NFAIS: Embracing New Measures of Value

Christy Confetti Higgins a Cybrarian at Oracle started the morning with her talk entitled ‘Embracing New Measures of Value: Integration and Collaboration at Sun Microsystems.’

Christy talked to us about integrating information from outside sources into inside sources. The approach they took was to maximize dollars spent, repurpose content, and leverage social media. One example of this is that they pulled in their own Twitter feed to the Information Services Wiki. Another example she gave us was from their learning portal. On this main page they included a feed of books from Safari and Books24/7 (I wonder if the reason the library catalog is excluded is because limitations in the software …).

In addition to pulling data in, they used social media to connect with employees. They have both a public and an internal blog. Using the RSS feeds from these blogs they were able to then pull in feeds based on tags into the wiki (so if the post was about financial information it could be on the financial page of the wiki). Another use of social media was to create a community for the engineers called the “Read Community” this way the engineers could share what they were reading with their colleagues – this comes back to one of the topics from yesterday brought up by Cameron – we learn a lot from the resources our colleagues are reading and sharing with us. With this tool they not only had the engineers sharing information, they were also able to take the recommendations that were shared and put them on a Safari Books Reading List and pull that out with an RSS feed and post that to the wiki. (What I’m hearing is that RSS is central to nearly everything they do! Which backs up what I keep telling librarians – you need to offer at least one RSS feed on your site so people can use and re-mix your content.)

In addition to their own content, they were able to pull in Twitter Feeds from the vendors they worked with and had similarities with. This way they can keep their staff connected with the content providers. Then on their learning portal in addition to finding results from internal sources, they run the search against their content providers and include results from those services in boxes on the side of the search results.

One other way they have added value was to use SecondLife to teach workshops for their staff. They could have used WebEx, but they wanted to offer the workshops in a different way. They also tested out Wonderland, a virtual world they were able to host behind their firewall and host workshops that were 100% secure for internal staff only.

Overall it sounds like Christy and her crew are really working to bring all of the relevant content to her colleagues via various different avenues!!

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NFAIS: Research in the Web Era

MacKenzie Smith, Associate Director for Technology at the MIT Libraries gave us a talk entitled “The Value Equation: Social Science Perspective (or Why I Love Google).”

MacKenzie started by admitting that MIT (where she works) spends millions on research databases (570 of them including 45,000 e-journals), but she doesn’t use any of them … instead she relies on conference proceedings, white papers, email, blog posts and other related project websites. The problem she finds that most of the peer-reviewed journal articles are just way too old. She needs to know about these topics now! Not a year from now. Instead, many of the resources she relies on are free and open access – resources that are and always have been open access.

The problem she finds when searching databases (and this is one I’m very familiar with) how do you search across disciplines – how do you know what database to use to find information that crosses disciplines. In my world this would be my common research areas of open source development (technology/computer programming) for and in libraries (social sciences).

In addition – even though she has access to EndNote & RefWords she uses Zotero. This is because Zotero is evolving more quickly to deal with the varying types of content we want to save and cite. Also, Zotero offers more mobility – accessibility form all over – and the ability to share resources with her colleagues. (As a side note, MacKenzie pointed out Mendeley which is Zotero for scientists).

When it comes to searching, MacKenzie doesn’t usually use advanced search, she instead starts with a seed and then builds on that. Then to review the content she doesn’t use the publisher to decide on the quality. She instead uses the author, the organization or the person who recommended that she read the article. In the end this devolves into the fact that we depend very much on our social networks.

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NFAIS: Now About that Filter!

Dr. Cameron Neylon was up next to talk to us about filtering information in the scientific world. Carmeron finished high school in 1990 and had his first email address in 1991. His professor told him that he had to spend 1/2 a day a week in the library to read new journals so he could keep up with new information. It wasn’t until 1995 that he really discovered the web. Around 1997 – “Someone showed me Google and finally the web worked.” By 2001/2 everyone is subscribed to table of contents updates via email – and no one is reading them. How do we improve the situation?

Search is by far the dominant filter in a researchers lives – in the science world, Scopus, Google Scholar, PubMed … etc. Now to get table of contents you can do a text search on your database of choice and then subscribe to the RSS feeds. That said, you’re not really searching full text in many cases – you’re searching abstracts only. In the end you’re left with a very lacking set of data.

How do we improve this? Cameron showed us FriendFeed and showed how he can now get information relevant to him – not just relevant but current information – instantaneous updates. Because we can’t cope with the about of information we’re talking about we have to share the load, we have to use tools like this and let our friends share the information they have found with us. This is how I use tools like Twitter and Facebook and FriendFeed – I make sure that all of the resources I find that might be interesting to my colleagues is shared on these resources so that I hopefully can help them find the information that is important to them.

Carmeron brought up a great point – using these tools to gather information completely bypasses having to use the database products that many of the people in the room provide. Why? Because outside of those tools we can customize our search to center around us. After all each one of us is the center of the universe :) All the information you receive comes from a network that you built – not from a few peer-reviewers that a publisher selected that you have never met or heard of.

We need our publishers to give us better tools for aggregating, summarizing and sharing information. Right now there is information stored in several different places – Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter, the Journal’s site, etc. and we need a way to bring all of that information together and then allow us to filter them to our needs. We need a way to connect with people – not the people who are going to agree with me – but the people who are going to challenge me and help me learn more.

These tools are still incredibly crude and the people in this room are best placed to create tools that use the good from these sites and improve upon them for research purposes.

[update] Cameron has posted his slides on Slideshare. [/update]

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NFAIS: What Information Users Really Value

Roger Strouse from Outsell followed Clay Shirky with his talk titled: “What Information Users Really Value.” Throughout the talk, Roger gave us insights into what users are thinking based on studies and surveys that Outsell has performed.

Roger started with what he called a ‘provocative statement’ – ‘In a challenging environment, meeting users’ value expectations is necessary for survival’ — why are we talking about this 2010 – when we’ve been thinking about this for 20 years now. The problem is that advertising budgets are shrinking, “free” is a competitor, users are sophisticated and know what’s possible, and good enough is good enough. The economy isn’t all that has changed for users though.

Users are rethinking about what’s valuable. There are rising expectations for online experiences. Providing information is not enough anymore, you need to provide a well-rounded experience (tagging, commenting, interaction in general). There is also a morphing definition of authority – there is a dislike for peer-reviewed content. Users expect to be able to get academic and professional data on their mobile devices more than ever before. This all adds up to users have very different value filters than they used to have.

Users now value things like usability, fun and sophistication. I can (and you know you can to) think of plenty of these research products that I’d rather stay very very far away from simply because of the usability and/or interface design. Another key value we’re used to hearing about is the desire to aggregate content – mix free and fee content together because users don’t want to be searchers – they want all their content in one place. That said, users still value quality control and authoritative/trusted sources – however users do not want to hear that someone or some product is a trusted source – they want to figure that out for themselves. They don’t want to see any editorial control being applied – that makes them think about what might have been edited out – what might be out there that they’re not seeing.

Along the same lines as having fun and sophisticated sites, users are expecting research sites to work the same way that other consumer products work. A great quote Roger shared was “Facebook can do it… why can’t you?” another site he said users wanted us to emulate was Amazon. They don’t know why if it’s on the open web why can’t it be in the products our libraries are paying for? As a developer I know what it takes to implement things like comments, tags and rss feeds – some of it requires more work than others – but that said, they’re all pretty easy to implement in the grand scheme of things.

Roger next showed us some data to back up these comments. One of the most interesting charts he showed was the one that focused on what handheld devices people are using – iPod is the top product on the list and there are more Blackberry users out there than iPhone users – at first that seemed surprising to me, but then I thought about it and Blackberry has been around longer and seems to be the standard in businesses.

When asking where users where they want content 51% say Facebook and 28% LinkedIn — only 7% say Twitter. Then when asked which they use for personal versus professional uses, LinkedIn and Ning are at the top of the list for professional use, which is interesting to me because I use Twitter and Facebook more for those uses – in that they are where I get much of my information from colleagues.

When asked about the value of free versus purchased content and 39% said that free content is higher quality than purchased – and this was not limited to the millenials, in fact the millenials put the value of purchased content as higher.

Conclusion

So this means that publishers have to know their users and that means asking them what tools they’re using and what features would make them use your tools more. It’s important to know what expectations they have coming in to your product (i.e. Amazon or Google-like interfaces and features). Most important on Roger’s list of suggestions (most important to me that is) was to focus on the overall user experience!! Also important in my eyes was to integrate popular consumer features into workplace solutions.

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Clay Shirky Keynotes NFAIS 2010

This year’s NFAIS conference was opened by Clay Shirky. He started by giving us a 5 word synopsis of his book Here Comes Everybody — Group Action Just Got Easier. He then when on to a story about the power of social networks.

HSBC (a bank in the UK) in 2007 decided they were going recruit new clients (graduate students and undergrad students). They offered these students accounts with an overdraft that had no fees associated with it. Then in the summer they took back their plan to offer the account with no penalties for overdrafts and said they were going to charge $140 per overdraft. They said you have 30 days to get your money out before we charge you. The idea was that college students are all over the world in the summer and won’t be around to throw a fit. But a college student found out about it and published it on Facebook. The bank didn’t realize that these students were still connected even though they were spread out. In the end HSBC changed their mind. This wasn’t because the students were unhappy – it was because they were unhappy and organized.

Clay then went into talking about 3 information issues.

Volume of Information

When the printing press turned into the mechanical object we know today, books were able to be printed 300x faster than a scribe could pen the book. When a new tech comes along, previously impossible things become possible.

Abundance breaks more things than scarcity does – when the web first became viable newspapers thought this was great! They could send out text and images for free and reach more than just their local customer base – they can reach people worldwide. What they didn’t think about was that their competitors can now reach their customers … The ability to handle digital data at a low cost seemed in the 90s to be a great way to build businesses – but the fact is that now it has turned their business models upside down.

Information Overload

This is not a new problem! Think about the book. In the beginning books did not have table of contents, indexes, etc – those things were added once books were popular to respond to the problem of information overload in the book.

The answer to then organizing books was the card catalog. The problem is that as we know these systems (both Dewey and LCC) are very biased. The cataloging system isn’t there to organize the world, it’s there to organize the containers of the information. The answer to this is Google (Yahoo!’s original idea of trying to organize information into categories didn’t work either). Google fights the filter failure problem – there are none.

He then moved on to Flickr. Flickr has not card catalog – so how do we find information in Flickr? Tags! He showed us an example from the Smithsonian’s collection which had 100s of tags. And asked why is it that this isn’t a mess? Why does this work? Because we’re talking about organizing the web – we don’t have to think in the same terms we think of in our physical buildings.

In the end tags are more powerful and more accurate than categories defined by ‘experts’ because the community comes together and you get the collective wisdom of multiple people. Tags allow for a coordination of the community – using tags people can not only find information on a topic they’re interested in, but they can find people who are interested in that topic because the tags are linked back to people.

Combinability

The ability to take 2 resources and multiply them to create something new. One of the most famous transitions in history was the transition from alchemy to chemistry. Both of these disciplines used the same tools, the difference was that chemists decided they were not going to believe things they could not prove. The change that led to the shift from alchemy to chemistry was the printing press – chemists decided to publish their experiments so that others could learn from them and criticize them.

Last year DARPA announced the red balloon challenge. They put 10 balloons up across the country and gave them a month to find them for a prize. The group that won found them all in 9 hours because they used social networking to work together. In the FAQ for the contest, DARPA linked to Wikipedia articles on how to find the latitude and longitude of the balloons. Why? Why link to a un-authoritative site like that? Why not link to Britannica? Because Britannica only gives you 100 words of the article and a link to sign up for a free trial. If you sign up for a trial, you can’t actually find the article because you’re brought to a 404 error. In this case Wikipedia has surpassed Britannica because they took advantage of tools on the web that allowed them to create an accessible reference source that has taken advantage of combining knowledge.

What’s the future

When asked what we do to take advantage of this movement toward open access and community collaboration … Clay says he does not know what we can do. The one thing he can tell us is that throughout history no one realized what the change was going to be until it happened.

The Internet is what made Linux and Wikipedia work – they have access to a global network to add together all of the good ideas. Which brings up a good quote from Bernard Shaw that I just re-read today in an Intro to Open Source guide:

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

It isn’t the one big idea that helps you figure out what you’re doing – the only way you can stomach the kind of failure that you can learn from is to have hundreds of small ideas.

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WiFi at Conferences

So, I spent today at the NFAIS conference – with no wifi! Now, this is not the conference committee’s fault – this is the fault of the hotels where we hold our conferences. I don’t know what this particular hotel was going to charge for wifi, but I’m sure it was an insane amount!! I’ve been on the exhibit floor for several library conferences and the amount they charge us just for Internet in our booths is astronomical.

I think that all conference planning committees should get a couple of wifi cards from cell vendors (or whoever) and a couple of routers and provide their own wifi at these conferences – that might make hotels lower their prices – or maybe it won’t. Either way I wouldn’t have to post these news items in the short intervals I get access to the wifi from the food court…

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NFAIS 2009: Born Digital – Born Mobile

Mimi Ito closed the conference with her talk titled Born Digital – Born Mobile: A look at the Future of Communication and Search.

Mimi asks, are these web 2.0 technologies just this generation’s version of punk rock? Will kids give it all up when they become adults? Or is there a cultural change here?

If she were to pick one thing were profoundly different it’s that making and sharing media has become a new way for us to communicate with each other across the world – making a global cultural change. This is more than just text messaging and peer to peer sharing which are the same as passing notes or clipping articles from magazines to share – it’s more about how we make stories that tell who we are and share them online.

She told a great story about her son the plane with her. He was playing his DS and a teenager from the row in front of them looked back and between the two of them they negotiated to play Mario Kart together over the DS connection. This is type of connection required that they have a portable game of some type (this can include trading cards – not just electronic media). It’s a form of social currency for kids to have one of these games or decks of cards.

So, how are these games related to creating content? Mimi gave the example of YouTube becoming the new gaming arcade. You can go on YouTube and see how others are performing. It’s like looking over the shoulder of others in your arcade.

She gave us the example of a chinese boy whose picture was posted online and then taken and mashed into all other kinds of content. Another example would be an anime music video which is a snippet of an anime episode over music that is usually European or American in nature. So you now not only have a media mashup, but a cultural mashup.

Historically this type of globalization was limited to large media players – but now it’s in the hands of the average fans. One example of this is the peer to peer subtitling of anime episodes and films. Within hours of episodes being released, the fans online have written the subtitles for the episode and distributed them over bit torrent.

There is of course a problem with this type of content re-mashing. Young people feel that it’s their right to take content and remix it with their own custom content or with content by others. The problem is that our perceptions of what is an appropriate remix of content is not usually in-line with what the law.

Another example she gave us was from Japan. There are actually cell phone novels being written in Japan. These are novel length stories that were written in short bursts in text message format. I can’t even imaging writing this blog post on a phone – let alone a novel!! But apparently compilations of these novels were the top selling novels in Japan last year (I think got the year right).

So what does this all mean? It means that our media culture is becoming more and more global. That said, it’s important to note that there are only certain media that travel across national boundaries (text messages and camera phone photos usually stay very local). Today’s media and information literacy is first and foremost about social belonging in a world that is saturated with media of both the professional and the amateur kind.

Though most of what kids are doing online may seen trivial, what they’re really doing is building the capacity to mobilize and work together.

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NFAIS 2009: The Rise of Social Media and Multi-language Communication

The Impact of Global Digital Natives: The Rise of Social Media and Multi-language Communication and Content

Nora Ganim Barnes from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth spoke first on Social Media Adoption from Higher Ed to the Inc. 500.

Nora was going to give us the first longitudinal results of the conference. The sample used for her study included all kinds of schools size 20 students to 39,000 students. These questions were posed to the school.

The first question was what are you familiar with? Social Networking was the highest ranked and Podcasting the lowest ranked. The use of Social Networking from 2007-2008 went from 29% to 61%.

When asked if colleges accept comments on your blog – 22% said No in 2008! If you don’t accept comments, it’s a message board – not a blog. A blog is supposed to be a conversation. Nora says that while colleges are adopting social media quickly – they’re not exactly doing it right. Another example of this is that only 49% are offering RSS feeds for their site content!

She also found only 1 out of 5 schools were using social media to research potential students – this number should be much higher!! Do you want to give a scholarship to a student and then find them on Facebook and see that they did something very embarrassing on spring break??

Next the Inc. 500 and Social Media, 209 participated in 2008 and 121 in 2007 from 26 different industries. When asked how familiar they are with social media, the same ones were at the top and bottom as the higher ed study. 49% say they’re using Social Networking in 2008 compared to 27% in 2007. For those not using social media yet, 26% of them plan to use a blog soon.

The grand summary shows that 85% of colleges/universities in 2008 are using social media and 77% of the Inc. 500 are doing the same.

She then asked how they’re monitoring the buzz about their organization – and not enough were – you need to be paying attention to what people are saying about you, your school, your library and your company online – set up alerts and keep up with it!!

Bill Kelly followed Nora with his talk Building a Professional Social Network: Keys to Success.

In the last few years we have seen an explosion of social networking on the web. A number of studies theorize that our motivation to connect with each other goes back a long way (he showed us a picture of gorillas). He noted that the most popular networks aren’t always geared toward on profession and so a set of sites has cropped up for your specific network (he mentioned sciences in his talk – but I recently joined Ravelry – a network for knitters – so they exist all for all kinds of groups).

He pointed out that before you start a community like this you have to find out what motivates your audience. The universal traits he found among scientists were: Creative, Curious, Dedicated, Entrerenuerial, etc. It doesn’t matter what kinds of professionals you want to bring into your network, you just have to remember that they have always been communicating, so you have to allow them to continue that communication in a superior way to the alternative source.

They did a survey of 1500 scientists to see how they’re using social media – unlike most professionals, these people do not spend their days at a keyboard, so their networks need to meet their needs of finding research – so you have to keep in mind that all social media is not right for all audiences and all purposes, you have to mold it to meet your networks’ needs.

You also have to remember to position your network so that it’s in the eyes of your target customer/network. You can’t be all things to all people! An example of this is that discussion boards are still the preferred method of communication in the science community. In fact, most scientists aren’t reading science blogs on a regular basis.

You also have to be careful to use their language and explain who you are for science networks to work – they’re always questioning credibility. You have to create a welcoming environment which means including safe images and content that fits the audience you’re trying to attract. And even if you do everything right – it’s always possible that those who sign up for your networks may never come back after signing up.

Loyalty is important to promote your social network. Bill says that loyalty is measured many ways. Those who visit the site but don’t contribute are loyal, those who open your emails but don’t visit the site are loyal. Loyal users are those who feel that they can’t afford to leave because they may miss something important. So, make sure you’re building trust and providing new features and value to the site.

In conclusion, while it’s not easy – it’s well worth it!

Jack Harvey from the US Patent and Trade Office came next with this talk titled Pilot Concerning Public Submission of Peer Reviewed Prior Art.

“Prior Art” is the term given to patents and printed publications used by examiners in rejecting claims in an application. Getting prior art before the examiner, early in prosecution, generally improves the examination process. The website implementing this pilot project was launched in June of 2007.

Pilot project overview:

  • 400 volunteered published applications
  • No more than 25 applications from any one company
  • up to 10 pieces of prior art are submitted for consideration by the examiner during examination

Why did they want to participate?

  • Public Criticism of Patents
  • Published applications will be on the website for up to 3 months
  • Provide peer review of applications
  • Leverage existing technology for collaborative filtering to provide best prior art to the Office
  • Improve patent quality

To date, participation has been okay. Of the 400 slots, only 150+ applicants have consented and accepted to participate (some of these include HP, IBM, Intel, GE, Microsoft, Sun). Pro se inventors make up approximately 15% of those 150+. Nearly half of the applications have received a first action on the merits. To date, only 10% of the peers have found art that the examiner didn’t – in the 90% of cases, the examiner found what they needed on their own.

This pilot project is that it has been covered extensively in the news online and offline – and yet the participation is still low – which makes Jack think that maybe not enough people know about it – maybe it has to do with some of the things that Bill mentioned about gearing your network to the right audience and bringing them in.

Jack gave us some feedback from the examiners and it was all positive. They thought it was a good idea and that i was going well. One examiner said, “I think it would be helpful as a whole, it seems that peers interpret claims and references differently.” So, from the examiner’s perspective it’s a great pilot.

Even though the pilot runs out in June, but President Obama has a plan to reform the Patent System in which he calls for ‘citizen review’ (read more in this post by Beth Simone Noveck on Cairns Blog). The US Chamber of Commerce Report also says that “PTO should expand ‘peer-to-peer’ pilot program.” So there is a lot of call for this type of program, but there is something stopping it from moving forward, so this is a tool to keep an eye on and promote.

Leonor Ciarlone from The Gilbane Group was last up on this panel with her talk Challenge 2009: Aligning Global Content with Business Value.

Leonor wanted to bring in the multi-lingual aspect to everything we’ve talked about at this conference. To start, she pointed us to a report they did at her company on ‘Multilingual Communications as a Business Imperative‘ in July of 2008.

Leonor was very interesting to listen to – but I have to say that I was a bit lost – it was very very business heavy – so my recommendation to you (if you’re interested in business stuff) is to read the report that I have provided a link to above.

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NFAIS 2009: The Impact of Global Digital Natives

This morning’s panel was The Impact of Global Digital Natives: New Business Practices and Policies.

Joe Lucia from Villanova started off the morning with his talk entitled No Secret Code: Open Source, Innovation, and Academic Libraries in the Digital Environment.

Joe started by pointing us to the OCLC studies on user perceptions – particularly for his environment, the report on College Students’ Perceptions of Libraries and Information Services.

Some of the findings:

  • 89% start research with search engines
  • 87% have visited an academic library, for a variety of reasons
  • 57% report using online library site as a step in research process
  • 79% describe libraries as “accurate” & “credible”
  • 50% report using library catalog frequently

Some unsurprising conclusions:

  • Current undergraduates evidence greater familiarity with search engines than with online library resources

  • Current undergraduates have a broad awareness of an respect for the value & accuracy of library resources
  • We need to make the library search experience as familiar & as engaging as searching the open Web.

What is the “New Openness” in Library Technology?

Web native technologies for the rapid development and deployment of simple applications. This means we need a critical mass of robust well-developed open source components and standardized data frameworks and interfaces that can be used to build sophisticated discovery & presentation layers. He mentioned Lucene and SOLR because they are being used in open source products as well as in proprietary products – except that with the later, they’re selling them to us and the former is a free way to benefit from their power.

Obviously I’m with Joe when he says that we should be demanding APIs and data portability so that we can take the data we’re creating and remix it to our heart’s content.

Another aspect of this “new openness” is that the original skepticism of open source is fading, not only in our world, but in the enterprise and business worlds as well. Open source is becoming extremely viable and Joe thinks that in a decade it will be the predominant way that we access technology.

He then went on to talk about the VUFind project which I have written about extensively here and on other sites on the web – so I’m not going to repeat myself except to say that it’s changing and growing – it’s awesome and it’s open source – what more do you need??

Then, my favorite part – the case for open source in libraries!! Do I really need to tell you all about this again?

Here are Joe’s points:

  • Libraries are situated within the domain of the commons

  • They provide their communities with open access to intellectual and cultural resources
  • No single individual controls or uses up the resources in the library

So – the cultural assumptions and social practices embedded within open source software are congruent and co-extensive with the values and missions of libraries as we understand them. In short “Embracing open source software = deepening and enhancing our culture mission and social function”

Dave Guttman from Gale/Cengage was up next with his talk Impact of Global Digital Natives: New Business Practices and Policies.

He starts by reminding us that while more people visit libraries than Starbucks everyday, more searches are done on Google than at our libraries. There is tons of deep, rich content out there, it’s just a matter of making it findable.

He talked about some of the different business models you can use when selling content:

  • Transactional – when content is high value, hard or impossible to find for free
    • Downside: hard to find repeat customers with this model)

    • Benefit: allows you to capture a customer who otherwise wouldn’t buy a subscription – looking for just one thing
  • Subscription – where the sum is greater than the parts
    • Downside: need to bring more people in the door and continue to improve the product to justify pricing

    • Benefits: extrememly predicable revenue and cash flow
  • Enterprise – de-commoditization of the content
    • Downside: has lower sales cycles and significant overhead
  • Advertising – when there are lot s of viable substitutes, many are free or cheap
  • Hybrid – often advertising is seen as content when done right
  • Library Advocacy – use of Internet front doors can expand awareness, reach and use of content
    • Downside: perceived conflict of interest from web-based activities to those occurring in the library

    • Benefits: huge opportunities on both sides if done properly. libraries want usage and exposure of the content they spend significant funds on and Gale has the ability to drive enormous amounts of targeted traffic to those libraries.

He added a few words about search engine optimization – in short it’s like black magic! You’re never done and if you ask 10 experts the same question you’ll get 20 different answers.

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NFAIS 2009: Miles Conrad Lecture

This year’s Miles Conrad Lecture was titled Challenges for Great Libraries in the Age of the Digital Native and was presented by Dame Lynne Brindley.

Lynne called library and information service professionals to step up to the plate to provide value well beyond the search engine. If we don’t do this we will become obsolete or just the museum of the book – which isn’t necessarily bad – but she doesn’t want the British Library to become that.

She talked about so much – and I kept getting swept up in listening to her and didn’t take copious notes, so I can only give you a summary of what I absorbed. First and most important, they are getting where their users are and adding value to their online services with catalog tagging, blogging, mashups, podcasting and so much more. Their librarians are always learning new things and are listening very closely to their users.

Interestingly, she found that her patrons wanted to know what content was British Library content and what wasn’t – it wasn’t that they didn’t want the other content – they just wanted to make educated decisions in what to pick.

She went on to talk about special collections and the fact that all content should be and can be delivered in a digital format. She finds that the digital actually impresses upon people the value of the artifact and an interest in the actual item. That said, she is aware that providing both the digital and the physical costs, but that doesn’t stop her from insisting that it’s important. Opening up our special collections with major digitization efforts is a critical contribution to digital scholarship and research.

She talked about the Digital Lives project which sounds pretty darn awesome. Which follows living people and how they store their own digital archives, article repositories, communications, notes, etc. Unfortunately, initial findings show that we’re not very organized in our digital lives. Actually – she made me think (once again) about the fact that since I got my Mac I haven’t organized my files very efficiently – mainly because searching is so easy – but I really should keep it more orderly so that others can find information should they ever need to.

Next, she touched another nerve – she says that the ability to concentrate deeply seems to be becoming lost. I have found this is the case very often when I’m working, reading, or even writing – it’s frustrating to me, and something I know I have to work on more.

When it comes to digital preservation – how are we going to make sure that our grandkids have access to our digital photos? Believing that they’ll be out in the cloud forever is foolish. I don’t know if my way is any better – but I’m scanning our family pictures and mixing them with our digital photos and burning them to discs to share with several family members so that these memories are spread out among many of us. Of course, if JPG isn’t always the format for images – then it’s possible that future ancestors will not be able to open these images – but I’m finding the too many of our print images have been lost with the passing of relatives and so I’m hoping that my way works a little better than the old method.

In conclusion, we are moving into a complex, more visual richer environment. Research libraries have choices to make – decisions that these libraries make are going to pave the way for all other libraries in the world. The information professional should participate in defining the future of knowledge creation, knowledge ordering and dissemination, and knowledge interaction. Lynne says that if we don’t participate in this are then libraries are just not going to evolve.

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