t pitch the opportunity. It was as simple as: “can we…

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September 19, 2014, 2:15 pm

Why do people who love libraries love libraries?

Why do people who love libraries love libraries? This has been on my mind a lot lately. Whenever I find a patron who is passionate about their library I try to decode those tangible and intangible qualities that made the experience so powerful for them.

Our library’s feedback form a great source of insight. Each semester we have a handful of students point out customer service problems, confusing policies, or facilities issues. They are telling us these things because they care and want us to improve. We address matters when we can. For example, one student suggested a new software configuration in our scale-up classroom that we enacted and it greatly improved usability.

This week I had a student share an opinion about our bathrooms. She was frustrated because while we are renovating some parts of our library we are not upgrading the restrooms. Our original building is from the 1…

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September 10, 2014, 4:04 pm

Wait. Stop. What is a photocopy? Three insights from our Library Student Advisory Board

The mission of our Library Student Advisory Board is to help us gain a better understanding of the student experience at our university. We talk about a lot of different ideas and issues. I want to share three that surprised me.

Photocopying? We were talking about printing and I asked the students if they ever photocopied (we have all-in-one machines that do printing, copying, and scanning) and the students were silent. After some strange looks someone finally asked what’s a photocopy?

Apparently everything is a print these days. Reproduction of a page of paper doesn’t seem to be a very common activity. I explained what it was and felt like I was describing a telegraph. I guess with journals migrating to predominately digital formats that most undergrads do not need to photocopy articles. Most of their own content is digital as well — so there is no copying notes, forms, or…

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September 3, 2014, 8:59 pm

The Distance to Ideal? That’s what I need to know

A glimpse at my whiteboard:

distance_to_ideal

This is a tool concept that I want to explore. The blue line represents “everything we want to do” in our ideal state. This requires looking across all services and removing (or sunsetting) the ones that are no longer essential. The objective is to gather everything that represents what we should be doing.

The red line then indicates what we can do – this is our current state.

If we can quantify these two elements it helps us frame new conversations.

For this example I set us at about 25% capacity or basically we are only able to do about ¼ of what we should be doing based on current practices and priorities. I have no idea where my group actually is at yet — this is just an illustration of the concept.  This opens discussions around where we are today and why vs. where we want or need to be. It provides a visual indicator that is easy …

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August 7, 2014, 2:14 pm

Is your org changing? Two book recommendations (and some new directions at Virginia Tech)

This summer my library went through a strategic realignment. We had the convergence of numerous retirements and other departures that presented us with an opportunity to look across the entire organization and consider some adjustments.

The driving factor behind this effort was to better align the library with the University’s strategic directions. New priorities are emerging across campus and we needed to position ourselves to participate and partner more fully. And yes, I’m aware that’s admin-speak.

One theme we focused on was research. Previously we had two areas that shared this same word:

Research and Instruction Services
Research and Informatics

We decided to define our concept of research around activities such as data curation, scholarly communication, publishing services, repositories, and technology development. This is very different from the traditional…

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July 24, 2014, 10:42 am

LIBRARIAN AS FUTURIST: Changing the Way Libraries Think About the Future

I recently published an essay in portal. It explores the mindset (and toolkit) of futurists and attempts to connect that to libraries. I blogged about it earlier with the idea of “change literacy”—which I still think is a fascinating concept.

Librarian_as_Futurist_preview_imageThe portal version is fine, but I can’t legally post their PDF – so I made my own. Besides that, academic publisher prints always look a little stodgy and grayish to me, no offense. I prefer a more uplifting wrapper for my words. Design is a vital part of the communications process and I  like to have some control over how my ideas are presented.

Here is a snippet:

Librarians could discuss ad infinitum the predictions, proclamations, worries, fears, hopes, and dreams about what libraries are becoming. In fact, as a profession librarians are obsessed with talking about our future. Books, articles, blog posts, conference sessions, an…

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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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