Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thoughts from a Marshall Breeding Lecture

I was over at OCLC this morning to listen to Marshall Breeding speak at their distinguish seminar series. If you ever needed information about the library automation industry, he's the one to ask. His lecture was entitled "Trends in Library Automation: Meeting the challenges of a new generation of library users." Marshall has been a great contributer to the library profession over the past 20 years. I had a few thoughts afterward.

Commercial vendors need to recoup development costs and make a profit in order to survive. They rarely develop enhanced systems until they find that critical mass. The affect this has is that many libraries must delay innovative services waiting for commercial vendors develop and market their solutions. We shouldn't have to tell our library vendors we need systems that can expose our content using Web services and then have to wait years for a critical mass to understand what that means before we see them.

Having already invested significant resources into the deployment of vertically designed proprietary systems, libraries have become locked into a very effective commerical vendor paradigm that most cannot afford to break away from.

It is like an old car that keeps breaking down. If the owner can not afford a new car they keep spending money to repair it. "What is another $1000 repair when I have already put $2000 into it?" The more money that is spent repairing the old car makes it even more difficult for the owner to afford to buy a new one. The owner not only becomes trapped with the old car, they unable to take advantage of all the new features and technologies that the newer models have.

I feel that in many ways libraries are trapped in a constant cycle of repairing the ILS.

If a library has so much invested in an ILS will they simply wait until it breaks down on the side of the road and leaves them stranded? Will purchasing a replacement simply put the library back into the repair cycle? At that point, shouldn't the library be looking at alternative modes of transportation? Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 27, 2006

Is Web Experience the Same as Web Expertise?

As I was reading a couple recent posts about usability I came across a 2004 paper entitled "Older Adults and Web Usability: Is Web Experience the Same as Web Expertise?" by Ann Chadwick-Dias, Donna Tedesco, and Tom Tullis.

Their research suggests that Web experience is only a part of the equation when it comes to Web expertise. In fact, the strongest predictor of expertise was age independent of experience. In general, they found that older users have more usability problems when using the Web, independent of Web usage patterns (frequency of use, long-term use).

Their research found older adults demonstrated less Web expertise than younger adults. In fact, Web expertise is significantly influenced by how users learned the Web. Specifically, the cumulative time spent in collaborative learning environments (learning from and with others) rather than just how long or how often they have used it. The absence of collaborative learning is a part of the reason older adults have a lower level of expertise when the level of experience is controlled.

I often notice that library web usability study instruments frequently ask the participant about their Web experience. In fact, should we be more concerned about their Web expertise level? I wonder what impact, if any, this differentiation could have on library Web site usability studies? How is Web expertise defined and assessed? If we design for the older user, is the site less usable to the younger user? If we design for the younger user do we create usability problems for the older user?

Should libraries not be spending any time on usability at all? Should we be creating basic Web sites and instead spend our time making our resources findable regardless of the access method? Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Zero-Day Virus Attack

Earlier this month a part of our University was hit with a zero-day virus attack. I had not heard of the phrase zero-day before now and suspect most people only learn about the concept when one occurs at their place of work.

Zero-day refers to a class of computer threats that exposes undisclosed or unpatched application vulnerabilities. Zero-day attacks can be considered extremely dangerous because they take advantage of computer security holes for which no solution is currently available. Zero-day attacks are difficult to defend against and are often effective against secure networks and can remain undetected even after they are launched.

A Zeroday Emergency Response Team (ZERT) is a group of software engineers who works to release non-vendor patches for Zero-day exploits. McAfee and Symantec deployed ZERT teams to the campus. It took 48 hours to identify the virus and release a DAT file that patched and inoculated against the virus.

When the smoke cleared, over 1900 desktops and 10 servers were infected with the mass mailing virus referred to as W32/Nuwar or W32/Mixor. It damaged Microsoft Office applications, including Word and Excel. Fortunately, our crisis management strategies worked or the damage would have been much more significant. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rock Concert 2.0: Mobcasting

Last night I went to see the Blue Man Group's "How to be a Megastar 2.0" tour. Yes, it appears that everything is 2.0 these days.

What makes this a 2.0 concert is that BMG concert attendees can take part in the performance by using the text messaging. At the start of last night's concert, the audience was invited to text the codeword, "blue" to Mobkastr, a service of from Counts Media

Throughout the performance (for a fee of $1.99) audience members were instructed, via an LED panels on stage, to text further codewords to the Mobkastr system. Subscribers were then fed a series of messages that interacted with the storyline.

I tried repeatedly to subscribe but was unsuccessful. I landed up sending several text messages to their tech support (who must have been swamped) who were trying to be helpful but were unable to figure out why the database would not accept my number. I was given several codewords to try, but to no avail. I probably spent $10 in messages trying to subscribe to the $2 service.

After returning home I began a stub for this post. A quick search revealed that this technology had a name: mobcasting. It is a play on the concept of mobile podcasting and Smart Mobs.

Imagine that after a very significant football game between heated rivals, say Ohio State vs. Michigan. During a victory celebration a group of individuals begin to vandalize property. A few journalists may be there to cover the event, but chances are that there are many more individuals with video phones.

Observers capture the event on their video phones - dozens of phones from dozens of angles - and immediately podcast the footage on a personal or community blog. The footage gets aggregated on a single website from RSS feeds produced by the podcasters' blogs. This leads to live event coverage by the bloggers, which can then lead to coverage by the mainstream media and possible identification of the vandals and possible prosecution.

That's mobcasting. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Changing Role of Cataloging?

I had several interesting conversations on a variety of library topics while visiting librarian friends this past weekend. One of the topics we covered focused on the future role of technical services and specifically, cataloging.

The one question we were exploring is if extensive bibliographic records, where the data may only be rarely used, are still needed? What are the opportunity costs of managing cataloging staff to create such records when bibliographic detail is available elsewhere?

As I began writing a blog stub on this discussion I came across Lloyd Sokvitne's paper Redesigning the OPAC: moving outside of the ILMS, presented at the Beyond the OPAC : future directions for Web-based catalogues seminar.

Sokvitne's discussion of The State Library of Tasmania's process of changing their OPAC design and functionality brought into sharp contrast the tension between the bibliographic data created to manage physical collections and the data actually needed to enable simple user-orientated discovery. The State Library's findings raise the question as to whether it makes sense to alter the nature of cataloging activity to focus on discovery needs rather than bibliographic detail.

Much of the traditional MARC record and bibliographic system is geared to meeting the needs of acquisitions, unique title/edition identification, and internal collection management and use, not discovery using current search tools. Bibliographic records provide very little assistance in providing supplementary information such as a book synopsis, reviews, recommendations, ratings, and popularity which can help a patron select an item.

Sokvitne points out:

"Ultimately it would be better if libraries could create and share this type of data amongst themselves, and thereby provide a commercial-free source of evaluative data and information. It would be easy to argue that this type of data sharing and reuse among libraries would be more valuable in the web world that (sic) the recurrent sharing of unnecessary bibliographic data."

"If only we could share and access that data so as to deliver the type of advisory, recommendation, and supplemental information that is now expected by our users to augment bibliographic data. This type of data sharing may be more important in the long run in terms of keeping our services relevant than any amount of sharing of bibliographic data."

Libraries could be better served using bibliographic data from WorldCat with links to local acquisitions and circulation systems. Libraries need to look hard and moving common resources, such as bibliographic data, to a network-based resources sharing level. We then need to look hard at reallocating technical services staff, specifically cataloging staff, to focus on creating discovery tools rather than bibliographic detail.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Common Components of Web 2.0 Platform

I came across the following while working on a book chapter about mashups. It appeared in an O'Reilly XML blog by Dan Zambonini and influenced by a Tim O'Reilly article.

It is a nice graphical representation of the various pieces and parts which make up programmable web applications:

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 03, 2006

Library Trading Spaces

In a previous post I discussed how the physical space in libraries may be seen by some as being more valuable then information resources that it houses.

The motivation for this thread was a discussion about the possible creation of a "Digital Library Task Force" which was suggested by senior leadership outside of the library. The idea may have been motivated by the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources SEQ2 Library Vision: The Information Collaboratory report was uncovered. This report states that in creating their new School of Engineering Center building that Stanford is "aiming for a bookless library " and that "eventually, the book collection will disappear altogether, the space that it occupied being re-configured for more study space, more collaborative spaces and perhaps more spaces for consultation. "

If I were in such a senior leadership position and walked into the library after reading the report I would probably see the stacks as dead space as well.

While we are approaching this as a great opportunity to educate our leadership, the reality is that we still need to look at our space in an effort to at least make the stacks less visible. We are not alone on this issue:

- During the summer of 2005 the University of Texas the word "library" was removed from the undergraduate library and the facility converted into the Flawn Academic Center. Almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes were dispersed to other university collections to clear for a 24-hour electronic information commons.

- A similar event occurred at the University of Tennessee when their serials rooms were converted into The Commons.

- On October 10th, 2006 the Mills Library at McMaster University opened a new Learning Commons. The Mills Learning Commons Project is the result of a partnership between the University Library, the Center for Leadership in Learning, the Center for Student Development, and University Technology Services.

While the Commons is the current trend in space reallocation, what else should libraries do with their space?

The July 11, 2006, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education contains an article by Scott Carlson entitled "Campus Planners Have a Tech-Savvy Generation's Needs to Consider"(account required to access) it discusses students' preference for casual and active study space, the use of increasingly smaller electronic devices, and the importance of 'sanctuaries' and 'transitional space'. Some spaces should be flexible, with movable furniture that allows students to spread out. There should be ample space for writing and working.

Our library currently has 6 small study rooms that seat up to 6 comfortably. These are very heavily used. I have suggested doubling the number of these spaces. They do not have to be walled in as they are now, but partioned in a way that creates small rooms within a room. By not putting up walls the space can remain flexible.

I sure our library is not the only one where students drag (and occationally break) furniture into interesting arrangements. Our staff then drags the furniture back (hopefully not breaking it more) to more formal arrangements. Instead of waging a rearrangements war we should be looking at the arrangements they are creating. We should then build more spaces and purchase furniture that actually encourages rearrangement.

We also need to be looking within the our academic communities for potential tenants. In our case, we see great potential in having Educational Student Services housed in our facility. We also need to create new spaces that connect library resources/services with teaching and academic spaces.

So, what is your library doing with it's space? Sphere: Related Content