Finding Their Way: Electronic Resources Librarians' Education, Training, and Community - Rachel Anne Fleming-May

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Presented at the 2010 Electronic Resources & Libraries Conference. --

Rachel Anne Fleming-May, University of Tennessee; Jill E. Grogg, University of Alabama. --

Abstract: How do electronic resources librarians learn to perform the tasks necessary for their work? This presentation will discuss a recent survey of over 300 academic electronic resources librairans findings of which may improve understanding of workflow issues and ways to improve LIS education for prospective entrants into this relatively new -- but steadily growing -- area of librarianship.

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  • Note to Rachel: The text below is just a reminder to myself of generally what I want to say.Library schools and others may ask whether or not er librarianship isn’t just another passing trend. A recent article addresses this concern.While it is true that the ER librarian position has become critical in academic libraries over the pass 15 years, it is still in question as to whether or not the position is transitory. Has it developed the type of consistency in expertise needed to become a true subspecialty? The authors use H.G. Wells’ definition of consistency – four factors that determine whether or not a trend is passing or permanent: Economic, political, social and technological.The authors look at recent position descriptions and determine that these position advertisements document that core characteristics have developed long-term consistency. However, the jurisdiction of foundation responsibilities such as license negotiation as well as the ER librarian’s role within the organization are still to be determined.
  • Albitz and Shelburne updated and expanded Albitz’s 2002 study in a 2007 article that appeared in Collection Management. In this article, they examined three recent articles that examined job postings for positions in er management.
  • Finding Their Way: Electronic Resources Librarians' Education, Training, and Community - Rachel Anne Fleming-May

    1. 1. Finding Their Way: Electronic Resources Librarians’ Education, Training, and CommunityRachel A. Fleming-May, Jill E. Grogg, Associate Professor andAssistant Professor Electronic Resources Librarian,School of Information Sciences, The University of AlabamaThe University of Tennessee
    2. 2. E-Resource Expenditures• “Between 1994/95 and 2001/02, expenditures on electronic resources for the typical university research library have grown almost 400% to almost $1.4M.”• “Electronic journals now account for 26% of a librarys overall serials expenditures…” 9
    3. 3. 2004-2008Year Number Average Average Total E-Serial of E-Serial Materials Expenditure/Total Libraries Expenditure Expenditure Materials Expenditure2004 110 $2450920 $8983972 27.28%2005 107 $30379182006 109 $35434492008 111 $5031412 $11368091 44.26%
    4. 4. Is the ER Librarian a passing trend?“New professions develop when a disturbance causes the authority in a specific area to become obsolete or replaced by the need for new expertise. As the professions or sub-specialties develop their expertise in order to respond to the disturbance, the area develops a consistency in its skills and role and balance are restored.”1
    5. 5. Position Announcement Analysis: 2002• Between 1996 and 2001, 101 e-resource positions were advertised in College & Research Libraries News2• Between 2002 and 2006, 122 such advertisements appeared
    6. 6. Preferred Job Skills• Position announcements combined more “traditional” tasks from public and technical service areas: – Reference and bibliographic instruction – Resource evaluation – Cataloging – Online searching – Acquisitions2,3
    7. 7. Preferred Job Skills• Position announcements also included relatively “new” skills: – License negotiation – Technical integration of disparate e-resources2
    8. 8. Experienced Required• 81% of announcements analyzed by Albitz required no (40%) or between one and three (41%) years of experience• This indicates employers are expecting LIS programs or on-the-job training to contribute to preparing e-resource librarians2
    9. 9. Position Announcement Analysis: 2007• Advertised responsibilities for e-resources positions are amorphous at best• List of responsibilities beyond the capacity of one individual• “Kitchen sink” positions – positions only a “superhuman could perform successfully” 4
    10. 10. Preferred Job Skills• Public services responsibilities diminished (no more reference, bibliographic instruction)• “ER coordination”• Acquisitions, renewals, and cancellations• License and pricing negotiations• Troubleshooting technical problems• Completely new to 2007 study: Link resolvers, federated search, trials, usage data4• Increased participation in consortia requires unique set of skills5
    11. 11. Previous experience of current ER librarians• E-Resource Librarians enter positions with little or no experience with ER management• Many internal candidates from reference/bibliography, serials, acquisitions, collection development, etc.• Reassignment of current duties – reallocation used to address need for ER management4
    12. 12. A Student’s Voice“First, ask yourself if you are suited to this kind of work … a happy, effective electronic resources librarian must enjoy puzzles and must not get frustrated by problems that do not stay fixed. You will have to accept the fact that many of your colleagues may not completely understand what exactly it is that you do or how you do it.”6
    13. 13. Requisite Skills(ranked by total # of appearances in 100 job ads)1. Web-mastering 7. Programming2. Cataloging 8. ER Knowledge3. ILS 9. Licensing4. ER Management 10. Acquisitions5. Instruction 11. Hardware admin6. Supervision 12. Reference7
    14. 14. What are library schools doing?• Of top 12 skills most often listed in 100 job ads: – Cataloging, acquisitions, knowledge of ER, and supervision covered on average in three to five courses per program – ILS, hardware, programming, reference, instruction, and Web-mastering covered in two courses per program – ER management and licensing appear in one or no courses per program7
    15. 15. An Adjunct’s Voice“How have library faculty changed?“Library faculty also encourage a broader view of classes and experience among students. They still do not read as broadly as they should, focusing on a narrow set of ‘classics’, but they are more open to works in the social sciences …”8
    16. 16. Our Survey:• Email to lists for electronic resources librarians• Vague description in email (to limit self-selection)• Asked about – Duties, responsibilities, and specific tasks associated with position – How well prepared by MLIS program to execute specific job successfully – Source of skills for accomplishing job (MLIS program or elsewhere).
    17. 17. Our Respondents… “How many long have you worked• 338 Respondents in your current – Variety of [electronic resources] • levels of position? experience • years since 14% acquiring MLIS 7% – Variety of position titles and 49% responsibilities 30% 0-3 years un/related to 4-7 years Electronic Resources 0-3 years 4-7 years 8-11 years 12+ years
    18. 18. …AND WHAT WE ASKED THEMABOUT (IN A NUTSHELL):• Specific tasks for which they had responsibility• Where they learned how to accomplish those tasks Emphasis on M.L.I.S. education
    19. 19. Tasks: Acquisition and Renewal of Electronic Resources
    20. 20. Tasks: Technical Issues/Maintenance
    21. 21. Tasks: Planning/Publicizing/Evaluating Electronic Resources
    22. 22. Tasks: Training/Personnel Management
    23. 23. Tasks: Unrelated to Electronic Resources
    24. 24. WHEW!Where’d they learn how to do all that stuff?Their M.L.I.S. programs must’ve been prettygood…
    25. 25. Where did you learn the skills necessary… …or not. Only 14.6% told us that they learned about e- resources management in the M.L.I.S. course of study…only 2% (5 people) in a course specifically about e- resources.
    26. 26. HOW WELL DID YOUR MLIS PROGRAMPREPARE YOU TO ACCOMPLISH TASKSRELATED TO…Well, they must’ve learned how to doperform some of the tasks of an electronicresources librarian, right?
    27. 27. ≤13% felt their M.L.I.S. program prepared them “somewhat well or extremely well” to accomplish each task.Acquisition and Renewal of Electronic Resources
    28. 28. M.L.I.S. Programs fared a little better in cataloging and metadata preparation…Technical andMaintenance Issues
    29. 29. Planning, Publicizing, and Evaluating Electronic Resources Why are so many electronic resources librarians not involved in IR initiatives/planning (34%) and Scholarly Communications Initiatives (35%)?
    30. 30. Training and PersonnelManagement Respondents even rated M.L.I.S. preparation poorly in “traditional” areas of librarianship
    31. 31. WELL, BUT LIBRARIANSHIP HASCHANGED OVER THE YEARS, AND 41%OF RESPONDENTS FINISHED THEIRMASTER’S 12 YEARS AGO (OR MORE).Surely education is more reflective of theresponsibilities of this type of position now….
    32. 32. Surprisingly, recent graduates M.L.I.S. M.L.I.S.program, electronic didn’t report receiving program, electronic resources appreciably better training resources part of management- during the course of the MLIS. curriculum specific course 6% 1% Informal consultation/querying of/discussion with colleagues at other institutions (listservs, etc.) On the job training, in 25% house 17%Where did you learn theskills necessary…(M.L.I.S. On the jobCompleted within 7 years) training, outsourced 7% Books and Journals 22% Conferences and workshops, off-site 22%
    33. 33. Where are they On their own andlearning this stuff? from each other.
    34. 34. Really??Yes. Specifically, through• Informal consultation/querying of/discussion with colleagues at other institutions: 87.8% (223)• Conferences and workshops away from home institution: 76.8% (189)• Consultation of books and journals 74.4% (189)…with a little help from their employers:• On the job training provided by employer , in house: 46.5% (118)• …outsourced instructor: 25.2% (64)
    35. 35. SO, WHAT CAN BE DONE?
    36. 36. 2007 CM Article: Recommendations• Internships/practica• Independent studies• Taking classes in other departments (business schools, etc.)• “Issues in” courses taught by practitioners• Continuing education courses7 Four of these require a commitment from current ER professionals
    37. 37. Our Recommendations:• Lobby LIS education to improve preparation through coursework and practical experiences• Lobby ALA to bridge education-practice gap (where are ER skills in the Core Competences?)• Regular faculty not adjunct (economic situation)
    38. 38. A Professional’s Voice“No one person can know, understand, or keep track of all the intricacies of ER librarianship as they evolve, which makes the development of consistent, systematic, broadly available training opportunities critical.” 4
    39. 39. Questions?Rachel Fleming-May, Assistant Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee, rfmay@utk.eduJill E. Grogg, Electronic Resources Librarian, University of Alabama, jgrogg@ua.edu
    40. 40. Bibliography1. Downes, K.A. & P.V. Rao. (2007). “Preferred Political, Social, and Technological Characteristics of Electronic Resources Librarians.” Collection Management 32(1/2), 3-14.2. Albitz, R.S. (2002). “Electronic Resources Librarians in Academic Libraries: A Position Announcement Analysis, 1996-2001.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 2(4), 589-600.3. Fisher, W. (2003). “The ER Librarian Position: A Public Services Phenomenon?” Library Collections, Acquisitions & Technical Services 27(11).4. Albitz, R.S. & W.A. Shelburne. (2007). “Marian Through the Looking Glass: The Unique Evolution of the Electronic Resources Librarian Position.” Collection Management 32, (1/2), 15-30.5. Clement, S. (2007). “Skills for Effective Participation in Consortia.” Collection Management 32, (1/2), 191-204.6. Zuniga, H. (2008). “A Student’s Voice.” Colorado Libraries 34(3), 55-56.7. Bradford, M.L. et al. (2007). “Education and Electronic Resources Librarianship.” Collection Management 32, (1/2), 49-69.8. Weir, R.O. (2008). “A Look at Today’s Library Students and Faculty: IU.” Indiana Libraries 27(2), 83-85.9. Case, M.M. (2004). “A Snapshot in Time: ARL Libraries and Electronic Journal Resources.” ARL Newsletters (235), 88.

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