Dr. Russell Bailey je vedoucím oddělení knihovny, které bylo nazváno Information Commons, tedy stejně, jako sama koncepce, kterou Dr. Bailey uvádí do života a které se také odborně věnoval na řadě seminářů a konferencí. Na toto téma také publikoval články a v současné době dokončuje spolu s Donaldem Beaglem monografii o information commons v knihovnách. Po návštěvě knihovny a především prostudování dostupných materiálů obecně o koncepci information commons (IC) a především pak o její aplikaci na prostředí knihoven jsem připravila rozhovor, který ukazuje konkrétní cesty implementace a odkazuje na řadu dobrých i špatných zkušeností. Právě tento osobní pohled považuji za vhodné doplnění článku z minulého čísla o koncepci IC a článku o knihovně J. Murrey Atkins, ve které Dr. Bailey působí. Rozhovor uvádím v původním znění bez titulků.
Could you please introduce your professional work, your background and what have your achieved so far?
I have a Ph.D. in German Studies (Austro-Hungarian literature and
communication media) with a Doctoral Minor in Library Science, and
Master´s Degrees in Library & Information Science, Education
I was a classroom teacher (university and public school) for over 15 years, teaching German language & literature, French language, and liberal arts courses in international/comparative education, comparative cultures, and aesthetics. My studies and research have taken me to Québec (Canada), London, Germany (Heidelberg, Tübingen), Austria (Graz, Vienna), Korea (Seoul and other cities), Japan (many cities), Hong Kong, Mexico, Jamaica and Costa Rica. I have been a full-time librarian and library administrator for the last 10 years. I have worked in public schools, community colleges, 4-year liberal arts colleges and major universities. I am most interested in libraries as truly integrated and strategically aligned components in the teaching and learning enterprise (thriving libraries of the future), rather than libraries as academic support operations (libraries of the past).
My major achievements have been collaborative work teaching and promoting Information Literacy (described by the Association of College and Research Libraries) as the curriculum of the Information Commons (http://library.uncc.edu/infocommons/ and http://libweb.uncc.edu/library/infocom/) in various iterations and in several libraries. The Information Commons is the framework and organizing principle which facilitates the provision of the full range ("one-stop-shopping", "seamless integration of services") of learner- or patron-centered informational services. The provision of these services uses the organizing principle of Information Literacy (the set of skills needed to independently find, retrieve, analyze, and use information) to guide all decisions on 1) facilities, 2) informational, hardware and software resources, and 3) professional, para-professional and student staff. With these two organizing principles (Information Literacy as the curriculum within the framework of the Information Commons), the library is purposefully planned, designed, created and managed for the optimal and most effective provision of informational services to meet patron needs.
I understand that you have recently written a book on Information Commons. What is the title and what is the main message of the book?
I am in the early stages of co-authoring a book with Don Beagle (with contributions from IC colleagues Barbara Tierney and David Murray). The working title is Information Commons and the Future of Libraries; it should be out probably the fall of 2005. The book is the first monograph on the Information Commons and deals with planning, implementation, assessment, transcending the tragedies of the commons, and the "learning commons" as the future of libraries. The ideas have evolved from our previously published work and the IC panels and workshops which I have convened.
Could you please tell us why and when you decided to implement the Information Commons in the J. Murrey Atkins Library of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte? What were the main objectives of this project?
The concept of the Information Commons came into library parlance in the early 1990´s, while I was still a professor of comparative education, teaching my students about effective use of library resources, and doing research on education and libraries in other cultures. The Library Director at UNC Charlotte at that time (Ray Frankle) began developing support for the idea of an Information Commons about 1996; the University of North Carolina at Charlotte administration was very supportive of the idea but the staff was hesitant and anxious about such radical change. The library was redesigned and renovated (completed in the summer of 2000 at a cost of $22 million) with the Information Commons as the organizing principle for its public services. I was hired in December, 2000, to implement the concept in the newly designed building.
The primary objectives were to provide more learner- and patron-centered services and to incorporate and integrate the full range of high technology resources (high-speed network access to electronic information; all available software resources; and technology to find, retrieve and manipulate information from and into any and all formats) into the library´s more traditional research support and general public services. A primary objective was to allow the learner, the patron, to find answers to all of her research questions, to find, retrieve and manipulate the appropriate informational data into the desired product all in one aesthetically pleasing facility ("one-stop-shopping", "seamless integration of services").
How did you succeed at introducing this project to the UNC management and other strategic partners? How does this strategic alliance work in practice?
In 1998 the University Provost (Chief Academic Officer) charged a task force of library and teaching faculty and staff to spend about 6 months doing research on the concept and carrying out site visits to 10 early-adaptor institutions around the United States (just as the group from Longwood University did, after consulting my work and then visiting Information Commons libraries). The resultant task force report helped guide the redesign of the library facility and the design of the position, in which I presently serve (Associate University Librarian for Information Commons).
The strategic and tactical alliance within the library has been more difficult and slow in its development and has been the primary focus of my work over the last three and half years (více viz článek ze září 2002, Journal of Academic Librarianship article "Information Commons Redux…"). The library public services faculty and staff are now 65% - 75% in support of the Information Commons; it is still evolving and will probably continue to do so over the years.
How did you manage to motivate and involve library staff? Did you perceive any obstacles? What would you recommend to other library managers who intend to implement an IC in their libraries?
Although many of the library staff were at least hesitant to embrace and support the Information Commons, others understood the service potential and shared ownership of the IC enterprise fairly quickly. I spent a good deal of time in the first six months talking with individual staff, with small and large groups of my staff about the Information Commons model and its advantages. As I have often done, I used the cohesive power of the group who clearly supported the IC as a force to move the IC enterprise forward. As a cohesive group, we slowly developed documents of vision, mission, goals and objectives and began to move one objective, one goal after another forward, luring in progressively more staff and allowing the unsure and resistant staff to "stand on the quay as the train moved away." Staff who are supportive of the IC enterprise receive praise and support and more authority, while non-supportive, resistant staff are given progressively less attention and resources (the image I use is the Chinese image of water flowing around boulders in the stream).
The obstacles for planning and implementing an Information Commons are similar to those encountered with most change (I refer to them as the tragedies of commons). Garnering the support of senior library and institutional administration is critical; this involves commitment of funding and ongoing support. If this support is not available, this (like most initiatives) will probably flounder. Ongoing funding is necessary here as in any technology-rich project. Staff (especially those who have been at this institution for a longer time) often see the Information Commons as a "fad" or "recycled idea" or something imposed on them from outside. In order to bring resistant staff along and get them on board, fairly firm administrative support is crucial.
If there appears to be sufficient interest in an Information Commons, sufficient planning (strategic and tactical), site-visits, and the acquisition of sufficient funding are all very important before beginning implementation. There are good bibliographies in the programs and brochures on our Web site, which would be a good place to begin. It is often helpful to talk with a consultant via e-mail, in writing, or inviting the consultant for a site consultation.
How do you cope with what you have called in your article the "chauvinist culture of expertise"?
The "chauvinist culture of expertise" ("only I can properly answer questions in my area of expertise") is one of the "tragedies of the Information Commons." Like most of these "tragedies", it is best overcome through ongoing education of the library staff, faculty and patrons. I often use the example of experts in chemistry research (the faculty librarian whose subject specialty is chemistry) or Photoshop (a technical specialist in the sophisticated Photoshop software). In our Information Commons meetings and training sessions, we have attempted to create taxonomies of complexity (roughly 1-least complex to 5-most complex) and suggest that patrons´ questions and needs in chemistry research or Photoshop applications at levels 1 and 2 can probably be answered by many if not most public service staff; and we educate/train all public service staff accordingly. When the patrons´ questions and needs in these areas become more complex (levels 3, 4 and 5), we suggest that perhaps the patron should be "referred" to a staff person with greater expertise (the chemistry librarian or the Photoshop specialist). So, all Information Commons public service staff respond to patrons´ questions and needs in all areas at levels 1 and probably 2, but questions and needs at the more complex levels 3, 4 and 5 probably need to be referred for more expert assistance.
If Information Commons faculty and staff are trained/educated in this manner and actively demonstrate for our patrons this approach to less complex and more complex questions and needs, then the "chauvinist culture of expertise" is slowly starved of its power. The general public service staff person responds to less complex questions and needs, and the expert is called upon when the complexity of the question or need actually requires this expertise.
What difficulties do you perceive now concerning the functioning of the Information Commons within your library? What are your future plans?
The Information Commons at UNC Charlotte is functioning relatively smoothly at present time. However, the Information Commons requires constant maintenance/support, refinement and upgrading. We always attempt to better train and educate our Information Commons staff and our patrons how to make the most efficient and effective use of the Information Commons resources (the facility; technology hardware and software; and the personnel); this is an ongoing need. Many of our Information Commons staff are student assistants, and these student staff of course change over time as students graduate or move to other jobs, and some of our full-time staff move to other jobs as well. Thus, we constantly replace, train and retrain our staff.
We also attempt to convince the 25%-35% of our staff who do not support the IC enterprise, that the Information Commons offers very good (if not the best) option for provide library public services in a technology-rich environment. This too is a continual and ongoing need.
Another ongoing concern is the need to regularly refresh the technology - it used to be every 18 months, but now it seems that it is more like every 12 - 14 months. This requires regular budgetary advocacy by Information Commons and other library administrators, and the actual cost never seems to diminish. As soon as certain technologies fall in price, patrons´ requests and needs increase for more and better technology increase and require additional spending. With more and better technology, there are more and different needs for personnel to support the use of these technologies. These are ongoing concerns and must be expected and planned for in terms of budgeting; personnel hiring, training and retraining; and facilities upgrading, reorganizing and renovation.
What do you find are the most important component/s, phases, and steps in the process of implementation of the Information Commons?
It is vitally important that sufficient planning precede implementation.
Strategic planning (how the Information Commons fits into and supports
the broader institutional vision and mission) and tactical planning
(planned steps and procedures which lead to smooth implementation)
are both extremely important components. This planning should constitute
the first phase and often requires a good bit of time (from 6 months
to several years): a well-planned Information Commons is much easier
to implement and is a much more effective and integrated component
of an institution´s services.
Implementation constitutes the second phase. Since an Information Commons is more a concept (integrated informational services providing "one-stop-shopping" and "seamless services" for the patrons) than a physical place, it can be approached incrementally, e.g., more and more cross-trained personnel; more technology (hardware and software and networking) brought into the library; reorganized, upgraded, refurnished or renovated space to better accommodate co-location of technology and library staff. It does not have to be seen as existing only when a new building can be built to house it or an existing building can be renovated to accommodate the new concept. While some Information Commons are planned and built with extensive funding ($5 million - $30 million), many begin small and evolve incrementally.
It is most important that there be sufficient clarity on a plan, out of which vision, mission, goals-and-objective can be developed by those who will actually implement and work in the Information Commons. In one of our 2002 IC panel sessions, a speaker described the Information Commons as "the library which a student [patron] would design," which best meets the informational needs of the student-patron. Out patrons, our students are now demanding that we provide them pleasant surroundings and sufficient access to informational and technological resources integrated with the human support of research experts in a way that maximally facilitates their education. If we do not provide it, someone else in the commercial world will step ahead of us and provide these services - then we will be stuck in libraries of the past rather than developing and evolving the thriving libraries of the future. Many of these libraries of the future can be visited through my colleague David Murray´s Web site.
Thank you very much for the interview.