Tuesday, December 22, 2009

E-Book Privacy

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a handy guide to reader privacy on e-book platforms, including the Kindle, the Nook, and Google Books.

Take the EFF's assessment of the Nook with a grain of salt: Barnes & Noble hasn't actually shipped any Nooks yet, so they've based their guide on the general B&N privacy policy.

And these guidelines may operate differently for libraries. For example, readers are less likely to be signed in to their personal accounts when using library computers for browsing than when at home. My guess would be that makes any data collected at libraries more aggregated and therefore more individually private. There's a difference between knowing which e-books are in a library's collection and which e-books a specific person searches and reads.

Still, patron privacy is an important value, and we should consider it when choosing devices and providers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement - Stop it!

The US is currently involved in global negotiations in Seoul on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great overview of ACTA, as well as discussion of recently leaked proposed text.

The most glaring problem with this treaty is that it forces Internet service providers to monitor their users for copyrighted content, and then cut off Internet service entirely for repeat offenders. ISPs are typically a local monopoly, and they have a commercial interest in pushing paid content over public domain, Creative Commons, or other user-created content. They are poor guardians of free speech and the intellectual commons.

Here's a copy of the letter I sent today to the White House. Feel free to use it to send your own letter.

Dear President Obama,

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement currently being negotiated in South Korea is terrible for America and must be stopped.

I am appalled at the gross restrictions on innovation, privacy, and free speech this proposed treaty represents. This draconian regime would crush one of the most resilient sectors of our economy, by requiring unsustainable levels of monitoring by growing services such as Facebook and Flickr. By putting enforcement in the hands of Internet service providers - local monopolies - ACTA would have a chilling effect on free speech online.

Moreover, it is appalling that your administration attempted to conduct these negotiations in secret. Not only do citizens have a right to know what their representatives are doing in their name, but it was also inevitable in this Information Age that the contents of the treaty would leaked internationally. The absurd naivete of this "secret" demonstrates the negotiators' rank unfitness to regulate Internet communications.

I urge you and members of your Administration to stand up for Americans' rights and for innovative industries, and scrap all of the Internet provisions of ACTA.

Laura Wimberley

Monday, August 17, 2009

ACRL Member of the Week: Me!

The ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries) orientation for new members was one of the most useful events at ALA. It's where I met Mary Jane Petrowski, ACRL's Associate Director, who invited me to submit a profile for their Member of the Week feature. So here I am!

Filling out the profile was nerve-wracking. I'm still establishing the content of my professional identity - I didn't feel ready to sum it up in a snappy package for the whole profession! But I'm happy with the result, and Mary Jane's enthusiasm was really encouraging.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The way we were

Patrons can still hand-write their literature search requests on paper forms at my library, if that's their preference, but we're a lot faster than thirty days. Then again, we're not using print indices and card catalogs to do the searches.

Still, this is pretty. Can the Google homepage look like letterpress?

This is all over the web without citation now, so it's hard to tell, but my best guess is that this first appeared at Boomerang.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

#ala2009 And some fun

In case you think all I did was take frantic notes -

I also hit up the Open Gaming Night (third pic down is me rocking "Blitzkrieg Bop" on Rock Band) and met Neil Gaiman for a signing.
What else can you ask for from a conference?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

#ala2009 Liveblogging OCLC QuestionPoint User Group Meeting

Sunday, July 12, 1:30 - 3:00PM at ALA Annual in Chicago

Susan McGlamery & Jeff Penka, OCLC Staff Members - QuestionPoint Service Update

Virtual reference is a way to open many doors to the library. This is a multi-stage process.

Qwidget Evolution - moving into first gen production for August production. Contemporary look and feel with fully customizable CSS color choices. Working on customizing all text. Can pop-out and resize. Improved privacy: on entrance, can require or nudge for email entry to proceed. Working on implementing for Facebook and for Open Web Kit - iPhone, Palm, and Android. Working version available for demo. Remember iPod Touch is also a mobile device for Open Web Kit, and much cheaper than iPhone.

Going Mobile - two touch process to add app to desktop of mobile device. Also working on binding institutions to Twitter accounts, which allows users to access both on phone and other ways. Library creates twitter account and binds it through QP, then gets tweets through QP, with new questions and responses filtered. Will have ability to turn avatars on and off, and adjust font size. This will go into the Ask Module. TinyURL generator is built right into the answering mode.
Facebook wall posts are fundamentally the same, but without the character limit; FB will eventually be integrated into this. The hope is to see this by fall.

Even though this comes through Twitter, that doesn't mean that everyone can see the whole reference transaction. If the patron follows the library, you can direct message them, which is private. However, one issue with Twitter is that excessive direct messaging gets registered by Twitter as spam, so reference transactions need to be shorter.

Network Issues - Locking up, slowing down, or freezing was geographically uneven and had to do with OCLC's Internet provider dropping packets. Over the last month, bandwidth has been increased with a new provider to prevent that. There have also been some configuration problems over the last week as they upgraded security and hardware for better performance - plans next week for an attempt for the best performance ever. This is an outgrowth of the rapidly increasing size of the national cooperation. When a connection is lost (multiple times in a session), right click, get the "About" information, and send it to QP.

LoC has been getting spam through QP. Remember that there are spam utilities like captcha in QP Admin.

24/7 Reference Cooperative - Michigan academic joining this fall; close to 24/7 Spanish coverage thanks to growth in Latin America and bilingual librarians. wiki.questionpoint.org

See Full instructions on the blog for joining virtual group so that you can transfer patrons to other librarians.

Virginia Cole, Cornell - Text-A-Librarian
Began in January, just testing the waters. Even at Cornell, not everyone has a smart phone, so they limited to texting. Contacted last fall by Mosio (now TextALibrarian) to be a test partner.

Students use phones; librarians use web-based interface and login with passwords. Unanswered messages have red answer buttons - luckily no lag after one librarian answered; system is fast enough to avoid duplicate answers. Mosio originally showed cellphone numbers, but Cornell worked with them to get that stripped out and the data not retained anywhere. Interface gives 288 characters. Alternatively, messages can be sent to email or IM, and can be signaled by sound.

The big problem is that the texted questions are often ambiguous - many technical equipment questions - and they expect immediate answers. They only promise to respond 10-5 Mon-Fri.

Rolled out service in stealth mode by only promoting with elevator posters, tabling, limited web page mention. This allowed gradual testing of the technology. For the first month, it seemed fine, but then they realized they weren't getting all the questions. They began doing some internal testing and checking back with Mosio, for several rounds, before they felt confident enough to promote service more heavily, such as putting it on Ask A Librarian page.

Very concerned about training - everything learned about chat will be helpful for texting.

Plan for fall is to integrate with more promotion - getting business cards out to new students via instruction sessions, and getting them to program them into their phones before they leave.

Not sure about integration with Twitter version of QP - depends in part on price from Text A Librarian. Maybe different types of questions via different entry methods - ie, directions from cellphones.

No library represented at meeting is yet using SMS for overdues, etc.

#ala2009 #ExLibrisALA Liveblogging the bX Panel

My notes on "bX: Users Who Looked at This Article Also Looked At...", Sunday, July 12, 10:30-12:00PM at ALA Annual in Chicago aren't exactly liveblogging - the Hilton doesn't have free wifi. But here they are, for anyone who was interested in the session and couldn't make it.

Oren Beit-Arie, Ex Libris
Robert Gerrity, Boston College
Nettie Lagace, Ex Libris

OBA: bX is new, launched just a few weeks ago. Web as web of users, sharing opinions and navigation aids like tags. Their selections and preferences help other users in e-commerce - why not in academic space? Two ways this happens: explicit user contributions, like reviews, ratings, and tagging, as in a social OPAC; and in implicit contributions, in captured user data.

Examples of implicit contributions: UKSG Usage Factors project, Project MESUR funded by Mellon. This started 2 years ago at Los Alamos to look at a range of measures of scholarly impact.

Evaluation of scholarship is based on print paradigms - authorship and citation. (Is that necessarily print based?) The alternative is usage based. (But this isn't peer review; it allows non-experts to have a say.)

Recommender systems - Wikipedia definition - information filtering system to present information likely of interest to a user

This is needed for scholarly research because of information overload - users need to find relevant information. Particularly for researchers in areas new to them, or in interdisciplinary research (good point).

Other recommenders: BibTip, in BC OPAC; LibraryThing

bX focuses on the core unit of articles, across the distributed academic publishing universe, and structural analysis of use patterns, not just popularity. Derives from research by Bollen and Van de Sompel, partnered with extensive global list of universities.

bX is built on OpenURL. Harvests usage logs from link resolvers (SFX) to build very large aggregations to mine. There are about 3000 link resolvers in the world, about 1800 of which are SFX. All major information providers participate in OpenURL.

Example: user puts keywords in EBSCO database, clicks SFX button to choose article. In next window, in addition to full-text links and OPAC link, gets links to additional articles. Would get identical results if they started from Scopus. (Is that really an advantage? Don't different users prefer different databases? I think of undergrads using EBSCO and faculty using Scopus. Wouldn't originating database be a source of information on user preference?)

Results can be returned as XML, RSS, etc. and be embedded in other portals, etc.

Article relationships are created by observing users' choices within a given session. This is aggregated across all users across many SFX layers.

More types of services to follow: trend analysis for collection development, comparison of citation patterns and usage patterns, Map of Knowledge from Mesur.

(Once we get into claims about evaluation, the idea about "usage" is slippery - just because someone clicks through to an article, or even downloads it, doesn't mean that in the end they find it useful. Not a good way to evaluate scholarship, even if it's a good way to evaluate a collection.)

Conclusion - moving from search to discovery

Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, MapMyRun - recommender services everywhere so why not in the library?

Usage data is an untapped resource. 283,000 requests to SFX so far this year at BC, over 200,000 clickthroughs. Allows information about usage by time and day, top journals, etc, but there's more. Does require libraries to share data, but at aggregate level that protects user privacy.

OPAC recommend system BibTip see DLIB May 08 - drawbacks are that they're specific to the BC OPAC and take a long time to build.

BC is bX beta tester, Nov 08 to April 09, with subject specialists testing predetermined resources and independent research for both validity of recommendations and user interface. Also tested different versions of bX algorithm.

Tester ratings of quality of recommendations: only 10% not good. Quick and easy to implement through SFX web admin module, used default settings. Requires configuring OAI server to harvest data from users.

BC: About 4% of users who see recommendations have clicked through since May, but no marketing yet. Definition of success is if some reasonable percentage of users find it useful and the rest find it unobtrusive (I agree).

Not many recommendations in humanities yet, since mostly books. Would like to see a feedback mechanism for users to evaluate recommendations.

Demos from Google Scholar, PubMed, EBSCO

Google Scholar - search, results, click through to library SFX links - next page shows full text links, catalog links, then bX recs with SFX links
PubMed (What I want to know is how similar the bX recommendations are to PubMed similar articles. Which gets more clickthroughs from users - bX recommendations or PubMed similar articles?)
EBSCO - NL points out that the keywords in recommended articles are different from the original article - bX helps identify synonyms

bX setup goes through SFX admin. Register, enter license key, activate target and test, and publish data. $3,000 for a single library. $15,000 for 6-20 library consortium. 30 trials available. Subscribers are strongly encouraged (but not required?) to contribute their users' data. Contributers have the option to get recommendations based just on the users from their institution, although no one has done that yet.

One questioner asked about skipping the SFX window and linking directly to the full text, which users often prefer. NL and OBA answered that bX can be configured to include a link to recommendations in the banner frame so that you can still link directly to the full text.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Invisible Library is a blog that simply notes the names and authors of imaginary books - books that are mentioned in fiction, some times in passing and sometimes centrally to their plots. It's sorted by the last name of the fictional author, not the real one, which gives the whole site a meta, surreal quality to it - here the imaginary is more important than the true.

(I added my own suggestion to the blog in the comments:

McENROY, Bree - Dark Ages
-from Tanya Egan Gibson's How to Buy a Love of Reading (a new first novel that's Gossip Girl goes Gatsby))

The British illustration collective INK has created a show of real, bound books based on these imaginary titles and authors. They've created cover art and invited participants to write the texts collaboratively. The imaginary will be made real.

What's amazing about this is the depth and richness of the remix. It's easy to think about open culture as a digital phenomenon (The Grey Album, The Phantom Edit), but this is a textual, tactile, handcrafted remix. Open culture, or at least a freer and more generous understanding of fair use, is vital to creating vibrant art with deep cultural resonance both on and off line.

Plus an Invisible Library is much easier to shelve this way.

(Thanks to John at Crooked Timber for the link.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Roving with Elegance: The Solution to the Nametag Dilemma?

A few months ago, my library system informally polled us about our feelings on wearing name tags. Like the librarian blogosphere overall, I felt divided. We should be approachable - but we should also be professional, not like waitresses or cashiers.

Luckily, here at a medical library, I had an easy way out - I opined that we should just wear the same official hospital badges worn by everyone from the surgeons to the janitors. Technically, the library staff is already supposed to wear them, but since we're not around lootable pharmacuticals or confidential patient records, no one really bothers. I'm not sure what conclusion they've come to on the main campus.

But for those of you on the fence about nametags, I have a lovely suggestion:

I got this as a graduation gift for my MLIS from friends, who found it at the gift shop of the Vancouver Public Library. It's made by a delightfully traditionalist British firm, Thomas Fattorini (who also make badges and crests bearing titles like Games Captain and House Prefect*).

It is an elegant thing, with a nice weight to it - not chintzy or plastic. It clearly indicates a professional title. (I hold a hope that this might distinguish me from the undergraduate student assistants, something my own appearance is apparently insufficient to do.) I'm half considering wearing it to ALA in the hopes of starting my networking on the plane trip or in the hotel: wearing it inside the convention hall would, of course, be stating the obvious.

What do you think? Is this still too commerical? Is it so discreet as to be pointless? Or could this be a useful compromise?

*They will custom engrave badges, so if anyone is still doing Harry Potter programs, I bet they'll make you one that says Quidditch Captain.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Zotero win

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

A Virginia Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit this morning against George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media.

Score one for the good guys!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Doing it in Public: Reading as Subversive Activity

I just discovered the delightful group library blog Closed Stacks, and one particular (old) post caught my attention: Read and you read alone.

Blogger The Librarienne suggest that one reason Americans don't read as much as we'd hope is that reading is a solitary activity, seen as frivolous and slightly suspect.

I've never sensed disdain for my own reading in public, and I think there are definitely places where it's widely understood: on public transit, for example, or in coffeehouses. Waiting rooms seem to be precisely one of those places, and I'd get downright huffy if someone tried to interrupt me there, as they did to one of the commenters.

I will freely admit that I've never tried to read in a bar (too dark!). Plus, I openly mocked a fellow who showed up to a bowling alley with a copy of Ulysses, of all things. As The Librarienne points out, reading is a solitary pleasure, and so voluntarily coming to a group social event with a book is just plain rude. (It did not help matters when he tried to use Joyce as a pick-up line.)

But I think the point about reading at work, as opposed to web surfing, is very well put. In the novel of corporate life Then We Came to the End, there's a wonderful passage describing how a quiet company rebel photocopies entire novels so he can read them at his desk, passing them off as memos. Reading seems to somehow more flagrantly flaunt one's duty than playing solitaire or chatting with co-workers.

Even though as librarians, we should value reading more, I've internalized this myself at my own library. On the recommendation of Robin Brown, I just borrowed a copy of Reading and the Reference Librarian. The central argument of the book is that reading widely makes us better at what we do - and I still feel guilty for reading it at work!

But I actually think there's good reason for this. What's different about reading books, what we value about books, is a depth of absorption, immersion in an argument or imagined world. That absorption can cause us to fail to notice patrons who need our attention, or we might be slow to snap out of it and refocus on work.*

But this isn't some hatred of reading, or a desire to stamp out "frivolous" reading. Instead, it's actually a mark of respect for reading and the real power books have over our imaginations.

So what, as The Librarianne asks, is to be done? At work, if the reading really is work related, I think we can try to carve out blocks of time and clearly label the activity - "This afternoon I'm reviewing books for our collection"; "Tomorrow I'm reading for the literature review for my next article on outreach."

For the public in general, I also think that the Dillingham editorial is absolutely right that one of the big problems is noise. If you want to read in a coffeeshop, you can ask them to turn down the music - or just take your business to a quieter place. Ask the receptionist in a doctor's office or the laundromat manager to turn off the television if no one's watching. (You don't have to tell them you're a librarian as you do all this shushing.)

Books captivate us. Some people do have first dibs on our attention (employers), but the general public doesn't. If they try to claim it, you could always start reading out loud. ;)

* (To be fair, this applies to other media as well - a boss who ignores Minesweeper will probably notice World of Warcraft.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why ASU might not lead the way

Steven Bell over at ACRLog worries that the new Kindle DX will encourage universities to follow the lead of Arizona State University in disparaging print collections, library buildings, OPACs, and the whole concept of academic libraries in general.

Daily Show to the rescue! After this story, no one's going to want to be like Arizona State.

(The mention of the library comes in at 2:27. When the "reporter" points out that it's empty, that's another swipe at ASU, not a strike against libraries.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Digital Library for a Literate World

The United Nations has unveiled the new World Digital Library. (More information from the New York Times here.)

And it is beautiful - intuitive faceted searching in all seven official UN languages; archival TIFF images; clean controlled vocabulary; global scope. The only other thing I can imagine asking for is plain text files of the manuscript images. But since everything in the WDL is in the public domain, I'm guessing the good folks at Project Gutenberg will be jumping on that opportunity.

I can't wait to see how this grows. As the world becomes increasingly literate, we can think of these texts as a truly world heritage.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Faculty Blog Round Up: Teaching with Technology

Much of what's going on with faculty is very similar to what's going on with librarians: Conferences are great, highly specialized, but exhausting! Or: Why, oh why, do students not cite sources after we work so hard with them? These experiences, we know.

What we don't usually observe is the teaching, and this is one of the parts we need to stay in tune with. Here I've highlighted three posts with really innovative technology teaching techniques - ideas that you might not have thought about how to support from the library. Or maybe you're dying to include blogging, Wikipedia, and gaming, and you didn't know how to find faculty who are doing it, too. Either way, here's a sample.

Acephalous is the blog of Scott Eric Kaufman, who teaches English at the University of California Irvine; he also contributes to the faculty group blogs The Valve (mostly literature) and Edge of the American West (mostly history).

SEK is blogging with his students in his undergraduate writing course the Rhetoric of Heroism. Because the course relies so heavily on detailed analysis of film and other visual iconography, a blog with embedded images seems like a wonderful way to communicate the material. I expect they're watching and discussing the films together in class, but images are usually not the kind of thing students are accustomed to taking notes on (especially in the dark).

Jeremy Boggs, who blogs at ClioWeb, is a graduate student in American history at George Mason University. He's also creative lead at the Center for History and New Media, so it's not too surprising that he's willing to take on the bete noire - Wikipedia. In his undergraduate American History Survey course, he assigns students to not just use, but create, Wikipedia articles, including citating sources, monitoring for follow-up collaboration, and writing a reflective essay. One of his students wrote the article that developed into the entry for Living Newspapers.

Another history professor, Rob MacDougall of the University of Western Ontario, blogs at Old is the New New (with a charming original steampunk blog theme). Rob uses the game Civilization to frame the course Science, Technology, and Global History. He asks his students to write an essay that reconceptualizes technology not as a serial, linear progress of development - as the game depicts it - but in some other way. How could we play a game that thinks of history as more contingent or branching or cyclic?

In this assignment, the game is laying bare a lot of social assumptions we carry around without realizing, and making them something students can analyze. If you ever need to justify a games collection in your library, this kind of work is a stellar example of such a collection could do.

Next month: the finals crunch.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A CC dean's perspective on the library...

over at Confessions of a Community College Dean.

The bad news? He's twenty years out of touch, nostalgic for the days when he did his doctoral research, and there's no money.

The good news? He did doctoral research, so he's not one of those "everything's on Google nowadays" guys, and he's ready and willing to listen.

A good primer for people who need to pitch to administrators.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Web Censorship: Find It, Name It, Shame It, End It

HerdictWeb is a new project of the The Berkman Center for Internet & Society that uses the distributed power of many users to determine whether a site is simply down, or whether it has been censored. When users encounter some kind of "Access Denied" message, they can enter the URL, and Herdict will track which sites are inaccessible from which countries for how long. There's a even handy browser plug-in and a super-cute sheep mascot.

hat tip to Eszter Hargittai at Crooked Timber

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wikipedia, you win.

Project Information Literacy, at the Information School of the University of Washington, has released a new progress report on its qualitative study of the research and writing habits of undergraduates. There's a lot of food for thought in there, but I want to highlight the role of Wikipedia.

What's amazing here is how well undergraduates use Wikipedia. As Joan, a commenter over at ACRLog, noted, they're using Wikipedia exactly how one should use any encyclopedia - to get background information and find some initial citations. The students interviewed even called it "presearch."

I have had a quite negative attitude about Wikipedia - I come from a social science background, and social science is not Wikipedia's strong suit. There's something about the Wikipedia community understanding of "neutrality" and "authority" that makes inaccurate claims about the Higgs boson particle or the Batman villian Clayface unsustainable, but that allows an entry like war to become a misguided amalgamation of ideological hobbyhorses.

But if students are going to be as responsible as this new report indicates, then I'm going to have to be responsible too - and that means not giving up on Wikipedia. Instead, I'm going to have to get my hands dirty and edit those entries myself. Good research practice deserves high quality free information, so I'll do my best to contribute.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Highs and Lows...

...at the reference desk this evening.

The low: The Interlibrary Loan request for a book cited (accurately) as "in press." Does this guy really not know what that means? Or does she think we have magical genie powers, or some kind of in with the publisher?

The high: A young doctor phoned to ask how to phone a list of articles that cited the out-of-date article in front of him. I walked her through Web of Science, and she hung up, pleased. But ten minutes later, he turned up at the desk in person, puzzled - he couldn't find any citations. I couldn't either, but I did find an authoritative statement that no articles in WoS cited her article. So I showed the good doctor Google Scholar - another new tool for him. There we found only 1 book citing the article - which our library had both electronically and available in print.

An exhaustive search with a clear answer and learning along the way. I do like being thorough.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What's the next microfiche?

I'm entering my last semester of my MLIS, so I'm just beginning my internship. Yesterday, I got a very thorough tour of the academic library where I'll be doing my fieldwork, including the periodicals room where they keep all the microforms. Said the head of reference, "Of course, we can't wait to get rid of all of this."

How unloved is a format when even librarians are eager to toss it? As far as I can tell, microfilm and microfiche are charmless and universally loathed; even Nicholson Baker wouldn't defend them. Microforms lack both the history of true primary documents and the search functions of digital documents, and they're terribly unwieldy.

Other evolutionary dead-ends don't induce this urge to purge: Betamax and laser discs at least have their defenders who claim their technical superiority to VHS or DVD.

But it would be the height of arrogance to assume that microforms are historically unique. History repeats itself, and we're going to make this mistake again. So what is the current format or pratice that patrons are reluctant - and someday will simply refuse - to use?

My pet peeve is Word documents in websites, that require downloading instead of embedded viewing like an Adobe Acrobat document, but I'm not sure that rises to the microfilm level. Any other nominations?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

History Pathfinders

Timothy Burke, history professor at Swarthmore, has a list of tips for undergraduates looking for primary sources. It's nice to see faculty specifically encouraging concrete information literacy skills, and these are tips that librarians could incorporate into their own pathfinders for history topics.
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Libri & Libertas: Books & Freedom in a Web 2.0 World by Laura H. Wimberley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 3.0 United States License.