Professional Development

In the 'Discovery tools' Category...

Charleston Conference online

Thursday, November 14, 2013 9:49 am

I have never actually attended the Charleston Conference, but this year they broadcast a small number of sessions live over the Internet. I tuned in to watch two of those sessions.

In a pre-conference segment, Judy Ruttenberg from the Association of Research Libraries spoke about legal issues in providing online resource access for print-disabled patrons. I learned that Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, requiring accessible electronic technology, applies to institutions receiving certain federal funding (and Ruttenberg made it sound like it applies to virtually all universities in the U.S.), but it does not apply to the private sector. So while it is illegal for a school/university to require the use of an inaccessible device, it is not illegal for Amazon or B&N (for example) to produce an inaccessible e-reader. As a matter not just of legality but of providing good service, Ruttenberg encouraged compliance with standards, especially WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines-I had to look it up). She also suggested that libraries could partner with campus offices for students with disabilities, and with professors, to advocate for technology and service standards and to help make sure content is accessible. Finally, Ruttenberg addressed the challenge of getting e-resource licenses in line with accessibility needs, especially given that content providers are not liable. As with the technology, model license language is a moving target, but she recommended pointing to standards (such as WCAG 2.0), as well as asking for the right to make the content usable. She closed by quoting someone (sorry, I didn’t catch who) asking why we don’t push for indemnification against third-party lawsuits for inaccessibility. In the Q&A, a discussion arose around whether an institution would be within their rights to make content accessible even if the license doesn’t permit it; Kevin Smith (Duke’s Scholarly Communications Officer), who was in the audience, asked which lawsuit you would rather defend-a content provider alleging you didn’t have the right to do that, or a disabled student who couldn’t access course material.

The other session I watched was a presentation of research on the effects of discovery systems on e-journal usage. The researchers (Michael Levine-Clark, U. of Denver; Jason Price, SCELC; John McDonald, U. of Southern California) looked at the usage of journals from 6 major publisher at 24 libraries-6 for each of the four major discover systems (Summon, Primo, EBSCO Discover Service [EDS], and WorldCat Local [WCL]). The presentation went fast and I had a hard time keeping up, but the methodology seemed logical and the results interesting. Results varied of course, especially the effect of the discovery system on the different publishers’ content, but there did appear to be a resulting increase in journal usage, with Primo and Summon affecting usage more than EDS and WCL. The main purpose of the current study was to see if they could detect a difference, which they did. Their next step will be to try to determine what factors are causing the differences.

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.

Day 2 at NISO Forum

Friday, April 4, 2008 10:12 am

Here are some highlights from day two of the NISO conference.

Day two began with a talk by OhioLINK’s Assistant Director for New Service Development, Peter Murray on Discovery Tools and the OPAC. In describing next generation functions/features of online catalogs, Murray referenced Marshall Breeding’s article on next generation library catalogs which appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Library Technology Reports. These next generation functions/features include:

  1. Suggested search modifications (ex. Google’s “Did you mean..?”)
  2. Faceted browsing—Post-search limiting possibilities on the screen for users. One can limit or broaden their initial search without having to start the search over from scratch.
  3. Persistent URLs/Permalinks—Wouldn’t it be nice if URLs lasted a long time to items in the catalog, even to searches.
  4. Syndication feeds (RSS)—What’s out there that is new about this search? Are there comments from others?
  5. User-supplied tagging—Users apply their own vocabulary so they can get back to an item later.
  6. User-supplied annotations—Comments, reviews, edits to underlying bibliographic record. Allows users to make changes in wiki-like fashion.
  7. Book covers—Makes catalog screen look pretty.
  8. Recommendation engines—”If you like this item…” “Users who checked out this item looked at these titles as well.”
  9. Social networking tools—Users want to reflect categorization and interests post URL to get back.

He then showed several libraries’ catalogs who are utilizing next generation OPAC tools (ex. AquaBrowser, Innovative’s Encore, Ex Libris’ Primo, WorldCat Local, Blacklight, fac-back-opac, Scriblio, VuFind).

Murray is also a blogger known as the Disruptive Library Technology Jester. The catalog examples that he used in his presentation utilizing next generation OPAC tools can be seen in an entry on his blog.

After his presentation, several people were concerned with how libraries would deal with spam or objectionable comments. In opening up our catalogs, libraries are opening themselves to possible negative consequences. This adds on the responsibility of policing our system but, there are tools for underlying blog technology systems such as Akismet and Big Brother which can be applied. Dinah Sanders, a Senior Product Manager with Encore, Innovative Interfaces, commented that libraries who utilize Encore, their patrons who wish to leave comments or ratings must login into their patron record; this eliminates much of the problem because the library knows who you are.

Dinah Sanders presented on Changing Patron Expectations and the Discovery Landscape. She spoke about iterative searching (i.e. berry picking model) in catalogs. Specifically, on how catalogs should be able to remove dead ends and provide alternative paths to the precise items to which a user is interested; people come to the library to find, not to search. By utilizing features such as relevance ranking, faceted searching, tags, and regional borrowing options, catalogs can take users from discovery to delivery plus. Users have high expectations, and they want libraries to provide the same level of search success without the resources of Google. They want rich content like Amazon, faceted browsing, Web 2.0 capabilities, and the ability for community participation. She felt that community tagging of library resources in catalogs will become popular with the academic community and take off. By libraries collecting tags in their catalogs, it in essence is capturing part of the dialogue of an academic community and demonstrates the knowledge and utilization of community users. We can enrich our collections by embracing community reviews and ratings as well. As an example she indicated that for a specific title that a faculty member has on reserve, the library could request him or her to contribute a brief explanation on why this work is critical to the discipline being studied. Because these reviews are not coming from strangers on Amazon, they may be more meaningful to the community.

Ms. Sanders also commented on her recent experience at SXSW Interactive, a web technology conference. SXSW is where one goes to find out what’s happening on the leading edge of technology; its focus is not just on the how, but the why. At this year’s conference, she said strong themes emerged that were indicative of change in libraries and standards. A few of them are listed below:

  1. We are all publishers—Roll over Gutenberg, tell McLuhan the news (the name of an actual presentation at this year’s SXSW conference according to Ms. Sanders).
  2. The social web—Work and play are done collaboratively. We build networks of trust.
  3. The back channel—“The web doesn’t shut up just because you have”—a quote from Jason Fried. There is a profound culture of mentorship people look to for information (ex. Meebo, Twitter, getsatisfaction.com). Traditional hierarchal authority is not trusted, and authenticity and time are playing roles where people are putting their trust.
  4. Cultivating emotional engagement—Tools should make me happy.
  5. Pace of change—Last Web 2.0 conference is nearing.

Michael Winkler, Director of Information Technologies & Digital Development at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed the development of PennTags, a community tagging application. He spoke about educational applications being built around the masses; people are contributing, not just passively consuming. PennTags allow users to not only tag items in the online catalog but to annotate resources as well.

ResearchBlogging.org, another interesting discovery tool presented, began as a means to identify individual blogspots that are valuable sources of information to researchers in the social and hard sciences. It’s a way for bloggers to find and showcase their serious posts about peer-reviewed research. The categories of psychology and biology have the most posts. All users must create an account, and when posting to the blog they must create a formal citation either manually or enter a DOI about the research to which they are referencing.

I learned much at this conference, but the one thing that stands out most in my mind is that library catalogs can be so much more than what they are. If we want to be the first place of discovery for our users, then we need to build a better catalog utilizing the new tools that are available. In “Googlizing” and “Amazoning” our catalogs, standards will need to be developed for tagging and reviewing/rating resources (i.e. What does a 1 or a 5 mean on a 1-5 scale?). In conclusion, library catalogs can be a means to enrich an academic community’s dialogue and at the same time make discovery for our users less challenging and information delivery more rewarding.

Carolyn at NISO Forum on Next Generation Discovery: New Tools, Aging Standards

Monday, March 31, 2008 10:15 am

On March 27-28, 2008, I attended NISO’s 2-day forum on Next Generation Discovery: New Tools, Aging Standards in Chapel Hill. Todd Carpenter, NISO’s Managing Director, began the conference by referencing discovery as being one of the primary reasons people visit libraries either in person or virtually and, that the standards and systems that are currently in use at many libraries are beginning to fray. Libraries are not keeping up with advancing technologies. Out of this meeting, he hopes ideas will come to the forefront in areas of standards and development that NISO needs to address.

I took notes fast and furious so as not to miss anything. Here are some of my interpretations of highlights from Day 1 talks. I hope that they are accurate reflections of what was said. Any misinterpretation is this writer’s fault.

The keynote speaker, Richard Akerman, Technology Architect and Information Systems Security Officer of NRC CISTI, began his speech with the example of SkyNet, a term from science fiction used in the Terminator movies. Terminator fans will remember that the machine (i.e. Terminator) was cold and heartless and employed a hostile user interface. Akerman went on to say that exploring ways of getting machines to function in manners that users want is vital. Machines are not meeting all users’ expectations, and that Google crawlers have shaped all discovery expectations of users today.

How can we as humans better serve the machines our users utilize? Because machines don’t speak our language or have a deep contextual knowledge, humans need to be knowledge translators for the machines so as to enable machines to bring greater discovery to users. Some suggestions he offered included:

  1. Produce information in formats that machines can easily understand, and in parallel formats that are human readable.
  2. For every web resource and its machine reader,the number of formats should be kept simple so as to enable interchange easily.
  3. Bibliographic metadata should be a first class citizen by using OpenURL and COinS. Embedding metadata in webpages can provide bibliographic services around that metadata. Functionality to users can be added by using embedded knowledge.

Humans are seeking rich information experiences, and the general OPAC is not a discovery interface. A discovery layer needs to be built over the catalog’s metadata using APIs, and the catalog should work in ways that the Google generation understands. It should go to wherever your user is (example: a Wake Forest student user is searching Amazon for a book while drinking coffee at Starbucks, a box pops up and alerts the user that the book is available at the library) and able to work at web speed. Embedded knowledge can be enriched by using XML, RDF, RSS, GeoRSS, microformats, aggregators, and recommender APIs. An interesting example of a discovery tool developed by MIT’s SIMILE project is its Timeline component. Timeline is described by MIT’s SIMILE website as a “widget for visualizing time-based events.”

Akerman stated that instead of having too much information, he feels there is too much information poverty. We need to continuously search for and find ways to provide information to users everywhere. There is much information that is not getting indexed and is therefore inaccessible to people. We must tap the knowledge of people all over the world and provide information access to all.

In another talk, Mike Teets, VP of OCLC Global Product Architecture, demonstrated new discovery tools that OCLC is currently providing and those that are in development for users. Three tools that I found most interesting were xISBN, xISSN and Identities. xISBN is a service that consolidates ISBNs of a specific title into a list. It is driven off of FRBR algorithms. OCLC is still testing its xISSN service, which will bring together a graphical representation of the history and relationships of specific serial titles’ ISSNs. Identities provides information about authors and utilizes publication timelines (books by and about an author), audience level indicators (this number is computed by what institutions hold a specific author’s work(s)), and relationships to other authors and/or organizations. You can try Identities by searching for a title in WorldCat, click on the details tab and then click on the author’s name or you can go directly to worldcat.org/identities.

Other interesting discovery tools presented were 2collab and Scitopia.org. 2collab is an Elsevier produced free collaboration tool for researchers and scientists. Information can be shared with peers by creating groups. Users can add tags, bookmarks, ratings, comments, as well as, display one’s current research activity and interests and groups in which one is a member, and highlight one’s scientific record of publications. Privacy is of utmost importance to scientific researchers. Only members within a private group can share and access each other’s information. Group owners can accept or decline membership into a group. ScienceDirect has an “add to 2collab” button that allows users to transfer metadata about pertinent articles to their profiles and they are able to share this information with their groups. IEEE has developed a web service, Scitopia.org, which is a free federated search service of 18 not-for-profit science and technical libraries. It is open to the general public, but is designed primarily for researchers. Partners pay a contribution fee to help fund the service. Subscribers to the partner libraries and members of partner societies are able to view full text included in their subscriptions or memberships; other users have a pay-per-view option.

All conference talks were recorded and the presentation slides are to be posted shortly to the NISO website on the Discovery Tools agenda webpage. For more in depth information, check out NISO’s website. Day two reflections will appear later this week.


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