January 29, 2009

Thank You, Karen

My first job out of library school was as a reference librarian at the Calumet City Public Library in Chicago’s south suburbs. I was a total noob, and I look back now and laugh at how green I was. But I was lucky enough to have a great mentor and boss who taught me a number of things – customer service, patience, and how reference worked in the real world. In fact, she’s pretty much responsible for my customer service ethic.

And that fateful day in what I think must have been 1993, when I discovered the Library had a CompuServe account that no one ever used, she said, “Sure, go ahead and play with it – see what you can find.” Yes, that fateful day, I found a recipe for Irish soda bread online for a patron, and I’ve been hooked ever since. She encouraged me as I expanded my knowledge into email, gopher, archie, telnet, and then the web, and she indulged my crazy ideas about how we could use all of these tools in our work.

Truly, I wouldn’t have accomplished everything I have in my career if Karen Bala hadn’t been the best first boss a baby librarian could have. So thank you, Karen – you made a big difference in my life, and I wish I’d had another opportunity to tell you that.


11:18 pm Comments (3)

January 24, 2009

Introducing Summon

“Everything has been leading to this”

Introducing “Summon” to do the things Joan Lippincott talked about

with your collections today being predominantly digital (look at your statistics), it’s more difficult than ever to connect students to your resources

PQ looked very closely at how students are trying to discover information and content
did “extreme ethnographic research” where the kids were searching, including into their dorm rooms
did in-person observational research in the dorm, in the coffee shop, etc.
recorded sessions in-person with users and saw their rates of success
surveyed more than 10,000 users
did online focus groups

the good news about these kids is that they believe we offer the most credible, superior source (by a wide margin)
also believe we have the most efficient search engine for them, although their behavior doesn’t support this
and they say that, too – that they go to Google first
they’re realistic about how they actual go about finding information

the library is increasingly disintermediated from the search for information, which is causing the belief that the library is not the center of campus

why?
– no clear and compelling starting place (library’s pages say a lot about the library – literally says a lot – but difficult for end-users to find appropriate starting point for research)
– difficulty identifying appropriate resources (they can’t find a specific resource even when they know what they’re looking for; we have more digital resources than ever & it’s difficult to distinguish between them)
– general lack of awareness of resources (the OPAC, built on the print model, has only a small portion of the library’s resources; they get discouraged trying to find things & their unwillingness to go through long lists of resources is increasing)

underlying technical issues prevent easy searches
compare that to “simple, easy, fast” of Google and web searching

if only there was a Google-like search for libraries
welcome to Summon

a compelling place for your end users to start their research to discover the wealth of your resources available to them
enables quick discovery of all of your library’s digital and physical resources (repositories, databases, OPAC, books, ejournal articles, etc.)
does it in a Google-like single search, very fast, very coordinated, takes them into the discovery phase very, very quickly

what is a unified discovery service?
NOT federated search – doesn’t use connectors or translators
it pre-harvests massive amounts of data to bring them together in a single search through a single search box
pre-built, pre-coordinated

urge libraries to bring to Summon everything Joan described in her talk
because they know what your library subscribes to, they can make sure your end user doesn’t get into dead ends
end users only see the things they actually have access to (unlike Google Scholar)
it’s an open system with APIs – put the search box wherever you want
not a nextgen catalog, although you could use the API in one

“I’ll believe it when I see it” (when pigs fly)

more than 40 publishers are providing metadata today
more than 50,000 journals are already represented
300+ million items indexed so far (as of today)
update service weekly with new publishers
Gale and ProQuest are leading the way with SerialsSolutions

also have the support of Springer, SAGE, CrossRef, Taylor & Francis, HighWire (helping with harvesting), Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press, Houghton Mifflin, Academy of Sciences, society publishers, open access content, EconList, Sociological Abstracts, GPO, Medline, ERIC, Agricola, and more

through their use of the A&I resrouces, can still lead users to content even if they don’t have a partnership with them
85% of EBSCO Academic SearchPremier is available via Summon
64% of JSTOR
87% of Ovid

Summon is in beta at Dartmouth and Oklahoma State (since November)

DEMO!

did two quick searches
the opening screen is just a search box and nothing else
let a branded search box be your digital presence
– keep it clean and focused

can filter by full text online items only
can filter by peer-reviewed or scholarly resources

will be a subscription service that is fully hosted

stop by their booth (#1904) to see it in action
sign up on their website for news about the service

Q – how is this related to AquaBrowser?
A – AB is a nextgen catalog so you can bring Summon content into it through the Summon API

Q – don’t you have 2 federated search tools that you were combining, and what has happened to them?
A – we do, and we are, but different libraries have different needs; still need to offer a good federated search product for those libraries that want one; but they believe the compelling starting point is Summon

Q – we’re talking about tons and tons of data, how do you show current status?
A – pre-harvest with metadata but click through in real-time

Q – is there a potential to aggregate all of the collections among libraries?
A – we’ll have to wait and see; right now, the focus is to provide this Google-like, compelling presence

Q – for those things that aren’t in Summon, is there a way to lead them to further resources?
A – yes, the screens are all very customizable; want to keep the opening screen clean, though

Q – one of the advantages of pre-harvesting is finding relationships between things – will you be doing that instead of just providing facts?
A – yes, but right now it’s still just in beta; will take time

Q – ??
A – have already brought into Summon the contents of one partner’s OPAC (didn’t say which one), so they know these protocols work

Q – is the pricing going to be in the “dream come true” range, too?
A – pricing has not yet been determined, but they are aware of the issues around cost


9:51 am Comments (7)

ProQuest “Libraries and the Net Gen” – Introducing Summon

Joan Lippincott started out by speaking about net gens – “If we were creating academic libraries today, what would they look like?”

Oxford, San Jose State University?
would they only have print collections, special collections?

or would we create learning commons?
would they look like Google Book Search or iTunes University where the librarian mostly deals with licensing, totally online?

can we create libraries with content, tools, and services for today’s students?

looked up “what’s in my bag” pool on Flickr to see what today’s students carry (not books)

net gens – born between 1982-1991 who grew up with computers and other media at home and in school from earliest ages
Joan has two NetGen daughters, although their friends are better informants
also calls them millennials, digital natives, gen y, next gen, DotNets
when asked what comes next, she uses the term “screenagers” :-p
– the generation that will have had computers and mobile devices since birth

characteristics of NetGens (a population, not a generation)
using “Born Digital” definition, a highly educated subgroup has the following characteristics
– always connected, multi-tasking
– oriented to working in groups (doesn’t mean they love “groupwork,” but they like hanging out with their friends and socializing while working; you used to go to the library, do your work, & go back to the dorm to socialize. now they socialize at the library with friends who are there and who aren’t there)
– experiential learners (like the shift to hands-on learning from lecture)
– visual (oriented towards visual cues, although they do still read; when they’re doing a history paper, they may embed a map or create a video – they don’t just use text)
– producers as well as consumers (they create something of their own)

even if you have 50% adult learners at your campus, many of these characteristics still apply
(kids today call them “cameras,” not “digital cameras”)
anyone working in digital humanities is working in groups
adults are active learners – they want hands-on
think of any profession – they are all producing websites, word documents, or producing some form of digital information

so our tools need to be oriented towards these characteristics because they’ll need the skills using them going forward

characteristics of “deeper learning” (educause)
– social
– active
– contextual
– engaging
– student-owned

libraries are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this
it’s the projects they do outside of class that gives them the skills in class
– gives them context, they own their product, and engages them

it’s not just hype and it has relevance to learning
have to think about how we do this in our own institutions

are all students really tech-savvy?
students are connected
98.5% of respondents own a computer, 82.2% own a laptop (doesn’t mean they are new computers or that they bring them to class)
spend 19.6 hours a week doing work online (Joan thinks that’s low)
almost all are using social networks

harvard medical school survey of students in 2007 found 52% own a PDA
app with most use is reference!
have to think about the next generation of professionals and how we serve them

they love the internet and would give up TV & radio before internet (because they’re doing those things on the web)
college kids increasingly live in the online and offline worlds at the same time
has important implications for how we structure services

JISC study found that learners who are effective in online environment also create content, seek peer support using informal networks & social tools – an underground world of networking that is invisible to institutions

they may know how to build a website, but “we’re more interested in the art and flow of argument”
have to teach them how to use these tools in their disciplines, not their personal lives
we want students to connect better to library collections and services

Henry Jenkins’ “selected core skills”
– collective intelligence
– judgment – the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information resources
– networking – the ability to search for, synthesize information
– simulation – ability to interpret & *constuct& dynamic models of real world processes
– appropriation
– multtasking – a positive thing when can shift focus to salient details

MIT Photo Diary study

there will be an increasing emphasis on data for visualization (how do we represent this in our finding aids)
content optimized for mobile devices

Cornell has put images from their digital collections on their computers as screensavers so that when students ask where the images came from, the librarians can tell them

Seattle PL visualization of books being checked out

need to think about embedded content and transforming text data into more visual formats

– adopt and adapt
– assess
– hiring new types of staff
– train existing staff
– let go of things you don’t need to do

these students are our future and it’s our role to recreate academic libraries


9:16 am Comments (1)

January 15, 2009

Pre-meditated Lust

Dear Palm,

Please consider this my Pre-order for the Palm Pre, the first phone designed specifically for the internet from the bottom up.

“Under the hood is a speedy new microprocessor from Texas Instruments that runs videos quickly and smoothly, with less of the herky-jerkiness that mobile devices are known for. The phone has 8 gigabytes of storage, which is decent but not great; it can run Adobe Flash, and can cut, copy and paste, which iPhone can’t; it supports multimedia messaging service (MMS) so you can send text messages with photos attached, which iPhone can’t do; it has a 3 megapixel camera and a flash, which iPhone lacks. There’s a button that lets you buy music from Amazon’s download store. Then there’s the multitasking. Want to talk on the speakerphone while browsing the Web and entering stuff in your calendar? No problem. Palm expects people will keep 15 to 20 applications open at the same time.

Palm’s engineers have done some really slick things with applications themselves, especially contacts and calendars. You can pull together multiple calendars and view them all at once—say, your work calendar, your home calendar, even calendars from other people, like your spouse’s Google calendar (your spouse needs to give you the log-on info). The contact manager pulls contact information from multiple sources—Yahoo contacts, Google contacts, Facebook contacts. A listing in your address book can contain every way of reaching that person—via work mail, Gmail, or Facebook mail, for example—and lets you send a message to a friend using any one of these. Also, the applications talk to one another. When the calendar application prompts you for a reminder about a meeting, it also pulls up a list of the people who will be attending, with their contact info. So if you’re running late, you can let everyone know.” [Newsweek]

Here’s more on the way the various applications are integrated to create a better user experience, hopefully one that is seamless and blur-ry, the way my online/offline is.

my next phone - the Palm Pre“Thanks to Synergy, all your conversations with the same person are grouped together in one chat-style view. (Even if it started in IM, for example, and you want to reply with text.) You can also see who’s online right from contacts, and start a new conversation with just one touch.” [Palm Pre site]

Throw in a removable battery, WiFi, GPS, wireless charging, and the ability to use the phone with one hand, and I’m SO there.

I’m also looking forward to using DCPL’s second phone app for searching its catalog. Coming soon to a Pre near you me, right, Aaron? After all, it is just a flavor of Linux, and “all apps are just CSS, HTML and JavaScript. ALL OF THEM..” :)


January 14, 2009

We’re Not All Ready for the Cloud Yet

Michael Stephens has a great post describing his Ten Trends & Technologies for 2009, and normally I wouldn’t even point to it because it’s getting a lot of link love elsewhere. If by some miracle you haven’t seen it yet, go read the whole thing, but I want to expand on one particular piece, cloud computing, because librarians need to also discuss the flip side of the benefits that Michael describes. As he notes, Michael isn’t the first librarian to talk about cloud computing, but I haven’t seen as much discussion of the potential consequences of it, especially during the transition we’re in right now where we can’t totally trust the cloud.

Here’s the part of Michael’s post that jumped out at me.

“As regular folks store more data and rely more and more on the cloud, librarians would be well-served to spend some time pondering what this means for services and access. As movies and music become downloads from the great jukebox in the sky, what happens to the AV department? As documents and data find their way to the ether, how can we provide a means to use them? Some implications from the “Cloud” post:

* Understand converged devices are everywhere.
* Allow unfettered access to the cloud.
* Understand that the cloud may also be a valuable information resource.
* Utilize the cloud to save time and money.

That last one is important to me. Why can’t we use Google Docs with our users for productivity instead of paying for bloated software suites? Why can’t we show our users how to save to the cloud so they can access their stuff from anywhere?”

I agree with Michael’s points, but I think we have a critical role in helping users with those third and fourth implications. One of the keys to cloud computing right now is synchronization. Very few people I know completely trust their data to the cloud, and they have backups at home or they synchronize across multiple devices so that if one service fails, they haven’t lost everything.

The problem with this approach at this stage is that early adopters know how to do this, but that’s a pretty small percentage of the population. So while we can definitely work with patrons using Google Docs, I think the more important role for libraries right now is to teach users about these types of services, in no small part so that we can help them understand the potential consequences. Because if you teach a patron to use an online documents site and she puts her resume there and something goes wrong with it, that’s a very real data loss for that person.

So we need to teach people a few different things, besides just how to use these tools.

  1. There are multiple options
    I worry when I see librarians promoting only Google Docs. I know Michael was using it as just one example, but I’ve seen others sing its praises with no mention that anything else even exists. Sure it’s easy to use and it works really well, but would you feel comfortable promoting only Microsoft Office Live Docs to your patrons? Most librarians I know would be uncomfortable about doing that, because they see Microsoft as being a monopoly interested only its bottom line, but Google isn’t fundamentally different. They’re actually selling ads with their services, and their ultimate motivation is revenue – never forget that.
     
  2. How to synchronize or backup those files
    Although this will change over the next few years, a very small percentage of the population has a smartphone, and even fewer actually use it to synchronize content to the cloud. A lot of people know about and use flash drives now that prices on them have dropped and storage size has gone up, but I’ve met enough folks who think putting something on the internet means it’s permanent that I strongly believe we need to help teach our users this isn’t true. So if we teach how to use cloud tools, we need to teach that there can also be consequences.

    Last year I had a discussion with Eli Neiburger during which he made the interesting point that kids today experience their first data loss at a much younger age than we ever did. That really made me stop and think for a minute about just how much we aren’t teaching our children about technology, and this is an area where we can help both kids and adults, if we recognize this and incorporate it into our media fluency role.
     

  3. How to think about privacy in this context
    What does it mean to put your resume on Google Docs? I’m not sure we’ve really thought through that question. If you use Gmail (so Google is serving up ads based on your messages), the Google search engine (so the big G knows what you’re searching and is showing you ads based on that), your calendar is in gCal, and you use gTalk (just to name a few Google services), that means Google has assembled a pretty good picture of you. How comfortable would you be if all of that data resided with Microsoft? Yahoo? The government? Your ISP? Your employer? A company like Fox that’s owned by Rupert Murdoch?

    This is important stuff, because these companies change their policies at the drop of a hat, and users have no say. For example, if you’re an iTunes customer who paid to upgrade your DRM-restricted music to “unrestricted” MP3s last week, this week we found out that those “unrestricted” and “open” files from Apple contain personal information about you. You can now be easily identified by that file, so if it lives in the cloud and something happens to it (like someone steals a copy and puts it on the open web), are you liable for that copyright violation? Granted, the chances of that happening are pretty slim, but how many users are even thinking about this? What does it mean to have personally-identifiable information embedded in data files and living in the cloud? We tend to think this stuff is just secure out there and that these kinds of things won’t happen to us, but it’s only hindsight that is 20/20. What if other companies started embedding personal information about you in files – what would your recourse be? And when it’s a free service, you don’t have a contract or service agreement to fall back on when problems arise.

    I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist or even particularly paranoid, but this is one reason I don’t use Gmail very much. If you’re reading this, you likely already know all of this is an issue, and you have the capacity to make that decision for yourself. But a large percentage of your users probably don’t.

Teaching critical skills about the cloud will become just as essential as teaching how to evaluate a website, even more so as products continue the march to becoming services. The ease and convenience of accessing this stuff via any computer, including a cellphone, is pushing people to do things they would never do in the “physical” world. Imagine trusting someone you don’t know knocking on your door and saying they’ll take good care of your private data and access to your computer. “Trust me.” Seriously?

I take advantage of some of these services, too, so I’m just as guilty, but I’ve become far less trusting of synchronizing whole folders to the cloud, and I’m more careful about what lives there. I’ll probably start password-protecting more files, too. It’s not a perfect solution, but I’m starting to think more about this stuff and wonder how I can install my own synchronization service, rather than relying on a third party. I’m in the minority, though, and it’s time we recognize as a profession that when we identify these types of trends, it’s not just for our own benefit. We should see this for what it is – an expansion of our traditional role to teach people how to use information well, and we should lead, not just with good models, but with help understanding and dealing with the ramifications of all of this.


9:07 am Comments (8)

January 13, 2009

Help for 2 Twitter Acounts through 1 Cell Phone?

Lazyweb request: Does anyone have any ideas for how to run two Twitter accounts through one cell phone using just text messages? I know I can do it through email or on the web on the phone, but I really want the instant, push notification that SMS provides. Help me, Lazyweb!


6:39 am Comments (2)

January 7, 2009

Choosing Your Social Media Drug

Last week I noted that of all of the social media sites, I’m probably most engaged with Facebook right now. Twitter tends to fragment my attention too much, so I started restricting my time on it to about an hour a day. The conversation there is too disjointed for me, and it’s impossible to find and refer back to all the pieces of a conversation even just a few days later. The best I’ve been able to manage is to use TweetDeck to create groups to check in on periodically, as opposed to trying to keep up with everyone all the time. I still don’t let myself sit on Twitter for too long because as Ed Vielmetti says, “If you keep refreshing it will never, ever stop..” In fact, my rule of thumb on any social site is that I never hit the “older” button.

Then FriendFeed came along, which helped unify conversations and brought pictures, audio, and video into the mix. The breadth of services it aggregates is pretty impressive, so when a critical mass of friends hit there, I switched my hour a day to check in there.

Let me preface this next statement by saying that I love the serendipity of FriendFeed, and it definitely restores fun to aggregation. That said, it moves way too fast for me. As a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that FriendFeed is Twitter on speed, while Facebook is Twitter on Ritalin, and for where I’m at right now, Facebook is my primary drug of choice. I need something to help me control the firehose so that I can more easily focus on specific pieces, and the fact that I can separate the links and posts from the status updates on FB does exactly that. I have the status of about three dozen folks texted to my phone, which means I see what I consider to be the most important function of the site for me front and center.

I had been friending people there for a while, watched what libraries were doing, and gone through the “play with various applications” stage of Facebook love, but then I found myself using it less and less. I fell back in love with it, though, when they added the ability to comment on a friend’s status, because that’s the piece I was having trouble tracking and participating in amongst all of the conversations taking place on Twitter. Even better was a change in the way SMS responses are handled so that replies from my phone now appear as comments on statuses, not inbox messages attached to previous emails. That means there’s conversation around updates, and it’s at a manageable pace.

I still check FriendFeed a couple of times a day, but I’m swamped with enough stuff right now that I use my social networks first and foremost for friend updates, and Facebook turns out to be perfect for that, especially for my non-library friends. I can literally see others getting a lot out of Twitter and FriendFeed because they monitor those sites a lot more closely, and more power to them. There are a lot of conversations right now about the ROI of blogging versus Twitter versus FriendFeed, but it’s important to examine what you want to get from these tools in order to evaluate which one(s) are best for you at any given time, remembering that it’s all cyclical and is likely to change just when you get comfortable with your routine. Of course, that can be a good thing.


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