Thursday, April 29, 2010

LAUC-SB Future of Librarians in the UC discussion

Statewide LAUC has charged CPG to discuss the future of librarians within the UC. LAUC-SB had an animated discussion of the issue on April 21. The following notes are from that discussion.

The UC Library Collection white paper as it stands now does not really focus on the role of librarians. It spells out the future of libraries but not librarians. Are librarians still subject specialist or collection managers? And how does this affect reference and other duties that we currently perform? If this is the way we are going in UC, what does it mean to be a librarian?

OCLC Research Report and ITHAKA Faculty survey both indicate an eroding role of librarians in academia. It’s a good barometer for how librarians are perceived by faculty and the outside world. The library was perceived in very high terms as a buyer of information but lower and lowering value as a gateway function. This negative perception of librarians is smaller than 20% but that percentage has doubled since the last survey in 2006. One way to approach the discussion is from the outside looking in.

What librarians need to do is better advertise or expose the role of the librarian in the role of gatekeeper. We are the ones purchasing access to all the content and as such we are doing a good job of quality control. One issue is that many faculty and graduate students is that they think they’re doing enough. They are finding enough materials through Google scholar or Google books. Are there things we have always done that we don’t need to do anymore? Since we are competing with someone who does it better? Then this is an issue of marketing and how we are putting ourselves out there.

These faculty also know who the big names are in their fields and need to be kept track of. However, in terms of interdisciplinary research, faculty don’t necessarily know who the big names are outside their direct field. The faculty will most likely go to faculty in the other departments rather than to the library to find out what they’re missing.

The faculty think that they can get to the information if they want and whenever they want regardless of whether there are librarians or who the librarians are. One reason faculty approach librarians is when they fail to find what they are looking for. That allows librarians to skip the first 20 steps of the reference interview. The big problem though is that faculty are failing earlier than they are aware of. If this is true, how are graduate students and undergraduate students faring?

It’s a cycle that’s difficult. We don’t want to withhold information so that patrons must come into the library because they won’t care. They just won’t use any information that is not easily available. But by making everything easily available, we also fuel the misperception that librarians are irrelevant in the use of libraries.

When you look at the future of libraries and librarians, it seems that a lot of the most exciting things are happening at CDL. That makes the role of libraries and librarians at places like UCSB that much more precarious. However, CDL has always drawn on the expertise of librarians at UCSB and tried to keep us involved. They will most likely keep on doing this. We can also take the initiative and find places within CDL that are open to us to make bigger contributions than we have in the past. Also, keep in mind that CDL has always been a very small operation and has a very small staff. They need the librarians at the campuses to participate in all of their endeavors. No one can do it by themselves anymore and this is especially true of the UC Library system. We need to keep looking for partners and funding sources to keep all of our projects moving forward.

The building as a place to study is not important to faculty but students find a place to study very relevant for their needs.

Perhaps one way to go is to become data repositories as opposed to document repositories. That would mean that many librarians need formal training in mining that data. It is its own specialty. There are requests coming in from graduate students and faculty and it’s an area that most librarians are not currently specialists in. It’s all somewhat similar to what we’re currently doing in terms of pointing people in the right direction. Perhaps this is an esoteric position where not all the campuses need or have data librarians. Perhaps 2 or 3 libraries have these positions who act as reference points for all librarians to confer with as the need arises.

Perhaps what will happen is that librarians will move out of individual libraries to CDL. One need that is on the radar at UCSB is to find out where libraries and librarians fit into the world of publishing.

CDL does not serve faculty or students directly so they particularly vulnerable to budget cuts during times of budget difficulties. What they do is manage things at a system wide level.

eScholarship program, platform and services have been set up. The role of advocacy and outreach is something CDL has been doing but something we can do as well.

What can LAUC do? We can respond. We can let faculty know how we fit into their comments and suggestions for the library. We can rewrite our job descriptions and continue to advocate for ourselves. What do we see our jobs to being in these scenarios? What does this tell us about where we need to concentrate? What do we need to actually make us function?

If you were writing your replacement’s job description, what needs do you think should be met that aren’t being met currently? What will job descriptions, new position postings look like in the future? We’ve got training series currently in the works for the coming year regarding collection management and scholarly communication.