Friday, November 04, 2011

A snapshot of the Olin Library

Every year the Florida Library Association runs a Snapshot of Florida Libraries project that shows how people are using libraries around the state. Susan Montgomery took comments the users of Olin Library contributed and created this wordle word cloud.

Wordle: Florida Library Snapshot Day at Olin Library
What really strikes me about this is how closely their comments reflect what we are trying to achieve at Olin -- library, place, study, quiet, focus, friends, help, good.

Nice job Susan.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Persistence Pays Off for Mobile Site.

Paul Gindlesperger has been working for weeks to find a way to automatically redirect visitors using mobile devices who come to our regular site to our mobile site. This should not be difficult, but our CMS made it so. He finally did it (with an assist from Bill Svitavsky.) So, give it a whirl. Go to from your mobile phone or iPad and let me know what you think.

I will be interested to see if this results in a bump in traffic from mobile users.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CLIR Symposium : Collaboration with untraditional partners (Sam Demas.)

People had some great ideas for collaboration:

Participating in art gallery crawls
Local history collaboratives
Information literacy in community engagement and service learning.
Gaming nights
Rock bands in the library (how about tiny reference desk concerts?)
Flash lectures (advertised on Twitter.)
Social tagging of archival images
 (evidently the new version of Contentdm will allow this.)
A mobile library (on a bike!) to take to event son campus with a laptop for check out.

CLIR Symposium (Chuck Henry, President of CLIR)

This was a really interesting session in which we really began to think about what kind of futures we might have (if any.) Chuck introduced a series of what he called "deep collaboration" projects:

Hidden Collections
Digging into Data
Digital Public Library of America
Data Curation:building a new profession
Linked Data
Federated Research and Educational Depository System (secure digital preservation. Can't find a link for this.)
Centers for Digital Humanities and the Liberal Arts (no link for this either.)
Medical Heritage Digital Collaborative
National Humanities Press (sorry, no link.)
CLIR/Mellon Fellowships: Dissertations in Original Sources

"From a strategic vantage point, there is no ambiguity: the future of academic libraries and higher education rests on the ability to reconceive ourselves holistically, with the various components of scholarly information-- discovering, reconstituting, publishing, and sharing knowledge, and keeping its various manifestations securely preserved and accessible -- understood as interrelated and interdependent. The inherited norms, customs, traditions, and institutions that have structured research and teaching now need to be constructively challenged, redefined, and subsequently reassembled."

So what is the role of librarians at liberal arts colleges in this environment? Are we ready to connect our faculty and students to such macro solutions?

CLIR Symposium: the Future of the Liberal Arts College Library (Victor Ferrall.)

I am in Milwaukee at this symposium with about fifty other college librarians worrying about whether we have a future or not. Victor Ferrall, author of Liberal Arts at the Brink is giving the keynote.
  • We fail to recognize that there has never been much demand for liberal education.
  • Single biggest change in US higher ed. was post war opening up to first generation students who were looking for a practical degree.
  • Are we selling education, or buying students?
  • Competition for students raises costs and cuts revenue. It is the tragedy of the commons.
  • Vocational education focuses the student on the utility of the knowledge they acquire. Liberal education focuses them on the utility of acquiring knowledge.
What does the move away form liberal arts education mean for libraries (specifically collection use)?
  • Vocational majors  are likely to read more manuals, with more focus, and read less widely.
  • Since they read for answers, this will emphasize online information.
  • More pressure to support the curriculum, and less to support scholarship in general.
Move from liberal arts to vocation is a trend not a cycle, we need to cooperate not compete.So here is my question:

Librarians are good at cooperating, yet we still have a library at each liberal arts college. What if we had one library for all liberal arts colleges, with librarians available to each campus and all students? Would we save money and improve services? 
It turns out Victor Ferrall is specifically thinking about cooperation in marketing liberal arts education, but he is not getting much traction form other presidents.

    Friday, October 07, 2011

    Oberlin Group 2011 day One.

    The day started with a discussion about organizational change in our libraries. While there are some common themes -- refocusing staff away from traditional cataloging and acquisitions and towards digital services, focusing our librarians outward to the faculty and students -- but what is really striking is our distinct this discussion on each campus. My colleagues have problems I had not even imagined, and vice versa.

    Then I moderated a discussion of e-books and open access. Joanne Schneider discussed progress towards the Digital Public Library of America, Ray English discussed the Open Library's digital lending library, Neil McElroy discussed the Hathi Trust and finally Bryn Geffert discussed the proposed Liberal Arts Open Access Scholarly Publishing Project (which has no website yet.)

    We had a tour of the impressive Woodruff Library at the Atlanta University Center (you will find my idiosyncratic photos from the tour in this folder.)

    Then it was open mic: at Neil McElroy at Lafayette gave iPads to the members of their Library Advisory Council to get them thinking about mobile technologies, Deb Dancik at Willamette is further along with records management than we are, Terri Fishel at Macalester organized a reading group for librarians and staff around Char Booth's book Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning that seems to transformed their teaching, and lots, lots more.

    The final session was about digital archives and repositories. Richard Fyffe just mentioned DataVerse, sounds interesting. Deb Dancik just mentioned Pachyderm. Willamette has developed a Contentdm/Pachyderm plugin (open source) and is using it to help students incorporate institutional repository images into presentations. She also mentioned Islandora. Rick Provine also mentioned ArtSTOR's Shared Shelf.

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Enacting the Mission

    "Those of us responsible for libraries and other non-classroom learning spaces should be mindful of what [John Seely Brown] says, however, if we want buildings that foster intentional learning and that escape the pitfalls of schoolwork, if we want to promote learning communities rather than trafficking in information, if we want ourselves to enact the mission rather than merely to support it." 

    At Olin we are definitely interested in fostering intentional learning and promoting learning communities and we are working in all kinds of ways to make this happen. One small example of this finally came to fruition this summer. 

    Readers of the library's Facebook page and this blog already know that we have done some small rejuvenation on the 4th floor. Well we finally took possession of seven of the end tables created by students in Josh Almonds 3D Foundations course and installed them on the fourth floor. They look great.

    Why is this enacting the mission? Well the library is now a site for the display and use of student work, not just a place student study or 'traffic in information' in order to produce work of their own. I visited the class in the spring and explained what kind of end tables we needed, the dimensions, and specifications, and how they would be used. Then, at the final show, I negotiated with the students to buy the end tables that met my criteria. This was an important element in the course for Josh, who wanted the students to understand about the business of art. Finally, the tables are now in use, and on permanent display for the student artists to enjoy and as reminders to all students that their work has real impact beyond the classroom.

    Mission enacted.

    Friday, July 08, 2011

    Check out Archive's new blog.

    Congratulations to Darla Moore for her first post on the Special Collections & Archives blog. An interesting piece about Virginia Roush d’Albert-Lake, a remarkable alumna of the College.

    Friday, July 01, 2011

    What might the DPLA end up being?

    Update from John Palfrey on The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA):
    DPLA Beta Sprint:

    Great library sign.

    I love this sign. Libraries always struggle with how to explain to users that they can ask for help. "Reference" is meaningless jargon to most users. Any particular library might want to change the words on the sign to reflect their services, but this can be seen from various angles, is entertaining, and covers all your bases. Anyone know where it is from?

    An explosion of assistance

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Innovative Fund Raising -- ALA 2011

    Most of this was not new (for any private college, but it was useful to check that.) There were a couple of things though:

    The public library in Williamsport, PA has program to enable donors to support days of service. Literally, you call the library's general phone number and you hear that, "today's library services are brought to you by ...." I love this idea! What a great way to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. They are under charging at $100 per day, but I wonder if the idea would fly at Rollins? By the way, a day of service for the Olin Library would cost you $6,000, an hour just $400. Williamsport thanks donors with this card.

    Gettysburg College library accepts donations to supply coffee from friends and a poster asking students to, "thank a friend for coffee!" The student all write cute thank yous on the poster and then the library publishes this in their friends newsletter.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Berlin Declaration -- ALA 2011

    The Berlin Declaration is one of the founding documents of the open access movement. Berlin 9 (the first of the Berlin Open Access Conference Series to take place in North America) "convenes leaders in the science, humanities, research, funding, and policy communities around The Berlin Declaration." 

    Dieter Stein talked about the changing role of librarians in an open access environment. So much of our society is based on science and "free and equal participation and access" to scientific research is a necessary foundation for participation in "democratic discourse." I was reminded of the debate around global warming. This is true on a global, as well as a national level.
    He argued that open access is not just open access to the final, published end results of research, but throughout the research process and the relationship is changing between the research and the reader(s.)

    Lorraine Haricombe gave a far more pragmatic presentation based on her experience at Kansas University:
    • No whining!
    • Two of David Shulberger's Seven steps:
      • 6. "Develop habits of depositing articles." (But students will respond much better to a mediated service in which library staff add manuscripts to the IR on the author's behalf.)
      • 7. "Develop PR program and outreach strategies." (Liaison librarians and faculty liaisons have been really useful in this regard.)

    Lunch with Brewster Kahle and Robert Miller -- ALA 2011

    Ray English arranged this lunch meeting with these two representatives of the Internet Archive. Unfortunately it was a long table at a loud restaurant, so I will have to wait for Ray's summary, but their project to create an open  lending library of digital books will definitely appear on the Oberlin Group agenda in October. Stay tuned.

    ALA 2011 -- ACRL Copyright Discussion Group

    ARL Fair Use Best Practices project released a report in December 2010 -- there are problems and solutions out in the community, and identifies 'points of friction.' E-reserves, access for the disabled, digitization for preservation, digital exhibits,  ILL, institutional repositories, and non-consumptive research. The project is designed to provide some kind of clear 'best practices' for libraries to follow to make appropriate, canonical, fair use of materials. Librarians end up being gatekeepers, they are on the front line for answering copyright questions.
    The Center for Social Media has developed other codes and the fair use principles will follow a similar format. Expect to see the code by the end of the year.

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    ALA 2011 -- the exhibits

    Today was my time to check out the exhibits. Two things in particular: web-scale discovery/management systems and e-books.

    But first a shout out to Lexis-Nexis (bet you didn't expect to hear that on this blog!) At the last ALA I whined at their both about the absence of a mobile site for their resources. Now they have one. We will add this to our own mobile site, so stay tuned. Elsevier on the other hand has taken a different tack and created apps for Science Direct and Scopus. Good, but they really need to create a mobile friendly site(s) as well.


    Even though we have Summon, I try to keep up with other major unified discovery tools. Someone from EBSCO finally explained to me why libraries would want to choose EBSCO Discovery Service even though they have to use federated searching to access none EBSCO resourses and those results are retrieved, late (of course, it is fed searching after all) and somewhat uncomfortably, to the left of the main results where students really aren't going to see them. The answer is; if you are a heavily EBSCO library EDS makes sense, particularly if you can swap even more resources to subscribe via EBSCO. EDS is basically EBSCOHost.

    I also stopped by the OCLC booth to get an update on their Web Management Services, which get more impressive, comprehensive, and practical each time I check in. The big development at the moment seems to be in their electronic resources module at the moment. They are still pushing WorldCat Local as a unified discovery service and say it can provide discovery for all resources, but I think that is an over enthusiastic salesperson speaking. We shall see.


    Checked in with EBL, whose non-linear lending model looks interesting. Also Project MUSE, who has a long way to go on the University  Press Content Consortium, but it looks very promising. I also stopped by the Overdrive booth. They are mostly knowne for working with public libraries, but do also contract with academic libraries. Everyone is working on downloadable copies to e-reader devices, but Overdrive is way ahead in this.

    More from the Summon Advisory Board.

    Other recent interesting developments include:

    Things we will see in the next few weeks/months include:

    A new, more scanable results lay out.
    Better handling of multiple content types.
    Fine tuning availability (so that users can easily and conveniently distinguish between an item available locally in fulltext and one available locally in print.)
    Discipline searching -- so that we can present a "physics" slice of the database (for instance) to users to a libguide, webpage, etc.

    Tammy Allgood from ASU and David Pattern from the University of Huddersfield talked about embedding Summon in sites beyond the library. For instance Tammy has been successful in placing a default Summon search box in their iteration of Blackboard, in the campus portal and marketing info all over the ASU web presence. I would really like us to do more of this. They have branded Summon as "Library One Search."
     David is using QRcodes in marketing materials to take people directly to their Summon iteration. He is also making great use of the API to liberally sprinkle access to Summon in their catalog etc. 

    Andrea Michalek, of Summon, gave us some background into how relevancy is calculated and has promised to share her PowerPoint with me, it might help with the librarians, and perhaps in advanced instruction sessions.
    There was lots more, but that is enough for now.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Summon Advisory Board at ALA 2011

    Today was an all day Summon Advisory Board Meeting.

    The Summon team are still focused on comprehensiveness and continuing to grow the index (currently up around 800,000,000 items, including those in local catalogs) and relevancy. They see their competition for student attention as Google. Good to see them concentrating on both comprehensiveness and relevancy.
    The big issue as this ALA is Serial Solutions announcement that they are moving into the web scale management marketplace along side OCLC. Their aim is to enable libraries to "turn off their ILS." This is going to get interesting.

    More news:

    Database recommender is now coming from an analysis of the retrieved results.
    Summon staff have spent a lot of time and money on the hardware and infrastructure underlying the system so that indexing and other good stuff can happen overnight.

    More news coming very soon:

    Monday, June 06, 2011

    Intriguing summer reads about technology's turning society upside down.

    I have added this reading list recently published by the Chronicle of Higher Education with links to available copies of the books. Interestingly, Rollins owns seven of the ten books linked here.

    Geeks at the Beach

    9 intriguing summer reads (and a video) about technology's turning society upside down

    Technology nowadays is supposed to be disruptive—in a good way— so let it disrupt your summer vacation. Enrich it, we mean, with these provocative books. Last grades submitted? Last commencement handshake done? Take a little time to find out what's in store next year and after that: Social media might rot students' brains—or create a cognitive surplus that improves society; hackers' pranks have definitely improved aspects of MIT; and Twitter may help repressive regimes more than it aids democracy activists. Also watch a video in which a professor outlines the future of smarter robots. Most of these are available in various e-book formats as well as print, so toss your tablet computer or smartphone into the beach bag along with the flip-flops.

    Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other (Basic Books). You're not as good at multitasking as you think. That's a key take-away from the latest book by Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who blends personal observations with case studies from her research on how children, teenagers, and elderly people interact with various gadgets. She's not antitechnology—her once-gushing views on virtual identity landed her on the cover of Wired magazine in the 1990s, as outlined in a Chronicle profile this year. In her new book, she argues that we're so excited about checking e-mail and Facebook that we're neglecting face-to-face relationships, but that it's not too late to make some "corrections" to our high-tech habits. It's time to turn off the BlackBerry for a few minutes and set some ground rules for blending cyberspace with personal space.—Jeffrey R. Young

    Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators [note: link to an earlier edition, with a different subtitle] (Penguin). The technology enthusiast Clay Shirky argues for the transformative potential of the Internet, as more people use their free time in active, collaborative projects rather than watching television. Critics have argued that this view fails to take into account yet more opportunities for passive entertainment, but Mr. Shirky, an associate teacher at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program who was featured last year in The Chronicle, points to examples such as Wikipedia and a ride-sharing Web site as proof that "the harnessing of our cognitive surplus allows people to behave in increasingly generous, public, and social ways." —Ben Wieder

    The Future of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (Stanford University's YouTube channel). The dream of creating general-purpose robot helpers is back! Since he was a kid, Andrew Ng has wanted to build smart robots. Soon after becoming a computer-science professor at Stanford University, though, he advised his grad students that making all-purpose thinking machines was just too hard. But now Mr. Ng has had a breakthrough that renewed his faith in his childhood dream. In a short talk he delivered last month at a Stanford conference on new ideas, he showed off an algorithm that can be applied to different kinds of problems, so that the same algorithm can do speech recognition and also help a robot make sense of images it sees through its camera eyes. C-3PO is looking more realistic by the minute. The talk is available on Stanford's YouTube channel, proving that some of the newest academic ideas these days can be found in video form rather than text. —Jeffrey R. Young

    In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives (Simon & Schuster) and The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) (University of California Press). The search to determine how Google came to be and how it has shaped society gets two new entries this year. For In the Plex, Steven Levy, a senior writer at Wired, interviewed hundreds of Google employees past and present, including top management—and ate countless meals at the company's Mountain View burrito joint—to document how Google grew from humble origins, in a garage belonging to friends of the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, to its current ubiquity. The implications form the subject of Siva Vaidhyanathan's Googlization of Everything. Mr. Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia and frequent contributor to The Chronicle Review, reminds readers that they aren't consumers of Google's offerings. Rather, their use of Google's services is the product it sells to advertisers. Both books look at the continuing evolution of the Google Books settlement as a key test of how far the company's reach could extend and a sign of how the perception of Google has changed from that of scrappy upstart with a clever motto, "Don't be evil," to global behemoth accused by some of being just that. —Ben Wieder

    The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Knopf). Is the Internet on its way to getting monopolized? That question underlies Tim Wu's The Master Switch. The eccentric Columbia Law School professor—he's known to dress up as a blue bear at the annual Burning Man festival—recounts how ruthless companies consolidated their power over earlier information industries like the telephone, radio, and film. So which tech giant seems likely to grab control of the net? Let's just say you probably won't see Steve Jobs reading Mr. Wu's book on the beach this summer. —Marc Parry

    Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century (Polity Press). To judge by the sometimes breathless news stories about publishing in the digital age, it feels like we're perpetually on the verge of a tipping point, when e-books will overtake print books as a source of revenue for publishers. John B. Thompson, a sociologist at the University of Cambridge, analyzes the inner workings of the contemporary trade-publishing industry. (He did the same for scholarly publishing in an earlier work, Books in the Digital Age.) Mr. Thompson examines the roles played by agents, editors, and authors as well as differences among small, medium, and large publishing operations, and he probes under the surface of the great digital shift. We're too hung up on the form of the book, he argues: "A revolution has taken place in publishing, but it is a revolution in the process rather than a revolution in the product."—Jennifer Howard
    The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (PublicAffairs). Sure, the 2009 rebellion in Iran was on Twitter. The uprising in Lebanon and pro-democracy movements in Russia and China also made Facebook and even old-fashioned e-mail. But technology is actually doing far more to bolster authoritarian regimes than to overturn them, writes Evgeny Morozov in this sharp reality check on the media-fueled notion that information is making everybody free. Mr. Morozov, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, points out that the Iranian government posted "most wanted" pictures of protesters on the Web, leading to several arrests. The Muslim Brotherhood blogs actively in Egypt. And China pays people to make pro-authority statements on the Internet, paying a few cents for each endorsement. The Twitter revolution, in this book, is "overblown and completely unsubstantiated rhetoric."—Josh Fischman

    Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT (MIT Press). The word "hacking" is said to have originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sometimes referring to students' ingenious pranks involving the university's iconic buildings. The tradition of engineering-related pranks on the campus is celebrated in this well-illustrated coffee-table book by T.F. Peterson (described as "MIT historian" but actually a nom de plume hack), just released in an updated edition. One of the glossy photos shows a fire truck placed on campus's Great Dome in 2006 to commemorate the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001. MIT even employs a team of security officials charged with removing hacks, though they agree to let the most clever and harmless stunts stay around for a few days. —Jeffrey R. Young

    The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (Norton). Multimedia—dangerous! Online research—depthless! Classroom screens—dubious! If you want a contrarian take on technology, Nicholas Carr is your man. In The Shallows, just out in paperback, the Colorado-based author warns that the Internet is rewiring our brains and short-circuiting our ability to think. And that has big consequences for teaching, he told The Chronicle last year: "The assumption that the more media, the more messaging, the more social networking you can bring in will lead to better educational outcomes is not only dubious but in many cases is probably just wrong."—Marc Parry

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    The Filter Bubble.

    Dorothy Mays shared this with me today. It is a great introduction to the problem of the filtered web. As she said,
    "Here is a 9 minute video that has some really eye-opening information about google and Facebook algorithms, filtering, and its implications. I have been struggling with the best way to teach this stuff in IFT106, but I think I will just show this video and host a short discussion about it instead.  I have already ordered this guy’s book (“The FilterBubble”) for Olin."

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Seth Godin on the Future of Libraries

    Richard Russell sent me this on Facebook and asked me what I thought. Rather than just a quick Facebook oneliner, here is a bit more of a response.

    First, so many people read Godin's stuff that it is nice when he talks about libraries. He is also a bit of an iconoclast so it is good for us to be challenged by someone from outside the profession.

    That being said, the post is disappointing. There is nothing new here that librarians don't already know. It is a shame that Godin takes a very traditional view of libraries and tells us that we are behind the times. Spend some more times in libraries and with librarians Seth and see what is going on. I would contend that you can find many of the attributes of your vision of libraries,

    "The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear."

    in many places around the world. As Godin states, "We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime."

    Too true, but if you actually spent time in libraries or with librarians you would soon find we have them already. But as Gibson said, "the future is here, it is just not widely distributed yet."

    Iconoclasts get to say "do this one thing and nothing else! Stop doing what you have been doing up to now!" But professionals, and librarians in particular, don't. We have to serve everyone in our community, and honor the past and the future. This means we have to guard dead (and very much alive) paper and we have to find ways to get ebooks (and information in a myriad of other formats) into the hands of our users at no direct cost to them (beyond their taxes and tuition) and we have to do a lot more than just 'warehouse' it. Unlike Godin, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    One more thing. Godin states "Post-Gutenberg, books are finally abundant, hardly scarce, hardly expensive, hardly worth warehousing. Post-Gutenberg, the scarce resource is knowledge and insight, not access to data." Yet on his own blog he is providing links to his own books for sale. Ironically, at least one is a rehash of various blog posts. So he is actually swimming against what he thinks is an inevitable tide (the demise of paper based books.) He is obviously free to do so. If you and I  are dumb enough to buy  what is available for free -- all power to him. In fact at least 647 libraries, including Rollins, purchased a copy of this book (I wonder who requested that one!)

    But is does seem a little rich to then lecture us on the demise of paper. Maybe he will donate the royalties from those 647 copies to a forward thinking library.

    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    So you want to be a librarian ....

    This morning I was the keynote speaker at the MLIS Information day at UCF. Here is my presentation and the powerpoint that went along with it.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Faculty and Staff Blogs at Rollins

    I am trying to gather all the blogs published by faculty and staff at Rolllins. Ths is what I have so far. If you know of others, let me know and I will add them.

    Not including my own of course! It turns out that the College website also has a partial list.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    A Day in the Life of a Librarian

    Yesterday I participated in FLA's Virtual Job Shadowing by tweeting throughout the day about what I was doing. The idea was for library school students and others interested in the profession to get an up close view of how we actually spend our days. If you use Twitter, search for #libjobshadowFL and you can see all the tweets form all the librarians who participated

    Normally I don't tweet. I had to set up an account on Twitter (rollinsmiller) to participate. I have never really seen the point of Twitter. I have a few things to say, but not enough to tweet frequently and if I something to say it usually can't be expressed in 140 characters or less, which is why I have this blog. I also can't keep up with all the news and information coming at me from e-mail, professional journals, books, blogs, my colleagues, and the traditional media so adding another rapid fire channel for communication just stresses me out.

    But the experience was interesting in another way. I rarely have to reflect on my work while I am actually working, except during reviews. So it was interesting to pause every few minutes and think about what I was doing and then try to express it in 140 characters or less. It made the day seem somehow more purposeful. It was also interesting to see other participants tweets and how varied (and yet how similar) our experiences were. All in all a worthwhile experience, I wonder what the students thought of it.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    A strange and wonderful part of librarianship

    Digital librarianship meets the Republic of Letters. Readers of this blog know that we launched an institutional archive of faculty publications in 2010. One of the articles posted there is Vidhu Aggarwal's Talking body parts and missing commodities: cinematic complexes and Sylvia Plath.

    A graduate student all the way out on the old Silk Road in Urumqi, Xinjiang in China found that article on the web and contacted David Noe, the librarian who administers our IR, asking for help in tracking down a copy of Plath's Ariel, not the version edited by Ted Hughes, but the restored version of Plath's original edition.

    We were so touched by the idea that our repository had reach far western China and by the student's herculean attempts to complete her literary studies that we decided to give her a copy. It would be cheaper than trying to arrange an interlibrary loan to Xinjiang anyway. It felt like an echo of the old Republic of Letters with a scholar at one end of the Silk Road reaching out to colleagues 13,000 miles away. With help with the Chinese address from Wenxian Zhang I just mailed the book today.

    Let's hope it gets there and makes it through Chinese customs. Sometimes i just love my job!

    Saturday, April 02, 2011

    ACRL Poster sessions

    The posters were in many ways more interesting than the panel discussions and contributed papers. Couple of ones to watch include:

    Competence vs. Confidence: Assessment Knockdown! by Amy Hofer and Margot Hanson.

    Student Success Retention, and the Academic Library. by Pam Baker and Jacqui Grallo.

    Friday, April 01, 2011

    Ithaka S+R urvey 2010 Report

    The report will come out on Monday. We got a brief preview and comparison to the 2009 faculty survey. Ithaka surveyed library it.directors, which seems to assume that directors have all the ideas and set the direction. It doesn't feel like that to this director, but hey.

    I am afraid it is pretty underwhelming report. Library directors perceive the value of libraries as higher than faculty, particularly in the areas of teaching and information literacy development (see figure 4 on page 15.) Part of my job is as a cheerleader for the value of the library, so I am sure that inflated the figures. Also, teaching is a core function of our institutions so library directors like to link to that. We are also not in the classroom and faculty offices every days so we overestimate the library's role in teaching.

    The conclusions on discovery are just as underwhelming, are we "a starting point" or "the starting point" for research. The former is reasonable, the latter is not.

    Google Book Search, what's next?

    Corey Williams of ALA's Washington Office led a discussion of what might be next in terms of Google Book Search, now Judget Chin has rejected the amended settlement.

    There is some trepidation about pursuing orphan works legislation because it could result in onerous procedures for libraries who seek to digitize such works. Jim Neal, of Columbia University, suggested that libraries continue the work of researching the copyright status of those purportedly orphaned works that have in fact already passed into the public domain because their owners did not fulfill all the various requirements that were law before the passage of the 1976 Act (like renewing the copyright) and digitizing those "new" public domain titles.

    This could significantly shrink the number of orphan works. If we also take a somewhat more assertive view of fair use as well we may well be able to do without orphan works legislation.

    Corey also promised a forth part of Jonathan Band's "Guide to the Perplexed" but I haven't found a link to that yet. Here is the link to Part 3.

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    ebrary thinking about downloadable e-books

    Libraries have been providing access to e-books for more than a decade now, but until the advent of the Kindle the model has largely been browser or at least online, web accessible e-books. You had to be tethered to the network to use the book.

    The mental model users had of e-books changed in 2007 with Amazon's release of the Kindle. Now with multiple readers available readers are demanding not only online access but also the ability to download titles to their reader (or other mobile device) of choice.

    Vendors for the academic market like EBSCO and ebrary are responding, if a little later than trade publishers and services like Overdrive for public libraries. So ebrary wanted to know form librarians what users were asking for in terms of downloadable ebooks.

    We suggested being able to download to a wide variety of devices, making sure search, navigation, and annotation etc. features were all available and avoiding the 'check out' model, which just annoys digital users. Instead think about non-linear limits upon use (like EBL's 325 uses) whether they happen simultaneously or over time.

    We should see some early versions this summer. there are lots of technical and intellectual property issues to deal with.

    ACRL 2011 Conference

    I am in Philly for the Association of College and Research Libraries 2011 National Conference and will be blogging various interesting stuff. Stay tuned.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    What happens next to Google Book Search?

    Mary Ellen Davis just reminded me that ACRL has a flowchart (developed by Jonathan Band) of possible outcomes in the Google Book Search Settlement issues. Here is an updated version. Although it looks complicated, it is actually a simplified version of the options available to actors in this drama. It leaves out Congressional action, and continuing developments in the commercial space.
    So you need to imagine a multi-dimensional dynamic -- albeit very slow moving -- version.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    A response to Will We Endure?

    This is my response to Bob Moore's recent post on his blog Culture World 21C.

    Bob's piece grew out of a discussion of the nuclear crisis in Japan, its impact on the industry in the US and specifically the storage of nuclear waste and how to ensure that society retained and communicated the information about such storage over the very long term -- 10,000 years.

    For an optimist like Bob this is easy because of, "widespread literacy, replicated texts, both electronic and in duplicable hard copies, and an international political/economic system that has apparently eliminated the kinds of catastrophic wars that in the past routinely toppled civilizations (e.g., Sumeria, Rome, Ming China). It is, after all, wars like these that resulted in the trashing of the information of the deposed civilizations making them largely lost to future generations. (I did not get to make all of these points last night, but they are still very, very valid.)"

    Let's set aside for a moment the idea that, "catastrophic wars ... routinely toppled civilization" and instead address the issue of widespread literacy and replicated texts.

    Obviously, as a librarian this is what I am most concerned with. We have developed robust systems for the preservation and replication of texts over the last 500 hundred years since the invention of printing in Europe. In some part as a result of printing, but also with the Protestant Reformation, and later the Industrial Revolution, we have also developed widespread literacy. I am confident that, as we continue to migrate texts and communication to the digital environment, we will continue to develop robust systems for the preservation and replication of texts and literacy will become even more widespread. But even within this single era -- let's call it the Gutenberg Era -- we have irretrievably lost significant bodies of work. The one that come to mind most readily is early film. I understand that we no longer have copies of about 50% of the films produced before 1930. That is just eighty years ago, in a medium we still use, during a period of unprecedented economic growth, in a society which makes a fetish of preservation. So I am not optimistic that all texts (and information) that future generations regard as important will be available to them.

    10,000 years include twenty 500 year periods (and 125 eighty year periods.) It is also twice as long as the whole of human history since the invention of writing, so I am very dubious that we can preserve anyting for that long. In the meantime, let's look for some lessons over longer time periods than 500 years, but shorter than 5,000.

    Again, taking the European experience, if we go back to the manuscript era before printing we again see systems of text production, replication, and preservation (and far less widespread literacy.) If these systems seem less robust from our perspective we should remind ourselves that they were developed and maintained over a thousand year period from the end of the Roman Empire in the west in the 5th and 6th centuries to the development of printing in the 15th century, which is pretty damn robust. Many manuscripts survived into the first two centuries of the Gutenberg era, but in the 16th and 17th century we also saw a wholesale deaccessing of manuscript volumes from European libraries and archives in which a lot of information was lost.

    The same situation happened during the transition from scroll to codex in the 2-4th centuries of the common era and this transition, which more or less coincided with the decline of the Roman Empire in the west, was a more significant transition for our purposes. This is because it coincided with a a massive economic collapse and reordering of society. An urban, international society with well-developed systems of text replication, a robust and long lived medium (the papyrus scroll), many great libraries (both public and private), and a high degree of literacy (for its time) gave way to an agricultural society, largely illiterate, with small text collections, with a system of values so radically different from the Roman Empire that preceded it that huge numbers of texts were lost, either permanently (Aristotle's second book of Poetics on comedy) or for many hundreds of years ( Menander's plays, admittedly perhaps not as great a loss.) Scrolls, were not preserved (except in garbage dumps or by being lost in dry climates) and the contents of scrolls were not preserved through copying into codices unless they were seen as valuable by the struggling Christian societies of the west.

    Luckily much of great value was preserved and replicated in Byzantium and in the Islamic societies to the east and south of Europe.We may not be so lucky next time, our next collapse may well be global.

    This is how our society will collapse, not with a bang, but a whimper. And the first things to go will be highly complex systems contingent upon complex and wealthy economies -- systems like libraries, and the Internet. The survivors in the wreckage, like the citizens of Rome will flee to the safety of strongmen and warlords with little thought to the culture they leave behind.

    Which brings us back to Bob's contention that catastrophic wars topple civilizations. I would argue that the collapse of societies leads to, amongst other nasty things, wars; and that those wars, in an era of declining economic activity and societal collapse become catastrophic. Part of that catastrophe can be the destruction or abandonment of the, now unsustainable, rich cultural tradition of the previous era.

    So, is there a way for human beings to somehow preserve and communicate the knowledge of the invisible danger of radiation to the pastoralists and hunter gathers who will be wandering near Yucca Mountain (or wherever we decide to put this stuff) in 10,000 years?

    One more thing. There are three books I would recommend if you want to think more about these issues.

    Matthew Battles. Library: An Unquiet History.
    James O'Donnell. Avatars of the Word.
    Iain Pears. The Dream of Scipio

    Google Books: latest news

    Judge Chin just rejected the settlement and Google is now, "considering its options."

    I have written about Google Books Search settlement many times on this blog. Most recently, during the 2010 ALA Conference I wrote,

    "any definitive decision in the Google Book Search settlement is a long way off and when it does come the outcome will be more limited and lead to less radical change in library service than I had hoped. In the meantime we have to proceed to provide access to those Hathi Trust public domain titles, and pursue digital book access via licensing with individual packages and unify the search experience for users via services like Summon."

    In the early news  reports the comments are trending mostly against the settlement, and for Chin's decision. It was the safe one after all. But I am not happy about this. I had hoped this settlement would be a huge leap forward in access to digital books post-1923 as libraries pony-ed up for the "institutional subscription." But it seems we will be sticking digital collections together with spit and baling wire as usual.

    Even Chin recognized the huge potential benefits of the settlement for readers. "The benefits of Google's book project are many. Books will become more accessible. Libraries, schools, researchers, and disadvantaged populations will gain access to far more books. Digitization will facilitate the conversion of books to Braille and audio formats, increasing access for individuals with disabilities. Authors and publishers will benefit as well, as new audiences will be generated and new sources of income created. Older books -- particularly out-of-print books, many of which are falling apart buried in library stacks -- will be preserved and given new life."

    I can't help but think authors and publishers, and our society at large, have missed a huge opportunity here. However, Judge Chin does (in a classic judicial response to copyright) lay the orphan works issue right back at the feet of Congress. Perhaps this will lead them to finally act on orphan works.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    What does Watson's victory on Jeopardy mean for libraries?

    Here are some of the early reactions to the victory of IBM's Watson on Jeopardy.

    John Markoff in the NYTimes on 2/14/11 quotes John Seely Brown, “The essence of being human involves asking questions, not answering them,” In today's paper, Markoff writes, "Watson, specifically, is a “question answering machine” of a type that artificial intelligence researchers have struggled with for decades — a computer akin to the one on “Star Trek” that can understand questions posed in natural language and answer them." Markoff also reports on IBM's plans for Watson, the company, "plans to announce that it will collaborate with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a physician’s assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. The company also plans to work with Nuance Communications Inc. to add voice recognition to the physician’s assistant, possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months.
    “I have been in medical education for 40 years and we’re still a very memory-based curriculum,” said Dr. Herbert Chase, a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University who is working with I.B.M. on the physician’s assistant. “The power of Watson- like tools will cause us to reconsider what it is we want students to do.”
    I.B.M. executives also said they are in discussions with a major consumer electronics retailer to develop a version of Watson, named after I.B.M.’s founder, Thomas J. Watson, that would be able to interact with consumers on a variety of subjects like buying decisions and technical support."

    James Weinheimer, Director of Library and Information Services at the American University of Rome, wrote on 2/9/11, "the traditional reference questions termed "ready-reference" are probably already gone from the reference desk. But questions that demand more thought and require a deeper understanding will (I hope!) always be asked and I don't see how a computer can answer those."

    To me the most interesting words here are from Chase, “the power of Watson- like tools will cause us to reconsider what it is we want students to do.” He is talking about medical education, but what would this mean in the liberal arts?

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Quiet Space in the Library

    As the library becomes even more popular for group study and as a place you can be sure to find your friends, we have to make sure we maintain space for quiet, contemplative study and relaxation. Some of our users made this clear to us when responding to the LibQual survey. The 3rd and 4th floors are designated as quiet study and we wanted to do something to make them even more attractive, so we took the window nooks on the 4th floor which had been furnished with built in window seats when the library opened in 1985 (puce formica and hessian -- very 70's) and replaced them with leather chairs (or love seats in the larger ones) and reading lamps.

     They are already proving popular as you can see from this photo of Wes enjoying wireless access and quiet contemplation.
    There are three 'nooks' with love seats and four with chairs. Over the next couple of weeks we will be adding ottomans to the chairs and students in Josh Almond's 3 Dimensional Foundations class are creating unique end tables that will be added before the end of the semester.
    So, thinking in terms of Oldenburg's Third Place, and Bennett's idea of libraries enacting the mission of the college, we have created varied, attractive, flexible, functional, spaces that students can use in ways that make sense to them, and that include elements growing directly from the curriculum (the end tables.) The 21st century college library in action!
    Thanks to Lori Voorhees, Darcella Deschambault, and  Susan Montgomery for making this happen.

    Wednesday, February 09, 2011

    Usage Statistics for Summon

    We just got access to the new analytics tool from Summon. There is a lot there to process, but here are some early points of interest.

    We introduced Summon in September 2009, but only as a beta. It became the top search box on our website in January 2010. This images show visits and searches for the first partial academic year, September 2009 through May 2010.

    You can see the jump when we made it the top box. We ended that year with a total of 8,998 visits and 45,759 searches, which is about 8% of total searches on library databases. Users did on average 5 searches every time they visited Summon.

     Of those 8,998 visits, only 65% came from Winter Park. The rest came from elsewhere in the US, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

    We can also see what domains users are coming from. Only about 60% of users are coming from

    When we compare visits and searches between January 2010 and January 2011. We see a rise from 774 visits and 4,220 searches in January 2010 to 1,282 visits and 5,709 in January 2011. A 65% increase in visits and 35% increase in searches. That is good news and interesting as well. The average number of searches per visit has dropped from 5.4 to 4.4. Does than mean Summon is getting better at delivering the right results or that users are leaving earlier unsatisfied. Isn't this always the way with data the more you get the more questions you have!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Olin Library's Mobile Ready Website

    Over the last few weeks, Paul Gindlesperger has been building a mobile ready website for us. As readers of this blog know, I think smartphones will play a significant role in the future of access to the digital library, so I am delighted that we can now provide access to our services and information resources for our users from these devices. The big issue for us now is to make sure the vendors we work with are also making their resources "mobile-friendly." This is a work in progress. Frankly, most of the databases and publishers have not made enough progress on this yet as you will see if you try and do any searching and reading of documents on the site. While I am at ALA Midwinter in San Diego, I will talk to vendors about this issue.

    In the meantime, in a continuing series of posts from guest authors I have asked Paul to describe the process of developing the site and some of the issues he faced:

    The mobile site is intended to provide the most useful content from the main Olin website that you would want to use when you’re not in front of a computer. We tried to make it easy for you to quickly pull out your phone and look for a book, consult with a librarian, see how late we’re open, and perform several other functions. The mobile site loads quickly from any phone and doesn’t require you to zoom in and out or scroll to get to what you need. Imagine how convenient it would be to hear a professor or classmate mention a good book for your research, pull out your phone, check to see if we have the book at Olin, and place a hold or even order it via Interlibrary Loan – all within a couple of minutes. With the increase in online resources, it is becoming less necessary to come to the library to get what you want since we provide so much content to our patrons remotely…this is just another step in that direction.

    The first step in the design process was looking at other libraries that already had mobile sites. Jonathan had already investigated and gave me a few to look at, including Smith College, Skidmore, St. Benedict, Bucknell, and NC State. Each of these sites has its merits and drawbacks, but I found the designs of Smith and Skidmore were the most in line with what I wanted to do with our site. Webmasters from these schools graciously offered to assist me if I ran into any problems or had questions; one of the great things about working in the library community is the ubiquitous helpfulness and sense of camaraderie in this profession.

    I knew from the start that I was going to design the site based on these principles:
    1. The site needed to be as elegantly simple as possible, both in terms of aesthetic design and in the code on the back end. It should load quickly and not overwhelm the user with too many extraneous options.
    2. The design should be viewable on nearly any device, in portrait and landscape view. Since phones are very different and users could have their settings configured in ways I can’t anticipate, this was the hardest principle to enforce.
    3. There should be an option to go to the full site.

    The core of the site is basic HTML – the same language that comprises most regular websites, and a little bit of simple Javascript to make the menu options work. What truly makes the site mobile friendly, however, is CSS – cascading style sheets. The style sheet is the secret to getting the site to display properly on phone screens. I wrote the code the old-fashioned way – writing it from scratch in Notepad. That was the way I originally taught myself to make web pages, so it was kind of fun returning to my roots and doing things low-tech.

    I was a little worried at first; I had only taken one day long CSS class over two years ago and hadn’t done anything with it since, but I was now being called upon to write original code from scratch. I wasn’t about to back down from the challenge, though.

    My biggest problem in creating the mobile site was a frustrating one….I don’t actually own a smartphone. It has been my experience that people who design things for something they don’t have or use tend to create broken designs, even when they put in a lot of hard work and have the best intentions. The lack of a smartphone also made testing my designs difficult. Luckily I had colleagues with Droids, iPhones, and a Blackberry, but I had to balance my need to preview the site with my desire to not bother them too much to borrow their phones.

    Other issues were code-based and would have been funny if they weren’t so annoying. At one point, the header kept disappearing and not coming back when someone switched to landscape mode. The zoom factor would also randomly change on an iPhone for no apparent reason. After a lot of experimentation, I was able to fix these problems.

    In the future, I’d like to see the other departments at Rollins create mobile sites of their own. Until then, it’s fun being the first on campus to offer this service to our students, faculty, and staff.

    If there are any questions or comments about the mobile site, I can be reached at .