Friday, December 14, 2007

24 hour access

At 7pm tonight, our 24/7 hours come to an end for this semester. here are the results.

Between Midnight and 8 a.m. we had a gate count high of 350 (Monday, December 10th)and a low of 47 (Saturday, December 8th.) the average between 12/3 and 12/14 was 209. Our data on how many people were in the building is pretty squishy, but it look like we had between 40 - 50 people in the library at 4 a.m. on any given night. Between midnight and 1 a.m., most people entered the library between 12-1 a.m. (an average of 59 on any one night) and the fewest people entered the building between 4 and 6 a.m. (an average of 9 per hour.)

On a campus with a residential population of less than 1700. I deem those numbers, along with lots of nice comments and thank yous, to be a success.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Olin Library Website

I would really like your contribution to this -- post a comment, please.

I have written about this before, twice in fact, but now we are on the verge of making some real progress so it is worth revisiting. I have never been particularly impressed with our website. I don't think it is very attractive or functional (in terms of both architecture and functionality) and I think we can do a lot better. We have made some progress with functionality over the last year and expect to make more soon, but we have held off on the attractiveness because ....

Rollins is currently involved in a project to ramp up its marketing efforts and the College's web presence is obviously a big part of that. Some of us from the Library met with the folks who will be redesigning the College's web presence last week to talk about our audience, what they do on our website, what functionality we need, what we see coming down the pike, and other concerns. It was a good meeting.

One way to approach this is look at what we like about other websites that can inform our rebuild. Last time I wrote about this we got lots of comments. Here are the sites that were mentioned:

Brigham Young University -- Yvonne liked this one. The only thing I don't like is that the white box does not resize. It is a fussy box anyway, and this makes it even fussier. Well not the only thing -- the colors clash as well.
British Library -- The only things I don't particularly like are the navigation bar in the center of the screen and the horizontal orientation
Bowdoin -- I am not as big a fan as I was, except of their federated searching solution, but that could stand out more.
Bucknell -- This one did not get mentioned, but it should have been. First they are using xml. Sweet. Look at that picture with text in the middle -- object lessons on how they change teaching and learning, and they change as you visit the site. The search of the (Bill -- Sirsi!!!) catalog is right there in the middle and look at that calendar function. The whole impression is full, perhaps tending to fussy, but generally, very good.
Gustavus Adolphus -- Still like the clean lines and space, but why call a good blog "Library News"? They could be more creative than this.
Middlebury College -- I still like it, but there are still too many links, and why not have a federated search function on this opening page?
Oberlin College -- What was their new site is now in production and still looks good. I like the blog, but there are too many options under "find", and why aren't they federated search boxes?
Smith College -- I still like the direct link to subject guides in the "find resources" drop down menu, and the quick search of the catalog, as well as the float over menus. The left side is still fussy though.
Sonoma State University -- Another one Yvonne liked. It is clean and has the search of the catalog right there, and I like the haiku.
University of Rochester -- Dani Picard liked this one and they have the distinction of basing design on thorough usability testing. But why have the owl break the line that way? Ugh! Some of the functionality behind the "finding" (why the gerund?) links is great, but why have different lengths of buttons, and why not find a way to put the search right on the front page?
Webster University -- Naomi liked this one. I like the white space but not the font or those little black blobs. Also why say "look for" instead of "find"? As Roy Tennant says, "librarians like to search, everyone else like to find." Finally, the link to the survey results (great idea!) is ugly.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The race to the finish line

There is a palpable change in the atmosphere in the library today. Just two weeks until the end of exams and the semester (at least for Arts & Sciences and Holt. Crummer follows Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution and never seems to stop.) Everyone is busy, focused, and the place is even fuller than usual.

We started 24 hour access on Sunday and will run through Friday December 14th. So far it is pretty slow, but we expect traffic to build as the publicity hits and as deadlines grow tight. Here are the hourly gate counts from the first night. Unfortunately these only tell us how many people entered the library, not how long they stayed, and we are having a devil of a time getting Campus Safety to do a 4 a.m. walk through the building to count heads. However, the building is clearly being used, who are those hardy thirty folks who get up and go to the library between 4 and 6 am?

Monday 12/3 Data

Hour Gate Count
1am 59
2am 21
3am 13
4am 11
5am 11
6am 8
7am 17
8am 66

Average 26

However, the building is clearly being used. Who are those hardy thirty folks who get up and go to the library between 4 and 6 am?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

They grow up so fast ....

OK, so moving off topic for just one post. Please forgive a proud and some what awestruck father. I took Sam for his first driving lesson last night at the high school parking lot. He did really well. In a Mini with a stick shift no less. How the years fly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Think of us as your librarians

If you are Rollins faculty that is.

The librarians have been working hard on fine tuning the way we communicate and work with faculty. We have had a liaison program for a number of years but it lacked clear goals. Departmental/program assignments seemed to be based more on librarian interest, not a more coherent principle like disciplinary relationship, geographic location of departments, or nature of the student or faculty (e.g. graduate v. undergraduate, pre-professional v. liberal arts.) Librarians did not receive initial training or continuing development in liaison.
There was little connection between collection development, acquisitions, and liaison. This meant there was little sense of responsibility for discipline specific databases/resources. Over time some duplication had developed with more than one librarian feeling a sense of responsibility for the same department. Finally there was no assessment of the effectiveness of liaison. There was even a problem with the name, "liaison." A word that librarians imported from the military that means something to us but didn't mean much to the anybody else.

So over the last few weeks we have defined clear goals and expectations, cleaned up the division of department and programs amongst librarians and dropped the name "liaison." Instead we are now talking about "Your Librarian." Our goals are:

1. Partner with faculty to improve student information literacy.
2. Work with faculty and the Collection Development Librarian to develop the collection in appropriate disciplines.
3. Communicate with faculty in our areas and encourage them to communicate with us.
4. Seek innovative projects, services, and resources in partnership with faculty and students to improve library support.

We are rolling this out over the next few weeks with redesigned webpages ( will add links when these are ready) for each librarian, an announcement at the next faculty meeting, and a special issue of our newsletter. We should be set to go when everyone gets back in January. Then we will treat the Spring semester as a transition period when we work out the kinks. We have a couple of big projects in which the librarians will have to work with faculty (the beginnings of a systematic weeding of the collection, and the review of our print journal subscriptions) which should provide good opportunities for librarians and faculty to build relationships. Over the summer we will review how this is going and make adjustments.

This really isn't a huge change. There are lots of examples of our librarians developing great working relationships with faculty members and developing a sense of responsibility for a certain section of the collection. The difference is we how to do this in the future in a more intentional and strategic manner, and hopefully achieve more in terms of information literacy and a better collection.

Oh, one more thing. This program is aimed at Rollins faculty, but only because they are one of our best routes to Rollins students.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Transitioning to Electronic-Only Journals Workshop

Interesting workshop on Monday. I really appreciated the participation from our faculty, Mario D'Amato, Tom Lairson, and Barry Levis. They gave us a broad spectrum of opinions about where we at Rollins should be going in terms of this issue. Also from our librarians Mary Throumoulos, Dorothy Mays, and Yvonne Jones. All of whom also had a broad spectrum of opinion.

I found a couple of things really interesting. The first is that the ARL libraries are moving very aggressively from print to digital journal collections. This means we cannot rely on them to play their traditional role of library of last resort for print collections. So if we care about the ultimate preservation of this literature in this format (and I think we have to, if not specifically as librarians at Rollins College with the mission and resources to support the curriculum, then more generally as professional librarians) this means that we cannot depend on the insurance of ARL libraries to retain print journals while we move quickly to digital versions. But, since we do not have the resources to preserve these print resources for the long term on a scale that is meaningful for the wider society, I don't think we can not act and avoid this migration from print to digital.
Secondly, if the colleges that participated in the workshop are representative of liberal arts colleges then Rollins is by no means moving too fast from print to digital. Some libraries are being forced along this continuum by circumstances beyond their control. Others -- often with the support of their constituents -- have decided to move more quickly.

If Ithaka had a hidden agenda in organizing this workshop it was to make sure that libraries act strategically and plan for this this move rather than being forced into it. To this end, we developed the following plan:

  1. We have reaffirmed that our default format for current subscriptions is digital. We will only continue to subscribe to print based on cost, availability, or user need.
  2. During the current academic year, we will review all existing print subscriptions to ensure that we are following through with (1). The liaison librarians will lead this review coordinated by Mary.
  3. Over the next two years, we will improve our data collection and use for both print and digital journals. Liaisons need to be able access to this data and use it, preferably in real time. Collection of data needs to be automated as far as possible. Data about usage, price, licensing, vendor, contract, and notes about history and decisions etc. should all be stored in one place.
  4. Over the next two years, we will continue to integrate our indexing of print and electronic resources. Adding MARC records for our online journals to the catalog is a big step in this process. We should continue to work on making our paper publications accessible through our electronic indexes (e.g. Serials Solutions A-Z list, and hence the link resolver) even as our paper holdings decrease. The more we can give print and digital the same access points, the easier it will be to make the shift between them.
  5. Over the next three years, we will reconsider the whole concept of a print backfile of the journal literature in relationship to our mission. We will find an effective balance between a legacy print collection, a digital collection, and access to a wider range of the journal literature, perhaps through a "pay per use" arrangement, with the overall aim of better serving our users and shrinking the footprint of the print journal collection.
  6. Over the next three years, as the print journal collection shrinks we will actively seek uses of the space for people not print collections. This could mean group study space, contemplative space, or a learning commons, or something not yet imagined. Use of this space should be aimed at most effectively serving the core educational mission of the College.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Future Reading

Thanks to Susie Robertshaw for pointing out a good article in the November issue of the New Yorker by Anthony Grafton about the various current large scale digitization efforts and the future of libraries. I really like the way he uses library history to illuminate his view of our future as one in which, "these streams of data, rich as they are, will illuminate, rather than eliminate, books and prints and manuscripts that only the library can put in front of you."
That is not a particularly challenging conclusion. I worry it is bit too comforting for librarians, especially ones who don't work in the world's great libraries like the NYPL. But I think that academic librarians can take some comfort in the fact that people will need help learning the techniques that enable them to recognize the need to take what Grafton calls the "narrower path" to thorough research. Here are a couple more quotes from this article that I think make the point.

"The rush to digitize the written record is one of a number of critical moments in the long saga of our drive to accumulate, store, and retrieve information efficiently. It will result not in the infotopia that the prophets conjure up but in one in a long series of new information ecologies, all of them challenging, in which readers, writers, and producers of text have learned to survive."

"The supposed universal library, then, will be not a seamless mass of books, easily linked and studied together, but a patchwork of interfaces and databases, some open to anyone with a computer and WiFi, others closed to those without access or money. The real challenge now is how to chart the tectonic plates of information that are crashing into one another and then to learn to navigate the new landscapes they are creating."

When librarians and faculty help students learn to survive challenging information ecologies and chart tectonic plates of information, we are helping them become more information literate. It was a challenge in the ancient Mediterranean world and it will continue to be one in the digital world.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Social networking

Interesting that Rollins will be hosting a couple of workshops that will be much concerned with social networking software and OCLC just published "Sharing Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World."

Not surprisingly, they find that the general public and two sub-groups -- college students and U.S. library directors -- see little role for libraries in building online social networks for their communities. The public think libraries are for learning and information, not for socializing.

I agree (not with the socializing part. As an undergraduate I spent a lot of time socializing in this reading room at Sheffield.)

I don't think we have much of a role in building social networking sites. I just don't think that our users are invested enough in the information resources provided by the library to devote much time and effort to linking them to friends or to find friends via a common interest in our resources. If there is a role for libraries in social networking, then it is in us joining existing networks like facebook and making our resources and services open to existing networks. Brian Matthews at Georgia Tech is on to something with this, but I don't think he is building seperate networks.

Odd that OCLC concentrated on this aspect of social networking.

Transitioning to Electronic Only Journals Collections

On Monday Rollins is hosting a new workshop from Ithaka on "Transitioning to Electronic Only Journals Collections." Six institutions are sending teams to the workshop: Birmingham Southern, Furman, Hobart & William Smith, Macalester, St Olaf, and of course Rollins.

This is the first of three such workshops that we are hosting here at Rollins this year. The other two are a pair of NITLE workshops on social networking softwares: "Social Software for Education: Collaborative Learning and Research Practices" and "Emerging Technologies and the Liberal Arts Campus." But more about those two later.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of Monday's workshop. We are not planning to go "electronic only" in terms of journals any time soon. We see the future as a hybrid of print and digital, albeit increasingly weighted towards digital particularly in terms of mainline peer-reviewed scholarly journals. But this will not be a clean process. In some cases the move from print to digital will so change the journal that the word journal (see sense B I 6) will no longer be relevant. In the others the move may never take place. I am not sure, for instance, that small literary magazines will ever stop being published in print even though they may also have quite well developed web-based versions.

In any event this will be a tough transition for most libraries and the communities they serve. One recent example of how tough this could be comes from Sandia National Laboratories. I am not sure of the whole story of what they are doing with their library, but the library profession is abuzz with opposition to what is described as closing the physical library and moving to online only library services and collections. Sandia announces this move here. Here are the Special Library Association and the American Library Association responses. Obviously, this concerns more than just journals, but my guess is that online journal access is a big part of this.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We have a winner!

Professor Rosana Diaz-Zambrana of Modern Languages has won the first Annual Olin Library Interlibrary Borrowing Prize. She is the member of the Rollins community who borrowed the most items via our interlibrary loan service during 2006-07, borrowing fifty items in all. Apart of the honor of this prize she also won a cup of coffee (thanks Barbara) from the Bookmark Cafe.

Rosana had lots of lovely things to say about the ILL service and Shawne Keevan who dealt with most of these requests. I can only agree, Shawne does a great job managing to get all kinds of materials from libraries large and small from around the world. Rosana's requests can be really challenging since she requests materials in Spanish, often published in Latin America and the Caribbean, and often out of print.

She was happy to hear about some of the improvements we are working to put in place in our service including software packages that:

  • Automatically authenticate so that users do not have to repeatedly type in their personal information and can also track their outstanding requests.
  • Automatically populate ILL request forms with the bibliographic data from our databases.
  • Significantly speed turnaround time.
  • Automatically deliver digital versions of articles to the user.

Shawne and the Digital Library Group are currently investigating what our options are and, if things work out well, we will implement many of these changes in the summer of 2008.

The Sandspur, November 5th edition

There are a couple of interesting items in the Sandspur this week. The first concerns the importance of local libraries. Unfortunately, it isn't about any local libraries around here. It looks as though the paper just took it off the wire. I suggested to a Rollins student who is interested in literary culture that he may want to respond. I hope he does. The second is more interesting and actually has more to say about the continuing relevance of this local library. The print version is more visually appealing since it includes pictures, but of the nine students asked for their favorite place on campus to study or just relax, four mentioned places in the library, often more than one. Interestingly, most chose quiet, contemplative spaces, rather than more social spaces. The spaces were the Tower Room, the 1st floor cubicles, a 1st floor table, the 24 Hour Lab, and the Pillow Room, and one was pictured in a rocking chair on the loggia.

Monday, November 05, 2007

We are not in Kansas anymore

I was off on Hallowe'en for my birthday. But it seems everyone had a great time in my absence. What a world, what a world ....

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century

It is rare that I enthuse about the professional literature of librarianship, except for Ranganathan. However, there is an article in the September issue of C&RL that articulates pretty much exactly what I have been thinking about, writing in this blog, and discussing with the librarians and faculty at Rollins. David W. Lewis is the Dean of the University Library at IUPUI and he has outlined an ambitious "strategy for academic libraries in the digital age or at least in its early stages." (p419)

The core of the article are five elements that Lewis contends will maintain "the library as a vibrant enterprise worthy of support from our campuses." (p.420) I will summarize them here, but I hope you go and find the article (the link above will only work for ACRL members, and our online version has not caught up with September yet -- so much for Open Access! However, it is downstairs in the paper periodicals.) It is worth reading.

  1. "Complete the migration from print to electronic collections."
  2. "Retire legacy print collections."
  3. In partnership with other campus units, "redevelop the library as the primary informal learning space on the campus."
  4. Embed library and information tools in teaching, learning, and research.
  5. Refocus collections from "purchasing materials to curating content."
Obviously, how a research university library system like the one that serves IUPUI pursues this strategy will be different than how a library like Olin at Rollins College does so. For instance , "curating content" will be a far more complex proposition at, and be more central to the mission of, IUPUI than Rollins. On the other hand, Rollins has the ability to move more quickly and in a more focused way to migrate from print to digital and to partner with others on campus. I would contend that we have already begun to make substantial progress on (1), a little progress on (2) and (5), and we are at least talking about (3) and (4.) But we have a long way to go. "We" being both the library personnel and the faculty of the College, the stakeholder groups that are most anxious about this transformation. If there is one thing I would highlight for the library personnel at Rollins to think about it is this,

"Library staff will need to recognize that they are unlikely to be doing, ten or even five years hence, the same things they are doing now." (p.430)

By "staff" I think Lewis means all library personnel. If we do truly recognize this, then we have to begin now planning for what we will, and will not, be doing five years hence and preparing ourselves for that future.

Late addition: I sent a copy of this to David Lewis. Here is part of his response, "thanks for the good words. By the way open access does work. There is a final draft version of the paper at:" My rather flip comments above was more a criticism of ACRL than of OA in general. ACRL supports open access in principle, but then doesn't practice it with its own journal. IDeA, the IUPUI Digital Archive, is a good example of the content curating that Lewis advocates.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ranganathan's Five laws

I wrote this piece for the library newsletter, OlinInfo. Since we don't print too many copies of OlinInfo I thought it might get a few more readers if I published it here. As far as I am concerned, the more people who know about Ranganathan the better.

Books that made a difference: S. R. Ranganathan’s “The Five Laws of Library Science.”

How can a book with such a boring title have changed my life?

To answer this question we have to go back to a small Christian hostel called Hephzibah House in New York City in the summer of 1989. (Why Hephzibah? Well, that is another book, specifically Isaiah 62:4.) Now, I am no Christian but if you are looking for a cheap bed in NYC this place can’t be beat. It is still there. Anyway, there I was in NYC thinking about my future. I was managing bookstores and going nowhere in Rochester, NY while my wife Bethany had found her bliss (Oops! Another book, see Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth) as a graduate student of modernist poetry. I had a copy of What Color is Your Parachute a book that had changed many peoples’ lives but it didn’t much help me. But it was there that I decided to become a librarian.
One of the assignments in my first course in Library School required that I read one of the classics of librarianship. Being an ornery foreigner, I didn’t want to read one of the predictable Anglo librarians – Melvil Dewey, Charles Ammi Cutter, Verner Clapp, Michael Buckland, etc. Instead I decided to hunt down an Indian mathematician and father of Indian librarianship who was just mentioned briefly in my textbook -- Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan and his book The Five laws of Library Science.
My professor encouraged me, relieved not to have to read another summary of Dewey’s Decimal Classification and Relativ Index. So I hunted down a 1931 edition published in India in English owned by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. A small book printed on cheap paper and bound in blue cloth, it felt like a visitor from the past in my hands. Opening it I found the seal of the publisher, the Madras Library Association, with their wonderful motto, “To Be Literate is to Possess the Cow of Plenty.”
The book is a strange mixture of a philosophy of librarianship and a manual of library operations, liberally sprinkled with anecdotes about libraries. The core of the book consists of Ranganathan’s five laws:

1. Books are for use.
2. Every reader his or her book.
3. Every book its reader.
4. Save the time of the reader.
5. The library is a growing organism.

I knew as I read them that I had found my bliss. Each one is so simple and yet perfectly encapsulates an aspect of my chosen career, my vocation. Nowadays we may talk of information resources instead of books, just one information format amongst many that librarians deal with, but the laws still ring true. The first law boldly states that books are for use. Not to be adored as objects, not to be preserved, untouched, but for use now and into the future. The second and third laws stress that use is not amorphous but particular. Every reader is in pursuit of a particular book and each book satisfies a particular need. The fourth is one librarians break constantly by placing barriers between the reader and the information they seek and we must constantly work to remove those barriers and save the time of the reader. Finally, we must remember that a library is not, as Nicholson Baker in Double Fold might have thought, a museum or a closed archive. It is a growing organism with information added and taken away constantly and with new services designed to meet the new needs of new users. Libraries are a product of the societies that nourish or neglect them and as those societies change so does the library.

We make progress everyday ...

This just came over the transom. I can't take any credit, Dining Services decided to do this on their own, based on increased sales and an investigation of library traffic. Next step 8 a.m. ....

Effective Monday, September 24

Monday - Thursday 10 AM - 10 PM
Friday - Saturday CLOSED
Sunday - 5 PM - 10 PM

Friday, September 14, 2007

Access to Federally Funded Research

For the last few years the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been following a policy of asking researchers to voluntarily add research articles that are published based on NIH funded research to the PubMed database. The voluntary part has resulted in just 5% of such articles being added, so they are now trying to make it mandatory. This is part of the open access movement and just one of many government actions worldwide seeking to provide public access to research. See the Wellcome Trust for one example

Some of you may know I am an ACRL Legislative Advocate and so I recently faxed the following to our Florida Senators, Nelson and Martinez.

"As you know, access to health information and health care in general is an issue of great concern to central Floridians. The opening of the medical school at UCF will help enormously in this regard. However, there is something else that you can also do to help Floridians access the latest health and scientific information.
Please support the inclusion of language put forth in the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill directing the National Institutes of health (NIH) to implement a mandatory policy ensuring free, timely access to all research articles stemming from NIH-funded research.
Floridians, and all American citizens, are entitled to open access on the Internet to the peer-reviewed scientific articles resulting from research funded by the U.S. government. Widespread access to the information contained in these articles is an essential, inseparable component of our nation's investment in science. It helps small colleges like Rollins educate the next generation of leaders. It helps research institutions like UCF develop new scientific and medical breakthroughs, and it helps all Floridians have access to the latest research to help them understand and manage their own health.
Over the more than two years since its implementation, the NIH's current voluntary policy has failed to achieve any of the agency's stated goals, attaining a deposit rate of less than 5% by individual researchers. A mandate is required to ensure deposit in NIH¹s online archive of articles describing findings of all research funded by the agency.
The Fiscal Year 2008 Labor/HHS Appropriations Bill reported out of committee contains language directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to change its Public Access Policy so that it requires NIH-funded researchers to deposit copies of agency-funded research articles into the National Library of Medicine¹s online archive. Please support that language.
I would appreciate knowing what action you take on this issue. Thank you for your consideration."

For more information you can go to the ALA or the the Alliance for Taxpayer Access. For the other side of the story, take a look at the Partnership for Research Integrity in Research and Medicine (PRISM.)

On a side note, you gotta love these names, "taxpayer access" "research integrity." Marketing the message is as important in influencing the governmental process as the quality of the public policy. Welcome to Washington.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Our new furniture is here!

Over the last few months the new furniture we ordered has come to the Olin library. The rocking chairs are a real hit on the loggia (more are coming and should be here for the perfect porch weather of October.) The new furniture seems to be as big a hit on the inside. I have already seen people pausing by the table of new books located on a gorgeous rug that really warms up the lobby and I have heard good things from people lounging in the comfortable leather chairs that you can see in the background of this pic.

As I have noted before, this is just a test. We want to see what spaces people use and how they use them and then use that information to help make decisions about furniture and space elesewhere in the library. I hope this is just the beginning.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Librarianship as a vocation

I think of librarianship (please note: not library science, librarianship implies more craft than science) as more than just a way to make money and occupy my time. It is a vocation, as in calling.
I saw an interesting example of this a while ago. Someone mentioned that love bugs were the product of a failed genetic experiment at the University of Florida. In a room full of intelligent, engaged people I and the only other librarian in the room immediately glanced at each other. We recognize a possible urban legend when we hear one. Later a quick Google search showed that this was indeed an urban legend, or perhaps "tongue in cheek lore," and I shared that with those involved. I know, very geeky of me, but I hate to spread urban legends.

This element of the vocation of librarianship -- critically appraising information, having the skills to act upon such a critical appraisal, and then communicating more accurate information to others -- should be part of a good liberal education. I think every Rollins' student should be able to critically engage with information in this way, hopefully in far more serious situations (work, politics, scholarship, consumption, etc.) than a coffee break discussion of love bugs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

We have a wiki

But I can't share it with you ....

Carolyn Carpan has returned from her sabbatical all fired up about wikis, social networking, smart phones etc. This is great, a perfect result of a sabbatical and a good example of how productive faculty status and its attendant benefits can be for both the individual and the library.

She has started a wiki for the reference librarians as place where they can share news and solutions to frequent questions. This is a great use of wiki technology that enables web content to be created and updated in a collaborative way. Since this wiki will include information about assignments and possibly information that identifies individual instructors or users, the reference librarians have decided to keep it private. This makes sense, but i just wonder how much more powerful it could be if it took advantage of the true power of social networking software and the wisdom of the crowd and was open to everyone. Students could add their own suggestions for completing assignments and could learn from each other as well as expert searchers like the librarians.

The next wiki I am thinking about is a strategic planning wiki. Stay tuned ....

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

This is my first anniversary

It is August 7th. I started this day last year. You can tell I have been here a whole year because in a recent meeting two people told me, "the honeymoon is over." Great! Not just one, but two people. Clearly they wanted to emphasize the fact....

The year has flown by. Today I am holding an ice cream social and all-staff meeting (I get the impression everyone is happy about the former, but not so happy about the latter.) I want to thank everyone for what they have accomplished in the last year and show everyone the latest draft of the strategic plan. It still needs work, but I want everyone to see what has evolved since our retreat in May and give them an opportunity to express interest in specific projects in which they may want to participate.

We will also take a look at a series of leading indicators of activity in the library that I want to keep track of in the years to come. You will notice that use of the digital library is continuing to rise, use of the print library is rising but not as fast and is a smaller proportion of library use. I think this is another indication that the digital library is the core and the print is no longer the core library collection for our users. Our services (see the decline in traditional reference and Special Collections & Archives queries for examples) need to catch up. Instruction is rising, which is good and ILL borrowing is rising. This is good as well because it shows our users are stretching us. Fill rate has dropped, which concerns me, but training and developing some relationships should help with that. ILL lending is not a leading indicator. We lend so that we can borrow and should concentrate our efforts on the former not the latter.

You will also notice that acquisitions, cataloging, budgets, etc. don't appear here. I want us to look at outputs -- and if possible outcomes -- not inputs.

Here is a list of all the library personnel has accomplished over the last year above and beyond their normal activities. This in a year when I said I would be listening and not changing stuff! I can't thank them enough, they are an impressive bunch of people.
  1. Investigation of feasibility of licensing of Web of Science/Scopus, ArtSTOR, Science, Nature, Religion Index, Fall 2006. [Subscribed to Religion Index with Fulltext, Scopus, and ArtSTOR. Science and Nature will be delayed for consideration until later.]
  2. Replacement of off-campus access software with better solution, Winter/Spring 2006-07. [EZProxy replaced OneLog March 2007]
  3. Extension of Bookmark Café hours of service and offerings, January 2007. [On target. Extended hours and offerings started 1/17/07. Spring term was a test of the new hours and offerings.]
  4. Renovation of Bib Lab. [Touch up complete. Furniture installed March 2007]
  5. Proof of Concept development for Genius Reserve website and institutional repository, Spring 2007. [Grant proposal accepted December 2006, Wenxian and students completed work on website May 2007.]
  6. Annual reviews for Mary, Jonathan, Mid-course review for Yvonne, annual reviews for all staff [Spring 2007]
  7. Investigation and selection of open URL compliant link resolver, [Digital Library Group is incorporating this into their planning. Tentative date Spring/Summer 2007]
  8. Cataloging and Acquisitions Departments merged into one Technical Services Department. Effective April 2007.
  9. Tested 24 hour access during Spring Exam period. [Need to evaluate to decide whether to continue.]
  10. Consolidate budget from four to one budget. [Jonathan has met with Bill Short, will present budget outline to Librarians Spring 2007, implement with FY’08]
  11. Upgrade to SIRSI ILS, summer 2007. [All staff expected to complete review of enhancements, Spring 2007. Upgraded early July 2007. Incorporate changes into work procedures. Late summer 2007.]
  12. IT Help Desk Moved to 2nd floor. Videos/DVDs moved to north end of 2nd, Micro moved to 1st floor.
  13. Incorporate Reference PC’s into Novell network and consolidate printing. [Summer 2007]

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Information Seeking Behavior

Mary pointed me towards a good article in the Washington Post on July 25th about changing College libraries. The reporter particularly focused on Rhodes College. Quite rightly, because they have done a really good job of their new library and have become a model for others. The article really doesn't break new ground for readers of this blog, but it ends in an interesting way.

"Working under a giant window in the new library late last spring, Rhodes student Marjorie Schwahn of Atlanta said she spends three to four hours per day at Barret.
"Everyone's around," she says. "If you have a question, you can probably find someone in your class.""

If you have a question, you can probably find someone in your class. Heaven forbid you should ask a librarian, consult the information resources surrounding you, or seek out your instructor. No, you can find someone in your class. There is twenty million well spent.

Of course, I am being too cynical. In fact studies of information seeking behavior have pretty consistently found that people -- not just students -- prefer to consult the most convenient source of information rather than the most authoritative for example. The trick for libraries is to try and make the best source the most convenient as well.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Science leaving JSTOR

Just when you think it is safe to go back in the water ...

I just wrote about the migration of journals from print to digital and that one of the major problems with this move is the issue of really long term archiving and preservation of the content. JSTOR has been a real bright spot in the midst of this whole issue, digitizing complete runs of leading journals and licensing access to libraries. But doing that in such a way that libraries felt that we could rely on those back issues being around for a long time.

Now the AAAS's Science -- the grand old man of American scientific scholarly publishing -- has decided to withdraw from JSTOR because it fits its business model to drive traffic to its own site, and only its site. Read about it here.

In the history of journal publishing (in fact publishing in general) publishers have not taken the role of archiving their content seriously. Old issues or copies are pulped and print runs are short (but copyright terms aren't) when it makes business sense. They have left preservation of back issues to libraries. Now we are supposed to believe that in the digital world they will take it seriously, when digital preservation is a far more active and therefore expensive process that print preservation.

AAAS will probably do a fine job of preserving their content. But they are setting a lousy example and it is completely unnecessary. I understand their agreement with JSTOR was non-exclusive.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Changing Faculty Needs Report from Ithaka

Sorry it has been so long since I posted. I have had a really busy month. Crazy really because it is the summer and I am on my own in Florida, so what keeps me so busy? Selling and buying a house, the diss. of course, strategic planning, prep. for Fall, all kinds of personnel issues. I should have learnt by now, summer is never summer ...

Anyway, that is not what I want to post about. Have you seen the new report from Ithaka, "2006 Librarian and and faculty Study"? There is a good overview of it in the July/August issue of EDUCAUSE Review.

I am not going to summarize the report, you can read it yourself. But here are some things that strike me.

According to the report, faculty see themselves as decreasingly dependent on the library to meet their teaching and research needs (figure 1) and they ask the question, "how can libraries ... strategically realign the services that support [this] function?" I think part of the answer is that we cannot. This is simply a function of the disintermediation of information retrieval that we will have to live with. But part of it is a product of digital access to licensed databases that faculty don't realise is organized and paid for by the library. We can do something about that and about how integrated we are into the scholarly and educational process. We have to build relationships at a retail level, through our liaison librarians for instance, and make it clear to faculty how we add value -- assuming that we do.

E-Books -- (figure 2) Librarians seem to be responding to student rather than faculty needs here and are leading rather than following. I expect us to reach a "tipping point" in faculty attitudes at some point in the next 5-10 years when Google Book Search and services that add value to those digital objects really take hold, and our students become the next generation of faculty.

Institutional Repositories -- (figure 3) the report's findings reflect the current groupthink that institutions are going to get a huge bang for their buck from digitalizing special collections. Like some others, I worry that libraries do not make good publishers and I also think that we often over rate our special collections -- they may be rare or unique, but that does not necessarily make them interesting and worthy of wide distribution.

From print to digital journals -- I agree with the authors of the report, "the elimination of print current issues is a fast-arriving reality" for all but the most iconic or marginal periodicals. Here, I do think we have reached a tipping point. The question we face is how to manage the transition. I am pleased to be able to say that Rollins will be hosting a workshop organized by Ithaka on Transitioning to Electronic Only Journals in November 2007 (more on that in a later post.) This workshop is designed to help librarians, faculty, and administrators think through the issues associated with this transition. Not least of which is ...

Preservation (figures 5 and 6.) According to the report, "faculty members expect librarians to find a solution to the preservation needs that they view as critically important." The authors make the very important point that, "some sort of collective action may be needed here to avoid any losses." I would put it even more strongly, collective action is absolutely necessary. Colleges like Rollins have to be able to rely on international, national, or consortial archives of electronic journals if we are to move to, and to persuade our faculty to support, all electronic access. There is already evidence that we cannot rely on research universities who are already abdicating this role as ultimate repositories as they face these same user demand and budgetary pressures. Services like LOCKSS and Portico are part of the answer here.

One final thing, in a liberal arts context, the library supports the faculty members' teaching role but not always their research. We simply do not have the resources. So faculty rely on interlibrary loan and on other relationships with libraries (their graduate school library, etc.) We can help them with services and infrastructure. Still others are working on the cutting edge in such rarefied areas that no library supports their needs. A computational biologist once told me that there were only five people whose work he needed to keep track of, they did that via e-mail. Once the work was in the library it was too old.

Monday, June 25, 2007

ALA 5 -- Lincoln, Reference, Learning Commons, and Ambassadors

Monday, and we are in the home stretch. this seems to have been a long conference and I am ready to be home. I enjoy Washington as a city, but four days of ALA is quite enough!

About Washington. I try to run every day when I am at a conference. It helps make up for the inevitable high-fat, low-fibre eating out or being fed conference diet. This morning I ran with Sue and we visited the Lincoln Memorial and reading the Gettysburg address gave me goose bumps all over again. The short declarative statements, the memorable phrases ("Four score and seven years ago,""last full measure of devotion," and "a new birth of freedom") the patterns of three ("dedicate ... consecrate ... hallow." "Little note... long remember ... never forget." And of course, "of the people, for the people, by the people." It is the greatest piece of American rhetoric ever written.

The two sessions today were the best I have participated in at this conference. The first considered the question, "Is Print Reference Dead?" As in the print reference collection. The general conclusion was that if it is not dead, it is dying and we need to move on to electronic reference. Not just librarians but also publishers. Librarians continue to buy reference works, publishers continue to publish them, it is just library users (particularly students) who are not using them. Segregating them in the Reference Collection and in the OPAC (where they tend to not even come with the same summaries, and table of contents info that many of our other books come with) makes them almost invisible to users. Publishers need to develop open standards of cross platform searching for their online reference tools (like journal publishers have done with OpenURL for instance.) Librarians need to bite the bullet, shift most print reference books to the circulating collection, spend the money on online reference, and find ways to link reference works together and with the rest of their offerings (see products like Reference Universe) and find solutions to archival, permanent access, and preservation issues (like Portico.) Finally, we need to consider the future of the reference collection as just one part of the wider discussion of the future of reference service.

The second one concerned Learning Commons. I had to leave early, but I am really interested in this idea of moving beyond the library as "box of books" into a shared space emphasizing learning, where all the various services and functions that support the educational mission of the college -- information technology, the library, tutoring services, the writing center, etc. -- all come together in one space to provide coordinated services and also collaborative and contemplative spaces, facilities, and technologies for student learning.

Now I am staffing the ALA Ambassadors' Desk here to help new ALA attendees with questions and a friendly face. Luckily the desk also has a chair and power outlet so I can get this blog written over the wireless connection the Conference provides.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

ALA 4 -- Directors, and Govt. Relations,

Today was the ACRL College Library Directors' Discussion Group, one of my favorite sessions at ALA. It is great to talk with other directors who are struggling with many of the same issues we are. Topics that came up included: Technical Services for the 21st Century, staffing (inspiring, hiring, retaining, new skills needed), the future of Reference, learning commons, and space. Unfortunately, I had to leave early because the ACRL Government Relations Committee met that same afternoon.

The Legislative Advocates program seems to have got off to a good start, with 40 + Advocates, but we agreed we needed more -- preferably one in each Congressional district. The Judiciary Committees in the House and Senate (that oversee and develop legislation in the area of intellectual property) have been otherwise occupied so there have not been too many developments in that area,but take a look at the latest ACRL legislative Agenda for details.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

ALA 3 -- federated searching, RFID, and supervision

I took in the new developments at Webfeat over breakfast. They are building on their core of federated searching to add remote access and ERMS. As you know we have gone with Serial Solutions for our initial foray into federated searching, but Webfeat remains the market leader in this area and it is interesting to see what they are doing. I am getting a real sense of convergence at this ALA. In the exhibits I visited the OCLC booth because I am interested in Worldcat Local and the beta test at the University of Washington. OCLC is thinking about this as a single interface that sits on top of your Integrated Library System (ILS, in our case think Sirsi) and it can do the same for multiple databases. I also took a look at AquaBrowser because so many people are talking about it. It is a web based search interface that sits on top of your ILS and can also do the same for multiple databases. See a pattern here.?

Bibliographic and inventory control is being decoupled from discovery and access. The former will remain with traditional ILS vendors (for now, though look for more generic database vendors to step up in this area and also for open source solutions to appear) and the latter will be dealt with by these new single interface solutions. So our job in the library becomes both simpler and more complex. Simpler because we no longer have to compromise between control and discovery in selecting just one integrated library system, and more complicated, because -- well -- we can no longer rely on just one integrated library system.

Then I caught a session on recent developments (standards, security, minturization, etc.) in RFID for libraries. This session was packed which surprised me, but this is one of those issues that libraries are very concerned about and, according to some people, are very actively implementing. RFID helps with logistics -- check in, check out, stack maintenance, and inventory control. A library really gains from economies of scale so it makes lots of sense for large consortia or systems with high circulation and many locations. It doesn't make much sense for low volume, high-touch operations like Rollins College. The start up costs are too high. I would contend that we have to move in an almost diametrically opposite direction. We need to find ways to squeeze costs out of our print operations so that we can use those resources on digital resources.

After that it was a session designed for new Technical Services supervisors. Not that I am one, but we now have one, Darla Moore, and I wanted to see if I could pick up any tips that might help her. I didn't, but I did have an idea I want to pursue when I get home. Or at least float it by the managers in the Olin Library and see what they think of it. I am wondering if a monthly supervisors' discussion group might be helpful. Over coffee we could discuss a particular issue a manager is facing in our library and solutions we might have. It would have to be very open, non-evaluative, and strictly confidential, but it might help us overcome what I am coming to think of as our "management deficit" and enable people to concentrate on the skills of management and learn from each other.

Finally it was dinner at Kanlaya Thai Cuisine with friends. John Pollitz has become Director of Libraries at UW Eau Claire and shamelessly copied my idea for a blog. Steve Ostrem has cut off his pony tail (the sixties are over!) Sue O'Dell continues to prosper at Bowdoin. It was good to see them all.

Friday, June 22, 2007

ALA 2 -- Advocacy

I spent all to day in the Advocacy Institute. The morning was a bit of a bust, but in the afternoon Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates, a lawyer and an ex Hill staffer led a lively and very practical workshop on lobbying Congress. I have always wondered whether I should visit, call, write or e-mail a Representative or Senator. Calling is for urgent issues, visits can really show you care, but what about e-mail versus a letter? I always thought that a letter showed more effort and therefore concern. But it turns out that since the anthrax scare of 2001 all mail to the Capitol is first sent to New Jersey where it is irradiated. This not only delays the mail, it also turns each sheet of paper brown, brittle, and leaves it with a strange smell. Vance therefore suggests e-mail or fax.

However, the particular mode of correspondence matters less than the content of your message: be specific, keep it short, and personalize it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

ALA -- Corcoran

As with ACRL I am going to blog the 2007 ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC. I arrived today and just registered. So, with nothing substantive to write, you will have to excuse the following dyspeptic outburst!

Why is it that conference organizers always give you so much stuff? This conference is a little better than ACRL. At that one they tried to give me a great big, elaborate messenger bag with a vendor's name plastered all over it. Here they just attempted to foist a cheap nylon tote bag with the Conference logo on it on me. Honestly, why would I want either? Do they think I didn't bring a bag with me? Do they imagine I like to be instantly recognizable as a tote bag wearing, overloaded tourist/librarian? Why are they wasting my money on such things? Needless to say, I gave the bag back to the nice, but mystified, lady behind the registration counter.

Inside the bag was the obligatory badge holder. These have become more elaborate over the years. We can no longer have a simple plastic sleeve that fits the badge and no more with a choice of a simple clip or thin cord to either attach it to our clothes or hang it round our neck. Oh no, we have to have a great big sleeve, twice as big as the badge, connected to a thick blue ribbon so that I am forced to hang it round my neck. "Hang" being the operative verb. This thing is literally substantial enough to hang oneself with! Why so robust? Because lord knows we cannot miss another advertising opportunity; a vendor's name is emblazoned multiple times on the cord. Now I know where all our library subscription money goes.

The Corcoran Gallery is open late on Thursdays, so I took the opportunity to go and see their exhibition, "Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939" Brilliant.

Keep it simple.

The librarians got their first group look at the link resolver on Wednesday. Bill Svitavsky took us through a basic run through of how it works (take a look at any of our databases if you want to test drive it yourself. Look for the "find fulltext?" button.) We then discussed the format of various pages and wording choices etc.
Dorothy Mays did a great job of keeping us on track with keeping it simple and focused on what the technology is supposed to do: enable a user find fulltext of an article they are interested in. All library software packages come with lots of bells and whistles and the temptation is to make use of all of these options. As librarians we can all think of situations in which a particular feature may be useful for our own work with users or for one sophisticated user. The trouble is that as you add those features the screen fills up, obscures the main purpose of the page for most users, and confuses more people than it helps.

I was reminded of this when I read James Surowiecki's piece called "Feature Presentation" on the Financial Page of the May 28, 2007 issue of the New Yorker. Surowiecki makes the point that, "although consumers find overloaded gadgets unmanageable, they also find them attractive. It turns out that when we look at a new product in a store we tend to think that the more features there are, the better. It's only when we get the product home and try to use it that we realize the virtues of simplicity." (p.28)

This is another view of Christiansen's "disruptive technologies" argument. Successful corporations design products and product enhancements to meet the needs -- or requests -- of leading established consumers with whom they have a relationship. Those consumers ask for bells and whistles to enhance their sophisticated use of the product. This adds complexity and cost and thus leads to a disruptive market entrant creating a simpler, cheaper, paradigm shifting product that attracts users frustrated by the cost or complexity of the market leader. Peter Murray maintains a good blog about this

In our implementation of the link resolver we are determined to resist this and stay focussed on the needs of the majority of our users to just find the article. Our deadline is July 25th, when the Crummer School "begins" its ceaseless round of programs again. So you can judge whether we have succeeded then.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Our Strategic Plan

Earlier in the spring I told you that the library had written its mission statement. At a series of meetings in the Spring semester we developed a series of "Strategic Directions." The Library Advisory Council and the Provost had an opportunity to comment. Here they are:
  1. In partnership with the faculty and through the curriculum, educate all Rollins students – in groups and individually -- in the skills of critical thinking, research, and evaluation of information.
  2. Improve our users’ experience of the library; with exceptionally good, consistent, friendly, and professionally competent customer service to users, both online and in person.
  3. Develop, organize, and provide easy access to the best possible information resources in the most appropriate formats for the Rollins community.
  4. Find new and more effective ways to provide services and information resources beyond the library building so that the user need not come to the library, but the library services and resources are where the user needs us to be.
  5. Develop the Olin Library as a welcoming and well organized space, in the building and online, that fosters the love of learning through services, programming, and exhibits.
  6. Effectively communicate with and learn from the Rollins community and consistently use quantitative and qualitative evidence in decision making and development.
  7. Support professional development and engagement aimed at continually improving all library personnel ability to implement this plan and improve library operations.

These are all priorities for us, but they are also in priority order. Maybe in years past collections(3) would have been number one, but that now comes below our educational (1) and user (2) services. The others, particularly six and seven are aimed at helping us achieve those top priorities.

All of these are situation and time specific. We decided on these for the Olin Library, at Rollins College, in 2007 (and hopefully for a few years hence.) We fully expect to have review them and change them as conditions change.

We are now actively engaged in the next level down of our strategic plan: determining the projects, action plans, and responsibilities that actually take us over the next year (or two) in the direction we think we need to go. After that we will incorporate those items into individual people's annual goals and begin measuring progress.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your comments on these strategic directions. Are we on the right track? Wat have we missed? What is not clear?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More from the Cornell Fine Arts Museum

Luanne McKinnon, Director of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, has created another really interesting series of exhibits that if you are near Winter Park are worth taking a look at this summer.

"Diverse Africa" continues from the Spring with some striking examples of African sculpture. "Winslow Homer: Joys of the Day" is a wonderful exhibit of
engravings of Homer's work that were originally published in various magazines (library trivia: libraries lucky enough to have collections of original printed 19th century magazines like Harper's Weekly or Appleton's Magazine have to be very careful to make sure that these engraving are not razored out by nefarious visitors.) The sense of movement Homer was able to achieve in prints like (don't quote me on the title) "The Dance at the Music Academy" is astonishing. "15th - 20th Century European and American Painting" is perhaps my favorite because I was struck by the number of early British modernists represented. These are not the greatest art from the period (the British visual arts, like composers, are rarely the very best or most avant garde in any period, why is that?) but I enjoy them as examples of the familiar.

The Cornell really is an incredible resource for us to have on campus and we are luck to have Luanne to show it at its best.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blogs at Rollins College

In an idle moment I was wondering what other blogs exist at Rollins. Here is a list, feel free to add any blog to this list that is created or maintained by anyone at Rollins, or is about Rollins.

These seem to reveal some interesting aspects of blogging. First, there are not all that many. A school of 3,200 FTE students and only fifteen blogs (including yours truly.) Some are more current and more active than others, some are clearly moribund, but they stick around for a long time. Only two seem to be course-related, it is clear that a number of teachers are discussing and using blogs in teaching, but not necessarily creating them (unless they are keeping them below the radar of the search engines, which is perfectly possible.) Some are corporate and institutional in nature, others are very personal. Some are well designed, visually interesting, carefully written, others are a mess. Finally, some are concerned with communication about specific time limited events others have no obvious limit.

These are in the order I found them. So thank Google. (a short lived experiment in communication by the 4C's Committee?)
FoxBlogs (Ken Posner's test, only a test ...)
Welcome to the Wonders Blog (certainly the most visually stunning blog at Rollins.)
Rollins College Alumni Association (is this official?)
IMFourPlay (David Charles being wacky again, as only a Kiwi can.)
Economics Broadly Writ (Ben Balak and Charlie Rock are contributor to this course related blog.)
R-Journals (do these count?)
I.T. Lab Assistant Report (This is so cool! IT keeps a blog of problems in the lab, but how do I add to it?)
Morocco for the Professors (Sounds like a great trip.)
Annie Russell Theatre (As they say, Blog with Annie.)
No Hassles (the Olin Library's internal blog aimed at improving service.)
Moody Meow (a recently graduated student?)
Activism 101 (another course related blog.)
Kenneth J. Posner (Ken's personal blog.)
Rollins China Journey (Another great trip. Wenxian told me about this blog)

So that's it for now, do you know any others I can add to the list?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal

You may have seen the link to the RURJ on the library's home page or elsewhere on campus. Here is a bit of background.

Fay Pappas, a remarkably energetic student at Rollins, didn't think that there was enough scholarly research going on at Rollins, at least amongst the students, and what there was didn'tget enough airtime. She thought about starting a research journal for students. She kept on talking about this idea with friends. Some said it would never take off, but others encouraged her. She got involved in Brushing, the long-standing student literary journal at Rollins, met Clay Ferrara, got him interested in the research journal idea, and became the Brushing Editor. Even this was not enough work for her and she still kept on thinking about the research journal. She met with President Duncan who found a little cash to help her get it going. She gathered a group of interested students and looked around for faculty sponsors. Ben Balak from Economics was interested and I offered to help with the journal side of things. Fay and Clay got excited about the idea of an online journal, tussled with the issues of copyright and with peer review, website design, and the submission process. They now have it up and running. It is really quite impressive.

I am proud that the library was able to help with the journal management issues, with copyright, and by archiving the articles. This is one of the things academic libraries should be doing these days. We should be a locus of expertise on systems of scholarly communication, intellectual property, and institutional repositories for digital objects.

The RURJ is a great example of student entrepreneurship, scholarship, and engagement at Rollins and one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy working here.

Libraries make you fat.

I have written about link resolvers before. In case you are not au courant with the latest library jargon a link resolver is software that makes a link between an article citation in one database and the fulltext of the article in another. It helps libraries maximize our investment in online information. How many times have you found a reference to an article and been frustrated to find that the database you are searching does not have the fulltext available? Perhaps you have given up, perhaps you have asked a librarian for help, perhaps you have placed an interlibrary loan request and been chagrined to find that the article was available all along -- just not where you were looking. Well no more, if we have it in fulltext, you will find it. Even better, if we don't have it in fulltext the software will guide you to search our holdings of printed journals to find a copy and if we do not own a copy will guide you to interlibrary loan (more on that in a later post I hope.) Link resolvers do more than that, but that is enough for now.

Olin Library just signed a licence with a company called Serials Solutions to use their link resolver and Bill Svitavsky is feverishly working on customizing the software as I write. In another example of the synergies possible when information, and particularly "metadata" (information about information) becomes digital we licensed their link resolver as part of a suite including monthly updates of MARC records of the online periodicals we have access to, which will be loaded to our catalog thus making that database a much more attractive option when you are trying to find out what we have access to or own. The suite also includes a federated searching software that will enable you to search more that one database at one time; helping to overcome the eternal question of all library users, "where do I start?" Finally the suite includes an Electronic Resource Asset Management System or ERAMS. This is a piece of backroom software that will enable us to better manage all this digital information we have licenced. All of this is based on the fact that Serials Solution has a knowledge base of the databases and the fulltext journals the Olin Library has licensed. This knowledge base underpins each one of these softwares.

I have been trying to come up with a metaphor to describe what is going on here. Time was, if you wanted to use a library, you entered the building, searched the card catalog, consulted printed periodical indexes, and than walked from floor to floor collecting the books and journal articles you needed. Along came networked computers, the Internet and the web. You entered the library website, consulted the online catalog and the periodical databases and moved from database to database collecting and printing the items you needed. With a link resolver, federated searching, and an enhanced online catalog you still enter the library website, but you no longer need to move from database to database. The next step is to put library resources where you are -- in Blackboard, Google, departmental websites, Second Life, etc. so that you do not even need to take that first step.

And people wonder why there is an obesity crisis in America. It is the librarians!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I was reading Harper's Magazine (June 2007) in the airport on my way back from Pittsburgh. As I write, it is only available online to their subscribers and our subscription at Rollins only makes the May 2007 issue available. If you have read the magazine then I am sure you know about Harper's Index, a mind bending list of weird stats, ratios, and numbers about life that generally amaze and appal. (e.g. "Number of the sixteen states of the South where more than 25 percent of adults are clinically obese: 12. Number of all other states where this is true: 5." Yikes!)

The ones that caught my librarian's eye this month were the following:

  • Minimum number of different books sold in the U.S. last year, as tracked by Nielsen BookScan: 1,446,000
  • Number of these that sold fewer than 99 copies: 1,123,000
  • Number that sold more than 100,000: 483.

I am not sure you can define 99, as published,as in "make generally known" and over 100,000 is a definite bestseller; that leaves 322,517 in the middle. Olin library buys about 1.25% of those. It is a tough task the librarians and faculty have to do: which one book out of eighty belongs in the collection now and for decades to come?

More importantly, about 1,000,000 books get written, but hardly read. Yet another factoid that lead me to the conclusion that we are writing more books, but reading fewer, which is another way of saying we are more interested in talking than listening. (Kinda like the bloggers amongst us.) A liberal education should attempt to rectify this situation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Academic Library Success

This is a really interesting post from Steven Bell on ACRLog. So interesting that I intend sending it to everyone in our library to help inform our strategic planning process.

Steven's formula is "Greater Awareness + Usable Websites + Flawless Authentication = Better Results."

Here at Olin, we have made great strides with authentication, and some progress in terms of greater awareness, but need to do better on both of those and we still have a long way to go with a usable website.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What is Mapstats?

If you look at the bottom on the right hand column you will see a link to Mapstats. This is a free way of keeping stats on the (depressingly low) readership of this, or any, blog. The cool think about this (apart from it being free) is that it also maps the usage so I can see where usage is coming from and which specific post is being read. As a visual person anyway, I am increasingly interested in the various spatial ways we can display data, interactively and in real time.

You can see my readers are all in the US, not even my mother reads it!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

NITLE Liaisons' Summit

I am just finishing the NITLE (National Institute of Technology in Liberal Education, pronounced "nightly") Summit. My first since becoming NITLE Liaison at Rollins. Rollins is the first NITLE school I have worked at so this is also my introduction to this group of liberal arts colleges. NITLE is a child of the Mellon Foundation and is run out of Ithaka. You can learn more than you ever wanted to know at those three websites.

I have a few take homes from this summit:

  1. We still need to be involved in NITLE as it transitions from "2.o" (a fixed fee with effectively unlimited opportunities for participation) to "3.0" (a low membership fee and a pay as you go model of participation.)
  2. We need to make greater use of NITLE professional development opportunities particularly in relationship to curricula renewal/reform at Rollins and our in involvement in general needs to be more more planned and strategic. As liaison I need to plan who I will invite to participate and try and pair interested faculty members with IT staff and librarians so that participation is more productive when participants get back to campus.
  3. We have a lot more to do at the interface between IT and the Library in supporting the use of technology in teaching and learning if we are to match the activities at our peer and aspirational institutions.

Information Literacy

In a recent post on the AHA Blog Peter Townsend reviews Google Book Search and finds it wanting. His entry has been discussed elsewhere so I will not enter the fray. But I do want to say that his original post and the associated comments are a perfect example of an information literate discussion. Of course, this is to be expected from the Assistant Director of the American Historical Association and readers of the AHA Blog.

Townsend's original post was not perfect, he misunderstood a particular aspect of US copyright law concerning US govt. publications and the public domain and did not know all there was to know about serial cataloging rules (I can only sympathize with him!) But both of those issues were quickly dealt with in the comments and did not affect his basic argument.

I want students to graduate from Rollins with the kind of information literacy competencies exhibited by everyone involved in this discussion -- the ability to be able evaluate information resources and compare and relate them to similar resources, to be able to understand information in context, to appreciate the long term implications of aspects and context of information resources, and to be able to discuss these in a civilized manner. They are going to need them if they are to thrive in the information, and misinformation, rich world that we live in and become more than just consumers of ill digested corporate pap.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

An age of irrationality

I rarely read the Financial Times, but one of the peculiar things about living in Winter Park is that one finds papers like the FT abandoned on tables in my favorite coffee shop -- Palmano's. This says something I am not prepared to explore here about the particular mixture of acquisitive luxury that seems to be a feature of life in Winter Park.

Still I had left the Times at home, so I read the FT while enjoying my delicious cappuccino. This quote from an interview with Francois-Henri Pinault (owner of YSL, Gucci, et al.) caught my eye. "We are entering what I think is an age of irrationality." OK, I thought, this is going to be about fundamentalists, creationism, Al Qaeda, a retreat from science and the Enlightenment, or perhaps a comment upon a Presidential Debate in which someone can ask whether or not the candidates "believe" in evolution and be taken seriously! I expected Pinault to be against irrationality.

But I was wrong. Pinault continued, "and a return to luxury. We are at the beginning of a social trend, change in values that could go on for years -- the age of rationalisation, after all, lasted for more than a century. The question we all have to resolve is how big can these brands grow?"

So the previous century was the age of rationalization and is now over. We can now all return to the Gilded Age, or perhaps the Ancien Regime. How awful.

As someone who works in higher education, and libraries in particular, I am a big fan of reason.