NISO Forum – Trends and Thoughts

Earlier this month, I went to the NISO Forum on library resource management systems, which was conveniently located right here in the Financial District of Boston.  The program was fantastic, and the presentations are now available and well worth a look, even in slide format.

A number of words, themes, and ideas resonated throughout the two-day program:

  • Agility: The real-time web is here. Terabytes are here. E-books are here. What are we going to do and and can we do it fast enough?
  • Collaboration: Dare I say, 2.0?  Not the traditional library consortium, but ad-hoc, dynamic, and extending beyond libraries to the broader research and education communities. Data curation, network-level services, putting the library where the user is – all these require collaboration beyond the traditional scope of library consortia or collaboratives.
  • Context: Lorcan Dempsey has a wonderful graphic, used by Rachel Bruce of JISC in her presentation and included in a blog post by Dempsey about the forum, that gets at the importance of context, and Kevin Kidd describes work that Boston College is undertaking in this area.  It is no longer enough for the library to operate in the library environment; we must be present and relevant in the library users’ workflows elsewhere: in the open web, in institutional systems, in the personal tools researchers use in their daily lives.  This requires reconsidering and rethinking what it means to be committed to privacy. How can we collect, aggregate, and use user data to provide services that are quickly becoming essential to our users, while still respecting and guarding privacy? Is it possible?
  • Network level: “work at the network level as far as possible” (Bruce), “working at the highest appropriate level” (Kyle Banerjee, speaking about large consortial system implementation of resource sharing and delivery), “cloud library as a shared network resource” (Kat Hagedorn, speaking about Hathi Trust’s cloud library project)
  • Open source: Experimentation and adoption for both small and large systems and services, from the consortial implementation of Evergreen discussed by Grace Liu to the Annette Bailey’s experience using open source to develop tools that work with vended systems.

(Heh, I didn’t intentionally put those in alphabetical order!)

My head was really spinning by the end, and I haven’t even mentioned all the sessions here.  Follow the link through to see Oren Beit-Arie’s keynote, Judi Briden’s presentation about the latest anthropological research at U of Rochester, and more.

Customer vs. container, content vs. service

Lots of interesting ideas floating around this week about the future of publishing, much applicable and relevant to libraries.

First up, the Scholarly Kitchen’s blogging of the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s IN conference keynotes, with an interesting comment about “diffintermediation” in between.

Keynote 1 by John Wilkins of Creative Commons

Keynote 2 by John Maeda of RISD

The tweet stream is worth a look, too: #SSPIN09

Next up, the write up at Personanondata of Seth Godin’s lunchtime talk to the Digital Publishing Group.  Excerpt of write up: “The major error being made by established publishers (and agents and authors I would add) using conventional business models, Godin says, is to see new technology and the internet as a way to make old business models work better instead of as an opportunity to destroy (no sentimentality here) and reinvent the old.”  Video excerpts here (see also tweets: #digpub)

Finally, the post “a clean well-lighted place for books” at if:book – the book as a place, the evolution of bookstores, and publishers’ brands.  Plus a response from a bookseller at Vroman’s Bookstore in Southern California, who also references Godin’s talk.

*Bonus: fantastic set of slides putting the use of social media in the larger context of being customer-focused from author Tara Hunt (via Lorcan Dempsey)

Industry-Sponsored Professional Development

Back in March, I attended an “e-book summit” in Boston that was sponsored by Springer.  Springer did a fantastic job of putting together a program of topics and speakers who touched on various aspects of e-book access and management. They included plenty of time for discussion and brainstorming among the attendees.  The best part? Attendance was free.

Programs like this strike me as a win-win for librarians and commercial industry professionals, provided they meet or exceed the high standard Springer set.  In the current economy, many of us face limited or non-existent travel budgets, yet we still want and need to do professional development activities.  Publishers and vendors, meanwhile, need to conduct focus groups and other market research activities to avoid costly missteps in their product development and content offerings.

What made the e-book summit so successful?

  • Several organizations were represented among the speaker line-up, including another e-book provider (ebrary –  who carries Springer content as well as many other publishers’). It wasn’t an all Springer, all day event.
  • The topic was one Springer clearly wanted librarian feedback on, but also one that librarians wanted to talk to each other about: How are you handling Vendor X’s pricing model? What are you doing about catalog records? Should there be an e-book A to Z list? We weren’t just there for the free lunch!
  • The mix of formats – single speaker, panel, discussion – plus lunch and a reception gave the day the feel of a mini-conference. Learning, brainstorming, networking: all without leaving town.
  • By framing the day as a summit, Springer signaled that they understood the unsettled nature of e-books, and the content demonstrated that indeed they “got it.”

I imagine that Springer more than made up the costs of the program with the feedback they got through the open discussion and brainstorming that took place.  At the same time, they successfully walked a fine line,  asking some of their librarian customers to present at the summit, but keeping the content neutral enough that attendees didn’t leave feeling subjected to a day-long sales pitch.

I haven’t seen a lot of programs like this, but I bet they’d be pretty popular, as the Springer summit was. Sure, vendors will continue to recruit development partners and conduct smaller selected focus groups, but pick a hot topic, order lunch, and open the doors and you will probably find the investment worthwhile.

Peter Morville @ NASIG

Liveblogging Peter Morville keynote at NASIG

Information Architecture – Combination of organization, labeling, search, navigation – art + science.  Can learn from related fields like HCI but not sufficient. Still emerging discipline.  Done by many people who don’t know the term.

3 common lessons for many of his clients:

  • Multiple ways to find the same information. (e.g. Stanford Academic Programs page)
  • Bubbling up information by surfacing sample subcategories… increasing scent of information
  • Organization systems and taxonomies for a particular audience – one size doesn’t fit all

Showing Jesse James Garrett (?) Elements of User Experience diagram – many different elements and types of professionals – visual design, interaction, functional specs, etc.

Morville’s honeycomb diagram – he got sick of word usability. Clients say they want their site to be more “usable” – what does that mean? it’s become conflated with quality.  So – what does it mean?

valuable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, usable, useful

Still need to do user testing, but can’t stop there.

Desirability – Don Norman’s work showing attractive things work better – make people happy – happy people work better. 🙂

Findability – Can users find our website? Can they find their way around? Can they find our products and services despite our website

Accessibility – people coming in with alternate devices besides big desktop

Credibility – visual design affects credibility

Example – cancer.gov redesign: wanted to reduce clicks to get to needed information. vast majority of users citizens recently diagnosed and their friends, family. multiple cancer-type homepages, want to get people to them. assumed people were finding their site to begin with, #1 site for query “cancer” but searches on specific cancer types led to other sites. needed to focus on getting to the site to begin with, in addition to navigation of site itself.

Shifting to the future… how do we position ourselves, our careers, for the future. what trends should inform the work we are doing now?

Moving into a mobile age. Intersection of internet and ubiquitous computing. Ambient findability: ability to find anything anywhere at anytime.

From books chained to desks to drowning in information.

He’s working on a new book on search.

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Herbert Simon, Nobel Laureate Economist

When we can pick and choose our information sources how does this affect the way we learn? Ambient Devices company: Ambient Orb, Ambient Pinwheel.

Going way beyond even smart phones to devices that are internet enabled. Recommends book “The Transparent Society”

How do we create bigger needles for our haystacks? Skeptical of AI and information visualization. Metadata? Tagging? Shouldn’t be forced to choose between controlled metadata and tagging. Cites Etsy as good example of both. “Doing it right” – evolve taxonomy based on tagging.

Future of findability: 5-10 years still start with keyword search. Still need to worry about browsing, navigation, because search is the early stage. move between modes of search and browse. search is a complex adaptive system. how to improve? not just about the software. careful thought about users and their needs. need to help not just get started but help when they get stuck.

Library of search patterns on Flickr, also working on behavior patterns. “Pearl growing” – finding one relevant doc and using its metadata to find other things. how do we help users do that? Best bets, users also used….  Metasearch, federated search, need to continue trying to solve the problem of search across sources and types. Example: worked with CSA on Illumina for better interface for most users. (AB: wow, i forgot how bad the old CSA interface was)

Faceted navigation. Allows people to formulate very sophisticated boolean queries in an easy way. Provides a customized map of their results and helps them understand the information space better. NCSU has shared a lot of their research they did to get their faceted navigation interface. VW has nice and attractive site with faceted navigation.

Social search. adds lots of relevant data to the pool of metadata to increase relevant hits.

More examples of interesting search interfaces.

“Conspicuous experience” – sharing information on, for example, running history.

Recommended reading – couldn’t get all these but slides are on his website

LibraryThing UnSuggester

I’m fascinated by LibraryThing’s new UnSuggester, unveiled Sunday along with their “real” recommender system. UnSuggester gives you opposites instead of similar titles.

the selfish genewild at heartFor example, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky overlaps least with Daughters of the Moon by Lynne Ewing. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins overlaps least with Wild at Heart: Discovering the Passionate Soul of a Man by John Eldredge.

It could make an interesting collection development tool–or at least a fun way to expand your horizons a bit, even if you don’t read the opposites.

You can read more about UnSuggester and BookSuggester (the actual recommender system) at the LibraryThing Blog. And you can try them out for yourself even if you don’t have a LibraryThing account.

Portable New Yorker

Emdashes reports that the New Yorker will soon sell the Complete New Yorker on portable hard drive in addition to the DVD set already on sale. For $299 you get an installation CD and a portable 3″x5″ drive. Since $59.99 gets you the same coverage on DVD, I’m curious about their target audience with this venture. My other question’s been answered though; the description includes this: “Plus, there is plenty of extra room on the drive for future updates.”