Professional Development

During April 2007...

ARLIS/NA in Atlanta

Friday, April 27, 2007 1:54 pm

Just a quick note during my workshop break. The drive to Atlanta was great, though there was a huge rainstorm just as I was entering the city. I have already learned a lot from the sessions that I have attended, “Communication and Collaboration : Working with Faculty for Information Fluency” and “Expanding Horizons: Developing and Accessing Diverse Collections.” Right now I am in a workshop for reference and instruction in Theatre Studies. I saw Rebecca Kranz Friedman this morning, and she says “hello” to everyone! More to come…


DigCCurr : Day 2

Friday, April 20, 2007 8:29 pm

Some of today’s sessions included:

  • Views from National Libraries and Archives. It is apparent that answers to the important questions of digital curation are still materializing. Brief session notes are available.
  • Building Capabilities for Digital Curation Repositories. There was not an empty seat in this session on defining capabilities, capabilities which included standard concerns like server space and backup migration as well as advanced concerns like organizational sustainability. It was mentioned several times that organizations need to transition from a stage of the digital “project”, the ad hoc level, to a platform of the digital “program”, where formalized and dedicated roles and responsibilities, workflows and policies ensure greater sustainability.
  • Digital Curation in Practice. Abstracts from this session on collection development are available in the DigCCurr wiki.

Well-organized and important, DigCCurr 2007 provided a solid foundation in understanding the serious work that’s being done and that needs to be done to support and secure our digital world.

DigCCurr : Day 1

Thursday, April 19, 2007 7:41 pm

A long day of talking about digital production, preservation, maintenance, and sustainability. Some of the day’s sessions included:

  • What do digital curators do and what do they need to know? Abstracts and brief notes on the research perspectives of this question are available in the DigCCurr wiki.
  • Identifying digital curation services and functional requirements. The user services section, during a discussion of the use of social software features in digital collections, emphasized the necessity of having guidelines in place for managing the comments, for answering the questions and handling the requests that users submit. Also, during a discussion of gathering comprehensive statistics and assessing how users interact with a site, Google Analytics was lauded.
  • Mechanisms for influencing data curation practices. The section on conceptual frameworks for repository architecture demonstrated models of database and XML structures and considered methods for merging varying sustainability concerns, including technological, organizational, and economic concerns.

DigCCurr : Welcome

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 9:15 pm

Kevin here, in Chapel Hill for the next couple of days at DigCCurr 2007, an international symposium on digital curation.

On the bus ride to tonight’s reception at Wilson Library, I spoke briefly with a librarian from the University of Kansas who described a freshman honors tutorial she teaches. Unrelated to digital curation, the course, which examines the nature of information as information ecologies, pursues the (re)invigoration and expansion of our understanding of “information”, moving it outside the library’s range of scholarly information to encompass genetic material, cultural memory, and questions of history, etc. and supplementing it with concepts from biological ecologies, such as diversity and coevolution. She also mentioned that she uses contract grading, where each student accepts a grade letter contract and the work that the specific contract requires.

Steve at NC Serials Conference

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 3:25 pm

On March 29th and 30th, I attended the 16th North Carolina Serials Conference for the first time in three years. A few years ago, the registration fees jumped considerably from one year to the next, and the content did not seem strong enough to justify continuing to go. Thanks to a bit of prodding, I attended this year and was delighted to find that the depth of the content was greatly improved and fully justified the registration fee.

Calhoun and Reynolds on Catalogs

The most interesting sessions at the conference were the opening keynote and the closing keynote, which both complimented and contradicted each other. Because they are so linked in my thinking, I’ll write about both sessions in one entry. The opening keynote was by Karen Calhoun of Cornell University, and incoming Vice President for Cataloging and Metadata at OCLC, entitled “The Changing Faces of Catalogs: Accelerating Access, Saving Time,” and the closing keynote was by Regina Romano Reynolds, head of the National Serials Data Program, the U.S. ISSN center at the Library of Congress, entitled “To Boldly Go: Transforming Catalogs and Cataloging to Meet User Needs.”

Calhoun based most of her presentation on a report she prepared on behalf of the Library of Congress called “The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration With Other Discovery Tools” which was released about a year ago. Calhoun argued that we need to rethink the catalog in light of a changed information world and that users are not getting what they need from the OPAC. As information systems, catalogs are hard to use, and, in an academic setting, are used primarily by faculty and graduate students, with fairly low undergraduate use. She discussed many of the known features of Millennial students, that they enjoy interactive tools, collaborative learning, etc.

Calhoun then discussed the results of a poll question posed to students, “Where do you begin a search for a information on a topic?” 84% said web search engines, while only 1% said library web pages. This struck me as exactly the sort of poorly worded poll question that is designed to induce panic in the library world. I find these sorts of apocalyptic pronouncements about the future of libraries to be quite tiresome and far off the mark (our profession seems to take a perverse joy in predicting our own demise). The question doesn’t allow for comparison to information seeking behavior in the pre-Web age, doesn’t consider that most information needs are fairly shallow and don’t require a library, etc. Lest I be accused of explaining away the problem, Reynolds addressed these very issues in her presentation, which drew heavily from a study conducted at Ohio State called “Sense-Making the Information Confluence: The Whys and Hows of College and University User Satisficing of Information Needs“. Reynolds pointed to survey data that showed that students go to a variety of information sources teachers, friends, “Dad,” etc. and that many information needs are simple to meet. We will never get back patrons to answer simple ready-reference questions in the same numbers we had in the pre-Web days. However, when it comes to in-depth, thorough searches, the library was the number one choice. And many people still trust library sources more than random things found on the Web.

Calhoun claimed that library catalogs must come to terms with the facts that content has changed, user needs have changed and search behavior has changed. Accordingly, she argued that catalogs should incorporate social networking software, to allow for simple things like “people who searched this title also searched” functions as well as more complex models where the configuration and design of the catalog adapts and changes based on the what users search for and what they do with the catalog. Calhoun also argued that libraries should try to pursue a user-centric model and push our services out, making our catalogs visible to users where they’re searching. That is, that integration should be outward rather than inward.

While pushing our services out to users does make sense, Reynolds pointed out that libraries may not get credit for this work. Students often use databases provided by an academic library and don’t even realize that the library is providing the service, even if it is clearly marked and branded. Reynolds essentially agreed with most of Calhoun’s comments about the need to change the catalog, but gave more concrete examples of changes that could improve the search experience, such as spellcheck, word stemming, relevance ranking, better labels, reduced jargon, utilizing serial links already present in bib records, using FRBR granularity, icons to represent formats, “word cloud” results a la AquaBrowser, adding tables of contents, reviews, and recommendations, improved subject access, metasearching functionality, user tagging, folksonomies, etc. Reynolds also argued that one thing library catalogs do very well is to collocate large amounts of information and that we should retain and expand on that function in future catalog models.

Calhoun agreed that library catalogs do certain things very well and will remain necessary for tracking local holdings for print books, serials, videos, etc. But, she argued that cataloging departments need to make much better linkages, need to simplify and exploit all sources of cataloging data, need to automate and streamline workflows, need to explore automatic classification and need to mine rich catalog data. Reynolds touched on many of these points and gave a concrete example of a project she was involved in that attempted to simplify cataloging data, the creation of the CONSER standard record. The goal was to create a less costly record that would be compatible with existing standards, applicable to all formats and focused on user needs. The resulting record stripped out some of the intricate detail of serial bib records and left only those fields that were genuinely of use to users. It has sparked some controversy in the serials cataloging world, but it represented a fairly bold attempt to respond to the changing library catalog, which was the shared theme of the two keynote addresses.

Empowering the Library Search Experience

In this session, Holly Johnson of the Howard County Library in Columbia, MD discussed her libraries implementation of an AquaBrowser based catalog, and Kristin Antelman of NC State discussed some of the issues with their implementation of Endeca.

Johnson began the session with an in-depth demo of AquaBrowser. I have to say it looked really nice. I particularly liked the “discover cloud” results that gives a cluster of related terms, which are each searchable. The system also has relevance ranking, the ability to refine options by format, and can support RSS feeds. You can look at their AquaBrowser catalog.

Antelman discussed the Endeca implementation and pointed out a few problems with the system. For one thing, relevance ranking can be tricky with serials. For example, a search of “New York Times” brings up the record for the newspaper in twentieth place. Why? Because the phrase “New York Times” can occur many times in the bib records of related titles like “New York Times Book Review,” because of title changes, related titles, key titles, etc., and the more times the phrase appears the more “relevant” the record is. Also, the natural language query functionality of Endeca doesn’t necessarily effectively use the LC Subject Headings. A search on the phrase “causes of the Revolutionary War” brings up only three records (and two of those are for the same title in print and on microfilm). But, using a subject authority search brings up 388 records. The shallow skimming of the LCSH by Endeca can be really shallow.

Other Thoughts on the NC Serials Conference

I also went to a panel discussion on institutional repositories that drew heavily on a preconference that I didn’t attend. The panel boiled down to the following:

  • Pro: Institutional repositories can change the scholarly communication model by making faculty works publicly available, they can make material widely and permanently available, and they can preserve at-risk material.
  • Con: A lot of universities talk about wanting to have IRs, but few actually do. The IRs that have been created are lightly populated with material, and very little faculty-produced, peer-reviewed material is available on IRs.
  • Response: Perhaps IRs don’t have much material in them because they’re still in the embryonic stage. When the Web was new, there was very little useful stuff on it, and many “experts” said that there would be little need for most universities to have anything up on the Web. Give IRs some time.

And I went to a session that introduced me to SUSHI, or the Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative Protocol. The talk was a bit over my head, but I at least got that SUSHI is a standard that vendors and other content providers can use for communicating usage statistic reports (COUNTER reports) to libraries. Beyond that, I get a little fuzzy.

Miscellaneous and Concluding Thoughts from ACRL

Sunday, April 1, 2007 10:11 pm

John Waters: I am by no means a prude and loved his interviews in “This Film is Not Yet Rated” but I thought his luncheon speech at ACRL was inappropriately irrelevant. We should attract students to the library by appearing in the nude? And that was one of the mild suggestions!

“Perceptions of Campus-Level Advocacy and Influence Strategies among Senior Administrators in College and University Libraries” sounded like a good research project but yielded inconclusive results. The premise that peer influence strategies are differentiated by size and type of library institutions (expressed in Carnegie classifications) was largely unsubstantiated. There was a helpful review of the dimensions of influence and strategies for influencing peers on campus.

General thoughts: In my view, ACRL is a very worthwhile experience for academic librarians. The presentations are generally of higher quality than you will find at ALA. An additional benefit is the fact that no committee meetings are allowed so you have 3 days of uninterrupted, high-quality presentations focused on academic and research library issues. There is a notable public service slant to the themes, so if you are a public services librarian you will find more posters, panels, presentations and discussions on information literacy and reference and emerging technologies than you can absorb! This conference put out its call for papers well over a year ago – and that sometimes backfired, as two of the presentations I attended had abstracts submitted 18 months ago that never actually materialized. Still, I would recommend ACRL strongly to all ZSR public service librarians.

Tomorrow: University Libraries Group


Politics & the Media at ACRL

Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:50 pm

A couple of presentations touched on themes that are broader than libraries, namely the role of journalism and the press.

David Silber is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco. His presentation, “Digital Media, Learning, and Libraries: Web 2.0, Learning 2.0, and Libraries 2.0″ was well-attended and much appreciated by those in the audience. His point was that libraries are natural partners in his philosophy of AEIOU, which stands for Already Existing Information, Optimally Uploaded. He predicted that traditional newspapers would (and should) be supplanted by blogs and tried to convince all of us (as has our very own Susan) that we should blog with enthusiasm – and lots of pictures! He dismissed the 2.0 terminology as marketing hype, but the qualities of collective intelligence and active participation by the user are what it’s all about. He is every instruction librarian’s dream, requiring all of his classes to physically come into the library and combine that experience with the latest in media technology.

Nina Totenberg was the closing keynote speaker, but much as I respect her, her talk was disappointing. She spoke generally of the importance of journalism in a free society but it wasn’t until the question and answer session that she really engaged the audience with specific examples from her coverage of the Supreme Court and 30 years of watchdog journalism exposing government malfeasance.


Tuum Est – Designing Learning Spaces

Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:28 pm

The second pair of presentations I attended was on the theme of designing learning spaces in libraries. I was reminded that I wrote a paper on this topic ages ago (late 90’s) when we were building the Undergraduate Library at Wayne. Many of the principles are the same, but the importance of technology is even greater than it was back then.

“Designing Self-Service Learning Environments” by Wendy Starkweather of UNLV emphasized the following timeless principles:

  • Self-service (for convenience, speed, choice and control)
  • Flexibility (perhaps the single most key component in modern design)
  • Stimulating spaces (the wow factor)
  • Foster both community and contemplation (need both quiet and non-quiet spaces)
  • Provide healthful, ergonomic environment (but what they really want is soft seating)
  • Service policies that support design principles (give them what they want)

Starkweather reminded us that the life cycle of buildings is much longer than the life cycle of policies or technologies so designing an adaptable structure and infrastructure is key. Being a classics major, I loved the way she summed up the presentation, which she “borrowed” from another university: tuum est, meaning “it is yours.”

“Effective Practices for Technology-Enhanced Spatial Transformations” was a panel presentation by three librarians from the University of Southern California. Projects were described at the Von KleinSmid Applied Social Sciences Library, the Science and Engineering Library, and the Leavey Undergraduate Library. Themes were similar to the previous presentation: the need for flexible space, growing importance of multimedia, the library as a community gathering space for the campus, the need for both quiet, individual spaces and non-quiet group spaces. The Leavey Library designed a podcasting studio that might bear further investigation. One line I loved from one of the speakers was when she introduced herself with the title of Team Leader – “which now sounds so 90’s!”


Gaming presentations at ACRL

Sunday, April 1, 2007 8:56 pm

Back to blogging, after catching up on email. I will try to group some of the presentations I attended:

I tried to attend as many presentations on gaming in libraries as I could, since that has become a specialty of ours at ZSR and Giz and I are scheduled to present at the 2nd Gaming in Libraries Symposium in Chicago this summer. Our gaming experience has been largely a marketing strategy to try to attract students to the library, but other libraries have gone the next step and are trying to incorporate the gaming experience into library instruction.

The first presentation was by a team from the University of Cincinnati Libraries. They called their inhouse team of librarians a learning community because they knew they would be learning as they went about their project. When they submitted their paper over a year ago, they thought they would have a viable, tested product focusing on using a video game to teach plagiarism and report on its success. In fact, they discovered they were in a bit over their heads with the complexity of the gaming software and after the head of the Faculty Technology Resource Center who offered to do the programming for them left, they had to go back and reassess. Next, they looked at trying to incorporate existing games and found that Second Life was not suitable at all for their project but that two games called Montage-a-Google and Guess-the-Google had modest success when used in library instruction.

The second presentation was an excellent comprehensive approach to all aspects of gaming in libraries, called “Gaming for the Ages: A Wholistic View from Collections to Services” by David Ward and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They covered topics like Gaming in Society, Gaming in Education, Gaming in Libraries, a Five Year Plan for Gaming at UIUC, and Future Directions. One difference I noted in their environment was that they had a number of faculty at UIUC who were doing active research on learning through gaming. They are taking the view that in 10 years gaming will be a major avenue for learning. At the UIUC Undergraduate Library, they have begun a gaming collection of both hardware and software. They have not tried to write any gaming software, but have tried simple games like the “ESP Game” and “Tapper” in their library instruction. Here is a challenge for Erik to think about: “wouldn’t it be great if the OPAC were a fun game?”


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