Professional Development

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Final Threads – VR and Discovery – Roz at ALA

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1:18 pm

Two more – then I’m done!

Another fall project we are undertaking in Research and Instruction is a more robust and thorough student training program that will last all year. In the event that we do go the information commons route, it will be more important than ever that our students are well trained and that we put in place a more robust monitoring and assessment of the service our students provide. To this end many things are coming, including a Sakai course with learning modules, moving to the LibraryH3lp native interface for chat, investigating LibStats for statistics and more. I attended a session on VR service and even though it was primarily discussing consortial programs for VR, there were good nuggets to take away that related to all VR.

One was not to expect more out of VR than you do out of in-person, email or telephone reference. Just like the person at the desk cannot always answer a patron’s question in full by themselves, you should not expect to be able to do that in a chat session. You still have referrals, assistance and suggestions of face to face contact that can be used when the question goes beyond the expertise of the person at the keyboard. Another item is that it is critical, especially when you have students answering questions on chat, that you monitor those transactions. Read transcripts, praise good answers and correct incorrect ones. Librarians also have to be willing to analyze chat sessions from other librarians and be willing to have their own analyzed. The idea is to continually improve your service and in order to do that you have to assess it. When we move to the native interface of LibraryH3lp in July and away from Meebo, we will be able to capture our chat sessions and become better able to assess what happens in this medium. While WFU does not have nearly the volume of VR that many schools do, it is a growing percentage of our reference transactions, and needs to be trained and assessed in a more strategic way.

Finally there is the issue of web-scale discovery services (my thread is starting to look like a rope). I attended a really interesting session on user experiences when their libraries implemented web scale discovery services. Two of the schools had implemented Summon and one has implemented Ebsco Discovery Service. Their experiences were similar in many ways and they learned many lessons along the way that are critical for us.

First, DO NOT take away easy and obvious access to your catalog and your database and journal finder tools. There are many valid reasons people may still want to search your catalog or go to a specific journal or database and if you make that hard or hide the access you risk infuriating your patrons and creating a bad launch of what otherwise is a useful product.

Second, the content differences among these products is not significant enough to worry about. They are good for undergraduate researchers and though they will claim to be far superior in one way or another, they probably aren’t. What the library has to focus on is how they integrate with your journal data (both platforms, coincidentally, reported that they still find journal data in full text options to be incorrect in some cases – but everyone agreed that this happens in all systems so it is not really a deal breaker) and how you choose to integrate it into your web site. Giving it a good name and brand, placing it in appropriate places on your web site, explaining what it does, providing instruction in how to use it, keeping everyone on staff positive (but realistic) about the product all go a long way to make it a success on your campus.

Third, they don’t solve all your problems. In fact, they can create more confusion initially for students when using them without prior instruction or any guidance on what they are and what they do. Both Summon and EDS, for example, tout that one strength of web scale discovery is that the facets you apply after your search can drill you down to exactly what you need. But what all the libraries found is that no one notices the facets until they are pointed out to them. Edges of a screen have become on most web sites where ads are placed, so our students tend to tune them out. This means that the 650,000 hits they get can be so overwhelming, especially if they do a very general search, that their frustration grows. But all the schools also said that when you teach students and faculty how to search and use the facets, they are really excited about the product and wonder where it has been all their lives. So setting expectations and reformatting our instruction to make the best use of our time in demonstrating a discovery service will be extremely important.

Finally, I was surprised at how all of the schools talked about keeping abreast of all the services and not committing forever to a particular product. They all agree that the products are developing and improving so fast that you need to be willing to consider them all and avoid long-term commitments for the next few years. Even the school that was one of the first Summon development partners agreed that even though there is time invested in the setup, that can’t be your only reason for staying with a product if it doesn’t suit your needs or if other products develop differently. Change is the new normal.

‘Commons’ Thread from Roz’s ALA

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1:10 pm

Ok – Thread two from ALA now that I have had time to reflect on it is perhaps related to Info Commons. One of my big projects going into the fall is working with Mary Beth and coming up with a plan for a possible information commons on Reynolds 2. For Mary Beth and I, that meant going to sessions on commons as well as visiting lots of furniture vendors in the Exhibits hall to get a feel for what is out there that might be of use to us in a retrofitted space. The options range from completely custom furniture design – the benefit here is you get what you really need for your exact space. The drawback (other than cost) is that if you tailor it to fit your space too specifically, it becomes inflexible if your space or service needs change. On the other end of the spectrum are the prebuilt options from vendors like Demco and Brodart. Many of these are modular ( ) – so you can buy the parts you need when you need them and move or reuse them in other spaces later. These are the more cost effective and flexible options, but often lack the ‘sexy’ that the custom places provide. Almost all of the options we saw, however, have built in power and even USB charging stations, reflecting what we already know our students want. One of our favorites is Agati Furniture, especially their booths ( I’m hoping Mary Beth has some other pictures she can post of other cool concepts.

On Monday Mary Beth and I both attended a really great discussion group about combining service points. We heard from a wide variety of schools who have, or are considering, combining service desks and service points and heard cautionary tales, unforeseen consequences and the bugaboo that is signage in a combined environment. Mary Beth may have more to say but the thing that was most interesting to me was the variety of approaches to having Reference Librarians on the desks. Some places kept them, some got rid of them altogether at desks, another school moved them to another building; there were buzzer systems, iPhones and other ‘on call’ models to keep librarians within reach but not actually out at the desk. There are concerns about visibility of librarians when you take them off the desk, quality of service if students are your main points of contact with your public, how to manage on-call hours, VR and more. Many places have the luxury of having support staff and LIS grad students to staff the desks. One school took them off the desk and then had to put them back on because service suffered. Another place combined service points and their reference stats actually went down 40% (they don’t quite know why).

There is no right or wrong answer, apparently, to setting up a commons and you have to know your faculty, staff and students and what they expect in terms of types of services and level of service coming from a centralized desk. Most places planned for two or more years (even up to five years) before implementing a commons and even then mistakes were made and issues that were never considered popped up – for example, when you combine with other services on your campus (writing centers, technology help services, tutoring) and their cultures are different then you can end up with what it obviously an unhappy marriage at the desk. And if departments lose budgets or staff, you can find yourself with a service you can no longer offer at your main desk and if you have committed funds to marketing, signage and have built up customer expectations that a service is offered, you can be in trouble. The session gave Mary Beth and I a lot to think (and worry) about. I am sure she will have some specifics of what struck her in the session.

Weaving Threads at ALA (Roz)

Monday, June 27, 2011 12:44 am

So as many of you know, I tend to like to write theme posts about conferences rather than detail each session I attend. But for this ALA I have been struggling to find a real theme. After some reflection, I have decided that my conference has been like this city – made up of separate threads that somehow come together to make a whole. So in this post and others I write I will try to discuss some threads – they may not all become a theme but we will see how it goes.

Thread one is that ALA, despite is enormity, heat, hassle (not unlike NOLA) and the occasional session or committee meetings that become tedious ALWAYS makes me glad to be a librarian. This year that feeling came early on when the city was so clearly grateful to us both for being here now and because we were the first conference to return to ALA in 2006 after Katrina. This city has come so far since that horrible summer of 2005 and I am so proud to be a part of an organization that bet on their comeback before all others – we came in 2006, we helped rebuild then and we are still helping rebuild now. There is no city on the planet like New Orleans and to see its renaissance is truly inspiring and ALA can be proud of their support of this city and its people.

My next ‘librarians rock’ moment came during the Dan Savage speech at the opening session. His It Gets Better project is beyond inspiring but perhaps my favorite part of his speech was when he discussed the subversion of his project in that it speaks directly to teens struggling with bullying. It does not get mediated through parents, teachers or schools. He got tired of waiting for invitations to talk to middle and high school students and realized that he didn’t need an invitation to talk to these kids – he had YouTube. He took his message and the message of thousands other LGBT adults straight to the young people who most need to hear that there is light at the end of the tunnel. He made the comparison of how his project works to what librarians do every day – get information directly to people who need it without judgment and without asking why they need it. Information changes lives – on one level we all know that or we wouldn’t be in this profession – but when you hear that the information that LGBT people can overcome bullying and go on to lead joyous lives as adults can save the lives of teens who are so unhappy they can’t see another way out, you really start to see the power in information.

In a session I went to today on the missing voices in the transition from high schools to colleges we heard from teachers, a college student, a freshman comp professor and a public librarian. There was lots to think about from the session but the importance of librarians in both sides of the transition came through loud and clear. From the public librarian who turns kids on to reading and learning, to the high school librarian who helps them find sources to the college librarian who can help ease the anxiety of doing a new kind of research in a new kind of environment, we all have critical roles to play.

Finally, Stanley Nelson, the acclaimed and accomplished documentary filmmaker spoke at the Alexander Street Press breakfast this morning and his mother was a librarian and always made sure he had a book. The family took an hour a day to read and he always carries books with him wherever he goes. Sometimes we don’t know who we touch, or how we touch them but every student we come in contact with can be the next Stanley Nelson, the next Freedom Rider or even the next great leader that can bring a city like New Orleans back from the brink.

Roz at ACRL: Vendor News

Monday, April 4, 2011 6:26 pm

So many of you know that I love a vendor floor so I thought I’d post four notable vendor events/news/product things from ACRL. By no means all of the vendors I spoke to or heard from, but these were the ones that stick out in my mind:

Summon Breakfast

Serials Solutions’ discovery tool is called ‘Summon.’ The idea of these discovery tools is that they pre-index information from all of your databases, your catalog, IR, and other sources (they recently added Hathi Trust records) and you use one search box to search all of your content. Villanova (home of vuFind) has even integrated it with VuFind as the front end. I first saw Summon two years ago when they announced it and it has improved significantly since then. They take all the metadata that exists for an item and create one uber-record. So if one database has institution, one has added authors, one has keywords, one has full text, one has citation mapping, then all of that goes into one master record for the item. Very powerful and they are becoming the standard for most large research universities. The main competition for Summon is Ebsco’s Discovery Service (as you might imagine). Susan and I spoke with our rep at the Serials Solutions booth and they are going to come give us a demo in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned!!

Sage Research Methods Online

Sage has a new product called ‘Sage Research Methods Online‘ where they have brought together books, encyclopedias and journal articles on research methods into a pretty snappy little online product. Mary Beth and I sat through a demo of it in their booth on Thursday and then they had a panel at breakfast on Friday where various faculty and librarians discussed issues with research methods and how they incorporated SRMO into their classes. I have a hard time telling if it would be a useful tool for us, but luckily we will get to find out because I won a 1-year subscription to it at the breakfast. When it is up and running (this summer) we will get Sage to come demo it and have some training/info sessions for faculty who might use it. I will keep you posted.

Sage Product Innovation Panel

On Friday I sat in on what turned out to be a lightening round of sorts from Sage where editors presented ideas for new products and the library panel gave feedback. In 90 minutes we were presented with 12 new ideas ranging from an iPhone app for engineers (not so relevant here) to a new statistical database on the US states (VERY relevant). It was such fun to hear how they are thinking and to see how similar and different our needs are from other institutions.

Gallup World View

So Gallup, the public opinion folks, have a new database called Gallup WorldView. They have spent the last five years going into every country on the planet and asking at least 1000 people each year a series of public opinion questions. And they have turned this into a very promising database. International public opinion is hard to come by (especially in English) so this product really excited me. I see two problems with it, neither one deal breakers, but they make we want to see if they improve them. First, they don’t ask every single country the same set of questions so some question data is not available for some countries. Second, you can’t pick a country and get the entire list of questions from that country. But I think they will remedy that soon. Included in the database is a good deal of US public opinion data as well. Worth watching.

Roz ACRL Thursday

Thursday, March 31, 2011 10:27 pm

I usually do conference ‘theme’ posts and I’m still figuring out what my themes will be (spaces and discovery most likely) but for now I’ll mention a few things from today. Breakfast was hosted by Serials Solutions and included presentations from three libraries using Summon, their discovery service. I know it’s not perfect, but each time I look into it I am more and more impressed. Joe Lucia from Villanova, who has brought Summon results into their Vufind instance, likened the adoption of these services as a deal with the devil that at the moment is necessary. He meant that until libraries can create an open source version of the kind of service that Summon provides, we do a disservice to our users by not seriously considering their benefits. More on this in my theme post, I’m sure.

I attended an interesting but brief session on people using podcasts as an assessment tool in a for-credit information literacy class. They had them do a brief podcast about their research strategies on day two of the class and again on the next to the last day. Then they had them listen back to both and reflect on them. They found that there were some deep learning outcomes that came through via this exercise and I am intrigued by its possibilities for giving us an additional window into our own classes and their benefits.

My presentation today on looking for the tipping point in the QR Code evolution was well attended and well received (or it seemed to be, anyway). Several people tweeted about it and others have stopped me in the hallways to say they enjoyed it so I consider that a success. I find QR Codes a fascinating but a ‘not quite there yet’ tool for libraries not because we aren’t doing cool things with them, but because we don’t yet have a saturation of QR Code users on our campuses. And alas, I don’t think libraries will be the application of QR codes that tip them into general use, but once they tip – I think we have some real opportunities.

I’ll save a great session I attended on renovations in service areas for my space planning theme post and just mention that Raj Patel, our keynote this afternoon, was beyond amazing. Patel is an economist, theorist, advocate, protester and so much more that it is hard to condense what he said into a few sentences. The main theme of his talk was the interdependence that we all know we have but seldom acknowledge. The talk spanned food politics, Cuban agricultural practices, women’s unpaid labor, the REAL price of a hamburger and so much more. I’m hoping they will post it online and we can schedule a staff development activity for those who want to watch it. He’s an amazing thinker and speaker and it will take me a while to absorb all that he discussed.

The evening ended with a lovely reception at the Franklin Institute where we got to see a great Leonardo da Vinci exhibit which astounds and at the same time makes you feel intellectually lazy. We then got to watch a librarian band of musicians play. Tomorrow I spend the morning with Sage looking at their new Sage Research Methods Online products and then some great sessions in the afternoon. More later!

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!!

Roz at ALA Day 1

Sunday, January 9, 2011 2:52 am

So those of you who know me know of my love of vendor floors, vendor presentations and all things exhibits. I guess it goes with trying to keep up with what is out there available for our patrons and looking for those missing pieces that would really be of use to our students, faculty and staff (but the swag is also appealing). Tomorrow I will summarize the stuff I have learned from vendors (I have a few more to visit) but suffice to say that there are some interesting things out there. Today I’ll focus on a very thought-provoking speaker. I’m still digesting her presentation and may have more thoughts later, but here are the basics.

This morning started out with a vendor breakfast from Serials Solutions about their Summon discovery service. Before the pitch for Summon began, however, Carol Tenopir from UT Knoxville spoke about a recent research study that she conducted with colleagues on what factors contribute to faculty decisions about what scholarly articles they read. She said that faculty read 80% more articles now than they did in 1977 but spend 35% less per item in reading them. The survey respondents ranked the importance of seven article characteristics: topic, source, author, author institution, online accessibility and journal title. What they found was that after topic (which was far and away the winner) then the factors in order of importance were accessibility, source, title, author, type of publication and author institution.

As a followup to this part of the study, they also did conjoint analysis to get a different perspective. With conjoint analysis you give people lists of groups of characteristics and ask how likely they are to read an article with these characteristics. So you would start with “online at no cost to you, mid-level peer reviewed journal and a good but not top-tier author” and then you would give them other choices in which one of these options is changed and after giving the full range of options you can begin to see the relative weight of each of the options. What they found was that the three most important factors were Authors’ Reputation (35%) Journal (28%) and Free Online 37%. They found that faculty would read lower level authors and lower level journals (as long as they were still peer-reviewed) but that they had very little tolerance for having to pay any money at all.

The main question then becomes how we as libraries can facilitate the reading process and the answer becomes clear that we can continue to increase the access to online journals available to our faculty. Whereas the problem in the past used to be scarcity of resources, now the problem is abundance. So how do we make sure our faculty get quick access to the right articles from the journals they want and the authors they want in a timely and easy to discover manner. The question may be a discovery service such as Summon or Ebsco Discovery service so tomorrow I’ll talk more about those and the other products out there. I may also pipe up about a session I went to about using Twitter in an embedded librarian scenario…..stay tuned!

ACRL Webcast: Marketing Ideas That Work in Academic Libraries

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10:53 am

Yesterday a large group of ZSR staff gathered in LIB204 to watch an ACRL webcast on marketing ideas that work in academic libraries. The format was a ‘Pecha Kucha‘ presentation which is a Japanese word that essentially means the sound of conversation. The general idea of pecha kucha presentations is that several speakers talk for very short periods of time back-to-back – kind of like a lightening round. While I’m not sure the webcast was really a pecha kucha, it was nevertheless very valuable. Five speakers from five different academic libraries each spoke for about six and a half minutes and then took questions for 3 minutes and then we moved on to the next one.

I’m not going to go through item by item of what was discussed but here are some of the great ideas folks had done in their libraries. Many of these sparked the Marketing Committee to start thinking about what we could do in and around ZSR over the next years. If any of these sound like something you would like to be involved in let me know, even if you aren’t on the Marketing Committee!

  • Have students draw mental maps of the library – this can give you a good idea of the things they pay attention to and the places that are important to them. It can also tell you what they don’t know about or don’t see when they are in the building.
  • Include students in all areas of marketing – this was a theme of a couple of the presentations. Libraries had students conduct focus groups, develop marketing plans, do graphic design and even serve as ‘spokesmodels’ (more on that later). The upshot is that students know best what will get the attention of other students plus you can give them real-world experiences that can help them build resumes and/or portfolios.
  • Give mini-staplers as giveaways with your logo/website/catchphrase on them. Seeing how many big staplers walk away in this library each year, I actually think there is some merit in this – if we had a basket of mini staplers at the Reference Desk……
  • Host a reading/discussion program that includes books and documentary films. The library that did this focused theirs around sustainability and had good results. This would be a way to draw in participants from outside the campus as well.
  • Bring in ALA traveling book exhibits. I actually didn’t know you could do this, but you can. Some of them look very interesting. Personally, I think our students would love the Harry Potter one, don’t you??
  • Host a documentary film series. This is a given, I think, after the auditorium opens up.
  • Host a monthly ‘bookmobile’ on your campus. Bring books, films, etc. out of the library to a central campus location for check-out. The library that talked about it organized theirs around themes like Valentine’s Day, etc.
  • Have a week-long birthday celebration for your building. The library that did this was celebrating it’s 10th anniversary. They had cake one day, had a place where students could get their picture taken for their own ‘Read’ poster and hosted a wine/book pairing event. As the Wilson Wing turns 20 in the Spring, this is something we could do. Ideas welcome!
  • One library developed a tag line which was ‘Ask. Discover. Create.’ and they used it on all their branding and marketing materials. I’d like ours to be ‘You can do it. We can help.’ but don’t want Home Depot suing the pants off us…..
  • One of the favorite ideas presented was having students hold up signs with the word ASK on them and getting their pictures taken – the students signed waivers, and the library printed up the pictures on bookmarks and used them other places. They called the students who were photographed ‘spokesmodels’ and used them as a group to help market. They sent the link to the pictures to these folks who in turn posted them to Facebook, used them as profile pictures, etc.

I am sure others will remember other ideas and I hope they share them in the comments. You never know what you will get with these WebCasts, but this time I think we got our money’s worth and more. Several folks who were there have mentioned how useful it was. Thanks to ACRL for hosting it!!

Roz at Metrolina Conference

Friday, June 18, 2010 10:21 am

Yesterday, six of us (Mary S., Ellen, Carolyn, Molly, Bobbie and myself) attended the Metrolina Library Association’s 5th Annual Information Literacy Conference in Charlotte. This was my first time but others had been in the past and gave it high marks. I have to say it was a really great day, and not just because it was hosted by Johnson & Wales University. Those who know me know that I have this not-so-secret desire to go to culinary school, so the location was great and the food even better!

The opening keynote speaker was Dr. Clara Chu, from UNC-G’s Dept. of Library and Information Studies. She spoke on Information Literacy in a multicultural context. It was a thought provoking talk that covered issues ranging from being sure you use visual images that are diverse to recognizing diversity in a variety of different ways. One thing that I thought was interesting was how easy and important it can be to have the ability for student to translate library pages into their own language. If you don’t have fluent speakers on your staff to rewrite the content, then Google translator is a nice low-barrier way to provide multi-lingual content. Even if the translations are not perfect, they can be useful enough to make the patron feel more comfortable with you and your services and more likely to come in and ask for help. Lots to think about from Dr. Chu and she was around the rest of the day and attended sessions and brought up some great points in each about multiculturalism.

The firs session I attended was given by our friends Amy Harris, Jenny Dale and Lynda Kellam from UNC-G and it was about adding interactivity into one-shot library instruction sessions. Now, I have attended dozens of presentations over the years on this topic and I can say that this one was, by far, the most useful one I have attended. Many great ideas and examples were demonstrated that I fully plan on using in my instruction in the future. The one I liked the most I think was to hand out slips of paper to people in the class. On some of them have research questions, and on the rest have keywords. Then you have the students get up and try to match the keywords to the research question. Simple, but a really effective way to introduce or reinforce the ideas of keywords. Someone also suggested that for upper-level students or students who will be using books heavily you could also include some LC Subject Headings. Thus you could have “World War II” as a keyword and “World War, 1939-1945.” to begin the discussion of keyword searching vs. controlled vocabulary.

Molly and I were presenters during the second break-out session. Our presentation was about our use of documentary films in our LIB100 class this past Spring. It was well-attended and well received. I even came away with some ideas for other ways to use films. Dr. Chu was in our session and discussed how interesting it would be to find documentaries on the same subject created by people from different cultures, for example. We found, however, that there was a lot of interest in our faculty status process (we mentioned this in the presentation) so I think there is a presentation in there for some conference – perhaps NCLA where we can discuss the process we went through. I’d be happy to work on one with folks if there is interest.

The final presentation I went to was on library presence on mobile devices. It was given by Michael Winecoff from UNC-Charolotte and Beth Martin from Johnson C. Smith University. Both of these libraries have developed mobile web pages for their libraries that are exceptionally simple and would be easy to replicate. If you have a smart phone, use your web browser to go to to see what UNC-Charlotte has done. It has a very clean looking list of links. Two stood out to me: First is a ‘Call My Librarian’ list where you can pick your discipline and get a link to call the reference librarian for that department. They also have a simple floor guide and a way to see how many computers are free in the library. Johnson C. Smith has which is an icon based page where they have links to the catalog, hours, etc. What is interesting here is that they have enabled EbscoHost Mobile which provides a nice interface to Ebsco databases on the smart phone. They mentioned that it worked best on iPhones and Droids, but I think it would be worth looking into. Both libraries are making the code available to anyone who wants it – JCSU got their from NC State who has a mobile web site at - they in turn got their code from MIT…..

Mobile interfaces from libraries have a way to go, but these two showed some very easy ways to have a presence on the smart phone without having to write an iPhone app or anything complicated. I was thinking it would be nice to have a way for our students to see if there were study rooms available an book them on their phones…..sorry Kevin……did I say that out loud ;)

Anyway – it was a good conference and I will likely go back next year. Very worthwhile!

Some Musings on eBooks from Roz at ALA

Monday, January 18, 2010 12:42 pm

Rather than detail other sessions I have gone to here at ALA Midwinter, I thought I’d follow a thread that has gone throughout them and try and give some perspectives and ideas that have come to me. Ebooks, not surprisingly, have been a hot topic – everyone wants to know if we have hit the tipping point with them thanks to the Kindle, Nook, ebook vendors for libraries, etc. I find it all a bit curious, since ebooks have been the ‘next big thing’ in libraries for most of my 15 years at ZSR. That, combined with my love of the physical book keeps me skeptical about this being the decade of the ebook – but a few things at this conference got me thinking.

First, in the Top Technology Trends session that Susan has already blogged about, David Walker mentioned two different concepts in relation to ebooks that got my brain going. First, in the discussion about augmented reality, David ( I think it was him, if not, it was Jason Griffey) talked about an idea for an app that could tell where you were in the stacks and pop up for you related ebooks that the library had access to. This got me thinking about the difficulties of being sure students had access to all the information about a topic when some are physical books and some are ebooks – we certainly won’t go around putting dummy blocks in the stacks where ebooks would be if they were in print, but how do we help students who may be wandering the stacks understand that in this discipline we have gone to ebooks so the most recent titles may not be on the shelves. Conversely, how do we indicate to ebook users that there are other relevant titles in the stacks.

But more intriguing, however, was David’s discussion of how ebooks may level the playing field between books and journals. He discussed his experience in college was that books were easier to use than print journals so he gravitated to them. Students today find journals easier to use (as long as they are online) so they gravitate to them, even when what they really need is a good overview not the super-specific look journal articles often give you. But when both types of information, the journal and the monograph, are equally accessible and equally easy to use, perhaps the ultimate result will be that students get much more balanced sources of information because they will go to the one that is best, not the one that is easiest.

The ebook conversation continued in the GOBI user group meeting where they discussed the new ability to include ebooks as part of approval plans. But what they made clear was that it would go easier if you could make broad statements (ebook preferred across the board, ebooks from all vendors, etc) rather than the super specific ‘we want ebooks only from EBL and only in these very narrow call number ranges.’ Additionally, however, they indicated the problem we have discussed as well which is that vendors often don’t make ebooks available at the same time as the print – this means that libraries have often already gotten the print by the time ebook is available. I can’t tell and don’t know enough to decide whether this is a deliberate move on the part of publishers because they want everyone to buy the print (cynical view) or if it really takes that much longer to get the e-version of a book out when the native format is print. Perhaps it will take a rethinking of the monograph publishing process where books are born digital in formats that take advantage of the power of linking, etc. and the print book only comes later.

Finally, the ideas of letting your patrons decide what books to buy electronically via patron-driven ebook collection development was discussed in both the GOBI User Group Meeting and a session on innovation by necessity which I am sure Carolyn McCallum will blog in more detail. I’ll just say that the patron-driven ebook purchasing seems to be a promising development that will take careful consideration in terms of budgeting and other aspects but the research that was discussed indicates that patrons do as good a job deciding what libraries need as librarian liaisons/bibliographers do in most areas. It’s an idea I find intriguing and will follow at the schools that are implementing it.

I talked to lots of vendors (LOTS of vendors) and will be sharing various information with folks in the weeks to come – but one interesting thing is that three independent vendors have new slavery/anti-slavery primary source collections – perhaps its something in the water. Now we are off to the airport in hopes that our flight is not delayed! Fingers crossed we’ll see you tomorrow (Tuesday)!!

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