Author Archives: Brian Mathews

September 18, 2013, 5:09 pm

Moving From Data-Driven to Design-Driven Innovation

I was tweeted into a conversation about assessment and I wanted to take a minute to comment. Elliott Shore (ARL) recently called for a radical change in library assessment—with the gist being a move from descriptive to predictive. I’d like to push it further into the realm of innovation-generation.

I tried to contribute my part to that conversation at last year’s Library Assessment Conference with a paper Too Much Assessment, Not Enough Innovation. I wasn’t booed off the stage, but I definitely felt avant-garde compared to the mainstream assessment crowd. But of all the papers I’ve written recently that’s my favorite one because I enjoyed digging deeply into places like PARC and Bell Labs.

Anyway, twitter isn’t ideal for long-thought sharing so I’m dashing this off over lunch. I’ve been reading the October 2012 issue of Fast Company (yes, I’m a bit behind) and…

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September 16, 2013, 4:16 pm

SYSTEMATIC REVIEWERS: another role for librarians?

I was talking with Rebecca Miller last week and she mentioned that she was working on a handful of systematic reviews. I was curious about this since I had not heard the phrase before (I’m more engineering than sci-med) and as she described the process it seemed very labor-intensive.

It wasn’t the methodology that fascinated me, but rather, the fact that this seems to be another attribute of the changing role of librarians. I asked Rebecca to write a blurb that I could share:

Over the past year or so, researchers in HNFE, Public Health, and Engineering Education have become increasingly involved in conducting systematic reviews in order to meet grant requirements and promote more rigorous research among their graduate students. Systematic reviews are scaled-up literature reviews that provide a strong foundation for evidence-based medicine and policy decisions. There are standards…

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September 13, 2013, 1:37 pm

FRIDAY SOCIAL MEDIA GRAB BAG (old school type of post, pre-Chronicle style)

This is what social media looks like when it works right:

printersThanks Scott for managing this. It’s not just about us pushing out content but about us listening and engaging when appropriate. I’m planning to tweet this student next week to make sure everything connected okay.

#firstdayvt

Another social media project that I’m glad we hosted was #firstdayvt. This was a VINE contest inviting students to submit super short videos based on their first day of school. Not a huge response, but this was my favorite.

What I like about this effort is that it wasn’t the hey-we-have-JSTOR style of marketing that I often see from libraries. In fact, this wasn’t about promoting the library at all. This was an opportunity to organize and serve as a campus-wide platform for expressing the stress or excitement associated with the new year. I really like that we can step beyond just “being a…

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September 5, 2013, 6:28 pm

Curating Learning Experiences: A Future Role For Librarians?

A few weeks ago I purchased a premium WordPress theme for my campus. This isn’t something I typically do, but it fit nicely with an initiative I am building around supporting new types of learning interactions.

 

A professor I’m working with uses blogs in her courses but wanted to push the experience further. I’m hearing this more often as faculty express interest in a more flexible and personalized learning environment as opposed to the LMS model. Sakai, Blackboard, and similar tools are seen as utilities rather than virtual communities.

 

I think we’re seeing a shift occur. In the past it was “how to use a blog in your course” and now it’s “how to build an online social learning environment for your specific needs.” These conversations are the result of faculty becoming more comfortable and sophisticated using the social web. I’m finding many who are…

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August 28, 2013, 12:35 pm

My Office Pool: Hokies every week

Football season starts tomorrow! The world is against the Hokies right now but that’s okay. Nineteen-point underdogs? That’s okay too. I’d rather be underestimated….

picks

UGA and Bama both out!

Here are my picks in the office pool. We select winners for all the ACC games. I’m thinking that we should compete in pools with other libraries in our conference—I know we would certainly beat Georgia Tech with Mr. Hines and Mr. Brower playing.

White Cleat Trophy

 

You have to believe in your team. Despite injuries and youthfulness, I’m confident that Mr. Thomas can deliver.  In the library we play for pride– and this honorable trophy. Visit my office next year and you’ll see it proudly resting on my desk. go Hokies!

August 26, 2013, 12:22 pm

“Most Difficult” Discipline Debate: Chemical vs. Legal

You’re alone on the ref desk. The shift ends in ten minutes and you have a meeting across campus that you’re expected to lead. Just then—a student approaches and asks “the question.” You know the one I’m talking about— it’s not a known item search, it’s not an instructional “how do I find articles on x” — it’s a complex matter on a subject that you’re not comfortable with. Referral is not an option.

Lauren and I were debating this last week. Which set of information tools or subject/controlled vocabulary is the most intimidating? For me it was chemistry and for her it was legal.

We decided to open it up to you—friendly readers of librarian blogs—tell us, which one gets the nod? Polymers or shepardizing? If you want to suggest something different—go for it. Medical? Financial? Patents? Gov Docs? Physics? We want to hear it and why. Make a case for …

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August 21, 2013, 3:43 pm

Database vs. Database vs. Web-Scale Discovery Service: further thoughts on search failure (or: more clicks than necessary?) (or: info-pushers vs. pedagogical partners)

Yesterday’s post resonated with people. There seems to be a lot of focus on the importance of the “proper” way to do research—and the proper tools.  That’s how much of our current value is delivered so I completely understand the concern and passion.

Obviously the case I described is just one example and things may be different for you, but in this instance the interfaces we offer were not effective for simple keyword searching.

Here is an example. Forget about limiters, options, date ranges, licensing, access, etc. I know those are important and distinguishing features, but let’s leave those out of the conversation.  Right now I’m interested purely in keyword-based results. Let’s test some algorithms!

Let’s say you’re researching Woodstock and that you need to find articles from the New York Times that were published while the concert what happening. You…

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August 20, 2013, 5:56 pm

The-3-Click-Dilemma: are library databases nearing the tipping point of obsolescence?

I had an interesting conversation with a faculty member last week that went something like this: “Brian, I want you to know that it’s getting harder for me to get students to use the library— especially the databases— anything beyond three clicks is just too many.”

 

In some disciplines this would not really shock me, but it was a historian. This is someone who is passionate about the library. This is someone who advocates for primary resources and through research. This is someone—who from what I can tell—is a very sophisticated database user.

 

If our super users are frustrated with database interfaces – what does that mean? Many of us spend a lot of time promoting library resources to students, but if faculty stop encouraging (or requiring) usage—what then?

 

The assignment is actually straightforward. Explore historical events by comparing coverage…

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August 13, 2013, 8:52 pm

ENTERING THE ERA OF MICRO-EXPERIENCES? Using a lot of different things to do a lot of different things

Lauren and I were recently talking about the evolution of the social web. There had been some press about the kids today don’t use Facebook anymore. The articles use to be about how such-and-such was no longer cool. Now we’re starting to see a generation completely bypassing Facebook. They are not leaving it because they were never on it. Facebook is for grandparents!

 

So what’s the alternative? What’s next big thing? What’s the Facebook Killer? I’ve been out of the social media scene for a while now, but the shift seems to be away from the single solution and more toward multiple products for different needs. This is why Vine, Instagram, and Tumblr are popular. Each tool focuses on different things (strengthens?) as opposed to trying to do everything like Facebook.

 

We seem to be entering (or have entered) an era of specialization. The one-stop-shop is emptying…

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August 6, 2013, 8:01 pm

Common Book vs. Common Problem: the future of creating common experiences

One of the things I enjoyed at UCSB was co-leading the common book program. That effort wasn’t just focused on freshmen, but was open to everyone. We worked really hard to embed the book and theme across many courses and disciplines. We also worked with the local community college and public library  –  striving for it to be a community-wide  / county-wide experience each year

 

I’ve been considering the program here at Virginia Tech and using some good lateral thinking, I’m wondering how might we try something different? Or: what does a common book program look like without a book?

 

When you look at the goals (build a sense of community, encourage intellectual engagement, stimulate critical thinking, connect to VT values) it seems possible to do this in other ways. The book is really just a starting point. It gives students and instructors a common framework, but …

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