Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Not just for Political Conventions any more

Hey blogger fans.
Just heard this tidbit from Mickey, who helps manage the OCLC Web team (and has helped bring about OCLC ordering nirvana with the online service center):

ITI editors are blogging live from the Online Information conference and expo in London. They have 5 editors stationed for live news, views and photos.

How cool!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Third Place Convergence

Your bloggers have been taking a wee break. It was Thanksgiving here in the US and I, for one, didn't even open my work laptop for several days and so I didn't think about the Second Place (work) while I spent time in the First Place (home): ate turkey, read, ordered presents online, did crosswords, talked to my sisters, downloaded music onto my iPod, played Monopoly (I bankrupted my husband twice), and acclimated the outside cat, Willy, to the three inside cats (he loved the change; the other three did not, and the dogs just enjoyed chasing all four of them).

So, the Third Place.

Shore Communications notes a piece from the San Luis Obisbo Tribune called "Libraries Could Use Some Crumbs and Noise." It comments on Howard Shultz's book about his company, Starbucks. Here's an excerpt from the Tribune article:
The only thing wrong with the third place concept is that it's being utterly co-opted by corporate America. The rise of branded third places like the coffee shop and the literary superstores has directly coincided with the fall of libraries.
You don't have to look far to see that. The countywide library system just went to the voters to plea for more money and got smacked down like a bespectacled librarian in a cage match.
Just up Highway 101, the news is even worse. The city of Salinas has announced that it will shut down its entire library system next summer. Take that, John Steinbeck.

And you might recall that some weeks ago George posted about the OCLC Members Council session in which Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire of the University of Wisconsin-Madison spoke to the delegates about gaming (to view their presentation click on the link on this page). Well, we are going to have Constance and Kurt as speakers at the OCLC Symposium at ALA Midwinter in January. They will be joined by Marilyn Mason, the program director for the joint OCLC/Gates Foundation community portal WebJunction, and Migell Acosta, the Principal Librarian for Information Management at Santa Monica Public Library, and who has had success with LAN parties at the library. And what does this have to do with the Third Place? Lots, I hope.

Constance has a paper under review for a journal. The title is "The New Third Space: Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming in American Youth Culture." As this is a draft paper, I won't quote from it but she does have the draft available at her web site under the MMOG research link. She, essentially, is arguing that MMOGs such as Lineage are a new "third space" and uses Ray Oldenburg's (he wrote The Great Good Place) eight defining characteristics of third spaces to support her thesis.

We hope that the Symposium will weave the theoretical with the practical and the possible: games, cognition and learning, community, libraries and the third place. Some people who have listened to George or me or Cathy DeRosa speak about the importance of the culture of gaming think that we are suggesting that libraries purchase and provide access to games in order to provide services to gameplayers...and off they wander down Tangent Lane, wondering how games would be catalogued and circulated.

No, no, no!! That's not it at all! We think that library culture can learn from the gaming culture about, among other things, collaborative workspaces, about peer support for learning, about providing interesting and fun environments in which to find information. Think WebJunction on steroids. And if you doubt that people "playing" games are learning much, read Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever by John Beck and Mitchell Wade. And then go find some people on the staff of your institution who game, and ask them to help out with your strategic planning.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Big Bang - Google Scholar

My antennae are tingling--actually, clanging is more accurate. I think Google Scholar is (to use a really over-used phrase) a paradigm shift. Not that this perception is particularly clever as lots of people in the blogosphere and on listservs are musing along the same lines, right now.

So, what paradigm has shifted? Certainly the one that many librarians like to cling to: that little of any worth is retrieved in a Google search. This has never been absolutely true but being able to do a good search, and then isolate the wheat from the chaff was required, and it is also true that this was difficult for many people.

No more. I came across one blog entry from Dog News that points out the amount of scholarly material identified using Google Scholar on dog studies and animal shelters. This is how scholarly material is going to come to "the people" rather than the people coming to scholarly material which is the current paradigm at work in libraryland, and one that consistently fails to be attractive to searchers.

Google Scholar exposes the many instantiations of scholarly content available on the web, much of it accessible. Content that exists as an article in a subscription-based library-only accessible database often also exists as a pre-publication version on the author's web site, and/or as a conference presentation. For many searchers, these versions will be adequate as few people require the content have the imprimature that publication in a peer-reviewed journal bestows. Scholars may prefer the "real" version but I would bet a substantial amount of money that regular searchers like me will be satisfied, in most cases, with an immediately accessible version.

To someone who had to teach students the intricacies of the various Citation Indexes, I can only gaze in awe at the little link in each record "Cited by..." So easy, so integrated, so many person hours of bibliographic instruction no longer necessary. As Google explains, "Google Scholar also automatically analyzes and extracts citations and presents them as separate results, even if the documents they refer to are not online. This means your search results may include citations of older works and seminal articles that appear only in books or other offline publications."

In the FAQs, libraries are mentioned several times as Google makes sure people understand that much of the content identified will be in libraries, and that discovery of that content may need to be done through a library interface. And OCLC gets a mention too, for providing the service behind the "Library Search" link. I'd like to think that the Open WorldCat program has been instrumental in Google's decision to release Google Scholar.

For a good detailed look at Google Scholar, go read Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy on it, at ResourceShelf

The harbingers of our collective future have been for a long time, many, overt and often ignored. But there's nothing quite so salutory as a Big Bang to get reluctant wishful thinkers to pay attention. Pay attention. Google Scholar is a Big Bang, and others will follow. No doubt Yahoo will provide some way very soon of scoping their substantial amount of scholarly content.

So, is this The End of The World As We Know It? It just might be. And actually, I do feel fine.

Google Scholar

In the scan, we talk a lot about how research and the scholarly environment are changing, and here's an example of something that could make a huge difference. Google is introducing a new service, Google Scholar, that will allow users "to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research."

Yes, this will include results from the Open WorldCat program, which is particularly important since much of this material isn't available in electronic format yet. It will be even more useful after Google has harvested all 57 million WorldCat records, instead of the 2 million records in the pilot subset.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Being Blue and Seeing Red

As a Canadian with a green card that allows me to work in the US, I have two things to contribute to the larger debate about being in the US or being in Canada, post election.

Number one: Americans know that many people left the US during the Vietnam war rather than be conscripted....and Canada was a place that many "draft dodgers" went.

What many Americans don't know is that in the 70s there was a significant migration from the US to Canada of people who disagreed with national politics, not just the draft dodgers. My English department at the U of Waterloo, in Ontario, had perhaps 2/3 of its faculty--male and female--come from the US. And at the U of Calgary where I worked for years, most departments--including the library-- had a significant number of faculty with US citizenship. So, if there is a migration from the US as a result of this most recent election, it's nothing new.

Number two: Librarians are covered by the NAFTA agreement. We are on the list of professions that are allowed to cross borders based on a job offer. This is how I got my job in Alaska. In my opinion, it's all good! Cross pollination is healthy and the profession benefits.

We do not, as a rule, remark on politics here at "It's All Good" but I did want to remind librarians that we are one of the blessed professions that have official sanction to cross borders...the NAFTA borders at least.

RFID: Libraries on the Fast Track?

CNet News.Com had a very interesting story last month on what RFID will mean for the libraries, stores, and other customer service outlets. The article discussed the civil liberties implications of RFID tagging, and the concept that someday RFID could replace traditional cataloging.

But for all of us who spend long nights wringing our hands over the glacial pace of change in libraries, this quote is a tonic:

"Libraries are much further along with using RFID in a consumer environment than anybody else," said Jim Lichtenberg, an IT consultant to libraries. "They represent a wonderful test-bed in which to work through the issues of RFID because they have such a profound concern about the rights of their patrons."

Less thrilling, especially for those of us around OCLC, was this concept, which was not directly quoted but was attributed to Vinod Chachra, chief executive officer of Visionary Technology in Library Solutions (VTLS):

He envisions a day when libraries completely do away with the time-tested Dewey Decimal classification system, opting instead for a sort of organized chaos governed by the vigilant and unblinking eye of RFID ... With all corners of a library constantly monitored by a network of RFID readers, librarians could just toss a book on any old shelf. Finding it again would just require querying a computer that's linked to the RFID system and knows where everything is. The most popular books would end up in the front of the library while the less used get pushed to the back and reshelving would be a breeze.

So much for the serendipity of finding another book on the same topic that you weren't expecting, eh?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Find It in a Nearby Library

George, Alane and I have agreed to share our soapbox today with Andy Boyer, one of the creative minds behind the Open WorldCat program.

A bit of context about Open WorldCat
As you may have heard, OCLC and Yahoo! are working together to raise the visibility of libraries with a co-branded Web browser toolbar. The news release from one of our most faithful blog readers, Bob Murphy, explains the project.

Andy's guest posting

Want a quick way to find library resources online?

We [OCLC] have teamed up with the Yahoo! Toolbar folks to make it easier for you to access two million of the most popular records found in WorldCat, a central catalog of library holdings. The Yahoo!/OCLC toolbar is a project associated with Open WorldCat, a new OCLC initiative designed to increase the online visibility of libraries and their collections.

The toolbar lets you restrict your search to just the WorldCat database and locate libraries in your area that house materials you'd expect to find in libraries: books, movies, and historical archives.

To find WorldCat records, enter a search term in the toolbar's search box, and click
either the WorldCat logo or select "Libraries" from the drop-down menu next to
the "Search Web" button.

See the visual here.

The WorldCat bibliographic database was built by thousands of librarians over several decades, and maintained by OCLC. It has 57 million catalog records for items in nearly 1 billion locations.

We're busy making the rest of the WorldCat database available to crawl and if you're
interested in watching it grow (every 12 seconds, a new record is added to
WorldCat), check out: http://www.oclc.org/worldcat/grow.htm.

Also, if you're attending the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey this week, stop by the Yahoo! Search-sponsored Internet Café where the Yahoo!/OCLC toolbar will be on every computer.

--Andy Boyer
Open WorldCat Product Manager

The OCLC "Top 1000 in WorldCat" List

OCLC Research released this list a few days ago. It's visually pleasing and has a lot more features than just a flat list of titles. You can look at lists by predetermined subject, banned books, books that have been turned into films, and so on. You can also vote on your own "top titles."
What struck me, though, is the non-stuffy, light-hearted way in which the text was written, as well as the quotes chosen to accompany each page...one of my favourite Groucho Marx quotes heads the main page, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
So, I'd like to say thanks to Shirley Hyatt, the OCLC Research staffer responsible for the "voice", for making this new space a "sticky" place to spend some time. Because, remember, the "experience society" prefers learning that is fun.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Inviting money-changers into the temple of knowledge?

A great article from Beth Dempsey that puts the library as third place idea squarely in dialogue with how we (libraries) survive monetarily.

Get behind me, satan
Interestingly enough, she notes that a lot of the pushback for service enhancements do not come from mayors, city councils or users--but from the librarians themselves.

Passports with periodicals
Coolest thing from the article was reading about how Ferguson Public Library in Stamford, CT took on the overflow from the passport agency next door--and soon realized that people like coming to the library much more than they do a cold and boring passport office. And they'll pay for the convenience. I expect they'll continue to return to the library, long after their passport arrives.

And then there's Starbucks
They'll also return to the Ferguson Public Library because they've had a Starbucks since 1999. Love it or hate it, Starbucks is the Wal-Mart of coffee shops. Even my neighborhood grocery store has a Starbucks in it. And I see people trudging around--cart full, latte in hand. In fact, there are 14 "urban coffee opportunities" in my zip code radius.

"Cashing in on Service" from 11/1 on the Library Journal Web site.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Google results to my mobile phone

Okay this isn't a service I would expect to be provided by libraries YET--but it does fit in the "This is cool and I can see it in a couple of years" category:

Google can now send localized information to your mobile phone. You just text message what you're looking for and your zip code. I did pizza 43017 [the ZIP/postal code for OCLC in Dublin, OH] and sent it to 46645. I got back 4 results in about 15 seconds. They even filtered out my most un-favorite pizza place in Dublin, which will not be named. Is this Sheer Genius on Google's part or what?

It's a short step from finding the closest pizza place to finding the closest library. And then from finding the closest library to the closest book/CD/content available from the closest library.

So when can Open WorldCat move to my mobile phone? With Google's SMS, it looks like it's pretty soon!

E-Scan and Virtual Reference

As I blog today, I'm sitting at the registration desk at the 6th Annual Virtual Reference Desk Conference, which OCLC Member Services co-sponsors with the Information Institute at Syracuse University and ALA's RUSA (Reference and User Services Association). The conference opened this morning with a rousing oration by "Virtual Dave" Lankes on what reference wants to be when it grows up, and by Eva Miller from the Multnomah County Library who addressed the "Improvisational Librarian." I don't want to spoil this for you in case you ever have the great good fortune of hearing Eva, but suffice it to say she had the whole audience of 250 or so people riffing lyrics and music to the results of a survey she'd done. Dave Lankes has been one of the driving forces behind Virtual Reference Desk for the better part of a decade now. Dave, as I said in my introduction this morning, has the uncanny ability to be intense without being creepy. He is passionately committed to the future of reference, whatever that might be, but he doesn't make your skin crawl when he's talking about it.

The point I made during my very brief opening remarks is that virtual reference is a sterling example of what is driving the landscape at the moment. (OK, full disclosure moment: my portfolio at OCLC also includes responsibility for QuestionPoint and 24/7 Reference.) Virtual reference allows us to offer our services at the point of need (or, as I heard Lorcan Dempsey quote someone the other day, "the point of inspiration.") It allows us to disaggregate collections, making service available across a wide geographic area without necessarily having a large collection of materials close at hand. It allows us to collaborate in new and interesting and even challenging ways.

We have about 350 or 375 people here in Cincinnati (at the amazingly beautiful Hilton Netherland Hotel) for the conference, attendees, speakers, staff, and exhibitors included. There is a lively exchange of ideas happening in the meetings, the corridors, and (inevitably at a library conference) in the bar. If you want to know what we're doing, check out the previous conference proceedings on the Syracuse site, and Neal-Schuman will be publishing the proceedings in hardcover form next year.


I think we might have had a bit of a post-election funk. There didn't seem to be much to say.

But, this essay on "communicontent" from a fellow I've never come across before, Russell Beattie, is most thought-provoking, and really fits well with the "Content, Not Containers" report we released not long ago. Russ has a pretty strong copyright statement on his site that I'll honour by not quoting directly from his posting. But, go read it. He has some very interesting thoughts on blogging, the web, mobile devices, content and communication. I am going to quote one sentence because it should tempt librarians to read the whole thing.

"In order to create communicontent, pure content needs meta-data, and pure communication needs organization."

Monday, November 01, 2004

"If Things Seem Under Control, You're Not Going Fast Enough"

Apparently, Mario Andretti made the remark that is today's title. Makes sense that a race car driver would say this. I have driven on a racing oval once and at about 70mph, going around a tight curve, the instructor grabbed my steering wheel and yanked it hard to the right to make my cornering much, much tighter. To that fellow, 70mph was slow. It's all relative.

As a kid, I knew who Mario was, as well as Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Sterling Moss and Jack Brabham. My brother Andrew had a pedal car designed like a racing car, with a number on the side. And if you look at the photo at this link, I sat with my dad sometime in the early 60s on the crest of the ridge watching cars come up the hill in an event called the "Rest and Be Thankful" hill climb. So, perhaps my penchant for speed, both in cars and in the pace of change is something I absorbed young.

OK, enough time in the past!

We've not been here much lately. We've been busy in the real world. As George mentioned, our Members Council delegates got to hear from 2 real gamers who are also real academics. I found Kurt and Constance's presentations fascinating as did many other attendees. I think it might be the first time I've heard "semiotic" said at an OCLC meeting. The video of their presentation will be up on the public OCLC web site soon as will the minutes of the other meetings and sessions. We'll let you know when they are.

Lorcan Dempsey, VP Research, passed this along over the weekend: "Computer games should be taught in schools because they are good for children's development, researchers said today. " The whole article is in TES (The Times Education Supplement), October 26.

Lorcan's until-now-internal-to-OCLC-only blog was released to the world on Friday. He's been posting to it for about one year so there's a lot of content there. It has the utilitarian name "Lorcan Dempsey's weblog" and you'll note immediately that he's much better than we are at the mechanics. And he's much more research oriented--no suprise there, he's supposed to be.

And I wanted to write a cogent little paragraph about manga and other graphic novels but have run out of time, so I am just going to link to a bunch of things that I think are interesting in and of themselves, and that all together make me wonder what this trend means.