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One of the things I have always liked about NASIG is that representatives from journal publishers and subscription agents participate fully as members of the organization. Our Alexander Street Press sales rep, Jenni Wilson, has been serving on the NASIG Board, and the new President of NASIG is from Springer. I also find it valuable to attend presentations given by vendor reps, since these sessions teach me about the vendors’ processes, timelines, values, etc.
One such presentation this year was called “JSTOR and Summon Under the Hood.” Summon Product Manager Laura Robinson talked about how Serials Solutions approached the development of Summon. She said their goal is to help researchers start broad and then focus. She explained a little about their relevance ranking, and said they are exploring using the searcher’s geographic location to influence the rankings. Robinson also said that Summon is building a new knowledge base; this sounded important to me, but she made the comment in passing and didn’t go into any detail.
Ron Snyder from ITHAKA spoke about upcoming changes in JSTOR, based on their analysis of actual users’ behavior. He spoke about their Local Discovery Integration pilot, which I reported hearing about at this year’s ER&L conference. He also said they are trying to develop a machine-based article classifier, in an attempt to assign subject disciplines at the article level (JSTOR disciplines are currently at the journal level). Snyder also announced that there will be a complete overhaul of JSTOR’s search infrastructure this summer (but no mention of whether or how the user interface will change).
Another session, presented by Eleanor Cook from ECU and Megan Hurst from EBSCO, talked about the use of mobile technologies in libraries. Hurst gave some excellent definitions of the differences between mobile apps vs. mobile websites, e-readers vs. tablets, etc. She said that currently in the U.S. and its territories, there are more mobile devices than people (how many devices do you have?). Hurst also said that over the last 4 years, mobile traffic as a percentage of total web traffic has been roughly doubling every year; as of January 2012 in the U.S., mobile traffic accounted for about 8.75% of total web traffic.
The opening keynote address was given by Dr. Lynn Silipigni Connaway of OCLC. Dr. Connaway presented results from multiple studies from the US and UK on information-seeking behavior. Much of it sounded familiar (users prefer keyword searching, they are confident in their skills, and they value convenience and speed), but I appreciated that it was backed up by evidence, not just anecdotes. Dr. Connaway was an entertaining speaker, and included many direct quotes from users that were both humorous and a little painful. She said that many users don’t want to approach a librarian for help because we look busy and they don’t want to bother us. She also said that users often complain about insufficient or cryptic signage (e.g. “I’m a smart person, but when I go to the library it makes me feel stupid”). She also spoke about avoiding jargon, and urged us not to put it on the users to figure things out (e.g. Don’t say “former title,” say “used to be called”). She told about walking into a library where she saw a sign that said “Help”; she was confused by it and wasn’t sure what the desk was for, but observed that the users were ok with it and weren’t confused at all.
In another keynote address, Duke University’s Kevin Smith talked about copyright and fair use in light of current litigation. The main points I took away were (1) Don’t put professional activities on hold while waiting for the outcome of cases “out there”; and (2) Fair Use is always a risk analysis: when weighing the risks, be sure to consider the risk of doing nothing.
In Rick Anderson’s closing keynote address, he spoke about the shifting scholarly communication landscape and questioned the continuing relevance of the scholarly journal. He wondered aloud how long it will be before we can ask our smartphones: “Siri, I need 5 scholarly articles on the demographics of Iceland, published in the last 5 years, in journals with an impact factor of at least 11.” Anderson talked about blurry boundaries between types of information, saying that these changes will be a tremendous boon for researchers even while making things much harder for librarians.
I guess that about wraps it up for me. I’ll let Chris tell about the totally awesome presentation he heard about CORAL.