Posts Tagged ‘libraries’

  • Making that first page relevant

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    Academic libraries are investing in new research products called discovery layers that strive to duplicate’s Google’s “one search box that rules them all” for the scholarly landscape. But are such efforts premature? There have not been demonstrable evidence that show the search results from such discovery layers are meaningfully relevant. This is a critical failing as the majority of our readers rarely go beyond the first page of results from any search box.

    I’d like to learn from others how libraries can make better use of its data to build online services that get better the more people use it.

    Libraries have been late to apply the lessons of social networks into their systems. In fact, we are still waiting for some of the most simplest applications: most library catalogues aren’t able to sort items by the number of times an item has been circulated – even when this information is available in the system.

    Here’s another damning example: every semester academic libraries add books and articles into what are unfortunately known as ‘course reserve systems’ and this valuable information — that these items have been personally recommended by faculty for class use — is simply thrown away. But what if this information could be captured and shared among other academic libraries? That kind of canon could emerge over years of collection?

    There are opportunities to improve this situation. With the development of open source library systems such as Evergreen, VuFind, and Blacklight – librarians are finally able to access and even adjust relevance rankings.  And there is at least one discovery layer that has been designed to collect and share aggregated user information from many libraries.

    I’m particularly interested if any Great Lake Campers can foresee how future developments with Zotero Commons could be integrated with library systems to make both systems more relevant to the research work of our readers.

  • Orality and libraries

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    Hi folks. Here’s what I’d like to talk about at THATcamp.

    I’m working on a paper for a (traditional) conference this summer on how folk literature in the oral tradition can be used as a model for describing the contemporary activity of writing fan fiction. Along the way, I’ve been thinking about Robin Lakoff’s observations about modern society’s shift from literacy to orality as the ideal model for communication.

    This trend began decades before the Internet, but is certainly being hastened by it. An unconference is a perfect example of a communicative form morphing from a “written” model to an oral model: even though a traditional conference involves the spoken word, its nature is more like written communication: the presentations are prepared beforehand (“reading a paper”) and often intended to be disseminated in print afterward.

    Poetry slams are another possible example. Poetry readings have traditionally been constructed as events where an author reads from work already published, or perhaps work intended for future publication. That’s not a given at poetry slams, and although there are a few published anthologies of poetry composed for slams, I suspect they’re only a tiny fraction of what has actually been performed. The live performance is what counts.

    How can libraries collect primary source material, like fanfiction and blogosphere discussions, which exist not in a single digital space but in diffuse locations? Is there any meaningful way to preserve forms of scholarly interaction and popular culture, like unconferences and poetry slams, which define themselves through in-person attendance? There are technical challenges, and the copyright questions are also very complex. Substantive material, which scholars might find valuable in the future, is being produced outside of the publication & dissemination arenas where intellectual property issues are at least somewhat settled.

    So the resurgence of orality has significant implications for research libraries, which collectively are responsible for gathering primary source material (while it’s still available!) and building comprehensive collections for current and future scholars. There are several other librarians attending THATcamp, but most of you represent the scholars whose future needs librarians try to anticipate as we develop collections. I look forward to exchanging ideas with you.