Archive for February, 2007

Speaking of the symposium…

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 by Merrilee

The deadline to register for our “Discovery to Delivery in New Contexts” symposium is quickly approaching. Please register by March 5th (you must be from an RLG Programs Partner institution in order to attend, but there is no fee). We have over 100 people from a variety of institutions who will be coming, so join the party!

Search in 2017

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007 by Merrilee

On Friday, I attended the long-running “Friday afternoon seminar,” (also known as the “Buckland-Larson-Lynch seminar,” also known by its formal course title…) at UC Berkeley. The seminar is available through the iSchool (formerly known as the “School for Information Management and Studies,” formerly known as the “School of Library and Information Studies”…) and is available to the general public.

Cliff Lynch gave a reprise of a talk given earlier this month on Internet Search in the Year 2017. While Cliff did not make a lot of predictions, he did make some interesting observations. Among these…

Content is where the biggest change has been in the last 10 years. Search engines used to all work from the same data set, the web. Now search engines make deals with content providers. This has transformed search engines from businesses that could be started in a garage (with a few clever people, a good algorithm, and a couple of fast machines) to businesses that have more in common with a cable network. Search engines also encourage the creation of content: think blogs, images, etc.

Cliff does not think that personalization services will have much uptake. He sees a lot of resistance from users to the idea registering and giving enough data for this to work. Interestingly, he also does not see a lot of movement in interfaces. What we have is likely what we’ll continue to have.

As a sidenote to the remarks on content, Cliff talked about worry within the library community, that users are not starting search at the catalog. This has led to much hand ringing, and the ‚ÄúOPACs really suck‚ÄĚ discussion. What generally missed in this conversation is what led users to search engines in the first place. For the low, low price of one more click you get the data you wanted. Immediate gratification wins out over being told that the book is available in the library, or worse, available in a storage facility and you can get it in a few days.

I think there are a few more factors at play here, not mentioned during the talk but worth mentioning here. They are already at the search engine for other reasons. While looking for weather or a place to eat, why not also do research? Search engines have massive piles of information, and why would you want to limit yourself to a smaller bucket of information. Even if it is limited to good stuff, most of ‚Äúour‚ÄĚ piles of good stuff still need to be searched individually.
To consider and discuss. Hopefully a topic at our Discovery to Delivery in New Contexts symposium, for RLG Program Partners.

Return from the Moon…

Monday, February 26th, 2007 by Merrilee

As Anne has noted, we don’t often blog about personal issues. Keen readers of HangingTogether may have noticed that I have been absent for some time. There’s a good reason for that.

On November 5th, RedLightGreen was turned off and users were redirected to WorldCat.org. On November 6th, my daughter was born. I was away from work until just before ALA. I told colleagues that reemerging in this fashion was like coming back from the moon, although I’m sure my reentry was much less traumatic than that of a cosmic voyager. There was more email and catch up than I would have thought possible, but I’m through it now. I’m back, baby!

Speaking of transitions, last week we said goodbye to our friend and colleague Anne Van Camp, who has left RLG Programs to become the director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Anne accomplished a tremendous amount in her 10 years at RLG (and nearly one year at OCLC!), and I’m confident she’ll have a similar impact at the Smithsonian. Goodbye Anne! You will be missed….

Personal lists and predatory birds

Friday, February 16th, 2007 by Constance

OCLC recently updated the WorldCat.org service with some new features, including a tool that automatically generates pre-formatted citations in a variety of styles.¬† We used to have something similar in RedLightGreen (2003-2006) –¬†a key difference being that RedLightGreen enabled a user¬†to save a list of citations for subsequent use.¬† I quite liked the¬†”personal list”¬†function — for me, it was less about being able to generate an MLA-style bibliography than it was about saving a list of books I was interested in reading, or re-reading.¬† That I could easily generate a formatted bibliography from the list was an added bonus.¬† Undergraduates who used RedLightGreen particularly liked this feature.¬†

There are a number of free services that support “personal list” creation in support of scholarship and learning — Zotero has beeng getting a lot of attention lately.¬† I tried saving some of the citations I’d created in WorldCat.org into my Zotero collection, but it was a pretty tedious process.¬† Interestingly enough, Zotero didn’t recognize that the resource I was looking at (an edition of Glenway Wescott’s The Pilgrim Hawk) is a book. Normally, Zotero does a pretty good job of “sensing” that the item of interest in a library catalog is a book, and makes it easy to export the citation.¬† Not so in WorldCat.org.¬† The new citation builder in WorldCat makes it possible to create a citation and then port it into Zotero — but it’s still not a seamless process.¬†

A colleague recently pointed me to CiteULike as another example of collaborative bookmarking in support of research, teaching and learning.¬† CiteULike is primarily focused on journal literature, which makes it a great fit for advanced researchers who want to cite and share citations to recent (or past) research published in scholarly journals.¬† Interestingly, Amazon is included in the list of article sources, which also includes some more obvious sources like Ingenta, JSTOR, PubMed, Wiley.¬† I was easily able to import a citation to the Pilgrim Hawk from within Amazon, mark it as “already read” and add a personal annotation.¬† I¬†was intrigued and quite pleased to see that the abstract¬†from Amazon was¬†pulled over alongside the citation details.¬†¬†CiteULike also makes it¬†easy to export¬†a saved list of citations to EndNote¬†or BibTex.¬†

My overall impression is that the proliferation of tools for creating and sharing citations is a good thing — we’re edging toward an online experience that genuinely supports research, teaching and learning.¬† At least for now, the service environment seems woefully fragmented — I can find relevant content easily, but citing it and sharing it requires a little more time than I’m prepared to spend.¬† I’m curious to know how many WorldCat users are also Zotero users and CiteULike users and EndNote users.

The reference to predatory birds, if you’ve not guessed, is an allusion to the hawk in Wescott’s novel, as well as the hunting and¬†pecking habits of researchers.¬† Wescott was an interesting man, with an interesting publication history.¬† You wouldn’t know it from the bio in Wikipedia, but he had an important impact on literary criticism — as evidenced by the fact that his¬†collected essays on¬†Images of Truth¬†are more widely held by libraries than any of his works of fiction.¬†A new tool that Thom Hickey and other OCLC colleagues have created provides an elegant snapshotof Wescott as both a creator and subject of published works, closing the loop on finding, citing, creating and sharing.

Functional Requirements for a Global Digital Library?

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007 by Constance

Richard Johnson, formerly of SPARC and now a special consultant to ARL, has written a useful article on mass digitization partnerships that summarizes some of the key concerns of research institutions:¬† Are the combined efforts of the Google-, MSN- and OCA-library partners likely to produce a¬†corpus of text that supports scholarship?¬† Are content-contributors — jointly or individually –¬†capable¬†of shaping the outcomes of these large-scale projects?¬† Rick’s article includes a helpful checklist of issues that library partners should consider before signing any agreement with a digitization agency.¬† The article appears in the latest issue of the ARL newsletter; one wonders if folks at Princeton had a chance to review it before signing on to the Google Book Search project.¬† Tiger, tiger shining bright … will your fearful symmetry survive in snippet view?¬†

One of my thoughtful Programs colleagues has been reflecting on the requirements for building the new Alexandria, here on the northern shore of the marsh.¬† Fittingly, a quagmire separates our Mountain View office from the Google-plex. Through the reeds, we can just glimpse the outer limits of their basketball court.¬† On a recent walk around said marsh, Arnold — gesturing toward the backboard — observed that the single greatest obstacle to enabling scholarly use of the texts digitized by Google, Microsoft, the OCA and others is “rights:¬† it’s all about rights.”¬†¬†The¬†ability to layer innovative services on top of the¬†digitized texts — tools for annotating, citing, copying and pasting¬†from¬†Songs of Experience, for example — will depend primarily upon the rights associated with the underlying documents, rather than the quality of the structural markup or accuracy¬†of the OCR’d text.¬†

Arnold was responding, in part, to some claims¬†Karen Coyle made in an article published last November.¬† Coyle, a careful observer mass digitization efforts and the “dotted lines” that underpin them,¬†contrasts the reading and research environment of e-book providers with the utilitarian delivery platforms of mass digitization agents like Google and the Internet Archive.¬†¬†

“Services like ebrary and Questia use highly structured books (and other documents) to provide a kind of online research workstation that supports a range of activities common to higher education research and writing. These services would not be possible with an underlying database resulting from mass digitization.” Coyle op. cit.

Arnold argues — rightly, I think — that “the Google products of mass digitization be quoted (cut and pasted), incorporated, downloaded and archived in ways that would be perfectly adequate to support scholarship, except for questions of rights.“¬† Tim O’Reilly has said that “book search should work like web search”, i.e., in a manner that supports cross-indexing and creative re-use of distributed online resources.¬† I suspect this vision falls short of the rich reading and research environment that Karen is looking for — the bigger question for us, I think, is whether libraries have the collective capacity or will to create that environment.¬†And, pace Arnold, whether or not library partners have secured the appropriate rights to build.