the library is the arsenal

Friday, September 28, 2007

Library Remix: The Report

Cannoneers: My slightly edited post on the Moodle for my KO, my report follows.

I signed up for the class offered to students by Metro at a steep discount, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the class addressed a lot of the issues we'd been reading about for class (especially the Calhoun report--long but worth skimming). So timely! I thought I'd share some of the info I got there since it relates so well to our readings this week.

The class, called "Library Remix: Putting Library Resources Out Where Users Live & Work," was taught by Matt Goldner, the Executive Director of End User Services at OCLC. We began with an overview of the information environment, the usual statistics about who users turn to first for their information (84% start with Google, Yahoo!, or the like, and 2% start with libraries). It turns out that people do overwhelmingly use libraries, but that they view them less favorably than online search engines. Why do people love search engines? They're simple and they fit themselves into user workflow. Libraries, Mr. Goldner says, need to build their services around user workflow--deliver our collections, services and community (three things that students, at least, say they value in libraries) to the user, on the network, and at the point of need. How?

* Aggregate services around the users:
Discover resources, services, expertise
Deliver items to users where they are
Share and collaborate expertise, recommendations and experiences
* Leverage resources
Expose collections and resources
Utilize existing delivery systems to seamlessly provide delivery options
Deliver to users, wherever they are
* Simple searching & intelligent indexing systems
Give users the info without them having to know library workflow systems
Users share, contribute, participate

We broke off into groups and read articles on various "web 2.0" applications (social networking, tags, etc.) as they related to other businesses and discussed how they could relate to libraries and presented to the group. My notes fall off a bit here, but a few things stuck:

* Perpetual beta library--throw things out there, see what sticks, don't be afraid to make mistakes
* More transparency, make things more readily available

We then broke out into groups again and played around with various "discovery systems" (online library catalogs). More notes from that:

* Librarians ask the OCLC for lots of specialized search functions and indexes that users don't use, don't know how to use. Reference librarians do need this stuff, but users don't. (This strikes me as the strength of MARC and comprehensive cataloging rules--they help librarians. We need to keep in mind that they aren't necessarily useful to the user, though. It seems obvious, but I don't think it is to everyone.)

* The Queens Library catalog uses AquaBrowser, is amazing.
* NOVELNewYork (NY Online Virtual Electronic Library) is a NY State site that licenses journals & databases for the whole state. You can log in using a NY Driver's license or (more confusingly) your NY library card, which then sends you to your local library catalog. Using a driver's license, you can get into the NOVEL system itself. This is a pilot program for the Statewide Internet Library project.

* (Side note: one of the women in the class was on the committee of the Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative, which sounds like a really interesting project, worth checking out.)

Then Mr. Goldner used as a case study for a catalog search that brings itself into the workspace of the user. They've syndicated their information, and shared a lot of that with Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Search. They use FRBR to consolidate the repeat entries. Users can search on Google for a book and find it on WorldCat. makes this process repeatable, however, OCLC expects it to mostly be re-used in other domains. They have created a downloadable search box that you can paste into your website, with good results.

Then we got a great preview of WorldCat Local, a new project that is in pilot testing in Washington (click on the name above to give it a whirl). The program uses the information but tailors it to the local library. Locality is given a higher relevance rating in returned search results. Users can request items from the page, initiate ILL if necessary. You can post reviews of the books, link to social bookmarking sites, and so on, interacting with the library catalog and hopefully making it better. Pretty neat stuff, and they still have a lot of ideas about how to make it even better!

I highly recommend checking out some of these online catalog systems and comparing them to each other and to, say, Google or Amazon. I think the WorldCat projects are pretty innovative. I'm curious about how they're dealing with metadata, but didn't ask. I'll try to follow up with Mr. Goldner if I can and let you know if you're interested.

Another side note, related to the BookSwim site (the one that sends you books like Netflix): Danish libraries have been doing home delivery for ages. They actually lose far fewer books this way. OCLC is working with a handful of libraries in Montana on a home delivery service (free!) and find that they're also losing fewer books than when people actually walk into the library. ILL is similarly better in terms of higher retention levels for books. Interesting.

Alright Cannonworks, do your thing!

CANNON 1: Information as Antelope

starting with the most controversial.