Thursday, October 22, 2015

Preaching to the choir

Thompson, John W. , "The best cataloger is a frustrated library user : cataloging failure and the underutilization of library resources." Theological librarianship 8, no.2 (October 2015) 22-26.

As catalogers, we are under constant pressure to do more faster with less. Institutional workflows can be predicated on the assumption that bibliographic records created by the Library of Congress and/or PCC libraries can be added to our local catalogs with minimal or no review. "Good enough" is the operating standard. What is the importance of wrong, right, or right-er metadata in our catalog records? We have all seen examples of records with egregious errors, such as biology subject headings and an "SB" call number in a record for a legal treatise. Consider that metadata for electronic materials is frequently of lower quality than metadata for print. 

Using examples in the areas of theology and religious studies, the author argues that inconsistent application of subject metadata and call numbers impairs our user's access to materials. The issue is not easily quantifiable, but without quantifiable data, it is difficult to argue the administrative decision to forgo careful review of catalog copy for accuracy and integration with records already present in a library's catalog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Open Source & Feelings

I recently became aware of the Open Source & Feelings event that took place on October 2 and 3, 2015, in Seattle. The videos of the presentations from this event are now available.

Even though this event comes from the open source software community and does not directly relate to technical services, or even libraries, I think it is a valuable interdisciplinary learning opportunity for technical services law librarians. A quote on their home page states, “Open Source & Feelings is about the intersection between software and the humanities, and how we engage with the communities we're a part of. It is about deliberative crafting of its culture into what we want it to be, about developing strategies, skills, and solutions in order work as a community.” These are worthy goals to keep in mind while working with library technology as well.

Presentations from the event include topics such as including empathy in user experience design, creating family-inclusive work communities, and creating a work environment where people are comfortable sharing their frustrations. In my opinion, these are all worthy topics for technical services librarians to consider.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Google Analytics in Digital Libraries

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for collecting data about your websites and digital collections. However, it is also easy to be overwhelmed by the data available and to become frustrated trying to manipulate the interface to pull out the information you desire.

The Digital Library Federation (DLF) Assessment Interest Group, Analytics Working Group has recently produced a whitepaper on potential Best Practices for [using] Google Analytics in Digital Libraries. The authors strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with Google Analytics and your local digital library infrastructure before customizing your Analytics interface. If/when you’re comfortable with both of those, the authors go on to recommend 14 metrics as the baseline for gathering data for the purpose of decision-making in your digital library. This data may help you determine what types of metadata or collections are the most accessed as well as to determine ways to increase access to lesser used materials. Depending on your institution’s goals, you may also find additional metrics as well as customized views and reports beneficial in planning or expanding your digital content.

If you’ll be attending the 2015 DLF Forum in Vancouver, there will be a session on this report entitled “Collaborative Efforts to Develop Best Practices in Assessment: A Progress Report" on Monday, October 26 at 1:30 pm PST. The session will be livestreamed and a recording will be available in cIRcle, the University of British Columbia’s digital repository, after the conference.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Orphan Works and the Lost Web

Adrienne Lafrance recently wrote an article in the The Atlantic, posted on October 14, 2015: on the nascent state of digital preservation on the web:
She tells a story about a 34-part series, published in the Rocky Mountain News: investigating the aftermath of a fatal bus crash in 1961. The series called "The Crossing", published in 2007, became a Pulitzer Prize-finalist in feature writing for a series in 2008. The next year, the newpaper which published the series on the Web went out of business, then: "One day, without warning, "The Crossing" evaporated from the Internet.".
The article reminds us of the fragility of the web and some of the efforts that the Internet Archive and The Library of Congress have been making in the areas of digital preservation, and maybe surprisingly bibliographic control:
Additional relevant commentary includes:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In a Tech-Saturated World, Don't Forget the Importance of the Human Element...

Source: Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
It seems like every time I turn around, there's a new task that can now be automated or outsourced or a new program that can do what I do accurately and in half the time. Sometimes it's easy, as a technical services librarian, to get a little concerned about my job security. What place DO we have and what role CAN we serve when computers and technology keep on finding ways to do our jobs better and faster?  

This concern isn't limited to technical services librarians, of course. I think we can all find similar feelings within ourselves, regardless of our positions or our industries. We may even feel it in our personal lives. 

So 3 Geeks and a Law Blog hit the nail on the head with their recent post, What Are Humans Good for... in Legal Services?, and I was reminded that there's no need to fear. I can do something a computer can't do - and that's be a human. I can relate to other humans in a way technology never can, meaning I can more effectively generate ideas, solve problems, strategize, persuade, argue, tell stories, and most importantly, collaborate with others.

Other recent posts have backed up this idea:

Robert Oaks, Chief Library and Records Officer for Latham & Watkins LLP, states "It's not about the library. It's about the relationship the librarian has with those who do or could benefit from the library." View the library as a service, not a location, and shift your perspective and role to be more proactive and prescriptive. You know who finds it challenging to be proactive and prescriptive? That's right. Computers.

A recent survey of faculty and academic librarians done by the Library Journal and Gale shows that there's a disconnect between faculty and librarians, and suggests that you need to ingrain the library in campus culture, actively participate in student education, and seek out opportunities for engagement with teaching faculty. You know who doesn't oftentimes seek out opportunities to further engagement with others?  Technology.

The library sector is changing under out feet, and this blog post, by Rebecca Jones, offers 4 ideas to "rewire" our thinking.  My favorite one is "The Intelligent Organization of People is Key to Success."  Again - it's not the power of our technology and our 'stuff' that defines our success as librarians.  It's the ways in which the human dimension works that defines a library's success.

Want ways to help the human component, even while leveraging the best parts of connecting through increased technology?  Check out these tips to improve collaboration among remote teams, by Mike Gilronan, where he lists five clear cut to-dos.

And have you realized that technology alone will not make us more efficient and can, at times, make us less focused and therefore less efficient?  Technology can actually make us less useful.  Collaboration is what leads to efficiency, and this posting by Mark Hunter reminds us that fostering collaboration requires both a shift in culture and in the way we do things.  

And finally, here's an interesting combination of out-sourcing and in-sourcing that gave a future-proof strategy to one law firm.  "People get the answers they need, better and faster." It's not outsourcing to machines, but outsourcing to expert PEOPLE.  Again, people are the key to successfully serving others.  Not just the technology.