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.

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.)
Creative Commons License
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.