Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Digital Library Federation Forum

The Digital Library Federation Forum held Nov. 11-12 in Long Beach represented a radical change in format from the previous meetings. The resignation of the previous executive director prompted a re-evaluation of the goals of the organization. This edition of the forum, planned and led by our own Sayeed Choudhury, comprised an opening day of invited speakers and a second day of discussion and planning by two interest groups and by the forum as a whole. I have attended DLF for several years, but this was the most exciting one by far. I will report on one of the first day speakers and on the discussion of the Project Management Group.

Brad Wheeler, CIO and VP for IT at Indiana University, gave one of the most interesting and challenging talks about collaboration that I've seen in a while. He opened by stating his view of the two core challenges facing DLF:
  • Will the behaviors of DLF participants yield solutions that matter for higher education as well as our own campuses?
  • Will DLF members collaborate, cooperate, or pontificate? (we aren't going to win the latter--there are many others in higher education with much more experience)
Most universities and university libraries have tended to work on optimizing local services rather than develop services that matter across higher education. There are many services that could be better provided by outside entities or one institution serving as the provider for a consortium. Several major universities, including Indiana, are allowing Google to provide email and calendar services at no cost! There is still plenty of work to be done locally (like special collections), but we have to focus on working collaboratively. In an article in the EDUCAUSE Review from 2006, Charles Vest talks about the emergence of a "meta-university" that is made possible by our communication infrastructure and the open-access movement. The notion of the meta-university will not replace residential campuses, but it will "bring cost-efficiencies to institutions through the shared development of educational materials." Wheeler cited the Hathi Trust, Sakai, and Kuali as good examples of these types of meta-university collaborations.

Wheeler reported that libraries "talk a good game" about collaboration, but that we have not stepped up as we should. You cannot engage in collaboration as a dabbling option--you have to really commit to it. He listed the following as collaboration essentials:
  • goal alignment (you need to date before you get married)
  • values alignment (commit to having the same outcome)
  • temporal alignment (if you need something NOW, your collaborators have to agree)
  • talent alignment
  • governance clarity
  • problem solving alignment
  • elastic community
The Project Management Group met on the second morning to discuss the notion of "innovation in libraries" from the project manager's perspective. There were lightening talks by Delphine Khanna of Penn and Jennifer Vinopal of NYU, followed by a discussion of the main obstacles to innovation and what DLF could do to help libraries be more innovative. Some of the obstacles were pretty straightforward (lack of time and resources, lack of knowledge of best practices in project development), but the obstacle that received the most discussion was "organizational culture and structure". Some of the examples of organizational culture inhibiting innovation were:
  • lack of institutional support for innovation
  • lock of goal alignment within the organization
  • barriers to cross-departmental and cross-institutional collaboration
  • organization focusing on solving yesterday's problems
  • inability to prioritize
  • hiatus between "digital library" and "traditional library services"
During the discussion of what DLF could do to help innovation, the notion of helping develop best practices for project management and software development emerged as the biggest need. Project management in libraries is usually not done with any formal program or following developed standards. DLF could support training, consultation from outside the library world, and perhaps, the development of a set of best practices that could be applied to different types of projects. We are not advocating a single project management approach, but the idea of a more formal set of options than we are currently using was appealing to many participants.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Charleston Conference, November 2009

Sue Vazakas

This was my first time at this conference, whose subtitle is "Issues in Book and Serial Acquisition." There is a day of pre-conferences followed by 2 1/2 days of regular conference.

Here's the program.

My morning pre-conference:

Ebrarians: Meeting the Challenges of E-resources Head On had new professionals, from small- to medium-sized schools, discussing their e-resource situations.


  • Don't buy resources you can't keep (he told of a school with money who bought lots of expensive e-things but recently had to cancel them)

  • Justify expenses with statistics, statistics, statistics

  • All of the speakers' libraries have gone PPV (pay-per-view)

  • Make sure all licenses specify "no changes without telling us in plenty of time!" (horror stories)

  • Many places systematically reexamine licenses with each renewal

  • Reading books on mobile devices is going to bypass external readers like Kindle and Sony

  • COMMUNICATE with the IT department! Crucial!

  • What we do, we have to do really well; e.g., buy fewer resources and handle them better

  • We don't all have to own a print copy, but we need to have enough staff to keep tabs on who in the consortium DOES have the last print copy, as well as maintenance, etc.

  • To get training for this kind of job: classes inadequate and books wrong; what's best are apprenticeships and actually working in Cataloging, IT, or Special Collections (to learn what to save)
My afternoon pre-conference:

Changing Face of Library Workflow Management: Open Source, Grid Computing, and Cloud Services

This one was fascinating. BTW, "cloud computing" is now at the top of Gartner's "hype cycle."

The 1st speaker (OCLC) said that we all agree that all the many pieces such as cataloging/acquisitions/licenses/ERM/metadata etc. should be in a single system, and that it would be great to be able to push it to a cloud. But if we agree on these things, why are libraries and library departments still fighting for control?

The next generation of library management services is going to be circ/acquisition/license management/workflow/etc. as cooperative intelligence -- not individually hard-coded systems, but a single networked presence.

The 2nd speaker discussed GALILEO in Georgia , an example of a network for the entire state.
Also, Georgia library consortia are served with an open source ILS called EVERGREEN (Georgia's own system is named PINES). In 1999, the libraries thrashed out a single policy (e.g., same fines, loan periods, etc.), and now anyone can get a library card at any library in the state and return books to any library in the state.

The bottom line of this session was: libraries need to control their own destinies.

THURSDAY started off with a B A N G ! If you've never heard David Lankes speak, you've missed out. Here is his keynote speech (streaming video). Treat yourself and listen to it!

In a nutshell: let's get off our butts, decide what our ideal future is, decide how to get there, and break that down into steps so we can get from today to there.

We have to know WHY we're doing what we do and not just keep doing the same thing. Let's not become the music business who wanted to keep control instead of taking musicians and music fans to paradise and allowing them to get anything they wanted from anywhere. The analogy for us is: do we want to acquire more stuff? Or do we want to provide access?

More inspirational talking, followed by: "We're not in jobs; we're on a mission to improve the world!!"

The Pricing Digital Journals session started with librarian David Stern trying once again to explain to vendors that "great deals don't matter anymore if libraries have to reduce costs."
  • The vendors must understand that we are examining cost per use very closely, and having immediate access to tons of things doesn't matter when we don't have the flexibility to tailor the title lists.

  • When a journal package has a high % of use, it would be more expensive to break it and do ILL instead. But when a package has a low % of use, it might be cheaper to break it to use ILL instead. But when we break it, the price cap goes away. So offer a few of the different ways to get "hybrid" models; e.g., different subject packages (e.g., philosophy, math) can have different access tiers.
The next speaker was Wiley's Christopher McKenzie (grrrrrr...), followed by an IoP guy. Wiley said that they know that libraries don't want to keep seeing new journals or fancier platforms. He reminded us several times that Wiley is the biggest publisher of society info in the world, and that journals are often the societies' biggest revenue source and Wiley must keep that in mind (rolling of eyes). They plan to create customized subject-based collections; e.g., maybe a client wants only the sci/tech pieces of the regular sci/tech/med collection.

The IoP guy made an announcement: as of 2010, they will finally offer e-only pricing! And this comment of his was interesting: they don't offer tiered pricing based on usage, because they're afraid that the libraries in China will limit usage in order to lower their prices.

I Hear The Train a-Comin' -- Greg Tananbaum writes a column for Against the Grain. His theme was that libraries should not compete with university presses but instead work together. During this past summer, lib-license had a thread about going from an approval model to a demand model, which would be a disaster for presses.

Instead, we should link to little-used books and open them up, and not just to PDF's. Let's link them to other things, too, and across disciplines. Presses must be a bigger online presence.

Physical infrastructure is no longer the libraries' area of value. E-books go direct to patrons. The U.S. government now has 97% of their publications online. Let's not become Blockbuster, who croaked to NetFlix, who is now croaking to the home DVR. Physical aspects have been eliminated.

So digital books is the Next Big Train. Books aren't like specialized journal articles just for academies; books are for everyone! When books go completely digital, everything will be different.

I was sick and missed the whole day on Friday :(

Here are the highlights from my Saturday morning session on Digital Historical Newspapers.
  • Digital projects at libraries tend to be heavily image-based, which means QUALITY, not speed. Google Books is all about SPEED and their huge mass scanning often yields poor quality (like you can see fingers). Also, you get millions of hits for a book but you can only see some pages and not the whole book.

  • The Bentley Historical Library at U. Michigan digitized their old vertical files, and now have an amazing online collection of local and other information not available anywhere else

  • The way to have a successful collection of digital newspapers is: find an unmet information need, build consensus about it (e.g., they asked their history department what would be useful), identify important resources that match the need, and digitize them. Example: Birmingham Public Library's "Birmingham Iron Age" collection.

  • The U. Florida speaker said RefWorks was the way they did theirs, although they had explored open-source methods (e.g., Zotero) because their Caribbean partners didn't have much of a budget. The project cost $4,000 -- one grad student brought in 600 titles, for 10 hours./week for 24 weeks. Here's their site.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Right to Information Access

"The Right to Information Access" was the theme for the first Jeremiah Kaplan Institute on Libraries, The Information Society, and Social Policy presented by the Penn State University Libraries and the Rock Ethics Institute. Each of the four main speakers addressed the question "Although we are guaranteed the right to free epression, how can we ensure the right to access?". The speakers were John Willinsky, professor of education at Stanford and the founder of the Public Knowledge Project; Maybeth Peters, US Registrar of Copyright; John Palfrey, professor of law at Harvard University and co-author of the book "Born Digital"; and Clifford Lynch, Director of the Coalition of Networked Information.

In the keynote address, John Willinsky talked about the importance of institutional repositories and how we have to do a better job getting faculty to deposit their research there. Researchers worldwide should be able to have access to all of the university's research, whether their institutions subscribe to expensive journals or not. He largely blamed the faculty for not taking the time to deposit their articles, but he also urged libraries to make things as easy as possible. He also talked about his work in building the Open Journal System to make it easier for faculty and nonprofit groups to publish their own journals.

Ms. Peters talked a bit about copyright law in the US, but most of her talk focused on the Google Books settlement. While she thinks that there are several positive outcomes from the proposed settlement, she is concerned that the settlement is actually trying to make an end-run around copyright law. The orphan works component of the settlement is something that Congress should be legislating rather than having it become de facto law because of a class action lawsuit settlement. She is also concerned about the anti-trust implications surrounding Google. Under the settlement Google would have broad powers to make orphaned works available without going through a rigorous search for copyright owners. They would also face no liability if a copyright owner stepped up later--Google would only be required to take down the material. There is a hearing scheduled for mid November on the settlement.

Professor Palfrey reported on some of the findings about "Digital Natives" from his book "Born Digital". Digital Natives are individuals born after 1980 that have access to more than one digital device (computer, phone, iPod, etc.) and are sophisticated users of such devices. Most of the Digital Natives have very different views about copyright and the use of copyrighted materials. Most understand that pirating music and other digital materials is illegal, but they continue to do so anyway. Reasons range from "everybody is doing it" to "I want to stick it to the man". Palfrey is interested in how we can encourage the good things that Digital Natives can do such as bringing new creativity into research while discouraging the bad things such as multitasking during lectures and pirating music.

Clifford Lynch talked about our struggle to reconcile the right to information versus the right to entertainment. That is, the notion of the right to information is a pretty easy sale, but we are more timid about the right to entertainment (novels, music, movies). However, what is viewed as "just entertainment" by some is seen as a subject of scholarly study to others. The lines are not nearly so black and white as some think. He also talked about the right to information access going beyond just making the digital files available. True freedom of access would include the skills and availability to act on the data by modeling it, transforming it, etc.