Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Libraries by collection size, things you didn't learn in library school, and more...

I've been collecting a few items from my regular blog-reading about which I wanted to comment, but for which I hadn't found the time.  So rather than write a posting for each, I'll lump them together.

First, there is the Top 100 Libraries by Collection Size that was recently put out by ALA.  My very first thought was, really?  Collection size?  I thought this was a metric that was on its way out, but apparently it has more staying power than I had realized.  My next thought was, wow, Dallas Public Library (41) beats Houston P.L. (100) - woo hoo!  A third thought - drats, University of North Texas wouldn't have made the cut even if they included those academic libraries not in ARL.

Now that you should have recognized my own ambivalence to towards this stat, perhaps we should consider why this is.  Of course, it's a (relatively) easy thing to measure - how many books (although the lengthy caveat at the should give a hint to how complicated it is to measure number of books - by volumes? titles? items? etc.).  ...

In the blog, Letters to a Young Librarian, Jessica Olin listed the 10 Things I Didn't Learn in Library School, including:

  • For most students, asking librarian for help is a last resort.
  • Students don't know how to find a book in the stacks. 
  • The library (the department) is not always in charge of how the library (the space) is used.
  • Collection development is done differently in every library. 
This last struck me as rather obvious - after all, nothing is ever done the same way in every place (office, library, even military base).  After all, simply following Ranganathan's 5 Laws, it would be apparent that different libraries have different readers needing different works.

Finally, there was this review of the soon-to-be released special issue of Against the Grain that focuses on usage data.  Unfortunately, I just now sent in my check to subscribe to this trade journal, so I won't have access to the articles for a while (why can't we submit payment online!?!).  The reviewer, Scott McLemee, is an essayist with a background in the humanities, but he is not a librarian; this is both good and not-so-good for the same reason: outside perspective.  The emphasis of his blog posting is on the journal metrics, including impact factor, immediacy impact and h-index.  While initially developed for use in the scientific journals, these metrics have been gradually included in reviews of journals, articles and authors in the social sciences and humanities.  So it's not surprise that Scott raises concerns; what does surprise me is a humanities writer who does not express utter disdain for these measures.  True, there are issues with them, but there are also innumerable issues with the subjective measures of opinion (whether evaluating a journal for submitting an article or adding to a collection, or evaluating the work of a researcher for tenure).  I do look forward to getting access soon to ATG.

Monday, October 29, 2012

ARL's Webinar on the HathiTrust decision

ARL sponsored this Webinar that featured knowledgeable persons giving their understandings of the background and impact of this landmark decision.  Here are several points and quotes that caught my attention:

  • Daniel F. Goldstein, on the accessibility argument of the case:
    • "Finally, there's a lever here for you in dealing with vendors who sell you digital content, because of the strong statements about the need for equal access and the statements about fair use, you can tell Elsevier, they either need to start making those online journals in an ePub3 format that's accessible, or that if they don't, you as a library are entitled to do so as fair use, to create the accessible copies as fair use."
    • "...it [the decision] blessed making a digital copy as a fair use if the purpose is for access to persons with print disabilities."
    • Libraries no longer have to wait for a request from a print-disabled student to digitize texts for that purpose.  In addition, libraries can retain the digitized copy even after the student has completed the course or left the university, rather than having to re-create the digitized copy from each student's own copy of the texts.
  • Peter Jaszi, also on accessibility:
    • "...the more a library does to create a systematic and well-thought out program to serve the needs of the print-disabled, the closer it works with the disability services office on campus to those ends, the stronger the position it will be in to assert that it is an authorized entity under section 121." (emphasis original)
  • Jason M. Schultz, on preservation
    • "purpose matters"  "libraries...preserve for another purpose, to make sure we have this cultural heritage, to make sure there are resources for scholars, to make sure we can have access to literature in as many different forms as possible for many different populations..."
    • Essentially, a "dark archive" of items digitized for "preservation" only (without the extended purpose of, say, for future scholarly research) may not be permissible, but that this is not usually the case.  Preservation is almost always for another purpose beyond itself.
  • Future of this decision?  Will it be appealed? Should libraries take action?
    • Jonathon Band - the Author's Guild will seek a settlement to drop any appeals in exchange for not paying HathiTrusts' legal fees (a likely outcome of this decision).
Essentially, it seems that this decision may give libraries more legal foundation to digitize items themselves or support digitization projects for the very purposes behind the HathiTrust and Google Books.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Denton Declaration: Open Data Manifesto

With its prominent role in digital collections firmly established (the Digital Library is still in the top 50 of the Webometrics world ranking of repositories), and growing involvement in the Open Access movement (an early adopter of repository deposit requirement and sponsor of 3 OA symposia), the UNT Libraries is now clearly at the forefront of the Open Data movement.  During the most recent OA Symposium, the participants drafted a statement of goals, principles and intentions to press forward in making research data available and accessible to the research and library community, as well as the public.

This Denton Declaration "bridges the converging interests of these stakeholders and promotes collaboration, transparency, and accountability across organizational and disciplinary boundaries."  The Declarations advocate that "(o)pen access to research data is critical for advancing science, scholarship, and society," that "(p)ublicly funded research should be publicly available for public good," and that "(t)ransparency in research is essential to sustain the public trust."

The Principles established in the Denton Declaration address the benefits of open access to data, as well as the general framework that would enable such access to thrive.  These include funding that supports "reliable long-term access", sufficient metadata to enable the finding and use of the data, the timely release of the data, and an infrastructure that supports long-term preservation.

Finally, the Intentions signal the issues of most importance to the signatories at this time, including developing a "culture of openness in research", building the infrastructure that is extensible and sustainable for archiving and making the data discoverable, developing metadata standards, and recognizing and supporting the intellectual property rights of the researchers.

This document is meant to provide the solid starting-point of the development of Open Access Data standards and technology that, say, the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the Berlin Declaration did for open access to journal articles.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Does the 80/20 rule still apply?

As I've been studying the usage of our patron-driven acquisitions (PDA) program, my mind has turned to the Pareto Principle of resource usage - the so-called "80/20 Rule".  This principle, initially developed to describe the distribution of land and wealth in Italy (according to Wikipedia, of course), has been used to describe distributions of all kinds of resources and effects.  It was first applied to usage of library resources by Richard Trueswell in his 1969 article in Wilson Library Bulletin (I'm still trying to track down the original article via Document Delivery).  This is a rule that was presented to us in library school, and one that I've always wanted to investigate, but never (until now) had the chance.

In an effort to apply more critical thinking to my work (see Paul Wyckoff's advice to politicians), I'd like to consider the evidence that supports (or does it?) the principle.  I've started a literature review to answer these questions:

  • Has it ever been supported by evidence from more than one source?
  • To which collections did it apply the most?  The least?
  • Has the application of this principle changed over time?  
  • Does it still apply today?  If so, to which kinds of collections?
If it can be supported by evidence, then I believe libraries and librarians are going to be in big trouble.  In this day and age of accountability and return-on-investment, we are not likely to be able to support the budgets that provide resources for which only 20% account for 80% of the usage.  

Some bigger questions I have include:
  • How does this principle affect the dissemination of knowledge?  If a large percentage of the resources are not used at all, how can the information and ideas be spread? 
  • Has the Internet changed this principle?  Does the medium matter less than the message?
  • What effect does the increase of scholars have on the availability of published material?  As the pool of resources has increased over time, has rate of usage declined?
  • Can the "publish or perish" model of academic tenure continue?  
  • What will be the impact on scholarly communication of changes to collection development that result in fewer items being purchased due to greater emphasis on usage and less on preserving the scholarly record?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

ACS, blogging, and decorum in librarianship

I'm finally catching up with the fracas surrounding the decision made by the SUNY Potsdam library's to forgo the American Chemical Society's full package (summarized nicely by Andy Woodworth in his blog, Agnostic, Maybe).  I must admit that I'm a bit taken aback by the vitriol that has developed via the chminfo-Listserv - not displeased, mind you...more like...inspired.  I'm also hopeful for our profession and the future of academic libraries.

It has been apparent that the large-scale (and pricey) publishers of content have appeared to consider librarians as not relevant to the decision-making process.  We are, instead, referred to our faculty, to whom much of the advertising is directed.  The e-book fracas is another example, with some publishers discounting the role that libraries play in the marketing and distribution of their content.  I'm proud of those in my profession who are starting to make decisions to reject the constraints and prices that have become "the new normal".

I'm hopeful that this difficult period of economic downturn will have an unintended effect of strengthening the resolve of librarians.  We now have an air-tight, non-negotiable, out-of-our-hands reason to have the big deals and sacred cows on the table.  As our budgets have been cut into the bone, we librarians have been working with faculty to explain the situation and come up with solutions that result in cancellations of journals, even the "sacred cows".  Will their world come tumbling down?  Will faculty revolt and leave institutions?  Will students not be learning as much? Possibly...but the choices have become quite limited.