Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Use of Smartphones by Art and Design Students for Accessing Library Services and Learning

In Use of smartphones by art and design students for accessing library services and learning in the journal Library Hi-Tech, a research study in which I co-published with Patrick Lo, Dickson Chiu, Man-hon Leung, and Kevin Ho, our study explored the use of smartphones for accessing library services and learning by art and design students at the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI).

In the design and research methodology, we employed the questionnaire survey to examine how students used apps and the Web on mobile devices in finding information for the purpose of academic learning, social networking, and collaborative learning.

Our survey results showed that while the HKDI students were all smartphone owners and active users of such mobile communication devices, only a minority of them “frequently” use these mobile devices for formal learning purposes.  Students demonstrated a keen preference to use search engines, social communications, and other diverse use of smartphones. Except for research and image/audio-visual needs, the majority of the needs and usage behaviour of these students is similar to mainstream university students.  Therefore, our results recommends greater opportunities for libraries to develop services and facilities that could better fulfill students’ information needs, and to improve the outreach outside the library.

So why is this research of value to the library and information science literature?  This is probably the first study of its kind to explore how art and design students use smartphones for learning needs. In particular, with recent capability of smartphones and mobile Internet speeds being comparable to desktops, it is vital to re-examine the rapidly changing environment and their effects on the needs of the library's users.  I encourage you to take a read and explore the discussion and data from our research and see if it corroborates with your particular library context.  Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any comments, feedback, or question to share with us.

Monday, May 09, 2016

From the Electronic to the Digital University: a Twenty-Five Year Redux

In 1988, the library thought leader David Lewis' "Inventing the Electronic University."  What's significant about Lewis' article is that it was the first to examine how technology would change the information practices of users and library patrons rather than the library itself.

This was a seminal piece: it marked a new beginning in the library literature.  Joan Lippincott responds with an interesting take on the state of the academic library twenty five years later.   Its topics are highly relevant to not only my research, but also to the volatile times we are in for academic libraries everywhere.  With that said, here are the salient points to discuss:

Teaching and Learning - Lippincott argues that of all the developments, teaching and learning programs have had the most mixed results in recent times in terms of development.  Although MOOCs and LMS's have emerged as tools that libraries have had to learn to support, but overall libraries have not been trendsetters in the area of learning technologies when once upon a time, patrons and users needed to rely on libraries more heavily on borrowing and using technology (remember catalogs?)

Scholarly Communications -   With new technologies has emerged e-science and digital humanities -- digital scholarship arrived without much fanfare but has become critically important areas that academic libraries have been asked to support. At the same time, open access, data curation, social media, among the among have become integral in our daily work and is needed to support students, faculty and researchers.

Access and Preservation - We've come a long way since Lewis' article predicted the potential of the digitization of print materials on the CD-ROM.  Libraries created strong digital collections, but the caveat is that they have seemingly lost ownership and authority of these collections.   Libraries are falling behind in integrating its open access collections with its discovery tools -- so now that we've built it, how do we use it?

Staffing - Changes in the roles of staff continue to come as new technologies emerge.   However, some of Lewis' predictions did not materialize as predicted.  While Lewis expected library services and university academic computing units to merge, this has simply not happened in the scale he imagined.  For the most part academic libraries have continued to lead its own initiatives in teaching, learning and research in the areas of technology.  Instead, libraries are working with faculty in both research and learning to expand the "liaison model."  We keep hearing about it, but what is it exactly?  Lippincott alludes that changes are to come, so we wait and see.

Certainly, this is a brief list and there could be quite a few more areas to include here.  Despite what universities say, research is often prioritized at universities and faculty research and publication is tied to tenure and promotion.  What are academic libraries doing right in supporting research?  What are the big areas that we need to get better at?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

From A Cabinet of Curiosities to the Re-Emergence of the LAM

Currently, I'm working on a research project with Dickson Chiu and Patrick Lo on Journey to the East.  We examine the rise of the “LAM,” an acronym that stands for libraries, archives, and museums and in doing so, we profile leading experts -- librarians, archivists, and museum curators -- who specialize in East Asian collections from across the world. In examining the dynamically shifting role of the cultural institution in the context of managing information and collections, this book provides important themes offered by these cultural experts in understanding the necessary professional skills, knowledge, and personalities that are required for working in such environments of varying size, scope, and composition in LAMs.

By interviewing practicing librarians, archivists, and museum curators across the world who specialize in East Asian collections, our research examines the shifting role of the cultural institution in the context of managing information, cultural and knowledge exchanges, and collaboration on a global scale and ultimately challenges the notion of what constitutes “Asia’s collections.”

These managers of East Asia collection not only refers to library, archive, and museum (LAM) professionals who are ethnically of East Asian descent, but also their North American and European colleagues, who have devoted their careers to safeguarding cultural heritage collections of immeasurable values that are housed in different world’ s leading LAMs, located all over the globe. So that is why we went on a journey to interview experts from Berlin State Library, Bavarian State Library, the British Library, the British Museum, the National Library of France, the Vatican Library, the National Library of Denmark, the National Archives of Japan, the National Taiwan Library – just to name a few.   We have three purposes for the project:

(1) Our research project ultimately serves as a reference guide for students, scholars, researchers, and LAM professionals, enabling them to gain a glimpse of the vast amount of treasures available for their research and other scholarly activities. To survive on their own for future generations, LAMS must be organized, researched, talked about, promoted, and taught to the young generations - otherwise they risk extinction, physically as an entity and institutionally relevant to their audiences and users. 

(2) We conducted our research using a mixed-methods approach using semi-structure surveys through face-to-face meetings, Skype, and also by email depending on preferred mode of access by our interviewees. Upon completion of transcribing our interviews, we followed up with our interviewees for clarification and approval for publication of the text. 

(3) We argue that the present convergence is actually a return to traditional unity. These three institutions share epistemological links dating from the “Museum” of Alexandria and continuing through the cabinets of curiosities gathered in early modern Europe. But over time, as these collections expanded, they became more specialized and their storage was separated according to the form of information and kinds of users and after the nineteenth and century, these institutions professionalized and intellectual societies and educational programs materialized that crystallized the formal separation. So in many ways, LAMs have come full circle.

I'd be more than happy to answer any questions and feedback you may have about our project.  I've written about LAMs in the past, and this is a really exciting project to continue my research in this area. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Rise of the Innovation Commons

On my research study, I took the opportunity to visit the City University of Hong Kong, which is globally recognized as a top institution of higher learning and research, currently ranked #57 in the world in the QS World University Rankings and ranked #2 in Asia by the U.S. News & World Report.  It's not a large space whatsoever, but how it creatively re-purposed existing library space into a collaborative learning environment is worth a closer examination.

As my research is now focusing on innovative academic library spaces across the world, I was really interested in learning more about the history of this rapidly growing institution during my stay in Hong Kong.  Founded in 1984 as the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong, it became a fully accredited university in 1994 and renamed the City University of Hong Kong and became public research university located in Kowloon, Hong Kong.  It's also uniquely situated in the vicinity of the beautiful Festival Walk Mall.

Established collaboratively between the university library, the School of Law, the Knowledge Transfer Office, and the Education Development and Gateway Education, the Innovation Commons serves as a one-stop resource center physically located inside the Run Run Shaw Library.  It is a draw for students and the campus community for quick and easy access to information about entrepreneurship and innovation. 

What I really wanted to learn more about was how the Innovation Commons situates community engagement in its academic mission.  One of the initiatives is holding competitions for business plans and government-funded venture programmes for students.  Its staff participates as jurors in these competitions. In addition, it organizes activities, inviting industry experts and speakers to hold talks and workshops related to innovation, intellectual property, and the entrepreneurial projects. The Commons also provides professional advice through its peer tutors from the School of Law to consult on patents and related legal issues.

As I'm conducting research on curriculum mapping, I was curious to see how the Innovation Commons has aligned its space and services to the City University of Hong Kong's curriculum called the Discovery-enriched Curriculum since 2012.  Under DEC,  students create new knowledge, communicate it, curate it and cultivate it to benefit society as a final project prior to graduation with the goal of giving students the opportunity to make an original discovery while at CityU.    The results of this research trip will be published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of East Asian Libraries.  Stay tuned.   

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Introducing the Horizon Report 2016

The latest NMC Horizon Report has just been released.  Like many of involved in higher education, I've always been curious as to what new tools and toys are out.  I remember the early days (five years ago?) when it was neat to see the latest trends of digital media.   Time have changed -- we've moved beyond just 3D printers and augmented reality.

This 2016 Higher Education Edition identifies six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in educational technology across three adoption horizons spanning over the next one to five years.  Useful as a guide for campus leaders, educational technologists, and faculty as a valuable guide for strategic technology planning, the report provides higher education leaders with in-depth insight into how trends and challenges are accelerating and impeding the adoption of educational technology, along with their implications for policy, leadership, and practice.  What is most interesting is the "Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption in Higher Education."

Long-Term Impact Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption in higher education for five or more years 
Mid-Term Impact Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption in higher education for three to five years 
Short-Term Impact Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption in higher education for the next one to two years 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Vaporized? That's the World We Live In Now, So We Must Deal With (Embrace) It

Emerging technologies has been a theme of this site for as long as I have blogged.   While libraries have been slow to in the digital migration its programs, services, and collections, the retail world has experienced transformative changes, with the disappearance of Kodak, Borders, Blockbuster, etc.

In a consumerist world, such businesses need to change with the times -- and those that didn't do so quickly enough certainly got subsumed by history.   I read with great interest Robert Tercek's Vaporized which proposes that once-tangible goods such as music CDs and video DVDs were vaporized, replaced by pixels and bytes of data.   Vaporized offers a reminder of the de-materialization of physical objects.   So what is it?   You'll know what vaporized is as it:

  • Happens when tangible physical products are replaced with invisible software that can be downloaded instantly over the air to a digital device.
  • Occurs when the neighbourhood store is replaced with a digital storefront that exists in no particular place at all but is available anywhere at anytime, from any mobile phone connected to a data network.
  • Happens when the global supply chain for manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, and retailing consumer goods is decomposed and reorganized by software systems and digital networks.
  • Replacing real things with digital metaphors that can be replicated, updated, distributed, and deleted in seconds.
But what really caught my interest is Tercek's interest in what he terms loosely MOOC 2.0, with an insightful look into future trends, particularly SPOCs (small private online classes).   None of the MOOC platforms (think edX, Udacity, Coursera) have adopted smartphone or tables to enable a truly "anywhere, anytime device" mode for students.   With the dominant mode of teaching still the lecture, which dates back to the Medieval era, there's much opportunity for new entrants to take advantage of the current underdeveloped MOOC.  Perhaps that's why MOOCs have currently lulled in terms of excitement and buzz in the academic and business communities.  Once a silver bullet platform emerges, we just might see the vaporization of the current behemoth that is higher education.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Rise of the GLAM - G(alleries), L(ibraries), A(rchives), M(useums)

Yuan Dynasty (1165-1368 C.E.)
I've been conducting research on the area of GLAMs (an acronym that stands for galleries, libraries, archives, and museums).  And I have even written about it in the past as well.  We're seeing the convergence of galleries, libraries, archives and museums collaborating together in the digital age to transcend the traditional boundaries that separated them previously.  This is not surprising at all since these cultural institutions' common goals are really about creating better user-oriented services -- whether it be housing one repository for full access to all cultural heritage or obtaining exhibiting materials for public audiences.  To put it another way, while the professional language of the work is different, but the work is very similar.

The topic of GLAMs or LAMs is still in its emerging stages.  Although the convergence of galleries, libraries, archives and museums may be seemingly a recent development amongst cultural heritage institutions, these four institutions have been intertwined from some of the earliest known institutions, and can in fact trace their historical development back to similar origins. As Katherine Howard puts it:
If galleries, libraries, archives and museums wish to continue to maximize all that the digital environment offers now and into the future, the GLAM sector may require information professionals who have the flexibility, skills and knowledge to allow them to work across the full spectrum of the GLAM institutions. . .
Indeed, to contextualize this history, Howard points out that even the most renowned ancient library   demonstrates the connection between collecting institutions. Founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE, and developed and maintained by the Ptolemaic dynasty in approximately the third century BCE, the Library of Alexandria was merely one part of what was essentially a research institute known as the Museum of Alexandria.

Fast-forward to the current information climate, we see that in our information networked world, the once clearly demarcated of GLAM institutions with their unique professional histories are now realizing that users of their content want information about subjects, not information from a particular source.

I'm pleased to be working with Jenna Dufour on her LIBR 596 professional experience course. Jenna is currently an MLIS candidate at the University of British Columbia. And equally excited to be working with Patrick Lo (Professor at the University of Tsukuba's Faculty of Library, Information & Media Science) and Dickson Chiu (University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Education) on a book entitled: Conversations with the World’s Leading East Asian Librarians, Archivists & Curators, which is based on a series of interviews with different practicing librarians, archivists, and curators who specialize in East Asian collections. In asking these leading experts to describe the necessary professional skills, knowledge, and personalities that are required for working in such environments of varying size, scope, and composition in libraries, archives, and museums across the world, we examine the GLAM from a specific subject domain standpoint. It's going to be an interesting upcoming year, and one I'm busily looking forward to!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Flora of Descriptions for the Internet of Things

I've been writing about the emerging technologies for the past decade, and ever since the Internet of Things first appeared, I've been actively following its development as part of my professional quest to understand its impact on educational technologies.  Fresh off the press, Olson et al.'s Semantic Web, Ubiquitous Computing, or Internet of Things? A Macro-Analysis of Scholarly Publications is one of the most thorough in its examination of the evolution of ambient technologies.  And I'm glad I've found it and I'm going to share it with you here.  The authors investigate concepts used in depicting future visions of society, they map the extent of their use, examining the level of their dominance in different research areas and geographic boundaries, pinpointing fourteen concepts, each of which is used to depict visions of future3 information infrastuctures. More than 20,000 scholarly documents related to those concepts are analyzed.

Ubiquitous computing - "Ubicomp" Refers to a society in which human computer interaction is seamlessly and unnoticeably integrated into everyday life. 2.  Pervasive computing -

Pervasive computing - Used interchangeably with ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing's focus is not so much on the vision as it is on technological issues.

Ambient Intelligence - Or AmI, is different from Ubicomp in not just being about computing; rather, it involves other technologies such as smart materials and other innovations that integrate with our environments, a vision that extends the range of technologies that are considered to go beyond computing.

Smart Environment - or SmE, is able to acquire and apply knowledge about an environment and also to adapt to its inhabitants in order to improve their experience in that environment.

Ubiquitous Web - Concerned with mobility and constant access to information, an "anytime from any location" idea in which a different sense of the user emerges, where the technology could benefit commercial corporations as the user, rather than the individuals who seek and use Web-based information.

Semantic Web - Originating in the 1990's, it is an extension of the idea of the Web, created by Tim Berners-Lee.  Where content is designed to be read by humans, the Semantic Web builds on the idea of designing contents for access and meaningful manipulations by computer programs.  The focus is placed on Web-based information, information access, knowledge representation, and semantic codes for technology intervention.

Internet of Things - or IoT, was originally an adoption of Ubicomp, but was later considerably broadened to envision a society where all members have access to a full-fledged Internet environment populated by self-managing, smart technology anytime and anywhere.

Real world Internet - or RWI, the focus is placed on the integration of real-world into the Internet where wireless sensor technologies and network embedded devices extend interaction between physical and virtual worlds, enabling event-based environmental intelligence.

Web of Things - Follows the idea of the IoT in that it builds on the success of Web 2.0 mashup applications to suggest a similar approach for integration of devices to connect the Web allowing both physical and Web-based things to be connected to virtual resources.

Digital Living - Not widely used yet, the idea of it is a lifestyle not bound by place and time.

 System of Things - SoS, dating as far back as the 70's, it has evolved to relate increasingly to linked systems and connected devices.

Everyware - Information processing embedded in the object and surfaces of everyday life.  Process powers of multiple everyday devices such as the coffee pot, the garment, etc. come together invisibly, rendering our homes, workplaces or the street to become sites of processing and mediation.

Internet of People - The emphasis on allowing a steady stream of personal data from each individual and her interaction with various devices in everyday life in order to customize services according to individual needs.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Library Cafe's as Trendsetters

Lelystad Public Library
Lelystad Public Library

There was a trend in the Library and Information Science literature beginning in the late 1990's that last till the beginning of the millennium about libraries becoming more like bookstores.  At the periphery of this movement was the first vestiges of the cafe as part of the library.

I came across Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model by Jeannette Woodward earlier this millennium and it is one of the seminal texts on the library-as-a-bookstore model, arguing that if libraries do not redesign the way its customer service, looks, and functionality in ways that enhance its community mission, patrons, or "customers," will only continue to gravitate to the beautiful, spacious, and well-stocked new bookstores.   In fact, as Renee Feinberg puts it:
I have noticed patrons who seem to be using the store as a library.  As a librarian, I wondered whether students were doing library research there, and if so, why they weren't using their college libraries.  Were they gathering information successfully?  Were they making an informed choice to avoid their college libraries?  If students find it better to do research in B&N, should this affect how librarians develop library programs and provide services?
Interestingly, libraries took a sudden turn in 2008 in the advent of the Web 2.0 phenomenon and subtly the emphasis shifted to Library 2.0 (which had its own share of controversy as a term).   Which leads us to the present. Currently, I'm working with Dr. Patrick Lo of the University of Tsukuba in Japan on exploring library cafes as a "third place" for users of the library. This idea of the third place traces back to the sociologist Ray Oldenburg who articulated that beer gardens, main streets, pubs, cafes, coffeehouses, post offices, and other "third places" are the heart of a community's social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy.

Howard Schultz repositioned Starbucks into the idea of Starbucks goal to also become the Third Place in "our daily lives. (i.e. Home, Work and Starbucks)," so that it can provide all the comforts of home and office.   So in our research project, we look at the library cafe as a Third Place, as a node of the library building, information/learning commons, and informal learning spaces.  This site will continue to update on this interesting journey into the innovative ways that libraries are repositioning themselves and how patrons perceive this paradigm shift in the way food and culture intersect with library collections and learning.  Stay tuned.

Monday, July 06, 2015

End of College? But the Start of What?

Having worked in higher education for more than a decade, I've seen first hand the wholesale transformation of the university.  As the jacket explains, in just nine months between 2011 and 2012, the world’s most famous universities and high-powered technology entrepreneurs began a race to "revolutionize" higher education. College courses that had been kept for centuries from all but an elite few have been released to millions of students throughout the world for free in the form of massive open online courses (MOOCs).  But it's not just online learning that is the tipping point of this change.

Coming across a recent book by the American higher education writer and policy analyst Kevin Carey was marvellous timing as many of the ideas from his writing is trending in the university world and offered much food for thought.  End of College offers excellent insight into the world of higher education, particularly its current shortcomings and all.   And here are some points which I find intriguing:

The Luxury Branding of Education - Why does a Rolex watch cost exponentially more than a Timex?   Both tell the same time, and incur essentially the same amount of mechanisms that make it work.    Higher education has subtly become a luxury brand business where everyone strives to emulate the Ivy League elites.  Community colleges become full-degree colleges while colleges become research universities - becoming an ever evolving climb to the top for greatness (and with it higher tuition).  To justify its brand, universities have catered to the lavish tastes of students with the most modern amenities, cafeteria cuisines, residential spaces, top-grade sports facilities, just to name a few to whet your appetites.  But in all of this, where is the learning?  Why are low-cost local college just as effective as these luxury universities?  Why a Rolex when a Timex works just as good?  Why has learning become commodified?

Open Learning - If MOOCs and open badges have shown us anything in the past few years, it's that higher education can no longer be monopolized by institutions.  Learning can occur everywhere and at anytime, and in any platform.  Universities carry prestige as employers trust its credentialing system simply because universities were the only ones in business that offered some sort of measure of how prepared adults were for the workforce.  But this is no longer the case: students aren't obtaining the skills and there have been new methods of imparting the knowledge by new technologies such as MOOCs.  What this means is a great "unbundling" of the college credit system into one where the hands of learning are placed firmly back into the students' (regardless of institution or age of the learner).

Cathedral of Learning -  Which leads us to what Kevin Carey calls the "university of everywhere" - an idea which is analogous to religious institutions where adults return each week without fail to replenish themselves spiritually.  How can we learn from religion where the passion for fulfilment can be replicated in lifelong learning?  Can the spirit for learning be replenished each week for the rest of our lives?   It's a brainteasing thought: learning from the cradle to the grave.   What can universities and colleges learn from adult learning?  If it ever envisions itself not as a short-term diploma mill, then the university can ultimately re-position itself back to its roots as cathedral of learning.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

YouTube, social media, and academic libraries: building a digital collection

I recently presented at the Acquisitions Institute 2015 on a panel with Stacy Sieck (Taylor & Francis) and Zoe Pettway Unno (California State University - Fullerton's Pollack Library).  YouTube, social media, and academic libraries: building a digital collection, is a paper I had published in the Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship about YouTube as a new technology situated in the suite of emerging technologies.

YouTube’s extensive reach and integration in mainstream society as well as lifelong learning habits of online users cannot be understated.  My presentation continues on the theme of how YouTube collection at the University of British Columbia Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre has become an exciting extension of the digital collections and services.  By examining the history of traditional collection development at academic libraries, I really tried to demonstrate how YouTube fits into the long continuum of library media collections in an open-access platform.  Am I pushing the envelope, stretching the definition of "media collections"?  Perhaps, but I'd love to hear from you, too, on your thoughts.  Please feel free to share your comments with me!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cantonese Worlds Workshop at UBC #ItsAboutTime

I recently presented at the Hong Kong-Canada Crosscurrents presents: Cantonese Worlds (May 14-15th, 2015).  Over the last 50 years, migrations between Hong Kong and Canada have transformed cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. Significant changes in real estate, business, philanthropy, and education, as well as cultural transformations in language, popular media, and mass consumption have reshaped societies on both sides of the Pacific. Flows of people, goods, and ideas have been multidirectional--even as hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong Chinese became Canadian citizens, Canadians of both Chinese and non-Chinese heritage also migrated to Hong Kong for work and family. Counting the estimated 300,000 Canadian passport holders living in Hong Kong would rank it among the ten largest “Canadian” cities.

The Hong Kong-Canada Crosscurrents Project looks back on the last half century in order to understand how the migration of people, goods, and ideas across the Pacific has created a complex crosscurrent of dense and sometimes surprising connections, including the transformation and re-animation of a Cantonese Pacific world that had spanned the ocean for centuries.

Cantonese Worlds is a two-day workshop that aims to begin an important conversation about how to make sense of the transformations of the last 50 years. In gathering leading scholars and observers to lay out an initial set of workshop themes for discussion, this pilot process will help create guiding questions that will shape the next few years of research, outreach, and public education. Initial themes might include, for instance, the role of the Cantonese language historically in shaping linkages between Hong Kong and Canada, or how the resurgence of Cantonese popular culture and music has been a formative element in youth identities. We invite all those interested in examining the last half century of crosscurrents between Hong Kong and Canada to participate in this important undertaking.

In my presentation, Bringing Old Perspectives to New Audiences: a history of BC’s First Bilingual Newspaper, I look back at the last twenty years of a student-run publication called Perspectives Newspaper, which at one time, represented the voice of most Hong Kong students at UBC.  In 2009, this entire collection of newspapers was digitized and archived on UBC's institutional repository cIRcle as part of the Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP) project.  As I was once the Editor-in-Chief of this newspaper when I was a graduate student, I'm proud that I was able to offer insight into the evolution of the student movement and its context of academic libraries.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fraser Valley Regional Library, 1930's - 1945 #TBT

Yes, it's rare and it's kind of unsexy.  But it's #ThrowBackThursday.  So we must deal with it.  This brief historical footage is an experiment by the Government of British Columbia.  In 1930, the Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded the province a grant of $100,000 to establish and maintain a rural library project for five years. After considering various regions of the province, the Commission selected the Fraser Valley as the site of "BC’s book experiment."

The library’s first director Dr. Helen Gordon Stewart successfully met this challenge. With enormous energy, Stewart went about organizing the district, selecting books, hiring staff and purchasing a truck suitable for use as a book van. She personally visited councils and public meetings, convincing residents and politicians of the value of cooperation and resource sharing that would lead to a viable library system.
At the end of the five years of operation, under its present auspices, it is the hope that the people of the Fraser Valley, whether they reside in large or small centres, or in the out-of-way places, will want the library so much that they will decided to take it over as their own, to be maintained as a municipal service. The success which has already attended the experiment indicates that the Fraser Valley library will become a permanent institution

It sure did. It's grown to become the largest public library system in British Columbia, spread over 24 community libraries serving nearly 680,000 people in its service area.  Stewart later went on to help establish another historic library system, the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) system.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Asian Canadian Archives (Re)Visited

Here is a "digital story" video created by a student at UBC as part of an undergraduate film studies course.   In my work as a librarian, I've had chances to work with community organizations on cultural projects.  The Chinese Canadian Stories is one case where I have collaborated with small organizations across Canada in recovering lost histories about the Headtax and discrimination.  Vivian Wong, Tom Ikeda, Ellen-Rae Cachola, and Florante Peter Ibanez authored a very interesting  piece in "Archives (Re)Imagined Elsewhere" in Through the Archival Looking Glass.

Asian American community-based archives are more than repository for materials for the communities they serve; rather, are spaces where collective memories are created and collective histories represented. In this context, previously marginalized and neglected groups can reclaim their experiences. National records show Asian Americans viewed from the outside as undesirable immigrant-aliens. Archives as community-based organizations in Asian American communities are formed apart from official repositories for Asian Americans to represent and imagine themselves differently.

Community institutions thus challenge the "traditional notions" of archives which often serves as a custodial function primarily for records of bureaucratic organizations such as governments. On the other hand, Asian American archival organizations exist in local communities, separate from institution-based archives, as spaces for Asian Americans to represent themselves, their histories, cultures, identities, and experiences as they see themselves in America.

In the 1960's, Asian American groups began forming responses to their exclusion from mainstream society which ultimately enabled and empowered them to create their own documentation of their experiences within these communities.   The last twenty years has seen an increased insistence and urgency to push the boundaries archival theories, practices, and education in ways that consider alternate approaches to knowing and understanding archives, records, and recordkeeping.

Some of the projects that are worth noting in the Canadian context include the following:

  • The Pacific Canada Heritage Centre - Museum of Migration [Link]
  • Vancouver Asian Heritage Month's explorASIAN Festival [Link]
  • Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia [Link]
  • Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies (ACAM) program [Link]

Saturday, March 28, 2015

McDonaldization and Higher Education & Academic Libraries

I've been an academic librarian for almost eight years now: how time flies.  One of my favourite writers since I was a student has been Brian Quinn, whose research focuses on the psychosocial aspects of libraries.  One of my first posts featured Quinn's article on librarians as dramaturgists.   Quinn's writing is often fresh and insightful, focusing on different angles and perspectives of librarianship.

In 2000, he put forth the idea that just as society is becoming increasingly "McDonaldized," so is higher education and by extension, academic libraries.  The argument is that we live in an age of mass higher education, in which many students attend college because they see a college education as a means to a more lucrative career, not because they love learning.   Colleges and universities are under pressure from the public and governments to "control costs and maximize efficiency."  I can feel this often in my own line of work, too.

McDonaldization and Efficiency 
Efficiency is the systematic elimination of unnecessary time or effort in the pursuit of an objective.
The fast-food concept of quick service may have had the effect of raising the expectations of library users. Users seem less content with waiting in line for reference assistance and appear less willing to tolerate delays. Some libraries have responded by giving reference staff pagers so they can be “beeped” if a line forms at the service desk. The use of pagers is another example of how services in academic libraries have become efficiently rationalized.
McDonaldization and Calculability
 Calculability is another key characteristic of McDonaldization. Ritzer defined the term calculability as the tendency to measure quality in terms of quantity.
Many college and research libraries also keep extensive statistics on everything from reference transactions, cataloging statistics, and ILL statistics to circulation statistics, entrance gate statistics, and statistics about online transactions. Often the statistics are compiled for use as evidence of the library’s performance to justify requests for budget increases.
McDonaldization and Predictability 
Another key aspect of the rationalization process that is central to McDonaldization is predictability. A rational society is one in which people know what to expect - McDonald's menu is predictable and the food is consistently mediocre no matter which outlet is visited.  A world of McDonald’s is a significantly bland world in which surprise and delight are largely absent.
The collection development process has become more and more standardized, resulting in collection content varying less from one library or type of library to another. . . Many academic libraries use the same vendors, and although particular subject profiles may vary somewhat, the differences often depend more on a particular library’s depth of collecting than on the books themselves.
McDonaldization and Control 
The fourth and final aspect of McDonaldization is control. People represent the most unpredictable aspect of rationalized, bureaucratized systems, so it is people that McDonaldized organizations attempt to control.  Technology is easier to control than humans, so the ultimate goal of McDonaldization is to replace humans with technology.
Academic librarians are typically subject to an elaborate, formalized system of bureaucratic accountability that serves as a form of control. Each librarian’s performance is carefully documented by various means, such as systematized monthly reports to supervisors, annual or semiannual evaluations recorded on standardized forms that must be signed by both librarian and supervisor, less frequent, but periodic, review by promotion and tenure committees, and, more recently, posttenure review committees.
2015:  Recruiting Un-McDonaldized Librarians?  The Response 15 Years Later
So what's a helpless librarian to do in the midst of this scientific Taylor-style Fordist machinery?   Quinn suggests one remedy to counter the alarming trend is to hire un-McDonaldized librarians which would enable an un-McDonaldized culture.  Fifteen years later, Canadian librarian Karen Nicholson furthers the argument, citing that McDonaldization of academic libraries reflects the growing influence of corporate aims and values in the public sector under the neoliberal philosophy of New Public Management (NPM) -- think competition, profitability, risk, value for money, and entrepreneurship -- increasingly buzzwords in our daily lives.  They've seeped into academic librarianship.

Under this system, society is producing "new kinds of workers"—highly flexible, empowered “portfolios” of skills and experiences ready to sacrifice in lean times, enabled through an indoctrinating culture through the use of core values, vision statements, and futurist leaders. 
The American Library Association’s work in defining and promoting “core values” and developing leaders through programs such as Emerging Leaders, a self-propagating initiative that ultimately serves the needs of the ALA itself by “put[ing] participants on the fast track to ALA committee volunteerism,” exemplifies the influence of the new capitalism within the profession of librarianship.
The number of for-profit universities is on the rise, and higher education, in partnership with the private sector, continues to pursue the “expansive markets” of distance learning and e-commerce, as seen by the ubiquity of learning management systems and recent MOOCs phenomena.  This is scary stuff: I'm even taking a sabbatical to figure this all out, too.

So we end with the question that we began with: what are we to do?  I certainly don't have an answer as I am still in the thick of this myself.  Nicholson offers wise words of advice: as a profession, perhaps we need to consider why we do things instead of measuring what we do.  That's a great start:  A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step, as the saying goes.