Articles posted by Bruce Gilbert

Open Cowles Library Liaison Meeting CANCELLED: 18 November 2013

November 6, 2013

We regret to report that, due to unavoidable travel delays caused by inclement weather, this session has been cancelled. Watch this space for re-scheduling information, and thanks for your interest!

From Stacks to the Web: the Transformation of Academic Library Collecting

Suggested Reading for an open Cowles Library Liaison Meeting

NOTE: The following is a condensed version of an article published in January 2013 in College and Research Libraries. The condensation was done by Prof. Bruce Gilbert (local editorial comments are in italics), and all errors and opinions are his. The full text of this article is available here:

SECOND NOTE: The purpose of this condensation is not to imply agreement with most, or all, of its tenets by Cowles Library Faculty. Rather, it is to provide background for what we hope will be a robust discussion among all Drake faculty on the future of the Library and its collections.

Official Abstract:

The existence of a ubiquitous and cheap worldwide communication’s network that increasingly makes documents easily and freely available will require a transformation of academic library collecting practice. It will be driven by a number of specific developments including: the digitization of content; the development of print repositories; the development of e-readers and print-ondemand publishing; the growth of open access; challenges to establish academic publishing organizations; and the growth of new forms of scholarship based on openness and social productivity. If academic libraries are to be successful, they will need to: deconstruct legacy print collections; move from item-by-item book selection to purchase-on-demand and subscriptions; manage the transition to open access journals; focus on curating unique items; and develop new mechanisms for funding national infrastructure.

 Condensed version:

I. Assumptions:

The assumption of this article is that library collections (books, journals, etc.) are undergoing radical change, and this change will profoundly affect libraries and their users. “The fundamental force for change is the growth of computing power and its application to create a ubiquitous and cheap worldwide communications network. This network contains a large and growing amount of content.” “Libraries will soon be able to provide much of the information required by their communities without resorting to local print collections.” (Ed. note: This has already happened at Cowles; we have tens of thousands of electronic magazines and journals, for example, and only a few hundred current print subscriptions)

II. Brief History and background:

Twenty years ago, Michael Buckland published Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto.  Buckland divided library history into three eras: the Paper Library,where both bibliographic tools and documents were in paper; the Automated Library, where the bibliographic tools were digital, but the documents were still paper, and the Electronic Library, were both bibliographic tools and documents are digital.  Importantly, Buckland recognized that the significant transition was not from Paper Library to Automated Library because the change in bibliographic tools did not fundamentally alter library practice. Readers still had to come to libraries to get and use documents. Buckland recognized that only when both bibliographic tools and documents become digital would fundamental change occur.

  • Buckland begins by defining the purpose of libraries as providing access to information, usually through the provision of documents to readers. He notes that collections have two roles: the preservation role, and the dispensing role. As he states, in the paper and automated libraries, “The principle reason for most investment in collections development is not preservation but the need to provide convenient access to materials that people want to see where they want to see them”
  • Digital documents are not physically constrained. Many readers located in many places can use a digital document simultaneously.
  • Buckland points out that the dispensing function accounts for the “the great preponderance of operating costs and space needs in the Paper Library and in the Automated Library.” Most of the cost of collections is for large quantities of relatively little-used material. Buckland also reflects on the symbolic role of library collections, how large paper collections provide institutions with status and prestige, and he wonders whether access to digital documents will prove to have similar symbolic value. Lastly, Buckland observes that digital documents should lead to a national rather than a local focus for collection building.

Others have argued that it is important to consider not what libraries do, but rather what they are for. One answer  is that libraries are the means that communities and organizations use to provide information subsidy. Subsidy is important because institutions and communities recognize that left to their own devices individuals will not and cannot acquire and use all the information they need to be fully productive. Institutional or community subsidy is thus justified in order to create libraries as a common good.

Specific Drivers of Change for Libraries and Scholarly Communication

1. Digitization of Content

The Google Books project was the impetus for two other important mass digitization projects, the Internet Archive’s Ebook and Texts
Archive containing over 2 million public domain titles and the HathiTrust, a collaborative program of over 50 academic and research libraries that contains nearly 9 million volumes, much of it copies of Google and Internet Archive scans. A study by Constance Malpas found that as of June 2010 the median rate of duplication between titles held by members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the HathiTrust was 30%, and it is projected to be more than 60% by June of 2014.

It seems likely that sooner or later most of the books in existence will be scanned. It is then only a matter of time before lawyers, the
courts, Congress, or more likely some combination of the above, will find a compromise to make at least some significant portion of them available  to individuals and libraries. Libraries are likely to remain the payment mechanism for some of the access. It is also easy to imagine an iTunes-like model for individual purchases.

2. Print Repositories

The potential efficiencies of a coordinated group of print repositories with a service that provides print copies of works to libraries is significant. Present values for perpetual storage per book are calculated at: $142 for open stacks is $141.89 and $29 for high-density storage is $28.77. If a robust shared print service were in place today, the median space saving for an ARL library would be 45,000 assignable square feet. The cost avoidance if a shared print service for mass-digitized books were available today would be between $500,000 and $2 million per ARL library. (Ed. note: Cowles Library is already engaged in a project to share print collections with other Central Iowa Libraries.)

3. E-Book Readers and Print on Demand

In May 2011, Amazon sold more e-books than print books.  It is clear that e-books and e-book readers have become an important part of the mainstream market for books. With the development of digital printing processes, it became possible to reduce print runs significantly, finally allowing printing to be done one item at a time. The ultimate expression of print-on-demand (POD) may be the Espresso Book Machine (EBM). An EBM costs a bit more than $100,000 depending on the printer with which it is paired and can print and bind books for a penny a page. (E

4. Open Access Publishing

As defined by Peter Suber, “Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. OA removes price barriers (subscriptions, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees) and permission barriers (most copyright and licensing restrictions).”

Open access began in the early 1990s and has grown at a faster rate than the scholarly literature generally. In 2004 the DOAJ listed 1,133 titles and by November of 2011 that number had risen to 7,315 with annual increases in the number of titles of between 20% and 30%. While open access as a business model has been focuses on journals, a number of academic presses have explored open access for books.  The National Academies Press, which for some time has made some of its books available at no cost on the Internet, announced in June of 2011 that they would make all of their 4,000 titles open access.

5. Challenges to University Presses and Scholarly Book Production

It is hard to be optimistic about university press book publishing in the near term. What is clear is that the downward pressures on the traditional academic book publishing market will continue. Libraries will purchase fewer scholarly books, young scholars and those in disciplines where publishing cost are high or where sales can be expected to be low, will have an increasingly difficult time getting a book published. This will impact academic careers. The only saving grace may be that as university presses fail and the traditionally published scholarly book becomes more difficult, young scholars will be more inclined to take risks and explore alternative means of communicating their work.

6. Changes in Scholarly Communication: Openness and Social Productivity

Open scholarship begins with open access, but goes on to open up other aspects of the scholarly communication’s process. These include:
1. Open review, most likely post-publication.
2. Open dialog. Discussion is the standard mode of operation on the web, but as Burton notes, “Traditional scholarly publishing pays homage to the ‘dialogue’ of ideas in that metaphorical sense, but in reality it soundly rejects interactivity.”
3. Open process. This involves scholars being open about what they are working on and sharing early versions of work.
4. Open formats. To make sharing easy and cheap, standards and formats need to be open.
5. Open data. The data means reusable research results. Recent moves by funding agencies suggest this aspect of openness may soon be a compliance issue.

“It comes down to this: the more academia wishes to enjoy the benefits of the digital medium, the less it can hold on to restrictive and closed practices in the production, vetting, dissemination, and archiving of information.”

Academic Library Collecting in the New World 

1. Deconstruct Legacy Print Collections

“The first step, which should begin today, is to radically slow the growth of print collections. It makes little sense to add material now that you will regret having in a few years.”

2. Move from Item-by-Item Book Selection to Purchase-on-Demand (PDA) and Subscriptions

Subscriptions may be an effective means of managing risk for both libraries and publishers. Libraries will limit their exposure to increases in use and publishers will have a guaranteed income stream. Libraries will indirectly benefit from the security subscription models provide to publishers if this results in an increase in the output of scholarly content.

Both PDAs and subscriptions change the role of librarians in the selection process. (Ed. note: Cowles has been active in PDA for three years. We currently provide access to over a hundred thousand ebook titles on demand. We do not pay for them until they are used, yet we’ve expanded the depth and breadth of our collection dramatically. We’ve also recently added the availability of several thousand print books via PDA as well.) With both, librarians will establish the overall structure of the plans, but will not be involved in day-to-day operations. In addition, both PDAs and subscriptions should reduce acquisitions and cataloging costs. (Editor’s note: Cowles Library already subscribes to thousands of monographic titles, and has recently purchased entire book collections through Project Muse and Springer)

3. Manage the Transition to Open Access Journals

As more open access titles move into the top tier it will become easier for faculty to change their publishing practices. There is some evidence that faculty authors are willing to publish in open access journals if they are prestigious, especially if they are working with international collaborators. It is therefore in the interest of libraries to continue to support open access initiatives: institutional deposit mandates; support for open access
journals, or funding of open access author fees. (Editor’s note: Cowles Library has provided both an institutional repository and local digital collections for a number of years; almost all content is openly available.)

4. Curate the Unique

Libraries will want to continue to make the case for their engagement in archiving the research process. It will also be important to balance curation activities across academic programs. Libraries may support Chemistry in different ways than they do Religious Studies, but it will need to do something for both. (Editor’s note: The Library’s recent designation as the official Archives for Drake is an important step in this direction)

5. Develop New Mechanisms to Fund National Infrastructure

It may be that a structure something like the United Way would be useful to collect contributions and make decisions on the degree of support for individual projects. Contributing to a single trusted agency that in turn makes judgments about how to allocate funding to particular projects could make investments in national projects easier to justify.

By the early 2020s in is easy to imagine the following: Print collections will have been reduced by at least half in most academic libraries.  Many libraries will have reduced the amount of their budget to build collections by purchasing published content. This saving will accrue from reductions in materials budgets and from a decline in the amount of staffing, both professional and clerical, required to select, acquire, and catalog locally held material. The published content that is purchased will be acquired in large blocks on a subscription basis or on an item-by-item basis in a PDA model. One author has suggested that the combination of a PDA and reduced print collection may make it cheaper to let the user keep the item so the library would avoid the future cost of storage.

There will be two keys to success in this new scholarly communications ecology. The first will be the willingness of universities to continue to invest, in large part through their libraries, even as the mechanisms to do so change. Secondly, librarians must embrace new roles and abandon old practices. Collections and collecting must be transformed.

Natural Standard is now for Pet Owners, too

June 16, 2011

Natural Standard provides a critical and transparent review of the evidence regarding herbs and supplements. Drake has had access to this database and its wealth of evaluative information on integrative treatments for human health for some time; however, Natural Standard recently added information on such treatments for pets and animals, too!  To access, follow the link below, and click on "Databases" in the menu bar, and choose "Animal Health" at the bottom of the pull-down list.  Info is browsable by both treatment and condition, and the entire database is searchable.

If you're a Drake student, faculty, or staff, check out Natural Standard!

Librarian for Digital Literacy & General Education

January 26, 2011

Please note that this position has been filled.

Drake University is committed to an integrated combination of liberal arts and professional programs. As a learning-centered private institution with selective enrollment, Drake has approximately 3,900 full-time and 1,300 part-time students. Each of the past five years, U.S. News and World Report has ranked Drake among the top regional universities in the Midwest. Drake University invites applications for the following full-time faculty position:

Librarian for Digital Literacy and General Education (12-month, tenure-track appointment; position available 1 June 2011)

Drake University seeks an energetic, creative, and user-oriented instruction librarian to provide coordination of Cowles Library’s programs in support of Drake's General Education Curriculum, including First Year Experience initiatives, as well as support of Digital and Media Literacy. Working collaboratively with library staff and other campus partners, the Librarian for Digital Literacy and General Education will initiate and coordinate services focused on engaging and supporting undergraduates as they pursue the curricular goals of the General Education portion of the Drake Curriculum. Through both in-library and creative outreach methods, the incumbent will help develop the research and critical proficiencies of the undergraduate student population, as well as promote the resources and the services of the library. The incumbent will also contribute to the planning, development and provision of instruction and reference services of Cowles Library. The incumbent will be “lead instructor” of at least one class per semester, including leading an FYS (First-Year Seminar) during the Fall Semester.

The successful applicant will be appointed to a tenure-track position, with rank commensurate with qualifications and experience. Salary range: from mid- to upper forties.

Cowles Library is the main Library for Drake University, providing support for undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as the library and research needs of both on-campus and distance students. The Librarian for Digital Literacy and General Education will join a professional staff of twenty employees, including ten tenure-track and continuing appointment faculty members. The Library has a history of, and commitment to, innovation in services, instruction, and technology.



  • MLIS from an ALA-accredited institution.
  • Experience teaching library instruction classes in an academic environment, preferably to undergraduate students.
  • Flexibility to teach evening and weekend hours, as needed .
  • Strong commitment to service, excellent communication skills, ability to work collaboratively.
  • Knowledge of evaluative standards in academia and libraries (e.g., LibQUAL, NSSE).
  • Knowledge of trends and best practices in the provision and assessment of Information Literacy.


  • Teaching experience in a collaborative environment.
  • Experience with assessment at the program level.

Review of applications will begin 10 March 2011 and will continue until the position is filled. Applicants should provide an application letter, current resume, and the names and contact information for at least three professional references. All applicants must use Drake's online application system, which requires the applicant to create a private and secure account.  To apply, visit the Drake HR Web Site: Application information here. Questions should be emailed to:, or call 515-271-4821.

Drake University is an equal-opportunity employer and actively seeks applicants who reflect the diversity of the nation. No applicant shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, religion, age, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information or veteran status.

Best Fiction and Non-Fiction Books I’ve read this year: One Librarian’s List

December 22, 2010

'tis the end of the year, which means it's time for: "Best of" lists.  Following is a list, in no particular order, of the three best non-fiction, and fiction, books I read this year.  Note that these are NOT necessarily "new" books, they were just "new to me," as in, books I'd never read before (thus, "My Antonia" and "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" don't make the list).  The lists are in no particular order (other than maybe the "honorable mentions.")


  1. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy.  An amazing book, and one to be treasured if, like me, you are a sucker for astonishing sentences whose cascading vocabulary both flows and coagulates ("A tintype picked from the wedge of the pages. Sailorsuited poppet a fiend's caricature of old childhoods, a gross cartoon.")  I would rank only Blood Meridian as a better book by McCarthy (with, perhaps, "The Crossing" from the Border Trilogy right up there).  Basically, this book is the adventures of a down-and-out as he survives in the rankest underbelly of Knoxville TN in the 1950s.  Any other summary is, well, insufficient.
  2. Toward the End of Time by John Updike.  Not really one of Updike's best (for that, I'd still go to "Of the Farm") but still a rewarding (if unsettling) read.  Set in the not-distant future, the protagonist Ben still has money, a family, a lovely home, a car, and membership in the golf club, even though the midwest has been blasted by thermonuclear devices (to me, the continued existence of the Brahmin middle class (even if, no doubt, meant ironically) after the Apocalypse, as well as futuristic sci fi just not being Updike's metier, are the book's weaknesses).  Even if Ben's lifestyle has pretty much survived intact, Ben may not, as the year (and Ben's health and relationships) devolve.  Best parts of the books are occasional historical "drop-in" vignettes, and, of course, Updike's inimitable prose: "Thick as leaves, the starlings blackened the bare branches so that there was only a shuffle of sparks of daylight between them."
  3. Rock Island Line by David Rhodes.  I came upon this novel in perhaps the wrong order:  Like many, when the critically-acclaimed "Driftless" was published, I "discovered" Rhodes ("Driftless" was an "All Iowa Reads" selection.)  In retrospect, I wish I'd read Rock Island Line first, mostly because it provides context for some of the characters in "Driftless," and partly because, well, it's a better book, if that makes sense.  Insightful description of what it's like to grow up young and different in rural Iowa (as well as under a train station in Philadelphia).

Honorable Mention:  Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery – Audiobook version (Cassandra Morris, narrator) I know there are many admirers of this book out there, but I found its approach somewhat cloying and contrived.  I didn't mind that so much, however, in the audiobook version, because the part of Paloma is read by one Cassandra Morris, whose insightful and natural rendition make it much easier to forgive the sentimental manipulativeness (albeit a skillfully-articulated manipulativeness) of the book.


  1. Oracle Bones, by Peter Hessler.  While not as good as Hessler's own "River Town" or, say, Ian Johnson's "Wild Grass," Oracle Bones is still an excellent overview (from a Westerner's viewpoint) of modern changing China (with the full recognition that those two adjectives are Sino-redundant).  Hessler approach is definitely one of participative observer, and, if you've ever been to China, you'll understand why that's almost a necessity.  I'd recommend reading "River Town" first, as many of the same people's stories are carried through in both books.  Hessler has a new book on his travels in China out in 2010; for next year's list, perhaps?
  2. After the Prophet: the epic story of the shia-sunni split in islam by Lesley Hazelton.  Wow, what a good book!  If, like many Westerners, you are basically ignorant of proto-Islamic history, this book can profitably be read like a historical novel:  You won't know the characters, but you will be quickly swept up in their story.  If you know the basic structure of early Islamic events, you will still be amazed at what you learn, and how rich and relevant this history is (for example, the details and historical implications of the one time a woman lead Islamic troops into battle).  Very well written, and not an "epic" in length, there is little reason to leave this one off your reading list.
  3. The Tyranny of E-mail:  by John Freeman.  I (get to?) read a lot of technical/Internet literature, and a lot of it is pretty painful, but Freeman has done what so many others fail to do: Taken a "big picture," historical look at how we came to be buried in bits and bytes, as well as coupling it with some common-sense suggestions on how to "deal" with the world of Spam-alot.  So many "How to" books ignore the big "How Did We Get Here?" question that I want to scream, "Can you expect us to take you seriously when you don't take the past seriously?"  Freeman's analysis of, basically, the invention of time by our technology (or, vice-versa) is an interesting and useful read.

Honorable Mention: The Cultural Work of Corporations by Drake's own(!) Megan Brown.  I'll be honest:  The only reason I'm listing this as an "honorable mention" is that I haven't quite finished reading it! (I will have it done by the end of the year, though, so that's why it still counts!)  As mentioned above, as book selector for Cowles Library's business stuff, I see an amazing amount of claptrap and works of fleeting (at best) interest.  Thus, the approach by Dr. Brown is beyond a breath of fresh air, it's more like entering a new country: She explores historical trends in business literature from a socio-humanist perspective that makes one wonder what all these other business scribblers are playing at.  Moreover, her critical approach repeatedly unearths the buried assumptions of writers and corporations:  For example, just because the latter is "benevolent," doesn't mean it is benficient!  Small quibbles:  I'd change the title to "Cultural Work of Organizations," as the book's messages are just as relevant to non-profits and (dare I say?) educational institutions; and a more commercial "trade" release would help spread its much-needed message.  Until then, you all will have to wait until the new year, when I return Cowles Library's copy!

Happy reading, everyone!

Open Educational Resources – Two Interesting Pointers

October 5, 2010

The future of education (especially Higher Education) is Open Educational Resources (OER), that is,  those resources that are freely available for anyone to use to learn and to teach.  (Another large repository of OER-ware is  The purpose of this post is not to advocate for OER, but rather point to how OER is already gaining momentum of the wave of the future:  Educators and students can either choose to ride that wave, or get swamped!

  • First, a blog post in the Chronicle of Higher Education makes it clear that Bill Gates is going to use some of his Billions to support new ways of doing business in academia, and, very specifically, OER resources.
  • Second, the "Free to Learn" guide, recently published by Hal Plotkin, would seem to have a Community College bent; but the lessons of its practical approach would benefit any educator or administrator.  It also has an excellent bibliography for those who are new to this exciting area.  From the Abstract: "Open Educational Resources (OER) offer higher education governance leaders a cost-efficient method of improving the quality of teaching and learning while at the same time reducing costs imposed on students related to the purchase of expensive commercial textbooks and learning materials. … Higher education governance officials, particularly boards of trustees and senior academic governance leaders, have a tremendous opportunity to harness the advantages of OER for their institutions."

Knowledge Notes: Information Literacy (30 August 2010)

August 26, 2010

Welcome to Knowledge Notes!  This is the first “topic-based” post in Cowles Library’s semi-regular series of reflections on the changing nature of scholarly information in a digital world.

Personal context:  Your author is Bruce Gilbert, Director of Library Instruction at Drake University’s Cowles Library. I have been at Drake almost long enough to qualify for Beloit College’s Mindset list, which is to say, when I first came to Drake in January 1992, many of Drake’s current class of First Year Students were not yet (or just!) born.

Many of the comments that follow stem from a presentation I gave to the assembled First Year Seminar Workshop on 12 August 2010.  The powerpoint presentation from that talk is embedded at the bottom of this document.  Note that the purpose of these musings is not to be comprehensive, but rather to raise some interesting issues and perhaps point towards some courses of action that make sense in the Drake (and other academic?) setting.  Also note that any viewpoints expressed below are mine alone!

What is Information Literacy (Info Lit)?

Let’s start with the very basic question:  What the heck is Info Lit anyway?  It is a seemingly simple question with no simple answer.  And it also points to a great deal of confusion.

Information Literacy is often confused and conflated with related, but still very different, terms such as Information Technology, or Computer Literacy, or even Library Literacy.  While there is considerable overlap amongst these concepts, there are also very important distinctions.

I prefer to describe Info Lit variously as:  a separate academic disciple; a set of dispositions, skills, and ethical sensibilites; and finally, a unique perspective on research and the academic life.

Note that I will not belabor the well-known ACRL definitions of Info Lit nor refer specifically to their even more widely referenced Competency Standards for Higher Education.  (If you are new to these concepts, however, you will want to give these documents a look)

Pirate's dilemma

A. Information Literacy as an Academic Discipline (“Meta” View)

As a discipline, Information Literacy is both a very rewarding, and sometimes equally frustrating, academic grove to labor in.   Ironically, of course, many of the rewards and frustration stem from the same source:  Info Lit is a constantly evolving discipline that never grows stale; however, at the same time, we practitioners can never truly “catch up”!

One measure of the dynamic and vibrant nature of Information Literacy as a discipline is the out-pouring of truly readable, interesting, timely, and widely-based literature on Info Lit topics.  I have several examples of good books in the ppt presentation (below), but one I should mention as an illustrative example is “The Pirate’s Dilemma:  How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism” (Cowles catalog listing is linked from the book jacket).   This book raises (among others) the interesting question:  What is the danger to our growth as a society if we treat our innovative youth (the “Pirates” of the book title), who want to make something new out of various fragments and snippets of our culture, as criminals to be suppressed, rather than as resources to be developed?  The book examines the recent history of “piracy” in America, from the growth of hiphop to youth clothing and cultural movements, in a kinetic and thought-provoking manner.

I have spent a little time with this book because it demonstrates the wide-ranging nature of concerns that Information Literacy instructors and practitioners must be aware of; these concerns extend far beyond “computer literacy” into the ethical and cultural realm of, “What is the impact of all this change on society in general, and us as individuals?”

B. Information Literacy as a body of dispositions, skills, and ethical sensibilites (“Describe the house brick-by-brick” view)

This is perhaps the most common method of describing Information Literacy:  Define through listing its constituent parts.  This approach is that taken by the ACRL Standards (listed above), for example.

So, what are these constituent parts?  According to the newly-minted Drake Information Literacy rubric (primarily designed for Drake’s General Education curriculum and First Year Seminar courses) in order to achieve a “basic” level of Information Literacy, a student should be good at:  Retrieving, Evaluating, Analyzing, Interpreting, and Citing information.

I think it interesting to note that, in this listing, there is no direct reference to technology per se; that is, the student is expected to be proficient at evaluating and citing information, whether that information comes from a Kindle or a newspaper, a Web site or a journal article (online or otherwise).  There is an underlying level of technical competence that is assumed; however, certain critical faculties, as well as reading and writing abilities as well as a basic ethical sensibilty, are also assumed for the Information Literate individual.

C. Information Literacy as a Unique Perspective on Research and the Academic Life (“Change Management” View)

This approach to “defining” Information Literacy has arisen out of discussions we have had, both among the Faculty of Cowles Library, as well as with other interested Drake individuals.  Those talks stemmed from a general lack of common understanding, and even ignorance, of what Information Literacy was supposed to be at Drake.  Along the way, we considered, but rejected, simply re-naming Info Lit as something else (the trendier term “Information Fluency” being one example) in favor of sharpening the focus of the discipline, especially within a Drake University context.

Part of this sharpening was the creation of the Info Lit Rubric (see above), the first-ever Information Literacy rubric for the Drake curriculum (it was created with input from two librarians, a Computer Science faculty, and the Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences).

Another part of this re-conceptualization was the realization of the unique role that Information Literacy serves as a “gateway” discipline to other “emerging literacies” such as Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, Media Literacy, et al.  (I can’t do justice in this post to all the other “emerging literacies” out there (they are sometimes referred to as “trans-literacies”); subject for another time?)

The following is from a document that arose out of all these discussions; it discusses the new framework and description, as well as a “two-tiered approach” to Information Literacy within the Drake Curriculum.  The text of this excerpt is underlined:

  1. Information Literacy within the context of Drake’s General Education curriculum. It is intended to support the needs of either the existing General Education AOI requirements, or that represented by the University Curriculum Committee proposal. Digital and Media Literacy refers to the ability of students to retrieve, evaluate, and ethically manipulate information, regardless of format. Digital and Media Literacy may be achieved through a variety of methods (e.g., for-credit coursework, research project, etc.) but it has the following three characteristics: It will be achieved in the student’s first two years; it will provide the students with the broad research-based skills and dispositions that will prepare them for study in an academic major; and it will also provide the relevant knowledge for a student to achieve the learning-based goals of Drake’s mission, such as functioning within a collaborative learning environment, or having the evaluative skills necessary to be an engaged global citizen.
  2.   Research and Scholarly Analysis will be a new formal addition to the Drake experience, but it will encompass many ongoing curricular and co-curricular efforts. Specifically, the learning outcomes associated with Research and Scholarly Analysis will encompass the research and analytical skills and dispositions necessary to pursue a major (either multi-disciplinary or in a single area of study) at Drake. Research and Scholarly Analysis will also address the upper-class requirements of either the current, or proposed, Drake Curriculum (including Problem-Based Learning, advanced/experiential research projects, and the various Capstone projects) as well as the research requirements of Drake students who are either entering graduate school, or are enrolled in graduate studies at Drake.

This is the framework the Faculty of Cowles Library are willing to commit themselves to, going forward.  We realize that we do not “own” Information Literacy at Drake, and that others may wish to define the concept differently; however, we would love to get feedback from any interested parties!  (Whether they be at Drake or not!)  What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses to these statements (both the underlined passages, and the Info Lit Rubric (above)?  How would you define it differently?  Is this approach more, or less, useful than, say, a “technology literacy” or “computer literacy” approach?

Feel free to put your comments at the bottom, or e-mail me at  We’d love to hear from you!



Presentation for Faculty Senate

November 18, 2009

Links to Presentation Given by Bruce Gilbert, Faculty Senator

Drake Faculty Senate, 27 January 2010

  1. Here are the slides Bruce presented.
  2. Creative Commons License your own work in seconds!  Just click on the word “License.
  3. Open Internet Tools series.
  4. Link to the AARP “free elearning” site.

Who gets the RFP for Innovation? Musings on Openness and “the Cloud”

October 26, 2009



Our campus is looking at potential alternatives to a campus-wide system (for the purposes of this piece, it’s irrelevant which one), and, in the way of all post-modern organizations, is developing an RFP (Request for Proposal).

As I say, this is a time-honored tradition; you want a new service, or the replacement of an existing one, you “buy” one, and in organizational parlance, that means a “purchase process” consisting of:  RFI (Request for Information), followed by an RFP, then a review of received proposals,  followed by a purchase, followed by the culminating FAIUIBA (Forget About It Until It Breaks Again; and yes, I did just make up that acronym, but anyone who works with organizational IT knows I’m not describing a mythical creature!) at which time the cycle begins again.

However, gentle readers, I am not stretching a point or telling you anything you don’t already know when I stress that the phrase “time-honored tradition” is nowadays more of a shibboleth than laudatory; and one would think this would be especially true in the fast-moving world of Information Technology.  Yet it is perhaps here, more than any other service area, where the tradition dies hardest.

Open is here to stay

The great “open” movements that are already transforming education, as well as society at large, are little recognized when it comes to the “purchase process” described above.  (Keeping in mind, of course, that all the “open” movements are co-mingled with that giant conceptual cloud:  “cloud computing,” wherein you get your tech services and software from non-campus resources).  Let’s take one small component of the “open” environment:  Open Source Software.  If you are reading this post on the Web, it was created on server-side Open Source Software (in this case, Drupal; which means the software was developed by no single individual or company, but by a universe of like-minded developers; and that it cost us Zero Dollars to test, “buy,” download, and install).  Chance are about 50-50 you are reading this post on an Open Source Web client (Firefox is the most widespread one).  You are then free to download this text into an Open Source desktop application (such as Open Office’s Writer)

So, I can create, read, download, and re-format everything for/from a Web page, all without any money changing hands, all dependent on no corporation, but rather a group of like-minded developers whose only inherent interest is to make a better product.  Sweet, huh? 

Where’s the Rub, bub?

So, when it comes to selecting a new University service (e.g., Course Management System, Content Management System, Integrated Library System, email system, etc.) why wouldn’t your search begin with Open Source Software?

Well, there are a number of reasons, but today I’ll concentrate on one:  And that is, in most instances, Open Source has neither the same place at the table, nor the same advocacy, as does commercial software.  And the reason is simple:  By its very nature, Open Source is dependent on a spirit of innovation, and a strong user base; the developer’s goal is to share their work.  Commercial software is dependent upon a sales team, who innundate us all with mail (electronic and paper), phone calls, advertising, etc; their goal is for you to buy their product, because once you do, you won’t switch, at least not for a long time.  (Don’t forget FAIUIBA!)

Becoming the voice of the Open

So, how do we get Open Source (as well as its kindred movements, Open Access, Open Educational Resources) its proper place at the table?  Only by calling our institutions to task, namely:  If we claim we want to nurture innovation, “transformation,” and places where experimentation and education go hand-in-hand, then we have no choice:  Alternatives beyond those presented by salespeople must be explored, encouraged, and given room to grow. 

And if you’ve read this far, one last suggestion:  If you find yourself on an academic committee that is formulating, or evaluating, an RFP, do something radical:  Remind your colleagues that the “P” in RFP stands for “Proposal” instead of “Purchase.”  If you can get that radical idea across, try to at least broach the idea that “free” is not all bad, and supporting those who are in favor of innovation and sharing is not terrible, either.

Cowles Library Offers “No Pressure” Informational Sessions

September 1, 2009

11 September, 10 to 11 a.m.


WHERE: Cowles Library Electronic Classroom

(ask at Cowles Library Main Floor Information Desk if you need directions)


WHO: Anyone who provides, or supports, classroom instruction at Drake.

Library session leaders will include:

Liga Briedis, Sean Stone, Bruce Gilbert



  • Learn more about how to incorporate Library resources into your class

  • Learn what services and resources the Library has to support your teaching

  • Become more “green” and have the Library digitize handouts and readings

    If you want to learn about any/all of these, in a relaxed atmosphere, this is the session for you!


WHAT: Specifically, these sessions will cover useful tips on:

  • How to provide links to one of the Library’s thousands of e-books or tens of thousands of electronic journals for your courses;

  • What you need to do to provide easy, copyright-compliant electronic access (“e-reserves”) to your course readings;

  • How to integrate Library resources (including a Librarian!) into your BlackBoard pages;

  • The “basics” of Interlibrary loan, Refworks, e-reserves, etc.

All in a comfortable atmosphere, where any question you might have is appropriate. And, refreshment WILL be provided!


WHAT ELSE? That’s it! No prep required! (If you DO want to RSVP, call x4821, or email , but it’s not a requirement).

We Want Your Input – Planning for the Future of Cowles

August 27, 2009

Cowles Is Planning for the Future; Let us Know What You Think!

Like many departments at Drake and elsewhere in academia, the employees of Cowles Library are engaged in planning for the future (a.k.a. “strategic planning”). We are committed to making this process (still in its early stages) as transparent as possible. Recently, we did a “brainstorming session” where planners enumerated various programs and activities that might be important to the Library’s users in the future. Now, we’d love your input! You can do it in one of two ways:

  1. View and comment on what we’ve done “virtually:”
  2. Come to the Library and visit our “hands on” display, and make additions, suggestions, etc., yourself! The “display” is located on the Main Floor, down the ramp (just past the Cowles Cafe)

Either way, we’d love to hear what you think!

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