Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Book Review: Gardener's nightcap

Gardener's nightcap by Muriel Stuart. London : Persephone Books, 2006.

‘There is an hour just before dark, when the garden resents interference. Its work, no less than the gardener’s, is done.’

As the title suggests this would make perfect bedtime reading for any gardener. It’s a collection of observations planting hints and even the occasional recipe brought together as a sort of commonplace book. What sets it apart from many similar books is the quality of the writing; that the author was a poet is clearly evident. Additionally, unlike modern compilations, generally produced by indifferent researchers, Muriel Stuart’s obvious love of gardening shines through as does some very decided opinions.
Superbly presented by Persephone, with their usual care and attention of design, it is a delight to read.
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Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Book Review: Central Glasgow

Central Glasgow by Peter Stewart. Stroud : Chalford, 1997.
This is much better than the usual `then and now' collections of photographs, with quite informative descriptions of each picture. The author has obviously done some research into the histort of the buildings and businesses pictured.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Twittering Librarians

Not an insult, but a comment on my recent experiences with Twitter . I admit it has taken me some time to 'get it' and perhaps it is also one of those services which has build a critical mass of like-minded people in order to demonstrate its usefuleness. Anyway, a few weeks ago I took the plunge and yesterday really go my first taste of how useful it can be. A colleague attended the mashed libraries event, which was also of interest to me, and I followed the day's events in real time using the hashtag #mashlib08. It gave much more immediate feeback than waiting for the posts or a report back and additionally put me in contact with people I've never met, but have discovered interests in common.

As an experiment I think this is a success and one to continue.
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Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Book Review: Our longest days : A people's history of the Second World War

Our longest days : A people's history of the Second World War by Sandra Koa Wing. London : Profile Books, 2008.

I found this to be somewhat disappointing - I'd read Nella Last's War and enjoyed that book, so was hoping for something similar. Mass observation can provide a fascinating sidelight on the difficulties of peoples lives, and how even the 'trivial' changes that war forces on the population can have far-reaching effects and I would like to have seen more of this sort of detail, particularly towards the end where there seemed to be mainly comment on the progress of the war and peace.

One of the problems with this particular book is that there are a fair number of diarists, some only appearing at various times during the period (the diaries are arranged chronologically), so, at least initially, it can difficult to get a sense of whose perspective you are experiencing events through. I'd suggest reading the biographies (which are very brief) before getting into the diaries properly.

As I got further into the book, I did find myself 'connecting' with one or two particular diarists and reading those were much more enjoyable. As is mentioned in the introduction, the diarists tended to come from a particular class and political leanings, so there are still many stories untold.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Book Review: Scenes From A Revolution: The Birth of the New Hollywood

Scenes From A Revolution: The Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris. Canongate Books (2008), Hardcover, 496 pages

This is a work which covers a rarely covered period of Hollywood in the standard histories – the mid-Sixties between the hegemony of the old studio system and the rise of the director/auteur. American filmmaking of this decade has been less well catered for than the British industry, with its reflection of ‘Swinging Sixties’.

The author’s approach is to focus in on 5 very different films, the Best Picture nominees of 1967 (In the Heat of the Night, Bonnie & Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), each of which represent a strand of filmmaking at that time, and hold them up the changes which are going on in society around them. The films themselves may seem tame today, but between them they reflected the impact of the Production Code, the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of counterculture. The argument the author makes that these are radical films which changed (or at least were a catalyst for change) is compelling.

This is a meticulously researched and referenced work, and for any scholarly film historian would be critical reading, however it is also extremely accessible to anyone with a general interest in the history of film (or the Sixties in general). The stories of the five films, one weaving in and out of the other as their gestation occurs over a period of years keeps the reader interested. The principal characters are sharply depicted, almost wickedly so in some cases. Struggling actors and studio moguls alike could almost be stereotypes, but the author provides enough detail and background to create individuals.

It’s the detail that impresses, based on interviews and original documents it makes the work fresh – Ranulph Fiennes attempting to sabotage Dr Dolittle, the trading of scripts and production rights, and perhaps most poignantly these days how filming of In the Heat of the Night was cut short in Tennessee by racism (only one hotel in the town would accept black people).

I’ve read few works on behind-the-scenes Hollywood which attempt to give such a full context for the production, the process is as much the star as any of the actors.
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Book Review: Geology and landscapes of Scotland

Geology and landscapes of Scotland by Con Gillen. Harpenden : Terra, 2003.

A thoroughly readable account of the geology of Scotland putting it in the context of world processes. Given this is such a complex terrain, he has opted to go fr a regional approach, but has included how the major events which shaped that particular region have also affected elsewhere. For those interested in the history of the science, he also highlights specific areas of importance in the development of geological theory.
The work is extensively illustrated throughout with many clear B&W photographs supplemented by line drawings.
A useful feature is the further resources section, not merely a bibliography, it includes options for further study and a glossary of technical and Gaelic terms.
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Book Review: Words Words Words

Words Words Words by David Crystal. OUP Oxford (2007), Paperback, 224 pages

This is a much lighter book than many of David Crystal's works. It makes a readable introduction to the subject, actually the chapter summaries seem to suggest that it might be intended for the school/college student. The final chapter includes some exercises (word games?) to test the reader.
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

SCA Meeting - Edinburgh

Not (unfortunately) the Society for Creative Anachronism, but the Strategic Content Alliance, which is only interested in library & information world domination, despite the scary name.

Not the most relevant of days for us but as always I found a couple of intersting sessions.

E-books observatory is always of interest - they are colecting so much data that every presentation/discussion brings up fresh perspective. Today's examples: students spend almost half their time in an ebook looking at the cover. Can you judge an ebook by its cover? They very rarrely use inay of the platform features or interactivity. This may be a chicken and egg scario - they are unfamiliar with these so don't use them, and increased usage may make them more comfortable with using them.
The BBC MemoryShare & CenturyShare sites are interesting concepts - for example we have archived audiocassettes of memories of people working in the printing industry (many libraries must have similar), something like this which puts them on a timeline and in context could bring out the content much more effectively.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

IGeLU 2008 Madrid

Returned from a successful trip to the IGeLU conference

Some pictures of buildings and gardens on webshots, including the wonderful Bibliometro.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Book Review: Scottish gardens. Being a representative selection of different types, old and new

Scottish gardens. Being a representative selection of different types, old and new by Sir. Herbert Maxwell. London, 1908

Beautifully illustrated by Mary Wilson, this has fascinating descriptions of many of the best Scottish gardens of that era, interspersed with historical anecdote. The author concentrates mainly on the planting rather than design and layout, with the emphasis on West Coast gardens. Given the publication date of 1908, it is especially fascinating to modern readers as few of these gardens remain in original ownership, or even exist in their original state.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

JISC/CNI 08: Student Experience Sir David Melville, Chair of the UK Committee of Inquiry into the Student Experience

This is the final round up session

ISC survey in ICT expectations (Sept 07)
Expectations generally based on school experience

Other reading – google generation is wider than we think – adults catch up rapidly once exposed

Follow up questionnaire Supervisors noticed that they were multitasking while filling it in.

“Owned spaces” are very important – can this concept be transferred into innovative physical space design?

Committee looking at FE and schools as well as evidence from futurologists

Age at which w2 becomes ubiquitous getting younger
Needs of future workplace demand these skills

Committee has a website/wiki/discussion forum

Issues of parental consent with younger children and use of social networks for teaching.

Future problem of assessment of mashedup material

Malcolm Read, Executive Secretary, JISC

Institutional silos are a frustration – libraries not part of the problem.
Information not managed in a strategic way.

Cliff Lynch, Executive Director, CNI

Conversation moved onto a higher level, from mechanics and technical plumbing to contributing to teaching & learning Libraries need to be assertive in carrying out a deeper mission in institutional & research data management
Speed of maturation of repositories & sophistication of digitisation.
Simple finding – overelaborated complexity needs to be tackled as aprt of improving the user experience

What is UG education for? Affects whole principle of teaching; when does technology help in learning how to think? (What always wories me is that information literacy/library skills have been taught here for decades, with it appears no effect - what are we doing wrong?)

JISC/CNI 08: Student Experience Sir David Melville, Chair of the UK Committee of Inquiry into the Student ExperienceSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

JISC/CNI 08: Learning Objects and Instructional Materials

JORUM New Directions: Peter Burnhill/Jackie Carter, JORUMUK

Reason to have content outside the VLE because of the proprietary nature and variety of platforms

Originally designed to be used within an institutional setting as part of a course, now we have more open learning, how might that affect usage?

2 services: Keep-safe mandate & JORUM R&D

23% HEI, project12% FEI contributors 2200 resources
80% HEI, 60% HEU users, 5000+ users, 9600+ downloads


JORUM predates emergence of open access; now being repurposed for ‘open sharing’ and showcase for UK commitment to Open Education Resources.

Future plans to shift out of the realm of education technologists, to make more accessible. Question as to whether we should focus on academics or students?

Developing new licensing regimes

Jorum EducationUK

Merlot – project which rather than collect objects, collects pointers to objects (US)

FF - To realise potential must go direct to learner – can they also be contributors?

Measurement of re-use & repurposing of resources.
Looking at getting more community engagement; currently reliant on feedback
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

JISC/CNI 08: The Next Steps of Electronic Books

JISC national e-books observatory project - a UK wide laboratory: Lorraine Estelle, Chief Executive, JISC Collections

It was noted that the textbook sector does not engage with library – direct to student via academics

That the project was restricted to only 36 books indicates how nervous publishers were and the level of pricing they were charging

127 subscribers to myiLibrary platform (3 subjects)
80 to Ovid (medical)

90% librarians believed e-textbooks should be free at point of use
>22000 responses to survey from users (123 universities)
50% teachers not happy
65% media students “”
But 60% already using ebooks
3.1% thought about buying the book
35% using library
40% share with friend
62.6% read from screen; 6% print off
Equal numbers visit library/access elsewhere
Women in particular appreciated access to digital library, much more than men
Expect access via catalogue

Preliminary results from data with Student use from January
Finding opposite behaviour to superbook project; here only 5% of time spent searching; 72% going straight to content
Attributing to Superbook only third were catalogued – evidence that cataloguing is a user focussed and worthwhile activity

Taking what we observe students doing and use it to inform construction of the ebook. Are we taking ancient physical structures & navigation into a new world.

Repeat using survey asking them why?

The Gutenberg-e Electronic Book Project: Opportunities and Challenges in Publishing Born-Digital Monographs:
Kate Wittenberg, Director, Electronic Publishing Initiative, Columbia University

Prizes for best new scholarship by American Historical Association.
Condition of additional work to transform from print dissertation to born-digital book
Project Goals
Workshops with authors to enable them
Change in attitudes towards digital publishing within academy
Contain costs of publishing scholarly monographs
Authors & publishers became close active collaborators rather than ‘lone toilers’
Both sides became more interested in possibilities and more creative
Attitudes towards digital publications evolved – eg concerns that digital monographs hadn’t gone through same rigorous review process as print.
Time & costs exceeded expectations (possibly because the project had blank slates –perhaps for commercialisation need controls similar to print)

Must the scholarly narrative be presented in a linear form?
How does one present an ‘authorial voice’?
Are image & archives supplementary or the organising structure?
Can new ‘textbooks’ be created by integrating ebooks and teaching tools

Tension between author’s creativity and a very traditional environment e.g. some journals would refuse to review born digital so had to create ‘bound galleys’ Seen some changes particularly in the last couple of years.

Potential can create high costs – need to agree on what can be expected
Enhanced collaboration can increase costs and times; the levels of support decreased with later groups.
Need for continuing innovation; and changes from authors, bulishers and universities attitudes.

Companion websites
Publishers lack of integration of ebook/website something which needs further investigation.

Effects of hardware e.g Kindle; current project looked at content

Would catalogue work as a discovery platform for 1000s ebooks - it does for print
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JISC/CNI 08: Web 2.0/Student 2.0: The Key Challenges for HE over the next 5 years - Conor Galvin, UCD Dublin

7-8 overall challenges

Identity in the modern world
Multiple, fluid, contingent
Relative importance of associations, and in context

Deep relationship with technology, highly visual, we’re not ready – native users from the unremarkable to the unrecognisable. Breadth but not necessarily depth of usage cf university tools

To engage with this generation He has to be:

Multi-componential – across discipline boundaries
Profiled and portable

How does your institution rate in these terms? Most in the room rates themselves less than 4/12 Their Space report ECAR study from 2007 Horizon report highlights 6 key challenges > Techlearning blog 15 minute introduction Educause came back with a number of quick projects which could make a difference

Practical examples of open learning
SURF Foundation

How do we reframe the higher education learning experience?

What is education for?
Divergence between generations
Education for practical working citizenship
Creative living – quote from Modern social imaginaries/Charles Taylor
We need a new social imaginary for higher education
Rethink how we teach and support and assessment

Smart usage:
Happening at the lower level of learning e.g. project based learning
Examples of innovative projects
Alice @ CM reducing dropout rates by 100%
UCD library in 2L

Learning Design
Making/remaking the individuals environment
Learning is networked and should be a hopeful experience – we should be prepared to learn as well as teach

Information Services is at the nexus
provide the architecture
provide the foresight

HE cores
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JISC/CNI 08: Infrastructure to Support Research and Learning

Cyberinfrastructure and Cyberlearning: Cliff Lynch, Executive Director, Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)

This looks at issues from a US perspective
NSF Office of Cyberinfrastructure/Office of Educational Resources
How can we leverage these two funding streams?

Technology enabled education reaches beyond traditional models, not only for adult education, but also to supplement e.g schools. Museums have moved into this in an aggressive way. Platform for advancing relationships between professional & amateur science. The massive data resources can be used for teaching.

Spent far too long creating information objects/courses which cannot be sustained, either because of platform obsolescence or funding. Need platforms which last for a decade at least. Data deluge also applies to learning systems, about how the students are interacting with them; new tools are developed in some areas. Privacy issue is a caution on this e.g cannot build recommenders without user history; but learning systems can be open to abuse. How much privacy should users have? Would this impact on projects such as the digital lives project?

Report recommendations re openness – default should be skewed towards openness
4-5 weeks due
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JISC/CNI 08: Digital Lives Research Project: Ian Rowlands, University College London

How do we manage our personal digital collections?
Traditionally expressed ourselves on paper, which could form the basis of scholarly collections for major research libraries.

Although not a feature here what if the Hydra had been a blog?

Personas around how we use digital collections can be complex; mixing private and work. We are all also collaborating e.g commenting on someone else’s blog?
Will future historians find similar richness of collections?
We can consciously build a legacy for ourselves

Challenges of distributed information, version control, responsibility of individuals not organisations

Internet business cycle 7 weeks

PIM very under-researched – how do people organise, name files? Provide tools to help people organise these better - can we integrate these with our our traditional bibliographic management tools to provide a seamless user experience?

35 interviews with prominent musicians, academics, politicians.

Diversity across group
Email used PIM

Still live a hybrid world, use mixtures for version control etc.

New computer
52% migrated selectively
43% backed up to external
31% archived machine
17% did nothing.
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JISC/CNI 08: Directions and New Collections - Kevin Guthrie, President, ITHAKA

Think of the academic system as an ecosystem – electronic developments intruded into that ecosystem; we now share space with them.
Relentless need to innovate, provide higher value systems. Todays value added = tomorrows commodity
Newspaper Publishing
Look at how this ecosystem is doing (funded by JISC/SCA)
Discontinuous, disruptive change
News papers in decline
Competition for audience – new players moving into online e.g. BBC, losing geographic leverage. cf libraries

Digitisation for Success

Grants are for start-up; not sustainability

Cost-recovery is insufficient. Growth is necessary as more added value is required, more IT investment required

Value is determined by impact
Subscription engenders discipline. Need to determine community of users to ‘sell’ at any level

Scale matters – consider partnerships, mergers and acquisitions (regarded as success on commercial work)

Flexibility, nimbleness & responsiveness are key – accept there may be need for change

Leadership must be fully dedicated and accountable (this is an entrepreneurial exercise)

We need to set up examples of revenue models as part of project
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JISC/CNI 08: Student Experience

The Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future:
Ian Rowlands, University College London

Google Generation defined as those born after 1993 - the press portrays this generation as being different somehow.

UCL's project was to acquire qualitative data on usage (Longitudinal study from Univ Tennessee)

OCLC report – search associated with Google/Yahoo branding only; library associated with legacy print – how do we put our search tools in their environment

Google are easy & predictable, but not seen as a gateway to expensive publisher-created content.

Go for easy option – need clear mental map of premium content

GG not unique

Mental map – did we only have this mental map because the library was static – what now?

People have no idea what an electronic book is?

Get much closer to our users – well beyond satisfaction surveys

Deep log analysis of 9 digital library platforms challenges assumptions on how people read – jump around spend little time on actual content. through ‘metadata broth’ viewing rather than reading

Differences in number of keywords by different nationalities = Germans most structured, Italians power browsers; males prefer HTML, females PDF

Are people using these to check facts, to avoid reading, or rejecting resources, or unable to find relevant resources.

Continuity – differences lessen as older generations catch up & even overtake.

Are our mental maps based on our models of learning?

Listening to Students: Innovative Responses:
Betsy Wilson, Dean of University Libraries, University of Washington

CIBER report (2005) – no library had a department devoted to assessment of the user – a few have now developed expertise in assessment.

ARL Library Assessment Conference among those sponsoring many activities

Based on user behaviour, use & non-use, and related to outcomes.

Commitment to continual assessment & evaluation for positive outcomes

Dialogue with users for new services & discontinued services

Qualitative & quantitative methods; they have had a series of surveys since 1992

Most have moved to remote use – preferred method

Self-reliance is of high importance

Desktop top priority

Library as place to work, other visits drop

UWash. has a focus on bioscience; 70% of faculty & students have some interaction with bioscientists but there is no actual faculty of Bioscience

Print really dead

Library provides ejournal with big chequebook – what happens with OA

Need help with personal information

Fulfilment – library costs from transaction to delivery too high

Integrate discovery & delivery

Integrate collection development budgets

Get librarians out of the library

Can we generalise?

Disparity between faculty & UG usage greater than assumed

Move to desktop – faculty use of collections drop, but UG relatively static. Their activities in library also static. UG remote access increase not as steep as Faculty & Research

Survey that students agreed libraries make them more productive researchers

UG – space

Res – how to save time

Fac – collections

Extend hours

Diversify space

Discovery & delivery

Collection resource reallocation

Worldcat local

20% local

60 regional ILL

114% international ILL

Maintain relevancy & centrality – increase since 1995 – refocus on student needs rather than faculty

Do students rate value with how difficult resource is to obtain

Use consumer mindset to judge materials also services

Print rather reading use

Log analysis based on the browser use

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

JISC/CNI 08: Students and the Transformation of Higher Education - Diana G. Oblinger

Diane is trying to put the students experience in context

Students – multitasking
Where they spend their time – not in class (US studies indicate only 7.7% of time)
Social networks – their choice for email/exchanging information
Gaming (70+% of Americans – is this same in UK?)
Media creation – not just looking at immediate local feedback; audiences are on the web
Participatory culture – not necessarily about the product but the process
Everyone has something to contribute – do they really? Is everyone’s input equally valid?
Social connections create a set of social skills which we value.
Knowledge needs have changed from know how to know what to know where

Definitions of learning are changing
Experiences – learning by doing rather than assimilation
Knowledge distributed across communities/networks
Assessment through reputation

Contextual constructivism
Not possible to separate learning from context e.g what you learn changes
Learning interfaces are part of this context
Familiar with desktop > cf gaming multi user virtual environments

Infrastructure based on learning
Complex, multidisciplinary data
Multiple systems

Real world problems
Remote instruments but employers complain that students know theory but can’t handle the equipment in practice

Science gateways e.g Earthquake Collaboratory, nanoHUB, Galaxy Zoo which include researchers students and citizen environments

Sensory rich
2nd life, haptics (learning by touch) e.g. for medical education
Reinforces memory and learning

Create & collaborate
Digital storytelling
Virtual worlds
Open University free learning resources

Space establishes context
The way we set them up implies how we expect people to learn
rotating seats in lecture theatres
Joint problem solving – improves dropout rate for low achieving students
Metacognition improves learning
Thinking about learning processes
‘wrappers’ – students asked about how they expect to do, then after exercise/exam asked again to reflect on these wrt to how they actually performed


Open educational resources
-Challenges assumptions about knowledge, originality and ownership

Need for enabling infrastructure
Infrastructure for discovery
Data as an infrastructure
Distributed infrastructure – grid computing
Virtual organisations


Who or what they can trust?
Have shown themselves to be much more savvy, information literacy/fluency programmes. Different attitude to trust, maybe just because they’re younger?

How are universities responding to shallow learners?
Courses are more interest driven & distributed – students who are not interested continue with a shallow approach
Deep problem solving produces more transferable skills
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The JISC/CNI Meeting: Transforming the User Experience

To a pretty wet Belfast for this meeting - I'll be blogging the individual sessions as usual.

Full conference website

On the social side, I can recommend the lamb shanks at the Crown
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Friday, July 4, 2008

Friday Book Review: Restoring period gardens : from the Middle Ages to Georgian times

Restoring period gardens : from the Middle Ages to Georgian times by John Hooper. Harvey. Aylesbury, Bucks, UK: Shire Publications, 1988. 112 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 21 cm.

Not so much a how-to book; more a guide to some of the principles and ethics behind garden restoration. It does give useful descriptions of restored gardens in the UK (and mentions some major restorations from the USA). Perhaps the most practical aspect are the appendices - lists of plants that were commonly available in the UK at the different periods covered by the work. Like most Shire books, a good, brief introduction
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Book Review: The Ingenious Mr Fairchild: The Forgotten Father of the Flower Garden

Friday Book Review: The Ingenious Mr Fairchild: The Forgotten Father of the Flower GardenSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, June 22, 2008

SCA Home Nations Forum

The second of the Edinburgh fora had it's focus on standards (which I participated in), and another strand on licensing.

Their was an interesting viewpoint from Alastair Dunning based on experiences with the JISC digitisation projects, that standards could no longer be dictated, given the rate of change in the information environment. Although not exactly a riposte, I agreed more with the approach from Dennis Nicholson and Paul Ells and the CDDA, that standards have to built into the project, which includes training and maintenance costs.

Interestingly one of Paul's comments was about how difficult it was to recruit appropriatly trained people - as someone who has come to this more from the library and cataloguing standards perspective, I can empathise with this. Interviewing recent library school graduates over the past few years has been an illuminating experience in that regards. As well as the technical standards, metadata creation & analysis has to be considered e.g. I've seen digitised photograph collections where this was very much lacking.

There wil always be a pool of standards for projects to choose from but the important thing is for creators to be strictly consistent in their application - your original may be superseded but then you have a better chance of migrating without data loss. Additionally once you can map a standard you can create crosswalks and gateways for interoperability.

On the larger scale, there needs to be a framework for organisations who promote standards to better collaborate.

ETA: This meeting has been extensively blogged, complete with presentation at the SCA blog
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Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Book Review: The home front a mirror to life in England during the First World War

The home front a mirror to life in England during the First World War by E. Sylvia Pankhurst. London Cresset Library c1987 460p,[31]p of plates ill 22cm pbk

This is a fascinating book, exploding the facade of a united front during WWI. The situation of those left behind is less popularly documented than that of WWII, and here Sylvia Pankhurst uses examples from the East End of London in particular to highlight the attitudes of officialdom towards the working classes, particularly the women, and how they coped.

This is as much a book about class politics as it is about feninism.
For the casual reader, it does occasionaly get bogged down in the detail of prices, pay rates and the various regulations, but this must reflect the reality of those struggling to cope where even the law seemed to turned against them.

It's not entirely polemic; individuals are skilfully drawn, her strained relations with her mother and sister are sharply expressed, and her affection for and meetings with (the then dying) Kier Hardie is touching.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Radiated Library

A recent NY Times article on Paul Otlet (one of the pioneers of UDC) has inspired me to begin blogging outwith MPOW, in order to spread my wings a bit further. So to begin with, I heartily commend the following article on Otlet by boxes and arrows. A timely reminder that there's nothing new under the Sun and though the tools may change our visions don't.
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Friday, April 11, 2008

Ex Libris Join Library 2.0 Gang

This month's Library 2.0 Gang Podcast from Talis includes representation from Ex Libris for the time; from Oren Beit-Arie, Chief Strategy Officer. It also includes someone from Google talking about the Google Book Search and Tim Spalding from LibraryThing (my current obsession!)
Hopefully this will provide lots of comment - I'll listen over the weekend and update this post with any thoughts.
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Friday, March 14, 2008

Elaine Fulton Talks with Talis Podcast

Elaine Fulton Director, Scottish Library and Information Council is the latest subject of the talking with Talis podcast. Nice to see the Scottish developments from the Scottish dimension recognised.
Podcast MP3 [45 mins, 41Mb]
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ex Libris Integrates Direct Links to Google "About this book" Pages in its Products

Ex-Libris have just announced integration of "About this book" pages from Google Book Search™ service into their products including Aleph and as an SFX target.
Further information and examples can be seen in the press release
Systems will be investigating how we can incorporate this as soon as technical details become available, this certainly complements the content from Syndetics, particularly for older materials, it is too early to judge whther it could replace it.
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Friday, March 7, 2008

ILL, Document Supply and E-journals

Recent developments in Remote Document Supply (RDS) in the UK – 3

A recent article from Stephen Prowse of Kings College London available via eprints, above) looks at the future of document in terms of declining usage and the future of current suppliers. This is stacked against some interesting results from the Evidence Base Project for ejournal usage, and the growth of opan access repositories. This is all very relevant to our future planning of services and allocation of resources.

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Enterprise email and blog processes

A thought provoking blog post recently which neatly encapsulates the potential time-savings of using blogs over email in one slide.
These are the sorts of concepts we have to integrate into our internal knowledge management processes.
email vs blogs
Read the full post here:
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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Talis Insight 07 Conference - Marshall Breeding - Working toward a new model of library automation

Marshall Breeding is well known in the field of library automation, maintaining the website His talk is based on a recent survey of librarians attitudes to current
systems/vendors and the emerging open source market.
His scan of the current state of the market pointed out that no successful recent new systems (e.g. latest version of Horizon was abandoned), the current crop date mainly from
the mid-90s. Recent mergers have reduced choice, and even newer systems such as Evergreen are doing the same things as existing systems.
This has been accompanied with increasing dissatisfaction as they fail to keep pace with customers expectations of innovation. Nowadays there are very few voluntary migrations to lateral systems. There is a need to focus on e-resources, the user experience etc, and this could encourage less integrated systems with a core system to which is bolted on a discovery layer, link resolver, federated search tool.
Companies are beginning to get involved in library automation who are not traditional system vendors e.g. OCLC, Bowker.
Marshall spoke at length about the Open Source alternatives which are garnering a lot of attention. Ultimately the Total Costs of Ownership are similar to that of a proprietary system. OS will penetrate the mainstream when TCOs are well documented enough to stand up to objective procurement. Currently OS systems are very similar in functionality to commercial systems but their impact could disrupt the status quo by
injecting competition into the market
increase pressure to innovate
increase pressure to decrease costs
make systems more open

We need to work towards a new ILS vision, e.g. current systems are based on workflows cast > 25 years ago, e-resources now represent >50% of our resources, many systems have large gaps e.g. ILL, collection development,
binding, remote storage.
Alongside OS software we need to consider more open access to data open APIs, ideally industry standard which would allow access to all components of functionality
Can these be open and commercial? Marshall advocates ILSs becoming more lightweight as modules become interoperable, with a single point of management for each function.
Our current legacy systems have created artificial boundaries we need to redefine these i.e.
PAC / portal
Circulation / ILL / Remote Storage
Collection Development / Acquisitions / Budget management

The first stage of this has begun with the separation of the front-end (PAC) by using next-genration discovery tools/interface. Technology cycle is much faster at the front-end and this is only a small part of the library ILS

We should see a move towards service-oriented business architecture where web services allow the flexibility to weave a fabric of changing applications. This could lead to greater enterprise operability and open the door to massively consolidated implementations, of scaled up consortia.

The 'Global Enterprise' of Google, OCLC, Worldcat etc has to be tackled - what is our relationship with these? How can we leverage our content in enterprise discovery systems to drive users toward library resources e.g. by exposing the metadata.

We have to consider the place of MARC not only in an XML- based world, but also in a post-metadata world where users are searching the digital objects themselves.

'Web destinations' such as Amazon are now competing with libraries, increasing the pressure on us.

We have to break out of the marketing/consumer model when dealing with vendors and move towards dialogue and increased partnership.

Evolution or Revolution? Web 2.0 has invigorated libraries and it may be has provided the catalyst for the latter.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Talis Insight 07 Conference - Dave Pattern - OPAC 2.0: Teaching the Pig to Sing

Dave is someone I've been keeping an eye on for a while with some really clever, innovative work at the University of Huddersfield.
The 'Does your OPAC suck?' meme has been bouncing around the blogsphere for some time now, with server reports on user disengagement with libraries and the emergence of web 2.0 introducing a richer online experience.
A survey received over 700 responses with results and analysis here:
Dave then started to look at how people were using Huddersfield's OPAC. he combined this with user suggestions from surveys, 2.0 inspired features and borrowing ideas from other websites to create a 'perpetual beta' OPAC where features are launched with low/no publicity and monitored. The most critical feature of this was that it required a staff buy-in and a willingness to take risks.
He started by monitoring keyword searches and discovered 1 in 4 gave zero results, most OPACs presented users with a dead end, unlike good search engines which gave 'Did you mean?' replies. Many users just walked away. They already had a spell-check, but this didn't allow for searches which were e.g. too specific. They cross-referenced keywords with to provide new suggestions. He discovered that hyperlinked terms in wikepedia make good keywords producing serendipitous searches.
The next stage was mining the data in circulation statistics to produce links to 'people who borrowed this also borrowed' titles. As for introducing user-created content, he started with ratings first then comments (which are more popular with staff than students). Neither were promoted but have some use, comments are moderated by Dave (they allow anonymous posting).
The most popular service spellchecking. The 'also borrowed' functionality has increased in popularity by 300-400% since it was launched. Users seem to be browsing more.
There were major issues around staff acceptance
There was no formal process for discussing and agreeing new OPAC features, so the organised a web 2.00 afternoon.
There was initial scepticism from staff
  • would students think the 'also borrowed' link were formal recommendation?
  • would sudden changes confuse users?

The solutions were to:

  • encourage suggestions from staff
  • include users in decision-making
  • encourage play & experimentation
  • don't be afraid of mistakes
  • look around for ideas
  • build crappy prototypes fast
  • monitor usage - if poor then remove it.

He then demonstrated some ideas in visualisation and some of the 'next generation' discovery tools out there (see the LibraryShed for details)

Daves shopping list of Library 2.0 features included

  • spell checking
  • relevancy ranking
  • recommendations (manual and automatically generated)
  • improved serendipity
  • user participation

In general it rakes 2 years to library acceptance, results from his survey indicate that the US is some way ahead of the UK

Dave's full presentaion on slideshare

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Talis Insight 07 Conference - Ken Chad - Scanning the LMS Market in the UK

Thought provoking scan of the current and potential future state of the UK market.
The public library market is worth £20m annually, 4 vendors have 80% of the business.
In HE 4 vendors have 87% of the market (Ex-Libris, Talis & SirsiDynix have 23% each, Innovative 18%)
These figures indicate an mature market. A potential new player in the public sector is Civica, while OCLC now own a significant number of for-profit companies.
The emergence of Private Equity Partners in the market could have significant effects. As a rule of thumb, PEPs look for companies that will offer growth within 5 years looking for opportunities in acquisition, new geographies/sectors, and new technology driven opportunities. [We've seen this in the library market - LC] Typically they will own a company for 5-7 years.
The public library sector is under pressure to look towards integration to provide savings e.g. Leeds saving £10k/year by integrating e-invoicing and finance systems.
As well as PEPs companies such as Google, AbeBooks, Amazon and LibraryThing are now offering services which compete with libraries.
An example of how books might change The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom which is a freely available PDF where comment and related material is collated into a wiki.
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Talis Insight 07 Conference - Peter Godwin - From Google to YouTube to SecondLife: The Challenge to Information Literacy

A lively session, lots of slides, videos and audience interaction.

Some key concepts:
The content has left the container.
Research (in the library) is now self-directed, non-linear and based on trial and error.
Cut and paste culture rather than Read and Digest.
Authority is less clear cut - we need new metrics of assessment.
Information literacy should not be considered a given.

Some potentialities:
Working with students on Youtube
Using tagging to help students to think of keywords

Conveniently located next to the stapler ... The Otis Library Tour
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Talis Insight 07 Conference - Andy Latham - The Elegance Of Integrated Services

Since the earlier session overran I missed the beginning of this. It covered how Queens University Belfast were using Talis Keystone to integrate the library with university-wide business processes. They have used Keystone to integrate with their (Sharepoint) portal
Some interesting points from their policies:
NHS staff users are added into the University directory in order to integrate identity management.
They no longer loan to users with any outstanding fines, so to make payments as easy as possible they use worldpay for credit card payments, min £5 and has to be full payment, but are looking to smartcards for the future.
This required a lot of co-operation between the library, IT and Finance departments (as well as Talis)
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Friday, January 4, 2008

Talis Insight 07 Conference - Tony Hey - eScience, Scholarly Communication and the Transformation of Research Libraries

Research is changing - becoming ever more data-centric. Data curation is the biggest challenge facing the research community (and libraries?).
He labels researchers as as 'extreme information workers', where data is exposed and relying on software as services.
He talks about the future of scholarly publishing, emphasising the rate of change and how it has to adapt, making reference to 'As we may read' by Paul Ginsparg, and the development of arXiv.
He stresses that webometrics will become increasingly important and uses the example of the University of Southampton, whch has a much higher ranking in relation to it's size, mainly because of it's research output visibility.

[For libraries this asks the question - are we measuring the right things with regard to the various statistics we collect?]
(note: Southhampton is the home of Eprints and have long been a leader in repository development and policy)
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