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:
  • usa.gov - the government's web site (also has list of federal libraries)
  • data.gov - 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:
  • Clicker.com- 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.
  • Marinetraffic.com - Find the location of tankers, tugs, passenger vessels, etc. and more. Updates every 20 seconds.
  • Openlibrary.org - 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: http://www.ithaka.org/ithaka-s-r/research/unlockingthegates
• 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 m.library.rice.edu. 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.]