NFAIS: Miles Conrad Lecture

The day ended with Lorcan Dempsey of OCLC who gave the Miles Conrad Lecture on “Universities, libraries, collections, futures.” Lorcan started by warning us that he does not have a lot of evidence to show us in relation to the trends he is going to introduce us to.

Education Trends

Lorcan began by taking us on a tour of universities in his area of Ohio via Google Maps. In this area there are not only several traditional and liberal arts colleges, but many for-profit colleges like Devry and University of Phoenix. The point of this tour was to explain to use the variety of educational models. Lorcan shared with us a quote from the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Colleges have three basic business models for attracting and keeping students. Two will continue to work in the next decade and one almost certainly will not.” The two they say will succeed are the elite/research institutes with a strong brand that are connected to international network of science and scholarship and the convenient educational institutes, like those that provide education as a service and focus on continuing ed and adult education. The one that will no succeed is the struggling middle – those institutions with a broad education focus and have not kept up with distance and convenience agendas. These institutions in the middle here have an unclear brand and direction.

That may be why many educational institutions are trying to concentrate their resources on research excellence – both in the US and abroad. On the other hand, for-profit education institutes – aka the convenient institutions are the largest growing category in this area. These two models are having an influence on the models for those in the middle.

Collection Trends

In our libraries we of course are going to see the volume of publications continue to grow, but format will become less important than the channel. We’re going to see research and learning materials as social objects – social will become a major element of all publishing.

Right now in libraries digital collection expenditure far outweighs the amount spent on print products in our libraries already. Lorcan showed us data from Michael Cairns who theorizes that in 10 years most of the content we have in print will be available in digital formats. This means we’re going from a model of buying content to leasing content (this is pretty true already with our database subscriptions).

A lot of what we have been doing is bringing content from the outside into our library. The question now becomes how do we get our content out to the appropriate audience.

While Academic libraries are spending more each year, they are spending proportionally less of the total university budget on resources for their collections.

Library Trends

The original purpose of libraries in our institutions was to make it easy for students and faculty to have access to the information sources they needed. Now, we’re seeing that people can find more convenient information services from their homes – aka Google. Libraries have to decide what to keep internally and what to farm out to services online.

Over the next few years, libraries are going find some infrastructure challenges. They’re going to find print increasingly becoming collaborative, meaning there will collaborative arrangements with other institutions. They’re also going need to find ways to store digital content versus print – or in addition to print.

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NFAIS: Emerging Technologies for Faster and More Effective Information Access

Del Sattertwhaite was up next talking about “Emerging Technologies for Faster and More Effective Information Access.” The focus of the talk was how do you get faster results from a software perspective to our searches. All of the improvements in search speed has been in response to hardware upgrades up till now.

Del gave us an example for how search engines work – how do you find the 6 smallest female salmon in a pond. Traditionally search engines grab all the fish. First they throw out the fish that are not salmon, then they throw out all of the male salmon, and finally they sort the females by size and pull the 6 smallest. The future model of search works like this: implant each fish with a chip with their vital stats and then radio the fish and have the smallest female salmon come to you.

Next we looked at federated search problems. Right now the issues include the fact that you’re checking multiple sources with multiple indexing methodologies. In the next gen model you pull content from all the sources so the query is consistent, apply a simple ranking algorithm for all the data and provide structured and unstructured queries from the same interface.

One real life example that Del gave us was the World Vital Records database. They had 12,000+ databases with 1.5 billion names. With the traditional approach a single query took 5 seconds but the index took 42 days to rebuild. With the new model it takes ~150 milliseconds to query and only 1.5 days to rebuild!

Freeing up this processing power will allow us to have power left over to increase understanding of search results and lower costs.

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NFAIS: Multi-Lingual Federated Search

Abe Lederman from Deep Web Technologies was up next with his talk entitled: “Federated Search: Breaking Down the Language Barrier.”

Abe talked to us about his new multi-lingual federated search tool. This will help non-English speakers to find content and it will also introduce English speakers to diverse perspectives from researchers in other countries. The translation tool they created is called Explorit.

Basically to use this tool a user will enter their search term in their native language and Explorit will submit the query to translation services and that service will translate it into the language needed by the sources being searched. Results are returned in the databases native language. At this point Explorit translates the results into the user’s native language, ranks them and then displays them for the user.

This sounds pretty darn cool – I’d like to see it in action to see how fast results can be retuned with all of this translation and ranking going on behind the scenes. For now we’ll all have to wait until June when will launch a multi-lingual search for the site.

Abe’s slides can be found online at :

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NFAIS: Making the Most of Published Literature

Guru Rao from Molecular Connections started the afternoon session with “Driving Publishing to Discovery: Adapting to the new age consume needs.”

Guru started by showing us two models. In the traditional model, the consumer subscribes to knowledgebase engines, studies the output, and then goes to the DB to find the data. In the new model – the discovery based model, the consumer goes to the publisher db and that db has added value on the content to make it more valuable (linking, semantic data, etc).

The new age consumer is used to open access content and search engines. They want quicker means to analyze published literature, value validations from their peers, to interact with authors, and to share data. To give an example of this Guru showed us Wolfram Alpha which changes the nature of search by using semantic data.

I have to admit that while I understood the ideologies behind Guru’s talk I really got lost in all of the science of it … I’m so so so easily confused by science talk :) In short, the staff at Molecular Connections used ontologies and semantic data to make it easier to search across data collections and link related content back and forth.

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NFAIS: Redefining the Business Information Value Equation

Brigitte Ricou-Bellan from Dow Jones gave us a talk entitled ‘Redefining the Business Information Value Equation in the Enterprise.’

Brigitte started with the “customer problem.” The biggest problem is that new is everywhere! Researchers use more than just one site to find information (on average they use 5 sites per day to find information). Next, “search doesn’t mean find.” When looking for relevant and good information searching on the web does not often provide satisfactory results. Users want to find good information quickly and effortlessly.

Content is Key! Along the same lines, Dow Jones want to add value to existing content with comments, video, etc. The second key is technology. Using technology to add value to the content (not humans in this case). One example is being able to extract from articles key events and company information to provide alerts. Next we need to think about personalization. Brigitte showed us the Campbell’s soup label collection as an example … this is just a small personalization (the only difference in each is the name of the soup). Finally we want to deliver information wherever the customer is – and this does not mean giving the same information on the desktop on the movie device – it’s about a lot more.

Dow Jones’ answer to this is the Wall Street Journal Professional.

First to answer the Content issue – Dow Jones editors debate about what news to include on the main page, they also have created industry pages to give you the full prospective regarding your industry in one place. All of this is managed by human editors at Dow Jones. Next, technology, they have implemented a smart search upon the right sources based on your area of interest. For personalization they have added a docking bar with personal options – this is where you set your personal newsfeeds, areas of interest, articles of interest and then eventually share that information. Finally, the product does have a mobile version to address the issue of delivering information where the user is.

In the end you have a product that takes free content (WSJ) and enhances it in such a way that it’s now something that people will pay for.

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NFAIS: The New Aggregation

Barry Graubart from Alacra talked to us about ‘The New Aggregation’ and the Alacra Pulse product. Barry started by telling us what we already know – news breaks on the web now, research has gotten decentralized, and “good enough” is now good enough. Barry deals with the financial market (bankers) so his examples refer to those doing business in the finance world.

The goal is to find out the nuggets that are interesting to our customers and passing them on to them in real time. We can’t deliver everything! We can’t deliver 100,000 blogs – there are a handful of sources that break news and then it becomes an echo chamber. That said, clients are not asking for all the business news, they want the important events delivered to them.

In addition we need to consider tagging, an example we know that Woolies = Woolworths, but searching for Woolworths will not turn up information on Woolies. With tagging we still need humans though! You don’t want to set an automated tagger loose on some of these articles.

The end result is the Alacra Pulse site which aggregates content from various open web sources, they are offering links and summaries and not licensing the content.

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NFAIS: Evolving the Scientific Article

First up in the ‘A Fresh Look at Content’ track was Dr. Emilie Marcus from Cell Press with her talk entitled “Evolving the Scientific Article.’

Emilie talked to about the ‘article of the future.’ The original goals of the project was the rethink the online presentation of the article including supplementary information such as videos, sound, animation and involving the scientific community in developing and refining the ideas. In July of 2009 they posted a couple of articles for feedback to see what the users thought of this ‘article of the future.’

Some of the features of the ‘article of the future’ is

  • Integrated tabbed presentations (each contents item appears in a tab for easy navigation)
  • Graphical abstract (takes the text summary and creates a graphic to show what the the text is saying)
  • Video abstracts and author interviews
  • Highlights of key results (a few bullets showing what the findings of the article are)
  • Integrate suplemental data
  • Author-affiliation highlighting (highlights authors and their affiliations at the top of the article)
  • Real-time reference analyses (a full list of references with a clickable timeline that breaks the references down by year, in addition you can limit to the author you’re interested in seeing)

It’s hard to make it clear how cool this article looks just by writing about it – I took some pictures (but they’re also not enough). I’d love to see this kind of article for technology and library science as well! Right now it’s limited to these scientific documents.

Cell Press has gotten great reviews about this article format – users like this type of organization of data.

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NFAIS: Innovation for Today’s Chemical Researchers

Christine McCue followed with her talk entitled: ‘Innovation for Today’s Chemical Researchers.’

Chrstine’s talk focused on the SciFinder product from CAS and how to use social media with and for the product. She found some stats about social media like 25% of page views start from a social media site – meaning we’re clicking through links on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, etc to get to new resources on the web (I know that this is very much true for me and how I find new resources, articles, blog posts, etc). That said, she has found that people are still using listservs (email is not dead). Given that – how do we know where to put our information?

They found that 27% of their SciFinder users are using Twitter, but 94% are using Facebook!! Along with that 46% of respondents are using social media for both personal and professional use (like me). When asked what they’re using these tools for 74% said they wanted to use them to collaborate with other performing similar research.

So in 2009 they beta tested some SciFinder collaboration features. They found that the Academics liked this – but the commercial and government users were concerned because of their proprietary products/thoughts/ideas. With this feedback they launched in a beta format because they wanted to see it in use, and not wait for all the data to come in. The tool allowed them to create connections on SciFinder where they can share comments and tags with colleagues you’re connected to. This made it so that peers could share resources they find on SciFinder (which goes back to yesterday’s comments that we rely more on our colleagues and friends than on what publishers say are useful).

In their survey they also asked how many people were using mobile devices and 54% said they were. So they are going to try to re-launch a service they tested in 2005 which is a SciFinder lookup for mobile devices. Unfortunately they found that there are people using too many varieties of mobile devices, making this development exponentially more difficult.

The conclusion is that they’re trying new things and seeing what works and hopefully something great will come out of it.

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NFAIS: Creating new value for business professionals

Alisa Bowen from Thomson Reuters was up next to talk to us about ‘Creating new value for business professionals.’ Alisa focused her talk on mobile resources.

The first question is why are we talking about this now? Mobile phones and smart phones have been around for a while. In short, she thinks we’ve passed a tipping point with 55 million people using the Internet on their mobile phone and this will increase to 80 million by next year. In addition to these numbers, Netbook market share has raised 22 percent in the past year – and you can probably think of a Netbook as a cross between a laptop and a smart phone. In short, people expect to find applications for every task on their mobile device.

The next question is what’s “value” on mobile devices? They came away with some customer insights in answer to this.

  • Mobile is no longer an Adjacency – Mobile is Core

    • Customers are using mobile devices daily in their work life. Nearly everyone was using their mobile device as a communication device (citing checking email and staying connected). In addition, new laptop purchases were down 30% in the company they talked to – in favor of using a mobile device.
    • Business people said that mobile helps them manage relationships better. People expect answers to email in a timely fashion and these devices allow that type of response time.
  • Mobile is not a technology it’s a behavior.
    • Mobile devices allow us to be ‘always on.’ Allowing us to communicate with our customers in a more timely fashion changing the way we work with our customers.
  • Business Information on Mobile is a Source of Competitive Advantage
    • There is an increasing demand for real-time business information on their mobile devices. That said, this isn’t about more information – it’s about providing the right information at the right time on a small screen.
  • Context, Sophisticated Data Visualization and Integration on Mobile are Critical to Successful Mobile Services
    • Large amounts of information are better digested on the big screen. This means that users want personalized information on their mobile to make it easier to do their job quickly.

These insights led them to defining 4 personas – The Alpha Exec (lots of responsibility, the mobile device is a status symbol), The Mobile Native (early adopter, usually younger), The Mobile Hobbyist (enjoy playing with the device), and The Mobile is a ‘necessary evil’ (mobile device is a drag and they don’t like it).

Also there are 8 task concepts that can help guide us in what tools we should develop for professional use:

  • Discovery (research on a wide range)

  • Maintenance (keeping an eye on things)
  • Absorption (taking on any new intelligence)
  • Alert (tell me something I didn’t already know before someone else tells me)
  • Creation (creating a plan with a client – create content on the mobile device)
  • Admin (jogging billable hours, expenses, contacts, etc)
  • Proactive Planning (organizing forthcoming meetings)
  • Unwinding (disengaging from work)

Taking the personas and the concepts they came up with 7 design principles:

  • Keep it simple

  • Integrate into the mobile OS
  • Integrate platforms
  • Integrate information services
  • Make it easy to use and quick to respond (this one I agree with – this is why I dropped by Blackberry Storm and happily switched to the Droid)
  • Design for different mobile models
  • Promote your brand

Using these guides they have come up with a few mobile pilot projects. First, Alise showed us MoJo (mobile journalism) that helped people upload pictures and next from their phones into a news room setting (a project with Nokia). Next is the NewsPro applications for the iPhone and Blackberry (not Droid) that provides business news, stock info, and entertainment news to the mobile device. Finally the BARBRI iPhone Application provides students access to the information they need to prepare for the Bar Exam. For those e students without access to these devices, Thompson Reuters leased iPod touches to them.

From this they have learned a lot about mobile devices and how to promote your services on this medium. Some of the things learned included understanding the environment (when they started they thought all their users were Blackberry users – but in fact there were just as many iPhones), mobile is not just a PC with a smaller screen, respect geographical differences and build flexibility into your business plans. Finally as others said yesterday, prepare to fail – and allow yourself to fail early and often – this is the only way you’re going to learn.

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