Welcome to 2012! As part of my ongoing effort to keep LIS and the College community aware of and involved in the work of LIS, I’ve decided to start writing a quarterly report. The report will offer highlights from the last three months, and describe our upcoming priorities, longer-term issues we should begin to consider, and other institutional planning efforts with which we must connect. Given the constraints of our budget and staffing, it is clear that we need to understand our priorities, make hard choices, and focus our efforts on the areas and initiatives that will make the most difference.
Having written the report, it is evident to me that we have much to be proud of, much to keep us busy, and much to look forward to. We work in a rapidly evolving set of fields. We are integral to the day-to-day operation of the College. Our work is key to a future that is increasingly digital, networked, and global. Our challenge is to find ways to make this manageable and understandable for us and for the community we serve.
My intention is to provide updates in a similar fashion on a quarterly basis. I welcome feedback on what I can do to make this regular communication serve its intended goal, which is both to inform and to invite further dialogue. As always, my door is open!
Recently completed projects
We’ve completed several major projects this quarter. The list below is not meant to be comprehensive, but it will give you a good idea of what we’ve accomplished. For those interested in seeing a complete inventory of all recently completed projects, you can do that by looking at the project directory.
- Banner Migration
After months of planning and considerable last-minute work, we moved Banner to a hosted facility run by SunGard. We did this project in record time under very stressful conditions. This may well be the most impressive piece of work that I’ve had the pleasure to work on. (For the record: the party to celebrate this has been on hold awaiting Carol’s return!)
- Nolij (imaging) for Admissions and International Student Services
We also launched an imaging project with Admissions and International Student Services. In the case of Admissions, Nolij (the name of the product we are using) allows the admissions office to be entirely paperless, thereby completing a multi-year initiative to increase efficiency.
Last week, we officially released a web portal that allows student, faculty, and staff to create customized views of a wide array of campus information. This information can be easily accessed and read on both mobile devices and computers.
- Course Hub
This Fall, we launched a new service for faculty and students called the course hub. It provides a place for faculty to share a simple syllabus for their course, and to link to online resources such as blogs, wikis, online reserves, or a course Moodle site. For students, it brings together in a single place all of the electronic resources for all of their courses.
As part of the launch of the course hub, we went live with an open source course management system called Moodle, which replaces Segue. Support for Moodle is being handled by the faculty liaisons, which is another change in how we support instructional technology.
Summon is a new discovery tool that allows our patrons to search via one Google-like box not only the contents of our library catalog, but nearly all of the electronic databases, journals, and full-text offerings. This has been generally well-received, although there are some who still prefer the more precise searching afforded by the individual interfaces designed for each type of resource.
- Network Upgrade
We’ve ‘juniperized’ the last major building on campus (fittingly, Painter House, the home of our founder). We can declare victory on our campus network upgrade!
- DVD project
We reclassified, re-cased, and relocated our DVD collection from behind the circulation desk to the main floor of the library, where it is now available for browsing. In addition, we relaxed many of the restrictions on borrowing these materials, making them more widely available to the campus community.
In the first quarter of this year, we will focus our attention on a range of projects, issues, and decisions. If you have ideas or concerns about any of these, we will hold open meetings to explain our present thinking and provide you with the opportunity to make suggestions.
I’ve organized this section into two categories: the How and the What.
The How List
How we go about doing our work internally and with the rest of the community
To improve the security of our systems and the mechanisms we use to protect our data, we are proposing to the administration policies on network monitoring and security incident response. We are also establishing new internal policies for change management, server administration, and back-up/restore methodologies.
- Service Level Agreements
We’re creating service level agreements that will make clear what services are offered, and what are expected and reasonable timelines for the delivery of any given service.
- Process Analysis for Help Desk
With an eye to increasing efficiency, we’re taking a critical look at how requests for service are processed within the Service Request area. This analysis is the first step in a larger project, linked to the service level agreement project, to improve the efficiency of how we all work together in providing service to the community.
- Rethinking the Banner LEADS Program
To streamline development and support for Banner in particular and administrative systems in general, we would like to improve the LEADS program by clarifying who is responsible for supporting various aspects of Banner, who provides training, and how requests for support and development are created and vetted.
- Team Realignment
We are working with a consultant to analyze our existing teams, provide training to LIS staff new to teams, and to develop strategies for enhancing the efficacy of our teams.
- Improving Communications
We will continue to experiment with new ways to improve communications, including our recently launched Friday morning open meetings. We will also create more opportunities for face to face, two-way dialogue and for input into our decision-making and prioritization processes.
- Management Training
All LIS managers will participate in a five-day intensive management training that will occur over the course of February and March.
The WHAT List:
Projects currently underway that may have broad impact across the organization and across the campus (you can find a comprehensive list of all of our projects in the project directory).
- Classroom Project
We are working with the Language Schools, Registrar’s Office, and Facilities Services to develop a plan for adding more smart classrooms to support the growing needs of the Language Schools. In addition, we are reviewing how we can enhance our video recording and videoconferencing capabilities in our classrooms.
- Google Apps and MS365 Evaluation
We are evaluating Google Apps for Higher Education and MS365 as possible replacements for our local Exchange email and calendaring service.
In addition to working on the FY12 budget, we are developing a five-year budget that projects costs to maintain our current technology and library materials investments.
- Improving Library Collections eBooks
In light of our new purchase-on-demand eBook program, we are looking at ways to adopt this approach for printed materials, as well.
- Disaster Recovery
We are putting the finishing touches on our disaster recovery plan. Once complete, we will turn our attention to testing it and keeping it current.
- Stats Lab in Library 140
We’re finalizing plans for a 35 station stats computer lab in Library 140. This will expand the footprint of the room, forcing us to relocate two rows of book stacks.
- Further Rationalization of Printing/Copying
We will continue to reduce the number of stand-alone printers and copiers and to provide appropriate printing and copying services.
- Data Classification Task Force
As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that our data is properly protected, we are appointing a data classification task force to inventory current practices across campus and make recommendations for how we can adequately protect our data.
- Video Workflow
To increase the quality and visibility of video on our website, we have been analyzing and making improvements to the workflow associated with recording lectures and other events on campus.
- Sophos Anti-Virus
We’re replacing our existing virus software with Sophos Endpoint Solution.
- Virtual Alumni College
We are working with College Advancement to develop a small proof-of-concept project to understand what it takes to mount an online course for alumni. The pilot is John Elder teaching the poetry of Robert Frost.
- Hiring New Staff
We will hire seven new staff members in the coming months. Advertising, recruiting, screening, and training these new positions will take up a great deal of time and energy.
While the lists above document what will keep us most busy in terms of rolling out new services, improving existing services, changing our internal processes, and making decisions, many in LIS would benefit from understanding what longer-range issues we will need to focus on in the near future. This list represents a mixture of more speculative activities that may or may not result in a new service, trends in our various industries that we ignore at our peril, or ongoing concerns that we will never be ‘finished’ with.
Our phone switch will be obsolete in three years. How should we approach the future of voice communication on campus, and in relation to our many campuses spread across the globe? How does this relate to our planning for email and other types of communication platforms?
- More Imaging Projects
With the first wave of Nolij (see above) projects underway, we will need to develop a way to prioritize which offices will go next. Human Resources is a likely candidate, as is College Advancement.
As more and more services move to the cloud and to mobile devices, how should we be thinking about file storage for collaboration and publication? With the explosive growth of video and other storage-hungry data applications, how do we project for growth? How do we think about our responsibilities for providing stable, secure, archival storage for things born digital?
- Advising Portal
With an increased interest in how academic advising functions, in what ways might we support these efforts through the use of online tools to allow for sharing of information between student and advisor?
- Clusters as Pathway to Curriculum
How might we use the web to help organize new ways of navigating and presenting the curriculum that is not currently an ‘official’ part of the curriculum, such as food studies, poverty studies, or global health?
Given our ambitions to define what it means to be a global liberal arts college, how do we support the need to communicate and collaborate at a distance through video and the web?
- Data Warehouse
In order to make best use of the data stored in Banner to support data-driven decision making, we will want to decide whether we want to continue to provide reporting and analysis through traditional reporting means against banner. Alternatively, do we want invest in the construction of a data warehouse, as other schools have done?
A wide range of interesting services are now provided by Internet2. We want to determine if this offering makes sense for us, and if so, what the right path would be to access it.
- Obe Group Press Project
A number of librarians who are part of the Oberlin Group are studying whether or not we should form a liberal arts press to support new forms of scholarly communication on our campuses.
- Scholar’s Lab/Digital Humanities
We are making plans for what services our faculty and students may need in order to pursue scholarship in the emerging field of digital humanities and to support long-term archiving of born digital materials (see storage above).
- Open Access
We will want to facilitate a conversation on whether or not the faculty wish to adopt an open access policy for faculty publications, as other peer institutions have done.
- Books on Demand
We will explore how new models for offering print books in an on-demand model might factor into our overall goal of providing our patrons with what they need when they need it.
- Information Literacy
We have made great progress in developing standards for our incoming students and in working on pilots to define advanced information literacy goals for majors. That said, one of our core questions remains: what sorts of literacies — media, information, quantitative– do our undergraduates need in order to suceed both during their time at the College and after?
- Death of Analog Video Formats
The video industry has declared VHS and other analog formats as ‘formats non grata.’ We need to determine how to adjust our classrooms, and how to handle the conversion of valuable curricular resources before the clock runs out.
Linkage to Larger College-wide Goals and Objectives
What has been discussed thus far is very IT- and library-centric. From time to time, we all need to be reminded that we are here to support the ongoing mission of the College. To that end, I’ve listed below strategic conversations that are underway on campus. I challenge us all to think about what we do can do both to support and, at times, provide leadership as the College develops itself as the global liberal arts college. In subsequent editions of this report and LIS conversations, you can expect our planning to connect explicitly to the planning efforts embodied in:
- Re-accreditation Projections
In producing our self-study in support of the visit by the NEASC re-accreditation team, we gave ourselves an ambitious list of activities that we committed to pursuing in the coming years. In addition to LIS-specific projections, we have been looking at all of the projections and asking ourselves what (if anything) can we do to support the work that the College will be pursuing to improve itself.
- Revised Strategic Plan
In addition to the self-study projections, we still have our strategic plan on the books, with a handful of key items still on the ‘to do’ list.
The College formed the College Council to identify those initiatives in our various undergraduate and graduate programs that can help realize the promise that our collective resources will allow us to provide an educational experience that each school can not provide on its own.
- Innovation Task Forces
This Spring, the newly formed task forces on curricular innovation will be hard at work identifying specific projects that could help the College stay on the cutting edge of pedagogy and scholarly communication.
For those of you who have made it all the way to the end of this, I hope you have found this to be a helpful way to remind ourselves of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. I hope that future versions will be more concise.