Eileen Stec, Instruction and Outreach Librarian reported on Project SAILS, a national effort to develop an instrument that measures student information literacy. Last year Rutgers participated in testing the instrument with approximately 100 undergraduates who had earned fewer than twenty-three credits as of Fall 2004. She shared a summary report of the findings, which showed that the Rutgers cohort was about average compared to other academic institutions participating in the study. The majority of institutions taking the test, however, were community colleges. Committee members were not surprised at the results of what our students are unable to do. Students at this level do not demonstrate a very high level of information seeking skills. They do not have a general sense of the academy to provide any context-the differences among the disciplines, what is covered by the humanities and the social sciences, how information is organized. It would be useful to find ways early in a student's career to place their learning in this general context. A discussion of how information competencies are now incorporated into the curriculum and what is being recommended by the New Brunswick undergraduate report lead to some recommendations. It appears that a multi-pronged approach would be necessary-online tutorials, faculty including information competencies throughout the curriculum, simple changes in student assignments, librarian partnerships with teaching faculty. A single course out of context is not likely to be successful. It was also recommended that the results of Project SAILS be shared with the academic advisors and that continued discussion with them take place.
While the experience with Project SAILS was valuable, the Libraries are less convinced that it is a good assessment tool because of how it's structured. Students can easily be graded higher than their actual competencies. We are looking at a new tool that ETS is developing, which appears to measure actual knowledge and ability.
Susan Beck, Head of Public Services, Robeson Library described the Libraries' participation during the Spring 2005 semester in a national survey of academic libraries and their service quality. A random sample of faculty, students, and non-library staff were surveyed. The data is voluminous and Susan shared a summary report and several data charts. Major findings were that our community ranks the highest among our peers in what they expect as minimal service quality, and among the highest in what from they desire from the Libraries. The most desired services relate to information access-print and electronic collections and a website that allows them to find what they want. We score best in actual service-employees who instill confidence, who are willing to help users, are caring, and provide individual attention. We are weakest in the same areas that are most highly desired- information access. Since the data is heavily skewed to faculty, who were the majority of respondents, it is worth noting that undergraduates also wanted modern equipment, a getaway for study, and comfortable and inviting spaces.
From the demographic results we learned that the physical libraries are still heavily used-primarily by undergraduates and graduate students--who want quiet places to study.
The results of the survey will be used in our strategic plan and help guide where to put our efforts. A few results, such as the one related to the usability of the website, will need further investigation to determine what is actually desired.
The Libraries want to disseminate the results to the community and asked for ideas on how best to accomplish this. Committee members suggested that however we do this it should be in combination with what the Libraries will do with the results or even better-what we have done-to address the issues identified. It would be useful to tie student results to information literacy competencies. We may want to target dissemination according to populations noting their specific issues. Among the ideas suggested include: a general Focus article, library liaison discussions at departmental faculty meetings, outreach by campus librarians who work closely with the departments on those campuses, displays in the Libraries targeting student responses and what we've done or will do to address them, meetings with governing associations. In response to a question about reaching graduate students, the suggestion of using the graduate student directors network through Harvey Waterman or Jolie Cizewski in New Brunswick was made; an equivalent for Camden and Newark should be investigated.
Ron Becker, Chair of the Libraries Strategic Plan Steering Committee reported on the status of our next five-year plan. A draft was shared to demonstrate current thinking. More revisions are already in the works. Ron asked for comments on the format, areas to include, and the value of scenarios or vignettes to illustrate outcomes. Focus and integration as themes were positively received; in some cases it looked like too many bullets under each strategic direction and we should target the most important. It was suggested that the plan might include 2 additional goals: to facilitate scholarly communication and research in progress; and to support educational communication between students, between students and instructors, and between students and researchers who are not classroom instructors. Examples include providing support for facuty maintained databases; providing repository access for supplementary information that is associated with research articles; provide a pre-print archive of faculty work not yet peer reviewed; and provide a blog facility to encourage collaboration on research in progress.
The final document needs to have a strong overall vision statement to bind the various pieces to the plan together. A few vignettes would make the items in the bullet points seem real. Since the Libraries are doing their strategic plan at the same time OIT is doing theirs, it would be good to reference or tie some common themes together. In addition, funds will be needed to carry out the vision and we need rhetoric that demonstrates what additional funding would make possible.
The advisability of including annual targets or a five-year target goal in the plan was discussed. The Libraries have not chosen to do either, because targets are tied to funding and without sufficient funds they are meaningless. Rather, the Libraries will generate annual goals in strategic directions based on the funding available in any year. Faculty noted that the university can not guarantee funding over a five-year period because the university itself has no guarantee of what its funding will be.