Somehow, writing a blog post about my ALA 2013 experience seems to have slipped through the cracks. Could have something to do with the 5 licenses I currently have up in the air, I suppose. So here’s my report, to the best of my (and my notes’) memory. I thought I had some pictures to add, but alas, I can’t find them now, so this may be a boring post.
E-book Data Evaluation
Two presenters, one from a public library system and one from a university library, talked about how they use e-book usage data. The public librarian said that it is difficult, and perhaps invalid, to compare usage of e-books to usage of print books. She pointed out such differences as different loan periods; wait time for holds (much longer for print); overdues (none for e); different user base; e-book collection has more current, frontlist titles, and very few children’s e-books. The university librarian spoke a fair bit about demand-driven acquisition (DDA), but it didn’t sound like his library had any better grasp of things than we do. The bottom lines: be skeptical of the data, and so far no clear patterns are emerging.
Electronic Resource Management Interest Group
Two presenters from university libraries spoke about electronic resource management in the context of multiple user access models. That is, our users are presented with multiple means of accessing data; in our context, we’re talking VuFind, Summon, LibGuides, individual databases, library website, etc. The first speaker pointed out how difficult it is for the average user to navigate between those multiple avenues: If a user links from Summon into VuFind, how easy is it to get back to where they were in Summon? Is it confusing when they suddenly find themselves in a different UI? She challenged us to think about ways to make this environment more user-friendly. The second presenter pointed out that in many cases, we are managing similar data in multiple places. He also encouraged everyone to study information architecture to better understand the searchers’ perspective. Quotable quotes from this session: “We don’t call it cataloging any more; now it’s ‘discovery enhancement’,” and “There is not enough time or resources in the universe to be fully on top of e-resources maintenance.”
Steve gave a good report of this session in his ALA post. As a reminder, BIBFRAME (short for “bibliographic framework”) is being developed as a way of encoding bibliographic data (simplified version: replacement for MARC). As Steve said, BIBFRAME is still a long way from taking any recognizable form, but Eric Miller, co-founder and president of Zepheira (company working on BIBFRAME), described what I would call the theory behind BIBFRAME. According to Miller, the goal is to “make interconnectedness commonplace.” He compared it to Legos-you can buy them in different sets, but all are interoperable, allowing small bits of data to be joined in interesting ways. They don’t have to tell you in advance what the building blocks will form, just give communities the blocks and allow them to recombine them in ways meaningful to them. Beyond that, most of this session got very technical and was pretty much over my head.
Meeting with publishers & vendors
As usual, a very valuable aspect of ALA is the opportunity to meet with various vendors and publishers and either learn more about what they’re planning, tell them what we want them to plan, or both.
At the Project MUSE User Group breakfast, I learned that Project MUSE will have Highwire manage their computer operations (or something like that) beginning sometime next year. They assured us that they don’t plan to change the user interface; it will stay the same, but with Highwire “under the hood.” The MUSE folks said they are also looking at altmetrics and trying to find ways to measure the “impact” of humanities content. Project MUSE has been offering e-books for a year or two now (from 83 university presses & rising). Their e-books are now available for single-title purchase via YBP. In the Q&A, I asked if they are planning to stick with PDF format, or if they’re thinking of branching out into EPUB or other e-book formats. Answer: PDF for now, but EPUB and “other formats” are “on the radar” with the transition to Highwire. (My translation: don’t hold your breath.)
I also attended ProQuest’s sponsored breakfast, where speaker Megan Oakleaf gave essentially the same talk she gave at NASIG earlier that month, on using data to demonstrate the library’s value, based on things the larger institution values. I did like one example she gave, suggesting we look at course readings listed in Sakai/course syllabi and try to determine how much those readings would cost the students if they had to purchase each article individually. We need to explicitly connect the dots. Following Dr. Oakleaf, a Summon representative talked about the upcoming Summon 2.0. Then Kari Paulson, formerly President of EBL and now head of ProQuest’s combined EBL/ebrary division, talked about her vision for their new e-book venture. I mostly like what she said-striving to give customers more options (i.e. various acquisition models), integration with other ProQuest products, basically take the best of both EBL and ebrary-but it’s difficult to tell at this point how much of that is marketing-speak. But I at least like the overall vision. In a lighter moment, as Paulson began her portion, she quipped, “I no longer have sleepless nights worrying about what ebrary is up to.”
In other vendor interactions, I had a good discussion over lunch with Gale sale rep Matt Hancox, who picked my brain about DDA (and how Gale might enter that arena), and who also gave me a heads up about their parent company Cengage filing for bankruptcy (they’re calling it “debt restructuring,” but it’s business as usual for Gale customers). I also got a chance to meet a couple of vendor e-mail contacts face-to-face. My notes say something about JSTOR’s e-books and DDA, but I don’t remember anything beyond that. And finally (not just last in my report but also last in my conference), I dropped by the Palgrave booth to complain about our stalled license negotiation. We had sent in our request for some changes to the license back in December, and all we had heard back since then was that it was in their lawyer’s queue. I mentioned this to the person standing in the Palgrave booth at ALA, and said that it give the impression that they don’t care about our business. Well, it turns out that the person I was speaking to was in their Marketing department, and she took me very seriously. She said she had a meeting with their Legal department in a couple of weeks and would bring up our conversation. A good way to end the conference, eh? About 3 weeks later I got an e-mail from our Palgrave contact saying that our license was being reviewed by Legal. Nice!