Professional Development

During February 2013...

ALA TechSource webinar on eBooks in Libraries, 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013 2:42 pm

On February 14th and 21st I attended a two-part webinar on e-books in libraries. The webinar was sponsored by ALA TechSource, and was presented by Sue Polanka, author of the blog No Shelf Required and of two books by the same name.

Part 1 of the webinar was primarily about different types of e-books and different purchase models. Part 2 was about e-reader lending programs, and was mainly targeted toward public libraries. As you might guess, both parts covered ground that we’ve already pretty well covered at ZSR. But I was able to pick up a few tidbits of knowledge that I’ll share here.

Polanka cited a Library Journal survey that found that about 92% of academic libraries provide some sort of access to e-books. I think that was intended to show the growth and prevalence of e-books, but it made me wonder about the remaining 8% (schools to avoid, perhaps?).

She talked about the advantages and disadvantages of buying e-books (1) directly from publishers, (2) from aggregators [think EBL or ebrary], and (3) from wholesalers [e.g. YBP], as well as hosting your own e-books locally (requires enormous IT and infrastructure resources). Polanka also brought up self-publishing, in which individual authors use a proprietary software service to publish their own books, and wondered aloud: How do we discover, review, purchase, and access these e-books?

My favorite insight from part 1 was Polanka’s Rule #1 of buying e-books: “You are not just buying content, you’re buying content inside a container.” In other words, collection decisions must also take the user experience into account. The container might include DRM, specific software or interface, or a specific vendor relationship. The content you want to purchase will often determine the business model, vendor, or license.

Part 2 of the webinar was about lending e-readers, and seem to be mainly aimed at public libraries-types of devices, how to set up a lending program, etc. [*yawn* been there, done that]

One caution Polanka discussed was new to me. She cautioned against lending out e-readers that are not “fully accessible.” This means that a blind individual must be able to access the same content as the sighted, with reasonable ease of use. Polanka described a presentation she attended in which a blind audience member demonstrated with a Nook. The audience member was able to push the power button, but that was all; she didn’t even have a way to tell if the device had actually powered on. According to Polanka, Apple devices (iPad, iPhone, etc.) are fully accessible, as is the Kindle 3; the Kindle Fire, Kindle DX, Nook, and Sony e-readers (among others) are not. (I found it ironic, however, that throughout the presentation, Polanka continued to use the Kindle and Nook among her examples of lending programs.) She also gave three examples of libraries that have been sued (and lost) over this. Yipe!

Carol at ASERL Journal Retention Meeting

Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:29 pm

On February 13, I arose ere the dawn to attend the ASERL Journal Retention Steering Committee meeting on the Georgia Tech campus. I don’t normally drink coffee, but I downed two cups once I arrived. (OK, really two cups of coffee-flavored sugared cream.) The opening session reviewed the project ( ) and introduced the WRLC (Washington [i.e., DC] Research Library Consortium) print retention project. Each library representative mentioned what they’re retaining for the group. For WFU, that’s mostly the Wiley-Blackwell journals. Most other libraries are following a subject-based approach or are archiving JSTOR. You can find our commitments by searching for ‘ASERL’ in VuFind.

Cheryle Cole-Bennett covered “How to Document this Retention Agreement within the MARC 583 field.” ZSR currently uses a prescribed basic 583a statement that “This title is in the ASERL Print Journal Archive.” In VuFind and Classic, this note appears only in the staff view (good, since only staff care). However, this data does not feed into the master OCLC record, where an audience of librarians across the country may care to read this data. Also, the minimal data in the 583 does not specify which years of the journal are committed for retention, how long ZSR has committed to retain it, or the conditions of retention (e.g. in a closed-stack facility). For instance, in the case of Psychological Reports, ZSR has newer volumes that aren’t part of the commitment yet. OCLC and ASERL have developed some complicated recommendations for expanding the data in the 583 field, as well as a recommendation to include holdings-level data in OCLC for these titles. (At this point, the presentation got technical, and I hope the catalogers can make sense of the PPT slides.) Questions from the audience included: Can you enhance the 583 by batch? How can you communicate that a title is part of two or more retention plans (e.g. ASERL & TRLN)? Can you have multiple 583 fields or repeated subfields within 583? Apparently, the enhanced 583 does not completely erase the problems when only part of the run is officially retained. ASERL has not yet officially decided what members of the group should do with their 583s, so no action is required yet.

Next, we discussed adding subject categories to the retained journals. Apparently the Deans want this (that so, Lynn?). The group agreed to use Ulrich’s to assign subjects, with subscribers pitching in to provide the headings for the non-Ulrich’s-subscribers (like WFU). I noted that they didn’t specifically assign a library to cover our titles, which might lead to a ‘diffusion of responsibility’ effect. Maybe the deans that care about this the most will step forward with the labor to cover this effort.

Next, Winston Harris from UF demonstrated the Journal Retention and Needs Listing (JRNL) tool that they developed for the group. It answers two questions:

  1. What’s in ASERL?
  2. If I’m weeding, can I fill in a gap for someone else who’s retaining this title?

During lunch, the branding subcommittee (that’s me and Steve Knowlton from U. Memphis) took feedback from the group on potential guidelines for a catchy name. (What?!? “ASERL Cooperative Journal Retention” isn’t snappy enough for you??) I took down some notes, but I don’t want to reveal too much too soon….

Amy Wood from CRL demonstrated the PAPR (Print Archives Preservation Registry) system, which tries to track nationally where journals are being retained. One use case: Say you’re weeding, but you want to make sure someone’s retaining the title. Maybe you’re not comfortable unless several institutions are retaining the title. WorldCat can give you a raw holdings count, but not who’s committed to permanent retention. PAPR fills that need.

Finally, we discussed targeted retention. First, they discussed agriculture titles (Zzzz). Next, they discussed retention of certain big sets. I hoped to turn the discussion to humongous physics runs, but the group was more intent on retaining paper indexes that WFU has long since weeded (like Chem Abstracts and NUC). Most surprising to me was the claim that the pre-1956 NUC is a high-use item. Ah, the world of an ARL….

The meeting ended early, so I took MARTA to the airport, where I played out a round of “Grande Tea vs. Dramamine.” I think the tea won, since I stayed awake all the way home.

Carolyn at ALA Midwinter 2013 in Seattle

Monday, February 18, 2013 9:29 pm

Eight days prior to flying out to ALA Midwinter with my coworkers, I sat in a medical examination room being told by a doctor that I did indeed had the flu as well as now having pneumonia based on my chest x-ray. When asked about traveling to Seattle, her response was as long as you feel up to it there’s no reason why you can’t go. A week later feeling somewhat better, I was on the plane and my nightmarish trip to Seattle is one I won’t soon forget!

Boarding plane in GSO at 6 am Friday, Jan. 25…sitting on a grounded plane in GSO for close to an hour due to a wiring issue…running through the Atlanta airport to catch a connecting flight….missing my connecting flight to Seattle…coughing fits…being put on standby multiple times and waiting for my name to be called along with Mary Beth’s…more coughing…finally leaving ATL around 6 pm. I am very grateful to have had Mary Beth with me. She was a wonderful traveling companion and stayed with me even though she had an opportunity to get a seat on a 2:30 pm standby, and she also scored us some dinner vouchers as well. We finally got to our destination around 8:30 pm, and I was exhausted.

On Saturday, I attended the ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee of which I am co-chair. The committee developed a list of cataloging questions and topics to be answered in the upcoming months. Questions and topics include: treatment of sexual minorities, alternative genders, and queer studies in subject headings; implementation of RDA bibliographic records; what is FRAD and FRSAD; subject headings of the form “Psychology & …”; ethnomusicology. In the afternoon, I attended the Catalog Management Interest Group where panelists discussed gaining control of e-resources cataloging and using Google Refine for clean-up and reuse of one’s cataloging data when working on special cataloging projects. During the MARC Formats Transition Interest Group, OCLC’s Roy Tennant spoke on the problems with MARC’s 856 field (Electronic Location/Access). Does the URL in the 856 actually lead a user to the full text of an item? Public notes and materials specified are included subfields z and 3 respectively, but there are multiple of ways to indicate something is full text. Users need a clear understanding if something is full text and if it is accessible to all (i.e. access vs. gated access).

Sunday morning, I heard Dr. Temple Grandin speak at the Alexander Street Press breakfast. After seeing actress Claire Danes portray her in a movie, I was excited to hear her speak. She is an amazing individual. Following breakfast, I attended a discussion group on digital humanities (DH). Recently, I have been hearing this phrase used often, and I wanted to learn more about it. We broke into small groups to discuss what our individual institutions are doing. Some of the issues brought up in my group included:

  • support provided to faculty and how much support–how much should be invested in a professor’s research interest when there is the chance he/she may retire or move on
  • is there a faculty need or is it administrative posturing
  • what alliances are there on campus
  • more staff are needed to handle DH if there is a huge interest from faculty
  • retraining for librarians due to a lack of specific skills in this area; skills may not be applicable or transferable from one project to another–There was a current library school student in my group who said there were no DH classes in her school’s curriculum. However, she was taking classes in XML, linked data, relational database, metadata design.
  • space vs. service
  • what is DH’s definition–no real consensus on this
  • various models–who is doing the actual work

Monday morning I attended the Publisher/Vendor/Library Relations Interest Group Forum where a group of panelists discussed enhanced e-books. Enhanced e-books have additional content that comes bundled with the e-book (e.g. videos, slide shows, skills assessments). These add-ons can be delivered separately or integrated into core texts.

Despite all the coughing and feeling tired more quickly than usual, I did have a nice time in Seattle, but I was very glad to get back home to NC and grateful that the flight home was uneventful and trouble free.

Wanda at Midwinter 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 4:34 pm

Battling a viral infection for most of 2013, there were many times near the time for my flight to Seattle that I thought most seriously about not making the trip. I had a couple of commitments, one to a new LLAMA Leadership Committee for which I just got appointed a few months ago and the other was an appointment as BCALA Membership Task Force Chair. Both of these I had promised to attend and had assignments in each. So wanting more to uphold my word, I plunged away warning my roommate that spending 5 nights together might be more than anyone would willingly signup for.

Friday morning was spent attending the BCALA Executive Board meeting. One of the ups or downs depending upon how you view it is revisiting strategic priorities. Results were shared with the larger group of a SWOT analysis that was conducted by the board during its new member retreat on Thursday night. Listed among our strengths were; networking, promoting African American literature, and sustaining our legacy and organization. Weaknesses seem to mirror some of the same ones identified in almost every strategic review done during my 20+ years as a member. And yes believe it or not we had the discussion of image and what we call ourselves. Black librarians or African American or perhaps something entirely new, doesn’t really matter to me. Ultimately whatever the term we choose to identify with, we need to avails ourselves of the opportunity to be an advocate for librarians of color, promoter for authors of color and their works, to be mentors for and providers of networking opportunities for librarians new to the profession and to be providers of a venue, our listserv, instrumental to libraries looking to increase the diversity within its staffing. These all confirm our need to exist. And if we can manage effectively those things that may be threats to our success; communication, technology, image and structure, then we can remain a necessary and welcomed organization within our profession. The Membership Task Force, of which I serve as Chair, has been charged to conduct a survey of our membership this spring. Our committee met and did a rough draft of the survey we plan to conduct.
Saturday’s ACRL Personnel Administrators groups gathering centered on several topics of personal interest to me. A discussion of social media policies concerning recruitment proved as varied as one would imagine. Some believe that it minimizes the likelihood that the person could be judged fairly. Others believe it sheds an open door to more about an individual than they would willingly share in an onsite interview. If all people were fair and impartial, it could potentially play an integral role. The fact that my blue haired facebook photo would likely cause a few of the librarians I know in our profession to remove my application from the pool, however is a reality and does concern me. The group also explored electronic system options for sharing dossiers in the peer review process. This topic really got me thinking and I am eager to pursue options for our use here at ZSR.
I am a member of the Library Leadership & Management Association (LLAMA) Leadership Skills Committee. We met to continue conversations regarding the program proposal we submitted for annual on “Project Management for Libraries.” We also brainstormed ideas for future program topics planning. Some of the topics to make the short list were, work life balance and new hire orientation. Only one topic was proposed as a please don’t talk about anymore and that was succession planning for libraries. So, I wasn’t sure what led to that plea, but it came across loud and clear.
ARL unveiled a searchable database of position description designed to house a libraries position descriptions, but those of their neighboring ARL academic institutions as well. With limit functions, you can do a variety of internal only searches as well as searching for similar titles across the spectrum. I thought it would be an excellent tool, especially when we look to write advertisements for our own vacancies. The database is free to all ARL libraries, however currently it is not open to non-ARL, leaving us out of the loop. For more info look here:
Mindful Leadership through Tough Times, a panel discussion also sponsored by LLAMA, was also a hit for the standing room only crowd. Mindful leadership was described as a connection between the brain and leadership. Mindful leaders are thoughtful and attentive, nurturing those in their care towards their goals. A Mindful leader manages emotions while building a sense of community. The Mindful leader is self-aware and therefore your followers are likely to see you as empathic and most authentic. Your authenticity generates trust and your team wants to follow you. As the discussion came to a close, the following recommendations were offered:
• Talk to your peers, share ideas and share stories.
• Talk to your staff about what really matters.
• Share tools with your staff that help them reflect and think.
• Remind yourself that in times of change, lie great opportunities.
• Keep the mission and vision alive.
• Walk the walk.
• Take time to nurture creativity.
• Create a positive environment, where experimentation is welcomed.
• Allow yourself time to pause and reflect.
• If you don’t look around and ahead, who will?
• LISTEN and consciously practice being in the moment, being mentally present.
• Mind full or Mindful, your choice.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013 3:39 pm

This slipped past me, but way back in December, I attended the CNI fall meeting in Washington, DC. Knowing that it never works to fly on a December morning to make an afternoon meeting, I cleverly took the train the day before, only to endure five and a half hours of delay as Amtrak worked to resolve engine problems. But I did get there for the kickoff, when half the attendees did not (fog socked in the whole eastern seaboard).

The opening keynote went straight to a subject that was repeated throughout the conference: MOOCs (see Lynn’s post that covered other MOOC sessions). Lynch addressed a number of issues with MOOCs that I haven’t heard about elsewhere:

  • A lot of schools are setting up MOOCs without a clear definition of success for the program
  • MOOCs will generate a lot of student data, and it is not clear who owns it and what rights they have to use it, and what access students will have to their own records. It may be very valuable content for data mining.
  • MOOCs have the potential to cause a lot of disruption in some doctoral programs, because we fund a lot of those doctoral students by having them teach the sorts of classes that are becoming candidates for MOOCs. Humanities doctorates in particular may be affected.
  • Our ability to teach 100,000 students at a time is probably outpacing our ability to grade their work

Other points: many schools are including alumni in library licensing agreements. We want to do that here, but we have to wait for some campus-wide systems to come online that will let us identify alumni accounts.

Encouraging court judgments in favor of fair use and rights of users to access copyrighted material is counterbalanced by electronic licensing terms that increasingly give publishers more than their traditional first-sale rights. As Lynch put it, “Will your children be able to inherit your e-books?”

Cliff’s opening keynote can be seen at

Two other sessions I’ll comment on: in “Debunking Myths and Establishing Guidelines for the ETD Lifecycle,” four speakers addressed issues in long term curation and preservation of electronic theses and dissertations. Of particular interest was Gail McMillan of Virginia Tech, who presented “Do Open Access ETDs Effect Publishing Opportunities in the Sciences? Findings from the 2012 Survey of Academic Journal Editors“. This follows a similar survey of editors in the humanities and social sciences in 2011. This presentation gives substantive support to the argument that publishing an open access ETD does not greatly affect an author’s ability to get books or articles based on the ETD published. The slides are well worth a look.

Because of our investment in cloud technologies, I was particularly interested in “The Truth is Out There: Preservation and the Cloud.” David Rosenthal, Chief Scientist of the LOCKSS program, basically asked the question, “Can you afford to digitally preserve content for 100 years on the Amazon cloud?” And ultimately answered it, “No.” For long-term storage, you can rent space (think of a journal subscription that you have to commit to for 100 years); subsidized with ads (like Google Mail, but generally a non-starter in academic environments), or endowed, with an up-front payment considered to be enough to store the content “forever”. Because the cost of hard drive storage has been dropping by half every two years for several decades, preservation endowments have gained some traction.

But Rosenthal sees two problems: first, the cost of hard drive storage will level out. Disk prices will continue to decline, but not so quickly. Second, while commercial cloud vendors periodically drop their prices, they don’t do so as fast as drive prices go down and customers increasingly fund their profit margin. This makes the monthly payments to Amazon (and its successors) over the next century increasingly hard to support.

Rosenthal’s proposed alternative is low-cost local storage, specifically building storage “pods” from designs published by online backup company Backblaze. They provide plans for constructing units capable of storing 135TB, expected to last for four years, that cost about what Amazon would charge for one month’s rent on 135TB of space. There’s obviously a lot more to factor in, but in the end it’s a compelling case. Long term storage won’t make economic sense in the commercial cloud.

TPD @ ALA MW 13 in SEA

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 2:01 pm

By funny coincidence, since I’ve been at ZSR I have attended meetings in my previous home town (LITA Forum in Columbus) and the home town before that (Midwinter in Seattle). ALA Annual in Chicago this summer will make the trifecta. Do let me know if there are good meetings coming up in Ann Arbor or Madison.

At 47°37′ N lattitude, Seattle is farther north than Duluth, Minnesota: in January, if there’s any sunlight at all, it’s noticeable from about 8:30am to 4:30pm. But there usually isn’t any sunlight: clouds, rain, highs in the mid 40s, lows in the low 40s. Typical January in Seattle. They take seasonal affective disorder seriously there.

Highlights (unless you really want to know about the LITA publication committee, LITA’s committee of committee chairs, and the ALA committee of publication committee chairs… Oh, except that one of the newest LITA Guides to hit the stands is Cloud-Based Services for Your Library: A LITA Guide by Erik Mitchell, coming soon to library stacks near you.)

Big Data For Big Brother

If I’m a little slow writing up my Midwinter experience, it’s because I’ve been cowering in paranoid fear in my office since the first meeting I attended, OCLC’s member meeting – okay, not a harrowing experience – and keynote by Alistair Croll on “The implications and opportunities of Big Data.” The session benignly defined Big Data as datasets that are too large for traditional hardware and software tools to analyze. The term plays off the growth of Big Science: $10 billion to build a Large Hadron Collider, and then eleventy bajillion teraflops to analyze its output. Croll defines Big Data as the problem of analyzing data with a lot of Volume (a ton of data), Variety (many kinds of data), and Velocity (torrents of data).

Big Data has potential for good: medical data – including Google searches for symptoms – can predict disease outbreaks. Analyzing which farmers in developing countries benefit most from microloans helps target future loans where they will do the most good. Analyzing traffic data allows taxi services to have cars ready where people will want them. Likewise, when we’re driving, every one of our GPS-enabled phones or tablets contributes to real-time maps of traffic data so we can route around delays.

The darker side of Big Data becomes apparent when you realize the biggest dataset out there is our own increasingly trackable behavior both on- and offline. I won’t rehash too many of Croll’s points (I strongly recommend you watch it when you have some free time – link below), but some of the highlights:

  • Big Data gets used a lot to say “People in Group A tend to like Topic B and products like Item C, so we’ll put ads for C on pages about B.” We smile knowingly when Group A is Librarians, or people with Zip codes beginning 271xx. (Mac users may remember that Orbitz shows them ads for more expensive hotels than Windows users, the assumed connection being that if you have a Mac you’re either more affluent than most Windows users or more willing to shell out for a quality experience.) Things can get ethically and legally tricky when that group is defined by things like gender or race, and the product is, for example, low rate mortages.
  • There is so much data out there that we usually do not have the tools (or access to the data) to evaluate it, and we often accept that all competing explanations for something are equally well supported.
  • And humans aren’t very good at evaluating data anyway. We keep demonstrating that we will believe what seems right even when it’s demonstrably wrong. (Several long examples that can be summed up here and here.)

Croll concluded with the idea of Good Data: to Volume, Variety, and Velocity, he adds Veracity and Value: data that is true (and that can be checked), and data that has a useful context. A telling line from the conclusion: “Google can find more articles than any librarian, but any librarian can find better articles than Google.” There is a continuing need for human insight that can apply all of the data as something more than an algorithm.

Watch the presentation here:

Other meetings of note: I nearly missed LITA Happy Hour because I actually sat down with a colleague and discussed a reasearch project for a couple of hours. It’s the sort of thing that makes it worthwhile to schlep cross country and attend a conference in person. I heard both a former Ohio colleague and a current WFU colleague (Roz) present on the experience of bringing Summon up at their libraries (we were a lot more laid back about it). And at the LITA Town Meeting, a few of us graybeards determined that the key to LITA’s future is piratically taking over RUSA, ALCTS, and LLAMA – because, hey, where would they be without technology? – and creating a unified Library Services Division (LSD). Having come up with the idea, we leave it to the youngsters to make it actually happen.

Then, with nothing to do until the 11pm red-eye home, I spent the afternoon in the Seattle Public Library:

Seattle Public Library, top floor reading room

Kyle at ALAMW13

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:36 pm

Some weeks ago–never mind how long precisely–having few or no committee appointments, and nothing particular to obligate me professionally, I thought I would fly about a little to see the librarian-y side of the world.

This was my first time to Seattle and my *very first* ALA conference experience, so I had no idea what to expect. I’d made my schedule early, double-, triple-, and even quintuple-booking myself for many time slots, certain that I’d get to see everything I wanted to see, connect with every committee I’d ever dreamed of connecting with, introduce myself to all of my personal library heroes, and come out of it refreshed, inspired, and ready to take on the world.

And then I caught a cold. (Although, thankfully, Delta didn’t charge me extra for it.)

So what follows is my account of ALAMW13, which is bound to be influenced by our sponsors: Dayquil, Kleenex, and Zicam. Turn on your bias checkers.

My primary interests are getting involved with LITA and the Distance Learning Section of ACRL. I was happy that everyone seemed OK with me crashing their committee meetings, and no one seemed to be creeped out when I told them that I’d been following them online since I was but a wee student assistant. I sat in on the LITA instructional technologies committee meeting, where we talked about, among other things, the various ways we’re supporting both distance and traditional learners. Here I heard from some librarians at the University of Arizona what they’re doing with their open-source Guide on the Side project, which looks like an amazing way to produce authentic, interactive, tool-specific tutorials that work with the actual, live, tools, not screenshots or video screencasts that become outdated. (The GOTS project was recently recognized for being awesome, and rightly so.) We also talked about the concept of digital badges and gamification in library instruction, a chorus that seemed to echo in various discussions I had throughout the conference. Essentially, digital badges are a way of keeping track of a student’s competency in various domains or skills, just like merit badges kept track of a boy scout’s mastery of things like “fire building” and “orienteering.” A digital badge system used in a library instruction context might keep track of a student’s mastery of information literacy competencies, and they could earn badges like “website evaluation,” “reference management,” etc. This model of skills tracking would help libraries embed IL learning outcomes across the curriculum.

The DLS instruction committee is working on–and I volunteered to help with–creating a “toolkit” of instructional technologies for others to use when selecting a tool that will meet their individual needs. I haven’t seen many notes on the project yet, but it sounds like we’re going to test drive a bunch of technologies and put them into a searchable database or wiki, describing what it is each tool does, how easy they are to implement and use, where they fall on the free-and-open/expensive-and-closed spectrum, etc. It sounds like it will be really useful for folks who might not have a lot of time to figure out which technology will work for them. Other discussions with DLS folks revealed that many are struggling with similar things as we are here: streaming video is one big thing many are currently trying to get a handle on, as well as embedding things like course reserves and library chat in the LMS.

I don’t know if you want to call this a theme (maybe a motif?), but I heard two speakers specifically discuss the miasma theory, both in the context of challenging the faulty ideas that are entrenched in a culture. Steven Bell and authorSteven Johnson (who’s a dead-ringer for Matthew Crawley, don’t you think?) each related the story of 18th and 19th century medicine to the modern story of higher education and libraries. Bell challenged the notion that higher education will exist forever (or even for another five years) in its current form, and that a failure to innovate and retool ourselves for the new higher ed paradigms will secure libraries’ spot in the dustbin of history. Johnson told the story of 19th century physicians disproving the miasma theory as an example what he calls a “slow hunch,” that, rather than arriving fully-formed in a “eureka moment,” some ideas take time, data, persistence, and cooperation to formulate. Libraries, he says, are wonderful cultivators of slow hunches. Very interesting ideas, all, and they got me thinking: is there a “miasma theory” here on campus? Are there any faulty ideas about the nature of how education is done at Wake Forest that might be potentially destructive, and, if so, what part can the library play in cultivating the slow hunch to clear out those faulty ideas?

Molly at ALA Midwinter

Friday, February 8, 2013 2:43 pm

My 2013 Midwinter conference happenings started earlier than they did for most of our ZSR colleagues, as the presenter group for the ACRL Scholarly Communication Roadshows gathered for a planning retreat Friday afternoon. We started these retreats at ALA Annual in NOLA in 2011, and they’ve become a valuable time for us to assess our program and identify new areas of growth. In 2012, we overhauled the original program to better address changes in scholcomm, and to take the program from a half-day to full-day workshop. After 6 iterations of the new program last year, we realized that further restructuring was warranted, and this year we are organizing our workshop around four new themes: Emerging Opportunities, Access, Intellectual Property, and Engagement. We also welcomed two new presenters to our group, one of whom was able to join us in Seattle, giving us new perspective and energy!

Saturday was chock full of scholcomm sessions, and I’m still digesting my pages and pages of notes. I fueled up for my busy day at the ProQuest Serials Solutions breakfast, along with several ZSR colleagues, where incoming ACRL president Steven Bell spoke on the “unbundled, unbooted, disrupted” higher ed environment. Although his ideas were not new to me (I follow his LJ blog), Steven is a compelling speaker and is always worth hearing. First session after breakfast was the ALA Washington Office Update breakout session, where a panel of librarians spoke on the Kirtsaeng v. Wiley case before the Supreme Court. This case hinges upon the first sale doctrine, and whether lawfully obtained, foreign-made works are subject to the right of first sale, which is what allows us to buy and lend, resell, gift, destroy, etc. objects such as books, DVDs, CDs, clothes, furniture, cars, phones, computers, and on and on and on, both as libraries and individuals. Libraries are understandably nervous about the outcome of the case: if the lower courts’ rulings are upheld at the strictest interpretation, no book (or anything else we own) that was published and purchased internationally without a US distributor, or possibly even merely manufactured overseas, could be lent from our collections. But this also means that garage sales, consignment stores, eBay, Etsy, Redbox, used car lots, used book stores, and a host of other businesses would be severely impacted (at the Supreme Court hearings, this was called the “parade of horribles”). Because of the far-reaching implications of the strictest interpretation of first sale, which would apply to goods manufactured only in the US, the consensus is that neither Kirtsaeng nor Wiley will get an outright “win,” with it likely that legislative action might be needed to clarify the first sale doctrine in light of the ruling. Again, I didn’t hear anything new here, but it was sobering nonetheless. Fortunately, the rest of my Saturday was much more positive, as I heard updates on SCOAP3 at the ALCTS Scholarly Communications Discussion Group, and learned about new developments in alt-metrics – the phrase used to describe multiple attempts to liberate faculty from the clutches of the “sainted” Impact Factor using article-level and social impact measurements – at the 10th annual SPARC/ACRL Forum.

Sunday found me in the Westin Hotel all day, barring quick lunch and doughnut breaks! My morning kicked off early with a 3+ hour meeting of the ACRL Research & Scholarly Environment Committee (known as ReSEC; formerly the Scholarly Communications Committee). We heard updates from the field, discussed ACRL projects/events we support, and brainstormed how we might serve as a nexus to connect the different groups – committees, subcommittees, discussion groups, interest groups – working throughout ALA and its divisions on scholcomm issues. I feel good about my participation on this committee, and hope to be reappointed for another two year term. Sunday afternoon I branched out a bit into scholcomm-related group meetings: the ACRL Digital Curation Interest Group and the Digital Humanities Discussion Group. My reasons for attending these two were three-fold: 1) to enhance my knowledge of these issues; 2) to gain perspective on how these issues might be tackled by the Digital Initiatives Librarian we will be hiring, with whom I’ll be working closely; and, 3) to identify groups that ReSEC might want to connect with. I didn’t learn quite as much as I’d hoped, but made a few connections with folks and jotted down some projects happening at other libraries that sound intriguing. I also attended the ACRL Scholarly Communications Discussion Group, which continued the conversation from the Forum about alt-metrics.

I caught a break Monday morning when my ACRL 2013 conference planning committee meeting was canceled, so I made one more pass through the vendor floor to talk to a couple of publisher reps (McGraw-Hill being the main target), and pick up a few (ahem) last books. Because I thought I had committee obligations through Monday, I didn’t leave until early Tuesday morning, which was lucky, as I was able to travel home with several ZSR colleagues; it’s nice to have friends to pass airport hours with! My Midwinter was a worthwhile conference, with good information, good meetings, and good networking all around.

Steve at ALA Midwinter 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013 2:10 pm

Although my trip to Seattle for the ALA Midwinter Conference had a rough start (flight delayed due to weather, nearly missed a connecting flight, my luggage didn’t arrive until a day later), I had a really good, productive experience. This Midwinter was heavy on committee work for me, and I was very focused on RDA, authority control and linked data. If you want a simple takeaway from this post, it’s that RDA, authority control and linked data are all tightly bound together and are important for the future of the catalog. If you want more detail, keep reading.
My biggest commitment at the conference was participating in two long meetings (over four hours on Saturday afternoon and three hours on Monday morning) of CC:DA (Cataloging Committee: Description and Access). I’m one of nine voting members of CC:DA, which is the committee responsible for developing ALA’s position on RDA. The final authority for making changes and additions to RDA is the JSC (Joint Steering Committee), which has representation from a number of cataloging constituencies, including ALA, the national library organizations of Canada, the UK, and Australia, as well as other organizations. ALA’s position on proposals brought to the JSC is voted on by CC:DA. Membership on this committee involves reading and evaluating a large number of proposals from a range of library constituencies. Much of the work of the committee has so far involved reviewing proposals regarding how to form headings in bibliographic records, which is, essentially, authority control work. We’ve also worked on proposals to make the rules consistent throughout RDA, to clarify the wording of rules, and to make sure that the rules fit with the basic principles of RDA. It has been fascinating to see how interconnected the various cataloging communities are, and how they relate to ALA and CC:DA. As I said, I am one of nine voting members of the committee, but there are about two dozen non-voting representatives from a variety of committees and organizations, including the Music Library Association, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, and the Continuing Resources Cataloging Committee of ALCTS.
During our Monday meeting, we saw a presentation by Deborah Fritz of the company MARC of Quality of a visualization tool called RIMMF, RDA In Many Metadata Formats. RIMMF shows how bibliographic data might be displayed when RDA is fully implemented. The tool is designed to take RDA data out of MARC, because it is hard to think of how data might relate in RDA without the restrictions of MARC. RIMMF shows how the FRBR concepts of work, expression and manifestation (which are part of RDA) might be displayed by a public catalog interface. It’s still somewhat crude, but it gave me a clearer idea of the kinds of displays we might develop, as well as a better grasp on the eventual benefits to the user that will come from all our hard work of converting the cataloging world to RDA. RIMMF is free to download and we’re planning to play around with it some here in Resource Services.
I also attended my first meeting of another committee of which I am a member, the Continuing Resources Cataloging Committee of the Continuing Resources Section of ALCTS). Continuing resources include serials and web pages, so CRS is the successor to the old Serials Section. We discussed the program that we had arranged for that afternoon on the possibilities of using linked data to record serial holdings. Unfortunately, I had to miss the program due to another meeting, but I’m looking forward to seeing the recording. We also brainstormed ideas for our program at Annual in Chicago, and the committee’s representative to the PCC Standing Committee on Training gave us an update on RDA training initiatives.
The most interesting other meeting that I attended was the Bibframe Update Forum. Bibframe is the name for an initiative to try to develop a data exchange format to replace the MARC format(s). The Bibframe initiative hopes to develop a format that can make library data into linked data, that is, data that can be exchanged on the semantic web. Eric Miller, from the company Zepheira (which is one of the players in the development of Bibframe), explained that the semantic web is about linking data, not just documents (as a metaphor, think about old PDF files that could not be searched, but were flat documents. The only unit you could search for was the entire document, not the meaningful pieces of content in the document). The idea is to create recombinant data, that is, small blocks of data that can be linked together. The basic architecture of the old web leaned toward linking various full documents, rather than breaking down the statements into meaningful units that could be related to each other. The semantic web emphasizes the relationships between pieces of data. Bibframe hopes to make it possible to record the relationships between pieces of data in bibliographic records and to expose library data on the Web and make it sharable. At the forum, Beacher Wiggins told the audience about the six institutions who are experimenting with the earliest version of Bibframe, which are the British Library, the German National Library, George Washington University, the National Library of Medicine, OCLC, and Princeton University. Reinhold Heuvelmann of the German National Library said that the model is defined on a high level, but that it needs to have more detail developed to allow for recording more granular data, which is absolutely necessary for fully recording the data required by RDA. Ted Fons of OCLC spoke of how Bibframe is an attempt to develop a format that can carry the data libraries need and to allow for library data to interact with each other and the wider web. Fons said that Bibframe data has identifiers that are URIs which can be web accessible. He also said that Bibframe renders bibliographic data as statements that are related to each other, rather than as self-contained records, as with MARC. Bibframe breaks free of the constraints of MARC, which basically rendered data as catalog cards in electronic format. Bibframe is still going through quite a bit of development, but it is moving quickly. Sally McCallum of the MARC Standards Office said that they hope to finalize aspects of the Bibframe framework by 2014, but acknowledged that, “The change is colossal and the unexpected will happen.”
Actually, I think that’s a good way to summarize my thoughts on the current state of the cataloging world after attending this year’s Midwinter, “The change is colossal and the unexpected will happen.”

MB @ ALAMW in Seattle

Thursday, February 7, 2013 4:57 pm

ALA Midwinter in Seattle was about making connections (and sometimes missing connections). I had an endless travel day on Friday, along with Carolyn McCallum (the result of a missed connection) preventing me from attending sessions on the Future of the University Library, a disappointment. I focused on sessions related to assessment and building planning. The ACRL Metrics User Group Meeting provided a forum to discuss the capabilities and limits of using ACRL Metrics. The demonstration highlighted key capabilities including peer group comparisons, built-in report templates. Utilizing data supplied through NCES (National Center for Education Statistics), ALS (Academic Libraries Statistics) and IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) the demonstration focused on how utilizing these metrics would help demonstrate value to our institution in ways that no single group of statistics can.

Roz, Susan and I all a session with the Medium Sized Library Discussion Group, that had the tantalizing discussion topic of “Giving up the Old to Do the New.” One library reported that they had stopped providing electronic reserves services, and instead just gave the responsibility over to faculty to scan documents directly into their Course Management System. She said that usage was declining precipitously. When I brought up how everyone was managing the transition to ebooks from print books, (if they were) there was a general belief that slow and steady was a wise pace to adopt. I exchanged email addresses with one librarian who had been doing a pretty consistent job of tracking the acceptance of ebooks by having focus groups with users over a period of 3 years. She shared her procedures and questions with me after the conference and we hope to do something similar soon. That was a very valuable connection.

I always enjoy the Speakers I hear at ALA conferences. While I found Steven Bell inspiring, I was entranced by Caroline Kennedy. She related a story of a public library in New York that was devastated by Superstorm (Hurricane?) Sandy. After the storm, the library opened in a makeshift building because their building was full of 4 feet of mud and filth. Their only collection was from the material that had been lent out to patrons during the storm that had since been returned. The hearty librarians soldiered on. I also attended a speech by Temple Grandin, prolific author and professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State. Being the most famous adult with autism in the world her talk enlightened me not just on what she thought about the differences between visual and auditory learners, but also on HOW she thought. It was fascinating, and a little disorienting.

Lastly, I spent a good deal of time going to sessions related to Academic Libraries and how users use them. Not surprisingly, everyone recognizes the same need for more outlets, the same constrictions of space, the same desire to have spaces that are very flexible. Themes include: Information Commons, retractable cords, a certain level of acceptable messiness, variations of group study space (small, large, group, silent), group study v. individual study. More relevant to public libraries than academics was the idea of a Maker Space, that are flexible activity spaces that allow for continuous programming. The idea of Maker Spaces added to my “to do” list for what else the library has to become!

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