Christina's LIS Rant
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
  More on professional cataloging vs. google print
More on professional cataloging vs. google print (or google scholar)
Pointed out on ResourceShelf
I’ve been totally disagreeing with Clay Shirky on the displacement of LC work by tagging efforts but I haven’t been able to successfully communicate my concerns.  Here’s a great effort by one who knows.
Will Google’s Keyword Searching Eliminate the Need for LC Cataloging and Classification?
Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann is a Reference Librarian in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; he is the author of The Oxford Guide to Library Research (3rd ed. forthcoming in October, 2005). This paper was written for AFSCME 2910.

Google Print does not "change everything" regarding the need for professional cataloging and classification of books; its limitations make cataloging and classification even more important to researchers. Google’s keyword search mechanism, backed by the display of results in "relevance ranked" order, is expressly designed and optimized for quick information seeking rather than scholarship. Internet keyword searching does not provide scholars with the structured menus of research options, such as those in OPAC browse displays, that they need for overview perspectives on the book literature of their topics. Keyword searching fails to map the taxonomies that alert researchers to unanticipated aspects of their subjects. It fails to retrieve literature that uses keywords other than those the researcher can specify; it misses not only synonyms and variant phrases but also all relevant works in foreign languages. Searching by keywords is not the same as searching by conceptual categories. Google software fails especially to retrieve desired keywords in contexts segregated from the appearance of the same words in irrelevant contexts. As a consequence of the design limitations of the Google search interface, researchers cannot use Google to systematically recognize relevant books whose exact terminology they cannot specify in advance. Cataloging and classification, in contrast, do provide the recognition mechanisms that scholarship requires for systematic literature retrieval in book collections.
Here’s a great quote:
There is a categorical distinction between "prior specification" and "recognition" subject searching techniques. Keywords inquiries–no matter how the words are weighted, ranked, massaged, or manipulated–essentially give you only those results having the terms you’ve been able to specify in advance. They do not bring to you attention, except by chance, conceptual options that are slightly different in their focus. They do not allow you to recognize related sources whose terms you cannot think of beforehand.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
  Bring 'em on .... that means you!
As I lamely pointed out in the previous post, I'll be the moderator/editor/selector for the upcoming Carnival of the Infosciences. Since I'm in to science, special libraries, and all kinds of other stuff, I'd like to have some really diverse postings from every flavor of infoscience. If you do KM or HCI or public libraries or special libraries or academic libraries or cataloging or teaching or consulting... submit. It would be great to get more international posts, too.

Please e-mail the submissions (based on the guidelines here) to cpikas at gmail dot com. If you'd like to put something about the carnival somewhere in the subject, that would be helpful... otherwise I'll probably just think you're telling me something interesting :)

  lis.dom: Carnival of the Infosciences #4
Is posted check it out. I'll be hosting next week so come back here to see that one. You may contact me directly by email at cpikas at gmail dot com
Monday, August 29, 2005
  Tips for grad school
Many library-types have been following Michael “Tame the Web” Stephens’ exploits in his PhD program.  As I get ready to start classes this week (ack!), I wanted to point out the fabulous tips from Lois Ann Scheidt, the Professional Lurker.  The specific category is here but everyone should just go ahead and read the entire blog regularly.
Monday, August 22, 2005
  Wanderings of a Student Librarian: Carnival of the Infosciences #3
Check it out.
  Information Wants To Be Free
Survey of the biblioblogosphere. Not exactly what I was talking about, but consider participating.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
  Evaluating Blogs, again.
I have three main varieties of evaluating library reference service in my mind:
  1. 55% rule -- known question/answer sets, the reference person has to get the answer correct and complete with a full citation

  2. LibQual (tm?) - esque -- comparing expectations with delivery

  3. Durrance's proposed -- would you ask this person for help again? (see (Durrance 1995) and (Durrance 1989-))
(These are in practical terms -- not if you're studying information need, but if you're trying to improve your service)It seems we're somewhat in the same boat with some of the discussion on blog evaluation/ranking. Method 1 above overly simplifies the reference process and pretends that there are correct and complete answers. Wrapped in to that is that the librarian has asked the correct questions to have correctly negotiated what the customer wants. (In fact, that's why it's 55% -- it's really hard to get all that done every time). Similarly, we'd like to pretend that there's an objective (and useful) measure of a blog's popularity, reach or usefulness or whatever. Well that all depends on the user – appropriateness for the task, the mood… other things like writing style, age, part of the country…

I subscribe to more than 200 feeds. Of these, there are probably 10 that are must-reads. Some are “when I have the chance.” Others are “well I feel I have to be loyal and be listed publicly as a subscriber but I really don’t want to waste time reading.” From this, you can see that you can't use my subscriptions to learn anything about a blog. BTW -- my subscriptions in my aggregator generate my blogroll automatically. Also, I can only subscribe to STLQ, EngLib, and Confessions of a Science Librarian in one place – I’ve chosen “science” over “LIS” – but that means they’re not on this blog’s blogroll. They are more important to me than some of the others in the LIS folder.

Ok, how about where I link to? Have I ever linked to EngLib? It’s very important to me, but I’m not sending it traffic (oh dear, well here then).

I could go on and on. Let me just say – we’re doing a lot of looking at the numbers; but we should probably add to that a general survey of the blog-reading, library-interested public to see what they feel is important. Can we do a #3 type of evaluation? (Am I volunteering, uh-oh)

update: um, qualitative evaluation? and can't not can about using my blog ...

Reference List

1. Durrance, Joan C. 15 April 1989-. REFERENCE SUCCESS: Does the 55 Percent Rule Tell the Whole Story? Library Journal: Library Journal 114, no. 7: 31-6.
2. ________. 1995. Factors that influence reference success: What makes questioners willing to return? Reference Librarian: Reference Librarian, no. 49/50: 243.
  Yea! Using word to edit blog posts
Yea! Using word to edit my blog posts means that I can cite while I write(Stephen P Borgatti and Rob Cross 2003), have real spell checking…use all the keyboard shortcuts I’m used to (like ctrl + k for hyperlinks). Pointed out by SC.

Update: How about project management for teams using blogs? Ah-ha! Now you can really post that report you're working on together (assuming the html-ization doesn't make it too goofy)

Reference List

1. Stephen P Borgatti and Rob Cross. April 2003. A relational view of information seeking and learning in social networks. Management Science 49, no. 4: 432.
Monday, August 15, 2005
  Carnival of the Infosciences #2
Friday, August 12, 2005
  A list, metrics, the biblioblogosphere
Several of the women who attended BlogHer have been discussing the blog "A list" and all of the ranking measures used for blogs. This seems a bit egocentric or even whiney at first glance, but keep in mind that 1) many bloggers are actually trying to help people and need to have readership to do it 2) many other bloggers are trying to sell ads.

Mary Hodder of Napsterization just sketched out the Paris Index for blogs (via Many2Many, I think) which is worth a look.

Walt Crawford just did an analysis of the biblioblogosphere using many of the proposed Paris metrics. That's definitely worth a read even if you're tired of meta-blogging navel gazing it's probably worth while to know what's going on in a pretty scientific way.

update: Oh, yeah, let me add that knowing you've got readership for long tail bloggers is great encouragement and can improve your blogging process so links are important for even the end of the long tail. (see: http://jilltxt.net/txt/Weblogs-learninginpublic.pdf)
Thursday, August 11, 2005
  Our whole model of online presence needs to be changed
See summary list of citations/links/influences below. This may be a rant, skip if you want to avoid rants. As always, opinions are only my own and wander around slightly.

We're getting ready for a perfect storm at MPOW (to borrow frl's abbreviation). We're migrating our OPAC to a new system and vendor and integrating it with our affiliated institution's OPAC. We're doing a complete redesign of our intranet portal. We're introducing a meta search. We're getting ready to migrate a ton of different internal databases and "document management systems" to a massive enterprise CMS. We're shedding print materials as fast as can reasonably be accomplished and adding online as we can afford.

Any one of these things has the potential to fundamentally change how the users interact with the library and how they access information in general. This provides us with a unique opportunity to come up with -- and implement -- a strategic plan, a paradigm, a model....

Scary, very scary.

As many in the list below lament, most changes to library web sites and OPACs are "organic" and incremental. OPACs are still just digitized card catalogs (although I understand our new one will have spell check and stemming, woo-hoo) and frequently don't have branding or links to other library materials and services ... hell, they frequently aren't even tied at all to the library web site. How about skins or whatever for different flavors of user?

We need to hide in the bushes and watch our users in their native habitats. Do we really know how they approach these things? Yeah, there are tons of articles, books, and websites...

I pretty much know that users really don't know when they should use our catalog and when they should use our portal. They sometimes think they're searching the catalog or a research database when they're searching our portal. They can't seem to find things in our portal... And these are brilliant, amazing, wonderful people. We have 0 (zero, no, nada, zilch) stupid users here so it's obviously a failure of the library.

There's also the whole deal about the nature of information and what types of information can be obtained from a source. Even though answer sites on the web are getting better, a well trained librarian with a print reference collection will beat the sites in a heart beat in finding an actual answer. Are we so awful that users still prefer a list of 200,000 pages where the words might occur over our expensive resources (um, yes?)?

How do we communicate to our users
fact, formula, property data -> handbook (or something like Beilstein which is technically a handbuch but really looks like a database)
overview of unfamiliar area -> textbook, book, review article
state of the art, updates -> research database, conference proceedings (and not a publisher collection but a REAL research database that goes cross societies and cross publishers)

I think they know this in the backs of their minds, but then librarians keep pushing reference databases as the answer to all evils. We can do a guided resource module -- but do we have to think of every question they'll come up with? Standard resource guides arranged in librarian terms have a reputation for only being useful for the curator.

Back to the ebook issue. Well, you can search across each individual platform like a database, but a practicing engineer really wants to go to an exact chapter of an exact title -- so she'll need to go directly to the chapter. She won't want to be forced to search across a database when she just needs a table she knows is there. Some of the ebook providers give marc records, so then we push the engineer to the OPAC. But what about all the vendors who don't? Who's got time and money to catalog the entire holdings of Wiley Interscience, for example. So then we tell our users... oh, if you're an ee, you might try Wiley, but we don't have everything that's in there so you'll just have to keep hitting the pdf links until something goes through...

I haven't seen any decent way to really break the barrier between the web page and the OPAC (well actually I just noticed that CSUSM did a decent job of this -- go little guy). I've also sat in on several sessions where the librarians built an entire site and then invited a focus group only to be told that nothing made sense.

huh. I'm going to take a step back from this and see what more I come up with. Hopefully there's light at the end of the tunnel because I'm feeling pretty gloomy.

Monday, August 08, 2005
  The First Carnival of the Infosciences is Available
It looks really good. There are some very interesting, thoughful posts up there. The blogosphere is really one of the very few places that all flavors of librarian and info scientist can meet and share. School library media specialists, public librarians, academic librarians, special librarians, info science researchers... we're all a part of the discussion.
Friday, August 05, 2005
  Read my review: Encyclopedia of Modern Optics
E-streams v8 n6/7 (June/July 2005).
Thursday, August 04, 2005
  Manufacturing Serendipity...
We talk about using personal blogs to network -- but the term "network" leaves an unpleasant taste in some peoples' mouths. Does it conjure up salesmen or politicians for you?

Jon Udell calls the effect "manufactured serendipity" instead. Last time I took biology was in 9th grade but it's kind of like using your blog to put out little feelers which can touch another blogger's feelers via trackback, technorati, and other search alerts.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
  Is blogging for personal information management generalizeable or just for some?
Is blogging for personal information management useful for all professions and personality types or just for writers and information workers?

When I talk about blogging for information management I mean maintaining a personal blog (or if a collaborative one, one with low or no barriers to posting) to keep what you've found, provide context and analysis though commentary and linking, and to allow for time sequencing and searching. (You can see what I mean in my ASIS&T presentation and my presentation in June). A few years ago, Seb Paquet noticed that the early blogosphere was dominated by professions who uncover implicit information. Specifically he mentions journalists, librarians, lawyers, and educators. Looking at this a few years later, I would say that it's different aspects of the various jobs that encourage blogging: communication skills, writing fluency, extroversion (or at least comfort in dealing with people, desire and ability to network)... So, to the professions mentioned above, I would now add public relations and perhaps politician. Of course, the individual has to also be willing to experiment and try new things.

Where do scientists and engineers fit in? Both fields tend to draw more introverted people; however, in training and in practice both groups need to collaborate and share to get ahead. They get together at conferences and virtually to co-author papers, brainstorm ideas, and solve problems. They work on project teams and together in labs. Some trust is implied from this sharing of information but that trust may only exist when a f2f meeting has occurred. Comments to this Cosmic Variance post reinforce the idea that one to-many sharing like on blogs is uncomfortable for researchers who are being pressured to patent, publish, etc. Like an earlier Educause article, the Cosmic Variance post linked above talks about making conference or seminar conversations persistent, asynchronous, and at least partially available to interested parties unable to participate in preferred channels.

This morning I read the David Secko article from The Scientist (8/1/05, free reg. req, pointed to by ResourceShelf) with great interest. The article discusses the power of blogs for finding information, collaborating, networking, keeping up with science news, archiving project information. The article also mentions that the life science blogosphere is in its infancy. Eric Gerritsen speculates (in a quote in the article) that this might be "due to scientists' caution about retribution, unfamiliarity with the technology, or not grasping the potential impact yet." Both the Secko article and Clifford's Cosmic Variance post encourage me to believe that blogging can help the PIM of scientists and engineers.

So for science/technology librarian bloggers: how do we translate our success with our personal blogs to the work of the scientists? We can offer training and familiarization with the technology and go on about the impact... we can provide internal blog hosting (thereby limiting the risk and returns of sharing). Is this something that has to come from within their field?

Update: amazingly enough, I completely missed the editorial from the issue in which life scientists are prodded into action. Well, let's see what that does and let's see if physical scientists get jealous... (pointed to by Geoff)
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Monday, August 01, 2005
  Carnival of the InfoSciences
Greg Schwartz has announced the Carnival of the InfoSciences. He is accepting submissions for the first two weeks after which the carnival will be moving around. Now everyone think of something clever!

I'll be hosting in early September so I better hurry up and send a posting in.

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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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