Draft essay: Shifts in the humanities

Since last September I’ve been a member of the Townsend Fellows program at UC Berkeley.  My contribution to the program was an essay on the scholarly publishing crisis in literature studies, taken as a symptom of larger ways in which the humanities are shifting to accommodate social, technological, and economic change.  I presented to the group today, and got very helpful comments and feedback from the other Fellows.

Warning:  essay is in High Draft; footnotes in particular are very messy.   Please feel free to send comments and suggestions to me at kmunro at library dot berkeley dot com.

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Online library tutorial kudos

One of the latest additions to the PRIMO database, Baruch College’s Beginner’s Guide to Business Research, hits it out of the park, in my opinion. The production quality is higher than I’ve seen in most other library tutorials, and the instructional design elements are very strong. There’s well-timed audio, a good script, straightforward but flexible navigation, and a real sense of modularity–you can move around between components without losing your place. It’s also very content-rich.

The flip side of all this is that a large part of the tutorial development, including the coding and elements of the instructional design, was outsourced to Kognito Solutions. They did a terrific job and it sounds (from the PRIMO interview) as though they worked collegially with the librarians involved. So good for Baruch and Kognito, but it’s still an open question as to how those of us without dedicated in-house programmers and developers can replicate this level of work.

Housing project wifi and the future of academic libraries

I posted recently about my interest in how educational technology ties into issues of social justice, in a very broad sense.  That’s what got me interested in librarianship, in education, and in technology–how these things can help move us forward together, in a world where things seem naturally to fall apart.

I noticed a great example of a technology-focused social justice project in this article on WiredMuni Wi-Fi Power Hope at San Francisco Housing Project.  It’s a great example of the sort of thing we should consider when we think about those ACRL Top Ten Assumptions For the Future of Academic Libraries.

I agree with most of those assumptions–I think we’re looking at a future of greater digitization, more demand and funding for technology-based services, increased distance learning, and so on.  That means we need to start thinking now about how we’ll  make sure that everyone gets to come along for the ride.  If we don’t want to see the digital divide in our communities and student bodies get wider and wider, we should probably make sure everyone has a decent Internet connection before they even come to university.

The project described above was carried out by the Community Technology Foundation of California, which looks like a very cool group.  I’d be interested to see whether there’s a role for groups like ACRL or ALA in connecting with these kinds of socially-engaged education and technology projects.  We know that student success in university actually depends in large part on what kinds of opportunities they get before they ever walk onto a campus, so maybe IS, LITA, and SRRT should get together around a table and start talking about this stuff.

Quote of the day, sent to me by someone working in sustainable architecture and design:

“My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.”

–Peter Golkin, museum spokesman (1966- )