Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New website

Since the very beginning of this blog I have written about the Olin library website. I am delighted to be able to say that we are very close to having a new website. The image here is the home page, notice there is no great verbiage to wade through. We think most people come tot he library online to search for and find information. So the first thing you get is access to our iteration of Summon, and subject and title access to databases. Clustered around that is the ability to navigate to more specific kinds of searches, and information about, or services of, the library.

Some of the links still don't work, some of the images are stock images, but you get the idea. I have to give a big thank you to Paul Gindlesperger for all his work in coding this site. At the beginning of the fall term we got access to the college CMS and began writing our new site. Over the fall we have had numerous meetings about what we want it to look like and how we want it function. We have tried to design it based on these principles.

  1. Our top priority is enabling our users to find the information they seek.
  2. We seek to help relative novice student users, while enabling more sophisticated users to get what they need in a familiar "native mode" or via quick shortcuts.
  3. The website should include a significant education component, and not assume that users are in the building or can seek in person help.
  4. It should be aesthetically gorgeous.
  5. Information about us, our services, facilities, or resources, that are key to our users use of the (online and physical) library are of primary importance (e.g. hours, phone #, etc.). Other information about us is secondary (e.g. history, statistics, etc.)
  6. Metadata should be consistent and not hide us from search engines (on and off campus)
  7. If we disagree on architecture, nomenclature, etc. usability testing will be used to decide the outcome.
  8. Pages should be coded so that we continuously collect data about usage etc.
  9. We use that data and usability testing to make decisions about revisions of the site.
  10. The site should be efficiently maintained, hopefully by a variety of people in the library.
We hope to launch it early in the spring, and then take the spring semester to do usability testing, and refine the site.

I would love to hear your reactions to it. What do you think we have got right? Wrong?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

For all my northern friends

My brother just sent me a photo of snow on the hills outside Lancaster, so I sent him this to show him what he is missing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More on the Google Book Search Settlement

The library associations are right on this one. As I wrote in an earlier post, the usefulness of Google Book Search will come down to the price of the institutional licenses for libraries. The original libraries that opened their collections to Google for scanning did so because they thought that the resulting digitized texts would be available to their users and everyone else. Librarians did not participate in this to create a huge new revenue stream for the heirs of death authors and for brain dead publishers. If that was the deal, those authors and publishers could have rummaged through their own libraries to find the copies to digitize.

Reading Books on Smartphones.

Flurry is a mobile computing research company based in San Fransisco. Their research supports my (and many others) claim that smartphone will be the ultimate book reader. "The sharp rise in eBook activity on the iPhone indicates that Apple is positioned take market share from the Amazon Kindle as it did from the Nintendo DS. Despite the smaller form factor of the display, we predict that the iPhone will be a significant player in the book category of the Media & Entertainment space."

Read the full post here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Matching teaching to learning styles

Interesting article in the Chronicle today, Matching Teaching Style to Learning Style May Not Help Students.

"... teachers should worry about matching their instruction to the content they are teaching. Some concepts are best taught through hands-on work, some are best taught through lectures, and some are best taught through group discussions."

So what is the best "teaching style" for library instruction content? I suppose a further question is, does all library instruction all into one style of content? In general I would argue that most classic library instruction is about skills acquisition and development, which would suggest kinesthetic learning (learning through practical hands on experience.) Very often we reduce that to hands on computer work with library services and resources, sometimes supplemented with hands on work with printed materials.

But what is the "practice" is the verbalization of thought and decision making in the content of information retrieval and analysis? Can thinking be hands on?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Is the Great Recession the Tipping Point for the Book Industries?

Will we look back twenty years from now and see our current Great Recession as a tipping point for the book industries (writing books and about books, publishing, distribution (bookstores, libraries, online, etc.)?

This week we just learnt that Baker & Taylor, and their academic library book vendor subsidiary YBP, has bought Blackwell. This is a very significant move towards monopoly in the academic library book sales market. While there are still other players in the marketplace -- Ambassador, Midwest Library Services, Coutts -- YBP will dominate. But they will dominate a market that, in terms of the portion of library collection budgets spent on books, continues to shrink. Basically, it seems in this recession Blackwell could not compete in the US market.

Now today I read this story in the New York Times that Kirkus Review is closing down as well. It was always one of the major reviewing venues for librarians. As the ways in which professionals and readers alike find out about recently published books continue to change, Kirkus could survive and this recession struck the coup de grace.

There are many other examples (the rise of the Kindle and Nook, and Google Book Search come to mind) but those two will do for this week.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Noise and Space in Club Olin

I couldn't have put it better myself, than TJ Fisher in the latest issue of the Sandspur

"As the time comes for spending hours upon hours in the library, the most important thing to remember is to be considerate and respectful of those around you. Do not make noise or hold group discussions where there are quiet study signs, and try not to take up all the high demand real estate in the library for catching a couple Zs between study sessions."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

How good is Summon?

So I am in my Faculty Evaluation Committee meeting today, at which the committee decides on my tenure, serious business. Half way through the meeting a professor says, "By the way, that R-Search is great. My students love it. I love it!"

This doesn't often happen with other library services ....