Christina's LIS Rant
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
  Sorry feed subscribers!
It's extremely annoying to have it show that I've got 14 or 21 new posts when I don't. I've noticed this with other blogger blogs, too. It might be that they're now running our feedburner feeds through some redirect (if we say it's ok). I'll try to figure it out -- Sorry again, and thanks for your patience!


Sunday, July 29, 2007
  Should more emphasis be placed on successive fractions and less on building block?
While revising my &*#$ paper (again, ack, just make it go away!) my mind started wandering to how I would teach the advanced searching in electronic environments class (750 at Maryland but I think every library school has one). I would absolutely require the use of DIALOG - that's a no brainer. I was thinking, though, that what I do in real life when I use SciFinder (not Scholar, we're a special library) and also when I use the faceted presentation of search results in Ei Engineering Village (where you can search the thesaurus, but you can't directly access the classification codes) is more the successive fractions approach.

Although Buntrock and others coined these terms way back ('79? or earlier?), I usually refer to an article by Don Hawkins [*]. For DIALOG, I almost always use the building block method. I decompose the search in to concepts, map those concepts to controlled vocabulary or natural language terms, OR terms within each concept, AND the concepts. I keep a set for each of these so I can make my results set size smaller or bigger by anding or removing terms. I then type a few random hits in free format to see what's coming up and iterate... I do this, too, in databases to which we have a site license. I like to do a series of quick searches and then go to the search history page and recombine them in various ways. I keep notes as I go so I make sure I've covered all of the bases. (somehow Illumina and PubMed seem to encourage me to work this way, don't know why, but they do keep the search history longer and make it friendly to recombine sets).

I was trying to explain to an expert searcher sometime this week about how Scifinder works. Since we're paying per task (and we are flat broke for the year which doesn't end til 9/30 -- and we're going through tasks much faster this year -- and we're over budget in DIALOG, too -- and we can't buy more SciFinder tasks) and we have an access method that doesn't allow precision searching (librarian's nightmare) we do these huge searches -- ones that yield like 10,000 results. Then we analyze, refine, and combine with saved sets. Really, it's very much successive fractions. Funny, I barely remember that from 750.

SciFinder is an extreme case, but I've taken to encouraging a sort of overview and zoom approach to Compendex using the facets. I'd rather have the end users not start out too specific, but instead start out sort of vague and then narrow by terms appearing in the cv or class codes. It seems more likely that they'd get some serendipitous finds. Domain expert end users can also sift through a larger results set better than information seeking or system experts like most librarians [**].

I'd like to see an experiment on that to see if it's the case. To see how the end results set fares for building block searches over narrowing by successive fractions. Theoretically for the same searcher they should be about the same... hm.

[*] Hawkins, D. T., & Wagers, R. (1982). Online bibliographic search strategy development. Online, 6(3), 12-19.
Marchionini, G. (1995). Information seeking in electronic environments. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  Rough notes on Kipp's recent tagging paper from the IA Summit
I saw M. Kipp present a paper at ASIS&T last year. Her new paper is on non-aboutness tagging:
Kipp, Margaret E. I. (2007) @toread and Cool : Tagging for Time, Task and Emotion. In Proceedings Information Architecture Summit 2007, Las Vegas, Nevada (US). (pdf on E-LIS).

Saturday, July 28, 2007
  I believe in research....
I believe in evidence. I believe in carefully planned, well-executed, carefully analyzed, and well-presented studies of user behavior. (this is a commentary on a commentary on a commentary- see Walt's Cites and Insights v7 n9 ). Doing research is hard work. It takes a really long time and planning -- and everything can go wrong (yes, I really need to get moving on my current projects!)

It's funny. Many of our most important articles are not reports of completed research. Think of the famous Bates Berrypicking article, for example. There's plenty of room for this-is-how-I-did-it articles, columns, thought pieces, and commentaries - but to really move our field forward, we need actual evidence. This evidence can come from qualitative or quantitative research, if that research is well-planned, carefully executed, and appropriate to the problem. Just about every paradigm from experimental to observational to social network analysis has a place in our field. The reports of work completed must be reviewed by peers in the field who are competent to judge the appropriateness of the methods used, the claims made, the analysis used. It *does* matter!

Are there librarians who phone it in on articles to try to get tenure? Do these articles get published? Absolutely. But without evidence -- how do you know? How do you make good decisions without good evidence?

I'm not concerned with scholarly and authoritative (right now). I've read some poor articles from authorities in our field -- the evidence needs to stand for itself. Using fancy language to hide poor execution is not good, either.

I want to be clear: I'm not opposed to blogs going on CVs or being counted as professional work. Columns and thought or theoretical pieces belong on CVs, so why not blogs? Actually, some areas of classification and bibliographic control are closer to philosophy than social sciences, so those articles may not include my kind of evidence.

I enjoy blogging and I think it's a great way to develop ideas and communicate with others in our field and adjacent fields. I think there are many ideas that deserve to be captured in a more permanent format. I've heard wonderful things at conferences that are never captured, too. I think that bloggers who come up with these fabulous posts should take the time and discipline required to develop the posts into articles and, at minimum, archive them at D-List or E-LIS. We provide access and preserve other work -- is our work not as valuable? Am I not a researcher if my field is LIS? Is there not value for having my work indexed in research databases?

As to the turnaround question -- why not have a "letters" journal or magazine? Why don't we self-archive pre-prints and drafts?

Some people think everything they ever think of is new and different and deserves to be shouted from the rooftops, patented, and published. Others think there's no new idea under the sun and it's all been done before or it's not worthy of publication. I hate to see young librarians with fabulous ideas falling into the second category (I often fall into this category, but I have several mentors urging me on). Get a mentor, get help getting started, and publish!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
  Cool - slidecasting
Now SlideShare lets you synchronize an audio file with your slideshow. This would be a great way for libraries that don't have Camtasia (or other even more expensive versions) to easily create tutorials. Also, it's a great way to capture presentations for sharing later. (see: http://www.slideshare.net/faqs/slidecast)
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
  "Influential Marketing Blog" on L 2.0
[via Chris who I guess is on an Idaho library list serve where Anne posted it?]
Woo-hoo! Thank you, thank you very much... check's in the mail :)
Thursday, July 05, 2007
  ASIST2007: Program posted
And very exciting, too. Looking forward, in particular, to:
(my presentation :) ) and
Opening Science to All: Implications of Blogs and Wikis for Social and Scholarly Scientific Communication (SIG STI, SIG BWP)
Bora Zivkovic, Jean-Claude Bradley, Janet Stemwedel, Phillip Edwards and K.T. Vaughan

Lots of other sessions on wikis, blogs, tagging and other social computing things... which is good, since that's the theme.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007
  Accessing the scientific literature through images, a rant
I went to a presentation on CSA's Illustrata, and I've read pieces by Sandusky and Tenopir of UTK on its development and evaluation... it seems like a very useful endeavor and a useful tool when it comes to the subjects I'm primarily concerned with.

While browsing my feeds just now, I saw a mention of Marti Hearst's project, Biotext. Biotext indexes the 150 PubMed Central journals. You can search the abstracts or captions or captions and show the results in a grid format. I'm actually somewhat disappointed, because I know of Hearst's work with Flamenco and faceted presentation of search results -- yet in this obvious place to do that, they do not. In Illustrata it shows the descriptors and all that and you can do searches on them...

What's even more disheartening is that Biotext seemingly has no visibility of Illustrata... I read one of the articles linked from the "about" page and scanned the other. There is this footnote:
Recently a commercial offering by a company called CSA Illustrata was brought to our attention; it claims to use figures and tables in search in some manner, but detailed information is not freely available.
A company called CSA, wtf? Ok for environmental science they're like the best A&I service (not to mention materials and aerospace but, ok, that's not pertinent to this post). It's not like they're new or unheard of.... it's also not like the folks at Berkeley couldn't learn more about it... maybe by oh, I don't know, reading the white paper or going to a presentation or maybe signing up for a free trial, or talking to their librarian? So they mostly talk about TREC stuff... great.

Oh, and I do love this bit:
"Recently, online full text of bioscience journal articles has become ubiquitous, eliminating one barrier. The intellectual property restriction is under attack, and we are optimistic that it will be nearly entirely diffused in a few years"
(I have the Beach Boys' "wouldn't that be nice" going through my head)... Gee, I hope the actual life scientists do appreciate that there are still a ton of things not available OA... like the Nature stuff, for example?

My thing is that I think this is really important, and we could really get some good work done if we build on each other's work. You know, cumulating as if we're doing science instead of ignoring as if we're computer scientists (sorry, I don't really mean to offend my one CS major reader, hi John!, but really, they did just invent taxonomies, knowledge representation, and information retrieval, you know).

I'd also like to see this in materials science or mechanical or aerospace engineering -- wouldn't it be great to see the computation fluid dynamics or finite element images? Maybe the micrograph pictures or failure pictures...

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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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