by Dr. Shalin Hai-Jew (iTAC, Kansas State University)
The prompt is simple enough: What services should academic libraries offer in the 21st century? As a faculty member focused on research and writing, I have found libraries critical in terms of every aspect of the teaching, research, and learning cycle. Libraries have played a critical role in faculty and student research by making available a wide range of resources (print, electronic, material, human, and otherwise), and they have generally made access to these resources as frictionless and accessible as possible. They have enhanced teaching and learning through numerous supports, such as through class presentations, events and conferences, invited expert talks, the creation of specialized learning resources like study guides, the provision of physical spaces (smart classrooms), and the provision of virtual spaces. All these resources that we can use on the front end require all sorts of administration, resources, expertise, and hard work on the less public sides of libraries — and having worked physically in a library for the past six years, I have been privy to some of those efforts as well.
Libraries which extend their welcome…
Who would have thought even just a few years ago that libraries would Tweet or microblog to the world? This front-end outreach makes libraries more broadly welcoming, and it captures data about the community of users of library resources and services. As an example of such social network data, the following represents the social network of the @kstatelibraries account on Twitter (a crawl of 2 degrees with a limit of 9,999 members), which means that it includes the Tweeter in the middle, the “ego neighborhood” of the Tweeter (those with direct following and follower ties with @kstatelibraries), and then the respective ego neighborhoods of those individual “alters” with direct ties with @kstatelibraries. (A one-degree crawl would be only the @ kstatelibraries ego node and its direct con- nections — the following and the followers — for the ego neighborhood. A 1.5 degree crawl would be the @kstatelibraries focal or ego node in the middle with its direct ties / ego neighborhood, and then the ties between the nodes in the ego neighborhood with each other — for a measure of transitivity in that social network.).
This information is depicted in an electronic social network graph. [This data extraction and visualization were made possible through the free and open-source software tool NodeXL available on Microsoft’s CodePlex site (http://nodexl.codeplex.com/) through the contributions of the Social Media Research Foundation. NodeXL stands for Network Overview, Discovery and Exploration for Excel.]
This social network data crawl found 20 groups or clusters of individuals more tightly connected around shared interests. (Each of these clusters may be analyzed separately for further insights.) The graph shows the kstatelibraries at the center of a mix of interconnected online and real-world communities. The layout of this graph was based on the Fruchterman-Reingold layout algorithm. The social networks of libraries may be extrapolated from various social media platforms and sites to see how deeply a library uses electronic channels to engage with its many users and partners. The vertices may be structurally analyzed to see who the individuals are who are connected to that library. The names at the vertices are the names of the accounts in Twitter.
The shared microblogged Tweets may be captured for the “gist” of the accounts. For @ kstatelibraries, the word cloud extrapolated reads as follows. (NCapture of NVivo 10 was used for this extraction and word cloud visualization from the account at Twitter / https://twitter.com/kstatelibraries.) Individual Tweets may be analyzed in the NVivo 10 project file or the extracted Excel or .csv file.
A geospatial map of the @kstatelibraries Twitter account shows deep clustering around the physical library, with a few from other states. In this case, there is locational data for a majority of the accounts engaged in the 3,207 microblogging messages. [The geospatial data is often much more sparse than the mi- croblogging accounts because of the fact that only a small minority of those microblogging will share locational data. Also, much of the locational data is “noisy” and cannot be in- terpreted as an actual physical location.] See Figure 4 below.
To raise the unit of analysis, the public networks of libraries all around the world may be crawled for their relational networks. I would assume that there are often thick ties (deep and long enduring relationships and interconnections). Even anecdotally, I know librarians connect around shared endeavors like the creation of databases of information, the building of collections, the hosting of guest speakers, the sharing of resources, the hosting of traveling displays, joint conferences, shared publications, and other mutual interests.
The magic of libraries for me has always been about its enabling continuous sparking moments of curiosity and discovery that broaden the world, for bright-eyed toddlers all the way to the beautifully and wisely aged. Libraries have always represented for me the institutions in societies that protect human endeavor and memory. They are the repositories of human knowledge, places where one can hold in one’s arms the substantive total of (a facet of) an individual’s life work and intellectual contribution.
Specialist libraries contain in-depth resources in particular fields and the deep specialist knowledge embodied in the caretakers of those resources — the librarians. Libraries are a core part of how democratic societies progress and advance. It has been about the staunch protection of all human intellectual pursuits (even those which are offensive to some) and the protection of privacy in the public’s pursuit of learning (such as through opt-outs of having borrowing records remembered and potentially sharable in the future). At their best, libraries and their resources are open to all, to promote human advancement and life-long learning.
Understanding the Provenance of Data…
There is a range of information and communication technology (ICT) affordances that will benefit the work of lifelong learners. As a faculty member, I want to conceptualize what a learner of the near future will experience when he or she goes to a library with a particular need. In this “use case,” he or she can face a yes (1) or a no (0). I will illustrate this experience using some of the conventions of game theory illustration. At the equilibrium state at “start,” let’s assume that all the current affordances at academic libraries in public and private institutions of higher education exist already. At each juncture of this game, there is a simple binary: yes or no.
A learner in the 21st century will require a broad range of understandings for full functional literacy. In this spirit, libraries will provide support for numbers literacy — to understand how math is used to model so much of the world and to solve so many issues at so many levels. There will be life sciences literacy to enhance people’s understandings of the world around them and how to live within it effectively. There will be geographical and spatial literacy to understand spatiality and its relevance. There will be space literacy to understand the awe-inspiring context of Earth. There will be requirements for literacy in the arts, literature, dance, and a wide range of other fields.
There will be broad information literacy — in terms of understanding the provenance of data (and how to indicate such provenance through citations) and how to analyze it effectively and how to understand data structures. To broaden understandings and literacy in a range of areas, librarians will tap electronic sources and capabilities at some point in the work. After all, there are many open-access resources from government, institutions of higher education, organizations, and commercial entities.
One idea for value-added contributions to literacy would be the following:
One cool ICT tool would be federated Hidden Web crawlers that are sent out to collect certain types of information in a multi-disciplinary or multi-lingual way and to make this information and data available for easy general perusal. When contemporary browsers have this capability as part of the general search, then librarians would do one better by launching automated tools to organize the data, ensure data validity, verify sources, and provide data prov- enance metadata. This way, libraries would help their users go farther afield in search of relevant information. The discovery then is not of what is already processed information but more raw and cutting-edge data. Academic libraries will deploy tools for information mining and discovery (and bagging and labeling). So when learners come to a library to increase their literacy in a range of fields, the answer is yes.
A learner in the 21st century will require value-added information analysis. From the ICT side, there are ways to extract information from large data sets (and free and open-source ways to access servers in the cloud); conduct automated text analyses; collate disparate data around social networks (through social network analysis); collate disparate data around geographical spaces; ways to create information structures; ways to identify anomalies in patterns; and ways to predict occurrences. Such analyses are often depicted in data visualizations. Such learners will need to be able to understand what is happening in various analytical tools and discrete analytical functions — to help them understand the assumptions of the various models and even the back-end algorithms of software tools. Such enablements can add value to raw data and inform understandings and decision-making in a transformative way. So when learners come to a library to conduct information analysis and data visualizations, the answer is yes. See Figure 6.
A learner in the 21st century will require support to create new as-yet undiscovered information, not just recombine known information (into new understandings). To achieve such discoveries, learners will have to provenance for the literature reviews. They will have to have a strong grounding in the field in order to know where the edges of a field are where they may innovate (and build on what is known). They must have a sense of how to access a wide range of information — in every form in which it manifests (multimedia, “gray literature,” and otherwise). They will need a variety of tools to conduct research (such as online survey tools, data extraction tools, query and search tools, and others in the electronic space). They will require tools that are sufficiently rigorous to enable these budding researchers the confidence to move forward with the work and eventual presentation and publication. So when a 21st-century learner goes to an academic library to acquire support to conduct research for new as-yet undiscov- ered information, the answer is 1. See Figure 6.
A learner in the 21st century will require support on practical ways to apply their ideas and to innovate. To achieve such endeavors, learners may benefit from online meet-and-greet events to share ideas around certain innovations. They would benefit from expert-based social networks. They would benefit from expertise. They would benefit from strategically provided information. They would benefit from knowledge of how to protect certain ideas through the development chain, so people may benefit themselves and others from their innovations and creativity. When a 21st-century learner goes to an academic library to acquire support to innovate, he or she will find discretion and strategy; the answer is yes. See Figure 6.
To continue the focus on ICT, academic libraries may purchase a number of site licenses to various software in the cloud. They would partner with organizations that make open-source tools available. They would fund teams of crack developers to create functionalities to advance human knowledge and the positive and pro-social exploitation of that knowledge. They would provide live electronically-mediated expertise and support to these various resources, given the depth of knowledge needed to provide such supports. They would provide privacy and discretion in the provision of these services to protect people’s ideas. They would provide a suite of tools for a wide range of applications. On-ground librarians would bring a complex electronic literacy set of skills to the work. The librarians would learn from their provision of support and continue to innovate and grow themselves; they would be researchers all and would share their knowledge both within and beyond their fields.
“#library” is top-of-mind…
In this slice-in-time, a hashtag search for #library on Twitter resulted in the following graph — which does not show a lot of connectivity…but does show all sorts of individual conversations involving “library” in this visualization using the Fruchterman-Reingold layout algorithm. For each, for this moment in time, and 548 vertices (nodes), “library” was top-of-mind.
In the photo and video-sharing site, Flickr, “library” evokes a related-tags content net- work that shows a rich variety of meanings and public sentiments around the concept of a library. Here, NodeXL has been used to extract metadata about the digital contents uploaded onto Flickr and created clusters based on textual similarity of these labels. The various clusters show mental
evocations of locations, collections, colors, projects, languages, children, technologies, and so much more. The Harel-Koren Multiscale layout algorithm was used to portray the underlying data.
In this binary game tree of academic library service provision for 21st-century learners, the answer to their needs is always yes.
A search in Google Books Ngram View- er’s tens of millions of scanned texts shows “library” mentioned in books through much of formal recorded human history. No matter what forms human learning takes into the future, academic libraries will be there curating, innovating, and supporting discoveries. See Figure 10.
Dr. Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer at Kansas State University (K-State); she teaches from a distance for WashingtonOnline (WAOL). She has taught at the university and college levels for many years (including four years in the People’s Republic of China) and was tenured at Shoreline Community College but left tenure to pursue instructional design work. She has Bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology, a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Washington (Hugh Paradise Scholar), and an Ed.D in Educational Leadership with a focus on public administration from Seattle University (where she was a Morford Scholar). She reviews for several publications — Educause Review Online and MERLOT’s Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, and is editor of several IGI Global titles, including Remote Workforce Training: Effective Technologies and Strategies, released in February 2014. She is currently editing texts on innovations in multimedia presentations and the hidden Web. Hai-Jew was born in Huntsville, Alabama, in the U.S.