Monday, June 25, 2007

Musings on OPAC interface

In May I went to Oregon State University to be part of a panel presenting an overview of options for the OPAC. One of the other presenters, Michael Boock, had an interesting overview of "The Future of the Catalog". ( Some of his discussion echoes the study done by UC Berkeley on Rethinking How We Provide Bibliographic Services for the University (PDF).

Both Boock and UC call for OPACs that offer greater flexibility and control in terms of how librarians can set up these resources for their users, as well as more flexibility in the options users have for finding their information (through faceted searching and other things). Both point to the ability to support recommender features and support customization, as well as providing bibliographic services where users are, as important and necessary changes to how libraries provide service.

Good, user-based interface design has never been more crucial if we are going to convince our users that we have the tools and the know-how to remain vital information resources in their lives. More and more parts of the library world, such as the ones mentioned here, are raising the call to attend, as quickly as possible, to this pressing and urgent need.

It was very frustrating in the usability testing I did last Fall to see users (all intelligent people!) struggling to find their desired information or function in the OPAC, just because the button for that function was not where they naturally tended to think it should be. And this frustrated me, because a lot of the simple changes I could see that they needed were not those I had control to make in the OPAC.

To my colleagues who might argue that I am trying to throw out MARC, nothing could be further from the truth! Give me MARC in all it's organized glory. Just let me have more control over how I can present all this MARC-y goodness to my users. That's all I'm saying. And I'm not the only one.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New uses for Webcasting

Just when you thought you had seen all the uses for webcasting that were already out there, something new and fun!

There have recently been various reports of universities using webcasting to provide "remote graduation" broadcasts for friends and family who could not attend their loved one's graduation. I think this is such an awesome use of this technology!

Check it out at

Monday, June 18, 2007

Thoughts on Libraries and Google: From Library Philosophy and Practice

Librarian Philosophy and Practice (ISSN: 1522-0222) has dedicated a special issue focusing on libraries and Google. This series of articles presents a great collection of ideas around this very hot topic.

Check out the listings at:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Info Doodads

Several Oregon librarians (Laurie Bridges, Margaret Mellinger, Hannah Rempel, Kate Gronemyer, Jane Nichols and Michael Baird) have started a blog dedicated to reviewing information tools on the Net.

In addition to links to some serious info technology tools, they include links to other sites (equally relevant as a reference tool if not as a reference tool that would be useful for something specific to work!) such as

You can check out this new and useful blog at

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cool digital collections using ContentDM

ContentDM (now owned by OCLC) regularly publishes "featured collections on ContentDM". Some of the recent ones I thought were kind of cool are:

Civil War Letters Collection - University of Washington

E-Archives of Purdue University

Historic Des Moines, Iowa Pictures - Drake University

The entire Collection of Collections is at

I just think it is so cool that all this history, previously unknown to any but the most avid devotees for that particular area of knowledge, are now being made so widely available. The historian and the digital designer in me are both happy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I'll see you on Facebook

Power dynamics in a classroom setting are nothing new. Students can sometimes have anxiety about their performance, particularly in relation to teachers they may perceive as intimidating.

A recent study on the possible effects of student-teacher interaction from teacher "self-disclosure" on Facebook supports the notion that more (and appropriate) self-disclosure by teachers in Facebook can help reduce student anxiety, thus leading to more positive classroom interactions. The idea here is that if students can see their teachers as human beings (as well as teachers), then the students feel more comfortable interacting with the teachers and are thus more likely to learn.

None of this should be surprising, but the utilization of Facebook to provide such disclosure (i.e. the fact that we have technologies now that encourage these kinds of social networking), as well as the fact that someone did a study on it, is kind of fascinating.

From the blog posting referencing the article:

The article itself:
"I'll See You On 'Facebook': The Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate," by Joseph P. Mazer, Richard E. Murphy, and Cheri J. Simonds [Communication Education, Volume 56, Issue 1 January 2007 , pages 1 - 17].

From the conclusion of the article:
"Self-disclosure is one approach that teachers may take to develop relationships with their students. However, as communication technology develops at an increasing rate, it is important for teachers to recognize how certain technologies, even those used largely by students, can positively affect student-teacher relationships. Facebook is a contemporary technological tool that can offer teachers and students a unique method to nurture the student-teacher relationship, which can ultimately create a positive learning experience for both parties."

Monday, June 4, 2007

SecondLife and Information Island

I have so much mulling about in my brain that's its hard to know where to begin. I should probably start with the groovy SecondLife (3-D virtual world) demo I saw at a recent gathering of the Portland Area Information Literacy group.

Michael Brown (Portland State University) and Donna Cohen (Information Management Consultant) led the group through a tour of SecondLife, particularly focusing on an area called Information Island. Information Island is an "archipelago" of dozens of "islands" (aka interest areas). Some of the resources they pointed us to for learning more about SecondLife were:

I can see a lot of applications for SecondLife and InfoIsland in the K-12 realm - can you just imagine a teacher guiding students through a unit where they all have their avatars work together to build an Egyptian pyramid or the Great Wall of China? In this way, I can see this environment greatly enhancing the learning process. Similar projects, such as University of Virginia's virtual recreation of ancient Rome, officially titled Rome Reborn 1.0, show the possibilities when technology embraces the rich content in the humanities.

So, clearly virtual worlds have a strong educational benefit (not to mention total coolness factor!), but what about how virtual worlds could be applied to non-K-12 or liberal arts environments? Aside from being able to serve as a more multi-dimensional "webinar" (i.e. where everyone's avatars gather in a central place for a lecture and through SecondLife have a more interactive experience) what purpose could such an environment serve for an academic health sciences library? One of the islands in the "Info Island" archipelago, Health Info Island, may have some answers. Health Info Island, states as one of its goals to "Experiment and develop new ways of interaction between users and libraries" and to do more outreach in consumer health. It will be interesting to see how such a virtual environment could be used as a reference and learning tool for health information as this "Info Island" develops.

I'm back!

Between a library systems conference and being sick, I have not posted in a while and stories have piled up. To start back up, a few recent news stories of interest:

Google has purchased FeedBurner, through which "bloggers and podcasters syndicate and make money from their online content". Will this make FeedBurner the tool of choice for this function? Will it propel bloggers and podcasters to choose other alternatives if Google's business model becomes problematic? Only time will tell, but it's interesting to see how Googlezon continues to consolidate tools and grow.

In health care information news, the Librarian Activist reports the launch of an online medical journal Open Medicine. The editor, James Maskalyk, in his opening issue article asks Why Open Medicine? What is the reason to provide a free, online, but peer-reviewed medical journal?

Maskalyk points to the existing disparity in information access to medical literature ("It seems an anathema to the spirit of medical research that, largely for economic reasons, the information it produces remains hidden from many potential users.") as well as the undue influence pharmaceutical companies ("too much of the revenue that sustains medical journals comes from pharmaceutical advertising that attempts to influence physicians into making decisions based on brand recognition rather than on discerning scholarship.") He also points to the fact that the cost of print and mailing, in addition to the slower turnaround time for traditional print-based peer review, takes unduly long and with current technology are no longer absolutely necessary.

Open Medicine will be supported by volunteers, donations and what they call "ethical advertising" and has a blog to encourage discussion amongst its members, all those who "read and contribute to it." Although medical literature is still a long way from being 100% online (and I doubt it will ever be 100% open access), Open Medicine has made an early contribution to a trend I think we will see continue in the near to mid term.