deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
All these papers will eventually be available in the Open Repositories 2008 conference repository. I'm linking to all of the placeholders; papers should be up soon.

This will be very limited liveblogging, because I'm typing in the conference and dictating betwen sessions, so I can't say much. Hopefully I'll get some good fodder for my upcoming sustainability post.


Repositories for Scientific Data, Peter Murray-Rust )

Session 1 – Web 2.0

Adding Discovery to Scholarly Search: Enhancing Institutional Repositories with OpenID and Connotea, Ian Mulvany, David Kane )

The margins of scholarship: repositories, Web 2.0 and scholarly practice, Richard Davis )

Rich Tags: Cross-Repository Browsing, Daniel Smith, Joe Lambert, mc schraefel )

Ow. I'm not doing this for the next session. I can blog at the breaks.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
This wonderful. The Nebraska Library commission has been making archived copies of Creative Commons published works and cataloging them into their OPAC. They aren't doing this indiscriminately; they are only grabbing works which are in line with their collection development policy. They are also making spiral-bound printed copies of those works for which the license allows it, and shelving them in the physical collection.

What a fabulous, fabulous mashup of old and new.

(And does it say something about my reading habits that I got this link from lisnews and not from boingboing?)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
In my day job, in the local "metadata expert" -- or so they keep calling me, although I will continue to point out that they have a cataloging department, and just because it's got a fancy new computer-based word doesn't mean the catalogers are there we'll metadata experts. But my job entails constantly thinking how users find information. What metadata fields will end-users want, or be able to use? What metadata fields are important only for technical services? What metadata is used technologically to control rights or object manipulation? Under what circumstances is it appropriate to ignore metadata altogether and just do fulltext keyword searches?

Now I'm volunteering at the Second Life Library. (Or I will be, once I get back in; I've been locked out since the security incident this weekend and I can't get anyone from tech support to call me back. Not a great sign, but I suppose they were hacked, and so they're probably overloaded.)

At the Second Life Library, the virtual space is arranged something like a real library. As avatars move around the space, they may see a shelf of science fiction books in the science-fiction room, of reference books in the reference section, or of Gutenberg Project classics arranged in no particular order. Some of these books are portals which will open up a page on your web browser, outside of Second Life. Others will hand you a set of note cards you can read in-world which contain the text of the book, and still others (more clever, but extremely clunky and difficult to use) appear as enormous larger-than-avatar books an avatar can actually read in-world. And how do the users find these books? Well, they wander around and browse, or ask a librarian.

In other words, a collection of electronic texts is made available through one portal (the library building), and in order to find them, the patron wanders around a virtual space, browsing. (In the long run, I think it would be a good idea for the library to provide a list at the front door of all of the electronic texts made available at the library, with either hyperlinks or teleports directly on the list. And now that I'm thinking about it, it would be truly awesome if that list in-world appeared to be an old-fashioned card catalog -- with direct keyword searching, of course, but still looking like a card catalog.)

Do you see what I'm getting at? The idea is that the traditional experience of walking around the library building -- even for those users who were so much into computer worlds that they spend their days in a virtual environment and would rather go to the Second Life Library than to their local library -- is in some cases preferable to be much simpler and faster direct access search. In some ways, the look of the virtual space is the metadata: science-fiction books are behind that display of planets; reference materials are on the shelf by the reference desk.

All of us involved with the Second Life Library really hope it works out. But I will be really curious to see whether this model is currently only appealing because of its novelty. Maybe the experience of browsing through a physical space, looking for displays and book covers that catch the eye, is one that people really genuinely want.

Welcome to the William Gibson world.


Mar. 24th, 2006 10:45 am
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I'm getting a little bit tired of tools.

That is to say, I'm getting a little bit tired of how much excitement in libraries over all the new tools and technologies which are available to us to very easily morph from How can these new technologies fulfill needs and desires our library has? to How can we use these new technologies? Not there isn't a place for that second question, but I feel like I'm treading water in a tool-driven world. There are a lot of real needs that libraries aren't yet meeting, and the new tools and technologies really can potentially meet those needs, even in a flashy whiz bang awesome way. Simple little things such as LibraryElf meet the need of adding to the possible ways users can be notified of their records. Or the tag cloud that Penn's library is developing, which may well meet the need of helping users find information in the way that makes no sense to them. These are genuinely good ideas. And yet at the same time, I see so many people who just seem to be saying OPML! Podcasting! Library 2.0! Millennials who play World of Warcraft all day!

I'm actually not criticizing anyone in particular. Most of the librarians I know and bloggers I read are exactly on track, I think, seeing the technology available as useful but driven by needs. But I want to step back away from the flash for just minute, and go back to basics. If we're spending all this time on wonderful fancy exciting technology, why do OPACs still suck? Why is it that administering them is a nightmare, and why do so many of them not conform to user needs?

I'm excited about Eprints, though I haven't played with it much yet. It's very simple, basic tool. It does one thing, and as far as I can tell from reading about it, it does that one thing well and in easy to administer fashion. The one thing it does is arguably essential -- or at least essential if you believe in open access or institution based preservation. It doesn't have a lot of flash, it doesn't have a lot of abilities. It starts at the bottom, which is where I want to start.

I've been re-reading Walt Crawford's Library 2.0 essay [PDF]. For some points I agree with it, and on other points I disagree or don't have an opinion. But he certainly raises the question about whether Library 2.0 is about users and attitudes or about technology. Overall, I think it depends who you're talking to, and when. I think most people mean well about being user focused and needs focused, but it is difficult not to get distracted by all the new toys. Wikis and blogs and semantic web, oh my! Perpetual beta!

So while in general I think we're on the right track, I'm just a little tired. I want to step back and think about needs, and that figure out ways to fill those needs, and then, when those needs are filled, start thinking about bells and whistles.

Edited to add: I do understand that one of the rallying cries of Library 2.0 is that users should be helping determine needs, not librarians. But completely leaving aside the places where this is less appropriate, I'd say that the talk is nice, but the walk doesn't always work out that way. Letting users help determing needs isn't always about new technology. Sometimes it is, as in Penn's tagging OPAC. But sometimes it's a suggestion box, a patron group meeting, a friendly face. And technology? Isn't all about empowering the users as decision makers. Semantic web and RDF might be about the users in the long run, but right now? They just aren't going to serve the needs of most patrons. That doesn't mean we shouldn't use them, but it does mean we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking Shiny! Must be useful! For that matter, even things that look good might not be; we'll see how Penn's tags play out in the long run, and virtual reference and IM reference have worked for some user communities and not for others.
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