Monday, May 14, 2012

Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association has a NEW website, and we’ve become very active on the whole Access Copyright issue.  Crystal Rose was interviewed on May 27, 2012, for Weekend Arts Magazine regarding MUN, Access Copyright, and NLLA concerns.

Recommended TED Talk from the conference is
Steven Johnson “Where good ideas come from”
Key quote: “Chance favors the connected mind”

And finally, the CU Expo is coming up next year in Corner Brook!
June 12-13, 2013

I’m leading an article discussion group this afternoon around James Weinheimer’s article Revolution in our Minds: Seeing the World Anew posted to his blog ( on 2 February 2012.

The article brought up a LOT of follow up discussion, which I think is really good.  And I think he presented his thesis well to begin with — that we are entering a period of “revolution” in the library world, meaning that we are on the cusp of big change in libraries.  Such a big change that none of us really know what the library world will look like when we come out the other side of this “revolution.”  Think Thomas Kuhn and “paradigm shift.”

In summary, library catalogues of the past really had to be centered around the bibliographic item.  More recently, we find patrons preferring other sources (Google, etc.) to the library catalogue.  WHY???  The question that Weinheimer returns to again and again in his article is:

“What do library users really want?”

He also talks a lot about FRBR, RDA, linked data, and how useful or not those things might be, but I think ultimately he’s coming back around to the issue of how to continue to make libraries relevant in whatever world is currently emerging — and whatever world will be in the future.  Even though we are desperately trying to move forward, it would seem that we are clinging to what we’ve done in the past — or as he says trying to make a better horse and buggy.

But focusing back on what do library users really want, the question I’d like to discuss with my colleagues this afternoon is

“What do university students want from their academic library?”

We certainly know they want the computer commons in the library.  There are line ups for the computers in the library when there are practically vacant computer labs elsewhere on campus.

But aside from the physical space, which does seem to be important to the students, what do they really want in terms of research help.  And on the flip side

“What research skills do librarians want students to learn?”

I think the students are probably happy that I am now happily ensconced in the cataloguing world far away from the reference desk.  During the years I was on the reference desk, I was always torn between just “giving them the answer” and “teaching them to find the answer for themselves.”

For some things it was easy to combine both: “Let me show you how to search the catalogue to find where the book is in the library.  See the call number?  That indicates where it is in the stacks.”  The student got what he wanted, it only took 2 minutes, and I was fairly certain he’d know how to find a book based on call number in the future.

For other things, it’s not so easy to combine both: “Let me show you how to find references to support the paper you’re writing.  First, we’ll look for books in the catalogue, then perhaps go to the reference section, then find some journal articles…”  A lot of students glaze over when they hear there’s going to be more than one step. More than one place they’ll have to enter their search terms!?  Are you crazy?!  And there I was, trying to coax them along, trying to convince them it was fun.  Because if I think it’s fun, surely they must as well?…  A recipe for frustration on both sides!

So where is the balance?  We’re moving over to Serials Solutions one stop, one box, get everything you want with one search.  It’s apparently what the students want.  And I guess it’s a step forward — I’m certainly not arguing against it…

But then, it feels a little bit like giving them a hammer when what they really need is a screwdriver.  Are we really doing them a favor by giving them the hammer just because that’s what they want?  Are undergraduates really in a position to know what they need in terms of research help?  And isn’t it our job to teach them?

I agree with James Weinheimer that we’re on the cusp of a revolution and things are going to look very different in the library world 20 years from now.  I agree that we need to be focusing more on what our users WANT in order to remain relevant — rather than demanding that they adjust to fit what we have to give them.  But particularly in terms of academic libraries and university students, I worry that research skills (what librarians think students NEED) are being pushed to the side simply so students can find “some stuff” to put in their reference lists.

He actually sums up the whole issue, I think, in his penultimate follow up post to the article on February 23. After a description of the “zillions” of courses, videos, discussions, etc. available online, he states:

These are vital materials, and the public clearly wants them.  This has little to do immediately with bibliographic metadata but with selection policies.  However, if those materials get selected, then cataloging gets swamped.  And then how does reference deal with it?

What is the solution to this? As I said before: I don’t know.  Nobody does.  But it is clear that the old methods won’t work any more.  Certainly, massaging our current metadata and putting it into Linked Data may help somewhat but is clearly only a part of any solution.  Perhaps a small part.  The entire library must cooperate to come up with a solution.  And I hope, this will include the meaningful input of our patrons, who can tell us what they really want.

The whole discussion throughout his article and the follow up posts leaves me feeling a bit ill at ease.  If we don’t know the solution, what do we do next?  And I guess I ultimately have to come around and agree with the solution that he provides, which is to try something… anything.  If whatever you try doesn’t work, then stop doing it and try something else.

Going back to his original article, he states that in the scenario in which we find ourselves, “genuine failures must be defined as:

  1. not trying anything at all
  2. not communicating to other the results of your trial and error attempts, or of course
  3. refusing to admit that you are on the wrong road after it has become clear that it is not going where you want.”

Certainly, at my library we are trying new things and discussing them, and we have admitted that we’ve taken some wrong paths (and stopped moving down those paths), so really we’re doing alright.

I just wish I could see where we’ll be 20 years from now.

I attended a webinar with David Weinberger last night, in which he talked about his book “Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room”

I’ve been intrigued with this book and his earlier book “Everything is Miscellaneous” since they came across my radar a few weeks ago.  He reportedly addresses issues of organization on the Internet, and also mentions a lot about Cataloguing and Classification.  What librarian wouldn’t want to read about that!?

Full webinar will be available here:

Here are a few of my notes from the webinar.  And in the spirit of “putting it out there” before it’s been “nailed down,” I haven’t filtered my notes very much…

Our conception of knowledge for the past 200 (2000?) years has been tied to paper and its limitations.

Our knowledge is characterized by the paper limitation, but it turns out that is quite fragile.  As soon as we got a new medium (Internet), we began to realize how ill-founded those institutions are.

Limitations of paper based recording led us to have a simpler belief that the world is more knowable than it actually is…

We have entered an era of publishing first and filtering afterward.  We put the knowledge out there before it’s been “nailed down.”

Knowledge is that upon which we settle. Plato: “Knowledge is justified true belief.”

Knowledge in many ways now is UNSETTLED and we’re finding a great deal of value in that.

In the realm of big data, the data that is being released has not been “cleaned.”  Curation doesn’t scale.

Cloud of experts has value because of the disagreement.  Disagreement makes the knowledge better.

In Science, there is a move away from peer review (e.g.,; M. Nielson’s book “Reinventing discovery”)

Knowledge is taking on the properties of the network – no longer the properties of paper.


I’ve been reading through the last ALCTS-eforum on “Advocacy for Technical Services” – one of the best eforums I’ve lurked so far.

Found a link to this ( blog, which I think is amazing.

And I wanted to re-post from highvisibilitycataloguing, the image below.

For the full post, go to:

Karen Coyle is an inspiring speaker.  I really enjoyed her presentation on Linked Data during the MidWinter pre-conference (

One of the things she really drove home is the fact that we need to be investing in fields associated with data, not fields associated with text.  For something like a title to become “data” and not just be text in a 245, there must be a unique identifier associated with it.  There was some discussion at the end of the pre-conference about how to do that in a simple fashion with MARC records.  It was suggested that we could begin using the $0(zero) subfield, which in RDA will be defined to contain a unique identifier, and is allowable to add to any field (at least as I heard it).  The RDA $0 apparently was not created with the intention of adding URIs to every field, but it’s the best solution to transforming MARC records to linked data that I’ve yet heard.

The above is a bit of an aside, however…

Karen mentioned her “5 star Linked Data” mug.  That ends with the question “Is your data 5 [star]?”  Here’s what’s on the mug:

Linked Data
* On the web, open-license
** Machine-readable data
*** Non-proprietary format
**** RDF standards
***** Linked RDF

Karen went on to reword each of the 5 stars, and then added a “5 star +”

* Data, not text
** Identifiers for things
*** Statements, not records
**** Machine-readable schema
***** Machine-readable lists
*****+ Open Access on the Web

What she means by “open access on the Web” is that once libraries have edited the MARC records they have in their local catalogues, they should then re-share them – make it possible for anyone to easily take the information they have added while tailoring a MARC record to fit the item they have in their library.

I guess some would argue that we already do this with OCLC, but then, there are a lot of limitations that OCLC places on the records they accept.  I can guarantee that content of the records my library has attached to in OCLC are not an accurate reflection of content of the records we have in our local catalogue.

So why don’t we figure out a way to just put our local records out there for the taking?

I’m really not sure.

More of what I learned at ALA MidWinter…

So at ALA MidWinter, I saw a presentation by the guy who started the “Typo of the day for librarians” posted to AUTOCAT and a few other places.

I was a bit abashed that I didn’t realize the significance of sending the typo of the day out over AUTOCAT.  I just thought it was just a notification of yet another way that human data entry is not ideal, but can sometimes be amusing…

It’s so you can check and fix the typo in your catalogue.

Huh.  How come that didn’t occur to me previously!?

Though the other really cool thing that he pointed out was the idea that by fixing that typo in your catalogue on that day, you’re joining in a shared activity with other librarians around the world.

It’s also a way to spend just a little bit of time improving your catalogue each day (if you can spare a little time).

Which brings me around to something else that was discussed at ALA MidWinter.

“Do we have enough time to switch our systems over to linked data?”

This question was posed in the preconference session I went to, and though not directly discussed in any other sessions I attended, the theme seemed to be there in the background throughout.

The short answer, I think, is yes.  Creating an RDA record doesn’t take that much longer than creating a “normal” MARC record, according to those in the know.  Although, according to the preconference, RDA might just be a step in our evolution leading to RDF and URIs, or some other incarnation of linked data.

A lot of people at the conference, and one in particular in the preconference session, were really scared that RDA and moving forward toward a linked data world would mean putting on a extra task that would become the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  Librarians are at a point they’re feeling stretched too thin (budget cuts, staff cuts, etc), and one in particular commented that it’s hard to think about the future of libraries when you’re not sure if you’ll have a job next week (just ask people at Harvard).  Librarians want

I do believe that RDA and RDF/URIs (LINKED DATA) will actually make our lives easier and cause us less work/stress in the long term.  Once linked data gets a good foothold, I think cataloguing will actually become easier and faster.  The folks at Ex Libris talk about an ILS in which the authorized forms are brought to you, rather than you having to leave your record to go search for an authorized form.

It’s just a matter of convincing “everyone else” and getting buy in.

Oh, and we actually need an ILS that can handle RDA and RDF.  I saw hints of those systems at MidWinter.  I’m hoping to see even more at Annual in June.

Preconference session:

Libraries, Linked Data, and the Semantic Web

Eric Miller

Libraries in the Web: weaving a web of data

What did I get from this session?

We need to move away from MARC, though we all agree that MARC format is amazing (it’s lasted 40+ years!).

It’s just not very friendly for sharing data with and among machines.

The Web is “primarily to date designed for human consumption.”

Linked data is “a term used to describe a recommended best practice for exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data, information, and knowledge on the Semantic Web using URIs and RDF.”

Integration is (becoming) “a rich tapestry of investing in each others’ identifiers” as we “leave data where it naturally resides, and make it easy to connect people, data, and applications.”

Integration is NOT “heaping all your data and links in one application.”

RDF is “the common model for representing web data”

URI points to another URI

Eric Miller’s main point:

As it becomes increasingly possible for ANYONE to make connections, it’s going to become an issue of WHO YOU TRUST to make those connections.

Libraries have an obvious place at that table…

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