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TL v61n3 Interview with Joseph Sanchez
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Tennessee Libraries 

Volume 61 Number 3
 

 2011

 

 

 Interview with Joseph Sanchez, Instructional Design Librarian

University of Colorado, Denver

by

Scott Cohen, Interviews Editor

 

 

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Joseph completed his MLIS in 2006 at San Jose State University.  Currently, he is the Instructional Design Librarian for the University of Colorado Denver.  He began his library career in 2000 at the Georgina Cole public library in Carlsbad California working on the reference desk.  From 2006 to 2011 he was the Library director at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, CO.  His interests include classic cars, skateboarding, book collecting, videography, and econtent management.  His website can be found at www.thebookmyfriend.com

 


From a staff member at Cleveland State Community College (TN):

"Mr. Sanchez, Boulder is a very progressive town and the people of Boulder are likely to adapt to new and creative ideas with less resistance than a library that is situated in a conservative town in the Bible Belt. Do you have any suggestions of how to present new ideas to a group of people that think everything is good that way it is?"

Well, "progressive" has become a loaded term in today's world. The tech world was shocked when "progressive" president-elect Obama started appointing MPAA insiders the day after he was elected. It was a very illuminating moment for me, because it clarified something I have noticed over the past few years. That is, old labels like progressive and conservative are not as predictable as they were. Seeing then president-elect Obama appoint industry insiders whose positions were definitely not going to help libraries deal with digital content in an equitable or fair fashion highlighted that reality for me as a librarian. I realized that I would need to look for allies everywhere and anywhere.

With that said, one of the core ideas I teach LIS students in a Leadership and Management class for the University of Denver is that new ideas need to be connected to familiar ones in order for them to become "inside the box concepts" for our constituents and funding sources. One of the reasons city (and state) governments will requisition money for a half million dollar baseball park is because those are concepts they are familiar with. They take their kids there for practice and to socialize. It is an inside the box concept for them to fund something like that. Librarians need to find practical ways to get their constituents thinking differently about the library. Most people think of libraries as a place to check out a book or movie- that's it. They think of librarians as people who put the books back on the shelves. The only way to get them to change their minds is to show them. Rub elbows with them.

Your leaders need to implement some careful diplomacy and find out what and where your funding source or boards are interested in. I don't like football, but I learned a lot about it, and learned how to shoot the breeze very effectively with our former president who was a huge football fan. Once I established a human credibility with him, I began pushing for more and got him involved in events at the library. Specifically, ones that were outside the box and got him thinking differently about the library on a subconscious level. Once that happened, his conscious thinking about the library was more capable of seeing the reasoning behind my rather unconventional requests for funding and change.

It's the Huck Finn effect. Mark Twain understood that subconscious racism was best overcome by humanizing Jim through giving him constant human interaction with Huck -- to the point where Huck saw Jim's humanity from his heart rather than his head. Because once his heart was in the right place, his head was capable of rebelling against the social norms around him. Get out there and rub elbows with those people who don't see the library the way you see it, and slowly work on their subconscious perceptions before you work on radical change. Because they are more likely to trust you and risk something new when they know you.

 
Questions from Scott Cohen, Library Director at Jackson State Community College

What should the academic library’s position be towards reading?

I don't see why academic libraries can't support reading at all levels. Many academic libraries become fairly siloed and separate from their public counterparts, but that is a mistake. We need to think about the bigger picture and support libraries into the future. One of the ways to do that is to think about our students as future public library patrons.

We should be buying (where budgeting permits) non-academic content. Graphic novels and popular reading belong on our shelves in the same way public libraries carry scholarly content -- just less of it. Literacy is critical for the survival of libraries, and while reading and literacy are not the same thing, they are intimately connected.

Academic libraries, in my opinion, have aesthetic and ethical reasons to support reading. Now this may be as simple as having a staff favorite book every month or it could include broader, more elaborate initiatives like working with local school districts to support reading and research skills.

I think I should offer a disclaimer here because I was a seventh grade teacher before reentering academia, my wife was a first grade teacher, and I am working on a doctorate that will attempt to create a cross curricular, comprehensive information literacy that builds from kindergarten to twelfth grade, so I have a lot of personal interest in reading as a scholar and book lover. It seems that the digitization of materials is creating a different kind of reading where readers scan and search for bytes rather than comprehension. If this is the case academic libraries should be very concerned about reading.

 Are printed books obsolete?

Not as sources of static, dependable information, but in many ways print books are starting to look like a horse drawn carriage. I am at ground zero when it comes to this question, because my library was one of the first, if not the first, in the country to start circulating Kindles, ereaders, and iPads.

To get a picture of the vision watch "iLibrary", a video I produced and co-wrote with some of my students. The program was wildly successful, because of a number of approaches we took to collection development and circulation. I have been reading, studying, and teaching about this question for the past five years, and I hate to acknowledge that the print book market will most likely never be the same. I say most likely, because there is some hope for print book lovers, as ebooks continue to evolve and take advantage of all that our evolving tech market offers. Last year when I taught an Information Environment class my students were shocked when I told that many genres of ebooks will evolve into multimedia files that really won't have much in common with ebooks we know today.

I told them about some eye tracking software I had read about, and how it seemed like a natural evolution of writing to start including "effects." So when a writer talks about descending Gunnison canyon and hearing water running, they can actually embed the sound of that particular river. Like most of you reading this, my class full of book lovers was properly horrified. Now, I am not a fan of this idea, but my experience as a videographer and my early forays into ebook production convinced me that this was only the tip of the iceberg. Ebooks will evolve into something that resembles a portable website rather than a linear print book. To get back to my class's reaction, one of my assignments was to follow various tech blogs and post current news that was important, valuable, or just interesting.

Within a week one of my students posted about "enhanced" books at a major German publishing conference that included video and hyperlinks. Now I had never heard about enhanced books before, but it was an obvious step as one thinks about the utility and use of ebooks and the evolution of our tech capacity. It seems fairly certain to me that a significant portion of the ebook market will not resemble any of the "books" we have known in the past. So it seems that there may be room for a print book market as ebooks evolve into something so entirely Other that both can exist side by side.

But there are too many external forces pushing print books into obsolescence. Consider simply the financial reasons for "publishing" ebooks. I put quotes around "publishing", because it does not resemble anything we have seen in the past.  All of the cost/benefits of the past are not necessary with ebooks, because you don't need to buy the materials, produce 50,000 or 500,000 books, store them, ship them- essentially incur costs up front before any money can be made. Instead, one file exists on a server somewhere and is replicated in a matter of minutes at the point of need. It is a completely different business model, and one that offers more financial success than the traditional model.

The price can actually be lowered while increasing profit margins at the same time. There are also the practical implications of being able to carry an entire library around with you in a two pound device. As a scholar  I have found myself very reluctantly acknowledging this real advantage of ebooks over print books. I used to take an extra suitcase just for my books, now I simply load them up and take a few hundred extra "just in case".

Plus, I have a great deal of experience with the millennial generation on both a scholarly and personal level. As a skateboarder and gamer I rub elbows with them all the time, as a professor and librarian I find their culture fascinating, as they are the first generation to not know anything other than the Digital World. My personal, anecdotal experience with this generation perfectly fits what the research is telling us. They are uniquely different from us in the way they consume, share, and process information. I do not see their generation having the same emotional connection to books the way previous generations have. Even my avid readers love ebooks for all the obvious reasons.

Don't let some of the early "research" about student preferences for print books over ebooks fool you. All of that research is essentially irrelevant for us a librarians and scholars, because ebooks  are evolving and many of the issues students have identified will be resolved in the next few years.

Trying to argue for the permanence of print books from these early examples would be like someone in the mid-80s arguing that cell phones will never take off. These types of studies and surveys are almost obsolete before they are published, as the tech is evolving so fast that ebooks will continue to offer more services and functionality than we could ever imagine. It will happen at warp speed too.

Think of an ongoing punctuated equilibrium, where instead of having a rapid evolution broken by a period of long stability, major evolutionary changes are happening every six months to a year. Any study of user preferences for print over ebooks cannot be taken seriously for at least the next few years until we can really have an idea of what exactly ebooks will be. So don't be lulled into a sense of comfort by many of these early studies or early pilots coming out of universities.

The data has little value to anyone except the people designing ebooks, ereaders, tablets, and apps. Ebooks are pushing print books into a corner towards obsolescence. Print books will become increasingly expensive, less portable, and interactive than their flexible, customizable counterparts.

Finally, I think print books can and will survive to serve special niche markets. The tactile nature of children's books is extremely valuable for toddlers and young children to develop fine motor skills and other skill sets. However, a children's book that is interactive and adjusts itself to each individual child may prove even more valuable. However, board books should continue to survive, as will scholarly books and many hardback books. This is because print books have their own unique human culture unlike ebooks. 

Books as physical objects inadvertently develop personality, have memories and meaning as artifacts and keepsakes, and thus do far more than transfer information. They have been a critical part of human culture and identity. With ebooks we will lose all of this. No one gets sentimental about a file. "Here son, this is grandpa's file of Harry Potter and the Death Hallows. It’s very special." Sounds absurd right? The one thing ebooks probably cannot ever replicate is the emotional connection print books have with human beings.

The title of my website, "the Book, My Friend" is testimony to the deep ties and connections we make with books. We will lose this once digital books take over as the primary source of information in society. Now I don't want to go too far into this, because this concept deserves book length treatment, but what I am seeing and foreseeing is that book culture will die off and become a subculture like horse culture. Horses are no longer a necessary part of society but they continue to thrive and survive because many people love them, thus creating a unique culture. This is one of the options I foresee for print books. Those of us who love them will continue to pass this love to our children and associate and socialize with other like minded people and develop our own culture around print books. Unfortunately, this does indicate some serious economic shifts like less used book stores, and the culture being limited to people with disposable income.

 What do you think about the concept of the “library as place”?

 Well, I think of iTunes and iPods. Apple did not invent the portable, digital music player, they simply marketed it better. "Library as place" seems to be working very well for many libraries. Moreover, the concept is really putting a name to what libraries have already been. I do not like much popular fiction outside of graphic novels and comics, and really do not like the current plague of vampire fiction, but I loved Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. Primarily because so much of the action occurred in beautiful old world libraries. Personally, even though my career is all about technology and ebooks, I still love that version of library as place better than any other. 

I think the concept has gained new meaning because our identities have been challenged as well as our roles and we need to very deliberately and consciously consider our roles and services according to our local demographic and staff abilities. I think the concept is important for today's library, as long as it does not get bogged down by abstractions, but remains rooted in a carefully considered strategic plan. There is a scene from the video "iLibrary" I linked above that does a good job of highlighting this reality. After asking for all his needs at the info desk the student actor walks by a row of empty bookshelves down to the ipads. At my previous institution, I was very careful to craft our image and space with various concepts and deliberate aesthetic choices. We were going for a high tech environment coupled with a youthful motif that reflected our biggest demographics. At the same time, I tried to wed my personal love of the old world effect and the quiet, peaceful study environment. I have a background in construction, so it was easier for us to do, but if you don't have anyone with a design background you will need to contract it out, because establishing that image and identity with your target market can cost a lot of money but is well worth it. Just ask Apple.

 Should videogames be part of an academic library’s collection?

Ok, I need to make a full disclaimer here. I am a gamer, as mentioned above, am collaborating with the president of the National Video Game Association on an article, developed an all night end of the semester gaming party for my previous library, and have worked on game design in my library. With that said, I don't like seeing libraries get into gaming simply because it will drive patronage. That is fine, but what libraries really need to do is explore gaming and its full potential for revolutionizing education and bringing the type of educational experience to students that was previously only available in expensive, elite schools. 

 A couple of years ago some researchers used the Wii to improve medical students performance for a basic surgery. It was a simple enough concept, but it really sparked my imagination as I had just seen the PC game Crysis played at its full capacity and was shocked at the flexibility and recursivity of the game environment. It was totally immersive and had real world physics with an amazing artificial intelligence. So I got involved.

 We were also early ipad adopters and had embedded ipads in a Physician's Assistant Program. Between the ipads and the gaming, I realized that gaming has far more potential for our society than I had ever imagined. The director of the physician's assistant program had told me how much a cadaver cost. We had talked about how difficult it was to teach using just one cadaver for a room full of students, which is why large, expensive universities get one cadaver per student. But they still were limited by the physical nature of the cadaver. If a student missed a lateral incision, or made a mistake, there was no going back. It occurred to us that a virtual cadaver actually had benefits physical ones could not offer.

Anyone who has taught for any length of time knows that a healthy learning environment produces rabbit holes and detours, because a room full of active, engaged minds creates a more collaborative environment where the students ask questions and make connections. A virtual aid would facilitate this better than a physical one because you can go back and start again. Just like a gamer who dies a hundred times before getting it right and defeating the Boss. Gaming would allow our students to replicate the gamers learning where gamers achieve far more than proficiency, they achieve mastery.

As I read about Playstation Move and Microsoft Kinect, it occurred to me that an educational revolution was possible where students could learn in real time as their ideas actually happen while exploring a subject in the classroom, and it could be more finely tuned to a student's personal needs and interests than any other educational platform or curriculum.

Imagine virtually dissecting a cadaver and being able to go back, zoom from the epithelial layer directly into a molecular model, switch over to chemistry or even the sub atomic aspects of the same body part and thenreturn back to the basic dissection all in five minutes. Video games can and should revolutionize education in a way that just about nothing ever has. They are more affordable and more flexible than anything else out there.

Before Playstation began suing PS3 modders, a student and I had modded one, installed Windows 7, and were working on simple anatomy models. Our initial findings were incredible. The graphics processor of the PS3 and the interface were unlike anything we had ever experienced. The implications were overwhelming.  Which is why video games will be in libraries eventually. No other device has the graphics processor, and immersive user interface, or cost effectiveness that will allow us to immerse our students in their subject matter and improve learning. Forget etextbooks. Video games shouldbe replacing textbooks in the next 10 years. Gaming can flatten learning and increase absorption and retention, because we can take advantage of the same things that we currently see as one of the negative effects of video games.

In the discussion over gaming and violence , much has been made of the deeply immersive nature of video games. Unlike movie violence and any other entertainment medium, games offer a level of immersion that replicates the real world in ways previously undreamed. Gamers get sucked into their environment and replay a situation over and over until they achieve mastery. If the Air Force can teach pilots to fly multimillion dollar vehicles in planes, I see no reason why educators cannot use games to teach just about every subject imaginable, and even incorporate testing into them- because a game is really just an extended test! You keep proving yourself over and over, essentially getting tested constantly. Take a moment and appreciate the irony. The video game industry has basically tricked their audience into one long test! I could go on and on forever about how video games are the single best format for multiple functions and goals of education, because the past three years have been revolutionary for me.

We use books, videos, labs, computers and more to serve our students and improve the quality of education. Video games do it all, and do it better because of the nature of their design and function. Pedagogically, I see video games as a far better tool for attaining the goals of  education, raising retention, and flattening the gap between wealthy and poor. So I think every library should be exploring gaming now rather than later, so they can be prepared for the revolution that I see coming. I know this doesn't directly answer the question, but I don't think it can be directly answered, and needs to be understood from this perspective of gaming's potential to revolutionize education by giving every student a chance for as fully immersive an education as possible.

How your library explores gaming is up to you, but you should have some people who are interested and should have more than just an abstract knowledge, but have actual experience with the platforms and interfaces available. Because it is very possible that video games will be part of your scholarly collection.

Please discuss your thoughts on Library outreach.

On a personal level, I love outreach and have approached it from an organic perspective. I believe, as I am sure you can infer from some of my other answers, that libraries need to redraft their image and the best way to do that is through relationships. All of the other marketing is great, but if you look at the behavior of our students, all of their activities, texting, Facebook, etc is about personal interaction.

I like the idea of having an official Outreach Librarian, but many libraries cannot afford that. I encouraged all my librarians to get involved in campus life- on the clock. For example, I was the advisor for the Skate and Snow club, the Gaming club, and the Native American Club, and received permission from my dean to participate in events on the clock. I did for the first two years, until I felt that the benefits of getting out and being familiar with the students had been achieved. 

I stopped skateboarding on the clock after about 18 months, but still did the all night gaming party on the clock, and generally gamed most of the night with the students. Incidentally, I set an all school record on Kinder der Toten Zombie mode last June… But more importantly, I cannot overemphasize the value of this type of outreach. 

There are a lot of stereotypes about librarians, and a lot of research that demonstrates students tend to trust and approach familiar people rather than strangers even if those strangers are experts. So I allowed my librarians to get involved with student life and do various activities on the clock, because the return on that investment was invaluable.

This is not too radical, because many librarians develop friendships with students and are encouraged to foster those relationships. Typically, these are our bibliographic and reference librarians. But I let anyone leave the office and library and get involved where their personal interests and personalities fit.

An anecdote probably best illustrates my vision of outreach. I collaborated with Student Life both in my role as a librarian and as the advisor to the skate club to get a small halfpipe on campus, which proved very popular.

A couple of weeks later a student I had never seen walked through my door and said he had been told by some students at Student Life that I was the guy to talk to if he wanted to get something big and unusual done on campus. 

His idea was to get a disc golf course installed on campus, because we have about 10 acres of unused land that just sits. I knew relatively nothing about disc golf at the time, but we did some research and walked out a potential course and I said I would help him. So we turned it into an internship, and I guided him throughout the research process of getting data and stats to present to the school as well as pricing etc (yes, he did learn some library skills along the way!).

About three months later we had our proposal and it was accepted. A month later the course was installed, and has been the most popular and successful student focused initiative ever. Surveys have shown that much of our new students enrolled because of the course. We founded a disc golf club and all of the student involved are library patrons who would not have been library patrons otherwise. But because they see that I take them seriously their level, they trust me, and along the way I teach them information literacy, business skills, landscape design or whatever I can find that relates to their particular interests.

This relates to the first questions as well about getting unusual things done that the community may not want to see happen. It would be nice if I could say that there was no opposition to the disc golf course going in, but such was not the case.  There was in fact a lot of opposition in some very critical positions. In fact, we would not have been able to do it through Student Life because of the opposition of a key figure who had lots of authority, but I had learned enough about the way Student Life functioned to carefully steer my student proxy and intern away from the official channels and towards Student Voice, which entailed getting far more people to agree and vote yes, but offered a far higher chance of success as I knew most of the council members fairly well.

I had built enough of the critical relationships and trust that I could combine with a good understanding of how our institution worked to negate the biggest challenges and make it happen. It was also important to have all the other critical players lined up in support beforehand, so we were able to make it happen and happen fast. Finally, the success of the project was so overwhelming that no one doubts it anymore, and the library gets most of the credit, which came in useful for the next out of the box project.

So I am a big believer in student-centered outreach that is organic and homegrown. Some of my thinking behind this is purely practical.

My library, like many libraries, faced a shrinking budget and staff. It was difficult to see shifting resources into outreach that had minimal return. So I wanted my staff to be involved in activities and outreach that would have a higher return for the time invested. 

We let the students tell us where to invest, both in person and through research on their behavior. We looked at the clubs that had the highest enrollment and activity and developed individual relationships as windows into broader student population. In addition we pursued more innovative marketing.

Rather than spending lots of money on flyers for a local fundraiser at Wahoo's Fish Tacos (a very popular destination with the demographic), I instituted a text bomb marketing strategy. I had every student I knew who was involved or going text 10 of their friends, and ask those friends to text 10 more and so on. Thus, I saved money on marketing, and also used millennial’s inherent trust of known sources to my advantage.

What do you do to create interest in the academic library on campus?

Well, I think I have been answering that in many of the previous questions! We are innovators and early adopters. Whether it is half pipes, disc golf, research, or ipads, we are the first and the best. I have followed the Apple marketing plan and focused on building a specific image and reputation that was within my and my staff's skill set and abilities.

 We are very tech heavy, but some of my staff were unable to keep up so I shifted resources and duties in order to accommodate and never moved faster than we were capable of managing. I offered my staff training and support, discovered that they could use their 12 free credits a year as professional development (on the clock) and supported them as much as possible.

Plus, we left the building and got involved all across campus. For students, we are deeply involved in Student Life activities and support or participate in many events. 

For faculty we attend Senate and department meetings, and work hard at developing relationships. As we became busier and the library seemed like we had reached a critical momentum, we reassessed and shifted our time back into the library because we were getting so busy!

It is a delicate balance between myself and my team communicating evaluating and assessing,but it worked well. Not to say that we did not meet with bumps or failures, but we were able to shift and respond fairly well and continued to build interest and awareness.

We also did some careful analysis of the programs and needs of the campus and found ways to meet those needs. Over the years this too gained its own momentum until the IT director considered us and only us for absorbing the main computer lab when administration decided to allocate the space for something else without having a space for the lab.

When that happened I was able to leverage more wireless access and the best and most robust computer image on campus. We have Adobe CS 5, Arcsoft GIS software, CAD, and a host of other programs and apps many of which have only limited availability elsewhere. 

So there are two approaches to generating interest that I prefer. One could be called the “soft” approach as it involves more subtle aspects like relationship building and projecting a positive can-do attitude.

But this has to be coupled with a “hard” approach like being the first place on campus to adopt new technologies, and offering real services and solutions to student and staff needs. I can say that we definitely achieved this reputation, as we were the first ones contacted about new tech, software, and applications rather than tech services.

I cannot say which approach is more vital, because I think they have a symbiotic relationship that makes them vital for both. For example, I have seen and heard so many testimonials from happy patrons that are based on a relationship developed with a librarian who impressed them with their cutting edge skills.

Over and over I think we see this. As public institutions, it is critical to think about the face and personality we present, because it is that human aspect that will make our patrons feel more comfortable and help them realize that we have a lot more services and opportunities available. But those services need to be there and be functional, practical, and meaningful to them in their immediate life.

For example, I made sure all of my librarians doing bibliographic instruction placed heavy emphasis on the fact that most databases come with copy and paste citations. Our students are too immature, too overwhelmed, or too limited in their tech skills to absorb all the really amazing research capacity of the library, but the immediate value of copy and paste citations captures their attention, portrays the library as a more tech savvy place than they had imagined, and creates an immediate hook that keeps them coming back to the library.

In a similar way we looked at our faculty and asked what it was that they needed. We sat in on department meetings, faculty senate, and realized that they were stretched with their budgets.

So we delegated portions of our budget based on FTE per department and told them we would buy whatever they wanted. Ironically, this was really less of a critical service and not that important except as a marketing tool, because it demonstrated to faculty that we really cared and wanted to support them.

I would say that 80% of the funds we designate remain untouched, but the idea remains invaluable as it caught faculty's attention and communicated our deep commitment to them in hard dollars. Our collection evolved in ways we had never imagined as we ended up with graphing calculators, DSLRs, HD videocameras, wacom tablets, and more oddities we would never have thought of checking out. We even barcoded frisbee golf discs! But it helped shift much of our human capital, which relieved my staff, and aligned our collection more closely to our patrons.

What do you do to foster cooperation between the academic library and the school and public libraries?

 I like staying involved with the state library and other committees across the state. Initially, we had looked at closer relationships with our local libraries, but realized very quickly that we did not have the personnel we needed to make this feasible, so we just follow a more traditional approach.

My doctorate will actually have a bit to say about moving beyond this and using local academic libraries to help school and public libraries. On the ebook format I am also looking at creating a shared server that all institutions can pay very small fees to host their econtent and check it out (bypassing Overdrive and its massive expense). This server would be shared across the state and managed by a coalition of academic, state, and one of the largest public libraries in the state. 

I would love to see more cooperation and partnerships in the future.

 What do you think the library’s role is in relation to online classes?

 We should be embedded in every online class. Texting and chat are just one aspect. Something I think everyone misses is our econtent. We need to develop econtent solutions that are better than the current ones available. 

I was hired at my current job to flesh out some of the things I had started in my previous job surrounding econtent. Libraries really need to own their own content rather than license, and control Digital Rights Management themselves rather than subcontracting this out. 

I know many of you reading this are saying that’s not possible, but I have developed a model and that is what I will be doing over the next year. Follow my blog on my website to hear more, or read my chapter in the second edition of No Shelf Required, which comes out this Fall. 

Basically, we need to figure out the next level of our involvement in online classes, as much learning seems to be moving that way.

How would you utilize the iPad2 or other tablet computers within the library?

 Go watch iLibrary again to get a multimedia answer. But we need to do more than circulate iPads. We need to develop apps and take advantage of the incredible content management options available through ipads. One of my workstudy assistants, the same one who helped me mod the PS3, developed an app that did the same thing Overdrive Media does, but allowed us to manage the content and attach the DRM. The ipads is so easy to develop apps for that the possibilities of service are almost unlimited. 

The one hitch is Apple’s management through iTunes, but it seems that iTunes is working on some kind of institutional version, as they realize they can’t keep selling the devices to institutions and expect us to stay happy with the clunky and inefficient approach they are currently asking us to use. But an iPad has replaced multiple devices in our library: laptops, digital cameras, flip cameras, graphing calculators, and will eventually stream or check out movies, music, and books. The possibilities with iPads seems almost unlimited.

What are your views on the future of the academic library?

 We should be able to embed and integrate ourselves more deeply than ever into our institutions and student’s lives if we utilize the advantages and services technology is offering us. Unfortunately, we will lose much of our old identity and find ourselves challenged in many ways, but if we stay nimble and open minded we can do far more than previously conceived.

For example, I created a fully functional recording studio for my previous library. The only requirement was that a student be enrolled in 6 units and give a digital copy of their final creation to the library, which would then archive it or make it available through the OPAC. 

We can create audio books, music and video productions, and even high resolution digital images of three dimensional objects or works of art. The idea being that a library needs to get involved in content production and collaborate with its patrons in the full creation process.

We provide the equipment and know how, they simply have to give us a copy of their material along with the requisite data should we choose to catalog and check out that item. Supporting all the high tech departments through the library makes sense at large universities and smaller schools, because we can create the staffing, spatial arrangements, and the hours of operations that our students really need.

We will have to come up with strategic plans that project 10 years out, but also create room for adjusting to new developments that may change the plan drastically. This requires new skill sets for librarians, and different management styles. I think we need to move towards a flat management structure rather than the traditional vertical structure for a number of reasons. Our profession is too deeply connected to the fast paced world of technology to thrive in a slower vertical management world where everything needs layers of approval and decision making. A lot of the problem is not our ability or willingness, but our management structure’s inability to keep up with the speed of our environment.

Second, and again this is a result of the close ties between the tech world and ours, we need to replicate the success of the tech world by utilizing a crowd sourced approach to our organizations where ideas and innovations can come from anywhere, including student workers. Flat management theory fits this model better than the older, vertical one.

Finally, we are rightly disturbed and scared by the many negative potentials inherent in the revolution we are currently living through. I challenge everyone to think seriously about both the potentially positive and negative impacts of the change we see around us.

Gaming is totally immersive, and we have tended to view that as negative, but it has both negative and positive potential. Our larger, research libraries need to see original, scholarly research as an ongoing and more integral aspect of our duties. We need to be setting up studies and examining how learning happens with digital content and determine if it is different from print learning.

I would like to see more positions being created purely for research and study, because the digitization of information has created a great need for scholars in the field to continue studying and understanding what is happening all around us. This is our field, this is our time. The Academy needs our knowledge and scholarship to inform and guide their decisions and policies for the foreseeable future. Information Literacy is our birthright and we need to rise to the challenge.

For further info or speaking inquiries please contact me through my website:  www.thebookmyfriend.com.  

Editor's note: You can also read more about Joseph Sanchez in Library Journal. 

 

Scott Cohen, Library Director at Jackson State Community College, edits this regular column.
For more information on the column, see
Contributor's Guidelines.

 


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