deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
The problems with crappy accessibility, illustrated. The National Federation of the Blind has put together some videos of the kind of problems screenreader users run into when trying to use Gmail or Google Docs. It's sometimes very difficult to explain to people without disabilities exactly the complexities of using inaccessible tools, and I really hope that these videos make the misery concrete for people.

Actually I'm kind of thinking it's a good resource in general. Screencasts of using inaccessible websites or inaccessible applications, from users with a variety of needs including keyboard-only, speech to text, high contrast, zoom, etc. Obviously not all adaptive needs will be easily translatable; you can't really show a visual processing disorder with a screencast, for example. But still, a very nifty resource within its limitations.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
So after several posts on my scholarship, here's a series of posts on the conference sessions from JCDL 2007. I'm not liveblogging the conference because there's no wireless in the session areas (on the one hand, WTF? No wireless in the session rooms at a conference co-sponsored by IEEE and the ACM? On the other hand, it probably makes for better framed responses from me not to be liveblogging).

Keynote, Daniel Russell, from Google )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
The kerfluffle about Google books, which has resurfaced since the surprising University of California decision to contract with Google as well as with the Open Content Alliance, seems to be missing the point. So much of the crosstalk I have seen seems to be about the same old questions of publishers rights, open access, serving users, and the like. But the very fact that the University of California is contracting with both Google and the Open Content Alliance ought to be raising very serious questions about long-term licensing agreements and giving away our publicly accessible holdings to for-profit companies.

At a recent Boston library consortium meeting somebody came up with a great phrase which a really wish I could remember, but essentially it was how in the past we've been much too prone to giving away our rights in return for having somebody else do the work. And the important thing to remember as librarians is that it's not our rights were giving away, it's the public's rights to view the information.

In the most recent Chronicle article about the University of California and the Google project, they explore some of the contract negotiations which have been made public.

Both the university and Google will get digital copies of the scanned works, but there are some restrictions on how the university can use its copies. The university can offer the digital copy, whole or in parts, "as part of services offered to the university library patrons." But the university must prevent users from downloading portions of the digital copies and stop automated scanning of the copies by, for example, other search engines.

Entire works not covered under copyright can be distributed to scholars and students for research purposes, but there are limitations on in-copyright material.

What I'm hung up on here is "entire works not covered under copyright can be distributed to scholars and students for research purposes". If the materials aren't covered under copyright, why is there a limitation on the situations under which the entire work can be distributed? These are public domain materials, correct? (And it's not clear to me whether or not the University of California has the right under their contract to offer the same books to the Open Content Alliance, or if by having Google scan them, they have locked up that digitized book in Google for ever.)

Once upon a time, it seemed perfectly reasonable to be giving away rights like this because if the private companies didn't do the scanning, the materials would never be made available at all. But the University of California is already involved in projects with the Open Content Alliance. Every day they're proving the point to a non-profit organizations committed to openness can also do this work. The University of California defends its decision to work with Google as well on the grounds that the Open Content Alliance Scans as many books in a month as Google scans in a day, to which I can only respond "is there a gun to your head? Is the need to scan 3000 books a day so urgent?"

As a disclaimer, I don't know the answer to that question I just asked. Maybe their need is that urgent, maybe their contract with Google, which has not as far as I know been fully disclosed, is airtight in favor of the university and the public interest. But I do think this arrangement should be prompting people to ask more of these questions. Once you enter into a licensing agreement for something like this are often stuck, and I think I might be time to take a step back and think about pace, and rights, and why we are doing this. It may be that what the University of California is doing is exactly right, but it is still prompting us, in my always so humble opinion, to be asking these questions.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
There's this interesting argument about roses going on at the GardenWeb forum. The original poster, via Google, was given in inaccurate name for a rose variety she liked, and when she ordered the rose, she received a different rose with the name she found commonly on Google. When the other posters pointed out that the vendor was not responsible for her not correctly researching the name, she continually used the presence of the inaccurate name on Google as an argument for the vendor giving her the benefit of the doubt: "It's just funny to me that the vast majority of people 100% list the Coral Carpet Rose that I wanted on the Google search That doesn't persuade some of you know it alls that maybe I had a right to expect that rose to come?"

Various posters disagree with her, many of them pointing her to a rose specific reference. But the poster I found most fascinating told her "Google is too vast and non specific to catalog all roses with the same name by their hybridizer or year of introduction."

Google as cataloger. I don't know why that surprises me, to see that phrasing, because at some level plenty of people think of Google as a catalog of information. But once the verb "to catalog" is invoked, somehow the difference between cataloging and fulltext indexing is made far more apparent to me. Helpmefind, the flower specific reference other posters are mentioning, actually does have a catalog. But Google?

Now I'm thoughtful.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Recently, I was talking to a non-librarian, non-techie friend about the "single search box" debate in librarianship, the idea that librarian's need to emulate the popular search engines.

She immediately responded "but Google doesn't have a single search box! Neither does Amazon!"

As she characterized it, she is well aware, as a naive user, of the difference between the various tabs on the Google front page: Web, Images, News, Usenet, Shopping -- and she uses them as she needs to. She is well aware of the difference between book and DVD searching in Amazon -- and uses them.

It would be good for librarians to remember that single search boxes do actually characterize information in different ways and don't just do keyword searching across a single massive collection. Perhaps the user interface preference should be leaning towards a Google-style text box on a tabbed screen as opposed to the exquisitely bad Wilson SilverPlatter interface, but we need to remember that Google isn't as simple as we think it is.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Prompted by the Google movie, I've been thinking about why Google is vital to me, as a librarian who is heavily invested in intelligent searching (both on and off the public web). And I realised I use Google as a glorified bookmarks file. If I use a resource so often that I want to get to it in four keystrokes (which is why I find tagging useless as a bookmarks replacement -- I can reach anything in four keystrokes) then I bookmark it. But what if there's a ton of tools out there which do, say, currency conversion? I only need to do that occasionally, and I don't care which currency calculator I get. So I Google, and take the first one unless red flags gets set off by the link. Same for web color chart mappings, or lists of HTML elements. I know I can find those easily with Google as my bookmarks file. But if I want a good definition, I go to, and if I want a more specific type of definition (jargony / more complete / etymylogical / etc) I'll go to one of the many other sites I have bookmarked (OED, Webster's unabridged, etc). I won't go to Google for something where I know precisely who'll have the best answer.

Tags, I suppose, are halfway between Google and a good bookmarks file, which might explain why I don't use them much (I tag my own lj posts, but I don't do social bookmarking). They still require effort to create and maintain a coherent system, like bookmarks, and they require multiple keystrokes to access, like search engines. For me the main value of social bookmarking is the "social" not the "bookmarking". If I felt like organizing something in order to share it with the world, I would find very useful. At least one feed in my personal RSS aggregator is a feed which updates when new entries are tagged.

But for my personal use, its search engines or bookmarks files. Even when I search, I don't tend to search for my final goal -- I usually search for a good resource which is likely to have information about my final goal.
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