Friday, 5 June 2009

Print is the new online

From Bernie Sloan, a regular poster to the Liblicense-L list. "Who says print is dead? One company is repackaging e-content as printed word... "

He quotes Chris Snyder "As old media races to catch up with the Web and figure out how to successfully monetize print content online, one publication is taking a drastically different approach: web to print. The Printed launching a twice-daily free print newspaper in cities across the country aggregating localized blog posts." Of course, The Printed Blog has a website.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

IATUL Conferece 2009

One of the major themes of the 2009 IATUL Conference (International Association of Technological University Libraries) this week has been quality. Always a dry topic, but the combination of different perspectives - IATUL's collaborative programs, plus examples from Germany, Belgium, Poland and New Zealand - made for an interesting session on Tuesday

It was particularly engaging to hear Martha Kyrillidou, of the (US) Association of Research Libraries. Martha is Director of ARL Statistics and Service Quality Programs, and is responsible for the LibQUAL library customer survey instrument. In Australia, this is a rival to the Insync survey, used by most university libraries. At Swinburne, we use both, and we will be running a LibQUAL survey in September.

Martha's slogan "only customers [can] judge quality; all other judgements are essentially irrelevant" was interesting. I think I agree with it, but it conjured up one of my favourite quality questions "If the customer was delighted with the reference service, does it matter that the answer was wrong?"

For some reason, librarians love use and user data, the more the better. Perhaps it is because they find people more problematical in their immediate forms. Whatever, we use many methods of listening to users, and watching them too. Total market surveys like LibQUAL and Insync are one method, but we also use include quick surveys, traffic and other counts, use statistics (loans and online resources), interviews, and more. The association of Australian university librarians, CAUL, has adopted the slogan "Cheap, useful, fairly valid" to describe its official approach to statistics. This is a means of setting some boundaries around the whole user data enterprise, which sometimes threatens to get out of control.

ARL recommends two LibQUAL surveys each year. They would say that, of course, just as a butcher recommends meat twice a day. We find that a bit less than annual is OK. Most survey data is not particularly volatile - the changes are small - and the cycle of physical and financial improvement is a couple of years. There is a new LibQUAL Lite version coming out shortly, which may make it simpler to run a survey.

At Swinburne, we have added another dimension to the task of understanding the user, and have recently appointed a User Experience Architect, Dana McKay; Dana has described her role recently. Judging from the often confused way in which libraries approach technology (sorry IATUL presenters), taking a more systematic approach to the way users interact with the ever-changing technological environment of libraries has to be something we all need.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Word of the Day

Today's word is life science identifier, and thank you to Andrew Treloar for the term.

It is always a pleasure to hear Andrew Treloar speak, and particularly so since he was speaking a few weeks ago to research students in the Faculty of ICT at Swinburne, about ANDS. And particularly nice (parenthetically) that he was able to refer yet again to photographs of his chooks, which have been considerably upgraded since I last looked at them (the photographs, not necessarily the chooks),

The concept of a life science identifier (LSID) was new to me, and I like it. It is described in the Wikipedia article as a uniform resource name. I like to think that although the LSID is much wider in scope than schemes for identifying personal entities, we are also moving to a scheme for providing all people with identifiers according to a universal scheme.

Even now, everyone has some kind of ID, even dugongs, according to Andrew. As someone who is discriminated against because I lack the most common form of photo ID (a drivers' licence) I strongly in favour of standardising a national ID system on something that everyone is required to do - the tax file number system would be ideal. Pretty much all countries levies taxes, so universality could readily be achieved.

We were all also engaged by the progress of ANDS, the Australian National Data Service - "more Australian researchers reusing research data more often", a slogan which Andrew says is taken from Bicycle Victoria with the references to cycling removed. Like so many other enterprises in the modern world, ANDS will require some method of identifying researchers as well as their data, and we are right in the middle of that now.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Word of the Day

Today's word is in silico. According to the Wikipedia, this term means performed on a computer or via a computer simulation. It is coined by analogy with the Latin in vivo and in vitro, meaning experiments done inside or outside of living organisms. And possibly in pano, a sandwich, unless I am wrong about the Latin.

I am not sure why Tom Cochrane used this term in his presentation at the current IATUL Conference, on the subject of technological literacy (the ability to understand and evaluate technology). But it was an enlightening presentation, exploring not only the vocabulary of escience or eresearch, but also some thoughts about where libraries might go in their relationship with "new science", or science involving a massive advance in the use of data and computation. Not only is there a new vocabulary to be learned - we are doing that - but choices for libraries about where we want to position ourselves. Tom suggested that rather than increment forwards, we would be better embracing an aggressive transformation in role. The library without walls now the library in silico?