I’m lousy with anticipation, so I am extremely relieved to write that a giant piece of my workload/ brain energy has been officially lifted as of today. ACRL just released Informing Innovation: Tracking Student Interest in Emerging Library Technologies at Ohio University, a book-length research report I’ve been working on for quite some time.
The report is a detailed case study of the student environmental scanning project I spearheaded at OU in 2008 with the help of many colleagues (see my Acknowledgements for the long list of names). In addition to reporting our findings, I discuss the importance of gaining research-based insight into local user cultures in order to inform service development and mitigate the temptation to make potentially off-the-mark generational assumptions about who students are and how they use technology and libraries, complete with a chapter on the practical trials and travails of homegrown research. You can think of it as a quantitative corollary to the University of Rochester Studying Students project – quite different methods of investigation, similar depth of insight. It’s one part presentation of survey results, one part analysis of the academic library emerging technology and assessment cultures that have developed over the last few years, and one part bon voyage/ homage (bon vomage?) to my former employer. The OU Libraries manage to do incredibly innovative and effective work not only on a shoestring, but with an ever-important a sense of humor. It shows in many, many ways, and for this they deserve to be recognized and emulated.
Informing Innovation is available in several forms. Free downloads: the full document in PDF, another version packaged by separate chapters, and an updated and revised template library/technology survey instrument based on the one used in the original Ohio University study. For an introduction to and explanation of the scanning project itself, there is also a streaming dynamic webcast of my and Chris Guder’s 2009 ACRL presentation (no virtual conference login necessary) that summarizes survey findings and explores its practical applications at OU, voice and slides-style. You can also buy a hard copy of the report in book form from the ALA Store.
The template questionnaire is a core aspect of this project, and in addition to the separate download also appears as Appendix A in the full report document. This sample instrument has been pored and picked over by a series of qualified academics and/or librarians, meaning that it can with relative confidence provide the foundation of a sound and reliable survey (one of the more challenging aspects of conducting homegrown assessments). It is also enthusiastically Creative Commons licensed – I encourage people to share, hack, and adapt it at will to conduct similar environmental scans at the local level (and if you do, please tell me about it – charbooth at gmail dot com. I would love to know if anyone takes on similar projects at their own libraries.)
This endeavor has been a labor of (nerdcore) love (of statistics and libraries), and the wonderful folks at ACRL did me the service of allowing me to design the publication cover-to-cover – a giant shout out to Kathryn Deiss and Dawn Mueller for all their editorial help and patience during the process. I also received the honor of having my work both edited and foreworded by Joan Lippincott, an individual I admire greatly for her visionary perspective on technology, learning, and librarianship. Thanks also to Lia Friedman for her relentless collaborative assistance, among other things. Long story short, I’m so very happy to be able to sally this publication forth.
By way of explanation, the wholly unphotoshopped cover shot was taken last summer in Lamesa, Texas, on the drive out to California to start my new job at UC Berkeley. Words to live by, and no mistake.