NASIG 2012: Why the Internet is More Attractive Than the Library

Speaker: Dr. Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC

Students, particularly undergraduates, find Google search results to make more sense than library database search results. In the past, these kinds of users had to work around our services, but now we need to make our resources fit their workflow.

Connaway has tried to compare 12 different user behavior studies in the UK and the US to draw some broad conclusions, and this has informed her talk today.

Convenience is number one, and it changes. Context and situation are very important, and we need to remember that when asking questions about our users. Sometimes they just want the answer, not instruction on how to do the research.

Most people power browse these days: scan small chunks of information, view first few pages, no real reading. They combine this with squirreling — short, basic searches and saving the content for later use.

Students prefer keyword searches. This is supported by looking at the kinds of terms used in the search. Experts use broad terms to cover all possible indexing, novices use specific terms. So why do we keep trying to get them to use the “advance” search in our resources?

Students are confident with information discovery tools. They mainly use their common sense for determining the credibility of a site. If a site appears to have put some time into the presentation, then they are more likely to believe it.

Students are frustrated with navigating library websites, the inconvenience of communicating with librarians face to face, and they tend to associate libraries only with books, not with other information. They don’t recognize that the library is who is providing them with access to online content like JSTOR and the things they find in Google Scholar.

Students and faculty often don’t realize they can ask a question of a librarian in person because we look “busy” staring at our screens at the desk.

Researchers don’t understand copyright, or what they have signed away. They tend to be self-taught in discovery, picking up the same patterns as their graduate professors. Sometimes they rely on the students to tell them about newer ways of finding information.

Researchers get frustrated with the lack of access to electronic backfiles of journals, discovering non-English content, and unavailable content in search results (dead links, access limitation). Humanities researchers feel like there is a lack of good, specialized search engines for them (mostly for science). They get frustrated when they go to the library because of poor usability (i.e. signs) and a lack of integration between resources.

Access is more important than discovery. They want a seamless transition from discovery to access, without a bunch of authentication barriers.

We should be improving our OPACs. Take a look at Trove and Westerville Public Library. We need to think more like startups.

tl;dr – everything you’ve heard or read about what our users really do and really need, but we still haven’t addressed in the tools and services we offer to them

IL 2010: Adding Value – CIO Insights

speakers: Mike Ridley, Donna Scheeder, & Jim Peterson (moderated by Jane Dysart)

Ridley sees his job as leveraging information and economics to move the institution forward. Scheeder combines information management and technology to support their users. Peterson is from a small, rural library system where he manages all of the IT needs. (regarding his director: “I’m the geek, she’s the wallet.”)


Ridley

“I just want to remind you that if you think my comments are a load of crap, that’s a good thing.” Mike Ridley, referencing yesterday’s keynote about the hidden treasure of bat guano in libraries.

Information professionals have ways of thinking about how we do what we do, but our user populations have different perspectives. The tribal identities can be challenging when it comes to communicating effectively.

The information age is over. We’ve done that. But we’re still hanging on to it, even though everyone is in the information business. We need to leave that metaphor behind.

This is the age of imagination. What can we do differently? How will we change the rules to make a better world?

Open organizations are the way to go. Command and control organizations won’t get us to where we need to be in this age of imagination. We need to be able to fail. We are completely ignorant of how this will play out, and that opens doors of possibilities that wouldn’t otherwise be there.


Scheeder

It’s challenging to balance the resource needs of diverse user groups. You can add value to information by deeply understanding your users, your resources, and the level of risk that is acceptable.

There’s a big movement towards teleworking in the government. This can change your culture and the way you deliver services. Also, the proliferation of mobile devices among the users creates challenges in delivering content to them.

There’s a constant push and pull among the disciplines to get what they want.

Finally, security requirements make outside collaboration difficult. They want to be open, but they also have to protect the assets they were entrusted with.


Peterson

We all have computers, servers, and patrons, so under the hood we’re all the same.

The ability that IT has to cut power consumption costs can really help you out. Technology upgrades will increase productivity and decrease energy costs. In general, if it’s generating heat, it’s wasting electricity. Open source software can save on those costs, particularly if you have tech support that can manage it.

IT is more than just the geek you call when you have a tech problem. We’re here to help you save money.

Dysart’s questions

What’s the future of libraries?

Scheeder: The screen is the library now, so the question is where do we want the library. The library should be where people have their “dwell time.”

Ridley: The internet is going to get so big that it will disappear as a separate entity. Libraries will be everywhere, no matter what you’re doing. The danger is that libraries may disappear, so we need to think about value in that sphere.

Peterson: Libraries of the future are going to be most valuable as efficient information providers.


Tips for financing resources?

Peterson: Show a solid business model for the things you need.

Scheeder: Figure out how the thing you want to do aligns with the greater good of the organization. Identify how the user experience will improve. Think like the decision-makers and identify the economic reality of the organization.

Ridley: Prefers “participant” to “user”. Make yourself visible to everyone in your organization. Bridge the gap between tribes.

Anything else?

Peterson: If we don’t talk to our legislators then we won’t have a voice and they won’t know our needs.

Scheeder: Information professionals have the opportunity to maximize content to be finable by search engines, create taxonomy, and manage the digital lifecycle. We need to do better about preserving the digital content being created every moment.

Ridley: Go out and hire someone like Peterson. We need people who can understand technology and bridge the divide between IT and users.

WordCamp Richmond: Exploiting Your Niche – Making Money with Affiliate Marketing

presenter: Robert Sterling

Affiliate marketing is a practice of rewarding an affiliate for directing customers to the brand/seller that then results in a sale.

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” If you have a blog that’s interesting and people are coming to you, you’re doing something wrong if you’re not making money off of it.

Shawn Casey came up with a list of hot niches for affiliate marketing, but that’s not how you find what will work for you. Successful niches tend to be what you already have a passion for and where it intersects with affiliate markets. Enthusiasm provokes a positive response. Enthusiasm sells. People who are phoning it in don’t come across the same and won’t develop a loyal following.

Direct traffic, don’t distract from it. Minimize the number of IAB format ads – people don’t see them anymore. Maximize your message in the hot spots – remember the Google heat map. Use forceful anchor text like “click here” to direct users to the affiliate merchant’s site. Clicks on images should move the user towards a sale.

Every third or fourth blog post should be revenue-generating. If you do it with every post, people will assume it’s a splog. Instapundit is a good example of how to do a link post that directs users to relevant content from affiliate merchants. Affiliate datafeeds can be pulled in using several WP plugins. If your IAB format ads aren’t performing from day one, they never will.

Plugins (premium): PopShops works with a number of vendors. phpBay/phpZon works with eBay and Amazon, respectively. They’re not big revenue sources, but okay for side money.

Use magazine themes that let you prioritize revenue-generating content. Always have a left-sidebar and search box, because people are more comfortable with that navigation.

Plugins (free): W3 Total Cache (complicated, buggy, but results in fast sites, which Google loves), Regenerate Thumbnails, Ad-minister, WordPress Mobile, and others mentioned in previous sessions. Note: if you change themes, make sure you go back and check old posts. You want them to look good for the people who find them via search engines.

Forum marketing can be effective. Be a genuine participant, make yourself useful, and link back to your site only occasionally. Make sure you optimize your profile and use the FeedBurner headline animator.

Mashups are where you can find underserved niches (i.e. garden tools used as interior decorations). Use Google’s keyword tools to see if there is a demand and who may be your competition. Check for potential affiliates on several networks (ClickBank, ShareASale, Pepperjam, Commission Junction, and other niche-appropriate networks). Look for low conversion rates, and if the commission rate is less than 20%, don’t bother.

Pay for performance (PPP) advertising is likely to replace traditional retail sales. Don’t get comfortable – it’s easy for people to copy what works well for you, and likewise you can steal from your competition.

Questions:

What’s a good percentage to shoot for? 50% is great, but not many do that. Above 25% is a good payout. Unless the payout is higher, avoid the high conversion rate affiliate programs. Look for steady affiliate marketing campaigns from companies that look like they’re going to be sticking around.

What about Google or Technorati ads? The payouts have gone down. People don’t see them, and they (Google) aren’t transparent enough.

How do you do this not anonymously and maintain integrity in the eyes of your readers? One way to do it is a comparison post. Look at two comparable products, list their features against each other.

CIL 2009: Open Access: Green and Gold

Presenter: Shane Beers

Green open access (OA) is the practice of depositing and making available a document on the web. Most frequently, these are peer reviewed research and conference articles. This is not self-publishing! OA repositories allow institutions to store and showcase the research output of institutions, thus increasing their visibility within the academic community.

Institutional repositories are usually managed by either DSpace, Fedora, or EPrints, and there are third-party external options using these systems. There are also a few subject-specific repositories not affiliated with any particular institution.

The "serials crisis" results in most libraries not subscribing to every journal out there that their researchers need. OA eliminates this problem by making relevant research available to anyone who needs it, regardless of their economic barriers.

A 2008 study showed that less than 20% of all scientific articles published were made available in a green or gold OA repository. Self-archiving is at a low 15%, and incentives to do so increase it only by 30%. Researchers and their work habits are the greatest barriers that OA repository managers encounter. The only way to guarantee 100% self-archiving is with an institutional mandate.

Copyright complications are also barriers to adoption. Post-print archiving is the most problematic, particularly as publishers continue to resist OA and prohibit it in author contracts.

OA repositories are not self-sustaining. They require top-down dedication and support, not only for the project as a whole, but also the equipment/service and staff costs. A single "repository rat" model is rarely successful.

The future? More mandates, peer-reviewed green OA repositories, expanding repositories to encompass services, and integration of OA repositories into the workflow of researchers.

Presenter: Amy Buckland

Gold open access is about not having price or permission barriers. No embargos with immediate post-print archiving.

The Public Knowledge Project is an easy tool for creating an open journal that includes all the capabilities of online multi-media. For example, First Monday uses it.

Buckland wants libraries to become publishers of content by making the platforms available to the researchers. Editors and editorial boards can come from volunteers within the institution, and authors just need to do what they do.

Publication models are changing. May granting agencies are requiring OA components tied with funding. The best part: everyone in the world can see your institution’s output immediately!

Installation of the product is easy — it’s getting the word out that’s hard.

Libraries can make the MARC records freely available, and ensure that the journals are indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Doing this will build relationships between faculty and the library. Libraries become directly involved in the research output of faculty, which makes libraries more visible to administrators and budget decision-makers. University presses are struggling, but even though they are focused on revenue, OA journal publishing could enhance their visibility and status. Also, if you publish OA, the big G will find it (and other search engines).

CiL 2008: Speed Searching

Speaker: Greg Notess

His talk summarizes points from his Computers in Libraries articles on the same topic, so go find them if you want more details than what I provide.

It takes time to find the right query/database, and to determine the best terminology to use in order to find what you are seeking. Keystroke economy makes searching faster, like the old OCLC FirstSearch 3-2-2-1 searching. Web searching relevancy is optimized by using only a few unique words rather than long queries. Do spell checking through a web search and then take that back into a reference database. Search suggestions on major search engines help with the spelling problem, and the suggestions are ranked based on the frequency with which they are searched, but they require you to type slowly to use them effectively and increase your search speed. Copy and paste can be enhanced through browser plugins or bookmarklets that allow for searching based on selected text.

The search terms matter. Depending on the source, average query length searches using unique terms perform better over common search terms or long queries. Use multiple databases because it’s fun, you’re a librarian, and there is a lack of overlap between data sources.

Search switching is not good for quick look-ups, but it can be helpful with hard to find answers that require in-depth query. We have a sense that federated searching should be able to do this, but some resources are better searched in their native interfaces in order to find relevant sources. There are several sites that make it easy to switch between web search engines using the same query, including a nifty site that will allow you to easily switch between the various satellite mapping sources for any location you choose.

I must install the Customize Google Firefox plugin. (It’s also available for IE7, but why would you want to use IE7, anyway?)

CiL 2008: What Do Users Really Do in Their Native Habitat?

Speakers: Pascal Lupien and Randy Oldham

Unsubstantiated assumptions about Millennials cause libraries to make poor choices in providing services and resources. Lupien and Oldham spent some time studying how students actually use the tools we think they use. They used typical survey and focus group methodologies, which make for rather boring presentation recaps, so I won’t mention them.

Study found that only 9% of students used PDAs, and tended to be among older students. 69% of students had cell phones, but only 17% of them have ever used them to browse the Internet. 93% of student have used a chat client, and most have used them for academic purposes several times per week. 50% of users had never used online social network applications for academic group work.

The focus groups found that students preferred email over online social networks for group work. Students are more willing to share the results of their work with friends than with other classmates.

42% of students has never played online games, and men were three times more likely to do so than women. Only 4.1% were involved with online virtual worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life.

The survey respondents indicated they were more likely to go to the library’s website first rather than Google. The focus groups also confirmed this, in addition to indicating that the library had the best sources of information despite being the most difficult to manage.

Students are reluctant to mix personal and academic computing. The uptake on online social networks for academic use has been slow, but will likely increase, and we have to ask, “is this the best use of our resources and time?” Our priorities need to be more on improving the services we already offer, such as our websites and search tools. “Rather than looking at technologies & trying to find a use for them in our environment, we should determine what our students need & seek solutions to meet those needs.”


Speaker: John Law

Proquest conducted a survey of seven universities across North America and the United Kingdom, involving 60 students. As with Lupien and Oldham’s study, they conducted it anonymously. Observations were conducted in a variety of locations, from the library to dorm rooms. They used a program like web conferencing software to capture the remote sessions.

Law gave an anecdote of a fourth year student who did all the things librarians want students to do when doing research, and when he was asked why, the student gave all the right answers. Then, when he was asked how long he had been doing his research that way, he indicated something like six weeks, after a librarian had come to his class to teach them about using the library’s resources. Library instruction works.

Course instructors are also influential. “My English instructor told me to use JSTOR.”

Brand recognition is fine, but it doesn’t necessarily effect the likelihood that resources will be used more or less.

Students use abstracts to identify relevant articles, even when the full text is available. They’re comfortable navigating in several different search engines, but not as well with library websites in locating relevant resources. Users don’t always understand what the search box is searching (books, articles, etc.), and can find it to be discouraging. A-Z databases page is too unmanageable for most users, particularly when starting their research.

Students are using Google for their research, but mainly for handy look-ups and not as a primary research tool. Those who use Google as a primary research tool do so because they aren’t as concerned with quality or are insufficiently aware of library eresources or have had bad experiences with library eresources.

Librarians, students use Google and Wikipedia the same way you do. (We know you all use those tools, so don’t even try to deny it.)

Students laughed at surveyors when asked how they use online social networks for academic purposes.

CiL 2008: Going Local in the Library

Speaker: Charles Lyons

[Speakers for track C will all be introduced in haiku form.]

Local community information has been slower to move online than more global information provided by sources such as search engines and directories, but that is changing. Google can provide directory information, but they can’t tell you which of the barbers listed near you, for example, are good ones. They’re trying, but it’s much harder to gather and index that information. “In ur community, inforimin ur localz.” The local web can be something deeper, hyper, semantic.

Local information can sound boring if it doesn’t effect you directly. For example, information about street repairs can be important if it is happening along the routes you drive regularly. The local web connects the real world and the virtual world. The local web is bringing a sense of place to the Internet.

Libraries provide access to local information such as genealogy, local history, local government info, etc.

Local search engines started off as digital phone books, but now they are becoming more integrated with additional information such as maps and users reviews. Ask.com provides walking directions as well as driving directions, which I did not know but plan to make use of in the future. By using tools like Google Custom Search, libraries are creating local search engines, rather than just having a page of local links. MyCommunityInfo.ca is a popular search engine for residents of London, Ontario.

Local blogs also provide information about communities, so creating a local blog directory might be useful. Be sure to add them to your local search engine. Local news sites blend user-generated information with traditionally published sources. Useful news sites will allow users to personalize them and add content. Libraries are involved in creating local online communities (see Hamilton Public Library in Ontario).

Local data is being aggregated by sites like EveryBlock, which pulls information from the deep web. It’s currently available in three cities (Chicago, New York, & San Francisco) with plans for expansion, and once the grant ends, the code will be opened to anyone.

Wikipedia is a start for providing local information, and a few libraries are using wiki technology to gather more detailed local information.

Metadata such as geotagging allows more automation for gathering locally relevant information. Flickr provides geographic feeds, which can be streamed on local information sites.

Libraries are using Google Maps mashups to indicate their locations, but could be doing more with it. Libraries could create maps of historical locations and link them to relevant information sites.

No successful revenue generation has been formulated for local information sites. Most local sites are generated by passionate individuals. Libraries, which are not revenue generating sources anyway, are better poised to take on the responsibility of aggregating and generating local information. Particularly since we’re already in the role of information provision.

Libraries can be the lense into local information.

library visionary

Linda Absher asks, “Where is the true library visionary?” She continues: “I’m asking this question in all seriousness. After ten-odd (at times very odd) years in the profession, we’re not only fretting over the same problems I read about in library school, we’re now obsessing over the exponential rate at which these problems grow. We … Continue reading “library visionary”

Linda Absher asks, “Where is the true library visionary?” She continues:

“I’m asking this question in all seriousness. After ten-odd (at times very odd) years in the profession, we’re not only fretting over the same problems I read about in library school, we’re now obsessing over the exponential rate at which these problems grow. We worry about our obsolescence; we ponder about The Future of Librarianship, the salvation usually being whatever is trendy or sexy at the moment. And we wonder if anyone besides us notices (much less understand) what we do.

I hope I’m not too harsh, yet I can’t help but feel that we as a profession fall painfully short when it comes to coming up with an idea, a vision–a something that inspires the MLS/MLIS masses to greatness. We’re eloquent when it comes to reacting to threats: the Patriot Act, censorship, disappearing budgets, et al. But when it comes to going beyond defensiveness, we lose it. Other than a constant (and–thanks to increasingly sophisticated search engines and other information gathering technologies–justified) preoccupation with survival, we lack a true vision that makes our minds race or inspires us to go beyond just making through the next fiscal year or technological innovation. In other words, we have no post-millennium Ranganathan.”

I wish I could give a better answer, but I must admit that I don’t know who this person is or what kinds of things we should be worrying about as a profession, if the above are not enough. It’s good to ponder it, though. Particularly in light of Tuesday’s post.

I look up to certain librarians in the blogosphere and in my professional circles; however, I don’t think that any one of them is the kind of visionary voice for the profession like Ranganathan was. In thinking about Ranganathan and his five laws, I begin to wonder if we really need another visionary right now. It seems to me that we are still not following those laws to the best of our abilities, or at least not when “book” is translated to “library resource” or some such thing. We are often stuck on #4 with library policies and cumbersome technology that does not save the time of the reader. I think it is the gadgety solutions to this problem that causes some librarians to geek out over The Next Best Thing, but we also must remember law #2 and that not every library user will want to use The Next Best Thing, so we still must find a solution for them.

Perhaps my response to Linda is not, “I don’t know,” but rather, “We don’t need another grand visionary until we’ve fully implemented the vision of Ranganathan for our times.”

have you hugged your librarian today?

One of my colleagues passed on a link to William Brody’s column in the December 6 issue of the Johns Hopkins Gazette.

One of my colleagues passed on a link to William Brody’s column in the December 6 issue of the Johns Hopkins Gazette. Brody touches on his Google-envy, and then goes on to extol the virtues of cataloging subject headings for precision information searching. I’m sure this has been passed around the librarian blogosphere many times already, but maybe it would be nice to read it again if you’re wallowing in your own Google-envy.

You see, our library has the most effective search engines yet invented — librarians who are highly skilled at ferreting out the uniquely useful references that you need. Rather than commercializing the library collections, why not export to the public market the most meaningful core of Hopkins’ intellectual property — the ability to turn raw information into useful knowledge.

I hope by now you realize that any talk of taking our library public is simply to emphasize the point missing in all this Google mania: Massive information overload is placing librarians in an ever more important role as human search engines. They are trained and gifted at ferreting out and vetting the key resource material when you need it. Today’s technology is spectacular — but it can’t always trump a skilled human.

Have you hugged your librarian today?