I Had An Idea…

Posted June 18, 2017 By Abigail Goben

We’re  solidly into summer here in Chicago. I’m waiting on the Board of Trustees to vote on my tenure (July 12/13 is their meeting–I’ll let you know as soon as I get word…) and it’s ALA this weekend, which involves 20K of my friends descending upon the city. There will be ARCs aplenty and exhaustive discussions  of data management, innovations and changes, what’s happening next in libraries, and really, where one can find the best desserts and cocktails. I’ve no doubt Chicago will rise to the punch.

At work I’m trying to get through the backlog that built up over spring. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to work through it al but perhaps I can make a large enough dent? Theoretically?

It would help, of course, if I didn’t continue to get dive-bombed by ideas. I’ve begun to dread Tuesdays.

Tuesdays seem to be miscellaneous idea days. Someone mentions something; a random thought runs through my head. And things have slowed just enough that I have a minute to write it down and to send off perhaps one short email. Just a “what do you think” or “wouldn’t be interesting if…” By Friday there’s a full fledged idea, a plan, and a team.

No really. It’s happened twice already this summer and last weeks’ idea tried very hard but I stuffed it into a notebook and said STOP. I figure that might buy me a week or two.

All of the new things will hopefully pupate into full on butterflies later this fall and you can hear about them more fully then. Currently, they aren’t solely mine and we’re still framing.

But if I call you on a Tuesday….watch out!


P.S. Attending ALA this summer? Places to catch me:

Saturday: 10:30-11:30 LITA  Appointments Committee Meeting;

Sunday: 10:30-11:30 Panel on Collecting Library Data! Come see me moderate Jenica Rogers, Kristin Briney, and Sara Mannheimer! I CAN’T WAIT!

Sunday evening: LITA Happy Hour [because where else would you find me?]

Monday: STS Research Poster Session! Representing me and Megan Sapp Nelson and the ACRL RDM Road Show

Tuesday: Closing Keynote! How could I miss it!


Let Us Do Better

Posted March 29, 2017 By Abigail Goben

I watched Congress this week vote to sell off all of our browsing histories. It is a horrifying thing to observe and the Philosopher and I need to sort out what exactly we can do at least on our personal devices. There are many resource lists available and I’m particularly grateful  to the Library Freedom Project and Alison Macrina for giving me clear places to start.

But over the weekend at ACRL, I was appalled to encounter several program descriptions that celebrated grabbing all of the student data that we can with the proclaimed goal of showing library impact. On the heels of the incredibly-invasive ACRL app that I wrote about before (please note, I talked several peers who said things such as WTF this thing wants my passwords and contacts — I was not alone) I was already primed for some serious frustration and this did not help.

Librarians: we must do better than this.

Some of the points that I have settled on thus far:

  • I speak regularly with academic librarians who are frustrated that our institutions continue to boil researcher impact down to a single number (journal impact factor, h-index, etc) to hire, award grants, give tenure, etc. And yet we are openly praising invasive data gathering about our students in an attempt to demonstrate that their asking if we own a book or walking in to buy a coffee correlates to academic success.
  • We’re grabbing this data from a position of power and forcing our students to actively opt-out.  Assuming that opt-out is even possible, of course, some students will, but most will not understand that they can or that they might want to. It’s one more decision they have to make in a day full of fraught choices and “swiping my ID card to make the librarian happy” is not one I want to put on them. We are not a clothing store trying to send them coupons, but this is very similar behavior.
  • Many of us are creeped out by the insidious data mining that means anything I look at on Amazon follows me around via my browser ads for the next two months. Historically librarians have fought strongly against government monitoring and freedom to read. So why are we treating our students as mindless drones who should be grateful to fork over all of their data?
  • I’m at a public institution. Data we capture is FOIA-able. Our university may be able to deny the FOIA but if someone knows it exists, they can ask for it. A standing statement around here is that if we don’t want it on the cover of the Tribune...
  • We’re flailing around grabbing data because it might be useful. This always seems to come with vague outcomes of “showing value” or “student success” –which any evidence-based practice medical librarian will tell you does not make a good PICO question. We have few protocols, access procedures, or policies —and sometimes we haven’t even formulated questions. In a previous project at MPOW, we tried to figure out what data everyone was capturing and what reports it fed into, primarily from a workload/duplication of effort perspective. It was an enormous project that led to realizing the giant piles of data that various library departments had. We also found quite a number of reports that were regularly run but didn’t seem to go anywhere.  We’re still working on a deletion practice.
  • Without clear policies and procedures and particularly access practices, we are at the mercy of the most vindictive among us. If we’re gathering granular building access data, is this available to a student employee trying to locate where their significant other is or is not? Are we absolutely sure?
  • It is unlikely that we will get statistically significant information about our populations through many of the measures I have heard suggested. And our actions in making captured data anonymous or sharing it appropriately needs some work as well. I have seen multiple examples in our literature and presentations where indirect identifiers meant I could quickly and easily get to a single individual or very small groups–particularly of underrepresented and therefore potentially more vulnerable patrons.

Quantitative data assists us in understanding the use and happenings in an academic library. I do not contest that. Part of helping my department head understand why I’m drowning is giving her the number of consultations I’m doing; the classes I’m teaching; the research projects I am engaged with; the endless committee list; etc. Resource use counts helps us to inform collection development, as does ILL numbers and turnaways. If we’re seeing a spike or a major decline in usage of one of our research guides or at the reference desk, it’s good to have some information that may help us determine why. Attendance at workshops informs and can give us ideas as to what topics are resonating with our campuses.

But a blithe assumption that our students do not care or should not be allowed to care about their academic behavioral privacy and tossing aside our professional code of ethics is not behavior I can condone. I keep coming back to the Ian Malcolm quote from Jurassic Park “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”



Open Access Tenure: Quickly, Quickly…

Posted March 6, 2017 By Abigail Goben

I’m in the midst of two manuscripts, spring teaching, conferences, and all of my other usual nonsense, so just a quick but important update.

I got the results of my campus tenure vote and I PASSED. Of the people voting for me, no one voted no on my dossier at the campus level. Couple of absence/abstention so I can’t say unanimous but I’ll take an overwhelming majority and no one against.

So I’m done now, right? [Question I have answered a lot of times now.]


Currently my dossier is with the Provost, who has to agree to sign off on it. Then it goes to the Chancellor, same deal.  Then, sometimes on July 12-13, the Board of Trustees will review the cases for this year and sign off on them (or not).  So, four more months. Not that I’m watching the calendar like a hawk or anything.

In between all of the other deadlines bleeding all over my desk.

But if you were curious if a campus P&T would approve an Open Access focused dossier, where I explicitly stated in my paperwork that this was my goal, then the answer is yes.


But You Get Badges And Networking Opportunities…

Posted February 7, 2017 By Abigail Goben

*Note 2/8 at 5 p.m., if you’re just joining us– ACRL did respond to a few of the privacy questions in the comments. I have not seen the Lightning Talks voting addressed as yet.*

I was troubled this week to learn that ACRL is promoting an app specific to those of us attending ACRL 2017. It struck me as a waste of phone space and of limited use. But what particularly surprised me was that in a “Welcome to the Conference” email, I was informed that the only way I could participate in voting for Lightning Talks was to download this app.

A colleague of mine has a lightning talk that I’d really like to see presented–and this then backs me into a corner. No alternate option was given, nor was there a specific contact on the email (the response email went directly to ACRL’s general inbox). So I tried to download it. A waste of phone space, yes, and annoying…

And also attempting to invade my privacy.

On my Android device, the app aggressively pushes for access to my device’s contact list. There is no apparent need for this and when I chose “Deny” the app kept rerouting me to try and get me to agree. **See the screenshots at the bottom for what it looks like**  Android has the option to “Deny and check here to stop it asking this again.” 

Once you finally get those pop ups to stop, now you are required to fill in at least some part of the manually entered profile to get to the app. Again, no clear way around this and no apparent need for this. You can’t click on a “do this later” or anything like that. Trying to get out of the Profile page sends you back on a loop of “we need to access your contacts.” So at minimum they have an email address, first name, and last name and even then you have to guess/try to figure out how to get to the full application. (Note: A hard return will do it after you fill in the last name) I leave it to the usability experts to clarify how this might also be a usability issue.

By the time I actually got into the full app, I was more than a little suspicious of what else it was signing me up for, so I went to check the settings. The default is that all of them are turned on. This includes a variety of notifying people when I/others check in, automatic blue tooth beacon alerts, and receiving private messages from anyone else with the app. What it didn’t include was any information of what was being done with information we put into this app.

The responses I got from ACRL when I shot off a few questions were not adequate.

  • They were surprised to hear about the Contacts requirement that the app was asking for. I sent the screenshots below but how do you not know what happens when the app is installed?
  • They said the app could be used at more than one ACRL event. But the conference is every two years and I really don’t want an ACRL app, LITA app, ALA app, STS app, etc. Nor do I want my other organizations to suddenly jump on this bandwagon so additionally I end up with an RDAP app, IASSIST app, Code4Lib App…
  • They went with an app rather than a mobile site due to feedback from last year. I am not convinced of the tradeoff for a universal ALA/Divisions mobile website for conferences.
  • In response to my question about the all Opt-Out settings, I got a generic statement about respecting people’s privacy. Considering the profile information being required and the settings, I am not convinced of this.
  • Regarding the Lightning Talks–both the email I got from ACRL and a lovely person on the Innovations Committee on Twitter offered to take my votes in some other way and ensure they get counted. This is not a viable option, only available to those of us frustrated on social media. There should be an option for those who do not have a smartphone or other device or who just do not want to use the app.

The latest Pew report I could find from 2015 tells me that we have ~64% saturation of some type of smartphone. That is by no means universal and I find that presumption from ACRL incredibly off-putting. This tells attendees who don’t have a Android/Iphone smartphone that they cannot participate in shaping the Lightning Talk session.

This app is also asking for my contact information and a suspicious depth of profile information in exchange for notifications I probably don’t want. Where is that information going and who has access to it? How much does the app maker DoubleDutch get? Should I expect vendor spam from them now that they have my work email? Is someone archiving all of the content captured in the app and if so, for how long and will that be searchable? None of this is clear. LITA and the ALA Information Freedom Privacy Subcommittee just put out checklists for Patron Privacy. Perhaps we need one for organization privacy as well?

ETA: Eric Hellman tells me the screenshots may not be embedding. I’ve also shared the Google Album here: https://goo.gl/photos/kdHvrSbUSGimy8wG7



Open Access Tenure: What Goes Forth

Posted November 7, 2016 By Abigail Goben

Last week I received notification from my Dean that I passed the final Library vote on my promotion and tenure dossier with the unanimous support from my colleagues. Now, I go to campus.

A friend asked me what exactly those words mean (all English but in that order?). All tenured Library faculty at UIC have read through my papers, my files, letters of recommendation, etc–and have voted on me three times. This was the final vote and now my dossier will be proofread, floofed, and edited a smidgeon more before a committee of tenured faculty members at the UIC Campus level will read it and vote on it. This means faculty from Chemistry, Dentistry, Urban Planning, etc reading, evaluating and voting.

Because there are so many disciplines and as the standards for each discipline wildly vary, I will be evaluated only by my college’s standards–the Library standards. Those go with my packet and someone from another college will do a fine tooth comb reading and make a presentation to the committee, the rest of whom do a lighter reading. So, a  Bioengineering faculty member or a History professor may be finding out a lot about research data management policy and RDM self-education. The tenured Library faculty member who sits on the campus committee cannot speak for or against my case. They can only answer direct questions. I’m told in the past, they had to stand in the hallway during the discussion of the candidate.

I’ve not gone back through all the forms again in the past couple of weeks. I need to–one more time–and to email my long-suffering paperwork person and the Dean’s assistant with any little tweaks. But as promised, I’ve got a public version of my dossier ready for anyone who is interested in reading it.

Goben 6Y Public Dossier

As usual, this isn’t entirely what I turned in. Works in progress have been removed and you’ll need to go through my CV on my About Me page to get to full text of my research.

My statements have been drastically overhauled, so if you’re interested in seeing the biggest changes, look there. My committee participation list is mostly just longer, as is my teaching list.

Countdown to the Board of Trustees vote (which comes after campus vote in February) will continue through the end of July 2017. But things are moving forward and the future looks bright!