LIS 500: Taylor’s Value Added Model discussion debrief

For my introductory seminar class each student took a class period to lead discussion on a designated article. Below is my reflection after leading discussion on Taylor’s Value Added model.

The discussion on Taylor’s design of the value-added model generally went according to plan, especially helped by Joe’s insights and questions to us on the definition of value and reminding us how Taylor was defining system. Since Taylor wasn’t making an argument it was especially important for us to understand what he was saying, if he had been making an argument that we were trying to analyze there would have been a lot more room for interpretation and differences of opinion. Before we got to the redesign of the model there was sparse but important discussion about the origins and importance of the model, with goods points make by Ceradwen and Jei about how changing technologies and increasing amounts of information in the system are creating the need for ways to ascribe value. Joe jumped in and raised the question of what makes us question value and Rachel brought up how Taylor discussed active versus passive searching and how that related to how an active search is more a search done by a librarian or other information professional. Since things have evolved in such a way that searching is much more passive and often carried out by patrons, this got the class into the right mindset as far as how expectations and needs had changed and we were ready to redefine the user criteria of choice.

Generally, what we did get done of the redesign went well. Although at first glance we didn’t change the structure of the model much or maybe not at all, the ways in which we redefined the various elements speaks to how the model is changing based on the changed expectations and needs of users. The fact that we were unable to put the user criteria in an order of importance may seem uninteresting, but it is something I would have liked to talk about more. The variety of opinion on what is important when performing a search speaks to the breadth of user demands, something that we will experience a lot in a career as an information professional.

Each of the user criteria received support from members of the class. Al and Rachel discussed how ease of use is changing; as so much more information becomes available to a broader audience it is crucial that the information can be used. Finn and Jason brought up information overload and how easy it is to get overwhelmed by all the options available, definitely a much more common problem than in the early days of the value added model. Jei and Cassie talked about similar concerns about quality: with so much more information available it’s difficult to know what is quality information. On adaptability, Loryn highlighted how with emerging technologies and new ways of accessing the information that adaptability is more important than ever. Time saving, as discussed by Cassie, Kate, Aimee, and Joe, is one of the most changed user criteria. Time saving used to be about long processing time, as mentioned up by Joe, this is definitely no longer the case. Kate discussed time saving as not wasting time falling into the time suck that is recreational internet use and Aimee brought up how that with such fast internet speeds attention spans are much shorter. For cost saving a lot of the concern has shifted away from the user, but Kim, Aimee, and Ceradwen brought up good points about cost concerns like the New York Times pay wall, concerns about the costs of data plans for mobile devices, and the costs of the devices themselves. Since we were discussing user criteria for cost saving we didn’t discuss exorbitant electronic journal subscription fees and other concerns not directly related to the user. By redefining some of the user criteria we were then able to discuss the systems.

The ways in which value is added is through what Taylor calls systems; each criteria has systems that allow the user to interface with the information. While we only had time for discussion on re-systemizing ease of use and time saving we were able to get to the most important aspects of the evolution of the value added model. If there had been more time I think we could have had some really good discussions on what elements create value for noise reduction and quality, the two criteria that I feel have changed the most since the origin of the value added model. For the discussion we did have the biggest change we discussed was the advent of free text searching, first brought up by Irma, framed as an escape from controlled vocabulary. The discussion also touched upon customizable interfaces and other aesthetic adjustments, something that wasn’t of concern 26 years ago since the only users of these information systems were professionals. Once we reached the systems discussion we discovered how much more overlap between user criteria there is now as opposed to the clear differences in Taylor’s time. Greg got the class going on the most important vein of discussion, unfortunately one we didn’t reach until the end: the fact that the user criteria and its systemization is changing because the users are changing. When Taylor designed the model only information professionals were using information systems. As Joe reminded us, we now have constant access to information; we could (and often do) Google in bed. I then posed the question about the place of librarians in this changing information landscape. I purposefully did not engage people on this question so as not to steal Terry’s thunder, but then she didn’t really bring it up in the course of her discussion on Lee Rainey’s How Librarians Add Value to Communities. Joe rescued us by asking about what adds value in terms of quality. This would have been a great jumping off point to talk about the systemization of quality in the value-added model, but we were running low on time. If we had more time to discuss systemization of more user criteria then the class would have eventually gotten to addressing what value is over all. We discussed questions of value at the beginning, but it would have been valuable to be able to go back at the end of the discussion and reflect on value as framed by our definitions and implementations of valuable things.

My biggest disappointment about my class leading was not being able to achieve the free-flowing level of discussion I had hoped for. Since the chapter designing the value-added model didn’t have a central argument discussion was light at times and since I had sent out the prompt sufficiently in advance I was hoping that discussion would flow more freely. Perhaps it was my fault, my dedication to the redesign of the model (especially the concrete use of the chalk board) made it seem like we couldn’t easily address other topics. Rachel’s discussion on information vetting could have been a nice segue into the value-added of librarians. Terry even brought it up in the course of our discussion the fact that librarians, as the vetting mechanism, facilitate so many of the systems in user criteria: ease of use, noise reduction, time saving, and quality. Even with modern technology librarians are the most valuable interface between the user and technology and I don’t really feel the class discussion reached that point.

If I had this to do over again I would be less delicate with getting to the points I really wanted to discuss: the change in the definition of value. I tried to lead the class to this question through the redesign/redefinition of the value added model, but this ended up being too slow of an approach for the time given. With more time and more direction on my part I think the discussion could have been a lot more successful. I latched on to the idea of redesigning the model as my discussion leading strategy and I didn’t spend enough time thinking about what I really wanted to achieve through guiding the class through the redesign.

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