#libday8 day 4 — lies, damn lies, and statistics

How to Lie with Statistics cover
How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff & Irving Geis

My day began with organizing and prioritizing the action items that arrived yesterday when I was swamped with web-scale discovery service presentations. I didn’t get very far when it was time to leave for a meeting about rolling out VuFind locally. Before that meeting, I dropped in to update my boss (and interim University Librarian) on some things that came out of the presentations and subsequent hallway discussions.

At the VuFind meeting, we discussed some tweaks and modifications, and most everyone took on some assignments to revise menu labels, record displays, and search options. I managed to evade an assignment only because these things are more for reference, cataloging, and web services. The serials records look fine and appear accurately in the basic search (from the handful of tests I ran), so I’m not concerned about tweaking anything specifically.

Back at my desk, I started to work on the action items again, but the ongoing conversations about the discovery service presentations distracted me until one of the reference librarians provided me with a clue about the odd COUNTER use stats we’ve received from ProQuest for 2011.

I had given her stats on a resource that was on the CSA platform, but for the 2011 stats I provided what ProQuest gave me, which were dubious in their sudden increase (from 15 in 2010 to 4756 in 2011). She made a comment about how the low stats didn’t surprise her because she hates teaching the Illumina platform. I said it should be on the ProQuest platform now because that’s where the stats came from. She said she’d just checked the links on our website, and they’re still going to Illumina.

This puzzled me, so I pulled the CSA stats from 2011, and indeed, we had only 17 searches for the year for this index. I checked the website and LibGuides links, and we’re still sending users to the Illumnia platform, and not ProQuest. So, I’m not sure where those 4756 searches were coming from, but their source might explain why our total ProQuest stats tripled in 2011. This lead me to check our federated search stats, and while it shows quite a few searches of ProQuest databases (although not this index, as we hadn’t included it), our DB1 report shows zero federated searches and sessions.

I compiled all of this and sent it off to ProQuest customer support. I’m eager to see what their response will be.

This brought me up to my lunch break, which I spent at the gym where one of the trainers forced my compatriots and I to accomplish challenging and strenuous activities for 45 min. After my shower, I returned to the library to lunch at my desk and respond to some crowd-sourced questions from colleagues at other institutions.

I managed to whack down a few email action items before my ER&L co-presenter called to discuss the things we need to do to make sure we’re prepared for the panel session. We’re pulling together seasoned librarians and product representatives from five different electronic resource management systems (four commercial, one open-source) to talk about their experiences working with the products. We hashed out a few things that needed hashing out, and ended the call with more action items on our respective lists.

At that point, I had about 20 min until my next meeting, so I tracked down the head of research and instruction to hash out some details regarding the discovery service presentations that I wanted to make sure she was aware of. I’m glad I did, because she filled in some gaps I had missed, and later she relayed a positive response from one of the librarians that concerned both of us.

The meeting ended early, so I took the opportunity of suddenly unscheduled time in my calendar to start writing down this whole thing. I’d been so busy I hadn’t had time to journal this throughout the day like I’d previously done.

Heard back from ProQuest, and although they haven’t addressed the missing federated search stats from their DB1 report, they explain away the high number of searches in this index as having come from a subject area search or the default search across all databases. There was (and may still be) a problem with defaulting to all databases if the user did not log out before starting a new session, regardless of which database they intended to use. PQ tech support suggested looking at their non-COUNTER report that includes full-text, citation, and abstract views for a more accurate picture of what was used.

For the last stretch of the day, I popped on my headphones, cranked up the progressive house, and tried to power through the rest of the email action items. I didn’t get very far, as the first one required tracking down use stats and generating a report for an upcoming renewal. Eventually, I called it a day and posted this. Yay!

NASIG 2010: Linked Data and Libraries

Presenter: Eric Miller, Zepheira, LCC

Nowadays, we understand what the web is and the impact it has had on information sharing, but before it was developed, it was in a “vague but exciting” stage and few understood it. When we got started with the web, we really didn’t know what we were doing, but more importantly, the web was being developed so that it was flexible enough for smarter and more creative people to do amazing things.

“What did your website look like when you were in the fourth grade?” Kids are growing up with the web and it’s hard for them to comprehend life without it. [Dang, I’m old.]

This talk will be about linked data, its legacy, and how libraries can lead linked data. We have a huge opportunity to weave libraries into the fabric of libraries, and vice versa.

About five years ago, the BBC started making their content available in a service that allowed others to use and remix the delivery of the content in new ways. Rather than developing alternative platforms and creating new spaces, they focus on generating good content and letting someone else frame it. Other sources like NPR, the World Bank, and Data.gov are doing the same sorts of things. Within the library community, these things are happening, as well. OCLC’s APIs are getting easier to use, and several national libraries are putting their OPACs on the web with APIs.

Obama’s open government initiative is another one of those “vague but exciting” things, and it charged agencies to come up with their own methods of making their content available via the web. Agencies are now struggling with the same issues and desires that libraries have been tackling for years. We need to recognize our potential role in moving this forward.

Linked data is a best practice for sharing data, connecting data, and uses the semantic web. Rather than leaving the data in their current formats, let’s put them together in ways they can be used on the wider web. It’s not the databases that make the web possible, it’s the web that makes the databases usable.

Human computation can be put to use in ways that assist computers to make information more usable. Captcha systems are great for blocking automated programs when needed, and by using human computation to decipher scanned text that is undecipherable by computers, ReCaptcha has been able to turn unusable data into a fantastic digital repository of old documents.

LEGOs have been around for decades, and their simple design ensures that new blocks work with old blocks. Most kids end up dumping all of their sets into one bucket, so no matter where the individual building blocks come from, they can be put together and rebuild in any way you can imagine. We could do this with our blocks of data, if they are designed well enough to fit together universally.

Our current applications, for the most part, are not designed to allow for the portability of data. We need to rethink application design so that the data becomes more portable. Web applications have, by neccesity, had to have some amount of portability. Users are becoming more empowered to use the data provided to them in their own way, and if they don’t get that from your service/product, then they go elsewhere.

Digital preservation repositories are discussing ways to open up their data so that users can remix and mashup data to meet their needs. This requires new ways of archiving, cataloging, and supplying the content. Allow users to select the facets of the data that they are interested in. Provide options for visualizing the raw data in a systematic way.

Linked data platforms create identifiers for every aspect of the data they contain, and these are the primary keys that join data together. Other content that is created can be combined to enhance the data generated by agencies and libraries, but we don’t share the identifiers well enough to allow others to properly link their content.

Web architecture starts with web identifiers. We can use URLs to identify things other than just documents, but we need to be consistent and we can’t change the URL structures if we want it to be persistent. A lack of trust in identifiers is slowing down linked data. Libraries have the opportunity to leverage our trust and data to provide control points and best practices for identifier curation.

A lot of work is happening in W3C. Libraries should be more involved in the conversation.

Enable human computation by providing the necessary identifiers back to data. Empower your users to use your data, and build a community around it. Don’t worry about creating the best system — wrap and expose your data using the web as a platform.

IL2009: Mashups for Library Data

Speakers: Nicole Engard

Mashups are easy ways to provide better services for our patrons. They add value to our websites and catalogs. They promote our services in the places our patrons frequent. And, it’s a learning experience.

We need to ask our vendors for APIs. We’re putting data into our systems, so we should be able to get it out. Take that data and mash it up with popular web services using RSS feeds.

Yahoo Pipes allows you to pull in many sources of data and mix it up to create something new with a clean, flow chart like interface. Don’t give up after your first try. Jody Fagan wrote an article in Computers in Libraries that inspired Engard to go back and try again.

Reading Radar takes the NYT Bestseller lists and merges it with data from Amazon to display more than just sales information (ratings, summaries, etc.). You could do that, but instead of having users go buy the book, link it to your library catalog. The New York Times has opened up a tremendous amount of content via APIs.

Bike Tours in CA is a mashup of Google Maps and ride data. Trulia, Zillow, and HousingMaps use a variety of sources to map real estate information. This We Know pulls in all sorts of government data about a location. Find more mashups at ProgrammableWeb.

What mashups should libraries be doing? First off, if you have multiple branches, create a Google Maps mashup of library locations. Share images of your collection on Flickr and pull that into your website (see Access Ceramics), letting Flickr do the heavy lifting of resizing the images and pulling content out via machine tags. Delicious provides many options for creating dynamically updating lists with code snippets to embed them in your website.

OPAC mashups require APIs, preferably those that can generate JavaScript, and finally you’ll need a programmer if you can’t get the information out in a way you can easily use it. LexisNexis Academic, WorldCat, and LibraryThing all have APIs you can use.

Ideas from Librarians: Mashup travel data from circulation data and various travel sources to provide better patron services. Grab MARC location data to plot information on a map. Pull data about media collection and combine it with IMDB and other resources. Subject RSS feeds from all resources for current articles (could do that already with a collection of journals with RSS feeds and Yahoo Pipes).

Links and more at her book website.