Sciences Advisory Group – Notes from Spring 2012 Meeting

The Sciences Advisory Group met on May 1, 2012

Attending: Carrie Macfarlane, Terry Simpkins, Bryan Carson, Brenda Ellis, Carol Peddie, Steve Bertolino (notes), Rebekah Irwin, Hans Raum, Roger Sandwick, David Dorman, Daniel Scharstein, Rick Bunt, Bill Hegman, Bob Cluss, Jason Arndt, Pete Ryan.

The topics of this meeting were:

1. Library collection development updates
2. Information literacy survey
3. Tech support
4. Updates

1. Library collection development updates – Requests for journals, other new processes (Rebekah)

Change in collection development policy: the “1-for-1” requirement for journal considerations is no more. History and Film/Media volunteered to go through their full list of journals in their area and see what they don’t need anymore. We’re not asking other departments to do this at this time, but that may happen in a few years. We’ve also changed our workflow so that the time between requests and purchasing of new journal subscriptions is shorter.


–Daniel mentioned it might be worth it to have occasional emails to chairs listing journals for their department and prices
–Rick mentioned for himself that trading cost for online access is something he’s interested in and perhaps others in the sciences would be interested too. Roger agreed and said we could even go further and, for journals we have online and paper access for (ie. bound journals), possibly withdraw the bound journals.
–Rebekah pointed out the dozen bound journals that Steve and the Physics faculty have agreed to weed out; Steve added a few specifics including that around 38 shelves will be freed as a result of the physical weeding, with no loss in online access to content.
–David agreed with Roger’s idea and suggested doing it for all science departments regardless, saying the Math department at least would like to do this.
–Bob asked if Armstrong is gaining space naturally; Carrie, Rebekah and Terry said no, but there should be an increase in space, to some extent, over the next 5 years because of weeding processes which will likely include bound journals as well as some monographs. More space becoming available upstairs in Armstrong is more likely than downstairs.
–Rick mentioned journals we have, for example, bound from 1960-74 but nothing previous or subsequent – should we get rid of those too, just because of the incomplete run?
–Generally, faculty are unsentimental and want to withdraw/cancel in favor of online.

2. Information literacy survey – Share results and ask for input (Brenda) 

The survey we used is composed of 30 questions and is also used by several other liberal arts colleges we compare ourselves with. It was given to students coming into Middlebury as first-years this past fall to get a sense of where they’re coming from in terms of information literacy. Brenda shared a one-page list of results that was felt were most significant. We intend to repeat the survey again this fall with the new class of first-years, with slight revisions for more tech questions and a slightly different method of administering the survey so we might hopefully get a higher response rate. Brenda remarked that because students used to not know where to start their research, they started at the library with a librarian, but now they just jump on an online search engine, but they don’t know how to refine results or understand when they have found good results. They’re frequently not sure when to cite sources. They don’t tend to understand peer review. We’re sharing these things to educate faculty as to some of the things they may be dealing with in first-year seminars, and how we as librarians can help. For more information, see


–Jason asked about surveying seniors; Brenda talked about how we’d like to expand the survey to seniors in the future. At the moment we’re focusing on first-years so we can get baseline data.
–Bob mentioned his opinion that a one-page summary is an excellent idea in order to get faculty to look at the results. He also said that survey fatigue is a concern for juniors and seniors, and perhaps a good way to gain additional data would be to survey the first-years again at the end of the first-year seminar or the end of the freshman year.
–Brenda mentioned that around 85% of this year’s first-year seminars have a librarian coming into their seminar, which is great, but we’d love to work on that 15%, plus it means that the 15% are going on to other upper-level classes unprepared; Roger mentioned that 85% is pretty good in terms of participation; David said his opinion was that professors should be referring unprepared students to librarians directly at any stage. He said we should treat learning to research in college like it was learning to ride a bicycle, with multiple opportunities given to students to work at it.
–Rick mentioned another concern, that College administration would like to see many things incorporated into the first-year seminar experience, and information literacy, while having a strong argument for itself, is competing with those other things, some of which are not explicitly academic. Terry brought up that there’s work being done by librarians in other instruction-related areas, such as tutorials and more varied support for Reference questions including texting and online chat.
-Generally, faculty are concerned to hear that students don’t know how to evaluate sources effectively, or how and when to cite sources. We should be sure to emphasize these points when we talk about research instruction for students, especially in the first-year seminar.

3. Tech support – BiHall followups, HelpDesk initiatives (Carrie, Terry)

–Carrie talked about how the new Science Data Librarian position has a strong tech component and we’d like the successful candidate to have a direct connection with the Helpdesk, and perhaps also provide some specialized software help. We’re still in the hiring process and hope to have the new employee in place this summer.
–Carrie highlighted that a Drupal work session and a Segue Migration workshop were offered this semester in Armstrong with little to no attendance, and asked when holding workshops in Armstrong would be most profitable for faculty.


–Rick expressed that one difficulty is that there’s an impression among faculty that LIS is always changing the website software, and there’s less impetus to learn new programs when there’s a belief that we’ll just change it in a few years anyways. Certainly some of this is inevitable with the pace of technology growth and change, but a balance should be worked at to encourage the most value for constant investment on the faculty’s part.
–Terry added some notes from the Helpdesk. Service Level Agreements are being created in order to help both faculty and staff know what kind of support is expected in all situations. There will be a table of response times that Helpdesk will adhere to, and this will give everyone realistic expectations of the times needed to address issues. Issues involving teachers currently teaching in a classroom always get immediate priority. Currently there are a few senior specialist positions open at Helpdesk, and interviews are being set up right now, with the hope that new staff will be added this summer. A new ticketing system to replace HEAT is being looked into, with the goal to have a more flexible system including more opportunity for faculty to check up on their requests, and we hope to have that in place by the end of calendar year 2012.
–Bob asked about whether faculty are satisfied with Helpdesk’s support, and Terry and Carol responded that we hope to have some clear results from the MISO survey. Bob opened the question to the room. Jason and David both said they or other colleagues had experiences with immediate need in a classroom and Helpdesk responded immediately.

4. Updates (Carrie)
–Carrie asked if there’s a good time to offer Segue Migration Workshops since Segue will be turned off August 31. Carol added that about 90% of sites haven’t been migrated; Bryan added that many sites are old and can simply be checked off as not needed anymore, but faculty need to choose that option. He reiterated that migrating a Segue site is easier than creating one, and that faculty will continue to get monthly reminder emails until they migrate or delete sites or dump them into MiddFiles. Carrie noted that iaisons are available to help one-on-one, but is worried that come crunch time there won’t be enough liaisons to help everyone one-on-one. Bob volunteered that right after Commencement would be a good time to remind faculty again and offer workshops.
–Carrie mentioned that our 3 Science Data Librarian candidates are coming in May and all science faculty are invited to their presentations in order to provide input to the search committee. Invites to presentations will be forthcoming from Carrie.

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