All 26 entries tagged Reading Lists

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November 05, 2007

Why university libraries should promote OA resources more than paid–for resources

Writing about web page http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/spec300web.pdf

The 2007 survey of Open Access Resources has finally been published as SPEC Kit 300 (SP300) by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). A four-page Executive Summary is freely available.

It would make sense for libraries to make promotion of OA resources to teaching staff a priority, but most (75%) of the respondent libraries are not promoting OA resources any differently than other resources, with several respondents saying they promote paid resources more than OA resources. According to the summary, “OA resources have a lower priority in general and libraries have a hard enough time getting patrons to use paid resources”.

Why this focus on promoting paid-for resources? If resources are not used, their subscription cannot be justified and the library’s budget could be reduced accordingly, would be the obvious answer. Nevertheless this defensive rationale could be short-sighted.

The more OA resources that libraries can provide for researchers in addition to any paid subscriptions, the richer the library’s resource provision in support of research and therefore, the more added value the library is providing to the research mission of the institution. This ARL survey does a good job of describing the library work associated with providing such added value through OA resources.

Let us now speculate that the more popular OA resources become among academics, both as authors and readers, the greater the proportion of OA journals in their recommended readings for students, and therefore the less the pressure on library budgets to keep up with escalating journal subscription prices and the more money left to buy print monographs for researchers and text books for students.

In the UK at least, a large proportion of the library budget typically goes into buying multiple copies of undergraduate key-text books, copies which are never enough to satiate students’ assumptions about their library’s stock.

Why not make consultation with faculty about particular OA resources a priority of liaison?

If libraries are caught in a vicious circle of promoting paid-for resources to academics, the academics then including these resources in reading lists, and then the library not being able to afford resourcing those reading lists, whose fault is it?


October 01, 2007

Wiki reading lists

Writing about web page https://my.pbwiki.com/

We have been considering the use of wiki functionality for building reading lists between academics and librarians.

Something like PBwiki would do the job. I wonder which other wiki applications, ideally hosted and free, might be out there which could do the job as well.

Both the academic and the librarian should receive and instant email alert of any edits made by either of them, and the email alert should quote the text that has been added or deleted. The wiki should also allow switching of access permissions between public-view and editors-only.

A wiki page for each module can be used to which both the academic and the library have access permissions. The academic can paste references on this page as and when he or she identifies them, potentially throughout the year but perhaps most likely in the summer. Every such change generates an email alert containing the addition to the wiki page. The library can check these as and when posted. Once checked the library edits the wiki page to add either a link to an existent subscription or library holdings catalogue record, or to a digital scan, or to a free web version, or to a catalogue record for the order, or a note to advise it is out of print, or any other relevant comment. Updates on student numbers for the module could also be posted on the wiki page.

A reading list is primarily a printable document intended for students. There is no need to use it as an order form for library resources. The bottle-neck workflow by which academics finish their reading list documents by a date and forward them to the library for checking and ordering is a document centric approach presenting known problems.

It would be much preferable if reading lists could be built up in a tentative way as an iterative, incremental dialogue between each academic and the library. The communication process between academics and the library could be improved by using wiki functionality:
- Treating references singly as opposed to bundled in lists.
- Dealing with them as and when identified by academics without having to wait for a definitive list.
- Feeding back to the academic timely information about availability and alternatives.
- Giving academics the lead time to make a choice informed with the librarians’ knowledge of information resourcing.

Although wiki functionality seems most efficient, alternative technologies could also serve the same purpose, e.g. a common closed web page with notification. Unfortunately Google Docs does not appear to notify of edits, otherwise it would have been enough.

Nevertheless, there are various practical considerations to take into account for a scaleable implementation beyond a small pilot. Ideally the technology should make things easier for both the academics and the library, but in practice making it too easy to submit references may overwhelm the library with submissions.

We would probably have to try on a small scale and fine-tune the process first. It would be nice to hear about any reading list wikis elsewhere.


January 24, 2006

3 green highlighters…

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/subjects/riu/concluded/readinglistaudit/

...8 months of effort, 28 figures, 27 tables, 1126 lists, 75 pages and 19,991 words later we come to the end of the grand reading list audit project.

I've now submitted the report to the Library Management Group and the Subject Librarian Teams – and it's up them now to decide just what they want to do with the findings.

I can honestly say that if I never see a module reading list ever again that my life will be so much the richer.

For those who might be daunted by the whole report, there's a short summary on the RIU Web site linked to above.


December 14, 2005

Workflow audit

If you ever thought there was a duller entry title than some of the ones I used to talk about the reading list audit (working on the final report even as I type) then it's this one. Something the RIU will be helping out with in the early new year is an audit of what subject librarians spend their time on and how this matches up with current aspirational priorities. I've been through this process myself in an earlier life at York, so am quite familiar with how easy it is.

Chatted with my old boss Chris following discussions with Hywel on the topic. Nice to catch up with what's going on back up north, what things are developing well, not to mention what hasn't changed that much in the 18 months since I was working there (wow, that suddenly seems a long time ago!).

Ah well, only one week to go to Christmas…


December 06, 2005

Reading lists, searching aptitudes and the Psychology department

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/subjects/riu/concluded/

And so we have some results again. Iíve just finished writing up the Psychology reading list study we conducted over the past couple of months. Iíd love to say we found some shocking results, but it seems what weíve found pretty much supports some assumptions. Not that the timeís been wasted, oh no, because now we have comparative evidence from this year and last yearís cohort of students.

Thereís a full report available for library staff on the Library StaffWeb area as per usual, and Iíve just placed the executive summary on our main web area (follow the link above). If anyone would like to see the full report, then please do get in touch.

In terms of findings though what we discovered can be broken down into two areas: Students and reading lists, and students and searching. In terms of reading lists is does seem that students value their lists, and consider them very authoritative sources of guidance, which is good. However, they do seem to continue to focus only on reading what will get them through examinations and assessments Ė the proportion of students in this study who were willing to use the reading list to read around the subject (as it were) and engage with the wider scholastic realm was very few (less than 10%). This is certainly backed up by the work we did with Politics last year, where in interviews students said much the same. Is this due to time problems, competing demands or a lack of will? I donít know for sure Ė certainly this research doesnít delve into that area, though I might guess itís a mix of all there.

I know this is a real concern for academics, who would dearly love their students to take their subject to heart and become the academics and researchers of tomorrow Ė not exam passing, qualification obtaining work units. But thatís not really something the RIU can resolve Ė we can only point out what weíve found and perhaps suggest ways to assist in supporting any change to the mind set. Itís up to the academics to do something.

In terms of searching skills it does rather seem that students feel confident with knowing where to search and can use some good standard searching. They donít however; appear to be confident in using logical/Boolean searching and other such tools. Now this might well mean theyíre missing out on a lot of very interesting and relevant articles and resources. This is an area the library staff will be able to help out with training, mentioning and support.

Interestingly though from this study it does rather appear that students do not seek out the help or guidance of the academic nor library staff when it comes to deciding if articles or books they have found themselves are useful or accurate. They rely heavily on it either being blessed by appearing on the reading list or available in the Library. Letís just hope the science team here only ever purchase good books for psychology


November 25, 2005

What is a reading list?

I hope this is something that the reading project will be able to answer, at least in terms of what makes up the average reading list of the Uni, faculties and depts. However, I keep wondering if somewhere there's a useful scholastic description of what a reading list is defined as. I have had a search of the usual information resources with no joy. If anyone has any leads – I'd always welcome being pointed in the right direction…

November 10, 2005

Reading lists: Analysis result 1

Sorry about the dull title, but it's late in the day and my creative juices have long since evaporated and dried up.

Working on the analysis of the reading lists and I appear to have my first result of the project! And what a shock it is (not) – from my sample it appears that reading lists as presented to students do not on the whole recommend books for purchase. The modal value for both the undergraduate and postgraduate sets in the analysis is No purchases suggested (92.3% of U/g depts courses, and 95.7% of P/g dept courses).

Of course we were only able to sample just over 40% of reading lists, but all the same it's the first food for thought. Though 5 months of effort to reach this somewhat unsurprising conclusion does seem a bit much!


November 08, 2005

I take it back – the hard part is just starting

I spent a good bit of yesterday (when I wasn't chatting with the ever helpful eLab team about blogs – thanks guys) starting to organise the data from the Reading List audit into some sort of order ready for analysis. I've already been able to churn out some useful/interesting early data considering the level of work, contributions from my assistants – and a figure for how long it would take to have audited the whole of the university's module reading lists (as opposed to the 41%+ I ended up with) – 48.7 working weeks!

Which if we factor in the fact that I get around 4 weeks holiday a year means we're talking about an entire year of doing pretty much nothing else except reading lists. I can assure you now, I won't be doing that! Now if I had a team to work on it full time, well then that figure begins to come down to a more realistic figure. Not (and I can't stress this enough) that I'm advocating doing anything on this scale again any time soon. Studies on individual departments on the other hand might well be a possibility – but I hope the RIU will be working on some far more actively interesting projects instead.

Meanwhile a trip to the Medical School today (about which I'll know more once I'm there), some work on the Psychology project, interviewing some subject librarians and even some UC&RG work (agenda devising) will fill the rest of today – so not too much time for more statistical work – at least until tomorrow…


November 04, 2005

Stick a fork in me…

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/subjects/riu/concluded/

…I'm done.

With reading lists that is – just entered the data for the last one (No. 1125) I'm going to add into the dataset and I couldn't be happier. Sure there's the analysis which I started preparing for this week to conduct – but THAT WILL BE FUN in comparison to this task!

How much sweeter the weekend will be now!


October 26, 2005

Reading Lists: The Do it yourself way!

Just been over to sit in on a very interesting 2nd year Psychology seminar, where the students were asked for one week to go away and build their own reading lists in a particular area (attitude change). This is all part of our on-going work with Psychology, looking at student reactions to alternatives to the "old-fashioned directed reading list" style.

Was very interesting hearing the resources they'd used, criteria for selecting the best items, not to mention the ways in which they'd put their group lists together. Bit of a shame not much mention was made of HOW they found the items beyond the mention of the occasional database, website or (good heavens) the Library catalogue. Not much on any problems encountered and which resources were the best (my impression was that it was a range – which is good, but it wasn't explicit in the talks).

Still, a bit thanks to Martin Skinner for inviting us along and the results will certainly be fed into the next bit of surveying research we'll be conducting later on this term – we just have to see what inducements we'll be allowed to be used by "them downstairs".


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