29 Jun 2012

Open source ERM through ERMes

ERMes is a no-nonsense ERM tool offering effective electronic resource management capabilities for libraries of all sizes. It’s free, built with simplicity-of-use in mind and up and running in an instant without requiring assistance from the IT department.

ERMes builds around a standalone Access 2007 database with an intuitive data-input interface. It covers all the basic facets required in effectively managing a library’s pool of e-resource subscriptions. ERMes' functionality includes the following features:
  1. Capture vendor names/contacts including all necessary contact information
  2. Identify e-resource authentication methods, user limits, subscription status, subject/department affiliations
  3. Specify rights statements for ILL, document delivery and e-reserves (this is particularly useful when providing services to non-standard library users)
  4. Include URL links to journal lists, licence agreements
  5. Track database down-time incidents and causation
  6. Pull a range of standard reports, including count by database type (e-book, FT for all content, FT reference, music, index-abstract+FT etc.); payment history; database spread by subject; list by subscription status; renewals; year to year price comparison
  7. Hyperlinked A-Z list of databases for posting on a library webpage
  8. Collect usage statisics (Counter and non-Counter compliant) (see also previous post on Counter stats)
A crucial selling point for ERMes is that it can be easily tweaked and comprehensibly customised to your local needs. For sure, bigger operations might require a more sophisticated set-up (see for example Coral (free) or Cufts (hosting not free)). However, ERMes offers an effective solution to sustainable e-resource management. For example, it's easy to track a database's cost history over time and record licence requirements and user allowances. You can keep relevant URLs and vendor contact details in one central place and access usage statistics in a simple and straightforward manner. Basically, ERMes pulls information you hold on electronic resources subscriptions into one, easily managed space.

ERMes (all in one)

Below is a location map of institutions that utilise ERMes

View ERMes Users in a larger map

For the purpose of informing your decision making process, it's also worth your while to check out the excellent Open Source ERMS Presentation below (ALA Conference, June 2011). It discusses why the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse (ERMes) and the University of Notre Dame (CORAL) developed their respective in-house ERM solutions, as well as covering perceived benefits and inherent challenges.

27 Jun 2012

Free and Open Source Tools for Libraries

Recently the Computers in Libraries conference took place. One presentation that caught my attention was the Free and Open Source Tools presentation by Nicole E. Engard. As Open Source is far more cost effective than proprietary software, it has become an increasingly popular alternative for libraries. Engard outlines what Open Source entails:
  1. Open source software is software that users have the
    freedom to run, distribute, study and modify for any
  2. Open source is a collaborative software development
    method that harnesses the power of peer review and
    transparency of process to develop code that is freely
  3. Open source draws on an ecosystem of thousands of
    developers and customers all over the world to drive
A good Open Source alternatives to Microsoft Office is Libre Office. Its 'Writer' word processor has similar functionality to Microsoft Word. Libre Office also has spreadsheet, presentation, vector graphics editor and database management programmes.

Koha is an Open Source web based Integrated Library System with a highly configurable user interface with social media facilities built in. Evergreen is another Open Source alternative Integrated Library System which includes an OPAC as well as cataloguing, acquisitions and circulation modules.

Zotero is a superb free alternative to the likes of EndNote or RefWorks. This citation management software is now used in many academic libraries for students to cite and create bibliographies easily. A superb guide to Zotero can be found here.

Omeka is an interesting looking web publishing system for online digital archives that can create professional looking online exhibits for libraries' digital collections.

Finally, the presenter highlights the excellent Portable Apps service which enables users to install many Open Source apps on a memory stick and install them on different machines.

The full presentation can be seen below.

Posted on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 | Categories:

26 Jun 2012

Stylish Academic Writing - Helen Sword (Review)

When writing a review of a book about elegant expression it is difficult not to feel instantly self-conscious of your own stylistic weaknesses, which are all too readily picked out by the fine-tooth comb of Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing. However, thankfully the author’s analysis is not so much concerned with highlighting the flaws of others, but rather in raising the question: if convention should not constrain academic thought, why should it be allowed to dictate the style of academic writing?

Of course, this is not to suggest that authors should start overloading papers with creative and colloquial language, but perhaps to keep in mind that for everything, there is a time and a place. Sword likens this idea to the contrast between a researcher explaining an idea over coffee, perhaps sketching out diagrams loosely on a serviette, and listening to a monotonous PowerPoint presentation. The difference is clear: engagement. It is true that a more creative, stylish approach may not appeal to every reader, or indeed play to every writer’s strengths. However, it should not be the case that research is not taken seriously unless expressed in passive, dry and esoteric tones. The argument that “I write that way because I have to” should not be the reason offered, Sword argues.

Her survey of the relative frequency of various stylistic attributes across disciplines may be enough to make some historians (the use of first-person pronouns!) or medics (engaging title!) shut their eyes and plug their ears. Style, after all, is a subjective attribute. However, Sword also draws on three key principles which are pretty much universally accepted as being hallmarks of good writing: using concrete nouns and vivid verbs rather than abstract terminology, keeping both close together within the sentence, and avoiding weighing down sentences with needless “clutter”. Tight writing is something I always enjoy reading, and I believe there is great beauty in the efficient use of language. However I often forget this when writing myself, and Sword’s book serves as a useful reminder in this context: Do I really need that adjective? What is the value to the reader in using such an abstract noun?

Spotlight on Style callouts highlight the approach of selected researchers who are noted for their engaging prose. These examples tend to be largely drawn from the broad spheres of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, where it is perhaps ‘easier’ or more acceptable to be more creative in your expression; it is disappointing that there are limited examples from more technical or scientific disciplines. The importance of paying attention to your audience – a hidden but essential component of stylish writing – is openly addressed throughout. Some of her tips - like using imperative verbs or the second person pronoun, you, to establish a bond with your readers, or penning more imaginative titles to make your papers attract an audience - are useful take home points which are easy to pick up on and incorporate. A Things to Try section at the end of each chapter challenges readers to consider how they currently write, and how they might change their approach in the future. The tone is very much ‘try it and see, you can always go back’. Good writing is a continuous learning process, and one with no right (write? :)) answer.

There is an awful lot to digest here - perhaps too much; it is not the kind of book that is easy to read from cover to cover. Even a few lines can provide much food for thought and demand re-reading to fully absorb the stylistic nuances and contrasts imbued within. There is great subtlety in good writing. Indeed arguably the best writing should never make you think about how it was written, and so to force yourself to deconstruct vivid and effortless prose can be extremely challenging at times. Fortunately however, Sword generally practices what she preaches. A book about academic writing should not, by convention, be particularly entertaining, but by peppering the text with illustrative anecdotes she lights up the dull task of reading about writing. It is this which makes the struggle at times ultimately worth the effort.

Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword is published by Harvard University Press, April 2012, £16.95. Helen Sword also maintains the Writer's Diet (resources for writers) website.

23 Jun 2012

Archiving tweets using a Google Docs spreadsheet

There are lots of web apps which store your tweets but some have limitations, such as a maximum number of tweets etc., and also there is nothing quite like having your data in csv format :) This is why I like using Martin Hawsey's Twitter Archiving Google Spreadsheet (TAGS).

  • Simply save a copy of the spreadsheet and follow the instructions on Martin's web page
  • As part of the set-up process you will need to get a Twitter API key at http://dev.twitter.com/apps/new and fill in the consumer key and consumer secret

If any of this sounds complicated, don't worry, it's not! You can set the script to run every hour or every day to 'collect' and archive tweets containing a particular hashtag e.g. #irelibchat. This is how we archived the tweets from the first #irelibchat. You might also want to use it as a research tool - for example if there is a specific product, organisation, event or topic you want to keep track of. You can then manipulate your data easily in spreadsheet format, and it is easier to identify common themes and relationships.

Not only will the TAGS spreadsheet generate a nice date-stamped archive spreadsheet of all relevant tweets and tweeters, it also generates other summary statistics such as the top tweeters, the number of retweets and the number of unique tweets. There is also a neat Tags Explorer Visualisation tool which generates a picture of the connections between the tweeters. Here is the #irelibchat visualisation - pretty stuff :)

21 Jun 2012

CPD #irelibchat tweet archive - June 21st 2012

A big thank you to everyone who joined in with the first #irelibchat. Despite some technical problems with Twitter, it was a great opportunity to share ideas and experiences. As promised we have archived the tweets from the first chat in Google Docs for those who were unable to take part. All feedback on a suitable day / time for the next #irelibchat as well as future topic suggestions are welcome - tweet us @libfocus or leave a comment :)

CPD #irelibchat June 21st archive

Guest Post: CONUL Annual Seminar, June 14th 2012

Guest post by Alan Carbery, Assistant Librarian at WIT. Alan also runs the information literacy blog edlibbs.

The CONUL Advisory Committee on Information Literacy held their annual seminar in TCD’s Nursing and Midwifery College on Thursday 14th June. It was a packed day, with over 12 speakers taking to the stage.

Ellen Breen, Committee chair, opened up the seminar with a short report on CONUL’s survey of academics on the overall value and impact of librarians’ contributions to academic courses. Overall, libraries’ contributions are viewed positively with lecturers seeing improvement in the quality and range of information sources being used by students. There is also anecdotal evidence that grades have improved as a result of information literacy teaching. The survey also found that over 80% of academic staff specifically want further information literacy support and materials online.

Dr. Jane Secker, London School of Economics, was up next to talk about her joint project with Dr. Emma Coonan on developing an information literacy curriculum that addresses the need of undergraduates entering Higher Education over the next 5 years. Jane’s work is part of the ARCADIA Fellowship project, and was carried out in 10 weeks. The study used a modified Delphi Study method and talked to experts in the area of information literacy about what their concept of information literacy was, and how a curriculum might look. According to ANCIL (A new curriculum for information literacy), how you teach information literacy is as important as what you teach. Students don’t see information skills as separate to any of the other learning they do. The focus for a new curriculum should be on skills, knowledge and behaviours, rather than technologies and tools. According to Jane, librarians have to work with academic partners to implement ANCIL. Information literacy is everyone’s business. ANCIL is presented to us as a pizza metaphor with 10 strands to Information Literacy:
  1. Transitional (from school to higher education) 
  2. Becoming an independent learner 
  3. Developing academic literacies 
  4. Mapping and evaluating the information landscape 
  5. Resource discovery in your discipline 
  6. Managing information 
  7. Ethical dimension of information 
  8. Presenting and communicating new knowledge 
  9. Synthesising information and creating new knowledge 
  10. Social dimension of information literacy 
More information can be found on ANCIL from http://newcurriculum.wordpress.com and http://implementingancil.pbworks.com. Jane rounded her presentation off with a short clip from the ANCIL video.

The first round of Pecha Kucha’s took place. The Pecha Kucha presentations were designed to provide a short showcase into the various information activities ongoing in CONUL institutes around the country.
  • Jack Hyland, DCU - Jack spoke about using Moodle discussion forums for assessing IL in undergraduate business students. Jack gave an honest critique of the initiative highlighting some of the snags met along the way.
  • Philip Cohen, DIT - Philip spoke about the NDLR funded initiative in DIT to create a suite of online reusable learning objects in for business, law and media studies. Seven tutorials highlight DIT’s library resources.
  • Monica Crump, NUIG - Monica explained that following a merging of their circulation and information desks, NUIG devised a classroom and mentorship programme for their library assistants that saw them living the student experience through a series of information retrieval tasks.
  • Donna Ó Doibhlin, UL - Donna spoke about the use of student peer advisors during the University’s 7 week programme, designed to orientate and familiarise students with services in an effort to boost retention. Donna spoke favourably about the initiative.
  • Peter Hickey, UCD - Peter highlighted UCD library’s video tutorials initiative. Peter reminded us that we have 30 seconds to get our message across and capture our user’s imagination. 
  • Pauline Murray, NUIM - Pauline highlighted NUIM Library’s acquisition and lending of Kindle ebook readers to its patrons in an effort to develop its mobile library initiatives. The initiative has been a real success. Pauline highlighted some issues regarding personal amazon account restrictions.

After lunch, Dr. Claire McAvinia, a learning technologist from NUIM, spoke on her research into student’s use of VLEs. According to Claire, students’ use of a VLE is influenced largely by their lecturer’s use. According to Claire, students are the consumer in the VLE, not the content driver. Their use of discussion forums, chat facilities, etc, is relatively low. The biggest student usage of a VLE is to obtain lecture notes. It’s suggested that the assumed behaviour of the digital native is not displayed in the VLE. Claire states that we need to ‘wrap-up’ the various learning supports that are out there and find a way to present them collaboratively.

Dr Suzanne Guerin from the School of Psychology, UCD presented her reflections on implementing a learning to learn module in the School. The module was designed in conjunction with the library. Suzanne tells us that students were somewhat resentful of the module, claiming they were being taught skills that they already had. Despite this, the School felt that the module did lead to worthwhile learning experiences.

The final Pecha Kucha saw three more speakers provide snapshots:
  • Geraldine Prendergast, UCC - Geraldine spoke on UCC’s generic postgraduate module for Arts, Humanities and Social Science students.
  • Una O’Connor, Athlone IT - Una spoke on her use of LibGuides to drive information literacy instruction in Athlone.
  • Finally, Siobhan Dunne, DCU - Siobhan reflected on her experiences of being a student in an online classroom, and how it can help inform her teaching. Siobhan spoke about the benefits of reflection as a teaching and learning tool. 
As one of the only Irish events dedicated entirely to information literacy, the CONUL seminar is excellent for gaining an insight into the information literacy initiatives occurring in some of the academic institutes around the country.

20 Jun 2012

Which Virtual Reference platform for IM?

Meebo has been taken over by Google; key services will be pulled by 11th July, 2012.
This is an unwelcome development for library and information services that are comfortable with Meebo as their virtual reference platform.

What does Virtual Reference mean? The Reference and User Services Association (a division of the ALA) defines VR as follows:
Virtual reference is reference service initiated electronically, often in real-time, where patrons employ computers or other Internet technology to communicate with reference staff, without being physically present. Communication channels used frequently in virtual reference include chat, videoconferencing, Voice over IP, co-browsing, e-mail, and instant messaging (RUSA, 2009).
Meebo Me is an example of the real-time variety, i.e. instant messaging. Library patrons navigate to a webpage (e.g. library home page) and enter text into an embedded widget monitored by library staff. Typically, the widget will inform the user about the availability of real-time reference services.

Which alternative is suitable for your library and information service now that Meebo is no more? This depends on the size of your user base, related staffing requirements and available budget. I have listed below two alternatives (there’s more out there) that meet your IM reference service commitment. The choice depends on your needs and available resources.

… is designed with libraries in mind and arguably the most sophisticated and powerful IM ref service out there. It offers real-time chat widgets, flexible librarian staffing (multiple staff accounts), security and privacy, built-in collaboration tools and more. It’s affordable, straight forward to implement and the solution we use. See summary of key features and the article LibraryH3lp: A New Flexible Chat Reference System by Pam Sessoms for more information.

Pluugo (free)
... provides a widget (plugoo) which visitors on your website can use to communicate with you in real time. However, Plugoo limits simultaneous chat to five different visitors at a time. This solution might therefore not be a suitable option if your audiences are keen on IM. See FAQ for more details about Plugoo. A good thing here is that you can operate Plugoo with different messenger clients (e.g. Google Talk and various other clients using the XMPP protocol)

Use of VR chat in libraries
Research in this area is still limited (please correct me if I'm mistaken). Below is an overview of the main research findings into an embedded IM service based on a case study conducted at CSUF some time ago (Breitbach et al., 2008).

Frequency of reference questions
  • Since the introduction of virtual web chat, reference queries have increased considerably (overall increase of 49% through Meebo and QuestionPoint (proprietary IM service offered at CSFU)).
Question types
  • High frequency of professional-type questions (i.e. answers involving in-depth knowledge of library resources/research techniques) = 80% of all web chat queries.
  • Only 3.7% of questions were directional in nature.
Transaction time
  • Over 80% of questions answered using embedded IM took ten minutes or less to answer.
  • Questions asked by walk-in library patrons at the reference desk were answered the quickest (94% answered in ten minutes or less).
  • Statistically, only a marginal time difference was discovered in answering questions between embedded IM and the in-person reference desk.
Patron benefits
  • Easy to use (simply enter query into widget and wait for response)
  • Web reference-chat can encourage inhibited library patrons to avail of the library’s reference service due to its inherent anonymity (positive effect on library anxiety)
  • Increased choice of channels to access a library’s reference service (telephone, email, reference desk, web chat)
Library Service benefits
  • IM places reference services where the library patrons are (potential enhancement of library reference service)
  • Implementation is cost efficient
Library Service challenges
  • Library staff may experience difficulty with multi-tasking (extra workload)
  • High expectations on behalf of library patron with regard to response time and quality of reference solutions provided
  • Preference for face-to-face interaction
  • Handling complicated questions in an effective manner can be challenging
  • Extended length of time to answer questions adequately
  • Lost internet connections
  • Library patrons disconnecting before receiving complete answers
  • Busy services require more than one member of staff at a time to answer reference queries
Breitbach, W, 2008. Using Meebo’s embedded IM for academic reference services. Reference Services Review, 37, 15.
Dennie, D, 2011. Using Meebo’s embedded IM for academic reference services. Chat widgets as student/librarian communication tools. Library Hi Tech News, 28, 6.
Reference and User Services Association. 2004. Definition of Virtual Reference. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/virtrefguidelines. [Accessed 12 June 12].

19 Jun 2012

Guest post: The Hidden Job Market. Where is it and how can I find it?

Guest post by Sinead English (Sinead English & Associates)

You will have heard the statistics. Over 70% of available jobs never get advertised. Or if they are advertised you can’t help but get the feeling that there is a shortlist of favoured candidates already drawn up and you are not on it. The majority of employers prefer to hire someone they know and trust or someone who is recommended by someone they know and trust. How can you increase your chances of getting a job by getting into this so-called, Hidden Job Market?

1. Do you know what you want? Then tell everyone! Sounds obvious but if you can’t tell potential contacts what type of job you want to do then how can they help you get it? Be specific about the kind of job you are looking for when talking to friends, ex colleagues and acquaintances. They are out there operating in this Hidden Job Market and may hear of something that suits – if you are specific they will remember you, make the link, and are more likely to contact you about it. Stay away from using general lines like “I’ll do anything at this stage” – that will not focus the mind of whoever hears it and it won’t progress your job search.  

2. Step away from the computer. It’s good to talk. Many job seekers I know use their computer as their main tool for job search. Spending hours each day checking jobs websites and studiously adding connections on LinkedIn will probably not get you a job mostly because that is what everyone else if doing too and the competition is fierce! Try a different approach. Get out and meet people, get your message out there re what you want to do.  

3. Networking? No need to fear. It’s just chatting with people and letting them know what you want. Don’t ask your contacts outright for a job but ask them for advice, suggestions re what to be reading, good websites to follow. Ask if they can introduce you to anyone who may be able to help you. Ask what they would do if they were you….basically anything but “Do you have any jobs going at your company?” By doing this you are effectively showcasing yourself and subtly reminding them to think of you when they hear of opportunities arising in the non advertised Hidden Job Market.  

4. Don’t waste your time on Dear Sir/Madam letters Sending out a targeted speculative letter and CV to a company and addressing it to someone known to you or known to someone known to you (tenuous, but fine as long as you can mention their name in the letter!) is a good use of your time. Sending out speculative Dear Sir/Madam letters that clearly look like they are being sent to every company in the industry is a complete waste of time and a totally demoralising exercise. So don’t do it! Spend you time figuring out who you know who knows someone in that company – use LinkedIn for this – it’s a great way to find connections into employers through your own network. Stay positive, be brave, ask for advice and think differently when approaching potential employers. Standing out and getting noticed requires a different way of job hunting – go for it! Sinead English and Associates provide career management and job seeking advice.

Follow Sinead on @sineadenglish and read her blog on http://www.sineadenglishassociates.ie/
Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | Categories:

17 Jun 2012

#irelibchat Agenda June 21st 7pm - Continuing Professional Development

Thanks to everyone who voted in the poll for the first #irelibchat topic - CPD topped the poll with performance measurement in second place. Below is a draft 'agenda' for the Twitter chat based on the feedback and ideas we have received from tweets and emails - if you have any other questions you'd like to add, post a comment or Tweet us @libfocus.

1. How much time do you spend on CPD – both formally and informally? Do you view CPD as an important part of your job?

2. What LIS journals do you find most valuable for keeping up to date?

3. Which web applications and social tools do you find helpful for CPD? Do you find social media is an effective tool for CPD (e.g. 23 things etc.)?

4. What are the main barriers you find in relation to CPD – Financial Cost? Travelling? Time? Staffing Commitments? Are there ways around these e.g. online delivery, leveraging ‘in-house’ expertise to run low cost courses?

5. What are the key current skills required in LIS? How have you acquired and developed these?

6. What are the emerging, future skill requirements in LIS? Are there sufficient CPD opportunities out there to help information professionals develop these, or does the profession need to start offering 'new' kinds of training e.g. data curation and management?

Thanks again for all the tweets and feedback - hopefully it will be the first #irelibchat of many. We will be archiving tweets for those who can't make it in realtime also. And don't forget the #irelibchat hashtag!

10 Jun 2012

Seven Firefox plugins to support your research efforts

Firefox is a popular open source web browser (accounts for ca. 25% of worldwide usage share of available web browsers). The seven recommended add-ons below might also help you when conducting research online. 

... is a plugin that operates as your personal reference organiser. It contains the following features, among others:
  • Automatic capture of citation information from web pages
  • Storage of PDFs, files, images, links, and whole web pages
  • Flexible note-taking
Integration with Microsoft Word and LibreOffice/OpenOffice via plugins
You can also run Zotero as a separate, standalone program without Firefox (Zotero 3.0).

TinEye Reverse Image Search
... is a reverse image search engine. The idea here is to identify the source of an image, find out where it comes from and how it is used. To use this add-on, right-click on any web image and select "Search image on TinEye" from the context menu. Results are displayed for you at tineye.com. The results are qualified and very much rely on TinEye’s image database updates (quickly expanding and currently standing at 2,160,069,909 web images).

Diigo Toolbar
... is a powerful plugin toolbar for annotating, bookmarking, archiving and sharing web pages. Apart from saving links or the whole web page online, you can also attach highlights and stickies to a web page as a reminder for future use; this is exactly the sort of stuff you need when conducting research and keeping track/note of important information.

... is similar to Diigo but lighter in use. ScrapBook serves to save web pages and organise them in an ordered collection (like bookmarks). You can also full-text search and quick-filter your collection.

... is a handy number and a must-have. Right-click on any foreign-language text in a web page and it will be translated using the Google translation service. Translates from/to the following languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Batalan, Chinese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, and Yiddish.

Read it Later
... see also Pocket; the idea here is to save web pages to a reading list and read them at a later stage when you have time. Pages can be read in offline mode too, so you're not reliant on an internet connection. You can also sync your reading list to all of your computers (work and home) and bookmark pages.

Deeper Web
This plugin aims to beef up your searching by using a tag-cloud technique (topic mapping). It offers, among other things:
  • Tags Tab: add/include a keyword from the original search query via a contextualised tag clould
  • Phrases Tab: assists in re-shaping and refining a search
  • Sites Tab: click on one of the sites in the tag cloud and you’ll get all relevant results from the selected source only.
The plugin is quite powerful as it employes a few Zoomies (mini search engines), such as Blog Search, Metrics Search and Wikipedia Search, among others.

Do leave a comment and share any Firefox plugins that you find helpful for online research. 

9 Jun 2012

Third Thursday #irelibchat?

Update: Vote for the topic you would like to discuss at the first #irelibchat in the poll on the right sidebar of the blog

Inspired by the excellent #uklibchat (@uklibchat, http://uklibchat.wordpress.com/) and the growing number of Irish library tweeters, it might be time to try a #irelibchat?

#uklibchat is a fortnightly discussion group that takes place on Twitter. A broad topic and agenda is decided on by participants in advance to help structure and steer the discussion, and users can join in with the discussion by simply adding the relevant hashtag to their tweets. @libfocus would be happy to chair a pilot #irelibchat if anyone else would be interested? @acarbery, @LauraRooneyF, @usernameerror and @mbreen2 are already on board, and if anyone would like to suggest a topic to start things off, just post a comment! For inspiration you can try browsing through #uklibchat's previous topics, or a few ideas could be:

Continuing professional development?
Doing more with less?
Performance measurement in libraries?
Evidence-based librarianship?
or... ?

The first #irelibchat will take place on June 21st (the third Thursday of the month!) at 7pm-8pm. BYOB :)

Libfocus Journal Club - The Transition from Print to Electronic Journals

McClamroch, J. (2011). The Transition from Print to Electronic Journals: A Study of College and University Libraries in Indiana. Evidence Based Library And Information Practice, 6(3), 40-52. Retrieved from http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/10330

Objectives – This study examines what factors are considered by college and university libraries in Indiana when making the decision to cancel subscriptions to print journals when an electronic equivalent is available. The study also looks at who the primary decision makers are in this regard. Libraries at public and private institutions of varying sizes were included in the study.
Methods – An online survey was sent to seventy-three libraries in the consortium, Academic Libraries of Indiana. Structured interviews with administrators at nine libraries were also conducted.
Results – Academic libraries in Indiana use subscription cost, redundancy of formats, student preference, budget reductions and usage as the primary factors in canceling print journal subscriptions in favor of their electronic counterparts. There is also a preference for the electronic format for new subscriptions even when a print version is also available.
Conclusions – The study indicates that subscription cost is the most important consideration in the journal cancellation process with other factors also having an effect on the preference of libraries for electronic versions of journals. The study also shows that libraries at public and private colleges and universities are at different stages of moving away from print to an online-only journal format. At the same time, there is consensus that a small collection of print titles will still be needed. The primary decision-makers are librarians, faculty, and library administrators.

From my own perspective, I would choose electronic over print every time when it comes to accessing journals. However, as a librarian I am all too aware of the fact that there remains a significant cohort of users who still value the experience of visiting the library as a physical space and browsing periodicals in print format. I appreciate this may be more visible in special libraries, where staff may not necessarily always be focused on searching for particular research topics, but rather engage in serendipitous discovery as a means of keeping up to date more generally.

The advantages of electronic journals are becoming too pervasive to ignore however, particularly when I am faced with the weekly challenge of deciding where to squeeze in the latest issue of Blood on the shelf. In this context, managing the transition from print to electronic requires striking an appropriate balance that allows the advantages of digital content to be realised without alienating existing users. McClamroch's study surveys 26 academic librarians regarding the factors that are considered when making the decision to cancel a print subscription in three different scenarios:
  • The Decision to Cancel a Single-Title Print Subscription in Favor of its Electronic Version
  • The Decision to Cancel a Single-Title Print Subscription When There is a Duplicate Version in an Aggregated Database and
  • The Decision to Cancel a Journal Subscription Outright

Ten different factors are ranked based on the responses received in each case, and unsurprisingly cost features as the dominant factor in all three. Meeting the bottom line invariably drives journal subscriptions in the first instance - everything else must be accommodated within this constraint. What's more unexpected however is the relatively low weighting placed on faculty recommendation; even in the case of cancelling a journal completely it is only the fourth highest factor which is taken into account (and indeed it is ranked significantly lower in the other two scenarios). A little surprisingly McClamroch interprets this as being relatively high, and indicative of the weight that librarians place on staff feedback. However, I was surprised by the the finding that almost half of the libraries surveyed do not take faculty recommendation into account at all in the decision to cancel access to a journal completely. It's a relatively small sample size however, so this must be taken into account.

As someone faced with the challenge of segueing from print to electronic (who isn't? :)), I feel open and regular consultation with users and staff is critical. Adding a rigorous evidence-based approach into the decision-making process can also prove particularly effective in helping to achieve buy-in from users, as Anne Murphy highlights in her recent paper, An evidence-based approach to engaging healthcare users in a journal review project. In the meantime, any other advice and suggested strategies for managing the transition will be gratefully received!

5 Jun 2012

Guest post: QQML 2012 Limerick May 22nd - May 25th

Guest post by Peter Reilly, Assistant Librarian, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick

It's the first time this prestigious international conference on Qualitative & Quantitative Methods in Libraries has been held in Ireland. It originated in Greece four years ago and next year it will be held in Rome. So it is imperative that I attend since it is literally on my door step. Although the conference is being held in Limerick at the Absolute hotel, the minute you enter the foyer it has an international feel as the staff operating the conference registration desk are all Greek. The conference attracts delegates from over 60 countries, who have come as far afield as Oman, Kenya, India, Malaysia, New Zealand to name just a few.

The opening keynote speaker was Dr Ching Chih Chen Professor Emerita Simmons College Boston whose presentation "Beyond Digital Libraries / Archives Museums: how to measure, evaluate and assess their impact in terms of value" focused on two major global projects she was involved with - Global Memory Net and World Heritage Memory Net. Her research findings conclude that the next generation of databases will not have individual fields, instead users will search by randomization using only keywords.

The parallel sessions are all chaired and grouped under specific themes, which means you are committed to listening to all five speakers in each one and there is no escape if a presentation doesn't interest you. The session entitled Core Skills Competencies and Qualifications for Today's Reference Librarians focused on the the varying results of studies conducted in USA, France, Australia, Turkey using the exact same questionnaire. According to the findings of the Australian study the most important skills in the next ten years will be online searching, verbal communication, adaptability and social media skills.

One presentation given by a researcher conducting an ongoing ethnographic study of the information behaviour of male juvenile delinquents in Malaysia, revealed that Malaysians are fanatical about UK Premier League soccer. She first engaged these young prisoners by asking them what soccer team they supported. Halfway through the presentation when mentioning this fact, the presenter unzipped her jacket to reveal a Chelsea jersey, which took the audience by surprise.

It was a long day with conference presentations running until 8pm, so I hope I have given a flavour of the first day's proceedings of the QQML 2012 conference.