Thursday, October 17, 2013

Managing My Own Information Overload

Anyone trying to keep track of what is going on in librarianship (or any other field) has a whole mess of information they could consume to keep up, and if you are a crazy, psychotic information junkie like me, you do end up reading a whole lot of stuff. Stuff you will never remember all of. Stuff you would like to keep track of for later. Stuff that probably requires some sort of management software to actually keep track of. This is what I use.

For journal articles, books, conference proceedings  and other "things I should be citing when writing formally," I use Zotero. I won't say too much about Zotero since there is so much out there already on using it, and I figure most librarians are at least familiar with it. There's even at least one book targeted in part towards librarians on it. What I can say is I had been bopping back and forth between Zotero and Mendeley, and there were really three things that finally convinced me to stick with Zotero.  First, I discovered how to annotate a PDF in Adobe, which took away one of Mendeley's major attractions for me. Second, Mendeley was bought by Elsevier, and Elsevier is gross (that's a professional judgement right there), while Zotero is open source and cool. Third, and most importantly, was Zotero Standalone and the Chrome and Firefox plug-ins that go with it. I use Chrome a lot more than I do Firefox now, so the ability to actually use Zotero in it really made me happy. But, even in Firefox I love Standalone and the new plug-in more than what came before, since I can download the citation and often the PDF full text with one quick click up by the URL. It makes me happy. 

So, what about the rest? There is a whole lot more out there about librarianship than books and articles, large amounts of it either web-native or readily available on the web. For that, I use Diigo to keep track of it. Diigo is a social bookmarking tool, and while social bookmarking doesn't have the sexy sheen it did a few years ago, I love Diigo. Again, I use Chrome and Firefox primarily, and Diigo has an extension and toolbar, respectively, for those two browsers that let me automatically add and tag bookmarks really easily. There is also a toolbar for IE, and some possibly third-party add-on for Safari, in addition to a bookmarklet that can be added to any browser. They also have Android and iOS apps. Okay, I can't say I use the iPad app much other than pulling up recipes I've saved (I use Diigo for a lot more than library stuff), I never use the Android app on my phone, and I dislike that I cannot add a highlighter to mobile Chrome in iPad (you can for Safari). Still, I'm mostly in apps on my iPad and Galaxy anyway, and I've got a solution there. I get almost all of my library information from Feedly and Twitter, whether in the web versions or in apps, and I use IFTTT to automatically send things from those tools to Diigo. I have recipes to automatically add private bookmarks, which I go back to tag and make public later, whenever I save something in Feedly, favorite something on Twitter, or tweet out a link.1

Now, of course, gathering a whole bunch of stuff is one thing. Getting back to it is another. Thankfully, Diigo does not require you to go to to get at your library. The Chrome add-on automatically includes a box with Diigo results every time you search Google, and the Firefox toolbar has a search bar that also searches Google and Diigo simultaneously. You never need a separate search, which is great because I'd never remember to do so. 

But wait, there's more! The Chrome add-on and Firefox toolbar also let you annotate webpages. You can both highlight text and add comments. There is also a setting to allow you to see other Diigo users' annotations, but I can't say having that on has been really beneficial for me, so I keep it off so I'm not distracted. You only get 1000 highlights a year with the free version, but I haven't even come close to that. If you do go a little crazy with the highlighting, or want to cache a lot of pages (which I never do even though I get 30 free), you might look into one of the paid versions. I'm sticking with free for now, though if the full-text search that comes with the Basic plan is really great I might try that out, but I'm not testing it myself (or at least not until I'm off a grad student's income). I also do not take advantage of the social options in Diigo, since I don't know anyone else who uses it, though you could totally change that by signing up and following me. Which would give me even more information to read and then manage, and that would make me oh so happy.

1) If I follow you on Twitter, and it seems like I'm always favoriting things, it's because I'm saving it to Diigo.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Emotions!

Our benevolent god of the animated GIF, Buzzfeed, has graced us with another multimedia listicle thing-y, this time on what it is like being a new TA. They get it basically right, though what they describe isn't really limited to new TAs. The shifting feelings of despair, frustration, euphoria, and ambivalence have not gone away, at least as long as I teach. Sure, there's a little less despair as I grow more comfortable teaching, and probably a bit more frustration as I realize that just because I'm a better teacher than last year does not mean now I can get all of my students to actually care, but it's the same mix. 

It also got me thinking about the different feelings I get from being a reference librarian and being an instructor. My assistantship has me doing two things: working the reference desk at the main branch of a large academic library and teaching a couple sections of a weekly, for-credit information literacy/research skills course, primarily targeted at freshmen but with the occasional upperclassmen looking for a one-credit class. Looking at the emotions I feel during both parts of my job, I'd say they are similar, but everything that comes from the teaching part is just more intense than from the reference part.   

The sort of extreme pride and satisfaction that you get when the students finally get something? You only get that from the repeated interactions you get in a class. That's not to say I never get done with an extended reference interview and feel great. I do, and sometimes I really do feel that I've taught them something they will remember. But, when you realize from teaching a course that you have to explain the same concept or skill to freshmen for four straight weeks before they get it,1 you figure out that what you show them at the desk one time probably isn't sticking for most. But when you are tracking the same students week after week and you start to see them applying what they've learned? Fantastic. Things go similarly for the negative feelings. Those students who come up to the desk, want you do everything for them, and refuse to be taught? Annoying. But in 10 minutes they'll be gone. You get the same type of student in a course, they give you the same attitude week after week, and eventually you probably fail them? Much worse. 

But, at least in my experience, it's been worth it. The successes make the failures worth it. 

1) Or longer. Boolean!!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Student Leadership: Actually Getting People on Board

Army recruiting poster from World War I with Uncle Sam pointing at the view and stating "I was YOU for U.S. Army"
Photo public domain, copied from Wikipedia
Two days ago, Steve Ammidown over at Hack Library School wrote a great post about how great student organizations are in library school, the great skills you can pick up from them, but also the difficulty they often have keeping enough people involved. I know the struggle. I'm heavily involved with two of our organizations, our graduate student group LISGSA and our chapter of Progressive Librarians Guild. And it has often been a struggle keeping people involved with these two. I cannot talk about other programs, though they probably have similarities, but I can speak to why I think it's difficult to get people involved where I go to school and what can be done about it. 

So, why don't people get involved? A lot of us are working 1-2 part-time library jobs trying to cultivate experience, and many students who are transitioning to librarianship from other careers are still working full-time in those other careers while they get the degree. When we have free time, we don't all have it at the same time, so scheduling face to face (or even synchronous online) meetings can be a chore. So we have a time issue. 

We also have a place issue. Oh, do we have that. Our program has multiple campuses across the state, and since most of the classes are either hybrid or entirely online, even those who are technically on my campus may live an hour or so away and only visit it a few times a semester. So, in addition to having a distinct lack of free time overlap, when we can all meet a lot of people would need to travel to meet up, and some are just too far away to make that possible. So, out of all the people in the program, the actual recruiting pool for our organizations is just a fraction: people who are in-town, and usually only full-time students who only have, say, one part-time job. There are exceptions, but that's most of those involved, including me (okay, I have two part-time jobs, but one is very, very part-time).

How does an organization survive and get people involved in such a context? People need to take it upon themselves to be recruiters. When getting involved takes a lot of scarce time and doesn't, at first glance, seem to be so high a priority, it takes people who are willing to, again and again, make the hard sell for why it's important. It's how I got involved. I, traditionally, have not been a joiner. At all. But when I moved to a new town knowing zero people to start the program during Spring of 2012, I was kind of hurting for friends, so I started going to the LISGSA Happy Hours. There, among other great friends, I met Kyle, who was then LISGSA President. Without Kyle's recruitment, I would probably have stayed only "guy who goes to Happy Hours." But he encouraged me to do more, talked about the cool stuff they were doing, explained the personal and professional benefits I'd get by being a joiner for once, and got me involved. With his encouragement, I even ran for president for the 2012-2013 year.1 

Because of how important Kyle's recruiting was for me, I took it upon myself to pay the favor forward. Conveniently, as Programming Coordinator last school year, my job for LISGSA was basically "create events, make sure people show up." We held our first-ever conference this past spring, and one of my jobs was encouraging people to be presenters. Of the six executive board members serving this school year, I was heavily involved with recruiting2 four of them to serve. This year, our PLG chapter is a bit on the ropes, so when the treasurer position became empty, I signed up to serve for this semester (my last), setting myself the goal of recruiting3 a replacement by spring, along with convincing others to get involved with PLG long-term. Oh, I've also targeted a couple students I think should be LISGSA Exec Board members next school year. Hopefully, some of those I've got involved previously are also doing the same, taking on the recruiting role. These organizations would die without it.

1) I lost, but thanks to the difficulties of getting people involved, the Programming Coordinator position was empty so I was slotted in there.  
2) They may say that more accurate terms would be "cajoling," "badgering," "brow beating," etc.
3) See 2) above.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Power of Literacy

I got to a bit of a late start on R. David Lankes's New Librarianship MOOC, so I missed participating in a lot of the initial conversation, such as the Twitter arguments on the validity of conversation theory. However, I haven't seen anyone on Twitter (I'm not even attempting the discussion posts) really dig into the parts about power, so I'd like to. Starting at about 5:30 in the Facilitation: Knowledge/Training video, as well as in the book starting p74, Lankes makes the claim that literacy is about power. We read not necessarily because it's fun, but because it gives us the power to do things and get what we want. New Librarianship, in its promotion of literacy  should be increasing the power members in our community, especially those without power. Now, Lankes also includes fiction reading as power enabling. His examples in the book, however, are a little weak, with talk of what characteristics books cultivate and how reading Danielle Steele teaches us about ourselves. In the video he talks about learning to question authority with fiction without really getting into it. It leaves him open to critiques like Lane Wilkinson's on the issue of fiction in New Librarianship. Wilkinson points out, almost assuredly correctly, that most people don't read fiction to gain knowledge. We do it for enjoyment, culture, aesthetics maybe, but rarely explicitly to learn. Wilkinson doesn't really get into it, but if Lankes's point about fiction reading being empowering is based on fiction reading as knowledge creation, and Wilkinson is right that usually fiction reading isn't about knowledge creation, then fiction reading doesn't fit into New Librarianship's focus on facilitating power.

However, just because Lankes doesn't do a great job on explaining how fiction, literacy, and power go together doesn't mean they don't. You could argue it multiple ways, but luckily on my part, I ran into this TED Talk1 today on the importance of stories and power that tackles it from one perspective:

Clearly you should watch the whole thing, but just in case you don't I want to try to summarize Adichie's basic point, which is about the danger of the single story and why having multiple stories is important. It's something she ran into as a child, where all of the books available to her for a long time were American and British, with white skinned children playing in the snow and talking about how nice it is when the sun comes out. As a result, when she as a child started writing, she thought all stories were about white skinned children playing in the snow and talking about how nice it is when the sun comes out, so that's what she wrote. Access to only a single story left her for a time without the power to tell her own, because she didn't see her story as the type of story that fiction tells. It comes up again and again, where only having access to a single perspective, through both fiction and non-fiction, convinces her roommate that no Africans could speak English or use a stove, convinces Adichie before a trip there that Mexico is a place where everyone is unhappy and destitute, convinces a student all Nigerian men were abusive because the only perspective she had was one of Adichie's novels where one of the men is abusive, and so on. Having access to only one story about a people flattens them into a stereotype and robs them of their power. In response to the student, Adichie drolly points out that reading American Psycho didn't convince her that all American men are serial killers, since she had access to many stories about American men. At 17:40, she really drives the importance of stories and power:2
Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to disposes and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of people, but stories can also begin to heal that broken dignity. 
I think it also begins to address Wilkinson's critique. I think he's right that most of us do not read fiction first and foremost for creating knowledge. Yet, whether we want to or not, our fiction reading creates knowledge (or in some cases "knowledge") that we rely on. I don't disagree with him that I'd like to see "aesthetic enjoyment, cultural enrichment, or emotional connection" talked about. But what we read, or don't read, creates knowledge that we will either use to see people as the flattened stereotypes of a single story or humanize through many stories.Therefore, a librarian should be concerned with facilitating power through literacy by selecting diverse collections,3 providing safe spaces to discuss multiple perspectives, and creating a compelling case to read fiction that provides a fuller picture of people and cultures. Those that are not are instead help to teach people the knowledge of the single story, even though they are probably not doing this consciously. Either way, like it or not, fiction is part of the knowledge business. Which, to be fair to Lankes, he hints at in the video around 6:35 when talking about pushing "proper" books and removing the banned books, but that's not something we needed New Librarianship to push against. 

1) I know, I know, but this isn't the TED Talk stereotype.
2) By "stories" she means more than fiction, but, since fiction is unquestionably included and she repeatedly using it as an example, I think "fiction" can be safely subbed in.
3) Yes, access to outside things is deemphasized in New Librarianship, but I believe that, though we talk a great deal about it, libraries really aren't yet truly great at offering diverse collections.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Party Hard. Make It Happen. Scream at Each Other.

It's said that when you don't have anything nice to say you shouldn't say anything at all. But when you just have to say something negative, perhaps it's best to do so on your blog which gets maybe two dozen readers per post.

Over the past few months, my opinion of the the library profession, of which I'm not even a member yet, has sunk a lot. Now, I'll admit I joined library school with a naive image of librarians, but I think that was mostly sorted out in my first year. So this is not that. This, I think, comes almost entirely from the flame wars that erupt on the ALA Think Tank Facebook group. I joined because I expected a lot of great conversations about libraries, and there still are plenty of these. I learned so much after I asked people about their weeding policies following the Urbana Free Library weeding disaster. But there are an increasingly number of threads that devolve into screaming matches that make me hate both sides. It's gotten to the point where, in spite of all I've learned there, the toxic environment is making me hate librarians. Considering 99.99% of librarians are not people who are posting on these threads on ALATT, this is unfair, and I think the only way to get myself back on balance is to get the hell away from that place.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Shall I Keep Blogging?

I've had a blog for almost a semester now. It's been class-mandated, and soon we'll see if I keep it up. Would it be worth it? What do I get out of blogging? Luckily, at the end of said class we had a few articles on scholarly blogging, and there was one in particular that had good framework for me to use when reflecting on the future of my blog. Which I will do now. In blog form.

Sara Kjellberg (2010) interviewed 11 blogging researchers on why they maintained blogs. These people ranged from humanists to natural scientists, and ranked anywhere from PhD. student to professors. Not librarians, but I think what she found holds well enough. She identified six functions of scholarly blogs in their responses: disseminate content, express opinions, keep up-to-date on material in their fields, write, interact, and build networks of relationships. So, which of these am I getting out of my blog? 

I don't particularly pass along much I'm doing in my blog in terms of content I've created, whether it be research or library practice, though perhaps that will change at some point. I do like showing things I've read that I've found worth engaging. Right now, these things are often article read in this class, though I'll often pull in other things I've found interesting, such as my last post where I brought in a great blog post from Scholarly Communications @ Duke. I imagine what I pass along will grow in breadth of both form and topic if I keep the blog going after this class. As for expressing opinions, well, I have them, I like using the blog for it (see my attack on Google Scholar or totally non-expert opinion on the White House OA policy), and I definitely would keep using the blog for it. So, big check mark here.

The "keeping up-to-date" function was that some of the bloggers would pay more attention to developments in and related to their field in order to have something to blog about. I'm an info addict, so I really don't need my blog to motivate me to read constantly. Though, for the few weeks I did The Best Things I was much better at keeping track of what I read. This fits well with Kjellberg's sub-function of the blog as a notebook. Also, if I ever did want to go back and see what I thought was so import that I had to blog about, it's all there. 

Many of the researchers blogged to practice their writing skills and work on articulating their ideas. I love blogging for this. I don't have the worse writing, but I also don't think it's great, nor do I feel I've really cultivated my own distinct writing style, so I really appreciate the practice. I can't say it has always improved my writing (I still overuse parentheses [PARENTHESES!]), but I appreciate the practice all the same.

Interaction and relationship-building are very entwined. I also don't see much of them happening with my blog. I don't get many comments. Most of them are Joe, who is forced to comment on my blog until this class is over, though there was that one time Walt Crawford dismantled a number of my presumptions about APCs. I also don't see many comments on library blogs that have many more followers than me, so I don't see a lot more interaction in the future. I can't say this blog has built any new relationships will others in the library world, though this could partially be because I'm terrible at promoting this thing. Still, having a blog really hasn't changed much in the two virtual places I make connections with other librarians: Twitter and ALA Think Tank.

I do think I'll keep my blog, in spite of the name I gave it and now find to be annoyingly twee. I get a lot out of it, and I think I could get a lot more the more I use it. Of course, I say all this, but it wouldn't be the first time I've flaked at keeping a blog going when not forced to...

Kjellberg, S. (2010). I am a blogging researcher: Motivations for blogging in a scholarly context. First Monday, 15(8). Retrieved from

Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's My Fault (At Least Partially)

I want to talk game theory. Specifically, coordination games. Carl T. and Theodore C. Bergstrom (2006) identify the scholarly publication business as a coordination game. In such a game, there is an existing convention, a way of doing things, that is practiced by a large group. While that convention may no longer be the ideal way of doing things, no one individual can move away from the convention and benefit, because unless everyone else does. So, to steal their example, suppose we have three scholars in a field. There is the legacy journal, with publishing practices no one likes, and a new journal appears. The new journal is cheaper and it has the potential for more circulation, so one author considers publishing in it. However, if the other two stick with the legacy, the legacy will still be preferred by most readers, academic libraries will only buy the legacy if they have to make a choice, and that first scholar's work will actually receive less attention. All three would have to jump ship. Now change 3 to however many scholars there are in a given field, and you see how difficult this can be.

So, I bring all that up to give some context to my interpretation of this blog post, detailing how Keven Smith accidentally published an article at a Taylor & Francis journal, whose author's rights policies he disapproves of.  Smith, as the Scholarly Communications Officer at Duke, is exactly the sort of person you expect to be making careful, informed decisions on what publishers he chooses to publish with, and no doubt he usually does. The story he spins on how this publication came to be is not, I think, the standard method one usually goes about getting something published. Still, he draws many good lessons from this experience, one that really stuck out to me: "authors choose journals, not publishers."

Scholars, when determining where to publish, don't think about who the publisher is but whether the topic they are writing about fits the journal they are writing for, and this is what Smith considered when he signed. He thought his work would be a good fit for the journal. He's almost certainly right, as well: Serials Librarian, T&F journal in question, probably is "a proper venue" for a write-up of the talk he gave. Why? It's where there are readers interested in these topics. Which makes me think, why do authors choose journals, not publishers? Probably because readers choose journals, not publishers. Bergstrom and Bergstrom stated that readers choose journals because quality scholars publish there, but I think it's also true that quality scholars choose journals because there are many readers. It's mutually reinforcing.

If I am honest about my own inchoate practices as a scholar, as I determine what I should be reading to keep track of my interests I don't consider who is actually publishing these journals. I care about what is in them. I am an OA advocate and talk a big game about it, but it in no way changes my research practice. I don't prioritize finding information in an OA journal. I prioritize finding information in the best journal, and OA doesn't factor into my definition of "best." As a budding librarian I care about publishing practice, but as a budding scholar I really only care about best information,* and sometimes (often) that information is in journals with publishing practices I don't approve of. In thinking this way, I'm helping to keep the convention of the coordination game stable. As long as I, and my fellow readers, keep reading journals without interest in how they publish, what incentive is there for authors to try to disrupt the convention?

* Actually, as a librarian I only care about publishing practice when advocating for new publishing practices. When doing reference or information literacy instruction, I don't care about publishing practice when I guide patrons and students towards resources. I don't think I'm unusual in this. The only one of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards that could be used for considering publication practices is Standard Five, maybe, if you squint at it and turn your head sideways a little bit.

Bergstrom, C. T., & Bergstron, T. C. (2006). The economics of ecology journals. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 4(9), 488-495. Retrieved from

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Google Scholar

I was reading a 2010 article from Brian D. Edgar and John Willinsky surveying journals published on the Open Journals System. These in many ways are the sorts of journals that the new, digital, OA order makes possible: small, non-commercial, run by dedicated scholars, international, interdisciplinary, investigating new areas of inquiry. It was interesting stuff, but one quote, basically made offhandedly, stuck out to me:
These journals owe a debt, if perhaps more so than other journals, to the indirect support of Google Scholar for indexing the contents of these journals on publication, making them open to discovery on the same grounds as other journals, while providing readers with a degree of quality control, through Google’s page ranking and the citation counts it provides in its search results.
This is not the first time I've seen this sentiment come up. Actually, over the course of my scholarly communications class, it has been brought up in article after article how OA journals and IRs get most of their traffic from GS. This...may not be a good thing. First, is GS really going to be around in a few years? GS is currently not providing ads, and I'm presuming that the information Google learns about its users from GS are not really helping it all that much with its main money-makers, ads for the finance & insurance industries, retail, and tourism. Perhaps it's not surprising that after they announced Google Reader was dead, there was a fair amount of speculation that Google Scholar was next.

Still, let's assume that Google feels like keeping GS around for a while. Should the scholarly community, from scholars to librarians, really be content with reliance on GS? I do not think so, and I think why is well summed up by Charles Potter (2008): "We should not be fooled that any technology used by Google (or any search technology, really) is a neutral force in the information seeking process." (10)

Potter then goes on to lay out multiple ways in which Google Scholar is influencing the search process in ways that we, as librarians, generally do not approve of. Google is, of course, an advertising company, not an information company (that Venture Beat article linked above notes that Google makes 96% of its revenue from ads). To sell these ads, Google data mines, and then it keeps its information about you basically forever. Librarians would probably consider many of Google's practices to be in violation of our Core Value of Privacy/Confidentiality if we were doing them, and yet so many of our libraries link to GS. Google, whether through the main page or GS, is also dependent on a mass-model view of information in order to mass advertise. The single search bar is built on the idea that our information needs are homogeneous, that you can just passively put in a couple keywords, and that Google, through its algorithm, can find your information for you (Go ahead, try to find the Advanced Search). This is anathema to what librarians do: we try to meet the specific needs of our users, and we empower them to control and adjust their search results. 

In addition to Potter's reasons, there is also, of course, the infamous filter bubble. For those unaware, the filter bubble is the idea that Google (and other online services) are personalizing the information they deliver to you by your biases, so that potentially a searcher would never find information that they disagree with. The actual extent of Google's personalization is debated, but that actually helps the argument: Google is a black box. Nobody knows what they are doing, what they are planning to do, and what they could do in the future. Do we really trust them to do the right thing? 

I don't think so. We need a DPLA for Open Access materials. The White House OA memo is going to put a lot more OA material out there. Let's not make it a trade from the monopoly of the current scholarly commercial giants to a monopoly of Google.

Edgar, B. D., & Willinsky, J. (2010). A survey of scholarly journals using open journal systems. Scholarly and Research Communication, 1(2). Retrieved from

Potter, C. (2008). Standing on the shoulders of libraries: A holistic and rhetorical approach to teaching Google Scholar. Journal of Library Administration, 47(1/2), 5-28. doi:10.1080/01930820802110563

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Institutional Repositories: What Are They Good For?

Edit: all of the following presumes that we define success of IRs in terms of holding peer-reviewed scholarly works, as Steve Harnad does. Whether that is a good idea or not is its own argument.

Discussing institutional repositories yesterday in my scholarly communications class and how to convince faculty to archive in them, a question was posed: how do you convince a faculty member that submits their work to gold OA publications that participate in CLOCKSS to self-archive in the IR? Is there a good reason for them to?

Well, to answer that question, we need to look at the benefits of a IR versus that of said publication. Cullen and Chawner (2011) identify four key aspects of scholarly communication: registration (who  does this belong to?)*, certification (is this any good?), awareness (how do we let others know about this?), and archiving (how to we ensure this is always available in the future?). A traditional publication does all four of these things to varying degrees of success: they identify the author, they certify the work through peer review, they raise awareness through marketing the publication, and they keep back-copies, though they really rely a lot on research libraries for archiving. When librarians and others who promote and maintain IRs stress the value of them, we generally focus on awareness and archiving. We increase awareness of the publication through making it freely accessible in the IR with a permanent link and searchable online, through standards such as OAI-PMH, and build trust among scholars that we will maintain those documents online (Kim 2011).

But, Cullen and Chawner (2011) find in their research that scholars are considered more with registration and certification than awareness and archiving, which are two things that IRs do not do at this moment. Now, let's compare it to that gold OA publication: it has the registration and certification (peer-review) part down, and it compares favorably with the IR on awareness and archiving. Like the IR, it's online, for free, with a stable link, and is indexed by search engines, making it findable and accessible by more than the traditional article. Additionally, with CLOCKSS it ensures that even if the publisher goes under the article is preserved. It does it all in one. How can the IR compete with that, especially long-term?   

Well, we could draw on the idea of the decoupled journal championed by Priem and Hemminger (2012). Putting aside the good objections with their ideas on implementation and looking at the idea in the abstract, they identify functions of scholarly communication nearly identical to Cullen and Chawner: archiving, registration, dissemination, and certification. IRs have the archiving down, as well as part of the dissemination through their metadata. Now, why would a scholar want to disengage their certification from archiving and dissemination?** Priem and Hemminger hope for an increased diversity of certification/assessment under a decoupled system, and I agree that there is a lot of potential benefit here. A multidisciplinary work could be certified by groups in multiple disciplines. There could be certification as to how well the work follows accepted research practice, as well as those for "significance." Those representing traditionally disadvantaged perspectives could have certifications for disciplines, so a mainstream economics paper could be evaluated by feminist economics as to how well is avoids andocentric ideas. There can be anonymous and open review. Some of these the author would submit to, while others may take the Journal of the Digital Humanities model and go looking for things to certify. Thus, the object could investigated and certified from a variety of perspectives, allowing for a more nuanced understanding of quality than now (where something is either accepted or rejected). The object in the IR could display the varied certifications that the scholarly work received with it, perhaps using an open badge framework, so while the IR does not certify, it archives certifications.

Cullen, R. and Chawner, B. (2011). ' Institutional Repositories, Open Access, and Scholarly Communication: A Study of Conflicting Paradigms.' The Journal of ACademic Librarianship 37:6, 460-470. DOI:10.1016/j.acalib.2011.07.002

Kim, J. (2011). 'Motivations of Faculty Self-Archiving in Institutional Repositories.'The Journal of Academic Librarianship 37:3, 246-254. DOI:10.1016/j.acalib.2011.02.017

Priem, J. and Hemminger, B.M. (2012). 'Decoupling the Scholarly Journal.' Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 6, 1-13. DOI:10.3389/fncom.2012.00019

*Cullen and Chawner, as well as Roosendaal and Geurts, whom they borrow this framework from, never do a particularly good job of explaining what they mean by registration, other than in involves intellectual property and copyright, so I'm going to focus less on it.
**Remember, I'm still not touching registration.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Debate is About Implementation

Joe at Fragile Interstices asked whether or not there should even be a debate over open access. The benefits are clear, what's there to talk abot? Respectfully, I think there is a debate. Let's start with where we agree: well, we agree pretty much completely. Every benefit of OA he lists is true, and I'm not disputing them. I am an Open Access advocate. However, the debate comes into play when we talk about implementation, because if implemented in the wrong way I think OA could create new problems even as it is solving old ones (and, to be fair, I'm sure Joe knows this, and I'm creating a strawman Joe because that's easier to debate against).

Let's start with the gold/green distinction. For those not in the know, "gold" is publishing in an Open Access journal, while Green is publishing in a traditional journal that allows the author to make a copy of the article (pre-print or post-print) available online, often in an institutional repository (Harnad et all 2008). Both forms of Open Access are currently in use, but there is considerable debate as to which should be prioritized and what benefits can be achieved but also what damage might be caused. Stevan Harnad strongly advocates pushing green OA over gold, for the present moment. He has a number of reasons for this. Green can be easily mandated, such as Harvard's mandate, and thus gets us more quickly to universal OA, while under gold we could stay in a mixed OA/non-OA environment. He also feels only green OA actually solves the serials costs problems. To explain this, we have to talk article-processing charges (APCs). A common method for gold OA journals to make money is through APCs, where in order to publish in the journal an author (or their institution) pays the journal in order to get the work published. Harnad believes that these APCs will not get paid until after universal green, because at that point institutions can cut their serials budgets (if you are subscribed to a traditional journal important to a field and only 2/3 of its articles are green, then you'll keep paying for it to get that last 1/3), and the money can be used to pay APCs.

Is Harnad right here? Well, yes and no. In presuming that only authors or institutions will pay APCs, he leaves out an option: grants. Can research grants cover the cost of APCs? Well, they do right now, at least in some fields. For natural sciences research, grants will sometimes cover APCs, at least at higher rates than in social sciences or humanities (Solomon & Björk 2012). If we push gold over green, we run the risk of further advantaging the natural sciences over all others. I think we also run the risk of harming researchers at smaller, more teaching-oriented institutions (as well as independent researchers), again especially humanists and social scientists, who under a universal gold OA environment may finally have access to all the research they want but now find they cannot afford to publish it. However, even here we have different models. On one extreme, we have Taylor & Francis making the pathetic offer to make the Journal of Library Administration less restrictive (as far as I can tell, not even fully OA) at the fucking insane outrageous cost of $3k per article, prompting the board to resign. On the other extreme, we have the Forum of Mathematics, a gold OA journal, which promises that if you cannot afford the APC they will still publish your work, no questions asked. Now, of course, we have no idea whether Forum can survive if it let's researchers skip the APC. This could be unattainable. That's the point. We have yet to successfully create a fully OA environment, and until we do, there will be a debate about how to do it. And, if we choose wrongly, we could end up doing some people a lot of harm.

Harnad, S. (2010). Gold Open Access publishing must not be allowed to retard the progress of green Open Access self-archiving. LOGOS: The Journal Of The World Book Community, 21(3/4), 86-93. doi:10.1163/095796511X559972

Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallières, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y., ...Hilf, E. (2008). The access/impact problem and the green and gold roads to Open Access: An update. Serials Review, 34(1), 36-40. doi:10.1016/j.serrev.2007.12.005

Solomon, D. J. & Björk, B.-C. (2012). Publication fees in open access publishing: Sources of funding and factors influencing choice of journal. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(1), 98–107. doi: 10.1002/asi.21660

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Making the Most of the New Federal Agency OA Policy

So, at this point I think most people have either read about the new White House Open Access policy or read the memo itself. This is rightly lauded as a big step forward, and it could have a major effect on institutional repositories (IRs) and libraries. The requirement that agencies have "a strategy for leveraging existing archives, where appropriate," strikes me as an opportunity for existing IRs to get involved with this policy, especially since IRs hold a wide variety of resources beyond just journal articles that research that stemmed from federal funds could be published in, such as books and conference articles, as well as hold data sets (Burns, Lana, and Budd 2013) which are also to be made public under the new policy.

However, IRs as they currently are have a major weakness. As Arlitsch and O'Brien (2012) have noted, many IRs are currently using the Dublin Core metadata, even though it is not the best tool for journal articles, since important citation data such as "journal name, volume and issue number, and page numbers span of the article is usually entered into a single field, such as DC.Relation or DC.Source in simple Dublin Core, and there is no specified format or consistency" (p72). This makes it difficult for retrieval tools, such as Google Scholar, to find archived content in IRs, which diminishes their potential for providing access to federally-funded research to the public. Yet, just below the part of the memo that invites partnership with IRs is this requirement: "a strategy for improving the public’s ability to locate and access digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research". Agencies could potentially use this to push IRs away from Dublin Core, by requiring that, if they want to be in partnership with federal agencies on OA, they need to support metadata standards sufficient to improve access to archived research. This would improve access to all content in IRs, not just the federally-funded content.

This could also be a great opportunity for IRs and libraries to come together to create retrieval tools for OA materials to rival Google Scholar. While GS is a useful, if flawed, tool, there are many that worry about making ourselves even more dependent on Google. Google also has a tendency to kill unprofitable services, and so the library world could solicit support from the creation or their own major mutli-IR OA retrieval tool, since GS might not be "an approach for optimizing search...while ensuring long-term stewardship of the results of federally funded research". This could be done under the auspices of the Digital Public Library of America (though god help me I'm still not sure what exactly the DPLA is supposed to be) or something new. Either way, libraries and IRs could create a tool that, unlike GS, would be open about what materials it is indexing, improved display, allow for scholars to have easier access to citation data (Meho and Yang 2007).

Arlitsch, K. & O'Brien, P. S. (2012). Invisible institutional repositories: Addressing the low indexing ratios of IRs in Google Scholar. Library Hi Tech, 30 (1), pp.60 - 81. doi:10.1108/07378831211213210 
Burns, C. S., Lana, A., & Budd, J. M. (2013). Institutional repositories: Exploration of costs and value. D-Lib Magazine,19(1/2). Retrieved from
Meho, L. I., & Yang, K. (2007). Impact of data sources on citation counts and ranking of LIS faculty: Web of science versus Scopus and Google Scholar. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology58(13), 2105-2125. doi:10.1002/asi.20677

Friday, February 15, 2013

You Got Your Scholarly Communications in My MOOCs!

I was rereading Clay Shirky's ode to the disruptive power of the MOOC, Napster, Udacity, and the Academy, and I had a thought: Shirky, guru of Web 2.0, as well as many like him have a decidedly non-Web 2.0 (interactive, collaborative, social) view of what an MOOC can be. Actually, scratch that: their conception of the MOOC actually looks more like 20th-Century mass media.

Let's look at the definition he gives: "A massive open online class is usually a series of video lectures with associated written materials and self-scoring tests, open to anyone." This is entirely one-directional, from professor to student. In an era where we have normalized the web as a collaborative, interactive medium, Shirky's preferred method of education disruption is a platform for one or two experts to talk at students. It's recreating the massive intro course common at many colleges and universities, but with the definition of "massive" changed from the hundreds to the thousands or hundred thousands.

Shirky is almost certainly right that it is cheaper and more efficient to lecture to 160,000 than two hundred, though there are still upsides to the smaller class.1 But this is only sufficient as a comparison if we accept that lectures are the only ways to teach students. Now, if you happen find constructivist instruction theory; which is to say instruction based on problem-solving, collaboration, and creative instructor-student interactons (Booth 51-52); this seems problematic. How is the most passive, traditional, conservative method of instruction supposed to be the method for disrupting higher education? Can't we do better?2

Well, that's easy to say. Sure, why not? The real question is how? Well, many ways, but one that I find particularly intriguing is put forth in a recent Chronicle post [paywalled, sorry] by Edward L. Ayers: the fusion of teaching and new methods of scholarly communication. I really love the History Harvests  example he gives. William G. Thomas III at Nebraska is planning a new MOOC that, rather than using the web as a tool for one-way broadcasting, uses the web's power to bring people together in real life (which Shirky extolled in Here Comes Everybody) to investigate primary sources of importance to the community. The students then get to get their digital humanities on and digitize and share these artifacts. It's a real chance to actually practice the historical discipline. This need not be limited to the digital humanities, either. It is increasingly common for natural scientists to submit their research data to open data repositories. Why not give students the opportunity to analyze a data set to see if they draw the same conclusions as the original author? That could make for a really practically-minded statistics class. MOOCs and new scholarly communications trends could be meshed together in so many other ways. We just need more people to break the lecture stranglehold, and generative and open access scholarship is a way forward.  

1) Like the ability of students in a class of 100 to be able to raise their hand and ask a question, or send their professor an email and have the slightest hope of getting a response.
2) Shirky could accuse me of being overly concerned with "education of the very best sort" and not what the average college student, not attending an elite university, would receive, which is his major response to most criticism of MOOCs. I call shenanigans. Education at every level could benefit from constructivist instruction, and as I'll get into in a second it could be incorporated into the MOOC.

Booth, C. (2011). Reflective teaching, effective learning: Instructional literacy for library educators. Chicago: American Library Association.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Best Things [2/1/13]

Let's Talk About This "Free" Price Tag, by Barbara Fister

You should just read this whole thing. It tackles everything: the gaps scholars have on how scholarly publishing actually works, the lack of inquisitiveness many of them have towards the subject, the bogus "realism" many adopt towards open access, and more. Seriously, I cannot do this justice: just read it.

Negotiation: Getting Past Some of the Barriers We Erect for Ourselves, by Nancy Sims

I've never done much negotiating. Or really, none at all. I once haggled on the price for something in a Russian market, and I was terrible at it. I am not the most assertive person, and that really isn't the best quality in a negotiator. I think I'm not the only person in the library world who has this issue. That's why I like this article: Sims confronts three different reasons librarians don't often negotiate the contracts we sign, and why we should. She also promises a future post where she goes over some times she negotiated copyright terms, which should be interesting.

Test-Driving Purdue's Passport Gamification Platform for Library Instruction, by Nicole Pagowsky (HT Annie Pho)

In my pre-library professional life, I worked at a loyalty-marketing firm (you know, like "spend $100 on your credit card and get 1,000 points you can redeem for a hat). The big buzzword at the time, the thing that was going to finally allow us to create "true loyalty," was gamification, or the adding of game-like features into non-games. So, I was intrigued to see librarians attempting to create interest in library instruction. I can't say it will work. Most gamification fails due to bad design, but when it works the results are impressive. Either way, I like the attempt to create excitement about library skills. I hope it works.

Chicago's Freezing Fire, by Alan Taylor

Last week a warehouse caught fire in Chicago, and it turns out mixing fire-fighting with sub-freezing temperatures leads to some fantastic photography.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Teaching Philosophy

To prepare for some course development tasks I've been assigned this year, I'm reading through Char Booth's Reflective Teaching Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators.1 During the first chapter, Booth talks about teaching philosophy: a short (75 words or less) statement of what motivates you to teach. Booth gives her own philosophy as an example of what she means:
I want to redefine the way people think about librarians, inspire as much critical thought as I do laughter, make sure they come away with something they can actually use, and most important, to never, ever, ever bore anyone to tears. (7)
After reading her example (and 15 other examples she got from many awesome librarians), I tried putting together a teaching philosophy of my own. A few days reflection and a couple drafts later, here's what I have:
I want to create critical consumers and producers of information, do so through activities and discussion that engage and provide the chance for self-reflection and collaboration, and broaden students' minds to how the library can support them as researchers and information users.
Thinking back on this, one point sticks out to me: I kind of have the library/librarians in a somewhat secondary position. Partially this could be attributed to the context in which I am an instructor. I teach a for-credit class at the moment that, while incorporating library use instruction, is more structured around the whole research process, including not just finding information but first developing an information need and then evaluating the information once it has been found. Also, I think that not putting the library first and foremost in my philosophy possibly helps make my teaching of more interest to students. Learning about library resources for the sake of library resources is of interest to the following groups: librarians, library science researchers, library students, and prospective library students. That's it (okay, maybe vendors). For everybody else, the library is but a tool to some end.

Anyway, have you thought about your teaching philosophy? What is it?

1) Everything is literacy for librarians, yeah?

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Best Things [1/25/13]

Maybe next week I'll have an original post! I'm working on some ideas. Meanwhile, the Best Things:

When Good Programs Go Bad: Forgetting the Patron Perspective, by John Pappas

Ever had what seemed like a great program, and then (next to) nobody showed up? John writes about how many a good idea for a program goes bad because the librarian did not consider the patron's "ROI" for it. That is, to go to a program a patron has to spent time and effort, and if the program isn't worth that time and effort they just won't come. John is talking primarily about public libraries here, but asking yourself "are patrons going to get enough out of this program to justify the effort of going?" certainly applies to academic libraries as well. Also, had you listened to me last week and started following Letters to a Young Librarian, you'd have already seen this.

What Do You Know About First-Gen Students? by Steven Bell

Academic libraries, like colleges & universities as a whole, spend a lot of time trying to make sure first-year students fit in, feel comfortable, and adjust to academic life. However, we do not spend a lot of time on the first-generation students (aka students who are the first of their families to attend college), despite the fact that they have a number of needs that make them more at-risk of dropping out than other students. Bell notes this is especially a concern for institutions like community colleges that attract a lot more first-gen students on average. The post is more a call to attention than a list of solutions for how academic librarians should support first-gen students, but everything must start somewhere, yeah?

Top Four Things Library Supporters Can Do To Make a Difference, by Stephanie Vance 

Advocating for libraries politically is a major interest of mine. It's why, despite making very little money, I still made a donation to help get EveryLibrary up and running.  So I really liked this practical guide for how to more effectively contact and influence government officials and legislators about library issues. I'm especially a fan of the SPLIT technique for presenting your case, which means making sure your message is Specific, Personal, Informative, and Trustworthy.

16 Great Library Scenes in Film, by Jeff O'Neal

Libraries! A popular Hollywood set, capable of evoking love, lust, confinement, freedom, and imagination, among other things.

Friday, January 18, 2013

First! and The Best Things [1/18/13]

Another library blog! We need one of those! This would be a great time for HTML to have sarcasm tags! Well, I need a blog for a class this semester, so this is happening.

Anyway, in order to use my constant, obsessive consumption of stuff to my advantage when making content, I'm going to do a weekly post called "The Best Things" which will be, well, what I thought were the best things I read/watched/listened to over the previous week. These things will usually be library and academia related, but I am an easily-distracted being so who knows what may slip in on occasion.

So, let's begin, yeah?

Not just an Academic question: Why Open Access matters for public libraries, by Hugh Rundle (hat tip Library Loon)

This is probably one of 500 articles I've read recently that frames itself around the suicide of Aaron Swartz. Rundle tackles the common framing of Open Access as a "academic librarian" issue and not that important to public libraries. Of course, that's garbage. Public libraries pay for scholarly content, and paying for scholarly content means you can't pay for something else (opportunity cost! Hooray semester of economics!). Also, acceptance of the current system is acceptance that only certain people (those who are connected to institutions with sufficient money) can have access to the full breadth of scholarly publishing, which should be anathema to all librarians.

Why I've Joined the Bad Guys, by W.T. Gowers (another hat tip to the Library Loon)

One of the most controversial things surrounding Open Access (usually Gold OA) publications is that they usually charge article processing charges (APCs) for the publication of an article. Gowers, who is among other things the editor of the OA mathematics journal Forum of Mathematics, explains why his journal charges APCs, who pays them (institutions, not the authors), how they try to prevent inability to pay from preventing scholars from being able to publish in the journal, why he thinks the cost is appropriate, why Open Access journals with APCs could be a good short-term option as scholarly communications transforms into something more open, and more. It's an interesting read, and the comment section is as well.

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, by Aaron Swartz (hat tip New York Times)

While I'm still not down with what he did with JSTOR as the best tactic for promoting access to scholarly communications, this manifesto from 2008 really helps me undersand why Swartz did what he did. After celebrating the good work that the Open Access movement is doing, he points out a problem I really had avoided thinking about: at best, we are freeing only future content. But there is a lot of important scholarly material that is already locked up that Open Access won't free. Now, ideally public domain would eventually free all of this material, but of course, it seems every time something might become public domain Congress extends the length of copyright. It is this problem that Swartz wanted to solve with his civil disobedience. I'm still now sold on it, but I see what he was trying to do, and I can't say I'm sure what the best course of action is.

The Modern Book Club (meets in a bar), by Leah L. White  

How to run your next library book club at a bar. Awesome. Also, if you aren't already reading Letters to a Young Librarian, well, start. 

Anyway, I need to go figure out how to add my preferred commenting system to this site...
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