November 29, 2011
Following the SLA breakfast, I went down to the exhibition, which looks very nice this year, to prepare for my first talk. My topic was online trends. I talked about how personalization is altering search results and how visualized searching will require different literacy skills. Social search is definitely a topic of interest, particularly real time search. Predictive search holds various challenges for information professionals because we have so many different reasons for searching. And searching for us isn’t shopping.
I really believe that information professionals will have to make their own future because we are not the target audience for the web search companies. We need to insert the library into online, keep information professionals visible and relevant, and demonstrate how new technologies benefit people and enhance research.
The SLA Europe breakfast this morning was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends. No one from headquarters was there, but SLA president-elect Brent Mai was there to make a few welcoming remarks. SLA Europe president Sara Batts ran a most efficient AGM. It’s impressive to realize how much the chapter has accomplished this year! It will be interesting to see if any SLA members show up tomorrow at the AIIP breakfast, since the two organizations swapped days this year!
November 28, 2011
Today was set-up for exhibition stands for the Online Information 2011 conference. I’m going to try for some live (or reasonably close to live) blog posts from the show. Don Hawkins is also blogging the conference on behalf of Information Today at his Conference Circuit blog, which he’s named “Live from London” for the week.
Seeing the banner for his blog caused me to wax nostalgic, as I recalled those early, heady days of blogging in London. As a group, several editors began our live blogging experiment in 2003. You can still see the archived blog posts for 2003 – 2009 here.
We were big on photos at the time, so here’s one of the exhibition hall today when most of the stands were “under wraps.”
The American Economics Association stand still shrink-wrapped
I received an email from a British librarian asking for a copy of an article I once wrote with the title “Best of British: British Information Online.” I remembered writing it — and I remember I wrote it rather a long time ago — but I could remember neither the exact date of publication nor which journal published it.
As a good online researcher, I turned to traditional fee-based databases to nudge my memory. I figured that if the British librarian couldn’t find the citation, he’d probably already Googled it, so I didn’t bother. Turns out I wrote it for Database in 1988.
I learned 2 things from my little search. First, almost every information source I discussed no longer exists. The exception is Companies House, which remains the repository for financial regulatory filings for UK companies. Ah, the ever-changing world of online!
Second is that ProQuest has a bit of a problem with journal title changes. Database changed it name to EContent in 1999. It is indexed and abstracted by EBSCO, ProQuest, and WilsonWeb, among others. Most duly note the title change and my 1988 article is ascribed to Database, not EContent. But ProQuest’s ABI/INFORM Complete apparently did a global term replacement on the journal title, so my article is cited as appearing in EContent, even though it was published 11 years before the title change. The analogy that springs to mind is Jane Jones marrying John Doe. If she takes his name, she becomes Jane Doe on her wedding day, but ProQuest assumes she was born Jane Doe. One wonders what Jane Jones’ parents make of this.
Here’s another quirk: When I looked for Best of British in ProQuest Dialog’s File 15 (ABI/INFORM), the database gives the citation, correctly, as Database.
ProQuest get the names of Database and EContent confused — and it’s own ABI/INFORM has internal differences even though the databases have the same name.
Luckily I’m at the Online Information conference this week, so will have the chance to ask them about this in person.
November 23, 2011
Paid Content has an interesting post today about why Penguin might have decided to pull its ebook titles from libraries. Laura Hazard Owen speculates that Penguin is retaliating against Amazon’s Kindle deal with OverDrive, that it’s worried about people checking out ebooks from libraries not in their geographic area (she claims to have 4 valid library cards for 4 different public libraries in 4 different places), and that it’s concerned that library lending will cut into sales. The latter is absurd, as the model of the public library buying and lending out books is more than well established!
There will be a lot written about the Penguin decision, both from the publisher perspective and the library perspective. What struck me about Owen’s piece is her calm analysis. What surprised me is her possession of 4 library cards.
The Penguin dustup also gives me the opportunity to give this blog’s readers a heads up that ONLINE will have a new columnist starting with the January/February 2012 issue. It’s called EBook Buzz and will be written by Sue Polanka, an expert on ebooks and blogger at No Shelf Required. In fact, her blog post yesterday on the Penguin situation lists several URLs where other commentary on the situation can be found.
I’m very excited to have Sue as an ONLINE columnist!
November 9, 2011
File under Dangers of Statistics. A Wall Street Journal article about Generation Jobless included an interactive table listing employment rates by college major. I sorted by employment rate and the resulting table put library science third from the bottom. The source of the data is the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. This morning, that chart was mentioned on the National Public Radio program, Morning Edition, but it said the source was the Census Bureau. Now I don’t doubt that Georgetown University got its original data from the Census Bureau, but I do wish that commentators, particularly those who are librarians, would understand the data better than those who give it a cursory glance and declare they’ve always wanted to be an accountant rather than a librarian.
Didn’t anybody wonder why international business was also at the bottom of the list? That would seem a growth opportunity for employment.
Astute readers will immediately grasp that this chart reflects employment rates based on Bachelors degrees. To land a job as a qualified librarian, you need a Masters degree. I suspect that the international business jobs go to individuals who’ve earned an MBA.
So, before we all join the lemmings decrying the plight of the unemployable
library degree holder, let’s recognize the basic flaw in the data. As with many statistics, understanding the wider context is critical to interpreting the raw data.
October 11, 2011
I contributed a blog post to SLA’s Future Ready project that was published on Sunday, October 2, 2011. I’m reprinting it here, but urge you to read the other posts at the SLA blog.
As we all strive for a state of future readiness—while recognizing that the future will inevitably arrive whether we’re ready or not—let’s not forget our past. I was extraordinarily fortunate to work for BankAmerica Corporation in my first professional position after earning my MLS. I became enthralled by the story of the founding of the library in 1922 at what was then Bank of Italy. (The name changed to Bank of America in 1930.)
The first librarian, K. Dorothy Ferguson, didn’t answer a job ad. She wasn’t promoted from within. She certainly didn’t find the position through Monster.com or CraigsList. She didn’t go through traditional channels for a very good reason. There was no job. There was no library. There was no bank employee thinking, “Gee, we really need a corporate library.”
It was Ferguson herself who created the job. She approached A.P. Giannini, the legendary entrepreneur who started Bank of Italy in 1904, and said, “To be a great bank, you need a financial library. Moreover, you need me to organize it for you.” He hired her. The bank prospered. She stayed with the bank until 1943, when she resigned to establish libraries in Africa and Asia under the auspices of the British government.
A strong advocate of SLA, Ferguson was the first president of the San Francisco Chapter (1924-25) and served a second term as president in 1938-39. She became national chairman of the Financial Group, which evolved into the Business & Finance Division, in 1927. On the job, she demonstrated strong marketing skills. By 1923, she had a regular column about the library in the employee newsletter, explaining how it could benefit bank employees.
Today, as we contemplate how to prove the value of libraries and information professionals, we try not to “preach to the choir” by getting “outside the echo chamber.” Ferguson, in the 1930s, was publishing articles in journals read by bankers, not librarians. Web 2.0? Obviously, Ferguson lived in a pre-internet world. But she continually stressed that library services were not confined to the physical premises of the library. She championed information sources beyond books and beyond the library’s walls. The library’s slogan—”When in need of data, consult our library”—resonates still.
The attributes I admire in K. Dorothy Ferguson are ones that I think make modern information professionals future ready. She was fearless, with a strong belief in her own abilities and convinced of the power of information. She seized opportunities, made her own luck, and creatively transformed her professional life. Future ready? Yes, she was. Follow her example, and you can be future ready, too.
You can read a fuller account of Ferguson’s career in an article I wrote to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Region’s 75th anniversary in May 1989.
August 10, 2011
Some things never change. The general public has no idea what librarians do. Nor do they understand that everyone who works in a library isn’t a qualified librarian. Although amongst ourselves, we talk about this, we know it’s much harder to get the word out to those who aren’t librarians. This Atlantic piece should help.
The author, Derek Thompson, who is on Twitter as @DKThomp, asked librarians to submit their views on what the misconceptions are about librarians, what they “don’t get about working in a library.”
I particularly like Librarian #2, who said “I do research, I teach classes, I catalog, I develop our collection, I work on our website, I fix computers. I am an aggregator, a citation machine, a curator, a specialist in whatever it is you want to know about.” Sounds like a solo librarian.
This is a fantastic opportunity for librarians to move outside the echo chamber and explain the many facets of modern librarianship. Atlantic is really widely read. I’d like to believe that ONLINE has the same number of readers, but I know that’s not true!
Not that librarians haven’t explained to non-librarians before what we really do, but it’s an ongoing activity, if we want to bring the perceptions of our profession into the 21st century.
I’m intrigued that, of the librarians who contacted Thompson, none mentioned the idea of embedded librarians, which I think will become more key to our professional advancement than ever going forward. I’m delighted that David Shumaker, the expert on this, will be giving a pre-conference on the topic at WebSearch University. I wish I could attend, but I scheduled my business research pre-conference at the same time. Bad me.
August 5, 2011
ProQuest has just announced its acquisition of U.K.-based Expert Information, publishers of Index to Theses and Theses.com. Expert Information was founded in 1986 by Monty Hyams (founder of Derwent and “father of the patent family”) and Roger Bilboul (Chairman of the Board of Information Today).
The theses properties of Expert Information contain half a million citations and abstracts for British and Irish dissertations and master’s theses. They span 70 years and add about 20,000 records per year.
This certainly fits well with ProQuest’s dissertation publishing program. Remember, ProQuest evolved out of University Microfilms, which had dissertations as a major part of its business. ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses is designated by the Library of Congress as the official archive of American dissertations and includes almost all North American dissertations. ProQuest was already a distributor of the Expert Information databases, under the title PQDT: U.K. & Ireland.
It’s good to see positive international growth in ProQuest’s electronic dissertation publishing endeavors.
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Alert Publications Inc., owned by Donna Tuke, has decided to stop publishing its two newsletters: Business Information Alert and Legal Information Alert.
Legal Information Alert was published for 30 years, Business Information Alert for 21. I’ve written for both of them and considered them important publications for information professionals. The archive will be online with HeinOnline and possibly other hosts as well.
From now on, Alert Publications will concentrate on publishing reports and books for the legal and business information professional market. We at ONLINE wish Donna and her company all the best.
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