Archive for April, 2013

Concentration, Diffusion, Centers & Flows

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 by Constance

Our 2012 mega-regions analysis revealed a notable feature of the library landscape in North America:  the apparent  scarcity of print inventory varies significantly depending upon the scale at which it is assessed.  It stands to reason, of course, that a title held by a single library in one locale may be held by many libraries in other places.  What is more surprising is that scarcity – or what is more appropriately termed diffusion – is a characteristic that persists even at the scale of the mega-region.  In every one of the 12 regions we examined, more than 75% of the print book titles are held by five or fewer libraries.  Yet, comparing one mega-region to another, we found a high level of bilateral duplication:  for example, more than 70% of the print book publications held in Cascadia – a mega-region encompassing urban centers in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia – are duplicated by library holdings in the NorCal region.

Bi-lateral duplication of print books in Cascadia and NorCal

Bi-lateral duplication of print books in Cascadia and NorCal

Now it may be the high degree of integration that is a primary characteristic of mega-regions is also a factor in the diffusion of library resources within those same regions.  Arguably, the strong networks of exchange and robust logistics infrastructure of mega-regions help to explain why we find such a low level of redundancy in library collections within those regions.  Even without coordinated collection development plans, it may be that the ease with which resources (including library books) flow within mega-regions exercises some influence on library acquisitions.  The incentive to acquire ‘just in case’ inventory will be less in a region where inter-lending networks are strong and it relatively easy to obtain copies from neighboring institutions, and this confidence in regional supply options may have a sort of invisible-hand effect that constrains redundant acquisitions.

This would suggest that the high degree of diffusion we see in regional collections – inventory distributed across a number of geographically distant institutions – is a characteristic of a ‘well-organized’ (though not deliberately engineered) library system.  By contrast, library collections in institutions located outside of mega-regions tends to exhibit a higher degree of redundancy.  This is partly a reflection of the large number of libraries that fall outside of the defined mega-regions – more than nine thousand individual OCLC institution symbols – but it seems likely that greater redundancy is needed to support demand in regions where ‘flows’ may be less efficient.   Compare the average library holdings per title for collections held outside of US mega-regions (about 14) to the ratio of holdings per title within mega-regions, which ranges from 2 to 9, for the Phoenix metro area and Chi-Pitts respectively.

Of course, there are other factors at play:  as a recent New York Times article showed, the geographic distribution of major research universities (and the libraries that serve them) is uneven – and regions with fewer research libraries will have a smaller concentration of rare or unique materials, compared to regions with many research intensive universities.  Not surprisingly, the BosWash region, which encompasses a substantial part of the ARL membership, has a relatively low level of redundancy in print book holdings (about 7 holdings per title) simply because the area is home to many institutions with large collections of rare or distinctive materials.

ARL Membership Map (2013)

Conversely, in areas with a high density of public libraries — which generally hold large collections of popular classics and best-selling titles — we see higher levels of overall redundancy in collections.  So one cannot infer that low levels of redundancy in library holdings across any region, whether organized against the mega-regions framework or anything else, are a reliable indicator of strong or weak flows.  Other regional factors, like the distribution of research universities and public libraries are clearly important.  It is interesting then to consider how the flow of library resources across regions may contribute to the organization of the library system as a whole.   Regional infrastructure will affect flows — but flows will also shape infrastructure.  Think, for example, of how the growth of rapid transit networks has transformed urban landscapes, encouraging the emergence of the sprawling metro areas that anchor mega-regions.

Lorcan Dempsey sometimes speaks of ‘library logistics’ and it is in this context that I have been thinking about the flow of library resources and more especially about the emergence of new hubs around which the library system is now being reconfigured.  Thom Hickey’s recent experiments in programmatically identifying concentrations of material related to a particular topic or identity — what we’ve referred to as ‘centers data’ – provide a new way to think about how the library system is organized and how it is changing.  It’s not clear if the existing centers reflect intentionally cultivated strengths in institutional holdings, or if they are merely accidents of history – an unsolicited donation of materials about a particular person, for instance.

In some cases, the association with known institutional centers of excellence seems evident:  it is not surprising, for example, to find that the University of Pittsburgh has the largest collection of material by or about Gonzalo Rojas, a celebrated Chilean poet.  Pitt has been a National Resource Center on Latin America for decades and it stands to reason they hold significant collections of Latin American literature.  Would an expert in the field have predicted that Pitt, rather than the University of Texas (a distinguished center of Latin American studies), has the most comprehensive collection related to Rojas?  Perhaps – I don’t have the domain knowledge to have an informed opinion about the likely location of the most comprehensive Latin American poetry collections in North America. Significantly, though, Pitt ranks within the top collections (by size) of works by related poets:

Gonzalo Rojas and related identities - Pitt holdings ranked against other WorldCat libraries

Gonzalo Rojas and related identities – University of Pittsburgh holdings ranked against other WorldCat libraries

As the figures here suggest, it is possible for a library to be a leading — or even the top-ranked–  ‘center’ of resources related to particular identity or topic without holding a vast number of titles.  This will obviously be true when the relevant oeuvre is limited:  to hold 100% of a small published record (a handful of titles, let’s say) is still significant.  What is more interesting is that the diffusion of library resources — the ‘scarcity’ that we find in institutional and within regional collections — effectively lowers the threshold for what constitutes excellence in institutional holdings.  In the example of Gonzalo Rojas, for example, Pitt’s 48 titles amount to less than 40% of the published works associated with the related VIAF heading.  Even so, this small collection is 75% larger (and 16% more comprehensive) than the related holdings at the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile — at least as they are reflected in WorldCat.  This is, at least to me, somewhat surprising.

This raises the question of how centers or hubs are revealed in the information environment.  Effective disclosure of collections that are distinctive not because of their rarity but because of their ‘excellence’ or completeness will be important if libraries are to be recognized as preferred hubs in the larger supply chain, where commercial providers are still dominant.  Ideally, one would like to have relevant library suppliers revealed in the network at the point of need, in the flow of the researcher’s work – which is increasingly likely to be outside the library discovery environment.  How could this be done?  Where do library fulfillment options fit in the knowledge graph? Somewhere in the Wikipedia infobox?   In Google’s info cards?  Happily, greater minds than mine are working on this problem.  Of one thing, at least, I’m certain:  understanding and representing the relationships between identities and topics in institutional and in regional collections – understanding how different ‘centers’ are related – will lead to new insights about how the library system is, and will be, organized.

We Want to Send You to SemTechBiz

Monday, April 29th, 2013 by Roy

semtechSemTechBiz is a major conference for those who are using semantic web technologies like linked data, RDF, Schema.org, etc. It is being held June 2-5 in San Francisco and OCLC and LITA have teamed up to send a librarian there to share the good work that libraries are doing to produce and consume linked data.

We will pay the expenses of the selected individual to attend the conference where they will also be afforded a lightning talk slot to highlight their work for conference attendees. This is the first “Library Spotlight on Innovation” that we jointly developed with SemanticWeb.com, the producers of the conference. Richard Wallis, our Linked Data Evangelist, was instrumental in putting this together.

So are you doing something interesting with linked data? Or do you know of someone who is? If so, you can nominate yourself or someone else for this great opportunity. We want the broader world to know about how libraries are innovating with linked data.

MOOCs and Libraries: Next Steps?

Friday, April 19th, 2013 by Merrilee

[On March 18th and 19th, 2013 OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries held a forum on MOOCs and Libraries. This is the sixth in a short series of postings on that event. You can read other postings on this topic in the archives, and check out all of the deliverable on the event page.]

For our MOOCs and Libraries event, it was important to come away with concrete of opportunities for librarians — hopefully now that we have a cohort of attendees (in person attendees, remote attendees, and those of you who have watched the videos, reviewed the Twitter stream, and read these summaries!) there are some positive and meaningful ways that librarians can engage with MOOCs. To help the end of the day on both Monday and Tuesday, my colleague Chrystie Hill led us in small group discussions. (We also tried to include the remote audience in the discussions, with mixed results).

The questions for discussion were:

  • What have you learned here today?
  • What are the implications for your library?
  • What should you or your organization do next?
  • What are the key strategic moves that libraries should make in regards to MOOCs?
  • On the last point, the small groups were asked to come up with their top three recommendations. Then as a whole, we heard all the “top three” from each table. Not surprisingly, there was quite a bit of overlap, and my colleague Dale Musselman nicely transcribed and organized the outcomes into 9 rough categories.

  • Get the library involved
  • Start talking/collaborating/sharing between libraries
  • Take MOOCs
  • Get in front of licensing and access
  • Create MOOCs
  • Support MOOC faculty
  • Support MOOC students
  • Create in-person support opportunities
  • Re-assess library assumptions and practices
  • Of these, from my perspective, the things that every librarian can do is to take a MOOC, and contribute to the conversation by listening to others who have been invovled in MOOCs, and sharing information and experiences.

    My thanks to Chrystie for structuring and facilitating this sessions, and to Dale for helping to organize the outcomes document.

    You can take a look at the summary document and also the individual recommendations as contributed.

    You can also watch the video for even more detail.

    Subsidence and uplift – the library landscape

    Thursday, April 18th, 2013 by Constance

    Approximate location of maximum subsidence in the United States.
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gwsanjoaquin.jpg

    There’s been a lot of attention to geologic subsidence of late, what with all the sinkholes opening up in Florida, Louisiana and other places. Here in California, we are more often concerned with the gradual change in ground level due to the draining of aquifers that support large-scale farming.  From year to year, the difference in ground level may be nearly imperceptible but over the space of a few decades the landscape has been radically transformed.

    The subsidence metaphor was on my mind recently, as I was looking over some data compiled by my colleague Thom Hickey, documenting the usage of headings (subjects and names) in WorldCat. OCLC Research has done quite a lot of work exploring new approaches to managing subject and name authorities, notably in VIAF and FAST. I was interested to see how Thom’s data might be used to measure change — uplift and subsidence — in the library landscape. By computing the frequency with which FAST and VIAF headings occur in institutional collections cataloged in WorldCat, one can identify which libraries hold the most materials related to particular topics, places and people.  And this in turn provides a measure of the relative distinctiveness of library collections, judged not in terms of the ‘rarity’ of holdings but rather by the concentration of related content.

    It  seemed to me that Thom’s data might have something interesting to say about how the emergence of large-scale digitized book aggregations – HathiTrust, Google Books, etc — is altering the library environment.  It stands to reason that as these large hubs begin to consolidate content sourced from libraries (and, in Google’s case, publishers), they will displace traditional library ‘centers of excellence’ in some subject areas.  Those who remember the DLF Aquifer project will recall that the initial prototype was designed to pool digitized resources in a given subject area (initially American History, later narrowed to Abraham Lincoln and the US Civil War).  In the very large aggregations of HathiTrust and GoogleBooks, subject specialization has emerged more gradually.  There has not been much public attention to measuring the scope of subject-based collections within those aggregations, nor to benchmarking them against existing institutional holdings.*

    The FAST and VIAF centers data provide evidence of both subsidence and uplift in the current collections environment — that is, shifts in centers of excellence as measured by scope of subject based holdings.  The ‘re-leveling’ that has been wrought in just a few years of large-scale digitization is already significant.  Digital aggregations have, by design or accident, emerged as important subject repositories that rival and even outrank some of the largest institutional libraries in WorldCat.

    For instance,  HathiTrust, an organization not yet five years old, already holds the greatest concentration of titles on the topic of marine biology, surpassing the Library of Congress as well as two major research universities with world-class oceanography programs.

    Marine biology

    In the case of Marine biology, the difference between the number of titles held by HathiTrust and the Library of Congress is not very large — fewer than 200 titles.  But in other instances, the relative subsidence of traditional centers of excellence is more dramatic.  For instance, Google Books substantially outranks several major research libraries in holdings related to Russian periodicals (journals, newspapers and the like).

    Russian periodicals

    This represents an important change in the library system, with monumental old hubs being progressively overshadowed by new collections that are produced not by the slow accretion of library acquisitions but by large-scale digitization and (re)aggregation.  It provides a compelling illustration of how Web-scale content aggregations are altering the library operating environment.  In the case of HathiTrust especially, this disruption can (and I think should) be seen as a positive change:  it enables libraries to rethink traditional, institution-scale collection management and stewardship — a topic we examined in our Cloud-sourcing Research Collections report some years ago.

    Using Thom’s ‘centers’ data, we can identify hundreds of topics and identities for which HathiTrust offers better coverage than any other library in WorldCat.  Here a few topics in which the Digital Library distinguishes itself:

    Hathi top topics

    And a few of the personal names for which its coverage is unrivaled:

    Hathi top names

    Interestingly, the other top-ranked collections (by size) for these same subjects and identities are not always the source of HathiTrust’s richness.  One might have anticipated that Hathi’s leadership was simply a by-product of aggregating content from existing centers of excellence, but in fact Hathi has developed unexpected strengths by aggregating at a very large scale from a diverse pool of contributors.  For example, Harvard University and the University of Michigan each hold sizable collections of works by the poet Jean Ingelow; yet, the richness of Hathi’s Ingelow collection is mostly due to contributions from campus libraries in the University of California system.

    The FAST and VIAF ‘centers’ data provide a fascinating new vantage point on the changing collections landscape.  We’ll be looking at ways to integrate it into ongoing research projects, including the mega-regions work, where we hope it can help us detect regional collecting trends that might inform shared stewardship priorities.

    *Note:  HathiTrust provides a nice visualizations and a list of subject areas in the Digital Library, based on Library of Congress classification numbers.  These provide a good overview of subject-based coverage but without reference to comparable coverage in other libraries. It is generally known that Google is selective with respect to identifying library partners, but I’m not aware of any public documentation related to a specific collection development strategy. Their aim, famously, is to provide comprehensive coverage of the world’s books, not to develop excellence in any given subject area.

    MOOCs and Libraries: Who Are the Masses? A View of the Audience

    Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 by Merrilee

    [This is the fifth in a short series on the forum on MOOCs and Libraries held by OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, March 18th and 19th, 2013. Look back to the archives for earlier posting on this topic]

    MOOC Audiences
    MOOC Audiences by *s@lly*, on Flickr, cc-by-nc

    We wrapped up the content portion of our meeting by reflecting on the audience for MOOCs (or what we know about participants), and also considering the audience through the lens of public libraries (which I admit, I don’t think about a lot of the time, except when I’m acting as a patron). I find the role (or potential role) for public libraries in MOOCs to be very exciting, and I think you’ll see why if you read the summary or watch the video of Margaret Todd’s talk.


    We heard first from Howard Lurie (Vice President, Content Development, edX), who said he was from the “other platform.” (Although we tried to balance the program, many of the presenters were from “Coursera” institutions — I don’t think the platform matters all that much when talking about the library’s role in MOOCs, but there you have it.) According to Lurie, MOOCs provide an opportunity to look at learning/pedogogy through the lens of “big data” gathered during course implementation. Even with “low” completion rates the numbers are still quite high. Taking one edX class as an example (6.002x, Circuits and Electronics): 154,763 registered for the class; 26,349 tried the first problem set; 10,547 took the mid term; 9,318 passed the mid term; 8,240 took the final exam; 7,157 received certification. This is a lot of data to analyize that could help improve teaching — it would take many years of iterating a class in a traditional setting to get to those numbers (and of course, Audrey Watters would ask as she did in an excellent talk at WebWise, “Whose educational data is it?”) As with many presentations on MOOCs I’ve heard recently, Lurie highlighted “global stories” reflecting exposure to a topic for those who might not have had the opportunity otherwise (such as the Pakistani participant who said “this course was the most important experience in my life” One role for MOOCs might be to gather stories of learners around the world, and help universities identify talent.

    Next we heard from Deirdre Woods (Interim Executive Director, Open Learning Initiative, University of Pennsylvania) who joked that in this environment, being around for a number of months makes you an old timer. Penn’s is in the open learning business because it’s a public good, and also because it’s good for Penn — online courses provides prospective students a taste of what they might expect from the college before they make a commitment. It’s also a good way to stay in touch with alumni. Woods shared that the faculty who have taught MOOCs acknowledge that it’s a huge undertaking but all say they would do it again. Part of the satisfaction? Faculty members reach more people in one course than in entire career. A little more about participants demographics: the majority of participants in Penn MOOCs were working in full time positions. 65% are male (they aren’t sure why). 30% of participants hang in through the duration of the course, but don’t do assignments.

    Finally, we heard from Margaret Donnellan Todd (County Librarian, County of Los Angeles Public Library). Right now, LACoPL is loved and trusted by the community; as evidence of this, county residents recently voted to increase library funding. Not content to rest of their laurels, LACoPL has identified online relevance as an important component of their strategic plan. And the library has a challenge in terms of serving an educational shortfall in their community. Right now high school dropout rates are at about 40%, and community college graduation rates are low. Higher education in California (as elsewhere) is increasingly squeezed, and the option to go to community college in order to catch up, is no longer an option for all. All of these factors will lead to a decline in a local qualified workforce. With fewer and fewer options, LACoPL has begun to see itself as a center of learning, and positioning itself to support very practical and real educational educational needs. Public libraries excel at connecting people to services, partners, and peers. At an academic institution, MOOCs are an extension of existing online presence; in public libraries, MOOCs (and support for those taking MOOCs) may be an extension of their broad public education mission. Todd described how LACoPL has experimented with offering course through Ed2Go — even with little promotion, these courses have been very popular. What might be possible if public libraries extended their online courses, or worked with material being produced in MOOCs? One desire expressed by participants in MOOCs has been a need for a common space to come together with others taking the same class. Why not the public library as that space?

    N.B. You may have noticed that in these postings, I purposefully am referring to those who take MOOCs as “participants” and not “students.” That’s a purposeful choice on my part. I don’t think we know enough about who is taking MOOCs and why to label them as students yet.

    MOOCs and Libraries: New Opportunities for Librarians

    Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 by Merrilee

    [This is the fourth posting in a short series on the forum on MOOCs and Libraries held by OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, March 18th and 19th, 2013.]

    This, alongside the copyright session, was the most meaty in terms of seeing where libraries are currently connecting with MOOCs — as I learned during my investigations, there are a lot of people with opinions about MOOCs and libraries, but not many folks with hands on experience. This session focused on where library research skills fit into MOOCs, where that might take us.

    The panel was moderated by Marjorie Hassen (Director of Teaching, Research, and Learning Services, University of Pennsylvania Libraries) with participation by Sarah Bordac (Head, Instructional Design, Brown University), Jennifer Dorner (Head, Instruction and User Services, University of California Berkeley), and Lynne O’Brien (Director of Academic Technology and Instructional Services, Duke University). You can watch the video and / or read my summary of the event below.

    This panel featured perspectives from both Coursera (Duke and Brown) and edX (UC Berkeley) institutions, as well as from librarians who have been involved with a number of courses (Duke) to those who are still preparing for launch day (Brown). For those who have been in the game or on the sidelines, “MOOCs create the perfect storm for new ways of thinking about things” quipped O’Brien. And if people go to MOOCs to learn, it’s critical for libraries to be involved. The question is, what is the right level of support, and where to invest? As a first steps, the pedagogical needs for a course need to be outlined before you can judge what the role of the libraries is, and where library support makes sense. For example, at Berkeley, courses on math and computer science don’t have library related learning objectives. A good exercise for those at academic institutions might be to scan the course catalog and ask what library support is currently offered for each course — in an online environment, expect support to be similar. Is the main focus of support given to faculty who are planning the course, or to participants who are taking the course? For those who are taking courses, librarians may serve a role that’s more like an information guide rather than an information provider.

    Certainly looking anew at teaching creates opportunities for cross campus teams. At Brown University (and elsewhere), the library is involved in a number of these teams, which positions the library strategically and helps the library act in a “connector” role. At some institutions, such as UC Berkeley, online learning has not been centrally coordinated, which allows for creativity in course development but makes it difficult for the library to get involved.

    Dorner shared information about two library-based edX groups, one studying “content accessibility” (copyright) and another looking at “research skills.” Both groups will issue reports and recommendations, and those reports will be shared.

    Other observations:

  • You can’t fully understand and appreciate any technology unless you use it. In MOOCs, there are two layers of experience — that of an course participant, and that of an administrator on the platform.
  • Another reason to take a MOOC — you can see the degree to which students share information resources among themselves.
  • Additional resources:
    Study of how MOOC participants (in one course) went about finding relevant information resources (via Eleni Zazani). A small sample size, but I think this gives some indications of where students are headed.
    A thorough analysis of a MOOC, the report on Duke’s Bioelectricity course — this is the most through reporting out from a course I’ve seen to date.

    MOOCs and Libraries: Production and Pedagogy

    Monday, April 15th, 2013 by Merrilee

    [OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries held a forum on MOOCs and Libraries on March 18th and 19th, 2013. This is the third in a short series on that event.]

    One of the great advantages to partnering with the University of Pennsylvania on this event is that they have been through several rounds of course production, so they know the ropes. And even though this event focused on MOOCs and libraries, we did think it would be good for the audience to learn a little bit about course production. Like most of our attendees, I have no experience with MOOC production (although I have taken three MOOCs — I stop at nothing in my quest to bring you information!). Having had some experience on the student or participant side, it was great to glimpse behind the curtain.

    I’ll summarize this session below, but here’s my advice for learning more if most of what you’ve done is read about MOOCs in the press. Take a class or two (while you do it, try to think about the role of the library in relationship to the learning objectives for the class). And watch this session to learn a little more about the variety of production styles, and what goes into making a MOOC.

    The panel was expertly moderated by Bruce Lenthall (Director of Center for Teaching and Learning) and included participation by Christian Terwiesch (Wharton School Faculty), Jackie Candido (Online Learning & Digital Engagement, School of Arts and Sciences), Amy Bennett (Penn Open Learning), and Anna Delaney (Perelman School of Medicine).

    Before the panel discussion Terwiesch spoke briefly about his experience teaching a Coursera class called “Introduction to Operations Management” that is an adaptation of a course he has been teaching for some time at the Wharton School. From his perspective, the economics of MOOCs are simple: more learning with the same resources. He wants everyone to think about process management principles, in order to make life better, and MOOCs are a great way to do that. (I have to admit having heard him speak passionately about his class, I’ve rashly signed up to take it — maybe some of you will, too?)

    The panel offered advice and perspectives on production, covering some basics. The ideal timeline for production is about six months: build, promote, enroll (although it can be done in less time). MOOCs are more than just a professor in a video frame — they need instruction design. Streamlining course content is critical with MOOCs — it doesn’t work to take an existing class and plug it into a MOOC. Faculty content is the most obvious component but it’s not all. In an online environment, clear written communication is key. Having a good microphone and a way to engage with the students (forum, blog, wiki, but something that will work at scale!) are two very critical components. Be on guard against technical gotchas. Pay attention to small details; remember that once the material is out, it’s out!

    There was an interesting thread around “success” — what are measurements to know when you are there? Returning to the theme for copyright, panelists suggested that “it depends!” Part of this is related to goals set by faculty for students, and therefore is a mater of personal style and preferences. Terwiesch suggested that success is changing what you do for the better. The right team (which right now is people doing work on top of their regular job, with no additional funding) is critical for success. Most good team members are described as doing the work because they are dedicated and passionate (and I would add, they probably are not intimidated by experimentation). The question of completion rates as a measure of success came up, and panelists (and others) pushed back on this: it’s not appropriate to assess completion of a MOOC with the same metrics used with traditional classrooms or even with a “traditional online course” (I love this phrase!).

    The panelists also shared what they thought might be key roles for libraries. One area highlighted was organizing and making sense of information contributed by participants; in the Terwiesch course, there was a whole range of user generated content on process management. The suggestion of this type of curation on a massive scale got pushback from the audience, as did the idea of having embedded librarians (“with thousands of students, would we have enough staff?”). Other ideas seemed more attainable: providing pointers to open resources for faculty, and pointer to online communities and other resources for students (perhaps in a dedicated discussion thread). Helping to educate course TAs about resources for to students. Helping to structure discussion forums ahead of time (speaking from personal experience, these can be very wild and woolly).

    In summary, all of the panelists conveyed their enthusiasm about MOOCs. Despite relatively low levels of completion, they were energized by the large numbers of highly engaged. In the end, it’s not so much about massiveness, but about human connection and excitement that can be generated, and the community that can be formed.

    MOOCs and Libraries: Copyright, Licensing, Open Access

    Thursday, April 11th, 2013 by Merrilee

    [OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries held a forum on MOOCs and Libraries on March 18th and 19th. This is the second post in a short series on that event.]

    As I learned from my interviews from librarians who are engaging with MOOCs, one of the main points of engagement for libraries (in fact, sometimes the only point of engagement!) is around licensing and clearing copyright for materials used in courses, or giving advice to others on these topics. We were fortunate to attract three excellent speakers on this topic: Kevin Smith (Scholarly Communications Officer, Duke University), Kenny Crews (Director, Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University), and Kyle K. Courtney (Manager of Faculty Research and Scholarship, Harvard Law School). It was great that we had representation from both Coursera and edX partner institutions. I am also grateful to Brandon Butler (Director of Public Policy Initiatives, Association of Research Libraries) for agreeing to moderate the session.

    The group opted to cover the content in a Q & A format, with Butler pitching questions to the panelists. The group met once, briefly, by phone ahead of the meeting, but the smooth and easy exchange made it seem as if they has been working on their presentation for a much longer period of time. Of course the discussion was filled with copyright favorites, like “it depends,” but it was relatively light on the jargon. The panel was not only enjoyable, but following the session, I felt considerably more cheerful about issues around MOOCs and intellectual property. My somewhat out-of-order summary is below, but I commend the video to you — I’m tempted to call it “best of show,” because I had so many people tell me that they were surprised at how much they enjoyed it!

    Butler started the session by highlighting that putting materials online brings issues around copyright to the forefront, making it a high stakes area for libraries. However, avoiding copyright issues altogether is also an area of risk for libraries; if MOOCs represent a cornerstone in online learning, where are the (mostly in-copyright and licensed) resources that libraries steward? The conversation flowed around several themes: permissions and licensing, fair use, linking, who owns the material created in MOOCs, open access, and continued advocacy.

    Permissions and licensing:
    Although it’s a very basic first step, reading and understanding licences (and what they do and not allow) is key, since use depends on what the license says. If possible future agreements should allow for the use of materials in MOOCs. Because of the importance of agreements, librarians who deal with licensing may become, according to Crews, “the most important person in the building.” If use is not covered under a licence, request permission. Don’t be shocked if you don’t get an answer. At Duke, experiences with getting permissions quite varied — most often there is no response. Sometimes you get a yes, other times an ask for a big fee. Try to appeal to the “marketing opportunity” inherent in a course with thousands if not hundreds of thousands of eyeballs. Dealing with permissions and licensing is something that edX institutions generally try to avoid, relying instead on fair use and open resources, Courtney explained,

    Fair use:
    Smith started with a note of caution on fair use; copyrighted materials should be used with care especially because of the large online audience, and use should be clearly tied to criticism and commentary, or is being used in a way that could be considered transformative. However, he firmly reinforced that it’s important to push on fair use because in this environment, it’s impractical not to. Panelists offered words of caution and instruction: it’s important to work with faculty and others on the production team to make sure that embedded materials are only what’s needed for the specific pedagogical purpose. As an example, if you are referring to a Monty Python film, use only the small bit that’s being commented on, and link out to an authorized version of the video on YouTube or elsewhere. Kevin Smith on MOOC fair use of Monty Python video: Linked to authorized YouTube copy, copied small bits specifically commented on. Which brings me to…

    Linking:
    This surprised me and is both a practical and inventive copyright workaround. If you can’t get permission or make a fair use case. Provide a link to materials online elsewhere. If you can’t embed the materials, cite them and leave students to find them on their own.

    Who owns the MOOC?:
    This can be a complicated question, and of course some of this depends on the agreement with the platform partner. Depending on your campus environment, work may be considered “work for hire,” with copyright held by the university. In courses with complicated production you may have many creators. Best practice would be to understand the terms, bring all relevant players together, and get written, signed agreements in order to have clear lines around who owns MOOC content.

    Open access:
    Working with faculty around these complex issues can help to reinforce the central importance of convincing faculty to retain their copyright, and to take charge in being “good stewards” of their own intellectual property. And of course if it’s an open, you can ask faculty who teach MOOCs to make their materials open access. (I will add a personal observation that I don’t believe that MOOCs are likely to be the turning point with faculty in regards to copyright or open access issues — I think that is more likely to happen due to pressure in their individual disciplines, but that’s just a hunch.)

    Advocacy:
    Remember that libraries are involved in both “risk mitigation and education maximization.” Crews said, if you rely on fair use, you will sometimes need to say “no” to faculty, but we can also help find suitable replacement content. Librarians can play an important role in not only giving fair use guidance and seek permissions, but also recommend public domain or openly licensed resources that could be freely used. And of course, sharing information with one another is a form of advocacy.

    Some useful, additional tidbits:

  • If you are called out on copyright, the first thing to happen is not a lawsuit, it’s a takedown.
  • Steer clear of using in-copyright humorous images just for the “LOL factor.”
  • Fair use is a muscle — use it.
  • Some additional resources:
    The ARL Code of Best Practices in Fair Use is an excellent resource. So is the Issue Brief on MOOCs (October 2012). Smith and Crews both have blogs that are worth following if you are interested in tracking IP/library issues. Courtny also has launched a blog recently, so tune in there as well.

    MOOCs and Libraries: Introduction

    Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 by Merrilee

    OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries held a forum on MOOCs and Libraries on March 18th and 19th. This is the first post in a short series on that event. You can also check out the event page for links to videos, presenters’ slides, and more!

    It’s been a few weeks, but it still feels like I’m catching my breath following our well attended (and I think successful!) forum, MOOCs and Libraries: Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge? This event was an attempt to get beyond the plethora of what I’d call “MOOC 101″ and instead focus on the issues facing libraries that are engaging or may soon be engaging with MOOCs. I was fortunate to be tasked with such an engaging topic, and doubly fortunate to team up with Martha Brogan at the University of Pennsylvania and her colleagues (Anuradha Vedantham, Shawn Martin, and Marjorie Hassen) — the University of Pennsylvania Libraries were perfect partners because they haven’t just been thinking about MOOCs, they have been actively engaged with all aspects of MOOCs from planning, to production, to assessment. U. Penn was an early implementer on the Coursera platform, and have now been through several course cycles. I was also fortunate to work with my colleague Chrystie Hill, who lead the charge in bringing public library voices into the event. I was also fortunate, in event planning, to be able to draw upon the expertise resident in the OCLC Research Library Partnership — in November of 2012, I knew little more about MOOCs than what was covered in the popular press. I was educated by colleagues who are working in the field, who spoke from a basis of knowledge and experience, and who were willing to share with me via phone conversations and emails during December and January (my findings are summarized in an earlier post, MOOCs and Libraries: a look at the landscape).

    We had a sell out crowd of 125 people attend in person and record breaking online attendance of over 400 (hardly MOOC like, but for sustained attention from afar, it’s very good). We were also fortunate to have a very strong Twitter stream, with contributions from both in person and remote attendees, which helped to “amplify” the event. And we have a record of the meeting in the recorded video (which you may enjoy watching!). Still, I think it’s important to have a summary of the meeting and some notable outcomes. I hope that some of you who attended (or who are able to watch the videos) will join in the conversation. And keep the conversation going by using the hash #mooclib when blogging or Tweeting on this topic.

    Carton Rogers, Vice Provost & Director of Penn Libraries, and Ed Rock, Provost and Director of Open Course Initiatives, helped to set the scene for the group. Rogers underscored the confluence of support that the Penn Libraries provide to support learning — library resources, repository services, and courseware support. Deep engagement with Penn’s MOOC efforts was a natural next step for the library, and led to Penn’s hosting this first-of-a-kind meeting. Rock expanded on this, addressing, “Why MOOCs, why Penn, why now?”

    The internet, Rock asserted, is now a place of learning so naturally one expects to find the university there. However, there is no one cookie cutter model for how universities engage with MOOCs — each institution needs to think out the role of MOOCs in their own framework. It’s already clear, from the Penn experience, that engaging with MOOCs has altered how people think about teaching — and this is a good thing. They’ve also seen that MOOCs can be used as an intervention in public discourse (a good example of this is the Penn course on vaccines). Rock also emphasized the democratic nature of MOOCs, with participants from residents in assisted living facilities, to autistic children, these courses are open to all ages and stages. He also speculated a bit about the role of the MOOC in a residential college setting — successful completion of a course that is eligible may be treated like an AP course — there is already a system for this in place. Or, a MOOC may be useful in helping students prepare for and test out of gateway classes.

    Jim Michalko, Vice President OCLC Research (and a self confessed MOOC virgin), shared some context about MOOCs and online learning; we’ve been here before — or have we? What we have definitely seen before is the media frenzy around online learning or even distance learning — he referenced correspondence courses, Fathom, and Khan Academy, all of which are part of the heritage of what he called “the big three”: Udacity, EdX and Coursera which only launched a year ago. However, this time may well be different — Michalko cited Bill Bowen’s The ‘Cost Disease’
    in Higher Education: Is Technology the Answer?
    as evidence of a “broken business model,” leaving institutions ripe for disruption (à la Clayton Christensen).

    In closing he asked some pointed questions: “what business are we in?” “where is the venue for elite education online?” “are institutions engaging in a prestige arms race?” Finally, he predicted a platform war with MOOCs: “not everyone’s going to win.”

    My presentation picked up where Jim left off: in all of this, where is the library? I presented findings from my research (which I have summarized previously): libraries are engaging in issues around copyright and IP, and are actively looking to see how to appropriately embed library services and research skills into these new and evoloving environments. Encouragingly, some libraries are part of the core teams being formed on campus which are planning and executing on MOOCs — these partnerships are vital, especially if MOOCs are seen as important to the campus. To be blunt, if it’s politically important, libraries need to be there. I also touched on the exciting ways that public libraries are thinking about MOOCs — not necessarily from the production side, but from the perspective of how these educational tools may fill a need for the diverse audiences they serve.

    MOOCs (and online education) is a space in which things are evolving quite rapidly. I think it’s too soon for best practices, or declarations of success or failure. I think it’s a great time for experimentation, for trying things (and strategic abandonment!). This is also a perfect time to share the results of experiments. We are excited that this meeting was a step in that direction, and an important opportunity to share information with one another. But we’re not done yet — we’re at the beginning, not the end.

    Next up, I’ll be summarizing the session on copyright, licensing and open access, so stay tuned!