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.

WebSearch University

Marydee Ojala @ 7:09 pm

I just finished reading the evaluations from WebSearch University in Washington DC. There were a lot of them! With 250 people at the conference, most felt obliged to fill out and turn in the evaluation forms. It delights me that so many people who came to WebSearch cared enough to tell us what they thought about it, and it wasn’t the “bribe” of the iPod Shuffle, either. One attendee actually wrote that he/she didn’t need an iPod but wanted to share her/his thoughts anyway.

Attendees were generally complimentary (Thanks!) but wanted more presentations geared to the truly expert searcher. Point taken.

Next year, we do plan on both a spring and autumn WSU. The latter will be back at the Washington Marriott on Sept. 22-23. Spring dates (and city) are still in negotiation and as soon as I know them, I’ll post them here.

Donate to Iraq Libraries

Marydee Ojala @ 1:49 pm

Here’s an email I received from the folks at InterDok that I’m passing along. It seems like a very worthy project.

“In early April, we will begin sending donations of books and CD-Roms to several libraries in Iraq, in order to assist them with the rebuilding of their collections.

If your library has any published conference proceedings, engineering, medical or technical books you would like to donate, we will be happy to forward your material on your library’s behalf.

We will be sending shipments in April and May to the following institutions:

Iraq Academy of Science Library
University of Al Nahrain Library
University of Baghdad
University of Mustansiriya
University of Technology Library

Any donations you would like to make should be sent to:

Iraq Donations
InterDok Corporation
173 Halstead Avenue
Harrison, NY 10528
USA

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact my office at your convenience.
In the meantime, our databases are always available free of charge at: www.interdok.com

Sincerely,

Laurance Baschkin
Director, Marketing Services
InterDok Corporation”

Missing NFAIS

Marydee Ojala @ 10:28 am

I’m supposed to be in Philadelphia for the NFAIS annual conference, which has the theme “Creating Change: Opportunities for Growth in the Wake of Disruption. Thanks to nasty weather, I was stuck in Chicago for most of the weekend and United couldn’t get me to Philly until Tuesday. Since the conference ends on Tuesday, there didn’t seem much point in that. So, I’m back in the office. Having just experienced disruption, I’m looking for those growth opportunities. And hoping for blog posts from those who are there!

Hiding in Plain Sight

Marydee Ojala @ 11:44 am

Driving north from here, just alongside the interstate highway, is a new housing development. Fully visible to the multitudinous cars and trucks that drive by on that road, the houses under construction are advertised with a large sign, also fully visible, that proclaims the name of the development to be “Hidden Pointe.” Hidden? What’s hidden about this? And what’s the point (pointe?) of mentioning this on a blog about online stuff? Because it seems to me to be an analogy for much of what happens on the Web.

Ordinary people, even professional researchers, are having an increasingly difficult time finding things that are hidden in plain sight. It’s really clear that Hidden Pointe is not hidden from the freeway. However, it’s between two exits. Get off on either one and you’re on your own trying to find Hidden Pointe. So maybe it really is hidden. Similarly, studies show that most Internet search engine users look at only the top few hits. They don’t scroll down. They don’t change their preferences to display 50 to 100 hits at a time, leaving the default of 10 in place.

A recent Eyetracking Research Report was just published by search engine marketing firm Checkit, based on research done by de Vos & Jansen Market Research. Both companies are in The Netherlands. Comparing how individuals’ search behaviors differ depending on whether they’re told to look for information or to buy something, the study found that buyers view more search results (but still only about 10) and take more time to view the results. They also found that buyers pay more attention to brand names. From the nature of the question the individuals were asked to search, it’s clear that Checkit and de Vos & Jansen didn’t have serious researchers in mind. In other words, it wasn’t a library research type of inquiry. Plus, only 50 searchers participated and they were young, between 17 and 24 years old.

I’m wondering if some Dutch special librarians (although there are only 8 SLA members in the entire country), or information specialists, would like to hop over to Nijmegen and help out on the next eyetracking study, one that compares how real researchers behave when they’re looking for hidden points. Or perhaps some of our Dutch colleagues/film crew who attended Internet Librarian International last year should have a go at it.

Hello Vista, ByeBye Sommers

Marydee Ojala @ 9:21 am

In the latest issue of Library Journal, there’s a brief article titled “SirsiDynix Acquisition: What It Means.” It notes that Vista Equity Partners finalized its acquisition of the library automation company in record time. The intent to purchase was announced on December 27th and the deal closed on January 17th. The first thing it apparently “means,” however, is the departure of CEO Patrick Sommers, who has been with the company since 2001. Prior to that he held top management positions at Dialog. The press release, dated February 16, 2007 (although it didn’t hit my inbox until Saturday morning), says the resignation is effective “immediately” and that a search for a new CEO is underway. Seems a bit sudden and abrupt, leaving only a month after the acquisition became final, but CEOs of acquired companies shouldn’t expect much in the way of job retention. Many in the library community hope that Stephen Abram doesn’t follow Pat out the door.

Wikipedia Banned at Middlebury

Marydee Ojala @ 10:45 am

I’m not quite sure why this AP story was classified under “Strange News.” Unless you’re Jimmy Wales, this probably doesn’t seem strange to you. Lots of information literacy and research librarians are on Waters’ side of this issue.

“Middlebury College history students are no longer allowed to use Wikipedia in preparing class papers. The school’s history department recently adopted a policy that says it’s OK to consult the popular online encyclopedia, but that it can’t be cited as an authoritative source by students….. History professor Neil Waters says Wikipedia is an ideal place to start research but an unacceptable way to end it.”

The British Library’s Financial Difficulties

Marydee Ojala @ 12:36 pm

This month (February), Searcher magazine, a sister publication to ONLINE features an article by Miriam Drake on the British Library, based upon an interview Mimi did with BL CEO Lynne Brindley. It’s a very positive, upbeat article. Unfortunately, it was written before budget problems arose to plague the library.

The proposed 7% cut to its 100 million pound annual budget could result in the library’s charging fees to use its reading rooms, cut the hours it’s open by about a third, close all public exhibitions, cease offering school learning programs, and permanently reduce its collection by 15%. This despite the fact that since 2001, BL has reduced its staff by 15% and cut costs to the tune of about 40 million pounds. Commentary in the British press can be found here, here, and here.

Lots of people are upset. Joanna Bryant, a student at Loughborough University has started a petition to send to the UK government. Note that you must be a British citizen or resident to sign it. I’m very impressed that it already has over 700 signatures. If you’re not eligible to sign the petition (and it’s obvious that governments react more to input from those whose tax money they collect than to that from someone not helping to fund a service), you can still contribute to the effort to stop these draconian cuts. Email the library’s support forum (support_forum@bl.uk) with your name, contact number, and message.

Meanwhile, the library is very busy with incredibly exciting and innovative projects. It launched a new reprints service, is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy to create a global science gateway, issued two new wildlife CDs complete with sound, and worked with Microsoft to reunite two Leonardo da Vinci notebooks (Codex Arundel and Codex Leicester) in a Turning the Pages 2.0 for Windows Vista.

Some are blaming the monetary shortfall on Olympic spending, since the summer Olympics will be in London in 2010. My understanding, having been up close and personal with the winter Olympics in 2002, is that culture is an important component of the Games. To shortchange the British Library, which is an enormous cultural asset, undermines the spirit of the modern Games.

U.S. Government Statistics

Marydee Ojala @ 8:52 am

The Wall Street Journal (registration/subscription required) reported yesterday on the Bush budget. Interesting for researchers is the proposed increases in funding for statistical gathering. The Census Bureau could get an additional $433 million “to prepare for the 2010 census” and to “beef up the American Community Survey.” Bureau of Labor Statistics is down for an extra $36 million, Bureau of Economic Analysis for a $6 million increase, and the Energy Information Administration for one of $20 million. For librarians and researchers, more statistics can only be a good thing. Now, can we please reinstate the EPA libraries and collections?

Michael Banks’ Book a Best Seller

Marydee Ojala @ 9:49 am

This really has nothing to do with online, but it does have something to do with ONLINE. A frequent author for the magazine, (he wrote about the history of The Source in the latest issue, March/April 2007, and about consumer online and CompuServ in the January/February 2007 issue), Michael Banks is co-author, with Dave Stern and Rusty McClure, of a new book about the Crosley brothers. Born in Cincinnati, the Crosleys designed and build cars (with plants in Indiana), radios, and appliances. They owned a broadcasting company and the Cincinnati Reds.

What’s really exciting is that it debuted at number 7 on the Business Week BestSeller list this week. Previously, the book was listed at number 35 on the New York Times Bestseller list and 14 on the Wall Street Journal’s.

Michael has also written for ONLINE about Amazon’s Search Inside the Book feature and, sure enough, if you look up the Crosley book on Amazon, you’ll find that feature enabled. Michael’s also using the AmazonConnect feature to blog about his book and about Crosley.

Way to go, Michael!

Trusting Factiva

Marydee Ojala @ 11:01 am

Over at Information Advisor, as noted in Bob Berkman’s blog entry, he reports on the results of a survey he took to find out what vendors information professionals trusted the most and the least. Of the 100 respondents to his survey, 32% put Factiva first. 28% said they trusted LexisNexis the most and 18% voted for Dialog as most trustworthy. At the bottom was D&B with only 12% claiming they trusted its content.

Hmm, so the three that rate the highest are aggregators, while the one that rates lowest is a content provider, which interestingly enough, provides its content to the aggregators. Is D&B more trustworthy if I search it on LexisNexis and Dialog than if I search it by itself?

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