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Archive for the ‘Technology & Devices’ Category

Browsing other browsers

Posted by knockels on 1 February, 2010

Since I stopped working at places that used Netscape, I’ve only really used Internet Explorer. Recently, though, I have come into contact with other things (OK, I admit that one of the “other things” is also IE, but bear with me!)

Firstly, I teach one student group that do everything on laptops with Linux, Open Office and Firefox.    The Library has one such machine (to help enquiry staff see things as Firefox users see them, but it has been very handy for me!).   We looked at PubMed, Web of Science and RefWorks in a recent session and had no difficulties (apart from me downloading documents and then not being able to find them). 

Then, my home laptop has Internet Explorer 8 (I installed this as part of a regular Windows Update).   It has tabs, like IE7.  But it has various features that can suggest related sites or search results to you – an enhanced search box which suggests sites to you, and buttons that suggest sites related to the one that you are looking at.  I don’t have the enhanced search box, and I haven’t yet got on very well with the button, so more research needed.  Right clicking things also allows you to quickly send Google Mail email, or blog about things.

The thing that caught my eye, though, about IE8 is the “InPrivate” facility.   This opens a new browser window which does not record any history of what you have looked at.    As long as the “InPrivate” logo is at the start of the address bar, it will not predict sites as you type into that bar, and going to favorites and history will list nothing.    According to Microsoft’s IE8 webpages, this is aimed at people who want to check personal email on a shared PC (in an internet cafe, perhaps), or who want to order presents online.   I can imagine that it might enable all sorts of things to go on, and it does not seem to be possible to turn it off.

Last of all, Google Chrome.   I recently installed Real Player on my laptop and was offered this, so thought “why not”.    I have looked at library webpages and it seems fine, and very quick, which is one of its selling points.   But when I tried to access the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch site to report results, it hung and nothing happened.    More experimentation needed.   I would be interested to hear (or read!) of others’ experience.

We may have users who have these various browsers, so it is good to see them, and hopefully to remember that the browser may be playing a part in any problems we are trying to troubleshoot.  It is fair enough to have a preferred one for University purposes, perhaps, but we need to be aware of the wider browsing world.


Posted in Digital Strategy & Website, Technology & Devices | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Innovations in Reference Management Part 3

Posted by selinalock on 25 January, 2010

Moving Targets: the role of web preservation in supporting sustainable citation (Richard Davis & Kevin Ashley)

This was a rather different talk to most of the others at the event as it was looking more at the question of how we can cite the preserved version of ephemeral type of data, such as blogs, that we often see on the web these days.

  • Some web preservation already happening: URI/DOI/Handles & other solutions, Wayback machine and UK Webarchive.
  • Are we educating people to use links to sustainable archives/ Should we be recommending linking to the UK Webarchive version and not the original version?
  • Used the example of citing a blog post that might disappear.
  • Will our “collections” look different in future, will they be blog type posts rather than journal articles or books?
  • Talked about the JISC project ArchivePress which allows you to use a RSS feed to create a preserved blog archive: this will allow Universities to create their own repository of blogs. For example, it could integrate with Research Repositories that use applications like DSpace. Should the Leicester Research archive be looking into preserving research blogs as well as other research outputs?
  • Heidelberg University and others have created a Citation Repository for transitory web pages: this was specifically to deal with the problem that their researchers were having when researching China, due to the volatile nature of the Chinese internet. There might be rights issues with this approach but many of the original web pages had disappeared.
  • Should we be teaching people about sustainable resources/publishing as part of our information literacy efforts?
  • Can argue that citing a URL is like citing the shelfmark of a book in a library, as it’s the location of the information rather than the information itself. Should we be looking for a better citation system?
  • Possible solutions: Institutions can offer archive mechanisms, authors need to use archive mechanisms, if a blog is being preserved than it needs to expose that permanent citable link for people to use (e.g. ArchivePress link) and permalinks should be a bit more “perm”!

Help me Igor – taking references outside traditional environments (Euan Adie,

Euan gave an overview of some of the projects they are working on as part of the remit:

  • Looked at how referencing might be achieved if you were using GoogleWave as a collaborative tool to write articles etc.
  • Decided to create a 3rd party GoogleWave widget called Igor.
  • Igor lets you fetch references from Connotea or PubMed and insert them into the Wave: it does this by typing in a command in Wave.
  • Igor uses an open API to retrieve data (XML or RDF) and is only a proof of concept widget at the moment. it is OpenSource and people are welcome to develop it further.
  • Euan did point out that the formats that most reference software uses (RIS/BIBtex) are not very easy to use with web APIs.
  • Mentioned ScienceBlogs: an initiative to aggregate well known science blogs through E.g. finds if blogs link to Nature articles (via html, DOI, PubMed): blogs already comment on articles when they’re published so Nature wants to link the comments/blog posts to the articles.
  • Have a API available that allows you to feed in am article DOI and see what blogs aggregated through mention that article.
  • Mobile devices: have made Mac app Papers available on iPhone. thinks people are not as likely to read articles on mobiles but save the reference for later instead.
  • always willing to experiment and collaborate with other projects.

Posted in Collection management, Meetings, Referencing, Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Online Catalogue and Repository Interoperability report

Posted by gazjjohnson on 11 November, 2009

I’ve just finished reading the OCRIS final report, a weighty 74 page document that looks at the interaction (or as it transpires lack thereof) between HE IRs and OPACs.  I can’t say from reading the report that this conclusion shocked me, I can only think off hand of a couple of institutions where there have been any significant moves towards this.  That said the study comes at a rather useful time for us here at Leicester, as we look at how to make the LRA interact with more systems with a mind not only to enhancing data exchange, but also to make the information within the repository more readily discoverable.

Some highlights that caught my eye

  • p17/8 System Overview: An overview of library OPAC and IR systems in the UK.  A useful set of quick reference tables that I’ll be referring back to in the future I suspect.
  • p25 Services: Those currently supported by IRs.  If anything this is a handy tick list to spot if there are any holes/opportunities in activities we are running at Leicester
  • p31  Vertical searching: I’d not come across the phrase really before, but the idea of segmenting search discovery certainly sounds interesting.  I’ll be watching out for more on this in the coming year.
  • p52 WebBridge: We’ve a links resolver here that we’re looking at linking in more closely with the repository.  A necessary first step to draw our paid for and freely provided information resources together, and encourage reuse of LRA objects by staff and students.
  • p56 Recommendations: A page I hope that will be read by more than just myself – spelling out the potential benefits from establishing greater inter-system interoperability.  Noting as well that only 2% of their sample consider their IR and OPAC as definitely interoperating at the moment.
  • p58 Flexibility:  The focus on bibliographic staff and their work across IRs is slightly odd, when few institutions explicitly use cataloguing staff – although I know this is on the rise.  Certainly our LRA team uses more specialised support for creating records and copyright investigation, but that wouldn’t mean I wouldn’t be keen to explore how our cataloguers could lend a much needed hand.
  • p58 Leverage: I do have my doubts though about the ready availability of in-house experts to modify IRs to interoperate.  In my experience and with those I’ve spoken to around the country, often technical support time is something that is much valued by other services, and something for which the IR has to compete to arrange.  Certainly the expertise is there, but is the staff resource? 
  • p60: Fragmentation: “Forward thinking library staff don’t want [system] fragmentation.” I’d agree, but wanting it and achieving it are a big challenge when you look at the mix of proprietary and open source resources that make up a HEIs information infrastructure.  Certainly we work towards it, but I think we’re a long way off from achieving it.

Others with a more technical mind may well get even more out of this report than I did.  It’s certainly a very useful and eye opening read in some places, whilst in others I found myself nodding along with conclusions that I’ve certainly experienced.  It does offer more grist to the mill for those trying to find support for achieving inter-operability, and it also provides a useful snapshot of the current UK HEI IR/OPAC scene.  While I don’t 100% agree with all of its suggested recommendations I will remain interested in seeing how JISC and the community respond to it.

Posted in Open Access, Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kindle: First impressions in the Library

Posted by gazjjohnson on 27 October, 2009

What could it be?Last week my boss asked me to go ahead and purchase a Kindle for the Library to trial.  Ordered it around 3pm on Friday and it was on my desk early yesterday afternoon.  First impressions (and comparing it to the Sony reader I trialed last December) aren’t bad.  Some gut reactions:


  • Wireless works out of the box* – with no set up
  • Manual almost not needed – intuitive to use
  • Access to Wikipedia and works flawlessly
  • Nice look and feel – keys and case
  • Navigation around the menus feels modern and slickFirst looks promising
  • Electronic paper impresses again with clarity
  • USB charger works happily with my PC
  • Joystick works well as selection tool


  • Screen smaller than Sony
  • Heavier than I expected
  • 3G Wireless crippled in UK (currently)
  • £200+ is still a bit much when it only comes bundled with a dictionary & user guide
  • Annotation of text bit tricky
  • No stylus or touchscreen functionality
  • Not in colour
  • Doesn’t recognise native PDF documents placed on it

I quite like the Kindle, even now 24hrs later when the “WOW!” factor is wearing off.  I’m finding the smaller screen (than the Sony) isn’t bothering me quite so much now.  I enjoyed flicking it on for the first time on the train last night (it needed a three hour charge first) and being on wikipedia less than 30 seconds later.  I even liked that it said “Hello Gareth” when it booted.

Sitting happily on the deskSo in terms of usability I would say the Kindle has the slight edge – certainly the plastic coated metal protected me from holding onto a cold metal object out of doors (something the Sony fell down on).  The keyboard layout looks slightly odd at first (it is QWERTY but aligned like a PDA not a keyboard) but was responsive to the touch.  Actually all the keys click nicely without too much of a clunk.

The shame is that the 3G mobile internet browsing has been locked out in the UK.  Can’t Google, can’t Twitter, can’t Facebook.  Can’t even read my email – so as a replacement for a netbook, 3G phone or PDA the Kindle fails.  Yes it looks nice and easy to buy books from, but I’ve not been able to locate any free ones nor have I been able to put my own PDFs on to read.  That alone would have made it very handy in the library sense – got an interlibrary loan?  Zap – there you go, read it on your Kindle.  So far as I can see so far though, this isn’t the case.

Close up of the joystickIn this regards the Kindle begins to raise the same worries in me that have kept me away from Apples iPod/iTunes network – the push to the proprietary media/documents only.  When I have an electronic reading device I want it to read my documents – not just the documents you choose to sell to me.  AntiPirary? Or just my inexperience…yes it appears the latter.  A search of the manual reveals that the Kindle can handle electronic texts, but only in Kindle (.azw, azw1), text (.txt), unprotected mobipocket (.mob1, .prc), audible (.aa, .aax) or MP3 formats.  That seems a real let down.

There is a service whereby you can email your PDFs to Amazon, and then for a fee (these are my documents remember) have them transfer wirelessly to the Kindle.  You can get around this by having it emailed back to you.  Unfortunately in terms of securely electronic delivery PDFs from the British Library, well frankly that wouldn’t work.  But for others, I can see it’s an area where we might be entertaining a little experimentation – if anyone else has tried this, let me know how it worked out for you!

Close up on the keysThat’s it – my first reactions to the Kindle.  Not perfect, not a world beater and by no means the must have item this Christmas.  Would I buy it for myself?  Frankly no, not as it currently is configured or priced.  Personally I’ll be waiting for a reader with flawless wireless, that allows me to upload and read native PDFs rather than passing them through a clunky two handed email exchange, and with touchscreen functionality.  Oh, and can I have two screens so it feels more like reading a book?  If the Nintendo DS can do it…

* Actually the only place the wireless hasn’t worked is right here at my desk!  Our building being somewhat of a shield for mobile phone signals.

Posted in Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Libraries of the Future dissected

Posted by gazjjohnson on 23 July, 2009

Watching the recently released JISC Libraries of the Future video.  Some reactions and thoughts, with time stamps so you can jump to the right point.

  • 00:20 Long intro for a 9 min video
  • 00:32 Indeed, the physical space of the library isn’t the be-all and end all anymore.  Nor has it been to be honest all the years I’ve been a professional.
  • 00:45 Who are these people?  On screen names might have been a good idea – most of these talking heads haven’t got immediate recognition factor (I know if I’d been on there no one would know I was without a caption!)
  • 01:12  First mention of Google.  Is this the library of the future?  These two guys I will say are pretty typical of most of my students.
  • 01:25 Oh that’s who she is, Director of Oxford Libraries. Would have been useful to know earlier.
  • 01:39 Yep, mobile devices are the future (and indeed present) of an increasing number of students accessing information.  How many of our information resources we provide are m-compatible?  Indeed hands up those of you who have access to mobile devices comparable to the students to test them out?  Thought so…
  • 01:50 More clued up information literate student comments.  Uses books too, that’s a shocker – can’t be a scientist.
  • 02:12 Technology as enabler not driver?  I think it’s a bit of both personally.  24/7 global access is real demand, and usually satisfied I’d say.  24/7 support on the other hand…
  • 02:40 Really warming to Sarah Thomas (Oxford).  Never met her, but she seems an insightful individual.
  • 02:53 Oh now you suggest technology is a catalyst for change as well. 
  • 03:00 Technology lets you work smarter, but you have to change to make use of it. Yep, agree, old paradigms just don’t hold in Library 2.0.
  • 03:20 Popular themes for libraries of the future.  First talking head still talking about the library as a physical space, I think less and less that the space will be so crucial.  But that’s only opinion.  But a fair point raised about study space, rather than storage space as a crucial continuing role.
  • 03:58 The library will be like a bee hive?  Filled with workers, and drones thrown out to die when their purpose is through?  Not quite the enabling metaphor I’d have hoped for.  I don’t think bees show excitement, more a work ethic.
  • 04:25 Sounds like the DWL fullfils many of these criteria for a future library, which is quite heartening.
  • 05:06 Libraries as contributors to knowledge base.  Nothing new, this is what we’ve been doing for years, exposing our catalogues, websites and information and making sure the metadata is discoverable.  Certainly the repository is doing this!
  • 05:13 What does the future hold for the librarians?  Early retirement somewhere hot would be nice.
  • 05:29 The old fashioned librarian is a “detail oriented, highly introspective individual”. Erm, not me then, ah but the modern librarian is an entrepreneurial, enthusiastic and more outward looking.  Yeah, that’s me, clearly I’m future proofed.  But what do we do with all the old librarians who don’t meet this specification? Retrain?
  • 05:55 Loss of face to face contact with users.  Sad but true, hence the need to engage with them through other channels.  Blogs, twitter etc.
  • 06.28 Academic image and card catalogue juxtaposed.  Surely no one is using those in academia anymore?
  • 06:39 This video brought to you by JISC and the number 9.
  • 07:12 Libraries need to change the way they work and support learning, teaching and research.  Ah, but many of us are already.  Good to hear about levels of investment from JISC though towards this end.
  • 07:51 The sound track hardly screams modern with its classical violins.
  • 08:16 Global environment, but no mention of potential competitors for library services.  Whither Google University and the like.  I think there are some big sharks out there that we need to be aware of, ready to pounce unless we’re more mobile/adaptable and promoting the real USPs that we libraries and librarians offer to our fee paying users.
  • 08:29 This year long JISC campaign and debate, don’t recall engaging in it myself.  Or is this the start of the debate, discuss!
  • 08:56 Libraries are happening places.  Groovy man.
  • 09:12 Agree, libraries need to act now and plan to meet the future challenges. 

Well that was well worth watching, despite my misgivings at the start.  Quite a bit of food for thought, even if most of the conclusions and points raised were hardly news to me.  So the debate has begun.  But at what level will it happen?  Since all these talking heads were either very senior librarians or students, I didn’t see a lot of input from those of us exploring, experimenting and adapting technologies and techniques.  Then again, I am blogging about this – so maybe I am starting to kick into the debate. 

Okay people – what do you think?

Posted in Digital Strategy & Website, Technology & Devices, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

There’re Mash(ed Libraries) Oop North

Posted by gazjjohnson on 8 July, 2009

Brian Kelly speaksThis Mon and Tuesday I was up at the University of Huddersfield at the 2nd Mashed Libraries unconference.  Monday evening was all about networking and meeting a fair number of the delegates who like me had come the night before, and was a splendid affair complete with a tour of the city centre ending at the state of Eric Morcombe* by the station.  I just wish I’d decided not to walk the 3 and a bit miles into town and the same at the end of the evening!

The main event was held in the uni’s relatively new Creative Arts building, which is a very impressive space.  Despite some early wifi problems everything went fairly smoothly.  Delegates were badged according to their perceived experience with mashups.  Greens were n00bs (like me), yellows had some experience, oranges were experts and blue were local staff helping to facilitate.  We also had our areas of interest on the badges so you could see at a glance whom might share your areas of enquiry.

The day was made up of parallel sessions, breakouts, lightning talks and collaboration; so there’s no way one person could experience the whole event.  The first session I went to was by Brian Kelly entitled Enthusiastic Amateurs and overcoming institutional inertia.

University of HuddersfieldMash ups are exciting Brian said says demonstrating some simple ones such as Thumbalizr (thumbnail shots of series of web pages on one screen), then Google Custom search, GoogleMap geolocating unis in the UK.  He then showed off some of Tony Hirst’s mashups which demonstrated and tracked down press releases; and how often these were being reused into the blogosphere.  In this way freely available data could be analysed to provide useful information. 

He moved on to talk about barriers, taking a straw poll from those in the hall about their IT services.  Most saw them as a barrier to innovation; though not everyone shared this view.  It did appear that the smaller, more agile universities were more willing to allow overt experimentation.  For everyone else an audience member suggested that you should seek to experiment in alignment with stated institutional business goals, which should help you to get more support centrally.  Another suggestion was to experiment in your own time and space, and then introduce senior staff once a more polished object was ready to demonstrate; akin to how we’ve developed this blog.

Brian enthused that greater openness to your data is a good thing, as other developers could build services and resources on top of your data, meaning you don ‘t need to do the development.  He also stressed the importance of documenting what you do via blogs and the like to show others how to approach the same things.

Next I went to a session by Brendan Dawes (www.brendandawes.con) entitled Somewhere I Have Never Travelled.  He noted that a lot of the web is based on print paradigm, which isn’t great for everything.  His site is a playground for him – a way to represent data in a way that interests him – with no set goal.  While there were some wonderful graphical interfaces and perhaps very exciting way of presenting data I imagine most of our users would be terrified rather than enlightened if we started using them.  On the other hand selling them to people would seriously have the wow factor. 

DelegatesThe next session I was in with Mike Elis was about using APIs without knowing technical details.  Unfortunately this session licked along at such a rate that rather than exploring a lot of the technical or practical details this turned into a long list of resources you could use.  While some were familiar names (like YahooPips) others (, YQL) were very unfamiliar.  Rather than listing them here, I’d suggest you go to the Mashed site and have a look at the slides yourself.

Before lunch we broke into small discussion groups.  We were supposed to be moving between these a bit during the session, though this didn’t really seem to work (I got trapped in a corner).  I was in a group talking about overcoming institutional and other barriers to innovation, which was quite interesting – though one group member (not I) did slightly dominate discussions.

Following an excellent lunch the rest of the day was given over to various lighting talks on aspects of mashed technologies that might be of interest, as well as elements and applications of Web 2 that delegates might be interested in.  This had a much less formal feel to it, and whilst the organisers expected only small audiences for the talks most of the participants stayed in the room to listen.  Bit of a shame as it was during this time that there was the best opportunity for hands on collaboration, but few people took up the option.

Overall this was an intensive, but very interesting day.  I came away if not with more hands on experience of technologies, but a greater understanding of some of the activities that are going on in the library world today.  The next mashed event will be towards the end of the year, entitled Middle Mash.

 *Yes I know it’s Harold Wilson, but frankly the post he’s in is more Eric and Ernie than politician.

Posted in Staff training, Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The death of the textbook?

Posted by knockels on 16 June, 2009

I first heard about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to replace textbooks with online materials while driving to work the other day.   Since then, it has attracted my attention in a number of places.

The report I heard first was on the Radio 4 Today programme and suggested that he wanted to replace textbooks with websites and laptops.   This might, it was suggested, be as expensive as the textbooks.    But then another report I read (and I can’t remember where, sorry!) suggested that he wanted to replace textbooks with ebook readers.  And then it turned up on Have I Got News for You?, the BBC satirical news quiz.   There it was dismissed by one participant as a bad idea, in a tone that suggested that there could be no other reaction.

I think the most important thing, whether it is websites or ebooks, is the thing suggested by John Dunford, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders, who appeared (metaphorically) on the Today programme – the main issue with this replacement of books with electronic content is the issue of quality.  How will students know that the material they are reading is of good quality?   Of course, this is an issue with books too, and exactly the same issue is present in the same way if ebooks are used instead of print.  But if it is really websites, the issue has a new dimension.

Finally, on the HIFA2015 discussion list (HIFA2015 is campaigning for access to health information for all by the year 2015), several contributors have extended Governor Schwarzenegger’s suggestion to a developing world context and pointed out that access to electronic information is much more difficult there, so replacing books with anything electronic just does not work, for most people, yet.

Posted in Collection management, Technology & Devices | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by knockels on 29 May, 2009

We promote RefWorks widely to students and staff here at Leicester, as one of the two reference management tools that the University supports.   RefMobile is a way to access your RefWorks account on a mobile device.

I have a pay as you go internet enabled mobile phone, and had no problem accessing RefMobile on it.   I assume therefore that owners of jazzier devices will also have no problem, but it would be interesting to hear if that is true or not!

There is a “RefMobile” link prominent on the RefWorks home page, but it seems to try to download something onto your machine, not sure what.   But the RefWorks help pages on the subject are helpful, and so this is what I did:

On my  mobile I went to, where I was asked for the group code and my account details.   These are remembered for 14 days, apparently.   I was impressed – you can see all your folders, and the “SmartAdd” feature enables you to find references quickly using a DOI, an ISBN, or a PubMed ID, and download them.  I searched for one using a PubMed ID and was able to save the reference to my RefWorks account, and I could see it using RefWorks on the web (I was logged in already on the web, and so had to log out and in again).   

In theory this would be a quick way to record details of a reference from a colleague or other source, although you would of course need a PMID or similar reference, and it might take a few minutes to get into RefMobile, and into your account.   Still impressed, though!

Posted in Mobile technologies, Referencing, Research Support, Technology & Devices | 6 Comments »

It’s scaring Wikipedia

Posted by gazjjohnson on 14 May, 2009

You might have seen the news articles or read in the press or bloggoverse about Wolfram|Alpha.  I confess I’d sort of noticed it, but not really paid attention.  This afternoon someone passed me a rather handy narrated demo of what the site can offer, and I must say it looks very impressive.  Able to handle natural language queries or short text and return with statistical information, factual stuff and very graphically friendly too.  Potentially I can see it is going to cause major problems for search services and maybe, dare I say it, librarians too.

Interestingly if you read the Wikipedia dicussion on the resource, you’ll see that there’s some fear that it’ll kill of Wikipedia itself.  I wouldn’t go that far, but it will certainly shake the search world up.  Wonder how Google will react?

Posted in Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The Library Web Site of the Future

Posted by sarahw9 on 23 February, 2009

dwilson212508-105_0001Steven Bell’s article The Library Web Site of the Future Inside Higher Ed was published at a timely moment for us here at Leicester, where the digital library strategy is up for discussion. 

In short he says libraries should stop thinking that they will attract users by providing lists of resources or search boxes or portals.  Most users have their own one or two favourites and they have already got their own ‘backdoor’ route there.   Long lists don’t tempt people in to look for more, they just confuse people.  Also they are increasingly disinclined to go out and visit an external website or potal. 

Rather than attempting to mimic search engines academic librarians should aim to differentiate their Web sites. They should devote the most eye-catching space to information that promotes the people who work at the library, the services they provide and the community activities that anchor the library’s place as the social, cultural and intellectual center of campus. That shifts the focus from content to service and from information to people. Academic libraries must promote their human side. The library portal experience should emphasize the value of and invite stronger relationships with faculty and students. That means going beyond offering a commodity that, by and large, the user community can well access without the Web site. The next generation academic library Web site must leverage what academic librarians can do to help faculty and students improve their productivity and achieve success.

 Even more interestingly….

Academic libraries are already moving in new directions that may provide the answers, and it suggests the library portal no longer needs to compete to be the one-stop portal where faculty and their students begin their research. These pioneering libraries distribute the content across the institution’s network and beyond. They are putting the links where faculty and students can find them easily. It changes the library website paradigm from “you must visit our portal” to “we’ll be where you are.”

In the broadest sense (forget websites for a minute) this is certainly how I envisage we should be working by providing routes to tailored resources with course tutors and departments.  Providing generic lists of databases and search engines, which mostly look all the same to people is not going to help anyone.  We have to get deeper into modules.  Academic staff need a basic understanding of what tools we can use, whether thats a Custom Search Engine, or nifty tool that makes academic journals easier for their undergraduates, a Netvibes page of resources for a module, setting up an RSS feed into the course module on Blackboard or similar via Delicious.  Thats before we have even started looking at information literacy, evaluating resources and where we want to go. 

Still I’m not sure that we should abandon our portals or search boxes entirely though; perhaps we need both.

Posted in Digital Strategy & Website, Service Delivery, Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Digital Britain – governmental interim report from DCMS

Posted by gazjjohnson on 23 February, 2009

On 29 January 2009 the Government published a plan to secure Britain’s place at the forefront of the global digital economy. The interim report contains more than 20 recommendations, including specific proposals on:

  • next generation networks
  • universal access to broadband
  • the creation of a second public service provider of scale
  • the modernisation of wireless radio spectrum holdings
  • a digital future for radio
  • a new deal for digital content rights
  • enhancing the digital delivery of public services

You can read the report here (and yes there is a executive summary if you don’t feel like wading through the whole report – I know it’s a bit much for a Monday morning for me!)  Obviously, aside from libraries being under the DCMS’ umbrella, how the rest of the country are interacting with the digital society before they come to us will have a signicant impact on how and what they teach us.  This set me thinking that personally I’ve long since thought that the age of pure skills teaching (“this is how you search”) style of library educational activity is dying away; perhaps not totally but no longer as a core activity.  What we need to be teaching more is how to critically evaluate material (“Okay, why is that a good resource?”) as well as understanding your own informational search style.  Let me expand on this (and go slightly off on a tangent from the report)

Sadly this isn’t the sort of thing that can be taught standing at the front of a class of 100+ students running through a demo.  It’s a more interrogative and iterative style of teaching; something that requires all the more that user education from us is embedded within the curriculum rather than bolted on.  Are we equipped to teach this sort of thing?  Personally I’d argue yes; most librarian trainers I know are more than capable of; we just need to find the right in with departments (and I’m talking globally here, not particularly at Leics).  So how do we achieve this?

A discussion we had in the office last week was along the lines of “Should information librarians be effectively departmental staff first rather than library staff first?”.  I know some places embed their librarians actually within departments, rather than basing them in the library; from memory Australia is especially good at this.  Being within the department, physically and strategically would have the knock on advantages of keeping us as librarians better informed of what departmental needs and challenges are, getting us closer to our user communities and ensuring that when it comes time to turn to people to set up courses – well we’re close at hand and embedded from day one.

After all, just how beneficial is it for us to be based in a central building these days?  But I digress.  Doubtless there are examples of this kind of practise out there already; and perhaps we need to be paying closer attention to them to cope with the Digital Britain of tomorrow!

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The DCC Charter & Statement of Principles

Posted by gazjjohnson on 9 February, 2009

The Digital Curation Centre has released a draft Charter and Statement of Principles, and is open for public comment. Well worth a read if you get a moment. The DCC has always been a really useful centre for advice on the long term preservation and access to digital domain data – I know I run screaming from trying to get my head round some of the issues, and am more than grateful that there are people out there willing to tackle this major challenge.

Helpfully in the middle there’s a very nice little statement about just what digital curation is

Digital curation is maintaining and adding value to a trusted body of digital information for current and future use; it encompasses the active management of data throughout the information lifecycle.

That’s rather a good little statement I thought.

I’m attending a meeting in London on the 27th Feb hosted by the DCC where they’ll be talking about some of the issues we all face and the support on offer in much greater details. But in the meantime you can feedback to the DCC on their work at:

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