Ab’s Blog Archive

Day in Life: Tuesday 7/28

I’m extending the day in the life meme due to a highly unusual server outage last week, now happily resolved.


Arrive work, boot up, open twhirl, im, calendar, and e-mail. review mail and check a few feeds while eating breakfast. i almost never want breakfast when i get up and usually eat at my desk.

Investigate status of the batch job I started the night before to sync Verde changes with SFX. Things don’t look good. Get coffee. Continue sync investigation, which leads to a friendly discussion with operations support about difference between non-supported hours and a maintenance window and when we can run batch jobs. Restart the batch during supported hours in order to benchmark, and send various related internal communication.

Learn about the process for requesting config table copy from Aleph QA to Aleph production server.  Coordinate with the table owner about requesting the change.  My first Aleph table change!

Start drafting this post.

Update the Verde project plan, now mostly complete!

Start playing a museum studies lecture for the class I’m taking and do some mindless Verde migration cleanup.


Eat lunch while catching up on e-mail messages.  Sometimes I take a full lunch hour, sometimes a shorter break at my desk, sometimes I work while eating.  Today I catch up on e-mail and then IM with friend.

Schedule a meeting with our training and documentation librarian to discuss future Verde training and Aleph acquisitions catch up. Our T&D librarian handles a regular, recurring schedule of Aleph and Cognos (reporting) classes and keeps the related documentation up to date.  She was on maternity leave for much of the Verde implementation, so we need to schedule time for her to learn Verde and figure out what ongoing training we should offer.  She also has an acquisitions and serials background, and since I recently became responsible for related Aleph functions, I’m looking to her to fill me in on some things.

Batch job from the a.m. finally finishes and I review the results.

Attend weekly Aleph team meeting, which includes staff responsible for Aleph support and our other vended software too.

Continue reviewing and acting on the results of the batch sync process until it’s time to go home.


Top 10 Google suggestions when I type “define:”

  1. love
  2. conservatism
  3. culture
  4. socialism
  5. ethics
  6. integrity
  7. leadership
  8. twitter
  9. irony
  10. agnostic

One of these things is not like the others…

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.

Carol Tenopir @ NASIG

Liveblogging Carol Tenopir’s keynote “Measuring the Value of the Academic Library: Return on Investment and Other Value Measures”

Carol reports that she did not participate in the Fun Run/Walk at 6:30 a.m.

We’re facing the challenge of demonstrating our value to stakeholders. Economy adds to this by pressuring budgets, combine w/ perceptions of library as gateway (Ithaka studies) we have a value gap. Amount spent vs. *perceived* value. (Perception of other roles hasn’t declined.) Wrong perceptions can become reality if we don’t address them head on.

Carol in middle of studies on ROI so that will be her focus today.

Usage logs: what people do on library systems. Picture of one segment – electronic; don’t tell you what people do with the info or the value it has to them. What did people do instead of going to the library? Carol recently joined COUNTER board.

Focus groups and surveys: to examine changes, to improve what we do.

User surveys and data: go beyond amount of use – what do people do with the info, what are outcomes. combine with other data on budget and income then you can get at ROI.

Objectives of ROI: how does library contribute to income of university. For every $ spent on library, university received X $ in return. Articulate value in terms of institutional objectives.

Study in 3 phases: 1) case study at a US University (U of Illinois)  – there’s a white paper on the Elsevier website. Judy Luther was involved w/ team. ROI in grants was focus. 2) expanded Phase 1 to 8 countries, 9 universities. does the phase 1 methodology transfer? 3) propsal pending w/ IMLS to look at ROI for grants/research, teaching, student engagement – essentially go beyond grants to other ROI and quantify.

Findings from Phase 1: Not just quantitative, so need to meet with top admins to determine what they value. Found similar values at research universities, e.g., attract and retain top faculty, focus on new intellectual directions, strengthen interdisciplinary work, increase research impact. Benefit of interviews: informing admins about the library, too.

How do you calculate ROI: faculty generate income through grants, increase reputation. they use library collections in proposals. what proportion of grant’s income could be assigned to the library?

Grant cycle: conduct research -> write articles -> write reports and proposals -> obtain grants -> conduct research, etc.  library has role in first three, how do we make specific connection?

Worked with an economist on methods. Need to clarify purpose of project before going out to talk to faculty: not trying to claim allocation back to library, not cost/time saving exercise. Faculty worried about money being allocated as an outcome of project.

studies on ROI for public libraries: Worth their weight by Americans for Libraries Council and Making cities stronger Urban Libraries Council. Include tools for calculation – this is a goal of Tenopir’s work.

studies on ROI for corporate libraries: Demonstrating Value and ROI by Outsell. time and money saved, revenue generated.

Data gathered during Phase 1: different types with different metnhods. e.g. surveys of faculty, office data on grant income, etc.

Model: % faculty w/ grants using citations x % grant award success rate using citations from library x $ avg grant income = $ avg grant income generated using citations from library x # grants expended / $ library budget (total not just collections) = $ grant income for each $1.00 invested in library. at Illinois this came out to 4+ : 1 ratio.

Phase 2 ongoing to see if model works, is it transferable. similarities and differences across countries and institutions.

Faculty survey – tried to keep short. combination of open-ended and quantitative questions. asked demographic data to determine differences among rank and discipline.

Value of e-resources: similar responses around the world – access from desktop is key.

Measuring up to admin values: tie between faculty with more pubs and citations have higher propensity of obtaining more grants. Faculty who publish more read more. Those who receive awards read more. Can’t claim cause and effect, but it is a picture of a successful faculty member.

References clearly important to grants. Avg # of citations: 20-46 is range.

% of citations from e-library: mode vaies 50-99%.

ROI varied from 15:1 to under1:1. varied depending on institution mission. some were teaching institutions so grants are not a good mechanism for measuring ROI.

Phase 3: will broaden focus from grants to other functional areas, e.g. teaching and learning. anticipate change: new scholarly endeavors such as e-science, IRs. challenge is to develop measures. e.g. how do you measure careers after graduation, measure prestige? and what’s the library’s role?

Conclusion so far: libraries help generate grant income. e-collections valued by faculty and bring ROI to university anywhere in world. hope to show library’s products and services help faculty be successful, students be successful, immediate and downstream income.

Final thoughts: tie what you measure to mission of university. measure outcomes not inputs. quantitative data show ROI and trends, qualitative data tell a story, multiple methods needed.

question about ILL: didn’t include in study – they were looking more at collections rather than services.

question about publishing phase 2: hoping this summer, but not sure.

question about calculator: yes, expect to make tools available with ARL.

question about how people know they’re using library systems: tried to phrase questions carefully at each institution in order to get at this. suspect they underestimated library use because people may not know, especially if the systems are good.

question pointing out that studies are exploratory and require further follow up. methodology evolved with phases. tenopir agrees.


Liveblogging Peter McCracken’s update on KBART

OpenURL overview: evolution from magic to sausage making in how it is implemented and how information gets passed around. when the link resolver fails it affects the user’s perception of the tool

bad data, bad formatting, lack of knowledge

what is the measure of success? better access, fewer false positives and negatives. number of links should equal number of access points available

History of KBART: 2007 UKSG research report, led to collaboration between UKSG and NISO

Better data for everyone: providers, processors, presenters, users

Core working group + monitoring group. Anyone can join monitoring group.

Problems w/ OpenURL: 3 main onese are inaccurate data leads to bad links, incorrect implementation, lack of knowledge

Lack of knowledge: some providers just don’t know about OpenURL – need education

Incorrect implementations: help providers determine what’s working, what isn’t, need more and better examples. opportunity to standardize transfer of data. Adam Chandler Cornell project to look at source OpenURLs.

Inaccurate data: what to do? grade? police? shame? biggest problem to solve. coverage data especially. education on why it matters.

KBART deliverables: report and provide guidance on these problems. offer best practices guildines for how to effectively transfer accurate data. better understanding of supply chain.

How to deliver it: FTP tab delimited, separate files for each db, as often as necessary. standardized file name structure. guidance on how to provide coverage, what info to include – defined fields. defining how to represent certain kinds of data, e.g. embargo data. Much discussion about what to include vs. what to point to e.g. with a DOI.

Error reporting – how? link resolvers vs. content providers doing correction. public error reporting db?

Education sections, FAQ, website – who would maintain?

Next steps: library specific data, consortial package work, non-textual resources. standards?

(Had to leave this a couple minutes early.)


Liveblogging Todd Carpenter on ONIX-PL

ONIX-PL is what you get when you combine licenses with XML

To license – give

To license – receive

A license

They are everywhere now – digital and physical, e.g. Turbo Tax and parking stickers

Talking about click-through licenses

But libraries have made massive investment negotiating. is it worthwhile? (Mentions SERU – an opportunity to move beyond this.) What do we do with them after we sign them? Since 1997 seeking a way to express license terms. Then DLF-ERMI (2002) – looking at questions of how are people managing info regarding licensed network resources?

DLF ERMI described workflows – initial report highlights differences between print and electronic. phase between decision to purchase and actual acquisition. business and license negotiation, technical evaluation.

ERMI recommended exploring definitions of license terminology, training community on how to encode, exchange of terms. (other non-license recommendations – many of the recommendations have a corresponding NISO standard or working group, e.g. cost per use calculations – CORE)

Reviews sample clauses and need for interpretation, e.g. regarding ILL terms. Lack of clarity makes it more difficult to encode.

Encoding: increases awareness, easier to share, improved compliance, better clarity (if desired – ambiguity can be a good thing), maybe better/faster/easier negotiation

Joint License Expression Working Group – multiple tracks: ONIX-PL, mapping ERMI to ONIX-PL, promotion, review of terms, planning survey to assess need for maintenance of ERMI data dictionary

Finally getting to ONIX: ONline Information eXchange. suite of XML schemas for publishing industry info. other schemas besides ONIX-PL are ONIX – Books, ONIX – Serials

ONIX-PL not a rights expression language – not actionable. just “this is what it says”. not designed to enable or prevent access. (rights expression language = think DRM). open to interpretation

Available and ready to use format, spec, dictionary, editing tools. discussion of intermediary role for subscription agents or other orgs.

Question about cost of doing the encoding and who bears it – idea is that publishers do the encoding and hope to transfer the encoded data into, e.g., an ERM.

How could you use it? Eliminate mapping and manual entry into ERM. Improve interface for accesing terms. Simplify negotiation? Improve storage, sharing, public display. Auditing.

Current use? Goal to have 5 publisher implementation by end of year. JISC requiring of 80+ license. Publishers LIcensing Society encoding on behalf of some pubs. Nature doing some work. Elsevier, Springer, others doing pilot with SerSol through SCELC (something California … Consortium? not sure)

Showing screens of the ONIX-PL editor. web form for data input.

Working group made up of vendors, pubs, agents, libraries. Currently interested in expanding library involvement in working group. Question about role of the agent – reps in room described work on behalf of both library and publishers, assisting the process from both sides.

Future directions: JISC funded initiative for repository of license. Survey of community to assess priority to libraries.

Final thoughts: Communicating terms is difficult! Need cost-benefit analysis – ambiguity vs. clarity, level of detail you need. It’s not an enforcement mechanism.

Squeaky wheel – if customers don’t prioritize this with ERM vendors it won’t be developed.

Slides will be on NISO site, add’l resources given on slides.

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

Twitter – what’s the fuss?

I set up a Twitter account almost two years ago and then promptly let it languish.  Until this week I had tweeted a grand total of maybe five times.  I wasn’t sure why I needed it, and since hardly anyone followed me, I felt like I was talking to myself when I posted.

But Twitter has been in the news quite a lot the last the couple months: on librar* blogs, in tech media, and even in the NY Times. Two articles in particular convinced me to give Twitter another try.

The first is Twitter: Why You Should Care by Randy Cassingham of This is True, whose hook is, “This is the secret to making Twitter really useful: No one cares what it is you’re doing.”  That got to the crux of the matter for me: while it’s interesting to see one update a day or so from friends on Facebook, getting dozens of what-i’m-doing-right-now postings per day just didn’t capture my imagination, and posting them seemed narcissistic to boot.

The second article is a recent column by David Pogue of the New York Times, Twitter Is What You Make It, in which he recounts his former ambivalence toward Twitter, his foray into the service, and the results of his “Twitter for beginners” Google search, and concludes – well, you can probably guess.

So I decided to start tweeting again, and it does feel more useful to me this time. For one thing, there are a lot more people – even libraries and organizations – using Twitter; it’s a source of interesting links, ideas, and tidbits of information. For another, I used to post more library-oriented Facebook updates.  Now that a much higher percentage of my Facebook friends are from other parts of my life, I’m using that service a little  differently. I’m experimenting with Twitter as a primarily professional tool for posting quick thoughts and links of interest.

To get started with Twitter you’ll want to set up an account on the site, but one of the notable facts about it is that a large percentage of users do not post or read tweets via Twitter’s website, but through third-party tools and browser extensions.  This could be because the site is kind of clunky and unintuitive (another reason I didn’t really get into it in the past), but it is also due to the real-time, always-in-the-background way that people use the service. At a recent NEASIST meetup about Twitter (aka “tweet up”), attendees shared tips and tools they are using, among a lot of other interesting discussion.  The following desktop tools and iPhone apps are the most popular among folks I’m following:

After you set up an account, with or without additional tools, you’ll probably want to follow other users.   Once you find a couple interesting people to follow, you can find more by checking out who they follow, and so on. You might find these directories of librar* Twitter users helpful:

Oh, and if you want to follow me, I’m acbtanya.

New reports from EDUCAUSE and OCLC

Usually I rely on industry reports to put me to sleep, even those that generate lots of buzz and get described as “essential reading.” But today I’ve seen pointers to a couple reports that look really interesting and – bonus! – they each clock in at under 50 pages.

The first is the 2009 Horizon Report, the only annual report I read beginning to end every year. A collaboration between the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE, it reports on technologies to watch in education. I always learn something new and interesting from this report, and this year promises to be no exception. If you are looking for concise, fairly non-technical overviews of hot topics such as cloud computing, with specific examples, implications, and sites you can follow up with, the Horizon Report really is “essential reading.”

The second is a new OCLC Research report (found via Lorcan Dempsey’s blog) called “Scholarly Information Practices in the Online Environment,” which discusses core scholarly activities and implications for library services. With its primary focus on activities such as reading and writing and not on the media or technologies through which they are conducted, I expect this report will bring a fresh perspective to thinking about service development.

On joining the conversation again

I’m not much of a joiner.  I don’t like bandwagons and I am highly suspicious of fanaticism.  I was a late supporter of Obama – excuse me, President Obama! – for this reason: so many people were so into him.  For similar reasons, it took me a while to figure out that I really liked Ray LaMontagne’s music, and I felt very, very uncomfortable with the crowd when I saw him perform live.

When I was doing software implementation, my professional focus became rather more narrow than it had been previously.  I found myself with little time or inclination to read a lot of blogs, and because I was no longer in an academic library, I could no longer easily take advantage of free-to-me library lit, which I used to peruse occasionally.  I kept up with a few favorite blogs (T. Scott and Free Range Librarian, notably) and got my own subscription to Against the Grain, but that was about it.

Now that I’m back in an academic setting, I am trying to broaden my horizons once more, and the tenor of librar* blogging seems to have changed over the past two years. I’ve resubscribed to a number of blogs I had dropped and added some new favorites (Pegasus Librarian), but the overall pace of blogging seems to have slowed quite a bit and given way to new media such as Twitter, tools like FriendFeed, which aggregates a person’s online presence and provides for conversation on the site itself, and other forums.

The possible level of participation is much higher, the time delay sometimes nil.  To participate, though, in many cases means joining: making a declaration that you are part of the group.  It’s much different from subscribing to a blog feed and making a comment once in a while.  I’ve dipped my toe in the water by joining the Library Society of the World FriendFeed room, but not the LinkedIn group. I’m not sure why this should be an issue for me, but it is.*  By the same token, I’m sure I’ll join in more, because I’m too interested in what’s happening, in the things being said and the ideas being discussed, not to be there in some capacity.


*Facebook doesn’t present this problem – at all, even Groups. I could write a separate post about why that is.