Professional Development

During January 2011...

Molly at ScienceOnline 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011 6:09 pm

Two weeks ago, fresh on the heels of Midwinter, I hit the road again for yet another conference – ScienceOnline 2011. Fortunately SciO11 only had me traveling as far as the Sigma Xi headquarters in Research Triangle Park, where I spent the weekend learning about and debating the latest in the intersection of science, scholarship, blogging, openness, data, access, and a myriad of issues in between! You can see from the program page that there were a wide range of topics, and I attended sessions on everything from digital toolbox needs to open science to altmetrics to citations to blogging in the academy to ebooks in science.

This was my fourth year attending ScioO, but the first time I’ve been courageous enough to co-moderate a session. SciO follows an unconference format, and sessions are proposed and evolve on the conference wiki in the months leading up to the conference. After several well-organized but poorly attended librarian-led sessions at previous SciOs, when a group of SciO librarian veterans started brainstorming a topic for this year, we quickly concluded that we: a) needed to stay far away from the “L” word, and b) should partner with non-librarians (we’re the decided minority at SciO, not even achieving 10% representation; my first year, I think there were just 3 of us!).

So, Saturday morning, Kiyomi Deards (librarian), Steve Koch (scientist), and I led a session on “Data Discoverability: Institutional Support Strategies.” Although we initially thought that the conversation would center on how various university constituencies should collaborate to support the new NSF data management plan requirement, it steered in a broader direction, and Kiyomi and I spent some time discussing the current and possible future roles institutional repositories might play in data management support beyond NSF needs. As is wanted at SciO, the conversation took life among the participants, so being a co-moderator was not stressful. We had a full room (39 + the livestreaming video guys – so glad I didn’t know in advance we’d be livestreamed!), with tough questions and concerns being raised from all sides, and some very cool what-ifs being proposed for discovery app layers for IRs. I felt it was a very successful session, and I greatly appreciated the numerous non-librarians in the room who either defended the need for librarians to be involved in data management discussions or praised the librarians at their institutions with whom they’ve collaborated.

One interesting development this year: the sometimes heated debates about open access from previous SciOs was notably absent, with more discussion centering around the need to make data and the research process open. While I know this doesn’t mean that OA has been universally accepted by SciO attendees, it did give me hope that, at least for this group, that battle has been won – if you aren’t willing to make publications available, you likely wouldn’t be debating the merits of making the science and data *behind* them available.

All in all, the conversations, both in sessions and around Sigma Xi, were engaging and energizing; catching up with old friends and meeting new ones was fun; and SciO11 proved yet again that this is one of the best conferences I attend!

Amazon Beanstalk Webinar

Monday, January 24, 2011 2:57 pm

Today Kevin, Barry, Erik and Tim attended an Amazon AWS Elastic Beanstalk webinar. Beanstalk is a new AWS service from Amazon that allows you to deploy Tomcat hosted applications using a Platform-as-a-Service model. Beanstalk is similar in scope to the Google Apps Engine and Heroku (among other PaaS providers) but is a bit different in that it also provides access to the underlying instance and configuration options.

The system has some pretty interesting features including automatic monitoring, scaling, application versioning and system security. Beanstalk uses existing Amazon resources including EC2, S3 and database services. At its best Beanstalk provides a method to more easily deploy and monitor certain types of applications.

At the moment I don’t know that we will turn to Beanstalk for our production services but the support for Tomcat means that some of our applications including Dspace and potentially Vufind could be good matches for this approach in the future.

Want to play? Amazon offers a free pricing tier for new users. Stop by and someone will help you get started!

ALA Midwinter Wrap-up

Thursday, January 20, 2011 2:50 pm

Today Giz, Lynn, Ellen D., Lauren C. and Kaeley attended an ALA Midwinter conference wrap-up. It was an interesting session to see what some of the big sessions that people attended were. Lots of content on mobile and social focused technology.

One element that got a lot of attention was the work of Jim Hahn at Illinois on his research of mobile information seeking using the iPad. This research was in sync with another trend mentioned by Emily at Duke. Emily, in commenting on a session on technology said that one key contribution of libraries was on the user experience. I thought that this was a curious focus (certainly in sync with our mission!) but definitely different from the ‘curator of resources’ focus that libraries also tend to focus on.

Emily also reported on a comment made by Monique Sendze about the hyper-personalization of our patron’s IT environment. This message really resonated with the audience and there was a follow-up discussion about the utility of committing IT resources for top-tier IT services as well as base level services.

Lauren C. at ALA Midwinter San Diego 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 2:44 pm

Hot topics: demand-driven acquisitions -is selection dead?; deselection tool being developed; future of Midwinter conference; “reshaping” ALCTS. The last two topics occupied the majority of my time since this is my year as Chair of ALCTS Acquisitions Section, which makes me a member of the ALCTS Board and requires participation in several long, but interesting, meetings.

Excitement about demand-driven acquisitions (DDA) of e-books is prompting the question of whether or not librarians are needed to make selections. See the Library Journal write up for more details, but briefly, Rick Anderson expressed again that he’s spending his library’s dollars on meeting the needs of the students and faculty according to their choices rather than spending money on librarians’ best guesses when funds are limited. Big budget news broke before I left — California is facing a cut of one billion dollars in higher education spending. In one presentation I saw statistics that showed more dollars are spent on prisons than education in California already.

Regarding deselection, a pre-conference by R2 at Charleston in 2008, (see my post) was the genesis of their idea to develop a tool to streamline a deselection process. At Midwinter I attended a focus group to give R2 feedback on this tool as it is being developed. The idea is to create a record set (viewable as a list) of print copies of books that are low-use within the local library, and then confirm that those items are available in another trusted repository (HathiTrust, for example), thereby giving the library the info to decide about weeding or storage. R2 is ready to sign up a few customers to do some projects and refine their tool, so I will be talking with Lynn about whether this is something that could be useful to us or if it is something that could be done in-house when the need arises.

I heard many expressions of disappointment in the white paper on the future of Midwinter particularly since there was no financial data in it. When Camila Alire, Past President of ALA, visited with the ALCTS Board and asked for feedback, I asked Ms. Alire for a white paper on Annual, since perhaps all the “vibrancy” of Midwinter is indicative of a lack thereof at Annual. The ALA white paper does indicate that there is no requirement by ALA to attend Midwinter (p.7), and the ALCTS bylaws do not require it, although the expectation is there at the Chair/Board level in ALCTS. At the committee level within sections, several groups throughout the ALCTS Division have made the shift to conduct all work without any face-to-face meetings, so the ALCTS Board brainstormed some ways for leaders to only need to attend Annual. The topic will be explored more. The ALCTS Board also discussed whether or not to restructure (or reshape) the organization based on the report of the task force that analyzed results of an earlier survey to the membership, but no conclusion has been reached yet. The continuation of strategic planning, which the Board and relative committees will engage in via email in the next month, may better inform a decision.

I did manage to squeeze in two chats with vendors: I talked with representative Linda Russo at Latin American Book Store about reviewing our firm ordering history for both Spanish Peninsula titles and Latin American Literature for the past year to see if she can identify a pattern for creating a small auto-shipment plan. Our Spanish faculty and I keep hoping to do this, if we can define narrow enough parameters to stay in budget and still have money for some one-by-one selection. I also talked with EBL about our interest in print-on-demand (POD) and how I’d like to be able to do POD with with our EBL purchases if we should get the equipment at WFU. (Keep your fingers crossed for funding!) David Swords of EBL explained that EBL is interested, but cautioned me that it will take time (more than I’d like) because it requires agreements with publishers.

Carolyn at 2011 ALA Midwinter in San Diego

Monday, January 17, 2011 10:04 pm

I was very excited about going to Midwinter this year due to its location in warm, sunny San Diego and that I was staying in the same fabulous hotel, the Omni, that Mark and I stayed in while we were there last summer for his microbiology conference.

On Satuday, I attended “Electronic Resources as a Public Service” in which several librarians discussed how e-resources are handled at their individual institutions. At the University of Central Florida’s library, their e-resources team include members from acquisitions, cataloging, public services, and systems. Problems are submitted via an online form and are reported to the team through an RSS feed. They use a wiki to list solutions to commonly reported problems. Montana State University utilizes a librarian-initiated discussion forum to report problems with their e-resources.

After lunch, I attended my committee meeting of the Recruitment and Mentoring Committee of the Cataloging and Classification Section (CCS) of ALCTS. Using the committee’s previous separate mentor and mentee applications in Word, I created a combination mentor/mentee application using Google Docs. I shared this work with my group, and we will begin sending this out soon to CCS members, library listservs, and the cataloging listserv AUTOCAT and begin pairing interested mentors and mentees.

For my last session of the day, I attended the “Will RDA Mean the Death of MARC” panel discussion organized by our very own Steve Kelley. Steve has already summarized this session in his post, so I will move along.

Sunday morning, Molly and I attended the Alexander Street Press Breakfast and heard NPR’s Renee Montagne speak about her international reporting adventures in South Africa and Afghanistan.

Afterwards, I went to the Cataloging Research Interest Group’s program and heard several librarians speak on the research they are currently conducting. Richard Sapon-White of the University of Oregon is researching the impact of subject headings on ETD download at his institution. His study began last October and will continue for six months. Working with 250 titles, some with LCSH and some with only author supplied keywords, he wants to see which titles are downloaded the most and how are people finding their way to the library’s institutional repository (IR). He believes hits are coming through the catalog, Google, and the web as opposed to the actual IR interface. D-Space is collecting download statistics. University of Florida, Gainsville librarian Jimmie Lundgren spoke on the 2010 Year of Cataloging Research, as proclaimed by ALCTS. For 2011, Ms. Lundgren stated that we are still in need of building a cumulative research agenda and evidence base. Karen Snow, Ph.D. candidate and teaching fellow at the University of North Texas, is currently writing her dissertation on the perception of cataloging quality amongst academic libraries’ catalogers. Perceptions vary greatly as well as the definition of quality cataloging. One of the questions she asked librarians in her research was what characteristics of a bibliographic record, including fields and subfields are deemed important. She received 296 responses, and librarians listed the following MARC fields as most important: 245a, 100, 650, 110, 651, 600, 700, 610, 260c, 111/710. After hearing these speakers, I am inspired to probe the cataloging research literature to see if I can find some aspect of my cataloging work that I can research and expound upon.

Madeleine J. Hinkes, Anthropology Professor at San Diego Mesa College, spoke about forensic and biological anthropology at the discussion group of the Anthropology Librarians. At this meeting, I met and spoke with the chair-elect of ANSS and he wants me to become involved with the Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee which posts a monthly report that addresses cataloging issues, subject headings, etc. on the group’s listserv.

On Monday, I attended my final midwinter session in which several libraries discussed their RDA testing and training of staff in their various institutions.

In addition to all the sessions, discussion groups and a committee meeting, I was able to attend some fun events and dinners as well with my traveling companions, Susan, Roz and Molly. The highlight was our trip over to Coronado and sitting on the terrace of the magnificent Hotel del Coronado with my terrific coworkers watching the sunset over the Pacific.

Steve at 2011 ALA Midwinter

Monday, January 17, 2011 6:03 pm

On January 5th, after one day back at work after Christmas break, I flew out to San Diego for ALA Midwinter. I had to get in a couple days early, because I had to attend a NASIG Executive Board meeting on the 6th. It was very productive all-day meeting, where we talked about NASIG business and set new policies, but confidentiality forbids my discussing it in detail.

From Friday the 7th through Sunday the 9th, I attended a number of sessions at ALA Midwinter, and I can talk about those. Almost every session I attended focused on RDA (Resource Description and Access), the new cataloging code that has been proposed to replace AACR2. This is the biggest thing to hit the cataloging world in over 30 years, since AACR2 was adopted. I’ll try to boil down the useful information I gathered as best I can.

The RDA Update Forum was where I heard the biggest news. A representative from the Library of Congress (I’ll confess I didn’t catch his name) discussed the testing of RDA at LC and the two other major national libraries. The testing period closed on December 30, with about 7,000 RDA records created in OCLC, and they are now analyzing the test data. The first report of analysis is due to the management of the national libraries by March 31, and they plan to issue a joint decision on the adoption of RDA at ALA Annual in New Orleans in June. Their decision could range from refusing to adopt RDA at all, adopting it as is, or adopting it after certain problems have been addressed by the Joint Steering Committee (the body responsible for creating RDA). However, since AACR2 is now dead and will not be updated in the future, it seems entirely out of the question that RDA would not be adopted at least provisionally by the Library of Congress. One way or another, RDA will be the new cataloging code.

Another speaker at the RDA Update Forum, Chris Cronin of the University of Chicago, was quite enthusiastic about the adoption of RDA. The University of Chicago is an RDA test library, and their experience was generally positive. Their general approach was, “It’ll be alright…really it will.” They involved all catalogers, professional and paraprofessional alike, in the test, chose to minimize local exceptions and follow the code as written whenever possible, and gave preference to cataloger’s judgment over broad policy decisions for every scenario. In the end, they found a several things that catalogers disliked (such as the changing of established headings, the recording of copyright dates, and navigating the RDA toolkit), and quite a few things that they liked (such as the way RDA expresses relationships between entities, getting rid of abbreviations, and the treatment of reproductions). The biggest area of concern centered around the training and documentation for copy catalogers (questions to be addressed included: will copy catalogers accept copy records as-is? Will they update poor RDA copy? Will they upgrade AACR2 records to RDA?). At the end of the testing period, the University of Chicago catalogers held a vote on whether or not to adopt RDA and they voted unanimously in favor of adopting the code. So my hope is that when we eventually move to adopting RDA at Wake Forest, we’ll find, like Chicago did, that “it’ll be alright…really it will.”

I also attended the FRBR Interest Group Meeting, where I heard an interesting presentation by Yin Zhang and Athena Salaba of Kent State University. They discussed their research project to use existing MARC records to create FRBR-compliant records at the expression and manifestation levels (FRBR is a conceptual model for the description of bibliographic entities that underlies RDA). I realize that’s probably clear as mud to most of you, but the important thing is, in their research, they used algorithms to convert existing bib records into smaller records that describe the work in more abstract terms (that is, a record for all English-language versions of the work, a record for all Spanish-language versions of the work, and a record for the work at its purest form, regardless of language). They found it difficult to use the algorithm to split the existing MARC records into these more finely granulated FRBR-compliant records without losing data or incorrectly converting records. Undoubtedly, some type of automation will be necessary for creating FRBR-ized records, but they will also require a great deal of human intervention to clean up errors, because moving from less clearly-defined data to more clearly-defined data is very difficult to accomplish using only computers.

I saw a presentation at the Cataloging Form & Function Interest Group, which further discussed the issue of FRBR and RDA compliant records from an ILS perspective. John (something, again, I failed to catch his full name, even though I’ve seen him speak before) from VLTS talked about the implementation of RDA in their catalog. They appear to be the company that is most aggressively pursuing a full implementation of RDA, with an underlying relational/object-oriented database structure. Another presentation at this meeting discussed a joint experiment by four libraries involved in the RDA test: North Carolina State, University of Chicago, Columbia, and University of Illinois at Chicago. They experimented with encoding RDA records using formats other than MARC, namely, MODS, EAD and Dublin Core. The results were mixed, finding that EAD worked pretty well overall, but that MODS had too many fields with inferred data to be useful in machine processing, while Dublin Core did not allow for the fine granularity required by RDA.

I was quite interested to hear this discussion of using alternative formats to record RDA data, because I’m currently chair of the ALCTS/LITA MARC Formats Interest Group, and I had to recruit speakers to discuss a topic at Midwinter (and will have to do it again at Annual). The topic I gave my presenters was, “Will RDA Mean the Death of MARC?” People have been saying for years that MARC is inadequate and needs to be replaced, but there has been no serious movement toward adopting a new format, so I wondered if the adoption of RDA might be a big enough event that it might start movement toward a new format. The speakers I invited all thought that MARC should be replaced, but all approached the issue from different directions. Chris Cronin of the University of Chicago, suggested that RDA won’t kill MARC, MARC will kill MARC, by which he meant that the inadequacies of the format will make it untenable in the future. Cronin didn’t know what format would rise up to replace MARC, but he strongly urged that we begin the conversation in the cataloging community. However, the questions of who will finance this shift, and who will do the work loom large. Also, we must be prepared to deal with the fact, that any wholesale move from MARC to another format, will inevitably result in the loss of some data. Jacquie Samples, newly of Duke University, spoke about the need to develop a successor format. In an apt metaphor, she said it was as if MARC were a very old king who had done great things in his youth, but had been lingering on his deathbed for many years, and there was no clear line of succession, and not even a decent contender for the crown available. And Kelley McGrath, of the University of Oregon, spoke of how the more richly detailed data required by RDA will quickly hit up against the structural limitations of the MARC formats, and how, if we wish to take advantage of the possibilities offered by this new, richer data, we will need to find an alternative to MARC. The session was quite well attended and the audience included representatives from the US MARC Office and the Library of Congress. At least one attendee told me afterwards that I had given my speakers a controversial set of questions and that they were brave. So this may either generate some interest in the problem, or make me a pariah in the cataloging community. I guess we’ll see which one at the next meeting.

I’m already running long, but I just want to say quickly that I also managed to have some fun in San Diego. I saw a number of former ZSRers. I roomed with Jim Galbraith, who is now at DePaul University in Chicago, and I had lunch with Jennifer Roper and Emily Stambaugh (with whom I did some impromptu consulting on a data management problem). As Erik posted, the two of us had a brief, but intense conversation about RDA in the halls of the San Diego Convention Center, and I hope we’ll continue that conversation on this side of the continental divide. And, on my last night in San Diego, I went to dinner with Susan, Roz, Carolyn, Molly, and Bill Kane, where Bill announced the ACRL Award to the table with a champagne toast. After that, we went for a reception and tour at Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres play. It was a pleasant way to end my stay in San Diego, even if my travels home were somewhat difficult (I’ll spare you that story).

Lauren P.’s ALA Midwinter, part III: LITA and a bit about Council

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 2:09 pm

My big lesson this ALA: conferences are for lots of things. In the beginning, for me at least, it’s a big mix. Over time, I’ve started attending a more specialized conference. ALAs can be about programs, vendors, meetings with individuals from across the country, committee work, governing work, and networking. For a few years, my ALA had evolved to primarily be about committee work. Now it’s looking like my ALA is evolving to be mostly about governance. And it’s really interesting! I’m going to do a series of posts over on my blog about council, my experience, and my votes if you’re interested in the details. We’re in the final session of Council at the moment. Today’s session is scheduled for about 4.5 hours and I’m blogging in the breaks.

As for LITA, I’ve really scaled back my LITA involvement for last annual and this conference. I’m about to ramp back up, though, as I’ll start doing conferences normally (without the family), but for now I’ve just had a few obligations. I did the panel on the first day, Sunday I participated in LITA’s Web Coordinating Committee, and yesterday I was there for most of the Town Hall Susan described.

To keep your ALA reading to a minimum, I’ll just focus on the Web Coordinating Committee. It’s sortof like the ZSR web committee for LITA. In the past year we’ve broken into two subcommittees: technical and communication. I’m on the communication end of things. We’re looking at how to redesign the site and to consolidate all of our web presences. My role is to head up a small sub group to make recommendations on how to consolidate the web site, wiki, blog, ala connect space, and all the social networks. I also am serving on a small sub group focused on redirecting the blog to be more about information sharing and less about the organization itself.

It’s really interesting to be part of the organization at a time when our web presences have matured to a sprawling organization. It’s something I think every organization will deal with at some point, but bigger ones with more web content generators will first. I also think it was brilliant to conceive of web work as two distinct roles: the technology (servers, upgrades, new tools, etc) and the communication (content generation, information architecture, etc). I look forward to where the web presence will be in a few years.

As it turns out, Council just ended! Here is the big news:

  • Resolution for encouraging job ads to specify if provide domestic partner benefits: passed
  • Resolution from COL on open access to government information: passed
  • Resolution on notifying conference participants about “do not patronize” lists: denied
  • Resolution encouraging congress to reintroduce and vote on the dream act: passed
  • Resolution on the removal and censorship of artwork from Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery: passed
  • Resolutionon Wikileaks and federal agencies: tabled
  • Resolution in Support of Wikileaks: tabled
Now, off to find the family!

Susan’s Final Day of ALA Midwinter 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 2:00 am

This morning I completed my participation in the 2011 ALA Midwinter. Most years, I have headed home on Monday morning since my committee obligations are usually done by Sunday. However, because I am getting more involved with LITA, I needed to attend the LITA Town Hall Meeting. This is a breakfast session for LITA members to have discussions about “about how LITA responds to and involves its membership in the larger information, association, community-building, and technology-related landscape.” Last year LITA finalized its Strategic Plan and specific goals and objectives from this plan were assigned to each of LITA’s committees. At this morning’s meeting, each committee chair reported on their group’s activities and accomplishments as they related to their assigned objectives. It was the first time I’ve really heard specifics about what each committee does (which is very useful to understand). As in other years, some time was spent in breakout discussions to generate suggestions and ideas for future direction of the organization. Each table captured their discussions and the results were given to the leadership group. Learning all of this has become somewhat important as I was asked to chair the 2012 LITA National Forum Planning Committee and accepted. I need to gain a better “big picture” view of the structure and culture of LITA if I want to be successful (which I do!). To that end, following the Town Hall meeting, I met with the LITA President-Elect Colleen Cuddy to start brainstorming about potential committee members for the planning committee. I’ve served on the committee two different years, but it’s much different being a member than being the one responsible to lead the entire endeavor. It felt good to get a bit of a jump start and learn more about the time table for keeping the conference planning on track.

Hotel del Coronado

I finished up by noon, but our flight doesn’t head us home until tomorrow (and I am crossing my fingers that all goes smoothly!). So this afternoon, we took advantage of the weather and the fact that I’m a strong believer in the educational benefit of travel to new places. We hopped a water taxi and headed over to Coronado, which is on the ocean side of San Diego Bay. Once we arrived, we walked over a mile to the ocean side to visit Hotel del Coronado, which was built in 1888. At that time it was the largest resort hotel in the world, and the first to use electricity (Wikipedia). It was the location used in Marilyn Monroe’s movie “Some Like it Hot.” It was a perfect afternoon and a wonderful way to recharge in anticipation of a grueling travel day tomorrow :-)

Molly’s Midwinter

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 12:38 am

My first Midwinter – also my first ALA conference experience – has been quite an adventure! Things kicked off Thursday evening with an unofficial dinner with about 30 of my fellow Emerging Leaders at a Thai restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. I was grateful to have a casual setting in which to make connections, including with two of the other NC ELs and two of my project teammates. In addition to giving me evening plans my first night in a new city (always welcome), I also went into Friday’s day-long EL session more at ease since I knew many names and faces.

Friday’s Emerging Leaders training and planning session was informative and exciting. The EL program is designed to prepare new professionals for future leadership in ALA and its Divisions, and to that end we heard from several ALA “bigwigs” – Leslie Berger (the former president who launched EL), Molly Raphael (President Elect), and Keith Fiels (Executive Director) – about their experiences. All were inspiring and reassuring that the behemoth that is ALA is not impenetrable, and will become more manageable and personal as the 60,000+ cloud of ALA members condenses to friends and colleagues with whom we will have connection for the rest of our careers. They also encouraged us to question the status quo as we become more involved, as it is up to us (all of us!) to make ALA what we want it to be. We also received leadership training from Maureen Sullivan during which she deftly drew upon the ELs’ own experiences to help us identify principles and practices of strong leadership.

Beyond preparing us for future ALA leadership through inspiration and training, the EL program also prepares us for committee work by placing us on projects sponsored by ALA committees, round tables and Divisions. I am working on a project sponsored by the Learning Round Table (LearnRT) examining the feasibility of an ongoing webinar series. During the next six months, my teammates and I will assess current and previous webinar series, draft a report for LearnRT, and design a poster that we will present at Annual in NOLA on Friday, June 24. In a somewhat surprising circumstance, the five of us working on this project are all academic librarians, but the membership of LearnRT seems to lean more public than academic. It will be a good challenge for us to be cognizant of the different perspectives and needs of public librarians as we complete our project.

Following the EL training day, I dropped by the LearnRT Meet & Greet to introduce myself to the chair and members, then headed back to the hotel to catch up with Susan, Roz, Carolyn and Erik for a reunion dinner at yet another Thai restaurant in the Gaslamp. After dinner and a stop by Heavenly Cupcakes, where we bumped into Lauren C., I headed to the EL reception held in the President Elect’s suite at the headquarters hotel. If Molly Raphael’s suite is any indication, being ALA President definitely has its perks when it comes to conference housing! The EL reception was great fun, as I had the chance to meet more ELs as well as Past President Camila Alire, but my class of ELs might have taken the boundary-pushing encouragement too far, as we were so loud security threatened to shut us down. Talk about busting the quiet librarian stereotype!

Saturday and Sunday were overwhelmingly devoted to attending various scholarly communication-related sessions, including the ALCTS Scholarly Communication Discussion Group, the SPARC-ACRL Forum, the ACRL Scholarly Communications Committee Meeting, and the ACRL Scholarly Communications Discussion Group. All were quite informative, reassuring me that we are on the right track at WFU, and I happily reconnected with several of my fellow ACRL Scholarly Communication 101 Road Show faculty, whom I have not seen in person since the last ACRL conference in March 2009. I also attended the Washington Office’s Saturday morning panel on ebooks, where an over-full room had lots of difficult, detailed questions for the three experts: Brewster Kahle, Sue Polanka, and Tom Peters. I bumped into Steve on Sunday afternoon, and we went to hear the conversation between Nancy Pearl and Neil Gaiman, which was wonderful. Dinner both nights was spent in the company of various ZSR colleagues, with the welcome inclusion of Bill Kane (ZSR colleague by extension) Sunday evening.

For my final Midwinter day, I attended a book talk breakfast to which I’d received an invitation through the EL program, and took an extended tour of the vendor floor. I also attended three other vendor meals throughout the weekend, where I heard great speakers and met friendly librarians, including a former colleague of Carolyn and Erik’s from Pfeiffer and another who used to live in Winston-Salem where she worked as a school media specialist.

Of all my experiences, the most impacting was the frequency with which I bumped into people I knew. Be they ZSR colleagues (Wanda and Lauren P., sorry I never saw you!), fellow ELs, Road Show faculty, or librarians I met throughout Midwinter, I repeatedly spotted known faces, underscoring the point made at Friday’s EL session that although large, ALA truly can be personal. And the personal is professionally very satisfying and reassuring to me as I launch farther into ALA involvement!

Data and Discovery: Roz at Midwinter

Monday, January 10, 2011 12:54 pm

So last Midwinter I wrote my post on the them of eBooks as that was the dominant thread that ran through my sessions. This year I thought I’d do another ‘theme’ issue rather than a regurgitation of the sessions I have attended. This year, for me at least, the theme has been data and discovery. Beginning with Carol Tenopir’s presentation and followed by presentations by Serials Solutions and EBSCO and then into the Top Tech Trends and other sessions, more people are talking about data. The conversation involves several issues.

First, the data we collect in our libraries and how that data could be leveraged to improve our services, promote ourselves and help people visualize our value. I had already been thinking about this value issue from the assessment angle after the ACRL paper on the value of academic libraries came out. There is a tension in libraries between protecting the privacy of our users and realizing that data mining has helped commercial vendors create and improve their services. So, for example, the highlights in a Kindle book are viewable to others who also have that book – so if we can determine the parts that readers find important, or even how far in a reader reads, what could that tell us about an author or publisher, etc. If we tracked trends in the books that were checked out from year to year might we be able to see what areas are growing in terms of book circulation, etc. If, for example, we knew that every book we had on cyber war was checked out every year for the past three than we could perhaps see that we need more books in that area. But that requires keeping more and deeper circulation data AND having people on staff who can mine that data.

Which brings me to the next data point (pun intended) which is that as we create and purchase more data, we need to create new positions in libraries. One is the data librarian (which many large libraries already have) who can help patrons navigate the datasets, research data and statistical sources that we are increasingly adding to our collections. That is one kind of data position. The other is someone who can mine and interpret the data that we have in libraries that help us to improve our services. Web site usage, circulation stats, and other data that goes far deeper than the more superficial statistics most libraries now keep and that our accreditation agencies and ACRL demand. Is ‘presentations to groups,’ my personal pet peeve in the statistical world, really indicative of how good our services are?? I don’t think so. But more qualitative data or more data-mining types of information might actually help us demonstrate long term value to our institution.

A third data point that has been circulating is how to ‘curate’ the data that is produced on our campus by our patrons. This is not my area of expertise but it is an interesting issue going forward as we think toward cloud storage, institutional repositories and the like.

SO then there is the ubiquitous ‘metadata’ discussions and that brings me to my second theme which is discovery. The abundance of information that confronts our faculty and students as they research is something we have long seen as an issue. It is not particularly efficient to have to go to multiple interfaces, using different search strategies just to get what you need. This is why Google is so popular. People feel like they are searching everything at once. Search ‘William Shakespeare’ in Google and you get pictures, videos, books, fan pages, everything. What is missing, of course, is the filtering for quality that we know library sources provide. So the search has been on for a while for that application that that ‘Googleize’ library content. Federated searching was the first attempt to do this – but it was slow and relied on connectors going out to various sources and searching AFTER you typed in your terms. The results were lowest common denominator searches and lots of time-out errors. The current set of these sources are being called ‘discovery services.’ Serials Solutions (owned by ProQuest) has one called Summon and EBSCO’s is called Ebsco Discovery Service. Of course the big drawback is that Summon doesn’t search your EBSCO content and EDS doesn’t search ProQuest content. That is a BIG drawback (so is the cost), but the demos I saw of both of these gives me hope that we may be nearing a new age in discovery where the searches are comprehensive, lightening fast and wickedly useful. The ruminations I have been doing on Carol Tenopir’s presentation about how we market ourselves in the faculty’s search process as time-savers has really stuck with me. If in seconds you can search our catalog, databases, journal subscriptions, Institutional repository, etc. and get back results that you can then use clear facets to make more relevant then we do our students and faculty a huge service. But it comes at a cost and there are no open source competitors on the horizon because the technology is based on having the metadata pre-indexed and that would require the big vendors to give you their metadata.

OK – that’s enough for now and it frankly pales in comparison to the news about our library award but I wanted to get it written before going off for usability testing for ERIC and a last run through the exhibits. Keep your fingers crossed for us getting home tomorrow and stay safe and warm!!

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