Thursday, June 27, 2013


(RIP, Alan Myers)

The library where I work isn't for a shrinking class of full-time, tenure-track faculty. They make up about a fifth of our total faculty. It's not for a bloated class of administrators who never set foot in the building, and don't use the website. They also do things like this, ignoring how people on campus behave.
Many academic libraries are playing a game that’s rigged. We may as well focus on what we do best, and that includes student services, whether they are appreciated or not. As a librarian and an administrator, if my library is going down regardless, it’s going to do so on my terms. The primary focus of this library, and, I suspect, most academic libraries, isn't faculty, or administrators. It's students. (Source is the first link above)
And so here we are, with some data on how students view the library. 

Ahh, but what does it mean?

This data comes from our senior exit survey, encompassing 2011, I became director that March, to the most recent graduating class. I see a few trends, mostly positive. 
  • I told our provost that I wasn't sure it was worth it to sell library services to the ten percent of graduating seniors who had negative experiences with the library, and she agreed. And yet, the percentage of students who report such experiences has been cut in half. 
  • The number of students reporting some kind of satisfaction with library services has remained steady over the last three years at about sixty-five percent, well within the margin of error (which is +/- 4% based on participation rates). But this year, a lot more people loved us, which is nice. We're just hitting our stride (/knocks on wood).
  • There's an apathetic "middle" out there that we, the library staff need to reach, and it's growing. Hopefully some of the negatives ended up here, and we can work on converting them to satisfied students. This group is an opportunity, but we can't afford to lose them, either. 
  • The existence of "NA" category means that faculty needs to do a better job of funneling students to the library. Every year I see at least one student who has used the library for the first time in April of their senior year and I die a little bit inside.

I now open the floor to alternative interpretations. How do you, fellow librarians, collect data like this, and what do you do with it? 

I leave you with my CSS skills. 

Very SatisfiedModerately SatisfiedNeutralModerately DissatisfiedVery DissatisfiedN/A

Monday, June 17, 2013

"That's So MPOW!" (My Place of Work)

See this?

It's a fence. Not a large one. And it's blocking sprouting grass that used to be a path that connects a parking lot to one of our largest, busiest buildings. There was a folk theorem at play here. People created that path because they didn't like the alternative, because creating that path was more convenient. And my place of work's response was to plant some grass and throw up a fence. How's that for user experience? For dismissing local knowledge, metis?

I checked with our facilities department just to make sure, and they say this project is done. There's maybe fifteen feet of fence. It's not terribly attractive, but it's one way to solve a problem. It's not the way I would have done it. It's a cheap way to impose rationality. And it makes me wonder if I, as a librarian, am doing anything like this in the library. Or on the library website. Metaphors!

I hope this is not the first in a series of related posts, but it's also not the first time I've noticed the administration ignoring something that's potentially relevant, and it won't be the last.
Both the Director and the Provost are concerned that a patron would go into staff space for a chair, move it, and not replace it. I share this concern, but I have a different take. I think the patron just voted, just told us that our furniture, which does tend to move about at times (and is usually replaced), is not up to snuff. That someone would take a staff chair through three rooms, over 80 feet... that, to me, is a data point. It says something.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

SAVOR-Y, 2013 Edition

That song never gets old.

Thanks to the Craft Brewers Conference, SAVOR, an annual festival that pairs American-made craft beer with food, has moved to New York City, where it's having a bit of trouble selling out. So a colleague and I decided to have some fun over at, letting New York know that the District appreciates good beer, and that we brew our own.
many breweries... claim to be in New York City, but brew elsewhere. Brooklyn Lager and other flagships? Utica, New York, home of the steamed ham. Sixpoint’s cans? Scranton, Pennsylvania (see below). Bronx Brewery’s many pale ales? Pawcatuk, Connecticut. The only major New York City brewery that doesn’t do some contracting is Kelso, which has enough capacity that it has contract brewed for Sixpoint. Take a bow.
Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery's brewmaster, even took time to comment on the post, and we had a good chat.

We also posted the consensus top 25 beers of SAVOR. It's hard to pick just 25, but there was a fair amount of overlap between our choices. Here are my 25, in alphabetical order. Compare with DCBeer's.
Allagash FV13, American Wild Ale - Just an excellent sour beer.  
Avery Odio Equum, American Wild Ale - Just an excellent extremely sour beer.
Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA  - The best IPA in America, spicier! 
Bayou Teche Cocodrie, IPA  - This brewery has done some interesting stuff, so it's telling that they waited this long before doing an IPA. Come see how they did. 
Bell's Black Note, Imperial Stout - This beer is highly-sought after, for good reason. You could drink a lot of this beer. You shouldn't, but you could. 
Bell's Raspberry Wild One, American wild ale - A little tart, a little funky.

Bull & Bush Brewery Tunip the Beets, Field Beer  - I might want 2 oz of this, which is what SAVOR is for. 
Boulevard Saison Brett - Perhaps the best example of this style.
Crooked Stave Surrette, Saison - Well, maybe this one. 
Yazoo Brett Saison - Or this one.
Choc Brewing Signature Gose - Choc is single-handedly responsible for resurrecting grazter, a smokey, hoppy, Prussian wheat beer. They found a recipe, found the yeast from a Polish homebrewer, the smoked malt from a German producer, and brought it back from extinction. Their gose will be similarly authentic.
Full Sail LTD Bohemian Pilsner
Firestone Walker Pivo Pilsner - Not one, but two breweries are bringing Czech-style pilsners. Fans of American IPAs may be pleased with the hop bite these two bring.
Hops & Grain Brewing Bourbon Barrel aged ALTeration - A barrel-aged alt? 'Murica!
Kane Bourbon Barrel Aged Solitude, Belgian-style dark ale - Kane is new to NJ and they're bringing out the big guns at SAVOR with this beer. 
Lost Abbey Deliverance, American strong ale - "A blend of bourbon barrel-aged Serpent’s Stout and brandy barrel-aged Angels Share." I think there's going to be a line at this table. 
Lost Abbey Saints Devotion, Belgian pale ale - The reason people geek out over this brewery is because of beers like this.
Schalfly Kolsch - I'll put this here every year. Also, it's now available for purchase in NY. 
Schalfly Single Malt Scottish Style Ale - Beer that tastes like scotch, and beer. It's so good I devoted an entire post to it. 
Shorts Goodnight Bodacious, Imperial American Black Ale - It's from Shorts, so you'll know you'll want 2 oz of it.
Spring House Brewing Co. Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout - Dessert is served!
Starr Hill Monticello Reserve Ale, wheat beer - A little bit of history in a glass, brewed using Thomas Jefferson's "recipe." 
Three Floyds Zombie Dust, Pale Ale - It's in your head, it's in your heaaaad, citra, citra, citra-a-a-a!
Three Floyds Tiberian Inquisitor, Belgian-style pale ale - Aged in Chardonnay barrels, this one could be a keeper from a brewery that know what they're doing.
Yazoo Embrace the Funk Series “Wild Child,” Smoked Porter - This is a collaboration with a beer blogger, which is every beer blogger's dream.
In addition, SAVOR bills itself as "an American food and beer experience." We thought these pairings would hit the mark. Personally speaking, here's what I went with, in no particular order.
Founders Brewing Company Rubaeus  • Table Group 5
Paired with Shortbread Biscuit with Stilton and Pear  
Denver Beer Co. Rauchbier  • Table Group 8&
Paired with Eggplant Caponata on an Olive Oil Financier  
Terrapin Beer Company Side Project 19 Mosaic • Table Group 2
Paired with Bitter Chocolate Bon Bon with Passion Fruit and Mesquite Salt  
Santa Fe Brewing Company Freestyle Pilsner  • Table Group 3
Paired with Tomato Rasam (Southern Indian Stew) with Coriander and Cumin over Lentils  
Willoughby Brewing Company Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter  • Table Group 12
Paired with Black and Tan Brownie with Butterscotch and Pretzel Bite  
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company Smoked Porter  • Table Group 6
Paired with Pulled Chicken Taco with Black Mole

The Bruery Sans Pagaie  • Table Group 1
Paired with Tart Apple and Brie in Puff Pastry  
Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops  • Supporter Circle
Paired with Chicken Liver and Chocolate  
Cigar City Brewing Jose Marti  • Table Group 12
Paired with Glazed Short Rib of Beef with Soft Polenta and Crispy Leeks  
Burnside Brewing Company Sweet Heat  • Table Group 11
Paired with Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Corn, Sweet Pepper and Citrus  
Bonus pairing! 
Upland Brewing Company Dantalion Dark Wild Ale  • Table Group 10
Paired with Demisphere of Grape Wrapped in Goat Cheese and Pistachio
A full list of beers and beer pairings is here. Check back next week to see how we did.


In older SAVOR news:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in the Academic Library

Fully 91% of Americans ages 16 and older say public libraries are important to their communities; and 76% say libraries are important to them and their families. And libraries are touchpoints in their communities for the vast majority of Americans: 84% of Americans ages 16 and older have been to a library or bookmobile at some point in their lives and 77% say they remember someone else in their family using public libraries as they were growing up. 
Still, just 22% say that they know all or most of the services their libraries offer now. Another 46% say they know some of what their libraries offer and 31% said they know not much or nothing at all of what their libraries offer. (Library Services in the Digital Age, Pew Research Center)
Ahh, libraries. Never more important, and never more irrelevant. One could be forgiven for thinking that along with declining budgets, libraries themselves, as a concept, are in decline. When faced with this perception, or perhaps the reality, librarians have three options: exit, voice, and loyalty.

Exit means leaving the profession, as at least one librarian has done rather vocally in the last week. Others are thinking about it. The specific reasons for exiting are varied, but stem from dissatisfaction. Exit need not be physical; plenty of people mentally exit their jobs.

Voice means the airing of grievances, and I suspect the majority of librarians fall into this ideal type; seeking to improve libraries and working conditions by speaking up in a variety of media.

Loyalty is the action and behavior of those relatively satisfied with their organizations. We rarely hear from them, and as a result tend to discount their numbers.

Voice takes many forms, but a recent meme is to decry the death and decline of libraries at some future date thanks to current events. Enter the "academic library at risk."

Armed with horrific data about what faculty think of us, never mind that 76% of faculty are adjuncts whose own livelihood is far more tenuous than any academic library's, the "academic library at risk" trope is for the most part unhelpful because it offers alarmist rhetoric without any solutions. To wit:
We will not survive by focusing on what we think our patrons need and ought to want, in contradiction to what our patrons say and believe they need and want. We will not survive by trying to convince them to want what we provide, but only by changing and coming up with new provisions that excite and delight them.
We need to change. We need to provide new and different services. We need to preserve some services, but significantly change the manner in which they are delivered.
And yes, that means we need to reduce and eliminate other services too. Change is hard. Yes, there are still some staff and patrons who are used to and rely on the services we’ve got now exactly how we deliver them now, and are going to be disrupted and upset by change.
Okay, so I'm cheating, because all those three quotes are from the same article. And to be fair, alarmist rhetoric is not without value. And unlike many other articles I will not link to, these are worth reading. But at what point is an academic institution going to forgo a library? When will it happen, and will it happen because the library becomes nothing more than a website with databases and a discovery service? Who among institutions of higher education is "disruptive" enough to do something truly daring and close a library?

How important are libraries? So important that as soon as opposition occupies physical space, it attempts to build one, as evidenced by recent actions in Turkey as well as the Occupy Wall Street movement. So important that 91% (!) of Americans ages 16 and older say public libraries are important to their communities. And yet, at the same time, not important enough to fully fund. Not important enough to keep people from exiting for monetary reasons.

Focusing on a decreasing percentage of tenure-track and/or full-time faculty to show an academic library's worth and to obtain funding is a fool’s errand. Budget cuts are coming regardless, and have been for some time; appealing to this shrinking group won’t be a bulwark against cuts.

Rather, these cuts originate in state and local governments, and the rise of a bloated administrative class of higher education professionals whose populations sometimes exceed the number of full-time/tenure-track professors, as is the case in the University of California system. It is telling that even climate change denier George Will recognizes this latter point. There are three ways to get tenure: teach, research, and administrate. We can infer from the rise of Massive Open Online Courses, MOOCs, who is in charge and what they think of teaching.

Many academic libraries are playing a game that’s rigged. We may as well focus on what we do best, and that includes student services, whether they are appreciated or not. As a librarian and an administrator, if my library is going down regardless, it’s going to do so on my terms. The primary focus of this library, and, I suspect, most academic libraries, isn't faculty, or administrators. It's students. So I'm concerned that 18% of faculty agree with the statement "Because scholarly material is available electronically, colleges and universities should redirect the money spent on library buildings and staff to other needs," up from 8% in 2006 (Source is figure 44 below), but I'd be a lot more concerned if they came from the people who use our library the most, students.

Download Report

What else do we do best? We have values. We don't give your data away, we don't violate your privacy, and most of us will politely chuckle when you make a Dewey Decimal System joke. We are a "third place," and that includes a place for faculty. And yes, we're more than "just books."

I won’t give up on outreach to administration or faculty; I will continue to use the language of institutional mission statements and strategic planning and to collect and present data that shows what we do and how we add value, and values, but how we go about earning that data is going to be on our terms, not theirs.