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January 30, 2006

Wake Up, Fellow Librarians: The Sky is Falling! - Commentary by Cindi Trainor

.: I am pleased to welcome my good friend and colleague, Cindi Trainor, IT Librarian at Honnold/Mudd Library, The Libraries of The Claremont Colleges to STLQ. Cindi offers a brief commentary on a recent article by Jerry Campbell, Chief Information Officer and University Librarian of USC. She describes her piece as "not a full-on response to the article, but rather an invitation for discussion with our colleagues", and I agree. I hope you find the time to read Campbell's article, and join in the discussion. Cindi writes:

Two recent publications with potentially far-reaching consequences for academic libraries have been greeted by that segment of the library world with silence. One is OCLC's Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, to which STLQ alerted readers in December of last year; the other is a recent Educause Review article by USC's CIO and library director, Jerry Campbell, titled "Changing a cultural icon: the academic library as a virtual destination." (HTML version, PDF version.) In it, Campbell asserts that academic libraries are "relinquishing" their "historical" role, that of repository of "authoritative" information, in the face of projects like Google Print and Yahoo's Open Content Alliance. Campbell further asserts that academic libraries need a new mission, and that services that have grown out of our original missions, such as creative and collaborative use of library space, providing metadata, virtual reference and providing information literacy instruction, are not enough to constitute that new mission nor to ensure the future of academic libraries or even librarians.

It's very hard not to react to this article defensively. Take, for example, this quote: "...simply asking questions about the future of libraries, let alone working to transform them for the digital age, almost inevitably evokes anguished, poignant, and even hostile reponses filled with nostalgia for a near-mythical institution." Any librarian invested in his or her job would react negatively to that statement. But it's important not to have another knee-jerk, claws-out reaction that have been typical of us lately (does the phrase "radical, militant librarians" ring any bells for my fellow American librarians?). Yes, we would welcome the opportunity to change proactively rather than reactively; yes, we would welcome the opportunity to get our jobs done without having to worry about justifying our future, but Campbell raises some valid points and does so to an audience that has the potential to help us plan our futures. I won't go so far as to say that he's thrown down the gauntlet, but it's our responsibility to engage our academic colleagues in planning for the future of our libraries.

My final point has to do with the scope of the article. Campbell lumps all academic libraries--public, private, large, small, liberal arts, research--into one amorphous dinosaur. I would argue, from the perspective of a librarian at a small, private, liberal arts institution, that the person-to-person interaction that Campbell claims "does not scale" to the web is at the heart of most liberal arts colleges, that perhaps the accusation that he levels is more accurately aimed at large research institutions where by virtue of sheer numbers, one-on-one interaction is a smaller part of an individual's experience.

I'm tired of listening to the crickets. What say you, librarians?

January 28, 2006

Brooklyn PL Reclassifies James Frey's "Memoir" as Fiction

.: Not a scitech issue, obviously, but still of interest. Based, no doubt, on the fallout from his admission of falsifying and embellishing parts of his book, Brooklyn Public Library has reclassified James Frey's so-called memoir, A Million Little Pieces, from the Dewey classification of 362.29 (drug abuse, etc.) to fiction.

January 26, 2006

New ACS Journal, Scopus Launches Citation Tracker, LOCCKS and CLOCCKS

.: Today's Knowledgespeak Newsletter reports the following:

  • American Chemical Society Launches New Journal:
    The world’s largest scientific society, American Chemical Society (ACS), US, has announced the launch of its new peer-reviewed publication, ACS Chemical Biology, a global forum for biologists and chemists working jointly to understand cellular processes. Editor-in-chief Laura L. Kiessling, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and MacArthur Foundation Fellow at the University of Wisconsin will lead ‘ACS Chemical Biology’.
  • Scopus Offers New Citation Tracker Feature:
    Abstract and indexing database Scopus, part of STM publisher Elsevier, Netherlands, has announced the launch of the Citation Tracker, a new feature that allows subscribing researchers to easily evaluate research using citation data. The feature was developed in response to users’ requirement to deviate from pre-defined metrics and analyse a topic at the individual author or article level.

    Scopus Citation Tracker provides a more easy and efficient way for researchers and librarians to check and track citation data to gather knowledge on articles, authors, their own published work and research trends. It is projected as the only product to give an instant overview of citation data for any set of articles over a date range selected by the user.

    The original press release is here.
  • CLOCKSS community initiative to reliably archive scholarly content:
    A group of publishers, learned societies and librarians has launched an initiative using the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) technology to support a ‘large dark archive’. The archive is projected to serve as a reliable repository for published scholarly content.

    The initiative, Controlled LOCKSS (CLOCKSS), assures the research community that access to journal content will not be obstructed by any calamity that prevents the delivery of content. The collaborative initiative addresses the uncertainty that librarians have faced in the digital environment. The initial two-year pilot will include at least five research libraries and several commercial and society publishers. During this period, libraries and publishers will continue to work closely to gather and analyse data and develop a proposal for a complete archiving model.

    Original press release is here.

January 25, 2006

Hooray for Hollywood

.: The Hollywood Librarian. Our chance to be on the marquee?

The Hollywood Librarian: Librarians in Cinema and Society, now in production, will be the first full-length film to focus on the work and lives of librarians in the entertaining and appealing context of American movies. American film contains hundreds of examples of librarians and libraries on screen -- some positive, some negative, some laughable and some dead wrong. Films such as Sophie's Choice, Philadelphia and It's a Wonderful Life show librarians as negative stereotypes. The librarians in Lorenzo's Oil, Desk Set and The Shawshank Redemption, on the other hand, are competent and professional. Dozens of interviews of real librarians will be interwoven with movie clips of cinematic librarians and serve as transitions between the themes of censorship, intellectual freedom, children and librarians, pay equity and funding issues, and the value of reading.

January 23, 2006

Engineering: The Changing Information Landscape - Roddy MacLeod

.: The latest issue (.pdf) of FreePint, #198, 19th January 2006, features a short piece by Roddy MacLeod, titled “Engineering: the changing information landscape”. Excerpt:

My first FreePint article on engineering portals appeared back in issue No. 66 (6th July 2000). Quite a number of things have changed since that time. The first part of this article revisits some of the resources I shared back then. The second section is an analysis of some useful engineering-related digital repositories which have emerged over the past five years. Finally, the third section comments on the changing engineering information landscape.
One observation that fascinated me is how the major engineering domains of the past have changed or disappeared altogether. This is definitely worth the read.

January 20, 2006

Digital Rights Management: A Guide for Librarians

.: The Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) of ALA has released a new 44-page document, prepared by Michael Godwin, called Digital Rights Management: A Guide for Librarians. Excerpt from the opening:

Not long ago, digital technologies were regarded as being entirely beneficial to the work of librarians, because such technologies were already enabling greater access to collected materials, greater ease and searching or organizing such materials, and greater ability to reproduce and archive creative works, historical documents, scholarly research, and other important resources. At its heart, this early perception of the usefulness of digital tools remains essentially correct. Nevertheless, the digital revolution has also inspired the development of a range of technological tools and strategies aimed at restricting the ease with which the resources collected and maintained by libraries can be used, circulated, excerpted, and reproduced.

These technological tools and strategies are generally referred to as “digital rights management”-- a term commonly reduced to the acronym “DRM.” To put the matter another way: “digital rights management” is a collective name for technologies that prevent you from using a copyrighted digital work beyond the degree to which the copyright owner (or a publisher who may not actually hold a copyright) wishes to allow you to use it. The primary purpose of this paper is to familiarize librarians, archivists, and others with DRM and how it works. Secondarily, this paper will outline certain legal and policy issues that are raised by DRM -- issues that will continue to have an increasing impact on the ways in which librarians and libraries perform their functions. To put the matter bluntly -- understanding the basics of DRM is becoming a necessary part of the work of librarians.

January 19, 2006

The First Nano-Librarian?

.: Well, maybe not. But it was made official today. Effective immediately, I am now the librarian for the National Institute for Nanotechnology, aka the NINT Librarian. The position is a one-year, half-time secondment from my current position. The new NINT building won't open until May 2006, but NINT itself has been on campus since 2001, operating out of the sixth floor of ECERF, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Research Facility. Much has yet to be worked out, not the least of which is what kind of services I will be providing, as well as office space, security clearance (this is a federal facility, jointly sponsored by the province and the university), and a breakdown of time between the SciTech Library and NINT. When NINT moves into the new building in May, I will be along for the ride.

This will be exciting. It is a very new development for me, literally - only yesterday the mechanics were put in motion, documents signed, introductions made, etc. What is NINT? An excerpt from its research overview:

The focus of the National Institute for Nanotechnology’s (NINT) research program is integration – the combination of separate nano-scale devices and materials into complex nanosystems that are connected the outside world. NINT explores the integration, at the molecular level, of nature’s most powerful nano-devices such as proteins, lipids, and other biological structures made from ‘soft’ organic material, with crystalline semiconductors, metals, and catalysts made from inorganic ‘hard’ materials. The connection of natural biological or synthetic bio-inspired structures with electronics and information systems will lead to new and extremely powerful tools and technology platforms with broad application in the life sciences, medicine, materials science, and electronics and computation.

Stay tuned. When I know more, I'll let you know.

January 17, 2006

The Patent Librarian

.: Brian Gray noted that Michael White, Librarian for Research Services, Engineering and Science Library, Queen's U (Kingston ON), and fellow SLA Engineering Division Advisory Board Member, started a blog called The Patent Librarian in November, 2005. The blog looks good, and features a number of links to critical and useful patent resources.

January 12, 2006

Science Announces Evaluation of Its Procedures For Detecting Research Misconduct

.: In the wake of the fradulent stem cell research by Hwang et al, including two papers published in its own journal, the editors of Science have announced they will conduct a thorough review of the editorial history of both papers, and are considering additional safeguards to prevent this from happening again. From a statement by Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief of Science:

We are doing a systematic review of the editorial history of both papers and our procedures for evaluating them, to search for ways in which we might improve those. I have pointed out in the past that even unusually rigorous peer review of the kind we undertook in this case may fail to detect cases of well-constructed fraud. To support this effort, we are calling on outside experts, including members of our Board of Reviewing Editors and our Senior Editorial Board.

They and we will be considering options for providing additional procedural safeguards. These could include, for example, requiring all authors to detail their specific contributions to the research submitted, and to sign statements of concurrence with the conclusions of the work. We are implementing improved methods of detecting image
alteration, although it appears improbable that they would have detected problems in this particular case.

Science has a page dedicated to the controvery, free to any searcher, which includes its official statements on the subject, the two original papers, and links to news coverage of the story. (Via: KnowledgeSpeak.)

January 11, 2006

Cites & Insights: Walk Crawford on Library 2.0 and "Library 2.0"

.: The latest issue of Cites & Insights, v6 n2 Midwinter 2006, is out, and is one long, 32-page, 26,000 word essay by Walt Crawford titled, Library 2.0 and "Library 2.0". Walt writes::

I was reading stuff about something called "Library 2.0"--but the posts and items didn't seem to cohere. I thought I could gather some statements, print them out, read them through, provide excerpts and commentary, and maybe make sense of the whole thing. I planned a typical PERSPECTIVE, probably 3,500 to 7,500 words (5 to 10 pages). Along with a ©4: Locking Down Technology essay (on moves to resurrect the Broadcast Flag and a bill to close the analog hole), it would be one of two major pieces in a varied February 2006 Cites & Insights.

Unfortunately for well-laid plans, the more I read about Library 2.0 the more confused I got--and the more I felt the need for a broad overview not written by an advocate or evangelist. The core essay grew to 14,000 words. Editing cut that to about 13,000 and suggested the need to add more. (Final word count:just over 26,000 words including prologue and epilogue.) The result: This special issue--which I'm releasing as a single HTML file because I don't want this prologue separated from the main essay.

January 10, 2006

SAE Drops Print Publication of SAE Handbook

.: In a move I find shortsighted, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International, has decided to no longer issue the print edition of its very important, three-volume SAE Handbook. The Handbook includes the complete set of J-reports, also known as the Ground Vehicle Standards (GVS). The 2005 edition, released in June 2005, was priced at US$595. The 2006 edition will be available in CD-ROM only, at the same price, according to our EBSCO Canada representative.

The options left to libraries who need the SAE Handbook in their collections include subscribing to the SAE Digital Library, where the GVS are available for a US$7,500 annual subscription price. SAE also issues "JPaks", an online service designed to give access to J-Reports, Recomended Practice, and Information Reports, which comes with a customized subscription plan, based on the number of downloads and the number of users - great for a company with a fixed number of employees, not necessarily good for an educational institution. The SAE Ground Vehicle Standards on CD-ROM is the only other option I can find, priced at US$1,850, with more than 1,700 documents included. It is not clear to me what the difference is between this CD-ROM, and the SAE Handbook on CD-ROM, which also includes the full set of GVS.

The CD-ROM format is of little to no use to most educational institutions, which are moving or have migrated completely away from offering any and all major reference works in CD-ROM format to their users. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, this format served library users well, even if it did limit them to using one terminal at a time. For over ten years, all our major indexes and abstracts, and now handbook, manuals, encyclopedias, etc., are online, as is the SAE Handbook, via the SAE Digital Library. But for many of us with strained budgets, we cannot afford a 1,260% increase in subscription price to anything, let alone a major reference tool like the SAE Handbook.

This is not the first time an important engineering organization has stopped issuing its standards in book format, and switched to CD-ROM. ISA, The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society, no longer publishes its Standards Library for Measurement and Control in print format. At the request of an engineering professor, I ordered the CD-ROM in 2003, only to discover that the licence did not even allow us to network the product on a one-user station. The CD-ROM has been sitting in my office every since, never used. It is the last CD-ROM I will purchase as such. ISA no longer issues the CD-ROM version either, but offers what appears to be access options for ISA members only as well as limited network access.

I am writing to SAE to express my concern and displeasure with this decision. Who will use the SAE Handbook on CD-ROM? Engineers working in the field, who will access it on their desktops or laptops - in other words, the professional working engineer. This is another example of a society or organization seemingly losing site of its future customers, clients and members - the students who are studying to become engineers and require access to SAE standards now, but also when they graduate and find employment primarily with companies in industry. Students may make up a small percentage of SAE's membership, but consider that all current SAE members were once students. Iin the non-profit environment of the educational institution and on behalf of students, many of whom will become SAE members, consideration must be given to reasonable pricing for and reasonable access to publications like standards, which are so critical to an engineer's education. We will not purchase the 2006 SAE Handbook on CD-ROM - we are not interested in loading CD-ROMs onto workstations, especially when we are in the age of desktop delivery, and the CD-ROM restricts use to one station in one building. Technical support for networked CD-ROMs is virtually non-existent anyway. This leaves the very reasonably priced paper edition as the only other option for many of us, and when that option is removed, it is the students who are denied access to a resource critical to their studies.

If you are interested in sending SAE a comment, please e-mail Nancy L Weinschenker, Executive Assistant, SAE International: nancyw AT sae DOT org.

January 4, 2006

Punch List of Best Practices for Electronic Resources - Engineering Libraries Division of ASEE

.: For those attending ALA Midwinter in San Antonio later this month (this does not include me - how do people afford to go to multiple conferences each year?), please note the following, as posted on STS-L:

The Science & Technology Section (STS), Publishers/Vendors Relations Discussion Group will be hosting a discussion on "Best Practices for Electronic Resources". The focus will be the Punchlist of Best Practices for Electronic Resources prepared by Engineering Libraries Division of the American Society for Engineering Education. This is the first time that this document will feature in a public forum.
In a subsequent post on STS-L, Mel deSart stresses the importance of receiving feedback from as many interested parties as possible:
On behalf of ASEE's Engineering Libraries Division, and as one of the original group of seven ELDers who created the Punch List, please be assured that we want as many librarians, publishers, vendors, etc. as possible to review and comment on the PL (see the comment form on the Punch List web page...). We very much believe this document is, and will continue to be, a work in progress. As conditions in the electronic publishing industry change, the Punch List will be adapted to address those changes, encouraging and supporting what we collectively believe to be best practices in particular areas.

And to make sure that happens, in a decision at this past summer's ASEE conference, ELD elected to spin off what had been the ad hoc task force that created the Punch List into an ongoing Scholarly Communication Committee. That 15 person committee, which I was asked to initially chair, will be working, via subgroups, on a number of projects, with the ongoing refining and enhancing of the PL being one of them. More info about that committee and our activities, some of which we believe will be of interest to STS members, will be posted to STS-L and elsewhere sometime after the first of the year (and presumably before Midwinter).
I'm looking forward to the PL discussion in the session at San Antonio.

Geochemical Transactions -- Fresh Start as an Open Access Journal - George Porter

.: Geochemical Transactions has had a troubled history. Four lackluster years hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry led to a transfer to the American Institute of Physics. AIP opted out due to a continuing dearth of manuscript submissions over the last two years.
With volume 7, the editorial board is trying a new tact. The journal is moving to BioMed Central and adopting an author pays [UK pounds 800, Euros 1185, US$1410], Open Access publishing model. Officially the move is effective on 1 January 2006. Currently, the new website has an announcement of the purchase of all of the backfiles (funded by the ACS Geochemistry division) and an editorial on the new vision for the journal.

Martin A A Schoonen, Ken B Anderson and Scott A Wood. Moving Geochemical Transactions forward as an open access journal. Geochemical Transactions 2006, 7:1. doi:10.1186/1467-4866-7-1

Geochemical Transactions, the first online-only journal in geochemistry and environmental chemistry, is now the first major open access journal in this subject area. All issues of Geochemical Transactions, including the back content, will be fully and permanently available online to all, without a subscription charge. Copyright of all future articles will be retained by the authors. Geochemical Transactions remains the official journal of the Division of Geochemistry of the American Chemical Society. The generous support of the Division has made it possible to make the back content available without a subscription charge.
As the impact factor demonstrates (1.941), the content has been strong, even if the flow of articles has been meager. The journal has never received a noticeable push from the American Chemical Society. The Geochemistry Division of the American Chemical Society has done a poor job recruiting submissions from its own members, but perhaps, the journal has finally turned the corner. - George Porter, as posted on STS-L.

InfoToday Updates

.: The following are from recent InfoToday Newslinks, and may be of interest to you:

  • CSA Acquires Community of Science and Scirus to Index IoP Journals.
  • Wrapping up 2005; Looking Forward by Paula J Hane, where I learned another new word, "swicki":
    Eurekster introduced the swicki, a free search engine designed for personal Web publishers (including bloggers) and small-business Web sites to put on their sites (http://swicki.eurekster.com). It’s a blend between a search engine and a wiki in that it learns from the behavior of a site’s users to deliver tailored search results. There’s also a link on every search results page for swickis that allows you to compare the results side by side with any of the main search engines. It’s designed to show that the swicki results are more targeted.
  • Into The 'Tagosphere', also by Paula J Hane, from the Issue 75/January 2006 Newslink. Excerpt:
    I recently went to check out Yet Another Search Engine that had just launched (I call it the YASE phenomenon). But this one had a new twist and some intriguing language. Here’s what is posted at the site (http://www.wink.com): “Warning: This isn’t your Dad’s search engine… Wink lets you search across the Tagosphere. If you’re using services like Digg, Furl, Slashdot, or Yahoo! MyWeb, this is your search engine. Find the latest links that people like you think are great. Enjoy!”

    Now, you may just be feeling good that you understand the term “blogosphere,” and here we’re thrown a new term, “tagosphere.” While I’d been following the popular use of Web tags, I was introduced to social tagging firsthand when I helped blog several ITI conferences. Readers were able to easily locate blog posts about the Internet Librarian 2005 event because those of us involved agreed to use “IL05” as the way to identify posts about this conference. Tags seem to work best for close-knit social communities.

January 3, 2006

Songs About Physics

.: Let us begin 2006 with something on the lighter side, with songs about physics:

These recordings were made in 1947 by faculty and students of the "State University of Iowa" (now the University of Iowa). Prof. Arthur Roberts (of the physics dept.) wrote all the music and words, except as noted below. Click here for Liner Notes.
Check out lyrics such as these, from How Nice to Be A Physicist in 1947:
Oh did you write a book on fission which you tried to sell?
Or wonder while you lectured what you could or couldn't tell?
Or try to get declassified some nuclear equations,
Or wonder if the work you do was done at secret stations?

Research is long,
And time is short
If you find a fact essential
Classify it confidential
Never give
A second thought
The F.B.I.'s approval must be sought.

.: Previously documented problems with the RSS feeds for this site continue. I apologize for this, and continue to hope and pray that BlogLines will solve it before the sun goes nova.