CLIR Issues Number 38
Access in the Future Tense
by Abby Smith
Rethinking Liberal Arts Education: The North Star Project
by Rick Detweiler
Collaborative Project to Enhance Library Catalog Browsing
by Robert Kieft
IMAGINE THAT THE year is 2104. You have just walked into—or logged on to—your library for research material. You’re looking for an electronic copy of a journal published on the Web by a small learned society in 2005. You soon find out that the journal ceased publication in 2017, the library deaccessioned its print copies more than 80 years ago, and the digital back files were never transferred to a third-party repository. The Internet Archive has no record of the journal because it was available by subscription only. Next, you search for a news broadcast from 2001 on your topic of interest. You find that it is inaccessible; the video had degraded and the library did not have a video preservation program until many years later. Resigned, you search the catalog for a book on your subject. You identify a reference to a book that was published in 1942. The volume is retrieved from storage but it is badly embrittled. Pages are missing. The copy, which had last been consulted in 1956, is no longer fit for use. You are advised to seek it in microform, but are unable to find an index of microform holdings in the United States dating back that far. It also appears that this book was never digitized because of copyright reasons.
This scenario evokes the foreboding of Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Future. Yet it would not be far-fetched if our imagined scholar of the next century were working in an environment where the preservation infrastructure had evolved little from that of today. Surely, the needed infrastructure will evolve. It must. But how?
Redefining Preservation and Access
This question was the topic of a meeting of librarians, technologists, scholars, legal experts, and funders convened by CLIR in May 2003. A new report from CLIR, based on that meeting and entitled Access in the Future Tense has just been published. The report, which consists of papers presented at the meeting and a synthesizing essay, examines the shortfalls of the current preservation infrastructure and identifies the factors that will determine the abilities of libraries to ensure long-term access to information—whether kept in the library or elsewhere.
Meeting participants had far-ranging experience in and views on preservation, but by design, none was a practicing conservator or preservation manager. This was not to overlook the crucial contributions of those who have created technical and administrative solutions to preservation, from the development of preservation metadata to the archiving of recorded sound. Rather, it was to focus the meeting on the larger infrastructure that supports preservation, including the economic models, policy and legal sanctions, human and financial resources, and tools that make it possible to ensure long-term access to cultural and intellectual resources.
New Models for a New Environment
For years, U.S. libraries have relied on a decentralized, locally oriented, ownership-based model for preserving imprints. In this model, libraries acquire information in order to provide access to it, and preserving a physical object is tantamount to preserving information. This model will not hold up in the digital realm, where many key research publications, for instance, are licensed. Nor is it holding up for analog audio and visual resources, such as recorded sound and moving images. With these resources, the complex bundles of rights that comprise performance copyrights, together with the extension of copyright protection under the Sonny Bono Act, effectively force the burden of preservation back on the owners, who are often unaware of it or are unable to provide for the preservation of their resources. In the moving-image community, the sheer expense of archiving film means that only a few large institutions preserve original materials on behalf of many, while the many rely on cheap and rapidly outmoded consumer formats such as videotapes and DVDs. In both cases, the economic incentives and wherewithal for libraries to preserve materials, not just provide access to them, are virtually nonexistent.
Economic incentives to preserve the millions of books and journals now in libraries—books that are of research value but that are not rare per se and that are seldom if ever used—are also virtually nonexistent. It is this situation that gives rise to the vigorous discussion about shared print repositories among some large research libraries. Old media, as well as the new, demand business models that result in economies of scale. And those business models must be built upon a foundation of coordination, mutual trust, and interdependence among libraries and between libraries and the institutions in which they are housed.
Libraries do have models on which to build these strategic alliances. In the last two decades, Congress has mandated national efforts, such as the National Film Preservation Board and the National Recording Preservation Board, to promote and coordinate preservation of analog audio and moving-image collections. Under the aegis of the Library of Congress (LC), these efforts are making significant progress. Similarly, the Congress has charged LC to develop a national strategy to ensure long-term access to digital resources of cultural and intellectual significance under the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. All three national plans are built around partnerships between public- and private-sector stakeholders.
Libraries Retain Key Role in Stewardship
Libraries are uniquely capable of maintaining their leadership role in the stewardship of analog and digital resources, but they must be aggressive in positioning themselves to do so. They must build institutional capacity by investing in the recruitment, retention, and professional growth of their staff members. They must gain the support of their key stakeholders, from faculty to provosts to chief financial officers and others who allocate resources. Libraries must also join in public advocacy for rationalizing copyright incentives and privacy protections. This does not mean fighting the last copyright battles or trying to patch the failing publishing models inherited from the world of print journals, videotapes, and image libraries. It does mean engaging seriously and publicly in a policy debate about information as a public good and investing in new models of cooperation with information creators and distributors.
The needed infrastructure will depend on the commitment of libraries and their home institutions to build centralized services that are necessary for all, but so capital-intensive that they are prohibitive for most. Such services include repositories for digital content as well as for rarely used analog formats, from original LPs to early-twentieth-century imprints. They also include sophisticated preservation facilities, research and development efforts, and the ability to meet the education and training needs of staff.
We are seeing promising initial steps in meeting the challenges of preservation and access in the twenty-first century, from productive partnerships between libraries and publishers such as HighWire Press to growing attention to intellectual property issues on the part of faculty, academic administrators, and various creative communities. These developments provide encouraging examples for others. Just how quickly they are adopted will determine how much will be lost without a trace between now and 2104.
THE STUDY OF liberal arts is in danger. More than half of the undergraduate degrees awarded today are in professional or technical fields; further, less than five percent of today’s college students attend traditional liberal arts colleges. The fastest-growing sectors of higher education in the U.S., for-profit and distance education, rarely include the study of liberal arts disciplines. Much of the public has little idea why the liberal arts matter. How can we bring liberal arts education—long the center of the American approach to higher education—back to the center?
To do this, we must be clear about what liberal arts education is. While the definition of liberal arts education continues to be debated, operationally it is defined as fulfilling two requirements: study in breadth, through core courses; and study in depth of a designated “major” field. Using these two principles, and often adding some required out-of-class experience, each institution decides for itself what is needed for a student to become “liberally educated.” Since each institution makes different judgments about what to include it is hard to delineate what the liberal arts is and what it isn’t.
Clarifying the Essence of Liberal Education
Efforts to bring clarity and renewed focus to the liberal arts usually take place within the existing liberal arts institutions and organizations and this constrains the consideration of alternatives. For example, given that a liberal arts college typically has 20 or 25 academic departments, it becomes difficult to imagine that the liberal arts would not include the study of most of them; given that requirements measure the amount of time students spend in classrooms, it is hard to imagine liberal education without class requirements. The fact that some institutions assert that out-of-class activity such as community involvement is also essential, whereas others do not, further confuses thinking.
In a book entitled Orators and Philosophers, a history of the liberal arts, Bruce Kimball gives a simple but insightful explanation for the confusion about the definition of the liberal arts: two different liberal arts traditions are vying for ascendancy. One tradition emphasizes the importance of learning to use a mode of analytic inquiry that is characterized by open-mindedness and a belief in the power of reason and the importance of pursuing knowledge for its own sake. The second tradition emphasizes the learning of competencies necessary for involved citizenship, including for example, ethics and integrity, involvement and leadership, and respect for community. These traditions are not in conflict; they represent overlapping frames of reference for thinking about, designing, and implementing liberal arts curricula. But the fact that they focus attention in different directions, and are represented differently at various institutions, creates confusion on-campus and off.
Kimball’s analysis of the two liberal arts traditions provides context for a CLIR project that examines key questions pertaining to the future of liberal arts education. Titled the “North Star Project,” the idea is to approach the liberal arts from outside collegiate structures, allowing institution-specific assumptions and commitments about the content and context of liberal arts education to be set aside. The project aims to clarify the essence of the liberal arts and to identify necessary learning outcomes, and from that to consider pedagogy, the role of libraries and of information technology, and so forth. As a CLIR Distinguished Fellow, the author began work on the project in 2003 with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
A first step of the North Star Project is to delineate and describe educational goals in the context of the traditions of analytic inquiry and involved citizenship. To this end, a multiple-item scale has been designed and tested1 to assess undergraduate students’ commitment to analytic thinking and engaged citizenship. A survey of 430 undergraduates from both liberal arts and research institutions showed that at the start of their college experience, all students wanted to be educated to become both more analytic thinkers and more engaged citizens (though students at liberal arts institutions were more intent on learning to become engaged citizens than were students at research institutions). But by the time they reached their junior and senior year, students at both types of institutions were less interested in becoming engaged citizens; analytic thinking retained its value.
Could faculty, who are trained in graduate school to be superbly analytic thinkers far more than to be engaged citizens, be inculcating this singular value in their students? A small pilot study undertaken at a recent conference on liberal education hosted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities affirms that this may be so. Of two dozen respondents, all of whom were attending the conference because of a commitment to the liberal arts, only those who described themselves as administrators valued engaged citizenship more highly. The faculty respondents believed that the development of analytic thinking was more important than the development of engaged citizenship—a logical, discipline-based outcome.
Building on the insights developed from this first survey of undergraduates, further work will be done to refine the scale and collect responses from faculty, students, and administrators at a broader range of institutions.
Implications for Teaching and Information Resources
Based on this framework, the North Star project is evolving to address questions such as the following:
- What pedagogies are most effective in creating analytic thinkers and engaged citizens? What are the most appropriate roles of traditional, lecture-based education as compared with experience-based or tutorial strategies? To what degree are physical information resources necessary, given the growing availability of digital resources and tools?
- What are the most effective ways, from the educational and financial perspectives, to educate analytic thinkers and engaged citizens?
- What is the real essence of a liberal arts library? Traditionally, a large library collection has been assumed essential to support a liberal arts education.
- If a collection were designed specifically for teaching analytic thinking and engaged citizenship, what would it include?
- Should the emphasis be on making digitized primary sources, rather than secondary resources, available? For example, might involving students in the analysis and comparison of original texts be a more powerful way to develop analytic thinking than by having students read texts?
- Could such a library be made up of a few terabytes of digital content, making it available in places where neither libraries nor the bandwidth necessary for Internet access are available?
- What search tools would best support critical inquiry?
- If a “global” liberal arts collection could be created, what key content is necessary to be appropriate for different nations and cultures?
As we develop new ways of understanding education for analytic thinkers and engaged citizens, and as answers to the questions posed in these North Star projects evolve, we expect to gain fresh insights about how to bring the liberal arts back into the center of American higher education.
1 Lori Collins-Hall of Hartwick College is working with the author in the development of the scale. Detweiler, Collins-Hall, and William Vining of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst recently made a conference presentation on the work reported here. Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell and Brian Detweiler-Bedell of Lewis and Clark College have also worked on this project.
The following individuals have been selected for participation in the 2004 Frye Leadership Institute. The Institute will be held June 6–18 at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bryan Alexander, Middlebury College
Bliss Bailey, Auburn University
JuliusÊBianchi, California Lutheran University
Amy K. Brooks, The University of Michigan
Jeff Bullington, University of Kansas
John Campbell, Purdue University
Colleen Carmean, Arizona State University West
Jon Cawthorne, San Diego State University
Yolanda Cooper, University of Virginia
Thomas Cramer, Stanford University
Patricia M. Cuocco, California State University, Whittier
Linda Drake, University of Colorado at Boulder
Dan Drenkow, Augustana College
Earnstein Dukes, Texas Tech University
Shan Evans, The University of Texas at Austin
Glenn Everett, Stonehill College
Margaret Fieldhouse, University of Sussex
Susan Fliss, Dartmouth College
Kay A. Flowers, Idaho State University
Joni Flowers, Community College of Southern Nevada
Randy Gaines, Idaho State University
Carolyn Hart, Atlanta University Center, Inc.
Claire Hill, The University of New South Wales
Steven Huss-Lederman, Beloit College
Dena Hutto, Reed College
Edward Kairiss, Yale University
Catherine L. Langlais, Colby College
Gail F. Latta, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Frances Maloy, Emory University
Catherine Manly, Manchester Community College
Sandra Maxfield, James Madison University
Matthew McNally, Georgetown University
Gobnait O’Riordan, University of Limerick
Elizabeth Reed Osika, Purdue University Calumet
Sharon P. Pitt, North Carolina State University
Jane Schillie, University of Miami
Rosangela Souto Silva, American University of Beirut
Carol Smith, DePauw University
Kimberly Sweetman, New York University Libraries
Lori Temple, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Joseph W. Thomas, University of Notre DameÊ
Joseph Vaughan, UCLA
Deborah Ward, University of Missouri
Colleen Wheeler, Wheaton College
Calvin J.Ê Williams, Seton Hall University
Alex Wirth-Cauchon, The Midwest Instructional Technology Center
THE PRACTICE IS so familiar that it seems to be governed by a law of nature: Having found a potentially useful title by whatever means, a library user goes to the shelf and browses left and right in order to discover and select additional relevant titles.
Powerful though the belief in serendipitous shelf-browsing discovery is, the efficacy of this “instinctive” practice is challenged today as libraries send increasing percentages of their print collections to off-site storage or distribute their holdings through collaborative archiving agreements. Under these conditions, users who rely on browsing the library shelf for the purposes of discovery and selection risk missing more and more material that might be of interest. Anecdotal and transaction log evidence shows that few people use the “browse” feature of library online catalogs, not only because it is visually uninteresting but also because online records do not contain the information users need to select what they want. Until recently, there has been no recourse except the stacks.
For almost three decades, librarians have advocated the enhancement of online library catalog records with such “evaluative content” as tables of contents, sample text, indexes, reviews, and cover images to help users discover and select the materials they might want to read. Many libraries have followed the lead of online booksellers by adding evaluative content for current publications to their catalogs.
Such content is not available, however, for materials published before 1990 or for most foreign publications—that is, the materials to which libraries are most likely to offer remote access. At the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter 2004 meeting, a group convened by Bob Kieft of Haverford College Library and Susan Perry of The A. W. Mellon Foundation and CLIR, with the support of David Seaman of the Digital Library Federation (DLF), met to discuss the establishment of a cooperative effort among libraries to create and share indexable evaluative content for older materials. Meeting participants included representatives from the Library of Congress Cataloging Directorate (John Byrum and John Celli), the national bibliographic utilities (Judith Bush, RLG; and Deb Bendig, OCLC), the bookselling community (Cindy Cunningham, then of Amazon.com; and Sam Dempsey and Bob Bogan, of Baker and Taylor), the National Information Standards Organization (Sally McCallum), and libraries (Karen Schmidt, University of Illinois; and Roy Tennant, California Digital Library). Since the meeting, Bernard Reilly, president of the Center for Research Libraries and convener of the July 2003 conference “Preserving America’s Print Resources,” and Dan Hazen of Harvard University have joined the discussion.
To help refine the project and recruit collaborators, Roy Tennant, Deb Bendig, Sally McCallum, and Merrilee Proffitt (RLG) will host a discussion at the DLF Forum in April in New Orleans. Bob Kieft, Karen Schmidt, and Dan Hazen will organize an open meeting at the ALA annual meeting in Orlando for the same purpose. Duane Webster of the Association of Research Libraries has agreed to present the project at the May meeting of the association’s collection development committee.
Given the success of booksellers in moving browsing online, the conditioning of user expectations by the Web, and the availability of proved technologies, the members of this group feel that now is a propitious time for libraries to create and share evaluative content for the millions of items in their collection. Group members propose to develop a program that will enable distributed, nonduplicative input of evaluative content using inexpensive staff and workflows and an initially simple, but potentially rich and complex, data-packaging structure created from such emerging standards as METS, OAI-PMH, and ONIX.
Having these augmented records in library catalogs will remove many of the barriers customarily encountered in resource-sharing and remote-storage programs by putting libraries in a position to persuade their users that they can better fulfill their discovery and selection needs in the catalog than they can at the shelf. The group plans to have ready a full technical description of the record-structure and record-creation protocols later in 2004 and to mount a demonstration project soon thereafter.
A NEW REPORT from CLIR profiles the Smart Cape Access Project, which is providing free access to computers and the Internet to patrons in six public libraries in disadvantaged areas of Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town city officials received the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award 2003 for this innovative project.
The report, entitled E-Powering the People: The Smart Cape Access Project, is available at https://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub125abst.html.
ELEVEN GRADUATE STUDENTS have been selected to receive awards this year under the Mellon Fellowship Program for Dissertation Research in the Humanities in Original Sources, which CLIR administers.
The fellowships are intended to help graduate students in the humanities and related social science fields pursue research wherever relevant sources are available; gain skill and creativity in using primary source material in libraries, archives, museums, and related repositories; and provide suggestions to CLIR about how such source materials can be made more accessible and useful.
The fellowships carry stipends of up to $20,000 each to support dissertation research for periods of up to 12 months.
Cinema and Media Studies: Silent Film History
University of Chicago
Dissertation Title: “American Cinema and the Pictorial Tradition 1894-1918”
Comparative Literature: 19th century literature in English and French
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Dissertation Title: “Discipling the Nations: Religion and Colonial Intervention in Late Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century India”
University of Virginia
Dissertation Title: “Life After Death in Three Berlins: A Comparative History of Death in War and Peacetime, 1945-1955”
Dissertation Title: “Mozart’s Violin Sonatas and Gestures of Embodiment: Toward a New Model of Performance Practice”
Art History: Italian Renaissance
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
Dissertation Title: “The Politics of Architecture: Suor Domenica da Paradiso and Her Convent of La Crocetta in Post-Savonarolan Florence”
University of Chicago
Dissertation Title: “Music Life of the Convent of St. Clare at Stary Sacz, 1280-1450”
University of California, Berkeley
Dissertation Title: “Infanticide as an Object of Knowledge in China, Late 19thúEarly 20th Century”
Latin American History
University of Maryland
Dissertation Title: “‘In the Middle of the Mess’: The Formation of Middle-Class Identities in Colombia, 1920-1950”
Art History: History of Photography
University of Chicago
Dissertation Title: “Inventing ‘Documentary’ in American Photography, 1930-1945”
University of Texas at Austin
Dissertation Title: “Carolingian Verse Saints’ Lives: Education, Patronage and Monastic Memory”
Dissertation Title: “Modern Architecture and Modern Life: Informal Urbanization in Postwar Athens (1949-1974)”
Kathleen Marie Smith has been named the recipient of the Rovelstad Scholarship in International Librarianship for 2004. Ms. Smith is pursuing a master’s degree in information science at the University of Texas at Austin. Each year, the Rovelstad scholarship provides travel funds for a student of library and information science to attend the annual meeting of the World Library and Information Congress. This year’s meeting will be held in Buenos Aires in August.
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The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) grew out of the 1997 merger of the Commission on Preservation and Access and the Council on Library Resources. CLIR identifies the critical issues that affect the welfare and prospects of libraries and archives and the constituencies they serve, convenes individuals and organizations in the best position to engage these issues and respond to them, and encourages institutions to work collaboratively to achieve and manage change.Alice Bishop
Special Projects Associate