Sunday, January 17, 2010

ALA Midwinter 2010 Sunday

Over the stultifying proceedings of the ACRL Chapter Council we shall draw a veil. I did my duty.

With YBP's acquisition of Blackwell we have to transition from one to another. Edna, Darla, and Mary have recommended we go with YBP after investigating Amazon's more limited offerings. Amazon could really own this marketplace if they wanted to. They have the materials, the price, they have the technology, and they have the name recognition amongst our users. If they just step up to the plate and put a few things in place (basically physical processing and institutional customer service.) But for the moment, we are happy to go with YBP. I met with Mike Walmsley here and we agreed on a date to up with full processing etc. of April 1st, so that we can have a couple of months of experience before our fiscal year ends on 5/31. Next steps: complete a transition template with dates and responsibilities and a conference call with our staff and YBP.

Then the afternoon was all about ACRL and the Government Relations Committee. I am the outgoing chair and Marilyn Ochoa is the vice-chair and doing a great job. We have to find a way to grow the number of advocates from around 50 (in 26 states) to one in every congressional district. We are hoping we can get targeted lists of ACRL members and colleges and universities in strategic congressional districts that committee members can call (the ACRL members, and other colleagues and friends they know at institutions in those districts.)
We worked on the draft of the ACRL legislative agenda. No surprise that FRPAA and public access to federally funded research is at the top, but it is interesting to see orphan works rising (as we approach the Google Book Settlement) and possibly section 108 as well.
I was also delighted to see that all the committee members at the meeting are planning on attending the Advocacy Day on the Tuesday after ALA National in Washington. I hope you will be there too!

I had dinner with friends who wanted to pick my brains about Summon. I made a statement that I hoped would get challenged because I think it is worth thinking about, so let me know what your response would be. We now live in an age of information super-abundance. While there are still cases in which comprehensive search and retrieval are necessary, increasingly users do not need and cannot effectively use the overwhelming results of comprehensive searches. This super-abundance also means that many users are satisfied (and rightly so) with "good enough" results. The extra time and effort necessary to get the "best"results is wasted. Therefore some librarians' concerns that relevancy searching of unified discovery services like Summon will not result in comprehensive searches and not necessarily retrieve the best results are misplaced. User searching before such systems was not comprehensive or very well constructed. A large system with a good selection of resources, combined with a good search engine will result in better overall results for the user. Am I kidding myself?

1 comment:

Ms. Holland said...

"A large system with a good selection of resources, combined with a good search engine will result in better overall results for the user."
-- I think that the key issue in this sentence is the assumption of the quality of resources within the "large system". Unfortunately, as libraries have been steered into large e-packages with selection being done my the vendor according to what is available and profitable, there is less local control over quality. At best, large reservoirs of content will often provide more filler or breading than real meat.

Because products such as Summon attempt to include some percentage of the locally selected/created content, overall quality can be improved. However, quality and relevance are very different issues. Students must still choose relevant results and of course good information literacy training can help them build this discernment. Stopping at good enough may be a wise, utilitarian choice if done in recognition of the fact that better may be available.