Archive for the 'Tactics' category

"It's quiet—too quiet;" with a digression into online social media

Jun 15 2010 Published by under Metablogging, Tactics

Other people are doing NPG vs. CDL link roundups better than I am, so I'll limit myself to a few links:

Official press-release salvos have ceased for now; I can only assume that heavy-duty negotiation is going on behind the scenes. I'm well content with the last public word being CDL's. It's quiet—very quiet.

In the meantime, NPG is leaving boilerplate comments on blogs that have discussed the matter. Two such comments have appeared here on Book of Trogool, apparently left by different NPG employees. Their substance is identical.

Boilerplate comment shellack is a poor substitute for genuine engagement with online critics. (I note with raised eyebrow that even NPG's official Twitter news outlet is avoiding this contretemps aside from bare news tweets.) Fair warning, NPG: any more boilerplate comments, like or unlike the previous two, will be deleted as spam as soon as I see them. Also, I have removed the link to your press release that your second commenter left as your URL, not wishing to give it any more Googlejuice, and I recommend that my fellow bloggers do likewise. If your employees wish to engage here, responsively, as human individuals with human rather than corporate voices, I welcome that.

Now, this is not the worst reaction NPG could have, not by a long shot. At last count, I know three library/higher-ed bloggers who have had their work supervisors contacted by vendors over posts critical of the vendors on non-work blogs. (Just to eliminate any potential confusion, I myself am not one of the three. Also, I will not identify or link to any of them; one wrote me via a private Twitter feed, and given the sensitivity of this issue, I don't feel comfortable identifying the others.) I shouldn't wonder if the count were much higher. I congratulate NPG for not being stupid enough to do this… and I hereby leave NPG be for the nonce, to talk more about vendors and online social media generally.

I shan't argue that going up a blogger's chain-of-command behind the scenes is meanly vindictive, though it is; vendettas are anything but unusual either online or in the Just Bidness crowd. I argue, as I did at UKSG 2010, that doing it is bad tactics, liable to backfire.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this isn't a blogger easily ignored—not rabid, not penny-ante—and the issue at hand is substantive, not contentless. Let's also leave the "who's right?" question off the table; disagreements are normal, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle, and all that good philosophy and sociology stuff. Let's just follow what happens when our vendor goes up the chain.

The first thing that happens is that word gets around. Perhaps the blogger is too intimidated to blog the contretemps himself; that doesn't mean he doesn't tell ten, a hundred, or a thousand of his closest professional friends via Twitter or Facebook. That's a lot of people who now have a personal bone to pick with our vendor.

The next thing that may happen is that someone who isn't the original blogger blogs the contretemps—I've seen this! How many more people are now angry at our vendor, over and above those who are upset over whatever was being blogged about? Was it worth it? Truly?

The next thing that happens at most workplaces (and all intelligent workplaces) in libraryland and higher-ed-land is that the supervisor does nothing to her blogger employee. No reprimand on file, no punitive action, nothing. Leaving aside that libraries are vendors' clients and usually not under any obligation to hush a problem up for a vendor's sole benefit, libraries and universities are not run as straitly as businesses. For most, freedom of expression (especially off the clock) is a major professional value; others recognize the tactical outreach value of bloggers saying openly what the strictures on official institutional communication organs might otherwise forbid. In many cases, in fact, the supervisor (who may wield budget power, let's not forget) will herself become displeased with the vendor: for trying to scare her employee, for wasting her time, and for whatever the problem is, as likely as not. How's this tactic looking now?

And finally, if this happens often enough (and it may only take once), the vendor attaches the adjectives "secretive," "manipulative," and "retaliatory" to its brand in the general consciousness. I'm guessing this is not ideal, especially if negotiation and reputation for fair dealing are a major aspect of sales.

Note what does not happen in most (though admittedly not all) cases of vendor-blogger conflict I know of: the critical blog post does not come down. Vendors, you do not and cannot control the conversation about you any more, if you ever did, and you cannot stop that conversation going public on the Web, as many conversations have. You can, if you choose, participate in the conversation, but note well that this is an open conversation. There's no way I'm aware of to participate in an open conversation privately. This doesn't stop people from trying, of course, but I don't know of any successes.

Well, but look, says our vendor, I'm only trying to repair a troubled client relationship here! Fine, but you're going about it the wrong way. The gold standard is public participation in the conversation, but if you can't bring yourself to do that, the way to proceed is to contact the blogger out-of-band first. If you and the blogger can reach a mutually beneficial arrangement, the blogger will rehabilitate your brand all by himself by posting something about your fantastic service. If the blogger isn't the right person to resolve the problem, he will (if he thinks it worthwhile) point you to the right person himself, and will not think any the worse of you for it.

Finally, if you don't have any way to resolve the problem, and you are pretty sure you'll lose if you engage about it publicly, the right thing to do is clam up. Anything else makes the black eye you're suffering worse.

My advice is worth what you're paying for it. As for NPG, comment spam is the least of their worries just now, but that doesn't at all mean they are improving their situation by engaging in it.

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Musings on worms turning

Jun 09 2010 Published by under Tactics

So I'm turning over the California/NPG situation in my head, because I—okay, because I'm obsessive, are you happy now? (Just don't ask how late I was sending email last night.)

The very cynical portion of my brain notes that it's almost certainly easier to persuade faculty to inaction than action. California didn't try to use this crisis to convince faculty to self-archive; that's work, that is, and the tie between self-archiving and dealing with NPG's extortionate tactics is weakly evident at best. California merely told faculty "don't work for NPG." Less work! Cheers! they appear to have answered.

Another part of my brain wonders about outcomes, and where exactly California will plant its flag. If NPG comes back to the table with a mere (!) 100% increase, or 50%, or for that matter 2%, will California call off the boycott? (I am obscurely reminded of Churchill's "haggling over the price.") I'm not at all sure they should, but they do have to consider how much faculty support they'll really have should the rubber hit the road.

It could well be a lot, simply from pure outrage. California's university system is hurting terribly. Not a single faculty member in all of California doesn't know that. Not ones to waste a perfectly good financial crisis, the California librarians have taken a shot at redirecting faculty anger toward NPG. If I were NPG, I'd blink.

The next question I have is who would or even could follow California's example. (I'm leaving the question of "who's got a NPG contract coming up for renewal?" off the table, partly because there's no good way I can think of to find out, and partly because NPG is hardly the only outfit with "Putting the Screws to You" as their unofficial salesforce slogan.) This isn't something a library can unilaterally go and do, or ask campus administrators for out of the blue; it takes years of patient hobnobbing, educating, champion-finding, and political-capital-building. In fact, since I haven't said so already—huge congratulations to University of California libraries for pulling this off! Well done!

I suppose the top of my list would have to be reserved for institutions that got tough with Elsevier back in 2003, such as Cornell and Harvard. (Unsurprisingly, California was in the thick of that fracas as well.) Schools with some form of open-access permission mandate might also be good candidates, since they are likely more sensitized to the issues. Even schools like Maryland where votes failed might surprise us, again because of increased awareness. Finally, schools with libraries containing strong, well-established, and growing faculty-education programs in scholarly communication are in a better place to follow California's lead than schools without such programs.

So much is noteworthy about the California action that I'm having trouble synthesizing it all just in my own head, but let's start with its scope. This is the first action I know of that implicates such a tremendous pool of faculty labor. It's similar in kind to journal declarations of independence—both are labor-withdrawal protests against maddening pricing—but California's action is extraordinarily vaster.

That very vastness threatens to pierce a few veils. One is the oft-lamented gap between faculty and librarian awareness of serials pricing, of course. Economists tell us that part of the journal pricing problem has always been faculty's obliviousness to it, made possible by writing it off as a "library issue." If the entire California faculty workforce now knows, how long before the entire faculty world does? Another is the question of labor in serials: if one state university system (granted, it is California's huge one) can credibly threaten to bring a fleet of top-tier journals to its knees merely by withdrawing uncompensated faculty labor, what are we paying publishers all this money for again?

Another pierced veil concerns the tug-of-war between faculty and journals for control. Faculty, especially junior faculty, feel at journals' mercy. If they don't get published, and published in the right journals, their career is over. Therefore they don't protest price increases or reuse policies even when they disagree with them. California faculty are threatening to exert a lot of control, suddenly—and not just against any old penny-ante publisher, either. I can only hope this is good for what economists call "market discipline."

The last veil, and perhaps the most interesting, is the veil around journals as non-substitutable goods. (Briefly: the idea is that journals can charge high prices because you can't just swap one journal for another; journals supposedly aren't commodities in that way.) I need only adduce the final paragraph of Jen Howard's report:

Although researchers still have "a very strong tie to traditional journals" like Nature, he said, scientific publishing has evolved in the seven years since the Elsevier boycott. "In many ways it doesn't matter where the work's published, because scientists will be able to find it," Mr. Yamamoto said.

If I worked for a major journal publisher, I'd have chills running down my spine at that. (I'd also be having serious talks with my salesforce about eliminating sales tactics that could land me in the gunsights, but I'm odd that way.)

I also wonder quietly about suppressed faculty ire at very-high-impact journals such as Nature. Such journals are career-makers for a very few, but the many who fruitlessly submit articles again and again can't be fond of them. How much schadenfreude is there in the serried ranks of California faculty, just waiting for an opportunity?

Finally, the thought occurs that this is a water-testing move by NPG. How much is too much? When does the boiled frog jump out of the water? Perhaps now they know.

Just to be perfectly clear, let me conclude by saying I have no idea how this will all turn out. The immediate conflict could be over tomorrow, if NPG blinks fast enough. Whether even a rapid resolution will dampen the reverberation… that is an excellent question to which I have no answer.

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Bon mot?

May 12 2010 Published by under Tactics

Saying that large-scale storage is all that's necessary for data curation is like saying that empty bookshelves are all that's necessary for a library.

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Introducing... Curatr!

Apr 01 2010 Published by under Tactics

Not good at organizing your thoughts, much less your research notes? Think publishing your data should be as easy as falling off the couch?

Yes, well, me too. So I've built a new site to do it all for you, and I'm calling it Curatr.

  • Built on all the shiniest and most proprietary technologies, from HyperCard to Flash
  • Automatically builds the most appropriate storage and interaction models based on computerized analysis of provided data. No documentation needed!
  • Auto-organizing. Never touch metadata again!
  • Can be managed by a single graduate student in two hours a week without any prior training
  • Wholly grant-funded, so you never have to worry about cost or sustainability
  • Never needs updating. Curatr does all the pesky link-breaking for you, as its underlying technology stack migrates to keep up with the times.

Join the Curatr perpetual beta today!

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OA publishers: just use HTML!

Mar 23 2010 Published by under Open Access, Tactics

I was reading the latest issue of the Journal of Digital Information today, and I found myself wishing I could turn the Readability bookmarklet loose on half its PDF-only articles.

I'm sorry, authors. I know you tried, but those PDFs are terrible-looking. Times New Roman, really? (The one in Arial is the worst, though.) Could we discuss your line-height and why it's not tall enough? Line-length, and why it's too long?

Sniff at me for an ex-typesetter if you like (I am an ex-typesetter, as it happens), but the on-the-ground reality is that I didn't read as much of those articles as I'd have read if they were, you know, readable. As for JoDI, their lack of a consistent look damages their brand and their credibility among their readers. Like it or not, centuries of print journals have created certain expectations for the quality of typesetting in a PDF.

So what's a shoestring open-access journal that can't afford professional typesetting to do? Believe you me, this is a common and vexing dilemma. It's not as though authors will lift a finger to make a publisher's production or branding job easier, as JoDI trenchantly demonstrates.

My answer: If you're not going to put effort into typesetting, chuck PDF. HTML is where it's at for you. Embrace the Web and its pitifully low standards for typography.

This is, of course, easier to say than to do. It does still take more technical savvy to produce decent HTML than to produce a bad PDF from the most typical manuscript formats. Making a print CSS stylesheet for your journal—which is also a good idea, to avoid grumbling from the print-dependent—is also eggheady. If your subject area is math-heavy, you have an entire new suite of problems.

On the whole, though, it's much easier to produce good HTML than good PDF. Moreover, bad PDFs are essentially irredeemable; there's nearly no way (and definitely no easy way) to reflow, re-typeset, or otherwise reformat them. If you go the HTML route, as your skills improve you will (trust me!) learn to fix your bad HTML, and if your content-management system is any good, you'll be able to go back and fix your old articles in a decently automated fashion.

As you rebrand your journal and its look and feel, which you eventually will unless and until the journal dies, you get a bonus: automatic rebranding of your old articles! They never have to look out-of-date, as old-school PDFs often do.

For those of you who have hopes of sending your journal to PubMed Central, there's an even more compelling reason to stick with HTML: PMC demands NLM XML, which you have no hope of producing straight from PDF. (From your typesetting format, perhaps, but you have to know what you're doing.) The skills you will learn from making HTML will transfer. PDF, not so much.

I admit that part of my reason for writing this is that I am hopelessly in love with the Readability bookmarklet and wish I could use it in more contexts. (I can't read Emerald or Informaworld HTML without it.) Still, my advice is heartfelt and I believe it's good.

I don't even have to use the Readability bookmarklet to read the code4lib journal. Just sayin'.

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A shift in focus

Feb 19 2010 Published by under Tactics

I've altered the tagline on this blog slightly, to reflect where it seems to be going. (I am not in control here; I am merely the author-function! Sorry, sorry, lit-crit joke.)

At the same time, I've been thinking a lot about library collections, what's in them and how it gets there. (I'm teaching a graduate course in collection development at the moment, which has of course bent my thoughts in that direction.)

Here's where I'm sitting, and my commenters (who are smarter than I am) are welcome to challenge me. When collection development came into its own in academic libraries, forty years or so ago, it became a key locus of competition among libraries. The library that dies with the most books wins!

Of course, it's not quite that simple. Individual collections of particular excellence count as well; research libraries do have their specialties. Special collections is its own locus of competition, and so are various forms of digital collection-building. Still, when it comes down to it, the measurement we reach for most often to characterize ourselves is collection size. (The second most common measurement is probably collection budget, which itself is a proxy for size.)

Some notable problems have arisen with this siloed collection method. Perhaps the largest is that it's no longer affordable to build a sufficient collection, never mind a specialized one, on an individual-institution basis, what with the serials crisis and the immense growth in publications of all kinds.

Another problem coming to light is the considerable cross-institutional overlap in collections. It turns out that when you leave a lot of individual smart people to prioritize collections in a particular area with limited budgets, they mostly collect the same stuff, leaving a substantial pool of material collected in such low quantities that a natural disaster or an ordinary in-the-course-of-business book loss means there may be hardly any (or even no) copies left. This is, of course, a threat to the scholarly record. What isn't collected by research libraries with a serious commitment to preservation, often doesn't survive.

Rare-materials surveys are ongoing, so we don't understand the full scope of the problem yet, but already it's becoming clear that quite a few print materials, some too fragile to be saved by such initiatives as Google Books, are held in so few libraries that their survival is in serious doubt. Moreover, print runs of scholarly monographs continue to decline, and even today's meagre runs don't get bought. I heard a literature scholar once who was pleased that her monograph, representing three years' work, would receive a 250-copy print run from its press.

Not a few blogs have more readers than that… but I digress. The problem from a scholarly perspective is that this monograph is in serious danger of permanent, irrevocable destruction because it will likely not be collected, held, and preserved by enough libraries.

All this bother, ultimately deriving from an emphasis on local collection practices: collect from the world for your local patrons, and if that myopia causes systemic problems, too bad.

Well, what's the alternative, then?

Shortly after I started this post, Barbara Fister's lovely, fiery essay on Liberation Bibliography came out. She has since published another suggesting that libraries need to look up from their locales, acknowledge their part in the current difficulties, and move decisively toward open access. Unsurprisingly, I completely agree.

What Barbara envisions, I think, is a shift in the focus of collection development. Rather than collecting from the wider world for the local patron base, collection developers will collect from the local patron base, everything from datasets to postprints, in order to make it all available to the world, in the short- and the long-term.

Collection developers are now demanding of me, "But what about the winnowing function of collection development? If we don't limit our collection by our well-honed instincts about what our particular patron base needs and can best use, they'll be swamped!"

To which I respond, "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm now that they've seen Paree?" Like it or not, the information-discovery universe has gone global, Internet-wide. Filtering is still important, heaven knows, but we can't do it via collection development any longer. We'll have to find other ways.
And how will we judge our own quality, if the easy numbers are taken away from us? I believe that metrics will shift from what we buy to what we contribute to the commons. Hathi Trust is a good beginning, but only a beginning; there's much more we can do. Under such a regime, supporting DOAJ and SCOAP3 and PLoS and arXiv isn't a dubious burden, threatening precious collection-development dollars; it's the heart of the mission, the most important arbiter of research-library quality. Under such a regime, the institutional repository isn't a careless afterthought; it's where the library magnifies the institution's value.

This shift won't happen overnight. It's not happening at all in most libraries, as best I can tell. Perhaps it won't.

Still, I think it should. I'd add "Liberation Bibliographer" to my business card, if I dared.

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Turf... wars?

Feb 16 2010 Published by under Tactics

I have a very lengthy post in pickle that is taking me some time to work through. Forgive me; sometimes that's what blogging is for, though it's tough on the posting rate.
In the meantime, a small thought about improving interaction patterns between scientists and librarians, something I still very much think is necessary for both groups.
Cameron Neylon notes in his quick review of the new FriendFeed-based ScienceFeed that the name is not ideal:

Finally there is the problem of the name. I was very careful at the top of this post to be inclusive in the scope of people who I think can benefit from Friendfeed. One of the great strengths of Friendfeed is that it has promoted conversations across boundaries that are traditionally very hard to bridge. The ongoing collision between the library and scientific communities on Friendfeed may rank one day as its most important achievement, at least in the research space. I wonder whether the conversations that have sparked there would have happened at all without the open scope that allowed communities to form without prejudice as to where they came from and then to find each other and mingle. There is nothing in ScienceFeed that precludes anyone from joining as far as I can see, but the name is potentially exclusionary, and I think unfortunate.

I wish I disagreed with this… but I don't. I myself would feel a bit leery of signing onto something called ScienceFeed; it took me some time before I went to claim myself a ResearcherID, even! (Yes, part of that was general dislike of Thomson Reuters, but what with ORCID waiting in the wings I rather felt I needed to sign up finally.) It's not that I'm terribly afraid of scientists, because I'm not; I wouldn't blog here if I were. It's that I try (though I sometimes fail) to be a moderately polite person, and gatecrashing somebody else's party isn't polite.
Something called "ScienceFeed" feels like somebody else's turf.
Two lessons from that, I think, or perhaps three. One is Cameron's: to foster cross-campus, inter-institutional, and interdisciplinary connections and collaborations, it helps to find or make neutral turf. Making neutral turf attractive is not necessarily easy, because neutral turf means everybody has to leave a little of their comfort zone behind, and nobody likes to do that. Still, FriendFeed shows it's at least possible.
(Zotero? Mendeley? Are you listening? I think you are ideal candidates for neutral-turf social/professional encounters.)
Another lesson, predictably, is that we librarians need to get over our fear of gatecrashing research gatherings, from labs to conferences to online venues. Like it or not, we're on the low end of this particular power continuum; that means we're the ones who have to move into their spaces to interact with them, because they don't need to touch ours and therefore won't.
A third lesson, perhaps slightly subtler, is that it may well be easier to gatecrash online venues—Facebook and LinkedIn groups, FriendFeed, Twitter hashtags—than in-person ones, at least to start. If I'm right, it means that science librarians who don't play those "silly Web 2.0 games" (yes, that's a direct quote, and no, I won't identify its originator) are harming not only themselves but potentially our profession.
I tell you what, though, online gatecrashing surely seems to work as an outreach tactic. I'm not sure Cameron would have been thinking about librarians before FriendFeed. Now he knows Christina and John and me, among others—and he's telling his peers about us.

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Looking somewhere other than under the streetlamp

Feb 02 2010 Published by under Open Access, Tactics

Perhaps shockingly, I don't plan to so much as try to wade through all seven-hundred-odd pages of this report on scholarly-publishing practices. It's thorough, it's well-documented, it's decently-written… and based on the executive summary (itself weighing in at a hefty 20 pages), it won't tell me a thing I don't already know.
Academia is conservative. Academia thinks its current scholarly-production system is just fine and dandy, thank you. Academia has a love-hate relationship with peer review. Academia wants to outsource its tenure and promotion decisions any way that is convenient and looks just barely irreproachable enough.
None of this is news. It's dispiriting, but it's not news.
I invite you, however, to take a look at the survey population. "45, mostly elite, research institutions" (p. i) they drew their sample from. Just on the face of it—if we're looking for change in scholarly communication, especially disruptive change, elite researchers in well-established disciplines at elite institutions are the wrong place to look.
Of course such researchers don't want the hill disturbed—they're king of it, aren't they? They're the people for whom "sustaining innovation" is designed, in Clayton Christenson's parlance. They're the very tippy-top of the academic prestige market; they are the last to notice, much less use, a disruptive innovation.
For similar reasons, we don't want to look at the big, established journals and publishers for disruptive innovation. Sustaining innovation, yes, plenty of it. But once again, the king of the hill doesn't allow mining underneath him when he can prevent it.
"But there's better light over here under the streetlamp!" goes the old joke. So where might we look instead, despite the darkness? Well, I have some ideas.
Interdisciplinary, inchoate novelties like the "digital humanities." Young, impecunious disciplines. New journals—what is the proportion of OA to TA journal launches these days, and how is that ratio changing? Disciplines where data need a place to live and thrive. Disruptive innovations start where there's a need that the existing market can't or simply won't address.
That's where the action is likely to be—and to be blunt, most of the reason I'm not wading through that Berkeley report is that it doesn't tell me a thing about where I believe the action is.
Still, there are some good bits about data in there, so the executive summary is worth a skim.

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Reclaiming ground

Jan 29 2010 Published by under Tactics

(My apologies; this post inadvertently went up prematurely. If you were wondering where I was going with it, please read on!)

I met Steve Koch at Science Online 2010, where he wowed me showing off his students' open-notebook-science work. I love, just love, teachers who do that. I wish the sort of work I typically assign students was appropriate to it.

Because of the interactions Steve had with librarians at that conference, he's going back to talk with the digital librarian at his institution to see what they can do for each other.

I love that, too, though it makes me nervous. Consider a comment I got on a previous post:

I'am afraid the greater part of librarians are staring to their belly-buttons, and do not have the attitude or communication skills necessary to connect with their customers.

Ouch. Nor am I prepared to say that's incorrect. So when I send someone like Steve to meet with a librarian, I have to hope for a fruitful interaction. I can't rely on it.

Wondering where the commenter got that impression? Well, let's consider Steve Koch again. In a comment to another FriendFeed post, he said (quoted with permission; paragraph breaks mine, as FF doesn't let commenters paragraph their own comments):

I'm stoked about partnering with librarians going forward. I'm meeting with our digital initiatives librarian next week to learn what we can do regarding open data / open access / open science.

But a year ago, I was clueless about what university libraries were doing. Definitely a lot of that ignorance was my fault. But it makes sense if you think about my trajectory to current position as faculty. As an undergraduate and graduate student, most of my interactions with the library were moderately helpful at best, and sometimes completely hostile. For example, I had a comical (but infuriating at the time) battle over a $25 fine for using a 2-hour reserve textbook overnight (while the library was closed). And then all the frustration with copy machines & copy cards, etc. Basically, it sucked going to the library, and library & librarian were almost the same word.

So, with the advent of PDF, I was pretty much delighted that I never had to go to the library anymore. I discovered Inter-Library Loan and was proud that I didn't even know where the library was. Clearly all prejudices and a not clever on my part. However, I suspect that similar prejudices are shared by many faculty and other scientists.

I can think of two things that can be done: (1) educate current faculty, and (2) make things more pleasant for current grads and undergrads. In regards to (1), it's pretty tough to achieve. One idea would be to put advertisements in emails that deliver PDFs for ILL: "Do you like ILL? Your library can help you way more than that! email: ___"

Method (2) is likely more productive, IMO. I don't know a lot about it, but I suspect that undergrads and grads still have unpleasant relationships with the library. Making those more pleasant and collaborative will make for better partners in the future. Like I said, I don't know a lot about current state of affairs, and if indeed conditions have improved for students, maybe better advertising of that fact is called for?

What are we to take from this, we librarians, if we wish to regain ground among scientists?

  • We need to address three market segments: young proto-scientists, practicing scientists who have no idea what we do, and practicing scientists such as Steve who have been actively turned off by libraries and librarians. By and large, it seems to me, we're doing quite a bit to address the first group's needs, not much at all for the second—and nothing whatever for the third.
  • It's not enough to "be a library" any more. It has been enough for quite a long time—among other things, libraries were an important source of institutional prestige—but no more. The boundaries of science librarianship in the research institution are becoming the boundaries of the research enterprise. If we're not contributing to the research enterprise, we can expect to be in the gunsights.
  • Patron service matters, if we are not to mint more Steve Kochs by the dozen. Every patron turned away from a library by sticklers for rules or unhelpful service is a spadeful of earth from our own grave.
  • Our sixth column? Information-literacy instruction. Love your library instructors! They mint future academic-library patrons.
  • One more time: we're not going to fix this situation sitting behind desks in a library our target populations don't visit. What Stephanie and Christina and John and Bonnie and Hope and Molly and Paolo and I did to advance librarianship, we did at a science conference.

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Science Online 2010: thoughts for librarians

Jan 21 2010 Published by under Tactics

Again in no particular order, some thoughts and ideas that came to mind during Science Online 2010:

  • I did quite a bit of library advocacy during the conference, and not just during the session dedicated to it! I noticed that I had the best luck when I could define a library service in terms of outcomes that would be useful to the person I was talking to. Not "IRs are great! Open access now!" but "if your interns deposit their presentations into the IR, your program will build institutional memory, and the interns themselves will build identities as researchers." Seems obvious enough, but the sticking point (at least in a sprawling research library) is that every librarian who deals with patrons would need to understand every service the library offers, to be able to offer the right service at the right psychological moment. I don't think that's often the case, honestly; I certainly wouldn't claim that much knowledge.
  • I become more and more convinced that if research libraries don't rescue the bits of the internet we're interested in, nobody else will. I love Open Notebook Science, but it also scares me to death. How will I rescue a lashed-up mashup of in-browser apps?
  • "If it's not online and immediately available, I won't read it." The sequel to that sentence was (my paraphrase) "I don't mess with ILL. Takes too long, and those forms…" The first library that makes a bookmarklet that automagically sends the current web page being browsed to ILL along with the user's identification information wins.
  • If "library as place" is on the decline—and among working scientists it surely seems to be—how far could libraries go with "the world is my library"?
  • Peter Binford of PLoS suggested that as article-level metrics catch on, there is a market opportunity available in aggregating usage statistics from the various places an article might be found, from journal websites to databases to repositories, and presenting those metrics usefully to authors (and, one presumes, their tenure and promotion committees). My question to libraries: why should we let the next Thomson walk away with this (and mess it up as badly as they've messed up the impact factor)? Let's do it ourselves! It's a natural outgrowth of the faculty-bibliography efforts we're engaged in.

For what they're worth…

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