Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Worldwide impact of MIT's Open Access policy

MIT posted a global map of the distribution of downloads from MIT's OA files.  While it's not surprising that the US, China and India had the most downloads, I was impressed by the relative high number of downloads from Iran, Egypt and South Africa.  Also noteworthy is the striking contrast of North and South Korea, as well as the disappointingly low values across most the African continent (with the exceptions noted above).

Now I would like to see the distribution of the downloads of UNT's own Digital Collections.  I think this would be a useful addition to include on our statistics page for the Digital Collection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Third Law: Every Book Its Reader

There is a subtle, but key difference between Ranganathan's Second and Third Laws.  While the Second Law is also expresssed as, "Every Reader Should Be Served His or Her Book", the Third Law ("Every Book Its Reader") is similarly expressed as "Every Book Should Be Helped To Find Its Reader".  These laws form a complementary association, much like the yin and the yang of Chinese philosophy.

This Third Law is also complementary with the First Law ("Books are for Use"):
The First Law revolutionised the outlook of libraries; the Third Law would make that revolution as thorough as possible.
Ranganthan demonstrates the Third Law by the "most prominent means" at that time, the Open Access System.  For those unfamiliar with library history, this refers to the opening of shelves or stacks to the readers, and not to some pre-digital publishing environment.  Most libraries through the 19th century, particularly academic libraries, kept their stacks closed to the users.  Readers would refer to catalogs (mostly cut-and-paste style, only later were cards used), record their selections on request slips and wait their turn before being able to view the books.  The Open Access system provided readers "the opportunity to see and examine the book collection with as much freedom as in one's own private library."

In addition to this innovation, Ranganathan also mentions the value of subject-oriented arrangement of books on the shelves, combined with the subject cross-references in the catalog.   These he goes into more detail when discussing the Fourth Law, but he holds these methods as prime examples of the implementation of the Third Law.  Here are some others that either he mentioned or that I considered relevant:
  • Every book its reader:
    • Collection Development - Use the selection tools wisely, being aware of the source, the intended audience, the frequency of updating.  Infer suggestions for selection from readers' tastes, including those directly made, reference encounters, vocations and occupations of the community, prospective events, and interviews with community leaders.  But Ranganathan also considers there to be some room for the more "haphazard" or serendipitous selections. 
    • Cataloging & Technical Services -  Ensure that the books are fully analyzed to include the appropriate subject headings, as well as plenty of associated keywords that enable the reader to find her book. Ensure that the processes for making works available flow smoothly and swiftly.  When making changes, consider carefully the necessity of removing the item from circulation, even for a limited period.
    • Reference - Do not simply state: "Provide the books and keep out of the way of the reader."  He asserts that "average analytical card catalogue will always be in need of an interpreter."  Familiarize yourself well with the reference sources, the catalog system, the online databases, and especially the underutilized books and resources that enable you to easily match them to the individuals.  Finally, observe readers' "tastes and wants, their actions and reactions, and their likes and dislikes."
    • Programming & Marketing -  Take advantage of all avenues of publicity, particularly targeted to potential readers in the community.  Provide an environment that enables all (librarians, staff and members) to share their experiences with their materials (books, CDs, DVDs, databases, etc.).  Nothing promotes better than word of mouth. Evaluate the library's programs and determine what improves circulation and usage and what is underused.  
    • User Training & Education - Be aware of the most common misconceptions and mis-perceptions of libraries, books, and resources, and be prepared with proven ways of overcoming these.

Monday, March 26, 2012

FRPAA Gaining Bipartisan Support

This posting from SPARC shows the growing support for the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which would put into law the Open Access requirements set by the NIH.  This act was created in response failed attempt by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) (led by Elsevier) to legislate against such requirements.  What's impressive about this posting is the list of bipartisan legislators - Democrats and Republicans - who are getting behind this law.  While Ron Paul's name on this is not surprising (he does stick to his libertarian roots, despite his party affiliation), I am intrigued by the inclusion of Tom Cole (R-OK) and Bill Flores (R-TX).

While this bill does have an uphill battle, there is a bit of hope that at least the efforts to derail NIH and other similar requirements does not rear their ugly heads, at least for a while.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What a Librarian Looks Like

A few weeks ago, I added my hockey pic to the What a Librarian Looks Like blog, associated with Librarian by Day blog.  An update shows a composite of all 450 pictures submitted - can you find me?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Second Law: Every Reader His or Her Book

Ranganathan places special emphasis to the Second Law: Every reader his book.  He devotes three full chapters - first to its history and growth from "Books for the Chosen Few", to its uneven spread throughout the world, and finally to the costs and implications of its fulfillment.  It is clear that he considers libraries closely linked with education, but for all people, not just for children.  When lamenting the resistance to universal education and the Second Law, he proudly states that "[t]he Second Law will not take a defeat. It must win ultimately" [section 2182].

In the first chapter on the Second Law, Ranganathan delves into the development of this idea through the expansion of education to formerly-deprived groups.  He focuses on disparities in education and in access to books based on class divisions, gender, locality (urban vs. rural), and "normal and abnormal".  This last disparity is interesting, because he refers not only to those with physical disabilities, but also those who are illiterate (a terribly common problem in India at the time), incarcerated, or the infirm.  He emphasizes how all these individuals should have the opportunity for education through access to books, which could be made available physically (mobile carts in the hospital, prison libraries, books in Braille), or through other means (reading to the illiterate).

The second chapter about the Second Law was, at first, a bit difficult to slog through.  It is, essentially, a trip around the world providing examples of how the 2nd Law is (or is not) being implemented in different countries.  He starts, interestingly enough, in America, which he believes had made the most progress, primarily due to the work of Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Foundation.  He traverses to Canada and the UK next, linked not only by common language but also by the Carnegie Foundation, which included funds to support libraries in these lands.  I learned much about the development of librarianship and libraries in these countries, not only related to geography, but also history (between the wars) and politics (growth of fascism and communism).  He ends each section with applications in his own country of India - from the reading circles of the Soviet Union to help combat illiteracy, to the impressive Danish coordination of libraries to ensure appropriate distribution of books throughout the country.

The final chapter on the Second Law details what he believes are the obligations required to fully implement "its message".  Dissecting the statement of the law, he stresses that the words "Every" and "His or Her" "keep the secret of the implications."  For "varied is the taste of the world...[and] varied are the requirements of the readers."  When discussing the obligations of the state (finance, legislation and coordination), he emphasizes the need for good statesmanship, for the knowledge of the value of education and libraries is "rarely realised by the general taxpayer...Few are the statesmen who possess this far-sightedness and courage of conviction."  These truths are still evident today.  Ranganathan ends this chapter on the obligations of the reader - essentially justification for rules that are meant to ensure the equitable access of books within a library based on the Golden Rule.

But it is the obligations of the Library System and Library Staff that are particularly relevant to my post today.  As with the First Law, I have been trying to envision how these could be applied to various branches or areas of specialization within any library.  Instead of my ideas, here are some explicit instructions from the author himself:
  • Every reader his book:
    • Collection Development - Know your readers and know the books..."specialization with a local bias."  If your library has branches or departments (like academic), limit the number of copies of standard references to a minimum and enable interlibrary or interdepartmental loans.  Provide the reference works that are too costly for individuals to own.  But above all, know the readers, "understanding and anticipating their needs.  This can only be done by actual contact with the readers."
    • Cataloging & Technical Services - Stresses the importance of subject analysis in catalogs, given that "books are mostly of a composite nature...[and] very few of them are of a 'monograph' type."  I also wanted to throw out my own ideas here - Make the catalog available to the readers where they "live" - such as search engines, making the catalog open for indexing.  
    • Reference - Here Ranganathan shifts the emphasis from "every" to "his or her", stating that the Reference Librarian has a duty not merely to "dole out across the counter the books that are asked for," but "to know the reader, to know the books, and to actually help in finding..." by invoking the Second Law.  This may require special training not only in using the bibliographic aids, but also in the techniques of adult education and even psychology.
    • Library Administration - Provide for adequate number, quality, and training of staff to ensure that books are made available in a timely manner.  In addition, make wise decisions about location and hours of operation to ensure that people have the best opportunity to visit.  I would also add that making as many library services available online as possible would help bring the reader close to the books. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The First Law: Books are for Use

For the First Law, Books are for Use, Ranganathan first provides a brief history of the expanding availability of books from the severe restrictions of the Middle Ages (with their chains) to the then-modern idea of Open Access (no, not publishing, but opening the stacks to browsing).  The long struggle of the First Law to emerge was due in no small part to "inherited habit" of the concept of "Books are for Preservation", even when preservation was no longer as critical due to improvements in printing and increased availability of copies.  R. stresses the that the "Modern Librarian, who has faith in the law that 'Books are for use', is happy only when his readers make his shelves constantly empty" (emphasis added).

Ranganathan provides some explicit examples of how modern libraries could enable this law to its fullest extent, including selection of the the most convenient location (usually the center of town rather than the outskirts), the hours of operation (should include some evening hours), even the furniture (should be comfortable).  Much as we look to Starbucks, Amazon, and B&N to emulate convenience, Ranganathan related the location and hours of the library to emulate those of a shop for its customers.

There follows an amusing imaginary dialogue involving the Rule of Least Cost, Rule of Least Space and the First Law.  Each of the former two attempt to argue against the First Law, but using reason and logic, she prevails.  If only such dialogues were so easy to win.

Finally, Ranganathan then discusses how the attitudes of library staff have been the most difficult to adjust to the First Law.  His statement about the "enormous struggle [that] has been going on for the past 50 years to adjust the Library Staff to the needs of this new concept" could apply just as well to the use of electronic books as it did to Open Access (well, change "50 years" to "5 years").  He then provides the justification for a qualified and educated library staff, advocating that librarianship should be post-graduate degree because of the need for subject expertise.  
  • Books Are For Use:
    • Collection Development - choose the books that will most likely be used. This requires looking beyond "what's good for them" to "what reader's want".
    • Cataloging and technical services - make the books easy to find and access.  This requires being an interface between the books contents and the community's culture and language.  
    • Reference - be active in getting the books into the hands of the readers and used.  This requires knowing how to approach the patrons, how to read them, what they want or need, and the best ways to get the book, information, etc. to them.
    • Progamming and marketing - promote the books, authors, stories, programs and resources that will create the demand.  Clients cannot demand for what they are not aware exists.
    • User Training and Education - teach the patrons how to find the books more easily so that they can be used.
Finally, here are some of my favorite quotes from this section of his classic work:
  • "...the trinity of the library - books, staff and readers."
  • "When the First Law became accepted over 'Books are for Preservation', Librarianship effectively became a profession."
  • "Every moment, the Library Staff should remember that 'Books are for Use'...They should never forget that in libraries, books are collected for USE, prepared for USE, kept for USE and served for USE."
  • "A library is a collection of books kept for use...Librarianship, then, is connecting a user and a book.  Hence, the very life of a library is in the personal service given to the people."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ranganathan's Five Laws of Library Science

I've been devoting my off-time reading to that classic of librarianship that many (although I wonder if most) librarians have heard of but few have read (including myself): The Five Laws of Library Science by S.R. Ranganathan.  There is some controversy regarding sufficient exposure to the 5 Laws to budding librarians - many more recent graduates are not aware of Ranganathan and his laws.  But a quick search on the Web does return a healthy set of relevant results, including the listing on Amazon of a recent printing, several published journal articles, and a plethora of items from the library blog-world.

There are a number of articles that are devoted to interpreting, revising, enhancing, and applying the laws in our more modern-day world, but I have been avoiding these until I complete my first full reading.  I am taking my time, making notes, recording notable statements, and being particularly thoughtful about what is written, the context in which the ideas were conceived, the progress that has been made since their conception, and the relevance to my current ideas of librarianship and library science.

By the second printing of his book, Ranganathan was already considering how to expand his laws from "books" to the broader scope of resources.  At this time, 1956, "documentation" was the term used for this generalization.  However, "Documentation is for use" and "Every reader his or her documentation" just doesn't sound as universal and classical as the original, "Books are for use" and "Every reader his book".  It is easy for me to accept the generalizations of "his" to including all people (Ranganathan places emphasis on extending access to books to women and girls, among other oppressed groups), and "books" to include all resources.

It is interesting that Ranganathan was a mathematician by training, a socialist in political thought, and a humanist at heart. The field was lucky to have had this combination in a person to distill what we do and have done and will continue to do down to these fundamentals.  Each law can be applied to each facet of the profession.  I would like to spread this message over several days by concentrating on each law and how librarians and library staff fulfill these laws with their everyday work.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Growing arguments against e-books in libraries

I am not at all surprised that there are a growing number of dis-advocates of ebooks provided by libraries.  The recent events have revealed the relatively low influence that libraries have in the marketplace.  We are becoming more aware of our limited abilities to affect changes that would improve our services to our members.  Here are some recent blog posts that discuss elimination of ebook service, at least in public libraries:

I tend to lean towards these dis-advocates, but then may be too much like taking our ball and going home when things don't go our way.  Removing ourselves from the marketplace would, indeed, seal our fate as a non-player.  While I don't imagine print books will disappear from our shelves any time soon (I may eat my words), I do believe ebooks will continue to grow, especially as prices of devices falls.  I also believe that we are in the midst of "ebook device" war that (hopefully) will result in a standard that will detach the content from the device.  Just think back to the VHS-Beta battles.  Eventually VHS became a standard for which many devices could play.  Then came DVDs...hmmm, print is starting to look better and better.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

E-Book Lending

Here is an interesting post from Library Renewal that includes some interesting, albeit rough data. I'm intrigued, of course, by the breakdown of efficiency and cost, resulting in the "deadweight" graph below. I think, however, that we librarians (and other consumers) suffer from the mistaken belief that the cost to produce an item directly impacts the market price. This is based solely on what the buyers are willing to pay. We can lament the commercial publishers like Elsevier and Random House for raising prices, but as long as libraries are willing to pay these prices, they will not decrease.

While there are some interesting and thought-provoking thoughts and arguments, there are some with which I find confusing. For instance, the author, Jonathan Chambers, states that "publishers and libraries can ensure that the economics of e-book lending is no better or worse for publishers or libraries than the lending of other library materials." But he then supports the concept of limited number of checkouts, which violates this principle.

However, the key points that Jonathan makes which I would like to highlight include:
We need to get our professional organizations to take the lead in developing a solution
The solution should unlock the connection of content with device - this didn't work for music and video, and it won't work for e-books
We need new measures of usage and value (starting with his cost per circulation)

There is one more point I'd like to add - the library community needs to make our value to both the people we serve and the publishers known. Those who make decisions (to lower taxes or raise prices) may not see the long-term benefit of providing e-books to our members. And the first step towards that end is to collect and analyze the data that documents this value.

Anyhow, this piece is a good read...