Wednesday, August 30, 2006

RedLightGreen to Cease Nov 1

Michael Brown at the University of California, Irving has posted a message from Merrilee Profitt Program Officer, RLG Programs, OCLC Programs and Research announcing that RedLightGreen will be "transitioning" to WorldCat as of November 1st. This is fallout from the recent OCLC/RLG partnership.

From that message:

"The only key feature that distinguished RedLightGreen from was citation formatting, and the development team quickly acknowledged that this feature would be a useful addition to and are working quickly to make this feature available. Below is an overview of RedLightGreen features, and how they are covered in
  • FRBRization of results: RedLightGreen uses a FRBR-like approach to group works in RedLightGreen. OCLC is already employing a similar FRBR-like approach in Open WorldCat. Grouping of works is slightly different than in RedLightGreen; for example, titles in different languages are treated as separate works.
  • Ranking: RedLightGreen orders results by a combination of relevancy to search term and how widely held a work is among contributors to the RLG Union Catalog. Open WorldCat uses a similar approach, weighting the terms in certain fields and the currency of a work, along with how many holdings a work has.
  • Faceted display: RedLightGreen offers users facets for narrowing search results for subject, author, and language. also offers facets as a way of narrowing a result set; currently facets include author, content, format, language, and year.
  • Citation formatting: RedLightGreen offers a very popular bibliographic citation feature. OCLC plans to offer citation formatting based on the RedLightGreen feature -- you can look for this in early 2007."
Sphere: Related Content

An Example of the Value of Scholarly Blogging

I will be participating in two panel sessions in early 2007. I was invited to participate in both primarly as the result of this blog.

At the 2007 ACRL Conference being held in Baltimore March 29th - April 1st I will be on a panel entitled "Technology Innovation in Academic Libraries: Rocking the Boat or Unfurling the Sails?" I will also be appearing on a panel discussing technology trends at the Medical Library Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia May 18th - 23rd.

Over the past couple months I have written several postings regarding blogging as scholarly communication. Blogging promotes the national and/or international recognition that at the heart of the promotion and tenure process consistent with the mission of most academic organizations. The fact that this blog caught the attention of meeting organizers demonstrates this value.

I am sure many other library bloggers have had similar experiences. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 25, 2006

Are OPAC Vendors Days Numbered?

I just did a quick scan of the study report Software and Collaboration in Higher Education: A Study of Open Source Software by Paul N. Couran (Principal Investigator) and Rebecca J. Griffith

The Study was funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Carnegie Mellon University, Foothill-De Anza Community College, Marist College, Indiana University, the University of Michigan, Stanford University, the University of North Carolina, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The report references librariy OPACs:

"These systems are used to catalogue library holdings. There are a number of commercial products available (Ex Libris, Endeavor), but consensus seems to be that these systems are clunky and outdated. One theory we heard is that vendors are reluctant to invest in upgrading these systems because the function of libraries is in such a state of transition, and it is not at all clear what activities the software will need to support five to ten years form now. A number of people speculated that an open source OPAC would make sense, though the same challenges would apply."

As is the lifecycle of all to many software companies, the reluctance of vendors to keep their systems up to date results in a dwindling of licensees. In time, these companies are financially supported by a handleful of licensees who pay an increasing amount for support and customization. The licensee becomes trapped by the vendor in since they have a large investment in the system!

The report also discusses the concept of an incubator of OSS projects. The benefit of this model is that it would provide a legal home for open source projects and reduce the overhead costs associated with setting up separate non-profit organizations for each one. While a different cocept that the open source resource sharing networks I have previously discussed, but is in the same spirit.

I suspect the the combination of open source and the reluctance of vendors to keep their systems up to date will result result in the demise of significant number of commerical library vendors in the next five years. The poor performance and outdated products of commercial OPAC products is due largely to the disconnect between developers in software firms and their customers. This should be an advantage to library developers, and the timing to look at open source networks/incubators is ripe. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Has "Google" Always Been A Verb To You?

Each August since 1998, as faculty prepare for the academic year, Beloit College in Wisconsin has released the Beloit College Mindset List ®. Beloit creates the list to share with its faculty in anticipation of the first-year seminars and orientation. Those entering college were mostly born in 1988 and:

8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
19. "Google" has always been a verb.
20. Text messaging is their email.
23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
38. Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.

Other technology notes of interest:

7. They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
28. Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents' attics.
36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.


Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 21, 2006

Is Your Library Organizationally Healthy?

I have had several interesting discussions recently about how a library's organization and culture are critical to its ability to innovate. (This topic thread was echoed in the recent Culture of No posting by Steve over at the Blog about Libraries.)

In browsing around on the topic, I came across a report entitled A Global Check-Up: Diagnosing the Health of Today's Organizations. As I read the report the idea that the "health" of a library (or any organization) is important to its ability to deal with technology made a lot of sense. However, this is not a new concept. It has been discussed in various contexts for decades.

Seven organizational types are identified in the report with three considered being "healthy":
  • Resilient: Flexible enough to adapt quickly to external market shifts, yet steadfastly focused on and aligned behind a coherent business strategy.

  • Just-in-Time: Inconsistently prepared for change, but can turn on a dime when necessary, without losing sight of the big picture.

  • Military Precision: Often driven by a small, involved senior team, it succeeds through superior execution and the efficiency of its operating model.

The four organizational profiles were identified as "unhealthy":

  • Passive-Aggressive: Congenial and seemingly conflict-free, this organization builds consensus easily but struggles to implement agreed-upon plans.

  • Outgrown: Too large and complex to be effectively controlled by a small team, it has yet to "democratize" decision-making authority.

  • Overmanaged: Multiple layers of management create "analysis paralysis" in a frequently bureaucratic and highly political environment.

  • Fits-and-Starts: Contains scores of smart, motivated and talented people who rarely pull in the same direction at the same time.
In an unhealthy organization:
  • Culture is dominated by a few personalities that plan and act based on their own personal agendas. (Culture of No?)
  • Reactive planning. Change results from managing a crisis.
  • Organization lacks clear decision rights and doesn't share information effectively.
  • Administration does not articulate a mission and vision.
  • Staff and committees are given responsibilities but not given final decision making authority. (Culture of No?)
  • Decision making appears to be participative, but final decisions do not reflect the input and feedback. (Culture of No?)
  • Administration sees a far rosier picture than the rest of the organization.
  • Processes and procedures impede rather than facilitate.
  • Library administration seeks a passive resolution to unhealthy situations. They let the "kids" figure things out.
  • Lack of communication between divisions; lack of sanctions for non-communication.
Does any of this sound familiar? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Scholarly Blogging: The Quiet Revolution

A new book by Axel Bruns and Joanne Jacobs entitled Uses of Blogs was recently released. It contains a chapter by Alex Halavais entitled "Scholarly Blogging: Moving Toward the Visible College."

In the chapter Halavais writes:

"We are in the midst of a quiet, uneven revolution in academic discourse, and blogging and other forms of social computing make up an important part of that revolution. We may filter our view of blogging through a set of archetypal scholarly communication settings: the notebook, the coffee house, and the editorial page. For now, scholarly blogs are a bit of each of these, while they are in the process of becoming something that will be equally familiar, but wholly new."

I need to get a copy of the book to see if he says anything about acceptance by tenure and promotion committees as well as quality indicators and impact factors. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 14, 2006

Blog Quality Indicators and Impact Factors

A couple months ago in my post Is Blogging Scholarly Communication? I argued that blogging can be a significant form of scholarly communication. It meets the goal of scholarship and service that leads to national and/or international recognition that at the heart of the promotion and tenure process and is consistent with the mission of most academic organizations.

In the post I highlighted several issues which are barriers for academics. One of the concerns was quality indicators. How does one quantify a blog's impact?

Walt Crawford's thoughtful approach to identify the "reach" of librarianship oriented blogs provides a few interesting ideas. Walt's study is a followup to his 2005 study. He comes up with several Top lists. Walt is very clear that his list is not the Top 50, but a Top 50 which was primed with his own Bloglines subscriptions. With over 554 liblogs to work from, Walt "drained the pool" based on the number of subscriptions and the number of links found in Google and MSN Search.

The problem with today's environment is that there are so many aggregators and search tools indexing blogs that pulling together information to make such an analysis is extremely time consuming. I do not know how much time it took Walt to compile his study, but I will assume it was much more than anyone could suspect.

The following are some of the criteria used in his study and my comments:
  • Frequency of Posts. The frequency of posts by a blogger is a topic that has had some recent discussion, sparked by a post by Eric Kintz. As Kintz points out, frequent posting creates the equivalent of a blogging landfill. According to Technorati, only 11% of all blogs update weekly or more. While an interesting stat, frequency does not provide much as a quality indicator as much as it indicates some level of proficiency.

  • Comments. The number of comments on a post does provide some insight into which posts are hot topics or hit a particular nerve. Walt refers to comments as "Conversational Intensity." The theory here is that interesting or controversial posts will result in a higher number of comments.

    As Walt points out there are blogs that do not have comments activated, which causes some problems. A concern I have is that within certain communities a core group of bloggers will comment on each other's postings, which is similar to citing a friend's work. Authors will also respond to each comment posted. Both these behaviors will artificially inflate the comment total.

    Still, I view comments (and topic spawned posts) to be the blogging equal to peer-review. In many respects, this post-review comment process may be more critical and may advance concepts further and faster than traditional peer review and publication process. The challenge is encouraging"quality" comments and getting buy-in from the academic "traditionalists."

  • Length of Posts. Posts longer than the average of 268.5 words were classified by Walt as "essays" and those less than a quarter of the average as "terse." The question is which approach has more impact. Since I am discussing scholarly communication I would propose that essays would have a higher impact. However, sometimes a three page article will have more of an impact that a 50 page article.
While the number of comments does indicate that a post has some value, the Number of Links to a specific Blog or post is perhaps the strongest of indicators. This would similar to the Citation Index analysis approach. Citation analysis is one of the most widely accepted quality indicators. While Walt used a minimum number of links to drain his pool, linking was not used in his final analysis. This metric is not without issues, such as a blogger inflating their site's value by linking to themselves, a tactic similar to someone citing themselves.

I would like to thank Walt for his analysis since the issue of blog quality indicators and impact factors is an issue I am very interested in now that I am on the local promotion and tenure committee. As with any such analysis, coming up with a set of metrics in an effort to identify quality is a challenge. This is certainly a great stepping off point for future discussions.

I will have to wait and see how many comments and links this essay receives.

Additional Resources

Michael Stephens. Evaluating LIS Weblogs
DMOZ/Open Directory Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Perfect Storm: Did Libraries Miss the Weather Reports?

I had a chance to start reading a 2005 book from three time Pulitzer prize New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman entitled The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. While the book has received mixed reviews it has certainly sparked conversation.

Friedman describes how an unplanned cascade of events and advances in technology and communications has effectively leveled the economic world. He contends that although the dot-com bubble and subsequent bust was bad for some investors, it was beneficial in opening up world markets. The overcapacity which produced the bust reduced cost of entry and enabled players from marginal regions, like China and India, to get into those markets.

Friedman discusses how specific events converged around the year 2000, and "“created a flat world: a global, web-enabled platform for multiple forms of sharing knowledge and work, irrespective of time, distance, geography and increasingly, language." A"“political perfect storm" including the dotcom bust, 9/11, and Enron "“distract us completely as a country. Just when we need to face the fact of globalization and the need to compete in a new world, “we we’re looking totally elsewhere."

In thinking about this, the library world has also experienced a perfect storm of events which has flattened the information world. Just when we need to face the fact we needed to compete in a new networked world, we too may have been looking elsewhere when:
  • NSFNet: The first TCP/IP network was opened to commercial interests in 1985.
  • WWW: CERN first publicizes Tim Berners-Lee's work in 1991. Allows anyone to publish online.
  • NCSA Mosaic 1.0: The first graphical web browser released in 1993 gave users easy access to information resources anywhere on the Internet.
  • Google: Started as a result of a personal argument and in 1996 and grew into a research project called BackRub. Recent forays into the library space including Google Print, Google Scholar, and Google Library are having a disruptive effect on libraries.
  • Open Source: Is the infrastructure under many Web 2.0 services. Yet, most libraries have not embraced the approach and still rely on vendor-based proprietary systems.
  • Social Software: The rise in popularity of MySpace and other social software based services are creating new information sharing networks outside librarysphere. The rise of social tagging.
  • Wireless: Devices can access information resources from anywhere. Library customers are no longer dependent on the library as building.
There are librarians out there that may view all of the above as being bad for the future of libraries. I, however, feel they have been extremely beneficial in opening up world of information. The fact that people are using Google, consuming information, and are creating and posting content (and tagging it) is the important point.

Some librarians are very anxious over the ideas of social tagging, wikipedias, and customers not entering the library building. These tools and the resulting information seeking behaviors are now a part of the information landscape. Or, as Lorcan Dempsey points out, they are now a part of the "lifeflow":

"We have begun to realize more keenly that the library needs to co-evolve with user behaviors. This means that understanding the way in which research, learning, and consumer behaviors are changing is key to understanding how libraries must respond. And as network behavior is increasingly supported by workflow and resource integration services, the library must think about how to make its services available to those workflows."

Libraries have reached a new crisis point in their evolution. If we continue to stay outside the information flow of our customers then libraries will have a very big crisis on our hands, one which we may never recover. It is therefore more critical now then ever for library leaders to adopt a new vision, reallocate resources, and create new service models and get back in the flow. Sphere: Related Content