Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 16th Annual Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning

The 16th Annual Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning was a great way to see what others are doing in distance education and to determine how we measured (in relation to others) in terms of technology use in providing services at a distance. I found some of our services (at Excelsior) to be more advanced in the area of course development and collaborating with faculty.

The overall conference covered the online environment and the impact it has had on all facets of education; from the online courses and student participation to the design of the courses and research studies that show evidence of improvements in learning as a result of delivering education at a distance; faculty training and development of online courses; and the implementation of online courses across programs and on the institutional level.

Collaboration amongst educators, instructional designers and other support services was the theme, throughout the conference. Assessment of services and how they can be improved was brought to the forefront as a result of data collected from relevant research. The researchers shared their findings and indicated ideas for future studies to continue to assess online education.

Many of the premier institutions in online education were represented at the conference. For detailed information about the conference you can visit the website for the conference proceedings below:

Conference Proceedings:

Recorded Sessions:

Post Conference Page:

I would highly recommend this conference to anyone interested in distance education trends and challenges. I am happy to chat more about it, if you are interested feel free to contact me!

Anita Norton-ELP

Good Practices for Great Outcomes: Cataloging Efficiencies

Several weeks ago, I attended a day-long workshop hosted by OCLC at the Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Neighborhood Library in Washington D.C. The day was broken up into two main parts. In the morning, we heard presentations from a number of folks on a variety of topics. After general introductions, Christopher Cole, the Associate Director for Technical Services at the National Agricultural Library, spoke about trends in technical services. Coming to the position with the benefit of years of experience, Cole provided some interesting insights into where we as a profession have come from, and where he thinks we are going. Although there were few surprises in the outlook he presented (more automation, more reuse of metadata, more cooperation with partners outside the library world), it was nonetheless interesting to hear such musings presented in Cole's affable manner.

Cole's presentation was followed up by a talk given by the Senior Training Coordinator at OCLC, Mary Alice Robinson. The take-away that I got from Robinson's presentation was that we as a technical services department here at Hopkins are pretty far ahead of the curve when it comes to cataloging efficiencies! Robinson discussed a great many services and workflow efficiencies offered by OCLC, and we are already taking advantage of most of them. Robinson concluded her talk by discussing some of the future projects that OCLC is working on. The most interesting of these to me was an OCLC research prototype called Classify. According to OCLC's website, Classify is a FRBR-based prototype, available at, designed to assist catalogers in assigning classification numbers and subject headings. It will be very interesting to follow the progression of this prototype as it moves forward.

The second half of the day was more of a question and answer, small group discussion. These are always useful, as they give participants a great opportunity to peek into libraries and organizations around the area and see how other departments function. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss issues impacting us all with colleagues from all different kinds of libraries.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

American Studies Association Annual Meeting

I went to the ASA to give a talk about the class I taught last spring, “Reading Culture in the 19th-Century Library,” and the resulting exhibit that’s now on display. The talk was called “Self-Improvement and Unplanned Pleasures in the Public Library, or, Why I Had to Change the Title of this Presentation.” It’s really not a big deal to change a conference title, but in this case the change itself became my topic: how my idea about what was important in the class had to change based on the students’ responses and their independent work.

I planned the course intending to use the George Peabody to show, not just the emergence of the public library and its connections to developments in print technology, literary tastes, education and the growth of cities, but also how the public library movement was contradictory in its ideals and actual practices. That is, all the great ideas about self-improvement, civic duty, democratic participation and cultural progress that “books for the masses” would supposedly accomplish—well, they were compromised in practice, as demonstrated by the gap between Peabody’s founding letter (and similar documents like the Report of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library) and the library’s policies and procedures. I thought this was interesting in itself, and also a great representation of the cultural dynamics of late 19th- and early 20th-century progressive ideology.

What I found out as I taught the course was… students did not find this gap all that surprising or dismaying. If you’re curious about why, check out my presentation, which I’ll post in JScholarship shortly. Happily, the students’ final projects—book collections which became the exhibit—are wonderfully adept at revealing the nuances of 19th century reading practices and their connections to larger social issues. In short, without the burden of exemplifying the canned argument I had prepared, the students did a better job at actually showing that argument in action.

The panel itself, called “Archive This?!,” was about the politics of archive formation. Lauren Coats from Louisiana State University gave a talk about the proliferation of Christopher Columbus’ letters and how they appear differently in different archival contexts—often without the metadata or interpretive frameworks that help readers understand their status as objects. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun from Brown University talked about “undead” information, as exemplified/examined by a new project she is creating on the scalar platform, developed by the same folks at USC who created the multimedia digital journal Vectors. After the presentations, there was a spirited discussion with folks from museum studies programs, libraries, history and American Studies.

Two other highlights of the conference: getting to hear my favorite historian of ephemera, Ellen Gruber Garvey, talk about Civil War scrapbooks and the circulation of newspaper poetry. Also great was the meeting of the digital humanities caucus, which used a lightning talk format. People on the program spoke briefly and frankly about successes and challenges with a variety of digital projects and opportunities, most of which involve scholars, librarians and technologists working together. A few examples:

• Multiple Interpretive Markup on the Horatio Nelson Taft Diary
Susan Garfinkel and Jurretta Heckscher, Libray of Congress
What’s the next step for the “American Memory” digital materials at the Library of Congress? This is one example.

Our Americas Archive
Lisa Spiro, Director, Digital Media Center at Rice University
Bringing together dispersed digital collections.

• “American Enterprise” at the National Museum of American History
Kathy Franz, Associate Professor of History, American University
Creating a pre-exhibition website to solicit feedback from the public to help set up exhibit.

• “Ranking America” blog
Mark Rice, Chair, American Studies, St. John Fisher College
Great source for twitter! This project led him to a series of articles in Forbes and a new class.

Searching for Siqueiros
A. Joan Saab, Associate Professor of Art History & Director, Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, University of Rochester
Based on her research on the Mexican muralist David Siqueiros, this will be a community-collaborative digital book about his impact on the visual culture of L.A., using the scalars platform that is currently in development by the folks at Vectors.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Charleston Conference

I also attended the 30th annual Charleston Conference and found it very helpful in terms of my new role of managing our electronic subscriptions for the Excelsior College. I attended a negotiating with vendors preconference on Wednesday that brought together people with different perspectives in dealing with licensing, which made for a balanced and insightful view on how to best negotiate these contracts.

The conference itself was jam-packed and I attended over 20 sessions! Some of my favorites included:
  • Let them Eat Everything…Embracing a Patron-Driven Future, Rick Anderson, University of Utah. Thought-provoking point: Libraries do fundamentally crazy things when we have no options. We get good at these things and then they become core services? ex. ILL, Big Deals, reference & instruction (like telling 25 fishermen to fish for 20,000 fish)
  • Who Do we Trust? Meaning of Brand in Scholarly Publishing and Academic Librarianship, Kent Anderson, Dean Smith (Project Muse), Hazel Woodard, Allen Renear (Univ Of Illinois Lib School)- Brand is interesting, we all trust the brand, but why? Because it represents something else-the process. However, how far should we stretch this? ex. Nature communications.
  • Open Textbook Models: View from the Library, Greg Rascke NC State. Discussed FlatWorld and their business model; Then, NC State's library policy to purchase one of every required textbook.
  • Executive Roundtable Q& A- Y.S. Chi, Elsevier and Kent Anderson. A question focused on how publishers are dealing with supplemental data, how much should go online and how should it be posted?
  • What can our Readers Teach us? John Sack, Associate Director for Highwire Press Thinking outside the box- Readers want information and we give them a container (books, articles, journals, etc.) and they have to unpack them. *If we can find what users want, we can get out of the box.
I have tons of notes and additional information, so please contact me if you are interested!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Geology Field Trip to Gettysburg with Professor Bruce Marsh

On November 10, Keith Kaneda and I went on a field trip to Gettysburg with Professor Bruce Marsh of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department and two of his students. Keith and I are working with Bruce, trying to get his data, photos, field notes, etc. related to his fieldwork in the McMurdo Dry Valleys region of Antarctica into proper form, suitable for ingest into the Data Conservancy's archive. This field trip was a welcome change of pace for me and, in fact, was one of the highlights of my time (almost 12 years now) here at Johns Hopkins.

I myself know nothing about rocks, so being surrounded all day by geologists was a treat. (And if you don't think rocks are interesting please track down our own Keith Kaneda and just have him start talking. It's really as simple as that. Mark my words, within about 45 seconds you will feel the Pull of all things Geology. Really.)

Aside from the tangential lecture on the Battle of Gettysburg, I was interested to learn that the geologic structure of the Gettysburg area is really similar to that of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, that the great rift upon which Gettysburg sits is actually a geologic dividing line between the Appalachians and all that is to the East, and that all that is to the East was left behind when the continent of what is now Africa broke apart from what is now North America. I learned about geologic dykes, and about the red rock, iron-rich, I've always seen while traveling through the Maryland Catoctins. I learned that it's thought the Appalachians were once higher than the Himalayas are now. I learned that trying to calculate the how high a mountain on Earth could possibly be is a hard problem, yet observing mountains on Mars may help us out in this regard.

(I learned that sitting in the middle of the back seat of a Nissan Murano is more comfortable than where the other two guys at your elbows are sitting because you are perfectly balanced and are not constantly sliding toward the door.)

Keith pointed out various items of interest on a detailed geologic map of eastern Pennsylvania, while Bruce went to greet Professor Ben Edwards of Dickinson College and Professor Steve Sparks of the University of Bristol, U.K. Professor Sparks was visiting to give the 2010 Joseph Priestley Lecture at Dickinson that evening.

It was interesting to watch as these seasoned geologists interacted. We stopped in downtown Gettysburg to examine the rock foundation of a building there, they pulled out their loupes to more clearly see the crystalline structure. They spoke in a code I did not understand -- and yet I always felt on the verge.

This form of participant observation is, for me, one of the joys of working in higher education. I always feel like a small glitter of knowledge has somehow drifted down upon me, in this case it was a glitter red and iron-rich.

As we gassed up at the Kwik-i-Mart on our way out of town, I thought I might buy a bumper sticker there for my darling sixteen-year-old stepdaughter:

"My Step-Dad took a geologic tour of Gettyburg and all I got was a chunk of Dolerite."

Mark Cyzyk

Digital Library Federation Forum 2010

The most interesting thing by far about the Digital Library Federation Forum (DLF) was the Project Managers Group meeting, but my colleague Tim DiLauro has already reported on that. Please take the last statement with a grain of salt, as I was one of the organizers of the meeting :-) So, I will report on a couple of other meetings.

Digital Library as Partner in Transformation

Four librarians from UCLA gave a very interesting presentation on the role of the library as a research partner with faculty. One way they do this is by providing discipline-based IT and research support through the Lab for Digital Cultural Heritage and the Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE-HASIS). The latter provides high performance and statistical computing for researchers in Humanities, Arts and Architecture, and Social and Information Sciences. They have developed the notion of a "digital projects pipeline" that helps connect scholars with digital support groups in the library and other parts of the university. The pipeline provides researchers a single contact point to find the proper resources and expertise in developing digital projects. It also helps coordinate work across participating groups for interdisciplinary projects.

The UCLA folks also showed a series of video interviews with faculty members talking about their view of the role of the library in the research process. There was universal agreement that the library remains an important physical space and a collaborative virtual space. One researcher said that librarians need to change from a culture of "service" to "research collaboration" as in a scientific lab. Another spoke of librarian/scholar collaborations as "renaissance teams". UCLA has been one of the leading libraries to employ CLIR postdoctoral fellows, so they are showing a great commitment to an active engagement with researchers.

Digital Library Growing Pains

This was a working session that exemplifies the direction the DLF forum is going. Rather than simply offering a series of "talking heads" throughout the conference, this Forum included a more interactive experience with reading discussions, working groups, and other collaborative sessions. This working group, led by librarians from UCLA (again) and the University of Iowa, looked at what staffing models were needed for the "digital research commons" and how digital library staff can introduce nontraditional methods and workflows into traditional settings such as preservation and technical services.

After very brief presentations about the two questions raised above, we split into two groups for discussion. I participated in the group that discussed the introduction of nontraditional workflows and methods into traditional settings. One thread of this discussion was the question of whether we are digitizing materials for access or preservation. While there was agreement that both were important, there was frustration that we are choosing items more for preservation purposes than for access. There was also a lot of discussion about the staffing levels in the library. Many complained that not enough staff had been re-allocated from traditional services to digital library services. This remains a tough problem since libraries continue to provide many types of services. We need to be especially careful to recruit staff who are comfortable with a wide range of technology and a tolerance for ambiguity in their job assignments.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SPARC Repositories, Baltimore, November 8-9, 2010

On November 8 and 9 I attended the SPARC Repositories conference in downtown Baltimore. (For whatever they're worth, I've attached my notes below.)

The highlights of this conference for me all happened on the second day. First, it is always a great pleasure to hear Clifford Lynch, Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), speak. As always, a little voice inside admonishes me to "Sit up straight, Sonny, and listen to the Master." Truly. Lynch openly mused about global repositories and the problems associated with Big Data: How far away from Big Computation should they be? Big Bandwidth? Should these all be co-located? Big Questions were raised here.

The luncheon keynote, by Dr. George Strawn, Director of the National Coordination Office, Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program, was another highlight, an enjoyable, entertaining, even folksy lunchtime
survey of the evolution of, well, the Internet, the Web, disruptive technologies, everything that's current. Direct quote, aimed at commercial publishers: "Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle." !

I actually found the closing panel on sustainability, particularly the final panelist in this session from Hong Kong University, to be the most interesting. And what I found most interesting about it was tangential to the subject of the panel itself: David Palmer from HKU, in addition to noting how his repository is sustained (through a grant from Hong Kong's higher education directorate), showed off some of the things they've been able to do with it. They are using their repository as a "reputation management system" and have created a page/space for every single professor at their university. They've reaped data from their university's research management database; they've reaped data from departmental Websites about each professor; they've created a ResearcherID for every professor, then used it to reap bibliographic and bibliometric data from the indexing/abstracting services; in an effort at authority control, they've had each professor load a copy of the Publish or Perish software locally, then use it to identify his/her authoritative name in Google Scholar, and have likewise used Publish or Perish to cut and paste bibliometric data directly into each professor's space inside the repository. They have reaped so much data that the internal organizational flow has begun now to change, from a Departmental-Website-to-Repository flow, to a Repository-to-Departmental-Website flow. I say "Bravo!"

Mark Cyzyk


Mark Cyzyk's Notes

SPARC Repositories
November 8-9, 2010

November 8

Opening Keynote
Michael Nielsen: Quantum Physicist

Open science
Linux industry
Survey of "open" projects. Open source projects. Wikipedia
Might this be used in the science community?
Polymath Project Mathematics in the open
Gower's blog. Fields medalist
rules of collaboration
Be polite; only one idea per comment
"restructured expert attention"
Not the future of scientific publishing, but fundamentally changes the way scientific knowledge is constructed.
Citizen science
Galaxy Zoo, e.g.
Failures: Scientific wikis; open peer review; scientific social networks
Little incentive to participate
No reputational reward for participation
What is successful? Open projects supporting conventional scientific goals and practices -- generating papers
Conservative ends
Genesis and evolution of scientific communication/publication
"Bermuda principles" for release of genome data
We all agree to release our data
But only for human genetic data
Need to apply this idea
Open data
Grant agencies can mandate sharing
But scientific communities must agree

Moderated by Patricia Renfro, Columbia University
Wendy Robertson, Digital Resources Librarian, University of Iowa
Mark Newton, Digital Collections Librarian, Purdue University Libraries
Ventura PĂ©rez, Assistant Professor of Bioarchaeology, UMass Amherst
Nathan MacBrien, Publications Director, Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley

University of Iowa Libraries, believe libraries should be actively involved in ePublishing.
Digital Commons.
Not tied to specific technologies
Interaction with UIowa Press. Humanities monographs
Working paper series
Small society journals
Special digital projects. Iowa City Flood digital exhibit
Host back volumes for University Iowa Press
Conversion of Biographical Dictionary of Iowa into online version
MOU between Library and Press/Faculty/Editors
Graphic design/usability
Editors are not particularly technology savvy

Purdue University Libraries
Collabortation with Press
Press is a unit of the Libraries
Digital Commons repository
Press uses infrastructure too
10 repository journals. eJournals published directly to the repository
Repository as publishing platform
IMLS one year planning grant, with University of Utah, Georgia Tech
3 workshops to be held in May 2011. Survey

UMass Bioarchealogist Narco violence US Mexico border
"Landscapes of Violence" journal. Open access journal. Interdisciplinary
Lack of access to peer-reviewed journal content counts as "structural violence"???
Yaqui massacre 1902. Repatriation of human remains, US to Yaqui
Local access to scholarly publications about them
Took two years to get his journal up and running
Difficult to assemble an Editorial Board
Don't want mere figureheads
Cultural changes in tenure process required if Open Access is to be successful

Institute for International Studies, Berkeley
Open access book publishing
Collaboration with CDL and UC press
Publish 5-8 titles per year
One person staff
UCPubS publishing platform
Print on demand through Press. online retailing
Digital edition available through eScholarship repository
Humanities and social sciences, nervous about open-access, bottom-up publishing

[NOTE: A lot of institutions using BEPress/Digital Commons.]

Moderated by Kathleen Shearer, Canadian Association of Research Libraries
Kevin Ashley, Director, Digital Curation Centre
Gail Steinhart, Research Data & Environmental Sciences Librarian, Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University
Charles K. Humphrey, Head of Data Research Services, University of Alberta

Digital Curation Centre
Ways of thinking about Open Data: Government data; research data
World data centers - atmospheric; oceanographic
Legal obligations to deposit
UK Data Archive - 40+ years old
Must retrain people to be data curators. Not a lot of data curators out there right now.
Data Management Planning (DMP)
DCC checklists for DMP. Online tool.
DCC training, 1-5 day course
Citing data, linking data
UK Research Data Service (UKRDS)

Data collections at Cornell
Topology: Research; Resource; Reference data collections
"Small" data is important
Need for data librarians. Not many out there
Data eScience librarians
Research Data Management Service Group (RDMSG) at Cornell
Data Staging Repository (DataStaR): A place for researchers to post datasets in a controlled setting
Curating and preserving datasets and providing them for cross-disciplinary discovery and use
Submit data, share data, publish data via DataStaR. RDF store for metadata. Data files stored in Fedora
In production now
Have published a few dozen datasets
Data discussion group at Cornell libraries

Data library at University of Alberta
No national data archive
The data landscape in Canada, a patchwork
MS Excel as primary tool for entering and managing data! This is what researchers use.
Distribute OAIS functions across organizations? One model of how to tie things together
Or create a cloud of services, micro-services
Community cloud of services. No silos
Canadian Research Library Association -- adopting this at the national level

How they do it in the U.K; how they do it at Cornell; how they do it in Canada.

Tuesday, November 9

Moderated by Neil Jacobs, acting Program Director for the Information Environment, JISC
Jun Adachi, Director of Cyber Science Infrastructure Development, National Institute of Informatics, Japan
Clifford Lynch, Director, Coalition for Networked Information
Martha Giraldo Jaramillo, Executive Director, RENATA

SPARC Europe. Why is Europe far ahead in open access? European Commission mandate.
Establishing European PKP network, fall 2011

JISC definition/rationale for repositories
COAR Confederation of open access repositories. European
Mentions EDF in France mid-seventies, does not mention its failure! (Bruno Latour book)
Topology of repository tools, platforms, gateways, networks
Growing -- not building -- a global repository network.

500 nmember library consortium in Japan. Negotiating power.

Clifford Lynch
Is the repository the right unit of infrastructure to be thinking about?
Global infrastructure. Big data, staging areas, moving it, local workflows
Repositories situated relative to large computational facilities, large bandwidth networks.
Difficulty of coordination, internationally
E.g., human subjects research across institutions. Difficult nationally; all but impossible internationally
The notion of global repository networks slams up against this.

CLARA Latin America network
82 repositories in LA

George Strawn, Director of the National Coordination Office, Federal Networking and Information
Technology Research and Development program
On Publishers: "Hell hath no fury like a vested interested masquerading as a moral principle."
Excellent and entertaining overview of the evolution of all that is current.

Moderated by Sayeed Choudhury, Johns Hopkins University
Sue Kriegsman, archivist and librarian, Harvard University
David Palmer, Scholarly Communications Team Leader, Hong Kong University Libraries
Oya Y. Rieger, Associate University Librarian for Digital Scholarship Services, Cornell University Library

Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, under the Libraries.
Three years old. Support open access policies
Five Harvard Open Access policies
DASH - Dspace repository -- Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard
Drupal on top of Dspace
Students hired to collect content from faculty
Faculty Activity Reports, put a button on the form "Upload to DASH"

Sustainability of arXive. Requesting voluntary contributions from top 200 institutions. $391K in 2010.
Main principles for supporting Open Access scholarly resources, a list
Open Access is not necessarily free -- there are costs involved
$7 per submissions; 1.4 cents per download
380K per year budget
Main expenses: Programming and user support

Hong Kong University Scholar's Hub
2005 institutional repository in Libraries
Knowledge Transfer grant to HK higher education, 6 million shared
--> Knowledge Exchange. part of Vision
25,000 grants
1500 HKU researcher pages. Each professor gets a page. Author profiles
Web scraping of info on departmental Websites
Mandate for theses since 2001
ResearcherID from Thomson-Reuters. Created ID for every HKU professor. Used this to reap bibliometic data. COOL.
Publish or Perish software. Please choose preferred name. Asked individual professors to copy and paste from Publish or Perish into Scholars Hub bibliometrics page. COOL.
Automated data updates to HKU departmental Websites. Data now flows in a different direction. COOL.
Hub for collaborative research.
Decision support. Fund allocation. Research assessment.
Reputation Management System
A big mashup
A big success!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Charleston Conference XXX

I attended the 30th Charleston Conference this past week. The conference was very heavy on acquisitions, patron driven decisions and models, and electronic books. Attendance included a lot of publishers, and a good opportunity to meet with software vendors, such as Ebsco and OCLC. I presented:
Sue Woodson also gave an excellent plenary session talk.

Three things of note I want to touch on, and then get into some questions that have been rolling around in my head, and are appropriate maybe to write down.

Printing on demand - The Espresso Book Machine is a cool product by OnDemandBooks. Imagine no longer purchasing titles according to an approval plan, and printing only the books that users want, in a matter of minutes per book, right in your library. Rick Anderson, of University of Utah, was singing the praises of this EBM in their library. Not a new concept, but been put through its paces for a few years now.

KBART - NISO working group to fix the weakest link in the metadata supply chain from publishers to link resolver knowledgebase. KBART has created a universally acceptable holdings data format to improve the OpenURL KB metadata supply chain. This group made its recommendation in january 2010 and has gotten some critical mass of publishers to take note. Information on KBART is available here.

User behavior - John Sack reported on an interesting user study conducted by Highwire. Very telling (or rather confirming) data on how users research (what tools they use and what habits), and how readers behave. Researchers are not using library catalogs or publishers web sites. Readers are not using e-books, many aren't even reading on the screen (printing PDFs and reading on paper).

Besides these three points, there were a handful of plenary sessions that were speculative towards the future of libraries. It is hard to predict the future. But, libraries have been evolving for decades, and will continue to evolve. The librarian will need to evolve too; library staff will need to take on different roles as libraries are going to shift their focus from collecting to providing service.

Some of these sessions were very thought provoking, and lead me to ask some questions that I did not hear from any of the speakers:

In the library, should we continue to focus efforts on description and discovery of non-unique material? If no one is coming to library search, should we continue to focus all our attention on providing a discovery interface?

I wonder if our time would be well spent if we focused on providing persistent, RESTful URLs to our content, and continued to improve our rich set of services related to known items (ie. FindIt). In this way, our content could be consistently crawled, and exposed for indexing by more mainstream external indexes.

Should we be focusing on the browser environment, pushing Firefox, Chrome, and IE extensions like libX? These extensions would guide users from the open web to known item services and through authentication.

Should we focus on authentication and focus on providing access instead of discovery? There is work that still needs to be done to publishers' interfaces to help guide users from the open web to licensed material. Most users are finding links to articles from search engines, not through a library search interface.

Can we assume that google, and the like, will provide better search of content than we can ourselves?

In what ways can we put technology to better use to automate backend workflows? More automated knowledgebase management? Better integration of ILL licensing terms from our licensing agreements to our ILL applications? More automated workflow in the approval process, such that two separate financial systems don't need to be maintained?

I will stop speculating ... for now

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Impact and Productivity Measurments

The DC Chapter of SLA and ResearchConnect (part of Elsevier) presented a one-day event on Wed., Oct. 27th, 2010. It was called:
Impact and Productivity Measurements in a Changing Research Environment

The 8 speakers came from around the globe and by the end of the day I felt like I was (temporarily) caught up with the fast-moving world of productivity measurements. A few comments about the speakers I enjoyed the most.

Dr. Henk Moed, Senior Scientific Advisor at Elsevier
The Use of Bibliometric Indicators in Research Evaluation: A Critical Overview
Henk provided a wonderful overview and emphasized the fact that numbers can indicate productivity but humans have to do the actual evaluation of faculty, departments, or institutions. He also pointed out that the metrics can be (and have been) manipulated.

Dr. Jevin West, and Dept of Biology, Univ of Washington
The Eigenfactor Metrics: A Network Approach to Assessing Scholarly Journals
His interest in network biology got him interested in the citation network. He believes that understanding the citation network will help us with evaluating and navigating scholarship. Eigenfactor has expanded its data recently to include JSTOR. They are working on hierarchical maps now.

Dr. Frank Krell, Entomology Dept. of Zoology, Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Should Editors Influence Journal Impact Factors?
This was a VERY interesting and slightly depressing talk. His description of how editors could manipulate their journal impact factors was revealing. But the grey areas were cool. Isn't an editor hired to promote the journal? Shouldn't the editor take actions that make the journal more visible in the field? And his discussion of what a citation actually means just fed my fear that this is all a numbers game. Sometimes authors cite a work because someone else cited it; not because they read it. If an author needs to cite a work, but has 7 works that could be cited, how does she choose? Does a citation really indicate quality or popularity?

Dr. Sidney Redner, Physics Dept. Boston University
A Physicist's Perspective on Citation Analysis
Statistical physicists seem to like citation analysis. Dr. Redner echoed some of what Dr. Moed said earlier, you can play with the numbers, but you still need to understand someone's research in order to evaluate it. He walked through math that he said proves the h-index is directly tied to the number of citations a paper receives and doesn't add anything to the discussion of citation analysis. I've added a line to the Scholarly Metrics journal to point out that not everyone thinks the h-index is the bees' knees.

Digital Library Federation - Fall Forum 2010

I attended the Digital Library Federation 2010 Fall Forum meeting November 1 - 3. The main meeting was bracketed by a Project Managers Meeting at the beginning and a Developers Meeting at the end.

This forum's Project Managers Meeting focused on Agile development and was put together and moderated by Sarah Shreeves from Illinois and Sheridan Libraries' own David Reynolds. Emily Lynema, Associate Head of Information Technology at North Carolina State University, gave a presentation on NCSU's experiences and thoughts around Agile Development and led a discussion in the first part of this meeting. That was followed by a couple of short presentations with lots of discussions. My big take-away is that while Agile proposes a set of parameters, seemingly successful projects have managed to stretch these in different ways. In my view, it's important to be agile about Agile: We have to adapt the approach to our own particular needs and environment.

The group then had lunch with attendees of the Taiga Forum and heard a presentation by and participated in an exercise led by Kristine Shannon, an expert on Agile methods.

A good overview of the Agile approach is available on this Wikipedia page.

The meeting was well-organized with a good mix of sessions. My only complaint is that there were several time blocks that had multiple tracks that were of interest to me. One of the stand-out sessions was a workshop-style discussion of preservation/curation microservices, small, focused services that implement a particular task or operation. These are similar in concept to the micro-services in iRods. These atomistic services can be linked together in different ways to perform a variety of more complex tasks.

In the closing session of the main part of the meeting, Rachel Frick, the Executive Director of the DLF, and members of the meeting's program planning committee led us in a exercise to brainstorm and vote on ideas for future roles of DLF as an organization. Attendees made and supported suggestions for these roles in 30-second synopses. Each of these were transcribed onto a flipchart sheet and attached around the walls of the meeting room. Attendees then gathered at ideas of interest, fleshed them out, and indicated their primary interest by hanging around at a particular sheet.

This approach might be useful for us to try within the Sheridan Libraries in future brainstorming and direction-setting exercises.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Xtreme Reference (added by Sue Vazakas)

This one-day program on October 21, 2010 was held at the Applied Physics Lab. It was classily done and apparently had more than 300 registrants.

The hard-working co-chairs -- Susan Fingerman, Ashley Conaway, and Chris Olson -- and their colleagues in the Maryland chapter of SLA did a fine job of presenting interesting information from many disciplines.


  1. Opening Presentation -- Mary Ellen Bates
The always-entertaining Bates expanded our minds for the program ahead:

-- RFID tags are used to track cattle, railroad cars, and runners in races; in passports, EZ passes, and ski passes

-- YouTube has old advertisements such as the telephone "dial vs. touch tone"

Young people:
  • Distance doesn't matter, and it's not rude to be talking/texting while you're with your friends; it's actually inclusive
  • Everybody shares (they don't get the copyright concept)
  • Everybody discusses (friend-sourcing; e.g., showing friends on the iPhone 4 the clothing on the rack and asking for opinions)
  • Expect a lot of value: they already *have* more info than they can use; just saying that our stuff has more value is not a good enough argument
  • They want continuous JIT (just in time) learning; want context-sensitive video or streaming media right there all the time
We are no longer between the information and the user. To get back there, how can we add value for them (e.g., on TV broadcasts, the inserted lines on football fields, swimming pools, etc.)?

In 5-10 years, who will we be hiring and for what kind of job? We'll be hiring the people who can add value to that middle ground.

Finally: in response to the question, "what do you do?," she replies "I do things with information." This is interesting and it also keeps you from being pigeon-holed.

2. Navigating Government Data

This was one of four concurrent sessions: E-Book Insights had reps from Knovel, Books 24x7, and NetLibrary; and there were also sessions on Business Research and Sci/Tech Resource Gems.

I think that the best-kept secret on the whole WWW is the enormous amount and excellent quality of U.S. government information there. A great deal was discussed during this session, so here are the most important items:
  • - the government's web site (also has list of federal libraries)
  • - last year the "open government directive" said that all agencies must publish three datasets of their own choosing by January 2010. ((Featured item on home page is the geospatial data with a new interactive platform.)
NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
  • Most of their 100+ databases are free and have been around for a while. The well-known Chemistry Webbook has recently been updated
  • NIST also has a museum and historical collection
Maryland State Data Center
  • Lots of census data such as the American Community Survey, which gets new data every year and not just every 10 years
  • One year of data is now available for 2009; in December, five years of data (2005-2009) will be available, and in January 2011, three years of data will be available (2007-2009)
  • From the 2010 decennial census, redistricting data will be available February 2011
  • New platform for American Factfinder in January 2011!
  • MD State Data Center also has county-specific info, and estimates and projections on housing, migration, income, jobs, demographics, and more
  • Every state has a state data center, and they are run by different organizations, such as the state, a library, or a university, and they all have different resources
3. Search and Seek

This sessions two speakers were Mary Ellen Bates to talk about Google stuff, after the Google person canceled at the last minute, and Gary Price.

Google is so huge and diverse now that all a speaker can do in a limited time is hit cool highlights. For example:
  • Google New - Where to find Google's new products. You can search and then search within results
  • Google Public Data Explorer - Provides data and datasets from other sources such as Eurostat and OECD, such as "broadband penetration in Europe" and "natural fast prices." Both U.S. and international information are covered.
  • Google Fusion Tables - Upload your data and choose many ways to visualize your results; e.g., map, pie/bar chart, timeline)
Price also discussed cool sites, such as:
  • A guide not only to TV listings but to lectures, some live streams, and interviews.
  • MetaLib - From GPO, yes, a federated search tool for government databases! (Just launched 10/18!)
  • Wolfram Alpha - A search engine/calculator for many things; e.g., historical weather, historical stock charts
  • NNDB (Notable Names DataBase) - This one was creepy. It basically links people to other people so that connections -- e.g., employers, schools, relatives -- between them can be seen. For example, here's Ayn Rand's page. Go to the bottom and click "create a map," and then start mousing over things.
  • - Find the location of tankers, tugs, passenger vessels, etc. and more. Updates every 20 seconds.
  • - free books and can send them to Kindle.
I'll put the program, which includes the speaker biographies and list of attendees, in my mailbox on M Level. Here's the program's web site with Christina Pikas's (APL) tweets.

We are supposed to get a link to most of the program on the web, and I'll update this post with that when it arrives.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ithaka Sustainable Scholarship 2010 Conference

I attended the Ithaka “Sustainable Scholarship 2010” conference held September 27-28, 2010 in NYC. The conference was well attended by librarians and publishers, in particular university presses. A highlight of the conference was an opening keynote by Daniel Russell, Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality & User Happiness at Google. Daniel shared examples of how they work with users to incrementally evolve Google services. At the end of the talk he noted that although Google can continue to make their search services as intuitive as possible there’s still a need for instruction and that as a community we need to work together from both ends. He said, “We can and must teach these skills now” and that “your best internet resource is a librarian.”
Some interesting points and information pulled from my notes include:
• Library’s role is to develop new models of preservation.
• 70% of new initiatives funded by grants and discretionary money list their sustainability model as “give to host institution”. This is not sustainability.
• In 2011 Portico will add and offer separate services for e-books and D-collections. D-collections (Database collections) will be offered to publishers as a private service so they can offer it as a benefit to their institutional clients.
• January 2011 JStore launching the hosting of current content. Already 19 publishers and 174 journals included in the pilot for 2011.
• JStore will continue their alumni library collections pilot, pricing is a 10% add-on access fee to the existing license. Alumni library pilot partners this year included Columbia, Duke, Penn State, etc.
• Ithaka S+R group is researching international funders attitudes and practices for defining sustainability specifically for grants. Working on a toolkit for normalizing sustainability from a preservation and financial perspective and “zeroing in on the question” of how to report on sustainability to funders.
• Ithaka S+R also engaged in a study with Carnegie Melon to research online learning initiatives. More background in this vein of research can be found at:
• Jan Reichelt shared more background on Mendeley and how putting a social layer on a database enables very different kinds of sharing of information and highlighting of interdisciplinary work. He expressed interest I “crowd sourcing of findings” and said they were interested in connecting the academic world to consumer information. I noted that they have over 500,000 users.
• Javin West of Eigenfactor shared how he developed the Eigenfactor to better evaluate scholarly literature than impact factors. The Eigenfactor shifts away from an over emphasis on citation analysis to include how information is connected, the access to the information and more.

OCLC Basic Serials Cataloging Workshop

I had the pleasure of attending the OCLC Basic Serials Cataloging Workshop this past Tuesday and Wednesday (10/19-10/20). The workshop was based upon a standard workshop created by the Serials Cataloging Cooperative Training Program (SCCTP). The SCCTP, according to their website, is a "cooperative program that provides standardized training materials and trained trainers in the field of serials cataloging, through workshops sponsored by library associations, networks, and institutions." While many of the resources used throughout the workshop are available freely online, the expertise of the trainer, Gene Dickerson, along with the wealth of knowledge and experience brought by my co-participants made the workshop well worth the time and money.

The workshop was structured such that the first day focused on the original cataloging of serials, and the second day discussed the kinds of decisions copy catalogers are faced with when confronting serials. As opposed to their more static cousins monographs, serials are wonderfully (and sometimes frustratingly!) dynamic. Gene did an excellent job of explicating not only the history of how catalogers responded to the sometimes-unwieldy nature of serials, but also the major shift in how cataloging as a profession views the changing nature of these kinds of resources.

I learned an enormous amount about the Conser Standard Record for serials. Throughout the realm of cataloging, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) has been working to simplify and make more uniform the approach to creating bibliographic descriptions for a variety of types of resources. The approach attempts to make required the kinds of description and access that are viewed as most helpful to our users, while making optional those elements of description deemed not as important for access. I was greatly impressed by the more streamlined approach, and look forward to applying this knowledge to our library's collections.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

LITA National Forum 2010

I attended the LITA National Forum 2010 this past weekend. I presented with Andy Ingham of UNC Chapel Hill on Shibboleth and InCommon. As a whole, the forum had a very relevant mix of topics for Johns Hopkins libraries. The most important and relevant topics I will report on are mobile web design, web site redesign, OCLC’s WMS, promoting open source software through the cloud, and IT organization in libraries. I’ll report on each of these in some detail, but also provide a brief synopsis below.

OCLC’s WMS (Web-Scale Management System) exists and is in use by a handful of early adopters. Feedback was very positive, especially in terms of cost savings due to shared data. This system is here and now and worthy of evaluation.

There were a few presentations on mobile design. Diane Butler from Rice University provided some very detailed analysis, based on actual usage and on survey, as to what are the most used, needed, and desired mobile functions for libraries.

Justin Blum, from University of Nevada, Reno, presented on web redesign. His presentation focused on what made for a successful approach and process to a web redesign in the libraries.

Michael Klein presented on promoting open source projects through the cloud. OSU is spinning up demonstration/evaluation versions of Library a la Carte through cloud service providers. This promotes adoption of the open source software. Could this work for the Blacklight community? Maybe.

Joan Smith, from Emory University, discussed IT reorganization in brief, and talked in more detail about their Agile methodology and project management.

On the Go: What your users really want
Diane Butler – Rice University

Diane presented on Rice’s mobile web design. They’re a pretty small university. Soup to nuts, they did this in 4 months. Their mobile web site is They used iWebkit. One feature in particular that I think they did a good job with is floor plans. They are attractive and useful in a mobile context. They don’t have GPS, but that is ok.

In their process, they very deliberately started tracking usage, as well as planned surveys. These assessment techniques allowed them to analyze what was the most used, most needed and most desired functionality for their users. The most desirable functionality includes search, floorplans, hours, lab availability, GPS navigation, and reserving group study rooms.

Things that were not very well received were podcasts and links to non-mobile sites. Users also indicated that they did not want to conduct research on their cell phones.

Things that were desired and not available include GPS navigation, lab availability, and the ability to reserve group study rooms.

Engaging Users and Easing Them Into Your Task-Oriented Library Website Redesign
Justin Blum – University of Nevada, Reno

Justin discussed the web redesign process at University of Nevada, Reno. Justin is the web developer responsible for their web site redesign. He gave relevant advice.

Web redesign projects need to have a clear argument for replacing existing web site. The project may be put in doubt, and may need to revisit this argument to support the new design.

Web redesign should start with a vision. Design by committee will kill or severely impede the process. Web designer needs to have a plan and vision. Web designer should share initially with a few people, generate buy in and gather feedback. When going to beta, don’t design by committee, embody the committee.

In all phases, consider the feedback loop. Look at web design as a conversation.

In terms of content, 80% of people on their site were doing research. In a redesign, don’t marginalize the catalog, 30% of the people using their site use the catalog.

Promoting Open Source Software through Cloud Deployment
Michael Klein – Oregon State University

This was an interesting presentation on promoting open source software through cloud deployment. OSU has developed an open source software, Library a la Carte. It has been downloaded a bunch of times, but only resulted in a few installations in 3 years. This is because there are barriers to evaluating open source software if there is a lot of up front work that needs to be done just to get the thing to a state where it turns on.

So, they are using cloud service providers to deploy very easily instances of the software for people to evaluate. They provide a handful of service providers for people to use. Great idea. Other open source projects, like Blacklight, should take note.

Cloudy with a Chance for Cooperation: Cloud-based Library Management
Rob Ross – OCLC
Jason Griffey – Tennessee Chattanooga
Gina Perchichini – Idaho Commission for Libraries
Michael Dula - Pepperdine
Kyle Banerjee – Orbis Cascade Alliance

There were a few vendor presentations on ILS and on web scale discovery. Ex Libris presented on URM. There were presentations on Summon and EBSCO web discovery service. I attended this OCLC presentation. There were a handful of presenters from early adopters of the OCLC Web Scale Management System (WMS). Feedback was very positive from these members.

All of the presenters stressed the cost benefit of this solution for their library. In particular, they all pointed out the benefits of shared data. In this model, there is no such thing as copy cataloging; it doesn’t exist anymore. All presenters talked about the ability to repurpose staff to do more interesting work. Also, some of the presenters also indicated savings in server and software maintenance.

From Cobbled to Agile
Joan Smith – Emory University

Joan talked about IT reorganization at Emory. They reorganized into functional groups, such as a core team (ILS), strategy team (project managers/strategists), and software team (developers). They have adopted an agile approach to project management. Joan discussed the tools and the effect that agile has had on their IT group.

Some of the tools they are using: TRAC, ActiTime, and Dwrangler. Their tools are all integrated, some home-grown, but together, these tools allow them to efficiently manage projects, their documentation sites, and their meetings.

Their Agile methodologies, especially their scrums and their iterations, have allowed them to more accurately estimate projects, and more confidently complete projects in defined timeframes.

[Note that the above is only a selection of the presentations at LITA. Many of the presentations are available on ALAConnect. The ALAConnect interface is really challenging IMHO. This link should get you to a number of the presentations.]