NFAIS 2009: Information Services for the Born Digital Generation

First this morning was the Information Services for the Born Digital Generation Panel. Up first was Daviess Menefee from Elsevier with his talk titled 2Collab – The Research Collaboration Tool.

Why did they develop it?

It was basically to provide information and understanding about the new types of content that users were creating. users are creating their own generated types of content. customers expectations are starting to change and we wanted to try to understand these changes and what their impact might be on scholarly communication. They also wanted to build and consolidate virtual scientific communities – and hopefully shorted research cycles by increasing productive of research by facilitation exchange of knowledge

Advantages to scientists:

  • discover new research material
  • share and identify quality information
  • avoid ‘blind alleys’ through communication with peers
  • collaborate without email
  • mine collective wisdom of experts
  • stay current with what others are saying in your field
  • hold discussions either in private groups or openly with the wider scientific community

They have integrated 2Collab into ScienceDirect and Scopus so that you can click an Add button while researching to send their article to 2Collab – works like my Delicious Firefox plugin. There is also a browser toolbar you can download and install to grab data from other resources that are not Elsevier owned.

To address the issue of privacy, 2Collab offers 3 types of privacy. There are the open public groups (visible to anyone on the web), a closed public group (a group for only people who are approved by an admin), and lastly a completely closed group (everyone has to be invited in order to see the content).

They did a survey to see how scientists are using social tools in May of 2008. Major age group who responded (it was a self selecting survey) were the under 25-45s and they were mostly researchers and research associates. Of those who answered, 65% said they used social networking for their work and 35% for leisure. Of those the main reasons they used social networking were to collaborate on research and keep up with what’s new in the field. In 5 years, over 50% of respondents see social applications playing a key role in shaping nearly all aspects of research workflow.

So these results showed them that they were right in creating 2Collab. 2Collab positions Elsevier to take advantage of the rise of social networking among young researchers in the scientific fields. My favorite closing point was that this was a learning experience for those at Elsevier!! Awesome – keep learning!!

John Law was up next with his talk titled Accessibility of Scholarly Resources.

John talked to us about his observational research of student researchers – he called it going native – watching students in their own environment. In addition, they did online chat sessions, conventional focus groups with librarians and surveys.

John decided to give us information on Aaron (not a persona – a real person) a 3rd year undergraduate student. He has a term paper where he has to evaluate how the alternative press evaluated George Bush during the Katrina disaster. Aaron starts his search in the OPAC – and can’t find anything with his simple search of ‘media and government.’ He then tries browsing by subjects, but can’t find the right subject for his research. His searching leads him out of the library site – which by the way had a great database for his research, but he didn’t know that the library had it. Once he’s out of the library website he spends the rest of his research out on the open web. In the end he had almost 0% success with this searching technique.

So, they asked the students what the superior source for quality, credible content – the library was by far the answer given (versus web search). Then – why do researchers so often find themselves out on the open web? John’s answer for this is that it’s compensatory behavior. The library site lead them out to the web and that leads them to a single search box that is easy to use and so they start searching there. In most cases, students don’t even realize that they’re engaging in compensatory behavior.

So, what are the ways to find resources in libraries?

  • library catalog – but this usually has the physical collection and not the electronic – of which there are usually more
  • eResources page – lists all of the electronic content, but there are hundreds of resources listed and so there is no way they’re going to read through the entire list to find what they need
  • Federated Search – which isn’t up to snuff yet

So in the end people end up at Google because it’s simple, easy and fast – they don’t have to know anything about the content they’re searching. Unlike Internet searching, in the library you have to know what resources are indexed where before searching.

John then reviews Google as a research tool. If you do a refined search on Google you still get hundreds of thousands of results which you have to sort through.

“Too many results from a Google search and the need to sort through them” and “Figuring out what is a credible source, and what is not” project information literacy report: what today’s college students say… Feb 2009

What have we learned from this? Don’t fear Google, embrace it, but also don’t rely on it as the primary means for your library clients to access your subscription content. What we need is simplified access to library content. Librarians realize this and view it as a challenge to the library.

What is Serials Solutions doing about this? They have developed Summon a Unified Discovery Service – a Google-like search for your library. It enables quick discovery of the most credible resource anywhere the library has them. Unlike federated search, the results come back immediately (quickly) and they don’t just get titles, but they get access to the metadata to winnow down their results to exactly what they’re looking for.

In the service so far they have 70+ providers supplying content, 50,000+ journals and over 300,000,000 records.

So, what are publishers to do? John says we should listen to Inger and Gardner (Sept 2008) who say that “A key measure of publisher success is the usage which can be maximized by enabling all the routes to its content … library technology plays a key role in user navigation.”

Ann Thorton was up last with her talk entitled Equipping and Empowering Staff to “Get Out There”.

Ann asks, how do we ensure that our staff are ready to play in this new playing field? At the NYPL, visitors, circulation, and website views are all up. While these are all up, there is still a downward trend in the use of 2 of the libraries assets: unique collections and staff expertise.

How do we best leverage what we consider to be our greatest asset (these unique collections and our staff expertise)? We need to create a new digital experience, we need to set content free, and we need to get staff out there to engage with patrons in the spaces they’re occupying. They’re starting to use Drupal at the NYPL to help with some of this. They are also using some third party sites to put their content up because their patrons are already there.

So, how are they out there? They’re on Facebook, YouTube, iTunes University, Flickr Commons and Twitter (just launched 2 weeks ago). Ann showed us the library’s YouTube channel where they are the 66th most viewed non profit this month and have a great collection of videos that feature the library’s collections and staff. They have also hired new employees to help set content free and train the staff.

In addition to these tools, they have established a blogging policy for their staff and these new blog posts are popping up in Google search results – leading people to the library. A popular misconception is that this blogging at the library is being done by digital natives – but in fact it’s all of the staff from all generations – it’s just a way for the librarians to share their research passions with the patrons and the world.

She showed us their Flickr Commons page and it was amazing. They had uploaded content and got a great response including comments, tags, new metadata and even a mashup of their pictures mapped on a Google Map – showing a now and then view of these locations.

A good closing comment – having the technology is not enough – they need the staff and the knowledge to use it.

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  1. Great article!

    Why don’t you think Federated Search is “up to snuff” yet? My company, Deep web Technologies ( provides a sophisticated federated search platform for libraries, government agencies and corporations.

    Federated search, by itself, does pose a number of issues (some of which you identified above). A hybrid, with some crawling / indexing, seems to be a great approach for most needs.

    We’ve developed some publicly accessible websites that utilize our technology, and represent a powerful research tool. Check them out at,, and


  2. Larry, that comment was made by the speaker. I think that the complaint is that federated search is still a bit sloppy and way way way too slow.

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