I’ve been catching up on my reading and am currently up to:
Herrera, G. (2011). Google Scholar Users and User Behaviors: An Exploratory Study. College & Research Libraries, 72(4), 316-330.
which looks at usage data about Google Scholar cunningly culled from link resolver logs. There’s some really interesting stuff, but something they quote in their conclusion made my mind go off on a tangent:
On the other hand, the 2009 Ithaka faculty survey concluded that humanists “have been later and slower to change in many ways than their peers in the sciences, to be sure.” –Schonfeld and Housewright, “Faculty Survey 2009,” 34.
Which is an observation that comes up time and again, and often it’s implied that this is because the humanities are inherently conservative. But is that really the case? Correlation doesn’t mean causation.
Could it instead be simply that new technologies are designed by computer scientists for computer scientists? Engineering and physical sciences work similarly enough that they can adapt their usage pretty easily. But the humanities — a few of us have been doing some mini sessions on scholarly ebooks for faculty, and what we’re hearing from faculty is that in the humanities they have completely different kinds of texts which need to be used in completely different kinds of ways, and these ways are not supported by the technology.
So I rather suspect that it’s rather less to do with the people than commonly implied, and rather more to do with systematic bias in the technology.
I’ve recently been pondering the idea of database searches as an experiment – hypothesis, experiment, evaluate, modify the hypothesis and try again. This might make a useful way to introduce sci/tech students in particular to the idea that you’re not going to necessarily get your best results from your first search; I’ll have to see how they receive it when I’ve actually got a class to test it on.
Incorporating Failure Into Library Instruction (from ACRLog) discusses the pedagogy of learning by failure and talks about times when it’s more or less suitable for library instruction.
Anne Pemberton’s super-awesome paper From friending to research: Using Facebook as a teaching tool (January 2011, College & Research Libraries News, vol. 72 no. 1 28-30) discusses Facebook as a useful teaching metaphor for databases.
Don’t Make It Easy For Them (from ACRLog) – with caveats in the comments that I think are at least as important as the main post.
Heads they win, tales we lose: Discovery tools will never deliver on their promise – and don’t miss the comment thread at the bottom of the page, which segues into the dilemma of increasingly expensive journal bundles and possible (vs viable) solutions.
There’s a whole D-Lib Magazine issue devoted to this topic this month.
The Web Is a Customer Service Medium discusses the idea that “the fundamental question of the web” is “Why wasn’t I consulted?” – that is, each medium has its niche of what it’s good at and why people use it, and webpages need to consider how to answer this question.
Library Day in the Life
Round 6 begins next week, in which librarians from all walks of librarianship share a day (or week) in the life.
(What’s a QR Code? See QR Codes: An Overview.)
Google has launched goo.gl, a URL shortening service (like tinyurl.com, bit.ly, etc) which as a bonus gives you a QR code: eg http://goo.gl/Xxyl links to this blog and http://goo.gl/Xxyl.qr gives you a pretty QR code you can paste onto a poster. Shortly thereafter, bit.ly joined in the fun.
On the downside I recall reading (somewhere on the internet; it sounded plausible at the time) that, cool as QR codes sound, since they’re mostly being used by advertisers, actual real people aren’t really all that keen on using them. On the upside, I’ve also heard anecdotes from people who do use them. And in any case they don’t cost any money and almost zero time.
Scandal du jour (aka the power of social media)
JSTOR’s new interface made searches default to covering their entire database – so results might include articles students didn’t have access to on JSTOR and which wouldn’t even be linked via OpenURL to the library’s subscription in another database. (Meredith Farkas describes the problems neatly.) Librarians complained loudly on blogs, JSTOR’s Facebook page, and elsewhere, and a day later JSTOR has announced that they’ll change the default while they continue work on OpenURL.
WolframAlpha has added widgets that focus on a specific kind of data and can be embedded into a webpage by copying and pasting the code. Categories cover all kinds of subject areas – some widgets might be relevant in a subject guide. (You’d need to add a new rich text box, then select the plain text editor and copy/paste in the embed code from WolframAlpha.)
Librarian as resource
University of Michigan Library’s search results now bring back subject librarians as well as relevant databases, catalogue items, subject guides, institutional repository hits, and external websites. Their blog about this links to some examples.
eBooks and compatibility
Jason Griffey writes a clear explanation about why ebook filetypes and digital rights management means that purchasing an ebook doesn’t mean you can read it on any old e-reader.
Cooke, R., Rosenthal, D. Students Use More Books After Library Instruction: An Analysis of Undergraduate Paper Citations College and Research Libraries (preprint)
“In Fall 2008, students from first-year Composition I and upper level classes at Florida Gulf Coast University participated in a citation analysis study. The citation pages of their research papers revealed that the students used more books, more types of sources, and more overall sources when a librarian provided instruction. When these results were compared to those produced by students in upper level classes (all of whom received instruction), it was discovered that as the class level increased, the number of citations and the percentage of scholarly citations generally increased and there was a high preference for books from all disciplines, especially history.”
(They compared classes which received library instruction with identical classes which didn’t.)
- Char Booth writes about e-texts and library accessibility including a great quote that “ebooks were created by the blind, then made inaccessible by the sighted.”
- NZETC has just posted about the 1064 works in DAISY format available in their collection for people with print-related disabilities. (DAISY = “Digital Accessible Information SYstem”)
- The first year of research on the Researchers of Tomorrow (pdf) study finds that “in broad approaches to information‐seeking and use of research resources, there are no marked differences between Generation Y doctoral students and those in older age groups. Nor are there marked differences in these behaviours between doctoral students of any age in different years of their study. The most significant differences revealed in the data are between subject disciplines of study irrespective of age or year of study.”
Assessments of Information Literacy collects links to infolit tests, assessments, rubrics and tutorials available online.
- Christina Pikas lists a Rundown of the new [database etc] interfaces this summer. There were some surprises, including a ScienceDirect/Scopus merger apparently due August 28…
[Edited 12/8 to fix broken links]
Mobile vs Smartphones
Roy Tennant suggests not making any more mobile websites as research suggests more people (in the US) are getting smartphones that can support anything a normal web-browser can support. (Though I don’t know of any smartphone that supports a 1024×768 screensize…) Smartphone applications seem to be trending instead. The iLibrarian rounds up her Top 30 Library iPhone Apps (part 2 and part 3). Why an application when you’ve already got a website? Phil Windley points out that “If my bank can get me to download an app, then they have a permanent space on my app list.” The trade-off is that whereas a website should work on any browser, smartphone apps often need to be in proprietary formats (the Librarian in Black particularly complains about Apple’s iPhone in this respect).
Common Craft has a 3-minute video explaining “Cloud Computing in Plain English“.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries and Brown University Library provide a “dashboard” of widgets on their websites displaying current statistics about library usage.
View from the top 🙂
The University Librarian at McMaster University Library blogs results from their laptop survey. Apparently laptop circulation now accounts for about a third of their total circulation stats; their survey looks into how students are using the laptops.
The Director of Librarys at the State University of New York at Potsdam blogs about “What I’ve Learned” in the first 10 months of her job there.
Scandal of the week…
Barbara Fister summarises recent discussion about EBSCO as the “New Evil Empire” in her Library Journal article “Big vendor frustrations, disempowered librarians, and the ends of empire“.
Alice for the iPad – one of the ways technology can enhance the book.
Not a chain of convenience stores – this Foursquare is a website/application that lets you use your cellphone etc to “check in” when you reach locations like cafes, movie theatres, libraries, etc. At its worst this floods your friends with endless notifications: “Now I’m at the dairy! Now I’m at home! Now I’m at the busstop! Now I’m at work! Now…!” But at best you walk into your favourite cafe and:
- read tips from other customers about what to order or avoid;
- win a prize from the cafe itself;
- discover that your friend is in the area and arrange for them to meet you for a quick cuppa.
Some recent blogposts discussing the value of Foursquare for libraries (read the comments as well!) include:
Publishing scandals du jour
EBSCO buys up exclusive electronic access to a number of popular periodicals which will be removed from other databases that used to provide them. Reactions:
During negotiations between Amazon and “big 6” publisher Macmillan over pricing of ebooks, Amazon removed all Macmillan titles (electronic and print) from its database. Reactions:
In case you’re curious about non-Amazon options, there’s a number of online bookstores in New Zealand and I’ve recently discovered The Book Depository in the UK with free international shipping.
Bookcovers in LibGuides
Springshare have announced a partnership with Syndetics so we can now use Syndetics bookcover images in our LibGuides. This is just like using the images from Amazon before – when adding a featured book just insert ISBN, click icon, and voila a cover image – but click the “S” (Syndetics) icon instead of the Amazon icon. An added advantage is that Syndetics works with ISBN-13 as well as ISBN-10 (Amazon is limited to ISBN-10).
The DART-Europe E-theses Portal gathers and provides “access to 123327 full-text research theses from 210 universities sourced from 16 European countries”.
A map of LIANZA09 participants – purple for attendees, pink/orange for invited speakers, yellow for vendors.
Widgets and other neat free stuff
SpringShare gives instructions for adding WolframAlpha’s improved search widget to LibGuides.
Elsevier provides all their journal covers free. (“These cover images may be used in systems in which Elsevier material is offered to end users. Unauthorized use and/or modification of these images is strictly prohibited.”) Perhaps could be used in a future generation of our catalogue to complement book cover images? If you just want a single image to promote a journal on LibGuides, replace the number in this link with your journal’s issn: http://www1.elsevier.com/inca/covers/store/issn/00016918.gif
Plates from Buller’s Birds (digitised on a Creative Commons license).
Text message reference
Penny Dugmore writes about Unitec’s launch of a text reference service, and Elyssa Kroski’s Library Journal column on Text Message Reference: Is It Effective?. Oh, and just in: a summary about a recent presentation on text reference, with stats on libraries offering it and more links.
A library-themed filk of Gilbert and Sullivan’s I’ve got a little list.
Range guide humour (alas, it’s harder to get this effect with LC…)
University of Otago Law Library has a new blog to go with their new library.
Massey University Library have added book ratings to their catalogue – when logged in, your ratings show in yellow; when logged out, average ratings show in blue.
Westlaw have annoyed librarians everywhere with an ad that “Are you on a first name basis with the librarian? If so, chances are, you’re spending too much time at the library. What you need is fast, reliable research you can access right in your office. And all it takes is West®.” They have since apologised.
A Digital Outrigger is a blog covering issues in digital libraries and usability – it posts regular link roundups and is well tagged to allow focusing on specific areas of interest.
The JISC Academic Database Assessment Tool lets you compare journal title lists, databases, and ebook platforms.
Heard of Project Gutenberg but don’t have time to read all its books? Now Project Twutenberg aims to convert each of these books into a 140-character summary.
Food for thought
After a presentation on Digital Reference, some librarians have started talking about the emerging trend towards the real-time web and the real-time library. David Lee King points out, “remove all the 2.0, digital, online stuff from this idea, and we’re simply talking about the real, physical, day-to-day experience of a normal (yet very good) library. Emerging online services are working to make this normal, active experience we have at the physical library the same when we’re online.“
A bit of humour: “Dispatches from a Public Librarian“, told Twitter-style (so may make most sense if you scroll to the bottom and read upwards).
Springshare have launched new LibGuides features, including co-owners for guides (will display both co-owners’ profiles on the guide) and moderation of user-submitted links.
Newly-discovered-by-me Twitter users include Lincoln University and Humanities NZ. Increasing numbers of NZ public libraries have accounts.
Someone’s created a “search engine taste test” where you type in your keywords and it searchs Bing, Google, and Yahoo simultaneously. You can then vote for the best set of results and it will reveal which search engine it’s from.