Sunday, November 25, 2007

Is Your Library Tech Staff Friendly?

The LibrarianInBlack provides a nice summary of Jenny Benevento's presentation at Internet Librarian 2007 discussing the problems of tech-savvy librarians leaving libraries. Jenny cautions that libraries need to be careful about keeping tech-savvy people in the profession. Some of the things that contribute to negative environments for techies in libraries include (my modifications/enhancement/creative liberties in italic):

  • Creating a organizational culture where technology and library staff are not put into a position where they can (have to) gain respect for each other's uniqueness
  • Adopt technology just because of the buzzword aspect. Make the implementation a high priority
  • Hop on Internet trends two years after they happened and 18 months after your technology person suggested them, rinse and repeat
  • Include the workplace luddite on all technology projects with the expectation that the individual will change or somehow assimilate the technology
  • Under resource and underpay your technology staff
  • Don't fund projects yet expect them to be important services
  • Tell techies that you want new technology, but reject all change that they suggest.
  • Don't make an effort to understand emerging technologies, but expect the techie to create, implement, and manage new services based on them.
  • Equate all technical knowledge--it's all interchangeable; all techies know everything. For example, desktop support staff can manage firewall issues.
  • Expect your techie to keep all staff up-to-date on emerging technologies and still investigate, implement, and maintain it.
  • Expect all tech requests to happen immediately
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Is a Librarian Gender Salary Gap Ahead?

A new scorecard report has been released by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) reporting on the staus of women in IT. The scorecard indicates that women are falling further behind in information technology and computer science.

The findings showed that gare not pursuing careers or majors in information sciences. The research suggests that "women are more interested in using computing as a tool for accomplishing a goal than they are in the workings of the machine." the report states. Some stats:
  • Girls comprise fewer than 15 percent of all AP computer science exam-takers – the lowest representation of any AP discipline.

  • Between 1983 and 2006, the share of computer science bachelor’sdegrees awarded to women dropped from 36 to 21 percent.

  • Women hold more than half of professional positions overall, but fewer than 22 percent of software engineering positions.
An article entitled The New Library Professional by Stanley Wilder appeared back in the Feb 20, 2007 online issue of Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the emerging generation gap and non-traditional background among library professionals. His observations are based on the Association of Research Libraries 2005 Salary Survey data.

I found the following observation in Wilder's piece interesting in light of the scorecard and past discussions about the library gender gap:

"The computer types in academic libraries are disproportionately young. And perhaps not surprisingly, young computer experts enjoy a substantial advantage in salary (47 percent of them earn $50,000 and up) when compared to other young professionals in non-supervisory library jobs (only 18 percent earn $50,000 or more).

"Finally, most information-technology professionals in our libraries are male (71 percent), which is not the case in other types of library positions (28 percent male)."

Hmmm. I wonder. What will future library salary surveys show when more men are entering the profession in IT positions that generally have higher salaries? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Joining the BPR3 Team

Put this one into the category "be careful what you wish for."

After my post A Blog Ciation Index? I was contacted by Dave Munger from the Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting (BPR3) team. In my post, I commented that the project could use some librarian help. Well, within 24 hours Dave reached out.

BPR3 is an effort that "strives to identify serious academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research by developing an icon and an aggregation site where others can look to find the best academic blogging on the Net."

My role is pretty undefined, but I plan on keeping them up on library oriented topics, standards, and efforts they may be unaware of, such as OASIS. I am also planning to get the word out through library publications and conferences, as well as in this space. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Revisited: Are OSS4Lib Networks Needed?

Over a year ago, I posted a piece entitled Are OSS4Lib Networks Needed? I argued that libraries have traditionally banded together to pool resources with the common goals of obtaining monographs, serials, and databases as economical as possible. The decision to develop or become involved with a library network is to affect a positive change on a library’s ability to plan and budget.

Unlike these cooperative efforts of the past, libraries have chosen to work independently on information system solutions. So, I asked this question: With the significant costs involved in the purchasing and maintenance commercial information systems why haven't more libraries banded together to build library systems?

A post by Joe Lucia to NGC4Lib presents a compelling case in support of this concept. He discusses a shift from an investment in commercial software support to a collaborative support environment for open source applications facilitated by regional networks.
"It is frightening for many to contemplate the leap to open source, but if there were a clear process and well-defined path, with technical partners able to provide assistance through the regional networks, I suspect some of the hesitancy to make this move, even among smaller libraries, might dissipate quickly... The success models are there and developing best practice frameworks and implementation support methods that will scale will not be rocket science."

"What if, in the U.S., 50 ARL libraries, 20 large public libraries, 20 medium-sized academic libraries, and 20 Oberlin group libraries anted up one full-time technology position for collaborative open source development. That's 110 developers working on library applications with robust, quickly-implemented current Web technology -- not legacy stuff. There is not a company in the industry that I know of which has put that much technical effort into product development. With such a cohort of developers working in libraries on library technology needs -- and in light of the creativity and thoughtfulness evident on forums like this one -- I think we would quickly see radical change in the library technology arena. Instead of being technology followers, I venture to say that libraries might once again become leaders. Let's add to the pool some talent from beyond the U.S. -- say ! 20 libraries in Canada, 10 in Australia, and 10 in the U.K. put staff into the pool. We've now got 150 developers in this little start-up. Then we begin pouring our current software support funds into regional collaboratives. Within a year or two, we could be re-directing 10s of millions of dollars into regional technology development partnerships sponsored by and housed within the regional consortia, supporting and extending the work of libraries. The potential for innovation and rapid deployment of new tools boggles the mind. The resources at our disposal in this scenario dwarf what any software vendor in our small application space is ever going to support...

I couldn't have said it any better.

The State of Ohio has a great resource in OhioLink. OhioLink is a consortium of 86 Ohio college and university libraries, and the State Library of Ohio, that work together to provide Ohio students, faculty and researchers with the information they need for teaching and research. Serving more than 600,000 students, faculty, and staff at all 87 institutions, OhioLINK’s membership includes 16 public/research universities, 23 community/technical colleges, 47 private colleges and the State Library of Ohio.

I have been in discussions for over the years involving concepts like a state-wide electronic document delivery system. They go nowhere. Right now, much of the technical site of the OhioLink system lies on the shoulders of Peter Murray and Thomas Dowling (There are a couple others, but they are the ones I know of) The usual response is they can provide a LAMP box for testing, but have no spare staff for development, let alone ongoing support. So, the question I have been posing for a while now is:

What if each of the 87 institutions provided 1/2 of an IT position to OhioLink as a condition of membership?

That would result in over 40 FTE developers. Not only would the state be able to build and maintain an vendor-based catalog system that uses open standards and service-oriented architecture, they could build other systems and services that could benefit the entire state rather then each struggling to find resources to do so. Imagine if each provided a full FTE!

The challenge that Joe will find is libraries are very protective of their IT resources. This issue became apparent to me in the question/answer period following my presentation at a Library 2.0 conference earlier this year. A library director asked how libraries can change from the siloed systems we currently have and adopt SOA. My response was essentially it is up to you! The discussion then turned to the limited numbers of IT human resources. (In my opinion, this is because too many library directors still equate all technical knowledge as being interchangeable and that all IT staff know everything. As a result, most libraries do not allocate enough resources into IT yet have high expectations of their limited staff. But, I digress.)

The challenge continues to be that libraries leaders/directors need to be willing to see the benefits and more importantly, willing to make the sacrifice. They control the resources and therefore hold all of the cards. So, having more of us out there talking to them like Joe, is key! (assuming, of course, that they are not in this communication space and not a part of the dialog).

There have been many of us out there evangelizing for over 10 years now, (Thanks, Dan Chudnov and Eric Lease Morgan, for helping me see the light!) and we are only now beginning to see some daylight. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 05, 2007

Can Blogging 'Cool Down' Scholarly Communication?

"In the mechanical age now receding, many actions could be taken without too much concern. Slow movement insured that the reactions were delayed for considerable periods of time. Today the action and reaction occur almost at the same time. We actually live mythically and integrally, as it were, but we continue to think in the old, fragmented space and time patterns of the pre-electronic age."

Sounds as if this was written today, doesn't it? In fact, this was put into print 43 years ago by Marshall McLuhan in Understanding Media. This passage came to mind as I read Phil Ford's post Anarchy in the AMS , a blog version of a presentation he gave on Nov 1, 2007 at the American Musicological Society Annual Meeting in Quebec City. A couple excerpts:

"And it is here that the abstract and intransitive power of the blogosphere becomes a very great virtue. No-one can shut anyone else up, ideas can cross-pollinate unpredictably, and since the blogosphere is not a zero-sum enterprise, there is nothing forcing people to "take a side" with this or that school of thought. Those who gather around their shared faith in Academic Theory X might face questions from which they would otherwise be insulated by institutional mechanisms. And I suspect that this is something a few academics secretly resent and fear about blogs. They don't want someone who hasn't been properly housebroken asking cheeky questions, and they don't want to be denied the institutional authority to control the discourse.

"It is "cool," in the McLuhanesque sense: readers can profitably interact with it in a wider variety of ways than they can with more traditional forms of academic communication. Blog writing tends to be "porous," filled with open spaces that readers can fill with their own contributions. This kind of writing doesn't make the "hotter," denser kinds of academic writing obsolete, of course, but I would guess that as academic blogging continues to grow it will "cool down" academic discourse generally. Whether this is a good thing or not is a tough question, and maybe at this point an unanswerable one."

This last observation is what caught my attention. Also from McLuhan:
"Hot media are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience. ... The principle that distinguishes hot and cold media is perfectly embodied in the folk wisdom: "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses." Glasses intensify the outward-going vision, and fill in the feminine image exceedingly, Marion the Librarian notwithstanding. Dark glasses, on the other hand, create the inscrutable and inaccessible image that invites a great deal of participation and completion."

McLuhan defines 'hot' media as those that do not leave much to be filled in or completed by the individual and are low in participation. In contrast, 'cool' media as those that provide a meager amount of information and so much has to be filled in by the individual. The user experience is quite different. Cool media are high in participation and offer small amounts of information. Scholarly blogging is all about participation and often consists of half-baked ideas.

Blogging is therefore a cool media, especially in contrast to the relatively low participation and high information levels of traditional scholarly communication (e.g. journal article).

Slow movement in our scholarly communication insured that the reactions were delayed for considerable periods of time. Some would say this was to control the discourse. With blogging, the action and reaction occur almost at the same time. We actually live mythically and integrally, as it were, but we continue to think in the old, fragmented space and time patterns of the pre-electronic age.

So, yes. Blogging can cool down scholarly communication. In my opinion, Mr. Ford, that is a good thing for my profession - librarianship.

Since you have read this far this must be a topic of interest. You may wish to take some time to read and participate in ACRL's Establishing a Research Agenda for Scholarly Communication: A Call for Community Engagement. One of the many challenges:

"When faculty employ and create new forms and techniques, evaluating their work against traditional measures is a particular challenge. Although studies document the conservatism and constraining influence of scholarly promotion and tenure review processes and reward systems, we do not yet have deep insight into how they can evolve to recognize and embrace new forms of scholarship. The problem is acute for the creators of digital scholarship, which rarely enters the formal publishing stream, yet is a creative, scholarly act that can influence and underpin both present and future research. But authorship of these programs is not yet rewarded as a form of scholarly communication of the first order in most disciplines."
Sphere: Related Content

World's Smallest Radio

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created the world's first complete nanoradio. Physicist Alex Zettl led the development team and grad student Kenneth Jensen built the radio.

The nanoradio consists of a single carbon-nanotube molecule that serves simultaneously as all the essential components of a radio -- antenna, tunable band-pass filter, amplifier and demodulator. A direct current voltage source, supplied by a battery, powers the radio. They have demonstrate successfully both music and voice reception using carrier waves in the 40-400 MHz range and both frequency and amplitude modulation techniques.

This innovation opens the possibility of creating radio-controlled interfaces on the subcellular scale, which may have applications in the areas of medical and sensor technology. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Blog Citation Index?

One of the primary quality indicators for scholarly works is citation analysis. The assumption is that the value a work is based in part of the number of times it has been cited in other works. I often include links or references to peer-reviewed papers that I have read or which support my arguments in my blog postings. Many of the library blogs I read also include such references.

If there is a great deal of discussion about an article, how does easily one gain access to all the blog postings that reference a specific (non-blog) scholarly work?

Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting (BPR3) is an effort that "strives to identify serious academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research by developing an icon and an aggregation site where others can look to find the best academic blogging on the Net." The concept grew from a Dave Munger Cognitive Daily post.

The BPR3 primary goal has been to create a recognizable icon for use on any blog when discussing peer-reviewed research. Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchThe icon would point to the original primary source material. Posts discussing peer-reviewed research articles could be distinguishing from those containing news and other miscellaneous content. Guidelines for usage are available. (In fact, I am in violation of the guidelines by including it in this post. Sorry guys. It is free promotion) Their long term vision:
  • BPR3 as it was originally conceived was simply a way for bloggers to denote posts on peer-reviewed research. It will still be that, but it will be much more.

  • There will be a central web site where snippets from these posts will be displayed, along with links back to the original posts.

  • Readers will be able to choose the topics they're interested and view only those posts.

  • Bloggers will use plugins for WordPress and Movable Type allowing them to enter a DOI or other identifier and automatically generate code to post the icon, link to the post to our site and its aggregation tools, and generate a properly formatted research citation which links to the original article.

  • Bloggers will be able to instantly find people blogging on the research they're blogging on. Researchers will find blog posts about their research, too.

  • Readers, bloggers, and researchers can use topic-specific RSS feeds Forums and other tools will allow researchers to collaborate in real-time

  • Readers can share questions about research, discuss how to use our site, and discuss topics they can't find blog posts on.

  • Based on their blog alone, the focus and energy in their early efforts has focused on the icon. In my opinion, the much more powerful and useful part of their concept is a site is the aggregated index. When a blogger creates a post with the icon, a link is automatically generated back at the index site. As the number of tracks backs grows, the index becomes a central depository for blog posts about peer-reviewed materials. A researcher could then follow the icon on any blog back to the aggregated index containing all the other blog commentaries on that specific work.

    This concept could become the basis of a very powerful research tool. Think Science Citation Index for blogs, or what I call a Blog Citation Index (BCI).

    It would seem that having a simple icon and trackback somewhere on the blog post is not good enough to generate a useful index. It would have to be associated with a specific bibliographic information of the primary material. Otherwise the index could become dirty real fast. Their site is silent on their plans. DOI is optional and there has been no discussion about the use of OpenURL. I also wonder if there are plans for a code snipit generator for those that do not use Movable Type or Word Press in an effort to simplify the process of creating the trackbacks and standardizing the information required for indexing.

    I am anxiously awaiting their prototype, which has been promised to be available in a month.

    If the BCI were implemented at the publisher level (charging publishers to link to the index could be part of the business model) , visitors to a journal's online table of contents could quickly identify which articles have been blogged. One could also see what topics are hot by quickly identifying the most cited materials over a period of time. Metatags could be used to create tag clouds to tracking keywords and memes.

    It is a very interesting concept that could use a librarian's help. It is a concept that our friends across town at OCLC would be (should be?) interested in. Sphere: Related Content