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Digital Curation in Research Libraries & the Learning Commons, Post #3

Post #3

May 25, 2011

In my post #2, I mentioned that Fraser's study of the IC at University of Sheffield (UK) had been partly forced into a "subjective" and "restrospective" mode because some early born-digital records had not been preserved and curated.

In this post, I want to highlight the recently-released (Oct. 2010) LibQUAL+®  assessment of the Information Commons (IC) at Buffalo State College (enrollment approx. 11,000 undergrad + grad). A key point: Libraries employing LibQUAL+®  make use of " services [of] ARL Statistics Analytics through the technology-infrastructure investments ... at ARL with the development of LibQUAL+® services and LibQUAL+® Analytics." (Source: "ARL Statistics." Link: <>)

Comments below refer to slides in a presentation by Harvey and Lindstrom of BSC, link:


The BSC study itself spans a period from 2003 (pre-IC) to 2009 (4 years after IC implementation). In the first iteration of the LibQUAL+®  survey "...compared against the intrument's national norms, Butler Library fell short of average in all 3 service areas (i.e. Affect of Service, Information Control, and Library as Place) by up to 10 percentile points." [slide #6]. Over the 2006 and 2009 iterations, "Total Perceived Service Quality" rose to nearly equal to, and then above, the instrument's national norms, rising a remarkable 10 percentile points [slide#19], and sustaining gains over time.

The BSC study also reveals an interesting definitional parallel between digital curation and Learning Commons. In presentations at the Digital Curation Institute, Seamus Ross emphasized that digital preservation is not a "box" or a "space," but a "service" or set of services. Similarly, Learning Commons are sometimes dismissed as "a computer lab in the reference room" or simply "a library learning space."

But, as Harvey and Lindstrom state: "Interestingly, the Information Commons model would seem to fit more into the “Library as Place” dimension of LibQUAL+® , yet scores in "Affect of Service" and "Information Control" also improved significantly." [slide #18] In fact, while the IC raised all three significantly, it raised student perceptions of quality of "Information Control" MORE than it raised "Library as Place!" The actual data points show that students ranked "Information Control" lower than "Library as Place" in the 2003 pre-IC survey, but actually ranked "Information Control" higher than "Library as Place" in the 2006 and 2009 iterations after the IC began operations.

In my next post, I will explore the implications of viewing the Learning Commons as a new pattern of service delivery, not simply as a "learning space," with those services incorporating a systematic approach to digital curation.


Donald Beagle



Donald Beagle

May 22, 2011


In post #1, I introduced the notion of a linkage between digital curation and Learning Commons, by way of the new ARL report by Walters and Skinner. Here, I first want to examine the sorts of born-digital content that we see emerging in Information Commons (IC) and Learning Commons (LC) environments, and why that digital content merits systematic curation and preservation over time.

First, let's focus on digital content produced within the following contexts:

1) Iterative assessment cycles of LC service delivery and research support

-   [ethnographic studies; LibQUAL; "theory of change;" action research, etc.] 

2) LC facilitating students as digital content producers, not just content consumers

-   [continuum of service; one-stop shopping; ACRL Information Literacy Standard #5]

3) Learning Outcomes enabled by collaborations between LC stakeholders

-   [ePortfolios; constructivist pedagogy; group process & project-based learning;]


Let me introduce context #1 with two contrasting examples. In the dissertation by Katie Fraser about her research into assessing the planning and implementation of the Information Commons (IC) at University of Sheffield (UK), Fraser described two obstacles to her assessment.  The first obstacle was the absence of systematic preservation of early vision statements, desired outcomes, and anticipated beneifts on the part of the IC planners and developers, forcing her use of interviews with IC planners and developers into a more subjective and retrospective mode (pp  19-20).  My point, then, is that a systematic program of digital curation could and should have captured and preserved such vision statements, desired outcomes, and anticipated benefits, as well as early expectations on the part of IC planners about the sorts of metrics likely to be useful in future assessments of that project. (Fraser's second obstacle was the primary early focus of project drivers in a "library as place" context rather than as a platform for expanded pattern of service delivery (p. 5; p. 9). In a future post to this blog, I will return to the analytical problems presented by over-emphasizing the "library as place" aspect of IC & LC planning, and how that parallels a definitional problem in digital curation).

Fraser's dissertation can be accessed here:


In my next blog post, I will contrast the "retrospective and subjective" challenges Fraser faced in this Sheffield IC assessment with the LibQUAL assessment of the Information Commons at Buffalo State College, where systematic data preservation and curation enabled a more definitive and iterative series of assessments extending from a period before IC implementation to a period three years after its implementation, creating a longitudinal study that will serve as an exemplar in future IC / LC assessment research.


Post #1 Thu, 05/19/2011 - 07:08

In case anyone missed it, on March 17, 2011, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), published a report: New Roles for New Times: Digital Curation for Preservation. Authored by Tyler Walters (Dean of University Libraries, Virginia Tech) and Katherine Skinner (Executive Director of the Educopia Institute), the report "...looks at how libraries are developing new roles and services in the arena of digital curation for preservation." I want to highlight a quote from p. 25: "...they [librarians] are working to redefine the space of the library itself for learning purposes (e.g., learning commons and the “library as place” movement)[emphasis added]. They are also trying to better insert their expertise into the classroom and the research lab.....this approach also can contribute to and positively impact the relationship between the research library and the digital content creators." I highlight this comment because I've spent the past twenty years advocating, researching, writing, and consulting on the Learning Commons concept. And since 2006 (in my keynote talk for ACRL's New England Chapter at UMass/Amherst) I've advocated for recognition of linkages between Learning Commons and digital curation. So in future posts to this blog I will investigate and articulate some of these linkages and interconnections. The ARL report can be accessed here:





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