30 Jan 2013

Could 2013 be the Year of Responsive Design?

Rather than tailoring disconnected designs each tailored to a particular device or browser, we should treat them as facets of the same experience. In other words we can craft sites that are not only more flexible, but that can adapt to the media that renders them.

2012 was perhaps the year of the M-word (that's MOOC, in case you missed it) and open access, both of which captured the mainstream's attention for various reasons. This year it may be the turn of Responsive Design (or "I'm not saying native apps are dead but....").

I blogged about this idea some time ago, and I still hold a similar view. I think HTML5-based web apps will continue to grow at the expense of native mobile apps, as content providers realise that responsive design can often offer a far more elegant solution. Digital publishers must now now only consider downscaling desktop design for smartphones and tablets, but also upscaling it for TV. As HTML5 is accessible through any browser it means anyone can access it; with a native app you need an iOS version, an Android version, a Windows version (well, possibly :)).

Many people don't just use mobile devices to access content on the go, but more generally also. From a content provision perspective (particularly for publishers of journals, newspapers etc.) responsive design can work really well (The Boston Globe is one example, though they also have a mobile app alongside it, so make of that what you will!). In the context of library websites, evidence suggests a lot of people still view static information like opening hours and contact details from their phones. You don't need an app for that; good responsive design makes much more sense. However, the growing use of mobile devices does provide an opportunity to rethink your overall content strategy in general. Content providers normally pare down and streamline their information delivery significantly for mobiles, but if it's not important enough for the mobile environment, is it really valuable content at all? Delivering a more targeted and less cluttered content approach across all devices may well be a more successful way of reaching your users.

That said, there are obviously contexts where apps can add real value compared with simply viewing information in a browser. Content aimed at creating rich interactive experiences for users or apps that utilise functionality specific to certain devices (for instance, augmented reality apps that tourists can use on their phones) are some examples where native apps still make sense. Apps can also offer benefits from a branding and marketing point of view by creating unique and memorable experiences for the user, and this can apply for libraries also. So mobile apps may well be sticking around for the next while, but the nature and quantity of them may be very different to what we see today.

29 Jan 2013

BiblioTech – a public library without books

There are interesting developments to report from the digital libraries frontier. The first digital-only public library, BiblioTech, will pilot in Bexar County this coming autumn.

The library is designed for the digital age and will offer about 10,000 e-books to start with. Access is also provided to desktop, laptop and tablet computers as well as study spaces, meeting rooms and a designated interactive children’s area. Patrons can either borrow e-readers or bring their own (see press release for further details).

No details have been released as to which e-book distribution service will be recruited, but 3M Cloud Library could well be a viable contender for the provision of the necessary technical infrastructure.

The driver of this initiative, Judge Nelson W. Wolf, regards the bookless library not as an exclusive alternative, but rather as an experimental add-on to the traditional public library service. A comparative example within the academic library context would be Drexel’s Library Learning Terrace (a decentralised library in the shape of a bookless and flexible learning space that includes computers providing access to the school’s digital library resources near where graduates live and eat on campus; see Howard, 2011 for more detail).

But pushing a bookless library service onto the stratified citizen, rather than then the tech-savvy student, is a more complex story altogether. For example, challenges revolve around the creation of an easily accessible technical environment that will make interaction (retrieval and borrowing etc.) with electronic books a straight forward and intuitive experience for all public users. Another issue is that of digital rights management as the business model shifts from content ownership to content licensing, i.e. e-books are not always owned when purchased by libraries.

Another challenge is the potential for limited discovery of e-book content as libraries want a single, easy-to-use, easy-to-search platform: many platforms offer restricted interoperability (see for example Overdrive, 3M, ProQuest, EBSCO). Considered should also be the limitations for interlibrary loan opportunities due to potential operational limitations set by e-book vendors.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the BiblioTech experiment pans out once it goes live.

Sendze M. The E-Book Experiment. Public Libraries [serial online]. January 2012;51(1):34-37. Available from: Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 23, 2013.
See also Charles Hamaker ‘Ebooks on Fire: Controversies Surrounding Ebooks in Libraries

24 Jan 2013

Research Project on Trust and Authority in Scholarly Communications

I am currently working on a research project with CIBER Research UK Ltd and the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee funded by the Alfred. P. Sloan foundation examining how decisions on trust and authority in scholarly communications are being changed (or not) by developments in digital technology.

We are looking at how scholars decide what to trust when searching for information and also how they judge which is the most authoritative place to publish their results. A key question is whether emerging social media channels present any real challenge to the well established high impact factor journal route to academic prestige? This links into previous debate on libfocus on the growth of altmetrics.

In terms of searching for information do academics use Google as freely as we tend to assume their students do or are they relying on their own specialist sources? All these questions are important to libraries as they concern how people make the complex assessment of what defines quality information that they can trust. Changes in where scholars publish will also eventually have an effect on the type of information resources that libraries hold.

The study is international but the qualitative data is being collected from the USA and UK for this phase of the research and I am interviewing academics from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has views or experience on the topics covered by this research project. Please contact me on clare.v.thornley[at]gmail[dot]com.

Further information on this project can be found at utk.edu and ciber-research.eu.
Posted on Thursday, January 24, 2013 | Categories:

20 Jan 2013

Library Innovation Survey

The survey below might be of interest to you.

Sarah and Heather are two librarians in Seattle who are doing research on innovation in libraries for an upcoming book chapter and conference presentation. If you are a librarian or library worker, we would appreciate if you could take a few moments to let us know about your experience with innovation at your library. Thank you for your time!

Is innovation a priority--either explicit or implicit--in your organization?

Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 | Categories:

18 Jan 2013

Strategies for encouraging IR deposits

I attended last Wednesday’s RSP webinar, where Rebecca Kennison of the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship at Columbia University gave us a flavour of their IR advocacy approach.

Given the prominence and sheer scale of their IR, it is probably no surprise to anyone that such a sophisticated operation deploys clever advocacy strategies that seem to successfully capture research output at every opportunity. 

From the outset Rebecca noted that their approach is perfectly suitable for any IR operation: I agree in principle with the caveat in mind, though, that adequate manpower is in place.

In many ways, Columbia’s advocacy approach revolves around common sense. The items listed below indicate as much:
  • Interact with the research community in such a way that individual researcher’s needs are met at all times
  • Keep communication simple (thus effective)
  • IR operations should form part of the researcher’s workflow (an unspectacular and natural extension of their activities)
  • Create a personal feeling (get out there physically and talk to people)
  • Appeal to vanity (healthy egos do exist)
  • Be mindful of what’s going on in the publishing community that your researchers are active in
  • Accept anything researchers want preserved (data sets included)
  • Offer prompt solutions to individual problems (copyright, deposit etc.)
  • Maintain meaningful contact with all IR stakeholders
    • Communicate responses to news coverage of research
    • Utilise social media to keep people in the loop (#, @)
    • Create and distribute monthly statistics
People activities include new-student orientations, a steady presence at departmental meetings and the running of workshops that cover dissertation preparation, copyright awareness and personal data management. Library, teacher and administration colleagues represent natural champions for IRs as they frequently interact with the target community.

Most importantly, the act of self-depositing must be a straightforward affair. Interestingly, Columbia University enables users to tweet their contribution at the point of self-deposit; self-depositing researchers can thus spread the news instantly.

Another important factor is SEO for Google Scholar. Check out in particular Indexing Repository Content in Google Scholar and the Google Scholar Blog.

I also like the fact that dissertations published on Proquest are included in their IR via metadata feedback including the full text of items.

Interesting is also the Open Access Resolution workflow deployed by Columbia and the ultimate scenario of a smooth self-deposit process (refer to archived webinar for detail).

(As an aside, also check out COAR's IR training materials)

15 Jan 2013

LAI Career Development Group Open Day - 2nd Feb 2013

CDG Open Day 2013:
Alternative careers for librarians and information professionals

Our friends in the LAI Career Development Group are holding an open day on Saturday 2nd February in Pearse Street Library, with a great line-up of speakers (and tea, biscuits & networking!).

The event is free and more details including how to register, are available on the CDG blog.

14 Jan 2013

Implementing strategies to encourage institutional repository deposits - RSP webinar

RSP will run a one-hour webinar this Wednesday from 3pm - 4pm on the subject of how to go about securing IR deposits within the context of academic institutions.

In this free RSP webinar, Rebecca Kennison, Director of the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship at Columbia University (USA), will present examples on how to encourage deposits for the institutional repository and how advocacy for deposits can be implemented among the academics. (RSP)

The webinar is targeted at IR managers and librarians with an interest in this area. To book yourself a place see here

13 Jan 2013

Are we only writing for ourselves? The research-practice divide in LIS

Practitioners (as authors) write primarily for practitioners, academics (as authors) write mainly for academics. As a consequence, there is a gap between the communities of LIS academics and LIS practitioners.
(Schlögl & Stock, 2008, p. 661)

Image by Tony Hall
As I librarian, I am interested not only in the role that scholarly publishing and communication plays in the broader scientific community, but also within the LIS profession itself. The theory-practice divide between LIS faculty and LIS practitioners (please forgive my use of 'librarian' as shorthand henceforth!) is something I have been thinking about a lot lately .

Most librarians see their role primarily as providing a service, and this service is not producing research but rather supporting research. However, professional and personal intuition in decision-making can only take us so far, and it is difficult to expect our practice to improve and develop significantly if we do not use the best evidence available to guide and inform our approach to service delivery. How many librarians regularly read LIS journals for no particularly purpose other than to stay informed and up to date? Access to subscription resources may be a very real barrier here (particularly outside of HE institutions), but thankfully there are also some excellent OA publications these days. This of course, is the idea behind evidence-based librarianship, but without librarians conducting research themselves there would be no evidence to use (especially if Schlögl & Stock are correct in their view that academics may often neglect the issues which are most pressing for practice).

However, the benefits from undertaking research accrue beyond its inherent value as a decision-making tool. Surely advice on research impact and publishing is more authentic and credible when proffered by a librarian who has experienced the challenges and intricacies of the process themselves? Moreover, research is a learning process in itself, and one which challenges the researcher to consider new perspectives and appraise existing ones, skills which are transferable to many contexts in library management. So what can be done to encourage more librarians to undertake and publish research themselves? There are of course very real barriers in this respect, and Kennedy & Brancolini provide a useful overview of some of the key issues.

However, a larger consideration is perhaps who we are writing for. I believe that sometimes librarians may not give themselves enough credit, preferring to focus on more professional- or practice-based publications. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, publishing in more scholarly publications will perhaps help to raise awareness of work-based or lower-profile issues. If practitioners worry that their primary intended audience (e.g. other librarians) won't read their work if they publish in more academic-oriented publications, perhaps there is a deeper problem here. And of course we are not just restricted to LIS publications in this regard. Cross-disciplinary research and publishing in non-LIS-specific venues might be more challenging, but the future benefit and impact may be tenfold by helping to integrate and embed our relevance in a broader context. Perhaps we should also be writing more for our users? Blogs and other social media channels can deliver obvious value in this space. After all, the more that we learn and share with our users, colleagues and the wider scientific community, the greater the value we can ultimately deliver to our communities.

Schlögl, C., & Stock, W. G. (2008). Practitioners and academics as authors and readers: the case of LIS journals. Journal of Documentation, 64(5), 643-666.

Posted on Sunday, January 13, 2013 | Categories: ,

6 Jan 2013

#irelibchat: Marketing & Promotion - Tues Jan 15th 8-9pm

#irelibchat returns after a Christmas break on Tuesday 15th January at 8pm with the topic of Marketing & Promotion in LIS. This is an aspect of library and information services that is growing in importance all the time, as we seek to retain the loyalty of our existing users and to attract new ones. However, it involves more than just putting up a few posters and starting a library Facebook page (do our users even want to see us on Facebook?) Some suggested questions for discussion are below, but feel free to share any of your  ideas or success stories regarding how you showcase your services and skills.

What channels & methods do you typically use to promote your services?
What elements are important in effective marketing & promotion? (e.g. consistency, timeliness, design, originality, integration?)
Do you have a clear brand, USP or tagline that you actively sell to your users?
Do you think that social media and tools (e.g. Twitter!) will continue to be a key marketing channel for Irish libraries? If so, what can we do to exploit this?
How can we market and promote our services more effectively to non-users?

To join in, simply search for the #irelibchat tag on Twitter and remember to tag your own tweets as well so that others can find them.

3 Jan 2013

A Year to Improved Productivity for Librarians and Academic Researchers

An online knowledge management and productivity course courtesy of Mary Axford and Crystal Renfro from the Academic Personal Knowledge Management blog. One for the calendars of 23 Things fans and New Year's resolutionists! For more information, visit their blog.

“A Year to Improved Productivity for Librarians and Academic Researchers”. 
The course will consist of 26 lessons; one lesson will be posted every two weeks on our blog. Inspired by Helene Blowers’ 23 Things and created from an idea by Crystal Renfro, each lesson will consist of background on the topic, suggested readings, and exercises. Each lesson should not take more than an hour or two to complete.

What will be covered?
The lessons fall into one of three sections: (1) How to Improve Productivity, with lessons including What is PKM, Attention and Focus, Calendars, Productivity Apps, and Notebook software; (2) How to Create an Efficient Academic Workflow, with lessons including the Concept of Academic Workflow, Citation Software, Alerting Services, and Mindmaps; and (3) How to Develop a Learning Network, which includes lessons What is a Learning Network, Which Social Network Tool is for You, Effective Online Professional Image; and Tools Facilitating Further Training to name only a few of the topics planned.