Monday, July 30, 2007

faculty/librarian expectations

This EDUCAUSE article on the changing information service needs of faculty, coming to me by way of Dan Cohen, points to a disconnect between faculty and librarian perceptions regarding the role of librarians.
The consultative role of the librarian in helping faculty in their research and teaching is viewed as an important function by most librarians, but most faculty members do not put the same emphasis on this role of the library.
Unfortunately, the article doesn't unpack this idea of a "consultative" role. I think that there are many new roles in academic libraries that we are experimenting with, and the consultative role is one of them, the institutional repository another. We need to try them and see how they work. But it is certainly not a forgone conclusion that they will work.

Most of the rest of the article discusses collections. No real surprises there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

DSpace cash injection

The Chronicle of Higher Ed picked up a story about the DSpace project getting an extra injection of funds from MIT and Hewlett Packard. I thought it was interesting how they portrayed the DSpace project, and institutional repositories generally, as a struggling endeavor:
But while hundreds of institutions have installed the software, many are still struggling to get faculty members to fill their databases with material. Academic librarians say many scholars justifiably worry that publishers will reject their work if it has been in an open archive. Others prefer promoting their research through personal Web sites, even though those venues are less secure than archives.
The article, notably, doesn't mention DSpace's main rival, Fedora.

Indeed the institutional repository isn't something that seems to have gained rapid momentum anywhere. The article states that even MIT is struggling to fill their repository.

I think that there's a notion out there that now that we can save and curate things like pre-prints, white papers, teaching materials, video versions of presentations, etc. we should. But if we didn't save these things before, why should we now? Resources are scarce, time is scarce.

Perhaps libraries should be looking at cruder methods of archiving electronic content that don't require labor intensive submission processes--crawling institutional web sites, for example, and archiving the results.

I've noticed a trend of sort of "self archiving" web content at our institution. For example, our symposia at the College on tend to archive past programs simply by leaving them in accessible folders on our web server. I'm sure any digital preservationist could list many perils of doing this. But can I really convince someone that it's worth the time to re-organize those files and stick them in an institutional repository, where they'll probably be harder to access?

As we consider an IR at our institution, these are the questions I ponder.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

reclaiming the OPAC real estate

Here at Watzek Library, we've been working on a project that might be called a "mashup" of our library catalog and regional union catalog, Summit. We're slowly releasing it to the public to get feedback and to see how well the technology holds up (see previous two links).

Basically, we're using JQuery and JSON to add some little widgets to the full bibliographic record displays of these Innovative Interfaces OPACs. This is a tricky process as control over the HTML output by an III OPAC is highly locked down by Innovative. By using javascript to go out and get value added data and insert it into the records, we're doing something fairly similar to the LibraryThing for Libraries widget, discussed here in panlibus.

Technology-wise, most of the heavy lifting is done by the JQuery javascript library as well as the JSON for JQuery library, which we use to employ the common technique of moving data across domains using JSON.

The services that we've added so far to the open beta of the catalogs include:
  • Amazon images
  • Link to RefWorks export
  • Link to Google Book Search record and a search box if it is searchable
  • Direct link to search for book reviews in one of our general research databases
Note: we're using the technique described by John Blyberg to do our link to Google Book Search. We haven't yet been shut off by Google, but our volume isn't that high.

In our alpha version of the catalog, we've also implemented wikipedia link for the author, Google map of holding libraries, and similar items driven by Amazon web services.

The goal here is to hook are users up to valuable related services and linkages that they might not otherwise find.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Google Book Search Local

So here's an idea...

The Google AJAX search API makes it pretty darn easy to create a customized Google Book Search for your own web page. The API will return an identifier (which is typically an ISBN) for the book, among other metadata in results lists. Why not use a little JSON and JQuery to figure out whether or not your library holds the item and insert that information w/ link in the results? A database of your library and/or union catalog holdings would facilitate the task.

This would create a nicely localized version of Book Search for your library.