Future Trends Forum #7 with Deanna Marcum: notes and video

Deanna Marcum was our Future Trends Forum guest on March 21st, and offered excellent thoughts about the evolution of libraries.  Let me summarize the discussion and share the video recording:


We began by discussing the evolution of public library services, inspired by Deborah Fallows’ recent article “The Library Card”.  We noted that Fallows saw libraries providing services in three areas: education, technology, and community, especially in economically damaged cities.  Deanna saw people seeking education in libraries for jobs, parenting, and as citizens, including digital resources.  People find community through a variety of ways, including leisure reading, story hour.  This works for finding new ideas, especially for the independent scholar.  The public library is a community center, in short.

I asked Deanna to describe how academic libraries could differ from public ones, especially in services.  She began by mentioning the historical practice of trying to imitate-Harvard’s libraries, but thinks that’s now behind us.  Collection development isn’t as central, thanks to the digital world and Google.  Local collections for local needs are important.

So how can university libraries differentiate themselves?  Many campuses are now paying more attention to “nontraditional” students, especially adults and online learners.  Therefore there’s a need for very new services, including those aimed at aiding student recruitment, retention, and completion.  These are strategic efforts at the level of an institution.

I pushed back a little, wondering to what extent such new forms of student-serving libraries are redundant to other parts of campus.  Deanna responded by arguing that the campus library is still the best place to introduce students to what’s out there.  Indeed, the library can pair up with other services.  For example, academic advisors need more information about career futures.  Think of this as adding the information piece to other campus services.

Deanna Marcum and Bryan smiling

This brought to my mind the idea of libraries as information entrepreneurs, based on a talk by a leading Chinese research librarian (notes here).  Marcum loves the idea, urging librarians to become part of research teams.  That’s a way of

“going out to find ways to add value…  The days of waiting for people to come in and visit with us… are behind us… Make sure people understand the power of information.  That’s what we offer.”

At this point I shifted the topic to information literacy, wondering about changes in that movement.  Deanna pointed to a then-forthcoming Ithaka S+R study (since released) about faculty attitudes towards information, which identified an increased faculty demand for info lit instruction given by librarians.

This is part of the larger challenge of information overload.  Librarians need to intervene to help students at the right time, as a kind of information entrepreneurship.  Info lit classes are not as useful, which is a controversial opinion.   I mentioned Ann Blair’s great book on historical information overload.

At this point participant questions started appearing.  One question came in from Mark Ulett: “I am curious to know how the open access movement will shift library services especially oriented colleges”.  Marcum replied by mentioning her new project, working with UMUC‘s center for adult and international learning to expand their use of open education resources.  She thinks librarians will be increasingly called on to identify materials to be embedded into learning management systems (LMSes; VLEs in Europe), making them more of a package for coursework.

Q: Keri from Hofstra: “What role do you see libraries taking in the development of new research tools?”

A: Libraries can help develop discipline-specific tools, *if* they are embedded in those fields. That’s what faculty want help with, not generic tools.  Faculty don’t know how to develop those tools, usually, while technically savvy librarians do.  The disciplinary angle is one crucial way for librarians to contribute to the scholarly enterprise.

.Bryan and smiling guest

Deanna and I then stepped off the Shindig stage to goad everyone into mingling.  Some interesting concepts and questions came up.  For instance, Liz Evans wondered about how digital scholarship libraries would work with IT staff when they have similar portfolios.

An unfortunate local tech glitch occurred at this point, which basically cut Deanna out of the discussion.  We kept going by moving on to the session’s second topic, while technologists at two sites worked frantically to bring her back.  her participation sho


Ithaka S+R recently released a survey of campus leaders and their views of education and technology.  I outlined highlights of the results for the audience, then invited questions and responses.

One finding was campus leaders’ preference for adaptive learning over other edutech offerings.  To explain the technology I point to Carnegie-Mellon’s OLI project.  Systematic assessments of student learning came in second:

campus leaders' choices of helpful educational technologies

A second finding concerned attitudes towards free tuition at public institutions, and those attitudes were all over the map, ranging from support to skepticism.

A third area concerned advancing the completion agenda, and respondents settled on two methods: data-enhanced advising and “Guided pathways”.  The latter

is an approach that presents college courses in the context of highly structured, educationally coherent program maps that align with students’ goals for careers and further education, including alignment with articulated transfer pathways between colleges and universities.

3. Q+A

We then moved on to general questions and discussion, which focused on libraries.

David asked about research librarians in terms of dual roles, as information provider versus purchaser.

I answered by mentioning the power of scaling and inter-institutional collaborations, like Hathitrust.

Q: Paul B wondered about makerspaces in libraries?

I responded by describing some academic libraries installing 3d printing and makerspaces and the advantages thereof.

I wrapped up by thanking Deanna and participants for coming, and apologized for technical problems, thanking various tech teams for their hard work.  I added that I saw libraries playing a vital role in helping communities think through their shared futures.

We had some spillover discussion.  Mark Ulett saw contradiction between two different trends.  One the one hand educators would like to get students into careers; on the other hand we believe in maintaining a rich curriculum.  I saw this as reducing versus expanding options.  Mark saw the student body expressing both of these desires, and also driving universities into different profiles.

On reflection, this was the first Forum where we encountered major technical difficulties.  We carried on, though, continuing discussion.  Deanna Marcum was kind enough to agree to a reprise, which will occur on May 5th at 2 pm EST.

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6 Responses to Future Trends Forum #7 with Deanna Marcum: notes and video

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    Glad to see this. I’ve had schedule or technical problems so consistently. Should I start doing Joe Btfsplk checks? Storifying Forums to post the following day is a welcome addition. I’m in catch-up mode now and will try again next week. I’ve been gathering links to organize mostly for my convenience but thinking blog post and a future of education InoReader project as well.

    I’m especially pleased to see the future of libraries mentioned as a community issue. I remember reading about libraries in the Depression and often thought of it seeing the public access computers at the Mountainair community library used to to look for work or training, learn about and apply for benefits, submit applications, etc. Less well supported (hardly at at all) than yours, there are not enough computers. By necessity, time online is limited, especially with the volunteer run library’s limited hours. Access in schools has its own problems. I doubt the situation in underfunded libraries in poor rural communities in unique. Public libraries in low income urban area face similar use demands and access problems. Rural NE Colorado seems to do better than rural NM. Mostly afoot, I’m still getting my bearings with the system here.

    I wonder about the effect of separating college, public school and public libraries — possibly diluting resources in a time of scarceness and leading to competition for resources over cooperation. Especially community college libraries could (and sometimes do) work with public libraries.

    PS surely no surprise but I’d welcome a session on technology and the future of academic labor

    • VanessaVaile says:

      PS 2003 article, “American Public Libraries in the Great Depression” http://www.desertsailor.info/libs/Depression/Index.php

      “The expansion of the American Public Library in the teeth of the Great Depression demonstrates very clearly the importance of the institution to American society. Any institution for which the American populace is willing to tax itself to support occupies an important place in the country. We have seen that while the growth of the public library was not uniform across the country, it was, nonetheless, a nation-wide phenomenon- 48 states started new libraries. We have also seen that while some federal money was involved it was local funds and local initiative that was largely responsible for the new libraries. If Rolla, Missouri is what we might think of as a typical, albeit a little late, development, Fairport Harbor, Ohio has a rather more unusual tale to tell. Given the almost infinite variety in the composition of small town America, such differences are hardly surprising. In any case the Depression years demonstrate yet again the strength of the local public library in American society.”

    • Great thoughts, Vanessa.
      I wonder how we can grow library collaboration across those boundaries. Perhaps as a city/regional level.
      re: academic labor, can you suggest an awesome expert?

      • What a rich and informative piece! This fills in a couple of blank spaces for me.

        Fascinating to see libraries so vital in the most rural areas. That maps onto our present experience.

        PS: “Mary Utopia Rothrock” is the best name ever.

      • VanessaVaile says:

        I agree about local/regional level ~ ALA might have something on this or at least be tracking regional practices.

        about academic labor, I’ve been thinking on that . Most of the labor types are not that up on tech (or in denial). I’d go with Jonathon Rees — he’s critical about the tech but is well informed — has done his homework — and is a labor historian and active AAUP member who worked as an adjunct (8 years I think) before tenure. Off-hand, I don’t know of any labor and technology experts but will poke around to see what turns up. George would be a good one to ask for ideas too.

  2. Pingback: The future of libraries and faculty attitudes towards information: Deanna Marcum returns to the Future Trends Forum | Bryan Alexander

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