Welcome to Online Insider ...
... the editorial blog by Marydee Ojala, Editor of ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals. ONLINE Insider intends to extend the reach of the print publication, presenting a more timely commentary on the products, people, and events that shape today's online world. It explores new technologies as they impact the working lives of information professionals, explains resources for specific topic areas, and expounds on information management tools and techniques.

Digital Experiences

Marydee Ojala @ 9:07 am

Everybody experiences ALA differently. I commiserated with one friend whose luck in picking conference sessions had been distinctly bad. My own experience was much more positive. Which is not to say that everything in every session I attended was perfect. The sound system in some of the Ballrooms left a lot to be desired. Despite these annoyances, the information conveyed was good.

One example was the Designing Digital Experiences for Library Websites panel, consisting of John Blyberg, Toby Greenwalt, David Lee King, and Bobbi Newman. Although I’ve heard all four of them at other conferences, there are always some new nuggets to think about. My takeaways included comments about involving both library users/patrons and staff. You don’t want to underestimate them, but you don’t want to scare them either. The tools you pick should correlate with what you want to accomplish. Social networking is essential – it’s not an option. People will talk about you, so you should be prepared. I loved the story of how Darien Library became the information clearinghouse, a hyperlocal information hub, plus staying open late so people could get warm, when a power outage hit the city last winter. And Toby’s story about responding to the Skokie public library patron who complained about the library on Facebook and turning that person into a library fan always impresses me.

The speakers were all from public libraries and acknowledged that it’s harder to accomplish things in academic settings, where there’s a slower change process.

News Literacy

Marydee Ojala @ 7:03 am

In the midst of doom and gloom scenarios about the future of news organizations, it was delightful to attend an upbeat session yesterday at ALA on news literacy. The Education & Behavioral Sciences Section’s program was titled “News Literacy and Preservation: Finding, Using, and Losing the News.”

Hannah Sommers talked about NPR’s archiving of its broadcasts. Given that NPR has been on the air for decades, it was not surprising to hear that much of their material is stored on those old, large tape reels (hey, NPR, if you ever run out of reel to reel players, I’ve got several in my basement). The plan is to digitize these. Even more ambitious is the possibility of preserving entire interviews, not just the bits that make it to air time. Metadata plays an important role. I was interested to learn that NPR has some special codes for audio, so they can tell who’s talking to whom. I also didn’t know they’ve got an open API.

Bernard Reilly, President of the Center for Research Libraries, talked about the challenges facing news archives when secondary distribution channels move from simply aggregating news sources (think LexisNexis, Factiva, ProQuest) to analyzing them and assigning sentiment ratings. He mentioned Factiva Insight and LexisNexis Analytics as examples. Then there’s the introduction of social networking. The Berkman Center at Harvard is using Morningside for sentiment analysis. Another form of analyzing news is to look at blog coverage of a topic. Implications for libraries: We’re paying for databases, but actually we’re only renting them. Librarians should become monitors of news content. News must be structured so that it can be migrated, otherwise it won’t survive.

Debora Cheney, from Penn State, began her talk by quoting Ken Doctor, “Blogs are the rough draft of history.” She then talked about students as news readers who rely on recommendations, not searching, to find news. When they search, they enter proper names, only a few words, phrases, and dates in a search box. Boolean advanced search they don’t use. She urged that libraries re-establish themselves as *the* place for news content.

Most impressive was the first speaker in this session, Washington Post researcher Meg Smith. Her innovative use of new media to research stories was eye-opening. Not only does she look at social media sites such as Facebook (I didn’t know that dead crime victims sometimes still have live FB pages that serve a memorial purpose for their friends and family), MySpace (popular with younger kids, the military, and those living in more rural areas), eBay (a woman who killed her kids was doing online shopping at about the same time) and Twitter, but she once tracked edits in Wikipedia (under a non-obvious email address) to find a neighbor for a reporter to interview in the anthrax poisoning incident. She cautioned, however, that journalistic ethics can preclude use of social media sources in a story.

Smith had great stories to tell. Her ability to use social media in unexpected ways should inspire researchers not only in news organizations but also in other types of work settings.

Artful Dodges

Marydee Ojala @ 2:48 pm

Looks like the International Bibliography of Art (IBA) has dodged a bullet, thanks to ProQuest. Getty’s intent had been to discontinue its support of the database due to budget problems. Now ProQuest says it will take over the indexing function and put the database (2008 -2009) on the CSA Illumina platform and will begin bringing the file up to date. ProQuest also hopes to expand geographic coverage to Asian, Latin American, and African art.

I’m no art historian nor have I ever done research on art topics, but having ProQuest rescue this database makes me feel good. I do, however, find it troubling to realize that even so estimable an institution as the Getty faces money shortages. What Getty has done, to its credit, is place the Bibliography of the History of Art, the predecessor to IBA, on its library website as a searchable database.

Apparently this will remain as is, but newer records will appear in the ProQuest version.

Personnel Today Goes Online Only

Marydee Ojala @ 8:34 am

Just when I think Reed Business Information has finished its changes to publications, mainly by selling or closing them, RBI makes another announcement. I wrote a NewsBreak about RBI’s title divestitures, but now I need to add that Personnel Today is ceasing its print publication after 21 years and going to online only. The announcement cited “the migration of recruitment and product advertising” to the already existing Personnel Today website as the reason.

Getting Down to Business

Marydee Ojala @ 10:46 am

I know that New Orleans, from a cuisine viewpoint, is Cajun with its jambalaya, poboys, and gumbo. The SLA conference in New Orleans, however, struck me more as sweet and sour.

The business meeting was particularly sweet and sour. Amidst the awards, the wonderful camaraderie, the fascinating accomplishments of SLA members, and the outstanding work of SLA staff, lurked the financial situation, which was very sour indeed. Essentially, association revenues and lower than expected and less than what it spends to support members. Dues are down, conference registration monies are down, and vendor support is down. Not a happy picture and one that the association will have to do something about. The phrase “everything is on the table” in terms of expense reduction and revenue generation permeated both the leadership meetings and the annual business meeting.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s not sweet and sour. It’s more like Cafe du Monde, with the sweet beignets and the bitter chicory coffee.

SLA in the Big Easy

Marydee Ojala @ 9:11 am

SLA (aka Special Libraries Association) is holding its 101st annual conference in New Orleans. Attendance is nowhere near the numbers we saw in Washington DC, which will have some serious impacts on the financial condition of the association. We’ll hear more about that at the annual business meeting this afternoon.

It’s a shame, really, because SLA members who are here are learning a lot and the exhibitors had so much to demonstrate. From the still-warm beignets at the Financial Times booth (fresh every day from Cafe du Monde!) to Factiva‘s “Factinis” (in a breathtaking shade of blue), exhibitors did their level best to entice SLA conference goers into their booths. The FT has a iPad version that is fascinating–and has just (on June 8th) won a design award from Apple for the app. This is a major accomplishment, as there were only 5 winners worldwide. Congrats, pink paper!

As for buzz at SLA, I’d have to say it was around platforms. Many vendors were showing either a new platform or a prototype for a new platform. Ovid has one, Dialog has one almost completed, and ProQuest‘s will follow Dialog’s.

Factiva has added many new sources and plans to expand its language capabilities from the 23 it presently has. Westlaw was showing its Westlaw Next product (reviewed by Amy Affelt in the May/June 2010 issue of ONLINE) and LexisNexis is rolling out its new Academic interface.

I could go on and on, detailing all the interesting and innovative products on display at SLA, but that laundry list would probably bore everybody to tears. The advantage to conferences like this one is the opportunity to see all these vendors in one place, be introduced to features and products with which you’re unfamiliar, get to know the people at the companies (which really gives you an edge in contract negotiation), and update yourself on what’s new that will benefit you and the organization you work for.

The exhibit hall closed yesterday but today there are still sessions, plus the annual business meeting and closing keynote by Nicholas Carr.

Evolution of Reference Managers

Marydee Ojala @ 2:27 pm

An interesting blog post written by Frank Norman about the history of reference managers, titled “From Sci-Mate to Mendeley – a brief history of reference managers,” rather amazingly cites a 1992 article by Thomas Wolff published in Database. That’s back when he was at Amoco and before Database changed name (and focus) to become EContent. Norman sees Endnote being edged out by Mendeley, just as Endnote edged out earlier bibliographic management tools. Mendeley, by the way, is a sponsor of Internet Librarian International.

Vocus Acquires HARO

Marydee Ojala @ 3:06 pm

It’s been a big day for acquisitions. This morning, in a blog post, Peter Shankman announced that HARO (Help a Reporter Out) was acquired by Vocus, Inc. Be sure to watch the video, which has Shankman talking at his usual hyperfast pace. He also announced the acquisition on Twitter (@skydiver) and as a status update on Facebook. He’s assuring people that nothing will change with the acquisition except that HARO will be bigger and better. Having heard that before, my advice is to wait and see.

Shankman was awarded this year’s Roger Summit Award by AIIP and HARO is featured in an article to be published in ONLINE’s July/August issue.

Exalead Acquired by Dassault Systemes

Marydee Ojala @ 1:09 pm

Yesterday, Dassault Systemes, a public company headquartered in Paris, France, announced that it has acquired search engine company Exalead, also a French company, for 135 million Euros. The press release is here. Information professionals are particularly fond of Exalead because of its NEAR command. However, Exalead has always regarded its general web search engine more as an advert for its enterprise version than as a standalone search engine. With Dassault as the new owner, I wonder how much will change with the availability of Exalead as a search engine for those of us not within the walls of one of its customers. I’d like to know what Dassault’s President and CEO Bernard Charles meant by “a new class of search-based applications for collaborative communities.” I’m hoping he’s extending that to the free web.

Elsevier Acquires Collexis

Marydee Ojala @ 8:55 am

I love getting my news from Facebook. Darell Gunter posted about the acquisition in his status update. But the actual press release about the acquisition is here. Collexis is a “leading developer of semantic technology and knowledge discovery software for research and development institutions.” Products include Expert Profiler, Reviewer Finder, BiomedExperts.com (for professional networking) and the Collexis Knowledge Engine. Darell is a frequent speaker at Information Today conferences.

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