Archive for July, 2010

Sorting out Demand: some thoughts on library inter-lending

Friday, July 30th, 2010 by Constance

Over the past few years, OCLC Research has done quite a bit of analytic work based on what my colleague Brian Lavoie refers to as “supply-side” data. Examples include the well-known Google 5 study, as well as a variety of projects examining the library long tail, several of them summarized in an article Lorcan published some time ago. Much of this work has been based on data aggregated in the WorldCat bibliographic database. These data have been contributed over many years by OCLC members to support a variety of shared library services, including cooperative cataloging and inter-lending operations; as a secondary effect, the aggregation has provided a rich source of information about the system-wide library collection that is regularly mined in both internal and extra-mural research projects.

More recently, we have begun to think about how we might make better use of the demand-side data that is generated by a variety of routine library operations, especially circulation and inter-lending.  Lorcan in particular has given thought to how “intentional data” might usefully shape library service provision.

Inter-library loan transactions are a particularly interesting example of intentional data, I think. Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration Context: Group

Thursday, July 29th, 2010 by Günter

The following panelists will help us explore the ins and outs of group collaborations during “Yours, Mine, Ours: Leadership through Collaboration“:

  • Rob Stein, CIO, Indianapolis Museum of Art
    Collaboration Trials and Triumphs: ArtBabble, Steve, etc.
  • Tom Garnett, BHL Director, Smithsonian Institution
    Collaboration Trials and Triumphs: Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • John F. Helmer, Executive Director, Orbis Cascade Alliance
    Collaboration Trials and Triumphs: Northwest Digital Archives & Western Regional Storage Trust (WEST)
  • As with our previous panel on local solutions, the specific projects serve as exemplars for collaboration strategies which the audience will be able to apply to realizing their own ambitions. Speaking of which, we’ve made sure to have some time on the agenda where attendees can explore the implications of what they’ve heard in smaller group settings (see the Birds-of-a-Feather slots on Day 2). During online registration, people vote for specific topics they’d like to see covered in these facilitated discussion settings, such as single search (local), digital preservation (group) or open access (global).

    Here’s some background on group collaborations:

    Group Solutions – Common Interest
    “We work together because we have common interests.”

    Moving beyond the single institution, collaboration across organizational boundaries occurs when there is a common interest. A group of motivated individuals or institutions bands together to work on an issue they would have found difficult or impossible to solve in isolation. Many collaborative grant-funded projects fall into this category: a finite number of players tackle an issue that vexes participants in their own local contexts. Because the local benefit of this type of collaboration can be readily perceived, common interest collaborations are generally accepted as a way to achieve broad outcomes. In the sphere of group collaborations, we see activities such as open-source software development, subject-based data aggregations, and shared technological platforms such as HathiTrust.

    On the other hand, group collaborations around a common interest have a high management overhead for setting and managing expectations, dividing up the work, coordinating outputs from different groups, and staying on track. Different work cultures among a group’s participants can pose a serious threat to the most rationally conceived projects. Furthermore, participants’ interests may evolve in different directions; commonalities may dissipate over time.

    Since common interest collaborations rely on direct contact, meetings and constant negotiation, it is challenging to mount and manage them at scale. Once these collaborations mature, they often require the creation of new organizational structures such as governing boards or foundations.

    In the next post in this series, we’ll look at common value collaborations as a strategy for aligning the entire community.

    Collaboration Context: Local

    Monday, July 26th, 2010 by Günter

    “Local” is the first Collaboration Context we’ll explore at “Yours, Mine, Ours: Leadership through Collaboration.” Our panelists will be:

  • Ann Speyer, Chief Information Officer, Smithsonian Institution
  • Meg Bellinger, Director, Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure, Yale University
  • Tom Hickerson, Vice-Provost, Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary
  • We’ve instructed all of our speakers to spend the bulk of their time on strategies for creating and deepening collaborations, and to focus both on successes and failures. (All of the presentations in this section are hence titled “Collaboration Trials and Triumphs”.) Here’s the background:

    Local Solutions – Common Administration
    “We work together because we have the same employer.”

    From the perspective of a large institution (e.g., a university campus) with many units (e.g., libraries, archives and museums), incorporating collaboration into the underlying work culture is foundational to realizing that institution’s potential and achieving its mission. When ideas, data and services flow freely, new solutions emerge, and new knowledge is created. From the perspective of individual units, collaboration allows them to thrive when times are good and survive when times are bad. Deep and pervasive service and data relationships with other units provide a compelling argument for continued or increased funding, whereas isolation calls into question the value provided to the institution as a whole.

    In highly distributed environments, deep collaboration requires conscious effort and leadership. Since both the institution and its constituent units directly reap the benefits of local collaboration, the context of common administration offers a straightforward environment for engaging in joint work. In the sphere of local solutions, we currently see activities such as cross-collection search, shared digitization and digital asset management, and shared conservation facilities.

    On the other hand, contemplating collaboration solely within the boundaries of your own institution is arbitrarily self-limiting. While there is no shortage of issues that beg to be addressed at the local level, some aspirations are simply beyond the reach of individual institutions acting alone.
    Group collaborations try to address that which transcends any single institution. Don’t try it abroad if you haven’t done it at home: in many instances, collaboration at the local level is likely to be a prerequisite for entering into meaningful collaborative activities centered on common interest.

    We’ll take a look at common interest collaborations in the next blog post. (Also take a peek at the initial post in this series if you haven’t already.) Stay tuned!

    Pat the Elephant

    Friday, July 23rd, 2010 by Constance

    There is a well-known fable about blind men with contrasting views on the anatomy of an elephant, each having examined a separate piece of the beast and independently concluded that it is either very like a spear, or a fan, or a snake, etc.  Even in combination their observations fail to provide a very good picture of what an elephant looks like as a whole.  The story was popularized in a poem by John Godfrey Saxe which is cited in a surprisingly wide variety of publications, from early childhood education manuals, to scientific and medical reports, to vocational guides and, more predictably, collections of 19C verse.  I know this because a search on a distinctive phrase from the poem’s conclusion: “prate about an elephant not one of them has seen” in the HathiTrust digital library finds more than 140 matches in these places.

    Blind searching in large digital text repositories like the HathiTrust or Google Books provides an intriguing but incomplete view of the mass-digitized book corpus.  Frequently cited statistics like “12 million books” in GBS, “5 million books” or “one million public domain books” in Hathi don’t really tell us much about the anatomy of the mammoth.  Pat the elephant…what do you find?  A lot of curious sensory experiences that don’t add up.

    When it comes to anatomizing elephants, all parts are not created equal.  Georges Cuvier, who famously reconstructed skeletons on the basis of a tooth or a toe, knew this.  Cuvier confidently and correctly distinguished Indian and African elephant species based on characteristic differences in jawbones; he ‘discovered’ the woolly mammoth based on a close examination of incomplete fossil remains.

    I’m inclined to think that counting books (or volumes) is about as useful in characterizing the mass-digitized corpus as counting vertebrae in the catacombs.  It tells us something about how much is there, but not much about who, or what, is there.

    Happily, there is an abundance of bibliographic metadata describing the content from which the mass-digitized corpus was sourced that can be used (like a fossilized tooth or a toe) to assign some generic, or I suppose specific, characteristics to the elephant in the room.  Over the past year, OCLC Research has been working on a project with Hathi and some other interested libraries to begin characterizing the enormous, vaguely familiar (snake? spear? tree?) yet altogether revolutionary (woolly!) mammoth created through the digitization of legacy print collections.

    We’ve posted some empirical data on the subject and library distribution of titles in the Hathi digital repository here.  

    I think it provides a useful complement to the enchanting and progressively revealing fan-dance of class numbers here.

    More to come.

    Contexts for “Leadership through Collaboration” Forum

    Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 by Günter

    The LAM (library, archive, museum) workshops held by OCLC Research at Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Edinburgh, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Yale University intentionally focused on collaboration within a single institution. We expected that we would be able to find, as well as catalyze, deeper collaborations under an institutional umbrella than among institutions that don’t have an administrative structure in common. The projects the workshop sites committed themselves to (described in “Beyond the Silos of the LAMs” [pdf]) bear out this assumption.


    Yours, Mine, Ours: Leadership through Collaboration
    20-21 September 2010
    Smithsonian Institution, Ripley Center, Washington, D.C.
    Register here.

    Organized by the RLG Partnership and OCLC Research
    Hosted by the Smithsonian Institution
    Supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
    Endorsed by the Joint SAA, ALA and AAM Committee on Archives, Libraries & Museums (CALM)

    With this forum, we are intentionally broadening the conversation. While we continue to be passionate about library, archive, and museum collaboration (see my guest blogs at the Center for the Future of Museums here and here), we’ll now place the emphasis more on “collaboration” and just a tad less on “LAM.” Good collaborations in cultural heritage don’t always require all three of these parties to be present, and they often require additional parties (such as IT or public/private partners) to succeed.

    In addition, we are expanding our investigation beyond institutional boundaries to look at collaboration in the broader landscape. Collaborations can form in different settings: local (within a single institution), in a group setting, or in a seemingly unbounded environment that we’ll call “global.” These collaboration contexts provide the scaffolding for our Leadership through Collaboration forum, which features panels (take a look at the agenda) exploring each of these contexts in greater depth. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll post a series of blogs which attempt to sketch out the benefits and limitations inherent in each of these settings as a high-level guide to the trajectory of our event, as well as a resource in its own right for assessing collaborative activities. Stay tuned!

    Those Who Play Together, Hang Together

    Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 by Roy

    Here at we like to have fun. My colleague Merrilee is a case in point. You can often find her toodling around in a cupcake or a pumpkin-like vehicle on The Playa. And sometimes we even play together, as we did about ten days ago.

    On Sunday, July 11 my colleagues Jennifer Schaffner, Jim Michalko, Ricky Erway, Jackie Dooley, a friend of hers, and I all went down the South Fork of the American River in a paddle boat. We paddled, we laughed, we got thoroughly wet, we fell into the boat (thankfully not OUT of it), we got tanned and/or burned, and we had a great picnic lunch catered by Jennifer. I recommend it highly.

    Pick of the Week – ATF 9 July 2010

    Friday, July 16th, 2010 by Jim

    The Internet: Everything You Ever Need to Know (External site)

    The Guardian   •  June 20, 2010

    Perspective is everything. Open University professor John Naughton freely admits that this is not really everything you need to know about the Internet, but he makes a useful point about taking the long view of this game-changing technology. As Zhou Enlai observed when asked about the significance of the French Revolution, “It’s too early to say.”

    I’m sure you know John Naughton. If not you should familiarize yourself. He’s an always-interesting commentator on the Internet, technology and the World Wide Web. His news and magazine columns are always worth the time and his blog (online diary) Memex 1.1 is personal and wide-ranging. This piece is a nice reminder of some important things we forget (or didn’t really see clearly) about the Internet.


    Video games – widening a cultural gap

    Friday, July 16th, 2010 by Jim

    This NY Times piece – Video Games: Tragedy and Comedy, Starring Pac-Man – cemented for me that video games are providing new narratives that are well understood by an enormous audience which uses them as reference points and the materials for new creations. It’s a medium that is contributing to the cultural creation cycle. It is also one about which I know nothing. I increasingly feel like this is a gap but don’t imagine I can remedy it. Chrysler Building This kind of contribution to the creation of new art was first brought home to me when Matthew Barney observed about his Cremaster 3 film set in the Chrysler building that he consciously thought about video game levels as the framework for the narrative (such as it is). In fact, a Barney fanatic created a level within the PS3 game Little Planet that reproduces a portion of this section of the Cremaster cycle.

    In this New York Times article they show that the flow goes both directions with classical Greek myths being dramatized via set pieces from various popular games.

    “For “Grand Theft Ovid” on Saturday, Mr. Kim and five students sat at a table covered in laptops and game consoles (a sixth student was up in the projector booth); the projector displayed images from various games onto a large screen in front of the audience.

    Suddenly, Daedalus and Icarus were standing by the water (in the game World of Warcraft) before Icarus flew too high and fell to his death (in Grand Theft Auto IV)…”

    Library Trends, from A to T

    Friday, July 9th, 2010 by Merrilee

    As usual, I’m a little late to the party. Glancing at the ACRL Top Ten Trends in Academic Libraries (published in the June C&CL News) I realized that these ten items relate in one way or another to work we are doing on behalf of the RLG Partnership. (I shouldn’t be too surprised that the list resonates since my colleague Lynn Silipigni Connaway is a member of the committee that put the list together). The list is in alphabetical order, rather than ranked order. I’ve abbreviated the list and included my own commentary.

    1. Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types. … Increasingly, libraries are acquiring local collections and unique materials … These materials may include special collections, university archives, and/or the scholarly output of faculty and students.

    Under the rubric of “Mobilizing Unique Materials,” we have a suite of projects dedicated to surfacing the rare and unique. Our flagship project in this area is the Survey on Special Collections and Archives, which will identify trends and norms, and will help set the stage for future action. Work on Sharing Special Collections, our report on Barriers to using EAD, and other projects, are also under this umbrella. We also have an upcoming symposium on the role of special collections in a digital age (October 12-13, Oxford, UK)

    Libraries also recognize the need to collect, preserve, and provide access to digital datasets. …

    Our data curation activity is a collaboration between RLG Partners and LIBER members, coordinated by my colleague John MacColl.

    2. Budget challenges will continue and libraries will evolve as a result. …

    Budget challenges (which is a nice way of putting it) are just one of a number of risk factors identified and discussed in our recent “risk report” (Research Libraries, Risk and Systematic Change [pdf])

    3. Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets. …

    See our Research Information Management Roadmap project for our “manifesto” urging librarians to get closer to the heart of the research process.

    4. Demands for accountability and assessment will increase. …

    It’s clear that “business as usual” will no longer cut it. In the area of special collections, where standard measures for “counting” are not yet established, there is much room for improvement. We are encouraging more uniform ways of assessing archival collections for the purpose of prioritization for description and processing, preservation needs, collection management, selection for digitization and other collection management functions.

    We also explored the role of libraries in assessment of research output in a study of in five countries more active than the US in this area.

    5. Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources. Digitization projects make hidden and underused special collections available to researchers worldwide.

    In addition to larger efforts in regards to special collections, We have had a special focus on making special collections materials more accessible through digitization (our paper Shifting Gears is part of this effort). Additionally, we have a large working group that is both encouraging use of cameras in the reading room (patron led digitization!), and also looking at theory and practice that will help optimize digitization done to fulfill patron requests.

    6. Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services. …

    My colleague Bruce Washburn, a crack developer with an interest in and affinity for mobile applications did a great webinar on mobile development. You can check this out to get a sense of the wide-ranging territory that is mobile.

    7. Increased collaboration will expand the role of the library within the institution and beyond…

    Which is why we are holding an important Leadership through Collaboration meeting (September 20-21, in Washington, DC). Register now!

    8. Libraries will continue to lead efforts to develop scholarly communication and intellectual property services. …

    Related to our efforts to encourage digitization of unpublished materials, we convened a group that helped to document “well-intentioned practices” that will help guide risk assessment (and hopefully foster a community of digitizers rather than fence sitters).

    9. Technology will continue to change services and required skills. …

    Our Technical Advances for Innovation in Cultural Heritage Institutions (TAI CHI) webinar series has been developed as a way to teach library staff new technology skills and educate them about new products to help increase their productivity in today’s changing library, archive and museum environment.

    One of the tremendous shifts in recent years has been content becoming a hub around which “social” activities take place. There’s a lot of potential to be tapped from the crowds, in the form of commentaries, reviews, tags, translations, or links to related sources. Our wide-ranging Sharing and Aggregating Social Metadata activity has a large working group examining which areas of social metadata are likely to be wise investments for libraries, archives, and museums.

    10. The definition of the library will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands. …

    I think that accomplishing the transformation of the library as a physical store for books (where collections and services are very tightly coupled) to an entity with services more tightly aligned with support of the research process (separate from books) will be one of the greatest challenges many of us will face over the next 3-5 years. At the heart of this challenge will be shifting the enormous legacy print collections to shared storage. My colleague Constance Malpas has been doing interesting and useful work in this area, particularly in relationship to the Cloud Library project.

    If you look at the agenda for the 2010 RLG Partnership Annual Meeting and the agenda for our Partner Symposium “When the Books Leave the Building” (both of which happened last month) you will see both tight and loose connections between the ACRL list and our work agenda. This is one reason I love my job — I feel like I’m part of an organization that is working every day towards facing the challenges of our profession.