The Future of Handbooks: More about electronic and print resources

Traffic Engineering


This post started off where I get most of my inspiration: Twitter. After helping a grad student find resources about trip generation in urban areas which included referencing ITE’s Trip Generation Manual, I tweeted:

This started a brief discussion with @ITEhq, where they recommended a software platform to generate trip generation. They also understood that that solution doesn’t work in my case and appreciated the feedback. @ITEhq, thank you for engaging on Twitter! I really appreciated the conversation and respect your organization more for it.

While I am happy to point out a professional association doing things well, this post isn’t about that. This post is about another wrinkle in the shift from buying and providing library resources from print to electronic.

In traffic engineering there are some core handbooks that every engineer should keep on hand: the Highway Capacity Manual, the AASHTO Green Book, the Trip Generation Manual, the AASHTO Roadside Design Guide, and the MUTCD.  The MUTCD is an FHWA document so freely available online as a PDF. The Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) and the two AASTHO books are available through the Knovel platform. Only the the Trip Generation Manual is not available electronically, so if our researchers and grad students want to refer to it they need to physically come to the library. That’s not the end of the world, but it is a bit of a barrier. It also doesn’t fit with how many of them use hand books now. The student I was working with yesterday lamented they could use ctrl-F to find the section they were most interested in right away. Oh technology the great enabler!

But as seen in my conversation with ITE on Twitter, there is another option: OTISS, an online program used to run traffic impact assessments (trip generation, for those of you not in the know). For many practitioners who do these kinds of calculations on a weekly basis, OTISS is a very handy tool that is used instead of the Trip Generation Manual. The pricing is also reasonable for single users. Unfortunately, it’s not really feasible for a library. The multi-user account is limited to just 3 users, which then also makes the pricing unrealistic given our current budget. If we were to subscribe to it, it would have to be used in the library, which would automatically limit usage making it harder to justify the cost. There’s also the obvious that if we did pay for the service, we would probably violate the TOS by not restricting its use to the first 3 users.

OTISS is not the first time I’ve encountered this problem and it certainly won’t be the last. As more resources are moving from print to electronic, there are the common questions about DRM and ownership versus licensing. There are also increasingly more cases where the new platforms for delivering the content and information were designed in a way that libraries can’t easily (or even legally) participate. This is why I’m happy that AASHTO licenses their handbooks through Knovel, because to buy them electronically would restrict us to usage on a single machine. That was the common delivery and restriction method before cloud-based solutions became common, only now it’s tied to a user. I don’t know what the solution is aside from having this discussion and raising awareness of the issue. Just something to think about.

Thoughts from #IDCC14 – Learning new tricks after grad school.

Librarian searching on the computer by UWMadArchives
Librarian searching on the computer, a photo by UWMadArchives on Flickr.

One thing that stuck with me from IDCC14 was the issue of training and continuing education for digital curation for people out of school. Mid career, early career, established career professionals could benefit from continuing education in the field.

There was a session at the conference that focused on improving SLIS curricula to prepare new grads to be equipped for the future. Some bullet points I took away from the panel:

  • Comparing CS and LIS grads – CS degress are more in demand (read: jobs) than LIS. LIS programs continue to produce more degrees than jobs.
  • LIS grads want more programming, change management, and engagement with scientific communities.
  • There is work to be done wrt keeping skills up-to-date, and drawing distinctions and roles within jobs.
  • Who should we be attracting to data curation? Most STEM grads want to be researchers, not curators.

My main takeaway from the session was the implicit mindset that for most people already out of grad school the ship had sailed and we’re a lost cause. Well, not all of us. Some already had the background (STEM, programming, tech) or were curious and self-motivated enough to develop the skills. Everybody else, they were out of luck.

Then today I saw this tweet from @LibSkrat:


It addresses the same problem from a different angle. We need change and new skills? Let’s just hire out of that problem. In some situations, such as natural attrition through retirements, this is happening. But what about the rest of us? Do we have to go back to school?

That’s one option, especially with certificate programs popping up at several SLIS programs. For those with the money and time, this could be a good investment. For people who can’t fully commit yet, there are MOOCs, which is also good. I think ultimately there will need to be many approaches to fit the different needs of the group.

Ultimately though, it’s the attitude that these skills must be formally taught and developed in school is disappointing. It lets people off the hook for their own professional development by implying they can’t do it informally. It’s a cop out in a way. I can easily see a colleague shrugging their shoulders, “I can’t do digital curation because I didn’t learn about that in school.” And while there is some work being done to educate current professionals on how to translate their skills to this new area, as long as there is the attitude of “we can hire for innovation, ” we’re going to hold ourselves back. Is this what happened when library automation stormed on the scene? I really hope not.

While we do need to revamp SLIS curricula to meet the changing needs of the workforce, we also need to encourage, support (with time and money), and promote learning within our profession. Of course, there are some people who push back, and I think it’s appropriate to call them out on their abdication of professional development. This means we need opportunities to grow, so let’s get on it.

(This isn’t even touching the false assumption that all new SLIS grads are tech geniuses who want to hack everything.)

Working online – Library school, committee work, work work, it’s all the same.

Today, Drexel (my alma mater), has an interesting post on their einsights blog, where they discuss different issues surrounding online/distance education. Today, they tackle common mistakes online students make and how to avoid them. The mistakes are:

  • Assuming online is easy
  • Poor time management
  • Communication breakdown
  • Not utilizing available resources
  • Not staying connected
  • Taking on too much too soon

I really identified with many of these mistakes, though by then end I think I had it figured out. I knew how to fit it into my life and understood that I had to really take the time and make the effort to stay on top of everything. I really think that these are useful tips to remember for any student, not just online students. (OK, save for maybe the first one?)

The thing is, these tips don’t stop being relevant when you graduate. In fact, I’ve seen how valuable the lessons of my online education have been for me as I work and collaborate with my colleagues from around the world. I know it’s going to be extra work, but it’s not impossible. I wonder, as more and more people graduate with online degrees, will professional online collaboration be more effective? It could happen. I know from my experience, it took time for people to warm up to the online environment. I had spent years chatting online and using message boards to communicate, so it was a fairly easy switch. You could tell some of my cohort struggled to figure out how to use the medium. It’s the same with using listservs, blogs, wikis, and other venues to communicate. If people aren’t comfortable with it, they won’t use it. So we have to work together, and then hopefully something good will come of it.

More on getting hired: It’s not passion, people!

I’ve confessed to being addicted to HR blogs in the past. One of my favourites, nö, my favourite is The Cynical Girl Laurie Ruettimann. Tonight’s she’s giving a presentation at NC State about getting a job after you graduation.

I liked it. Particularly her main points:

  • Have a skill or two
  • Demonstrate a work ethic
  • Take pride in your work
  • Tell a better story
  • Rethink passion

All job applicants should have these in the back of their mind throughout the application and hiring process. I’ve witnessed acquaintances/colleagues/people I’ve interviewed falter on several of these points, which definitely makes for a less than compelling candidate. The interesting, and perhaps more controversial point is the last one. Ruettimann has pissed on the dreams of passionate new-grads before, but she makes a good point.

Don’t let your passion get in the way of a paycheck. You can work 8 hours at a crappy job and still have 16 hours/day to sleep, eat, poop, shower, and work on your passion.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be one of those people who is all consumed by your profession (whatever it may be), OK actually I probably am, but I also think at some point you need to divorce your self the individual from your self the worker. Not that you can’t be an individual and a worker, but when times are tough and you need a paycheck, you might have to make that split. No harm in that, just reality folks.

So what’s that mean for librarians? (Since I know this blog has to tie everything back to libraries…) Recognize it’s a job. A special job that sometimes we take to cult like levels, but it’s still a job. I love what I do. I really like my field and I’m quite happy I fell into it. That said, I really hope this doesn’t define me. I would like to think there’s more to me than transportation information, but if my colleagues and customers don’t know that, it’s fine. I’ll bore my partner with the latest and greatest Sheffield Wednesday drama. If you, like me, are one of the several humanities grads needing a job, focus on the job not the subject. It will get you places and give you money to spend on your passion.