Monday, June 30, 2008

Last ALA post

I ran with Sue O'Dell, Science librarian at Bowdoin, today. She is always two steps ahead of me. I was interested to hear her say that Bowdoin automatically adds links to library resources and services in every Blackboard course at the college and librarians have instructor level access to all Blackboard courses. If the faculty member wants them to the librarians also add far more information up to course level research guides using LibGuides. Cool.

I spent time in the exhibits today. SerialsSolutions, OCLC (I wrote about those earlier.) Also Digital Commons as an alternative institutional repository platform. Quite impressive, but not cheap.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the digital library, but a couple of incidents gave me pause. First, I went out looking for the Sunday issue of the LA Times yesterday. Everywhere I looked seemed to have run out. If the paper newspaper is a dinosaur, why can't I find a copy? Then, as I wandered through the exhibits there was plenty of space until I suddenly found myself surrounded by thousands of librarians. I looked up and noticed I was in the book aisle, surrounded by the big publishers. Again, if the library of the 21st century is digital, why was this aisle the most crowded?

There could be any number of answers. Librarians are still clinging to outmoded technologies of print. Books purchases are small and many, digital purchases are big and few so librarians cluster in the book aisle. Or (most likely) both were both pure chance.

Anyway, it's fun to speculate.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More ALA

Serials Solutions breakfast this morning (very good croissants but not enough coffee.) As the digital library has grown SerialsSolutions has grown to be our other integrated library system(ILS). As our users shift from print to digital it is perhaps more important than Sirsi.
SerialsSolutions is really on a roll at the moment. The knowledge base they maintain is impressive. It's interesting that they maintain it and their users report issues with journal coverage etc., they edit the knowledge base. Everyone wins. It reminds me of OCLC's WorldCat. But Serials Solutions is owned by ProQuest, OCLC is a not for profit member "collaborative" (a word much bandied about by OCLC leadership these days). There has been a real cultural shift since 1980. What once would have been structured as a public good, a result of collective action, is now structured as private property.
Then onto a program organized by the ALA Washington Office's OITP about the future of libraries in the 21st century. The panelists were Jose-Marie Griffith, Stephen Abrams, and Joan Frye Williams. The most interesting speaker was Frye Williams (she also spoke at the FLA Conference, where some other Rollins' librarians heard and liked her). Some of the things that struck me: "stop being the grocery store and start being the kitchen", the library in the 21st century should be about ideas, the thought process, about relationships with people, our "members" (not users or patrons) . All this reminds me of the learning commons idea. Finally she said we need to begin "modeling predictive behavior" (what our "members" are going to want to do next. All good stuff.
Stephen Abram was his usual combative, Buzz Lightyear self. I am a little sick of a VP from the company that is one of the largest brakes on innovation in our library (admittedly mostly the fault of our expertise gap, not their software) telling me I need to stop hanging on to the traditional ways of doing things and embrace the new -- how about we ditch Sirsi and go with WorldCat for description, Aquabrowser for the OPAC, and Gobi and Banner for acquisitions and fiscal control? That leaves Circulation of the print library. I am grossly simplifying, but you get the point.
Other points of interest: lay librarians (think students), the increasing importance of library as place, BiblioCommons (think LibraryThing).
Then another session, "No catalog like no catalog" questioning the role of the local OPAC, or any OPAC for that matter. Again with the Stephen Abram! Can no one stop this man? Joe Janes said something interesting though, "How does a library get better every time it is used?" It is not a riddle, but a question about how to use information about how our libraries are used to inform improvement and increase value.
After that the SPARC forum on the Harvard OA IR policy. There is still no there there, but there will be.

Friday, June 27, 2008

ALA Conference

ALA is in Anaheim, CA this year. Strange to go from one Orange County to another, from one Disney location to another. I am afraid it is not my favorite city. It reminds me of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi."
Today was devoted to ACRL and my new role as chair of the Government Relations Committee. The association does all kinds of leadership orientation etc. You can really make a much or as little as you want out of these appointments. The thing I really enjoy about this committee is that its role is focused outside the profession on how we can influence government and public policy. If the members of the committee agree I hope this year we can focus on continuing to develop the legislative advocates program in very specific strategic ways. So that we eventually have advocates in each congressional district and state that is represented by members who sit on Congressional committees that are important in terms of library, higher education, and information policy. We shall see.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Amy Knapp

I heard some very sad news yesterday. Amy Knapp, the AUL at Pitt when I worked there, died of colon cancer. She was my age -- 46 -- and was diagnosed with the condition in May 2007. It is always terrible when someone in the prime of life dies, but this one hits me, and I am sure everyone who knew Amy, hard.

Amy was an extrovert, gregarious, yet also quite a private person and she somehow embodied for me the spirit of the libraries at Pitt. I was always struck by how perceptive she was and that, whatever meeting we were in, she was usually the smartest person in the room.

We took very different career paths. Amy was born and raised in western Pennsylvania, took all her degrees at Pitt including her doctorate in library science, and worked for the University Libraries from her first year as an undergraduate at the University's Titusville campus as a student employee, a librarian, and finally at Assistant University Librarian. She knew the University and the library system inside out. It is tough for me to imagine the place without her.

Here is the Post Gazette obituary.