Learning 2008: Tools to Simplify Research

Presenters: Andy Morton & Laura Horne

Andy, being Andy, started the presentation with the YouTube video of Steve Ballmer going crazy. He did not do his own version of that intro.

RSS (the Common Craft video covers the basics) pulls in content from a variety of sources to one location, saving them to be read at your convenience. You can use web-based readers like Google Reader or Bloglines, or desktop tools like Outlook 2007 or NewsGator. [side note: Andy says that the university is moving to Office 2007 this summer. Gah! I thought I had escaped that nightmare….]

Undergraduate research is project focused, whereas scholars (faculty) will hold on to information for a long period of time because they are developing their field of study. This effects how both groups approach their information discovery. Scholars can use RSS to keep up with particular journals through publisher table of contents feeds or topics built using search alerts in specific databases.

CiteULike is del.icio.us for scholars, with a few additional organizational tools and features that makes it almost a hybrid of social bookmarking tool and a bibliographic management tool. There are far fewer users than on more general sites, which can be a positive or negative, depending on your perspective.

[side note: I did not have a computer with me when I took notes for the opening keynote, so I’ll be typing them up and adding them later.]

CiL 2008: Catalog Effectiveness

Speaker: Rebekah Kilzer

The Ohio State University Libraries have used Google Analytics for assessing the use of the OPAC. It’s free for sites up to five million page views per month — OSU has 1-2 million page views per month. Libraries would want to use this because most integrated library systems offer little in the way of use statistics, and what they do have isn’t very… useful. You will need to add some code that will display on all OPAC pages.

Getting details about how users interact with your catalog can help with making decisions about enhancements. For example, knowing how many dial-up users interact with the site could determine whether or not you want to develop style sheets specifically for them, for example. You can also track what links are being followed, which can contribute to discussions on link real estate.

There are several libraries that are mashing up Google Analytics information with other Google tools.


Speakers: Cathy Weng and Jia Mi

The OPAC is a data-centered, card-catalog retrieval system that is good for finding known items, but not so good as an information discovery tool. It’s designed for librarians, not users. Librarian’s perceptions of users (forgetful, impatient) prevents librarians from recognizing changes in user behavior and ineffective OPAC design.

In order to see how current academic libraries represent and use OPAC systems, they studied 123 ARL libraries’ public interfaces and search capabilities as well as their bibliographic displays. In the search options, two-thirds of libraries use “keyword” as the default and the other third use “title.” The study also looked at whether or not the keyword search was a true keyword search with an automatic “and” or if the search was treated as a phrase. Few libraries used relevancy ranking as the default search results sorting.

There are some great disparities in OPAC quality. Search terms and search boxes are not retained on the results page, post-search limit functions are not always readily available, item status are not available on search results page, and the search keywords are not highlighted. These are things that the most popular non-library search engines do, which is what our users expect the library OPAC to do.

Display labels are MARC mapping, not intuitive. Some labels are suitable for certain types of materials but not all (proper name labels for items that are “authored” by conferences). They are potentially confusing (LCSH & MeSH) and occasionally inaccurate. The study found that there were varying levels of effort put to making the labels more user-friendly and not full of library jargon.

In addition to label displays, OPACs also suffer from the way the records are displayed. The order of bibliographic elements effect how users find relevant information to determine whether or not the item found is what they need.

There are three factors that contribute to the problem of the OPAC: system limitations, libraries not exploiting full functionality of ILS, and MARC standards are not well suited to online bibliographic display. We want a system that doesn’t need to be taught, that trusts users as co-developers, and we want to maximize and creatively utilize the system’s functionality.

The presentation gave great examples of why the OPAC sucks, but few concrete examples of solutions beyond the lipstick-on-a-pig catalog overlay products. I would have liked to have a list of suggestions for label names, record display, etc., since we were given examples of what doesn’t work or is confusing.

CiL 2008: Woepac to Wowpac

Moderator: Karen G. Schneider – “You’re going to go un-suck your OPACs, right?”


Speaker: Roy Tennant

Tennant spent the last ten years trying to kill off the term OPAC.

The ILS is your back end system, which is different from the discovery system (doesn’t replace the ILS). Both of these systems can be locally configured or hosted elsewhere. Worldcat Local is a particular kind of discovery system that Tenant will talk about if he has time.

Traditionally, users would search the ILS to locate items, but now the discovery system will search the ILS and other sources and present it to the user in a less “card catalog” way. Things to consider: Do you want to replace your ILS or just your public interface? Can you consider open source options (Koha, Evergreen, vuFind, LibraryFind etc.)? Do you have the technical expertise to set it up and maintain it? Are you willing to regularly harvest data from your catalog to power a separate user interface?


Speaker: Kate Sheehan

Speaking from her experience of being at the first library to implement LibraryThing for Libraries.

The OPAC sucks, so we look for something else, like LibraryThing. The users of LibraryThing want to be catalogers, which Sheehan finds amusing (and so did the audience) because so few librarians want to be catalogers. “It’s a bunch of really excited curators.”

LibraryThing for libraries takes the information available in LibraryThing (images, tags, etc.) and drops them into the OPAC (platform independent). The display includes other editions of books owned by the library, recommendations based on what people actually read, and a tag cloud. The tag cloud links to a tag browser that opens up on top of the catalog and allows users to explore other resources in the catalog based on natural language tags rather than just subject headings. Using a Greasmonkey script in your browser, you can also incorporate user reviews pulled from LibraryThing. Statistics show that the library is averaging around 30 tag clicks and 18 recommendations per day, which is pretty good for a library that size.

“Arson is fantastic. It keeps your libraries fresh.” — Sheehan joking about an unusual form of collection weeding (Danbury was burnt to the ground a few years ago)

Data doesn’t grow on trees. Getting a bunch of useful information dropped into the catalog saves staff time and energy. LibraryThing for Libraries didn’t ask for a lot from patrons, and it gave them a lot in return.


Speaker: Cindi Trainor

Are we there yet? No. We can buy products or use open source programs, but they still are not the solution.

Today’s websites are consist of content, community (interaction with other users), interactivity (single user customization), and interoperability (mashups). RSS feeds are the intersection of interactivity and content. There are a few websites that are in the sweet spot in the middle of all of these: Amazon (26/32)*, Flickr (26/32), Pandora (20/32), and Wikipedia (21/32) are a few examples.

Where are the next generation catalog enhancements? Each product has a varying degree of each element. Using a scoring system with 8 points for each of the four elements, these products were ranked: Encore (10/32), LibraryFind (12/32), Scriblio (14/32), and WorldCat Local (16/32). Trainor looked at whether the content lived in the system or elsewhere and the degree to which it pulled information from sources not in the catalog. Library products still have a long way to go – Voyager scored a 2/32.

*Trainor’s scoring system as described in paragraph three.


Speaker: John Blyberg

When we talk about OPACs, we tend to fetishize them. In theory, it’s not hard to create a Wowpac. The difficulty is in creating the system that lives behind it. We have lost touch with the ability to empower ourselves to fix the problems we have with integrated library systems and our online public access catalogs.

The OPAC is a reflection of the health of the system. The OPAC should be spilling out onto our website and beyond, mashing it up with other sites. The only way that can happen is with a rich API, which we don’t have.

The title of systems librarian is becoming redundant because we all have a responsibility and role in maintaining the health of library systems. In today’s information ecology, there is no destination — we’re online experiencing information everywhere.

There is no way to predict how the information ecology will change, so we need systems that will be flexible and can grow and change over time. (Sopac 2.0 will be released later this year for libraries who want to do something different with their OPACs.) Containers will fail. Containers are temporary. We cannot hang our hat on one specific format — we need systems that permit portability of data.

Nobody in libraries talks about “the enterprise” like they do in the corporate world. Design and development of the enterprise cannot be done by a committee, unless they are simply advisors.

The 21st century library remains un-designed – so let’s get going on it.

carnival of the infosciences #87

Welcome to the Carnival of the Infosciences #87! Not too many submissions this time, but they’re all good, so take a few minutes, kick back, and let the Carnival start your Monday morning.

Martha Hardy made two recommendations for this edition of the Carnival. The first is an essay from Roy Litwin entitled, “Annotated list of things not to forget (in the 2.0 craze)….” Litwin writes, “These days, when reading the library literature or a conference program it’s hard to find much that is not about the Library 2.0 idea. It seems to me that many librarians have forgotten that there is something worthwhile in what we do already, and that ‘Library 2.0’ is an update rather than something completely new.” This essay is a must-read for librarians, both twopointopians and those annoyed by them.

The other submission from Hardy is a news item from the Library Boy, Michel-Adrien Sheppard, about a criminal investigation in Toronto and the way authorities are using Facebook to get around the publication ban (“Is Facebook Interfering With Criminal Investigations?“). The Uncontrolled Vocabulary crew also discussed this in the January 9th episode.

Sol Lederman recommends that everyone take a look at Federated Search: The year in review, a review of the major events in the federated search industry in 2007, from the Federated Search Blog. 2007 saw commercial entities making odd business decisions, mergers and acquisitions, and new open source options.

Iris Jastram writes about her experience with creating “subversive handouts” for library instruction sessions, and what she learned from the process. This might give you a few ideas for your own “subversive” handout.

Kate Sheehan asks the question, “Are librarians culturally self-aware?” She also gets a few responses from John Blyberg (“Library 2.0 Debased“) and Rochelle Hartman (“Blyberg Speaks: Safe to come out of hiding“), among others.

The 2008 conference season kicked off with an early January ALA Midwinter meeting, which prompted Sarah Houghton-Jan to link to the useful Tips for conference bloggers, which was originally posted by Ethan Zuckerman and Bruno Giussani last October. Midwinter may be over, but there are still plenty of upcoming conferences that need to be blogged. Be sure to read their advice before you pack your laptop.

Blake Carver at LISNews has put together a list of ten blogs to read in 2008. I’m already reading a few, but I’ve added more to my pile based on Carver’s recommendations.

That’s all, folks! Please submit posts to the Library Garden for #88. You can use the online form or tag posts carninfo in del.icio.us.

FRBR

FRBR is so cuddly and soft!

From the Library Society of the World Meebo room:

p: FRBR
p: I want a tickle me FRBR
n: it is awfully fun to say
p: with five different expressions…
p: nerd pun!
me: p, I am totally saying that to the next serials cataloger I meet.

* Screen names have been altered to provide anonymity.
** I don’t need anonymity in this case.
*** It isn’t funny unless you’re a librarian who knows what FRBR is and has a sense of humor.