Open Access

This is one of my priorities–getting the word out that Open Access is what libraries are all about, especially libraries at land grant universities. What is OA? To me it means unrestrained public access to information, period. Peter Suber, Steven Harnad, and others have much more eloquently defined it already.

Today the Chronicle announced “With New Agreement, MLA Journals Shift Copyright to Authors” with a link to “MLA Journals Adopt New Open-Access-Friendly Author Agreements.” Both are very brief notices. I guess there isn’t much that needs to be said. Perhaps they are waiting to see how the world responds.

I’m especially excited because of my work with ETDs (Electronic Theses and Dissertations). There have been flurries of discussion on ETD-L about creative writing theses (only since 2006? Curious, since ETDs have been around for nearly two decades. I better check my search strategy.)

Virginia Tech doesn’t have an OA policy, nor does the library. But not many universities do. There are a variety of reasons. Academics don’t like to be told what to do, so even when they believe in it they don’t want to be required to deposit their works in the university’s OA repository. Many of the pre-tenure academics just want to get published–in a prestigious journals would be best so OA is not a major consideration.

Like recycling or not wasting natural resources, there needs to be a bigger campaign for OA awareness. One resource to promote is Beall’s List of Predatory, Open-Access Publishers. See Carl Elliott’s article in the Chronicle about it.


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Getting Ready To Blog

I started this blog because it seemed like every class in my life last semester had some sort of requirement about it.  Now, with no assignments, I found my voice was gone.  Do I really have nothing to say?

Um, have you met me?

A month from now, insha’Allah, I will be in Beirut on a Lebanon Summer Fellowship  (cultural immersion/travel) sponsored by the National Council on US-Arab Relations.  My goal is to blog the entirety of the trip, from the pre-planning through my year following my return.  Part of the fellowship is that we share the knowledge we gain over our 10 days in Lebanon with our communities.  Well, with a blog, my community is anyone.

A few comments.  VT’s WordPress site does not work well on the iPad.  Creating links is a nightmare.  Edits are equally problematic.  I am using a Logitech keyboard I just got off Amazon to update this, and so far I really like it.

It is my goal to be constantly blogging and updating Twitter while I’m there.  Follow my hashtags on Twitter (#lebanon2012, #LSF2012) to keep up with me in real-ish time.

To be 100% honest, though, I may have to migrate to official WordPress if this is going to work.  This lack of editing could be a problem.

Tim Berners-Lee’s 1994 “The World Wide Web”

What a coincidence! I’m reading about the Web’s early availability at the same time that I’m preparing a 5-minute history of my department, the Digital Library and Archives. To make by brief presentation (for the library’s In Service Day) interesting I decided to go to the Wayback Machine and capture screen shots to show DLA’s evolution from the Scholarly Communications Project.

The first Web page in the Internet Archive is from Oct. 18, 1996. Man, is it ugly! But I was so proud. James Powell, the library programmer and sys admin, had designed the logo with its not-so-subtle message that through (personal, though indirect) interaction we could provide missing information. He showed me the few HTML tags I needed to create our web pages, including tables, and imbed images. What a coup!

Before there was the Web, however, there was the Gopher. I tracked down some early stats and was surprised to see that we already had 5 ejournals on the Gopher that we migrated to the Web in 1994.

It’s interesting to be reading Berners-Lee as he describes what the W3 can do–what we have taken for granted for quite some time, like URIs and client-server architecture. While he had a concept of how W3 could scale, I was wearing blinders–knowing intellectually what could be done, the vast interlinkages possible, but not really comprehending that one day I’d be responsible for hundreds of thousands of DLA’s Web pages.

[gotta run to the library reading group re lib pub strategies w/Julie Speer, but at this point in the reading [p.794], it doesn’t seem like TB-L addresses preservation or archiving the Web]

Being Faculty

So the first week of the semester in PFP, we had to quickly write down what we thought it meant to be a faculty member.  Looking back at it, I must have really been in a bad mood:

A faculty member at a college or university is a person who wears many hats.  Through the course of your day, you are a teacher, an advisor, a committee member, a researcher… just to name a few.  A faculty member is someone who better have a pretty strong ability to balance multiple projects at once.  It is not a 9-5 job—some days you work from sun-up to sundown.  Summers aren’t “Free Time” like so many non-academics believe.  Every vacation ends up involving your research at some point.  Being a faculty member means not seeing your family from Thanksgiving to Christmas, even if you’re actually home every night.  It’s constant, lifelong learning.  It’s never quite growing up—you’re always around young people, and your job still involves going to school every day (and being excited about snow days, in spite of what you may tell your students).  It’s fighting with the administration for your students, knowing that gaining opportunities, funding, and time for your own students may end up being detrimental to other departments (and feeling incredibly guilty about that—usually).  It is fighting with sports for the “real” reason students should be at college.  Spring isn’t March Madness—it’s job talks and committee meetings.

After that, I ran out of time to type.

First off, wow, this is pretentious and horrible.  I swear I haven’t doctored it in any way (clearly–look how bad it is!).

But there are some points in there I still believe are true, even after this semester.  As faculty, we really are people who have to “switch gears” constantly, balancing home life and work life; teaching and researching; faculty committee member and student mentor.  Through all of these switches, we have to stay up-to-date on our fields.  We can only emulate the importance of lifelong learning to our students if we ourselves remain active learners.

I think I was probably a little on the administration in my initial write-up.  Many things happen at the higher admin levels that as individual faculty, staff, and students have no concept of.  We have talked a lot this semester about ethics and standards, and faculty members should always stand up for what they think is right.  As Dean DePauw reminded us all spring, it is important to know where your ethical lines are before you enter a situation with a student, fellow faculty member, and even the administration.

My “being faculty” statement is not as comprehensive as I would like, but I think that’s OK.  If I knew everything there was to know about “being faculty” at 26, having not yet officially been a member of any faculty… well, that would be pretty ridiculous.

PS:  I still get excited about snow days…

iPad Hand

iPad HandIt was only hours before the “New iPad” had virtually replaced my hand.  I now have no need for the “real hand” because my iPad Hand can do anything imaginable – and more!  This new hand will help me think things I never thought possible, take me places that weren’t previously places, and provide me with years (at least until the upgraded version comes out that I can wear like a glove) of distraction.  Depending on my frame of mind, frame of reference, picture frame, bowling frame, or if I just get framed – I might forget what the old hand was good for.  I believe my new frame – I mean hand – has taken the place of Scott McCloud‘s frame.  Mine will not tease you, taunt you, challenge you, and make you guess how many circles, gears, and frames there are.  Instead, my frame (there I go again), will tell me everything in living, moving, color.  Besides, my new hand can easily transform into a calculator, a phone, a camera (still and motion), a chessboard, a book shelf – hell, the whole damn library.  It just can’t get any better than that.

The Price of Academic Writing

In NMFSS yesterday, Gail made this excellent point regarding scholarly articles:  “We pay you a little bit to write your article and then we pay a *lot* to the publisher to get it back!”

She’s absolutely right.  Our colleges and universities (assuming you’re in academia of course) pay us our wages.  And those wages cover our teaching, research, and service.  So yeah, she’s right, at the end of the day, a little bit of those wages go toward writing that article.  We are not paid by the journal for these submissions, nor do I necessarily think we should be.

This article is then published in an expensive journal, which the library has to buy either in paper copy, or in digital copy, or in both!  Without a library account you cannot access this material.  Anyone can walk into the library and use it, to be fair, but not everyone has digital access.

I know for a fact that the cost of these journals is problematic for many university libraries, especially in light of state-level budget cuts (for state schools).  At a former institution, we were sent a list of journals to be cut one year, and unless we made an incredibly strong case for a particular journal, they were cut at the end of the year.

Why are we limiting information to only those who can afford it?  How much farther and faster would knowledge advance if we didn’t exclude people simply because they cannot afford 35 bucks to read an article?

De-Schooling using Networks

I read Illich long ago, as part of my interest in professional practice and professional knowledge:  he is pretty hard on them, which I liked UNTIL he attacked my profession: education, which he does in Learning Webs.

Illich asks us not to teach in classrooms or hierarchically organized institutions such as higher education, where I work, but to de-school society, to encourage students (learners) to roam around solving problems and asking questions of the butcher, baker and candlestick maker  and basically learn by doing, to close off the streets of new york and allow students to roam and learn.

“I intend to show that the inverse of school is possible: that we can depend on self-motivated learning instead of employing teachers to bribe or compel the student to find the time and the will to learn; that we can provide the learner with new links to the world instead of continuing to funnel all educational programs through the teacher.”(4)

He critiques the myth of the expert: “Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that secrets can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets.” (17)

I like this rant because it reminds me of a discussion we had in seminar a few weeks back about knowledge curating.  We as educators curate knowledge, lay it out for students to find and navigate to and through.  But I argued, then, that was not enough, and Illich, I think, agrees.  In addition to curating, education makes no sense, has no power, unless we have problems to solve.  We need to We need educators to define problem and pedagogy to help student explore/use/learn from the materials we curate.

The network, the web, is critical.  Someone who wants to learn needs both information and the critical insights from somebody else–education takes a village, or lacking that, a network. Information is stored in things and in persons connected by the network, but the network does more than find information, it helps ask questions, review thinking, brainstorm and review.  It provides access to peers in the learning journey.

“A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known” (16)


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Engagement Pt. II

I forgot to mention in my previous post that I witnessed a wonderful example of classroom/student/technology engagement.  I was sitting among the students because we had a guest presentation, on Arts and Culture in Community Development by Scott Tate.  As Scott was giving his presentation, I could see over the shoulder of one of the students, that she was Googling topics as he presented them, and was then posting comments directly to her group/required blog for the class.  It was great to see.