Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Just a few minutes ago, I posted a piece on "StoryCode." StoryCode is social software, defined in the Wikipedia as "applications which facilitate virtual connection and collaboration between people on a network. It is sometimes described succinctly as 'connection comes before content.'"

Bob Harriman, a former colleague here at OCLC after his tenure as the coordinator of LC's Newspaper Program, and now the Director of Preservation Programs for Preservation Technologies, brought "" to my attention. OK, maybe I'm the last person to hear about this, but I find it fascinating. From its home page, here's a description of what is all about:

» is a social bookmarks manager. It allows you to easily add web pages you like to your personal collection of links, to categorize those sites with keywords, and to share your collection not only among your own browsers and machines, but also with others.
» Once you've registered for the service, you add a simple bookmarklet to your browser. When you find a web page you'd like to add to your list, you simply select the bookmarklet, and you'll be asked for information about the page. You can add descriptive terms to group similar links together and add notes for yourself or for others.
» You can access your list of links from any web browser. Your links are shown to you with those you've added most recently at the top. In addition to viewing by date, you can also view all links with a specific keywords (you define your own keywords as you add the links), or search your links for keywords.
» What makes a social system is its ability to let you see the links that others have collected, as well as showing you who else has bookmarked a specific site. You can also view the links collected by others, and subscribe to the links of people whose lists you find interesting.

Ed Kiecyzkowski, now the County Librarian in San Bernardino, California, was the director of the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library in Ohio when I ran the Fairfield County District Library. He did a survey of how public libraries used clerical, paraprofessional, and professional staff. He told me that the only job all the libraries in his survey reserved for librarians was collection development and selection. Of course, this was at least 15 years ago, but this kind of cooperative, user-managed development of sources and tools changes the playing field, doesn't it?

I think the growth of sites like also shows that privacy is less of a concern for users of this type of site than it is for many librarians. Am I saying that we should throw our traditional defense of the privacy of library use records out the window? No, I am not. But do I think we should be doing a better job in mining our circ data to help people find more things that might interest them or be useful to them in their research? Yes.

My feelings on this led to a very heated discussion in the Library Automation class I discussed earlier on this blog. Several of the students in the class were quite passionate (and articulate) in their belief that library records should not be used for this purpose, especially if there was any chance whatsoever they could fall into the clutches of Big Brother. I couldn't agree with those students more. But I do feel that there must be ways to aggregate this sort of data, maybe even using the records of a number of libraries, to protect user confidentiality but still allow us to use what we know.


cj said...

Sirsi's Normative Data Project is doing just this - at least at my level of simplified understanding. They are tracking transaction-level data for all particiapting libraries to track these types of trends and tie them to a GIS system (GeoLib at FSU) to gather demographic and other characteristics for building out recommendations - not necessarily on the fly like Amazon's site, but say for opening day collections at a new branch that matches demographic characteristics with your branch.

In addition the NDP aims to allow library staff to figure out all sorts of "things" that would help them drive operational decisions, including collection development.

Obviously, there would be more effort involved, but you could easily then tie this into an Amazon-like system that would allow people as they browse the OPAC to see what others have checked out. There does appear to be a "privacy" respectful way of doing this according to Scott Nicholson, Ph.D. who runs the site.

George said...

Thanks, Chris, for the tip. I'll have to check this out, because it's a question that arises regularly as I discuss the scan.

Your post on the Bedford, TX, PL closure also hits an important theme---how do we demonstrate the value of public libraries in an era when the whole concept of "the public good" is under fire? To read the post, see

Ross said...

You may also be interested in Connotea by NPG, which is based on (or at least inspired by) the ideas behind Another, similar service is CiteULike.

What is really cool about these services is that it brings a legitimate, scholarly tip to the equation. Using these citation managers with a tag aggregator like Technorati, you can have a social citation database, based on keyword.

Very cool stuff.