The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte

What I Wanted to Say at BloggerCon

I didn't really get a few minutes to give my spiel during the education panel, although I made roundabout references to it. Here's what I wanted to say:

There are some obvious ways that librarians can support educational bloggers:

  • Teaching information literacy
  • In higher education, e-reserves
  • Providing current awareness services (many librarians already do this for faculty and students)
  • Providing 24/7 reference (e.g., if you're in Illinois you can go to and ask a question rather than spending hours looking for a particular fact or article)

But I think we can be more creative. Here are some ideas to kick around, starting with a world whose dominant API is WorldCat's, not Amazon's.

  1. Do we really want student (or faculty) bloggers linking to Amazon or other commercial retailers? Maybe they should be linking to WorldCat instead. If OCLC opens up WorldCat to be searchable by anyone without requiring a login first (and I've heard rumors to this effect), think about tieing blogging tools into a WorldCat API. Those "related books" displays on blogs... imagine pulling in content from WorldCat's 54 millions items instead. And if we really bought into universal library service, users (in the U.S. at least) could use their library barcode numbers to request those items. Think about that for a second - linking to books, articles, soundtracks, etc. that any reader can then immediately request via interlibrary loan instead of that whole "buy this" attitude.

    By the way, last week David Sifry noted that Technorati believes there is a new blog created every 12 seconds. Guess what? A new item is added to WorldCat every 12 seconds. Not only that, a library requests an item via interlibrary loan through WorldCat every 4 seconds, and a user searches FirstSearch every single second. In general, libraries circulate more items daily (5,400,000) than Amazon handles (1,500,000) (PDF). Imagine that type of searching and requesting tied more closely to blogging!
  2. Next up, database links. Think about PURLs into FirstSearch, EBSCO, Gale, ProQuest, Ovid, SIRS, etc. databases that bloggers can use instead of potentially unreliable links that disappear or move without any notice. As I stated in a post from a few months ago, there is at least one database vendor who is adding a "link to this" button next to the "email this" and "print this" buttons on every article's page.
  3. Along with that, let's get more global OpenURL + SFX link resolvers going so that anyone can enter a library barcode number to 1) get to the full text of the link, 2) request a copy of the full text of the link, or 3) find nearby locations or ways to get the full text of the link. Now that's a true information commons - Google plus public domain plus what's behind the fee barrier.
  4. Everyone in the room at BloggerCon has access to the New York Times archives, they just don't know it. Whether they are affiliated with a university and get access to databases that way or if it's just through their local public library, they have access to some database that provides the full text of the NYT. So who really cares if the NYT throws their archives behind a fee when you already have that access? Heck, how many times have you read a post that laments the fact that the article or column to which the blogger is referring isn't available for free online, so there's no direct link. Imagine if there could be. We just have to find a better way to hook bloggers and their readers into those databases, and libraries are that bridge.
  5. Imagine if OCLC had been smart enough years ago to solicit reviews for the titles in WorldCat, rather than leaving it for Amazon, we would have a much more interesting resource. Don't get me wrong, I love Amazon. But having those reviews tied to WorldCat would make them available to libraries and make them more, in a way, open source. And given our penchant for classification, we probably would be able to slice and dice those reviews in interesting ways. For example, imagine being able to check the reviews of a particular book and limit them to what the kids thought about it versus what parents thought about it versus what librarians thought about it. Could be quite a dialogue.
  6. And one of the ideas I harp on alot that I'd really like to see is an RSS news aggregator that can authenticate based on the user's library barcode number embedded in the aggregator software itself. Give me tables of contents, articles of interest based on keywords set in a profile, etc. and let the permalink go directly to the full text because of the embedded authentication. This is a no-brainer.

I'm not trying to be a shill for OCLC (shoot me now), so I'll note that some of this applies to other database vendors, too. That's the gist of where I wanted to *start* today, but the discussion went in a different direction. The great thing about blogging, though, is that I still get to throw my ideas out there. Talk amongst yourselves.