Monday, January 26, 2009

Midwinter -- 5 Communicating with users

Here are a few things I want to find someone to try at Olin.

Set up a Flickr account, take a couple of dozen photos per week of people in the library, services, resources, events, etc , tag them, and add them to the site and see if it drives traffic to our website.

Create a Youtube video of the same kind of stuff every week, embed it in the website front page, and see what happens.

This is something that Bill and Paul have talked about before; the Libx Firefox plugin -- get it on all lab machines, staff PCs, do some training, maybe a Captivate file and see how people use it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Midwinter 4 -- Mobile computing

I have been interested in computing from cell phones and PDAs for a while. I think the reader device of choice will be the cell phone. Not because it is the best, but because it is the most convenient. People are already reading vast quantities of text from their cell phones via texting and in some cases e-mail. But phones like the iPhone, with reasonable browsers are making reading even more from that little screen a real option for more and more people.
Now OCLC is in the game -- see for WorldCat from your cell phone. If your phone has GPS capabilities (like the iPhone) then it will even show the library closest to you that owns the book. Olin Library really needs to make a mobile friendly version of its website. Like the Washington Post for example, which is my current favorite phone reading site.

Other vendors, like ProQuest and SerialsSolutions are talking about this, but I see no evidence of progress yet. Our students should be able to download fulltext on to their cell phones, or send records via text message or otherwise to their phones. From our catalogs they should be able to download a record to their phone (or search the OPAC directly from their phone) and then wander the aisles of the stacks until their phone beeps when they are close to the location of the book. they should be able to access a database via their phone from the classroom and share the results with other phone users in the class.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Midwinter --3. Google for libraries?

At the Serials Solutions breakfast they introduced a new beta product, Summon.
Jane Burke described federated searching as a, "mature technology" well if that is mature then it is going nowhere because it sucks. But this new product is quite cool.
They want you to think of it as Google for libraries or a 'unified discovery tool." Lots of people have said that before, including many federated search fans, but this really is impressive. They pre-index your content (since their Knowledge Base already knows what databases you have access to and what digital content you subscribe to.) The user searches in a very Google like interface and gets immediate access to fulltext with one click. Expect to hear more about this. Now it just depends on how they price it. If we can ditch MARC records for digital journals in the catalog, the federated searching module, and perhaps iLink for our OPAC, this might be worth it.

Blogging from Midwinter -- 2

Saturday was open access day for me.

SCOAP3 is an emerging Open Access (OA) project. In which the money previously directed to publishers for High Energy Physics (HEP) journal subscriptions is redirected to SCOAP3 (at CERN) which then negotiates with publishers for peer review costs and the publishers agree to provide open access the resulting articles. Libraries initially pay the same money,in the future they may pay less.
Sounds wacky to me. It depends on the fact that authors of HEP articles are placing their research in and readers are reading them there. The only value provided by the publishers is as organizers of peer-review and as the final standard archive for authors, Promotion & Tenure (P&T) committees, funding agencies, etc.
It may work in a highly organized field of scholarly communication like HEP,but I doubt it is model for many others. Ultimately you have to ask yourself, if no one is reading the final journals why are we publishing them? Why not take the money and instead of transferring it to publishers,just organize the peer review yourselves? After all, the HEP researchers at CERN and elsewhere are the heart of the peer review system. The publishers are just managers and paper pushers. Also the journals' role as standards and archives has been built up over many decades because they are read. They are the way this scholarly community communicates. If that is no longer true then P&T committees etc. will eventually look elsewhere (e.g. for evidence of quality. Why not speed the process along?

Later in the day I was at the SPARC Forum on the OEM (Open Education Movement) think of this as OA to textbooks, syllabi, course materials, etc. Here are some links that might interest you:

The Cape Town Declaration

Flat World knowledge
Open Courseware at MIT
Make Textbooks Affordable. A PIRG that works to make textbooks more affordable.

All interesting stuff and worth a look.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blogging from Midwinter 2009 -- 1

For the next few days I will be adding some entries from ALA Midwinter in Denver.

Library Workforce Development Really no crisis here. Employers -- libraries -- will adjust. They will stop doing certain things they can't find suitable candidates for at the right price, reposition others as non-MLS positions, and find automated solutions to others. In the meantime library schools will ramp up production of new MLS students if they have students clamoring to get in. Students will only do so if well paying jobs are out there with a good ROI for the cost of the degree (which means an expection of a career,not just a first job.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The inauguration

We had a wonderful event in the library on Tuesday January 20th. About 50 people showed up. We just gathered around the plasma, since the cable in the Bib Lab was inexplicably not working, turned up the sound, and watched the historic events unfold on the Mall in Washington.

This was the latest in a series of political events in the library that started soon after I arrived with a viewing party for the 2006 mid term election, continued with the Super Tuesday primary. I was then delighted to work with the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership on campus on a big election night viewing party on Mills Lawn in November. But this one was special.