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This year’s conference of the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) was held June 6-9 in Buffalo, NY. After a bumpy plane ride, Chris and I arrived safely in Buffalo. (NASIG VP/Pres-elect Steve Kelley got there a day ahead of us.)
The opening session was presented by Dr. Bryan Alexander, from the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). His address was primarily an overview of technology trends, especially use of mobile devices. The audience seemed engaged, but the audio was terrible where I sat, and then I lost most of my notes on his talk due -ironically- to a technology error, so Steve or Chris will have to fill you in.
I thought Saturday’s plenary address was a good combination of “Libraries are important” and “Libraries must change” [nod to Carol]. The speaker, Megan Oakleaf of Syracuse University, focused on how to communicate the importance of libraries to stakeholders. She said there is a lot of information on the value of libraries in general, but not much on their value to the sponsoring organization. The usual value metrics-user satisfaction, service quality, collection counts, usage (“a lot of people downloaded a lot of things”)-don’t communicate a compelling message. Oakleaf said we should identify what the institution/community values, then tie the message of library outcomes to those values. How/what does the library contribute toward student recruitment? student success? faculty recruitment/tenure/promotion? research funding? local economy? Do students who use more library resources ultimately get better grades? She encouraged us to think about what data we need to collect in order to answer such questions.
Sunday’s plenary session featured Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry). He was scheduled to talk about “the Challenge of Big Data,” and it so happened that this session came just a few days after news of the NSA’s Prism surveillance program broke. I found his presentation fascinating. He pointed out that Google (along with other big-data endeavors) is in the prediction business, using the massive amounts of data on past user behavior to read our minds. He wondered aloud about the NSA’s ability to read and misread our information, and about how statistical correlation could kill the scientific method. This new system means no second chances; the stupid mistakes of our youth never go away. Yet most of us continue to carry GPS devices (aka cell phones) with us wherever we go, and we continue to use Google and grocery store “loyalty” cards. My favorite take-away was Vaidhyanathan’s explanation of privacy. He said that privacy is not about hiding all information, but is the ability to influence your reputation within certain contexts. There are some things you want your brother to know, but not your sister, or your clergy but not your coach. When the defaults are set to lock the flow of information open, then we lose that control and have no privacy. He said he sees a new digital divide, between those who are savvy enough to shape their digital profile and those who are victims of the system, who don’t understand, for instance, the connection between their poor credit score and their difficulty finding a job. He urged those of us on the savvier side to fight for those who don’t know how to protect their rights.
And that’s the short version of my notes on that session!
EBSCO Usage Consolidation
You probably didn’t know this, but ZSR recently subscribed to EBSCO Usage Consolidation (UC), an online service for aggregating journal usage statistics. So I went to a session in which librarians from two universities described their experience with the product. Their review was mixed. Specific problems noted included (1) a lot of up-front effort to reconcile title differences; (2) difficult user interface; (3) default cost-per-use display includes usage from aggregator databases without factoring in the cost. They liked having cost-per-use data, and the number of available reports, but librarians at one university found it too cumbersome for title-by-title review.
Designing User-Centered Services for Virtual Users
The main take-away from this session was how nice it is to work at ZSR. The presenters made a big deal out of public services and technical services working together, like it was something novel to get public services’ “endorsement” for customizing the EBSCOhost interface. Steve and I talked later about how nice it is that everybody here is focused on what is best for our users.
Aggregator Databases: Cornerstone or Annex?
The presenters in this session described their efforts to assess the value of full-text content in aggregator databases. Rather than looking just at title counts, they compared full-text aggregator titles against ISI’s top-ranked journals (i.e. highest impact factors) in various subjects. For example, they determined that Academic Search Premier contained 11 of ISI’s top 25 journals in Education. Not surprisingly, they said they ended up with more questions than answers, such as the value of the aggregators’ indexing for article discovery. It was an interesting (if tedious) methodology, but ultimately doesn’t apply much to us given the role of NC LIVE providing much of our access to aggregator databases.
FRBR, Linked Data, & New Possibilities for Serials Cataloging
This was a very good presentation about the potential of linked data to bring together catalog records for related resources. The presenters described a scenario of a patron looking for the English translation of an Einstein paper. The original German work was published as a journal article in 1903. After much digging, they discovered the English translation within a 1989 monograph, but there was nothing in the respective catalog records directly linking the two manifestations together. The principles of FRBR and linked data can overcome MARC’s weakness in showing such relationships between items. Journals, articles, authors, and even subject headings, are all described as individual entities, and the coding describes their relationships to each other. The presenters talked about BIBFRAME, the Library of Congress’ “Bibliographic Framework Initiative” that is working toward replacing MARC. I admit I didn’t understand all this very well, and I’ll definitely be looking to learn more about it.
Finally, I had the opportunity at NASIG to pick Selden Lamoureux’s brain to learn more about ONIX-PL. What’s that? I’m glad you asked. ONIX-PL is a NISO standard, kind of like MARC for e-resource licenses. The standard was released in 2009, but uptake has been slow (practically nil in the US). Learning to encode licenses in ONIX-PL isn’t easy, so there hasn’t been much incentive for publishers to start using the standard. NISO recently received a Mellon grant to encode a collection of license templates, to give publishers and libraries a starting point, and NISO has contracted with Selden Lamoureux to do the encoding. So it was a great opportunity for me to meet up with her and learn more about ONIX-PL and the encoding project (which I plan to write more about in an upcoming article).