Happy holidays to anyone reading this right away, which is probably not many of you! I’m trying to get a few little projects wrapped up before UNCG shuts down for the holidays tomorrow afternoon. This morning several BLINC members and I had an online meeting regarding NC LIVE’s options for business databases; NC LIVE is dealing with some second-guessing and asked us for input. The content varies by database, though, and the application of that content varies by library, so it’s hard to make simple recommendations for NC LIVE to ponder.
Meanwhile I recently made a proposed timeline for implementing our new liaison department and forming a collections team within Acquisitions. Administrators and liaisons are meeting in early January to talk about those preliminary plans and schedules.
My biggest accomplishment this month was finishing a draft of the book chapter on the ethics of embedded librarianship. I’m curious to hear if the LSU editors think the draft is any good! When the writing was coming hard, I motivated myself by playing an action-round game of Bejeweled on my iPad every time I finished a substantial paragraph. In retrospect that might be a bad precedent for me and my productivity…
One of the ethical issues I wrote about was the time demands of being embedded:
…being embedded in research-intensive classes can be extremely time-consuming. Is it ethical for a subject specialist/liaison librarian to spend so much time on a single class? The time devoted to the research-intensive class cannot be time spent teaching other classes, answering reference questions or providing consultations for other students, or taking care of the many other important tasks subject specialists are responsible for. Is this ethical? The answer depends on the local prioritization of goals for the subject specialists/liaison librarians, as well as the embedded librarian’s ability to meet the other high priority tasks besides taking care of the research-intensive class.
Does being embedded in a class result in fewer liaison reference statistics recorded for that class?
I wonder if such statistics could serve as measurement for the time demands of embeddedness. As more librarians work on trying to measure the effectiveness of embedding into classes, tracking changes in those statistics might be a useful approach. But that’s not as easy to do as it may sound.
Our recorded statistics
While we have often changed our statistics-keeping tools, the reference librarians here have been keeping the same types of statistics for a long time.
One data tracked is the number of “classes taught,” meaning the number of research workshops provided for academic classes. This category of statistics was created to record guest research workshops for classes. Years ago I asked Mary my department head how I should record teaching stats for the international marketing class I had begun to help teach. She replied that our library dean wants us to record all of the time we spend out in the classrooms; therefore I should record every class period I attend, whether I’m actively teaching that hour, participating in the discussion, or evaluating final team project presentations. In my pre-embedded days, I averaged 55-60 “classes taught” (mostly one-shots with some two- or three-shots) in an academic year. This fall semester only, I recorded 74 “classes taught,” which include stats for being physically embedded into two classes that meet twice a week. (I missed some class sessions due to teaching one-shots for other classes, and for the Charleston Conference and the NCLA Leadership Institute.) So certainly being physically embedded inflates my teaching stats.
But what about our “liaison office stats”? Here is where this question of liaison stats can get more interesting. In addition to our general reference service questions (which covers the desk, phone, email, and chat), we track the questions directly received by each liaison. Most of your libraries do this I’m sure. We call these “office stats” – not the most accurate name in terms of the location of service. But we all know that office stats basically means liaison reference questions:
As you can see, we track five categories of office stats:
- Consult (in person)
A consultation typically lasts 15 minutes or more, is often but not always scheduled in advance, and could be with one student or an entire student team. My wife’s library calls these Personal Research Sessions. Same idea. Since office stats usually increase year by year for a new liaison, liaisons usually summarize their teaching and office stats in their reappointment and tenure applications.
In the last few years, we have also been tracking the time spent on each office statistic. I’ve never bothered to add up the time I spend in a school year on office stats until my colleague Lynda Kellam encouraged me to do so last summer. Getting that data is easy enough to do in Excel once we filter the stats by librarian.
Since we have changed our statistical software many times over the years (recent examples for us include Google forms, Qualtrics, and LibAnalytics), I don’t have the best historical record of all the details. I do at least have the final numbers for most years, which I noted in annual reports.
Here is my general trend for consultations, beginning with my first full year as the UNCG business librarian:
And my recent office stats (which include the consults):
2010-11: 837 (215.73 total hours)
2011-12: 749 (208.56 hours)
208 hours’ worth of answering questions and providing consultations equals 26 days of working 8 hours a day. Yikes.
Answering today’s question
Sorry, I’m not going to be able to provide a good answer to this. One of the problems here is definitional. As many of you know, when you are embedded in a class, students ask you questions in class either during your teaching or one-on-one at the end of class. I don’t keep track of those questions as “office stats” – answering questions in class (or right after class) is simply part of teaching. So if I talk to representatives of five student teams after class concerning an upcoming deadline, those questions don’t get recorded. Instead I’ve earned a single teaching stat for that class period.
I do now tag each office stat with the course abbreviation and number, ex. MKT 426 or BUS 105, when I know what the class the student is working on. But I wasn’t tagging the stats like that in my pre-embedded days. So I can’t compare my historical stats in 426, my long-running embedded class.
Another challenge of establishing causality with stats from embedded classes is the variety of ways you can reach the class: in-class instruction, Blackboard posts or emails, screencast videos, etc. Those activities hopefully proactively reduce the questions students have to ask individually. Chad Boeninger has written about that concerning his videos. So if you know that students in a certain class struggle with research topic X each semester and you are now embedded in that class, you can cover that research topic in class and post a reminder via Blackboard or a video, instead of waiting for the students to come to you with questions outside of class.
Regarding my stats summarized above, the gradual increase in the 2000’s overlaps with my increasing involvement with MKT 426. I still get plenty of office stats from the MKT 426, but hopefully between co-authoring and updating the project textbook each summer and being in class all the time the students need less help from me outside of class.
The big jump between 2008-09 and 2009-10 is probably largely due to the big growth in our interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship program. Yet the decline for 2011-12 is noticeable, even if the number of hours didn’t decline too much. There could be a lot of reasons for that decline: the screencast videos I began adding to my libguides last winter break, the usefulness of the libguides themselves, the reduction in the number of research assignments as classes got larger here after big state budget cuts, and/or my lack of support of texting? Who knows.
Now that I’m embedded in ENT 300, the required feasibility study class that leads into the required ENT 336 business plan class, we’ll see if my 2012-13 office stats decline further, even as my teaching stats break my personal record.
To really track changes in office statistics for embedded work, we would need a control/non-embedded section and an embedded section of the same class with each section doing the same research project with the same professor. And the same number of students in each section (or the final tally of questions would have to be adjusted to a per capita). Not a likely scenario at all? Finally, the recorded stats would have to indicate the section number as well as the course number.
Besides the teaching statistics, I don’t know if there is a good way to track the impact on embedded work on liaison service statistics. Perhaps the emphasis anyway needs to be on telling success stories, not reporting statistics. A future post perhaps.
Hey, I made it through this post without playing Bejeweled. Surprise surprise.
See you in 2013!