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The Ellers Visit the In-Laws; Charleston 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 12:00 pm

Eleven-day-old daughter and sleep-deprived wife in tow, I attended the 2014 Charleston Conference flying arguably in the face of reason. I had the advantage of a free place to stay: my parents-in-law live out on James Island, a 15-minute drive to the Francis Marion Hotel where the conference is held. Given this fact and the conference’s unique focus on acquisitions, it makes sense for this meeting to become an annual excursion for me.

The opening speaker, Anthea Stratigos (apparently her real last name) from Outsell, Inc. talked about the importance of strategy, marketing, and branding the experience your library provides. She emphasized that in tough budgetary times it is all the more important to know your target users and to deliver the services, products, and environment they are looking for rather than mindlessly trying to keep up with the Joneses and do everything all at once. “Know your portfolio,” advised Ms. Stratigos. I would say that we at ZSR do a good job of this.

At “Metadata Challenges in Discovery Systems,” speakers from Ex Libris, SAGE, Queens University, and the University of Waterloo discussed the functionality gap that exists in library discovery systems. While tools like Summon have great potential and deliver generally good results, they are reliant on good metadata to function. In an environment in which records come from numerous sources, the task of normalizing data is a challenge for library, vendor, and system provider alike. Consistent and rational metadata practices, both across the industry and within a given library, are essential. To the extent that it is possible, a good discovery system ought to be able to smooth out issues with inconsistent/bad metadata; but the onus is largely on catalogers. I for one am glad that we are on top of authority control. I am also glad that at the time of implementation I was safely 800 miles away in Louisiana.

In a highly entertaining staged debate over the premise that “Wherever possible, library collections should be shaped by patrons instead of librarians,” Rick Anderson from Utah and David Magier from Princeton contested the question of how large a role PDA/DDA should play in collection development in an academic context. Arguing pro-DDA, Mr. Anderson claimed that we’ve confused the ends with the means in providing content: the selection process by librarians ought properly to be seen simply as a method for identifying needed content, and if another more automated process (DDA) can accomplish the same purpose (and perhaps do it better), then it ought to be embraced. Arguing the other side, Mr. Magier emphasized DDA’s limitations, eloquently comparing over-reliance on it to eating mashed potatoes with a screwdriver just because a screwdriver is a useful tool. He pointed out that even in the absence of DDA, librarians have always worked closely and directly with patrons to answer their collection needs. In truth, both debaters would have agreed that a balance of DDA and traditional selection by librarians is the ideal model.

One interesting program discussed the inadequacy of downloads as proxy for usage given the amount of resource-sharing that occurs post-download. At another, librarians from UMass-Amherst and Simmons College presented results of their Kanopy streaming video DDA (PDA to them) program, similar to the one we’ll be rolling out later this month; they found that promotion to faculty was essential in generating views. On Saturday morning, librarians from Utah State talked about the importance of interlibrary loan as a supplement to acquisitions budgets and collection development policies in a regional consortium context. On this point, they try to include in all e-resource license agreements a clause specifying that ILL shall be allowed “utilizing the prevailing technology of the day” – an attempt at guaranteeing that they will remain able to loan their e-materials regardless of format, platform changes, or any other new technological developments.

Also on Saturday Charlie Remy of UT-Chattanooga and Paul Moss from OCLC discussed adoption of OCLC’s Knowledge Base and Cooperative Management Initiative. This was of particular interest as we in Resource Services plan on exploring use of the Knowledge Base early next year. Mr. Remy shared some of the positives and negatives he has experienced: among the former, the main one would be the crowdsourcing of e-resource metadata maintenance in a cooperative environment; among the negatives were slow updating of the knowledge base, especially with record sets from new vendors, along with the usual problem of bad vendor-provided metadata. The final session I attended was about link resolvers and the crucial role that delivery plays in our mission. As speakers pointed out, we’ve spent the past few years focusing on discover, discovery, discovery. Now might be a good time to look again at how well the content our users find is being delivered.

Reduced to Space Debris at ALA

Monday, July 7, 2014 9:28 am

ALA 2014, Las Vegas: I have never experienced heat like that in my life. A stroll down the street felt like reentry into the atmosphere; except in reverse, in that you are exiting terra firma in favor of somewhere surreal and inhospitable to human life…yet oddly fascinating. ALA 2014 will remain memorable for me on multiple fronts.

Number one, it was my first. While ALA is bigger than AALL (the annual law librarian conference), one doesn’t so much perceive it. The exhibit hall must have been larger, and I enjoyed meeting reps from several of our vendors. There was an entire aisle devoted to comic book/graphic novel publishers, which was pretty cool, and certainly very un-law-like. The variety in subject matter represented by the various vendors was impressive, and fun. One could spend the whole conference in there.

Without my exactly planning it, a central theme of my conference program schedule ended up being ebooks: their rising cost, challenges in managing them, and, unmistakably, their importance. At a program on the rapidly rising cost of DDA short-term loans, representatives from ProQuest, Wiley, and Oxford took the stage alongside librarian Alison Scott from UC-Riverside and attempted to explain recent and upcoming hikes in short-term loan rates. They emphasized that we have all essentially been in a pilot period during which the ebook market was shaking out, and what publishers have found is that present DDA models give away too much access for too little money in return. In other words they aren’t profitable enough to counterbalance reduced print book sales and cover costs. It’s a tough sell to librarians, to be sure, but I do respect the publishers’ willingness to try.

How are libraries supposed to afford such substantially higher STL prices? There we come to an impasse. Ms. Scott referred to this as a “moment of evolutionary punctuation” and disequilibrium not only in library budgeting but in the academic library’s mission at large. However, we as customers do have the somewhat weird advantage (if you can call it that) of a relationship of mutual dependence with the publishers and vendors in question. At the same time I was struck by the fundamental opposition of interests between the two sides. It’s an interesting predicament, and one that I do believe will have to resolve itself, both at the broader ebook market level and the local library budgetary level. We can’t cut everything; but if necessary we can cut some things. That is me bravely standing my ground, cautiously. (I actually believe we’ll be alright.)

I sat in on the meeting of the ALCTS Acquisitions Organization and Management Committee, which I am on as of 7/1. (I’ve also joined the ALCTS Planning Committee, but I couldn’t make that meeting.) I’m excited to be involved with ALA at this level. It’s a way for me to meet colleagues at other institutions; a chance to broaden my awareness and affect the profession; and an excuse to attend Midwinter, which next year is in my home state of Illinois (Chicago). The OMC discussed programming ideas ranging from the highly relevant to the yeah-let’s-not-do-that, as well as a short webinar series. I was glad that Lauren suggested I attend this meeting even though I wasn’t officially yet a member; it allowed me the opportunity to put in my two cents.

To sum up the rest: I attended sessions on RDA enrichment of existing AACR2 records (which we at ZSR will be doing too, via Backstage); Kanopy’s streaming video PDA service and its potential for high return on investment of video funds; with Carolyn, ebook workflow and the importance of the handoff from acquisitions to cataloging as well as a clear line for reporting access problems; and others. I know several of us went to the talk “The Quiet Strength of Introverts” by Jennifer Kahnweiler. Given that many back here in Resource Services would likely call themselves introverts (as did most librarians in the lecture hall by a show of hands), this seemed like a fitting last-day session for the conference. Ms. Kahnweiler used the example of Fred Rogers as a quiet influencer; I can’t think of a better person to emulate. Introverts are red-hot right now. I’ve also seen a Ted Talk on the same subject, and there are books. We seem to be having our day in the sun, whether we sought it or not.

Finally, I can’t not mention the fact that I intentionally ate jellyfish. Perhaps I had become disoriented by the heat.

NCICU Library Purchasing Committee Meeting 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 11:09 am

On May 14, 2014 a large (possibly unprecedentedly so) contingent of ZSR Resource Services folk traveled to the annual NCICU Library Purchasing Committee Meeting in Buies Creek, NC, hosted by Campbell University. Chris, Derrik, Lauren, Linda, Monesha, and myself made the two-hour drive in the library van for a day of vendor presentations and panel discussions.

First, Grant Powell from Kanopy showed a short video highlighting some of the lesser-known offerings in his company’s streaming collection. I now have reasonably convincing proof that the company actually exists: it was nice to have Grant put a human face on a company we’ve been talking to at length in recent months via web demo, email, and phone. There was clear interest around the room in the company’s streaming collection, their pricing models, and the mechanics of their PDA program. Lindsey Schell from EBL then talked about her company’s demand-driven ebook options as well as their purchase by ProQuest and merger with ebrary.

After lunch the afternoon kicked off with an NC LIVE update from Tim Rogers, including information on their cool “Home Grown eBooks” pilot project. NC LIVE plans to offer ebook versions of around 1,000 titles from several small- to medium-sized North Carolina publishers, mainly targeting books on NC-specific subjects. Tim is clearly excited about the possibilities; several publishers have signed on, and the ebooks will be available to all NC LIVE libraries (with funding of the project split amongst them). If the pilot is a success, Tim hopes that the project might eventually be expanded.

Next came two panel discussions. The first, on the subject of ebook DDA, featured ZSR’s own Derrik Hiatt. Flanked on his right by counterparts from Campbell and High Point universities, Derrik talked about some of the thinking that went into ZSR’s decision to adopt a DDA program; what criteria we used to create our profile; how we handle triggered purchases; and, more generally, what has worked and what hasn’t. All panelists agreed that these programs have been great boons to their libraries. Derrik named the opportunity to add a wealth of subject matter we might not normally select as one of the main benefits. He described how ZSR’s DDA expenditures rose sharply in year two then began to plateau in year three. To illustrate this trend visually he produced a handy graph, magician-like, from a manila folder, throwing down a gauntlet which it would have been nearly impossible for the other panelists to pick up at this point in the day. I hope that if we venture into streaming video DDA (or “PDA” as Kanopy calls it) we find the same kind of success as we’ve had with ebooks.

The second panel discussion of the day covered the topic of streaming video and libraries’ developing use of it. Davidson College’s library started out by primarily selecting streaming videos whose corresponding DVDs were used by instructors for class. The three panelists agreed that discovery is key: does the vendor provide good MARC records? Is their platform readily navigable? Campbell promotes streaming video at faculty orientation in order to encourage awareness and use; library liaisons promote it as well. I came to appreciate the fact that owing to our great tech team we at ZSR have the ability to stream our own videos where Wake owns the content; some libraries would like to do the same but lack the necessary support to do so.

Afterward, irresistibly drawn to the giant bronze statue of Gaylord the fighting camel, we stopped for a group photo before leaving Campbell’s rather lovely campus (possibly-doctored photo provided by Monesha):

And, finally, the fighting camel:

 

Jeff at 2014 NC Serials Conference

Monday, March 24, 2014 12:19 pm

On March 14, 2014 I attended the 23rd Annual North Carolina Serials Conference in Chapel Hill, having carpooled with Derrik, Chris, and Steve, and meeting Carol and Ellen there. In addition to these worthy colleagues I actually ran into someone whom I know from App State. This was my first un-orchestrated North Carolina librarian encounter. I admit it felt good.

David Crotty’s keynote address – “Altmetrics: Finding Meaningful Needles in the Data Haystack” – went into the inadequacy of Impact Factor as a measure of a scholarly work’s significance. Ellen has already described his talk well. Mr. Crotty observed that “Weird stuff draws attention.” This fact highlights just one of the manifold problems involved in attempting to capture data to reflect true scholarly importance as opposed (in this case) to mere novelty appeal. On this same point he referred his audience to a highly-ranked and oft-accessed article about certain clandestine activities that have been known to occur between two consenting fruit bats; which really is neither here nor there, yet which for some reason I feel compelled to mention before moving on. See? I’ve proved his point.

The main session I came to see was “Streaming Film: How to Serve Our Users,” as this subject will be important in my job going forward. Three employees at UNCG libraries talked about their organization’s choices of streaming video vendors, the decisions they’ve made on acquiring rights (they strongly favor perpetual access), their hosting strategy for in-house streaming video (using Google Drive), and their concerns about license-appropriate use by students and faculty. I was struck by the similarities in what different libraries seem to be experiencing right now: an increased demand for streaming video, a still-developing workflow, and an expectation of greater demand in the future. As I settle in at ZSR I’ll be seeking out information on how other organizations are handling this demand. It’s all very interesting, and it’s something that I look forward to getting into. The UNCG folks talked about the importance of gathering the right team of people to manage streaming video. I feel that we at ZSR have already taken some good steps in that direction.

Jeff at LAUNC-CH 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014 3:47 pm

For my first ZSR-sponsored professional gathering I attended the 2014 LAUNC-CH Conference in Chapel Hill with Steve Kelley and Sarah Jeong on March 10. This was a new experience for me in two ways: 1) It was my first non-law library conference, and 2) It was my first North Carolina librarian gathering. In past years I’ve attended the annual American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) meeting in July – the law equivalent of ALA – as well as a few local/regional conferences.

A main point for me was to begin to get acquainted with the NC library community. I’ve been pleased so far to find that the non-law library world is talking about many of the same things I’d had occasion to consider previously: where the library fits into a 21st-century research university’s mission, how to manage modern collections (and pay for them), etc. My experience at LAUNC-CH mirrored what I’ve experienced in general in my new position, in that it didn’t feel so very foreign or unfamiliar. Thanks to Sarah and Steve, I met some new people.

I attended presentations on integrating library instruction into online courses using Sakai at UNC’s Sloane Art Library; the methodology and findings of a UNCG survey on faculty data-management practices and needs; Emory’s new Center for Digital Scholarship; and a collaborative collection development arrangement between Duke and UNC in the areas of Middle-Eastern and Slavic Studies. There were also several lightning talks of 5 minutes apiece on a variety of fun topics, including hip-hop sampling and the restoration of an 1850′s schoolhouse.

Nancy Fried Foster, Senior Anthropologist at Ithaka S+R, was the keynote speaker. In “Designing Academic Libraries for New Ways of Research” she talked about using ethnographic methods to assess the research practices of students and faculty, emphasizing the importance of looking beyond what people self-report as their needs, and interpreting the underlying meaning. She called for “design beyond precedent”: breaking away from old metaphors and re-conceptualizing our fundamental library systems and services in order to address the real needs of modern researchers. This was the theme of the day.


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