The Tower and the Open Web: The Role of Reference


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Charleston Conference
Thursday Afternoon Plenary
November 4, 2010, 4:30 PM

Panel presentation by: John Dove, President, Credo Reference; Casper Grathwohl, Vice President and Online and Reference Publisher, Oxford University Press; Phoebe Ayers, Wikimedia Foundation and University of California at Davis; Jason B. Phillips, Librarian for Sociology, Psychology, Gender and Sexuality Studies and American Studies, New York University; Michael Sweet, CEO, Credo Reference

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  • In the past, the library was the only option for students completing their research projects.
  • Unlocking this puzzle is all that’s needed.
  • In today’s networked world, there are many options in addition to the library. Recent studies, including the Project Information Literacy report quoted above, state that a majority of students are beginning their research process with open web resources rather than the library.
  • Unlocking this puzzle is all that’s needed.
  • Start off all my presentations with this image these days. Seems applicable to every situation. We’re in a knowledge delivery system shift.
    But order is emerging
    Quickly outline Layers of authority concept
  • How we at OUP see wikipedia’s role in that authority layer model.
    Initial research (“pre-research”)
    Students know how to use Wikipedia responsibly and it shouldn’t be shunned in educational settings or as a tool for serious research
  • Outline two projects OUP has been involved in that involve driving traffic from wikipedia to OUP library products. Both successful, and driven by two different sources. One publisher, one faculty.
    Question is: how can the library work with a resource like wikipedia to make movement between the layers of authority (the higher levels of which they provide access to) that much easier?
  • I am a trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation, and this is our vision statement: Wikipedia is an education project, that seeks to serve the whole world.
  • Projects are in 273 languages; over 96 of which have more than 10K articles
  • 371 million people use wikipedia every month from all over the world. The dark areas show that at least 16% of all internet users use Wikipedia, making it by far the most highly used reference source.
  • Wikipedia is run by the Wikimedia foundation, which is a non-profit foundation; we also run 8 other wiki projects: Wikibooks, Wiktionary, Wikiversity, WikiSource, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikispecies, and the Wikimedia Commons.
  • “community curated work” is a term coined by Brianna Laugher to represent the idea of lots of people coming together to curate a reference work.
  • This is a real-life reference question I received on our reference desk: can you tell me more about the history and chemistry of saltpeter?
  • I found a great article for her – which I subsequently linked in Wikipedia
  • Every time you see an article tagged that it is lacking sources, or a citation needed tag – it’s an invitation to participate.
  • Educating our user communities – who are certainly already using wikipedia – is important. This is the “Cite this page” link which appears on every article.
  • Wikipedians take fact-checking seriously; Wikipedia is a work in progress. This is an effort to systematically check chemical data against the literature to make sure it is accurate.
  • Collaboration can happen on a large scale as well. This is a partnership that was begun in 2008 between the Bundesarchiv, the German Federal Archives, and Wikimedia; the archives donated 80,000 files to Wikimedia commons, including historic images.
  • Liam Wyatt was this summer a “Wikipedian in Residence” at the British Museum; he designed the project to help the museum curators partner with Wikimedians to share their knowledge on Wikipedia. Cultural institutions tend to think of the risks of participating online, but not the unexpected rewards: greater visibility, enhanced data, a community of volunteers.
  • There is in a few weeks a conference at the British Museum followed by an event in Paris about partnerships between Wikipedia and “GLAMs”: Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums.
  • So, as librarians we invite you to join the wikimedia community: be bold in editing.
  • In answering John’s charge to librarians I first want to emphasize why I think reference is not dead even though we may be vigorously questioning its value. In fact, reference is still crucial to successful outcomes for our student and faculty clients. In the social sciences, we are increasingly seeing interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to social and cultural problems. A typical example might be an article I found in the database SocINDEX which, according to its abstract, explains the initiation of smoking by teengers by, “Study[ing] the environment, genetics, tobacco, alcohol and drug use among adolescent twins. Prevalence of substance use; Age, sex and zygosity effects; Contextual variables and twin correlations; Roles of genetic and environment factors; Lifetime substance use and related effects.” This is certainly a scientific argument, however it is not a social or cultural argument.” This, of course, is the nature of information these days and influences heavily the concept of information literacy. Mastering reference works, knowing that they exist and identifying the best ones are still key to achieving good outcomes. And librarians are uniquely positioned to help users achieve those outcomes. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have to do a lot of work to remain relevant.
  • Recognizing this problem – I believe it is incumbent upon librarians to do a number of things if they want to help ensure that libraries remain preeminent places for information control and retrieval. I believe that there are two things we can do that bear directly on the good use of reference materials. I am happy to have played in a role in proposing some remedies through work with both the American Sociological Association and ACRL – namely having done work on standards on both information literacy and collections and program assessment. The standards and assessment tools come from a body of work that asserts the social sciences do have a core based on social and cultural analysis and that also assert if we do only one thing for an undergraduate who chooses to pursue study in the social sciences it should be to give him or her the ability to identify a social or cultural argument.
  • So while we have standards and tools for librarians to use which are based on sound empirical work, I am currently proposing to start my own empirical work that will hopefully demonstrate the value of reference and areas where we can ensure that our users master reference resources and ultimately their disciplines, are encouraged to discover good resources and seek out librarians and their professional knowledge.
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  • The Tower and the Open Web: The Role of Reference

    1. 1. Session Title Here The Tower and the Open Web: The Role of Reference
    2. 2. John Dove President Credo Reference
    3. 3. How can publishers and aggregators collaborate with open web players to the benefit of libraries and their users? The Tower and the Open Web: The Role of Reference
    4. 4. How can publishers and aggregators collaborate with open web players to the benefit of libraries and their users? The Tower and the Open Web: The Role of Reference
    5. 5. The Panel: Casper Grathwohl, Oxford University Press Phoebe Ayers, Wikimedia Foundation Jason Phillips, New York University Library Mike Sweet, Credo Reference The Tower and the Open Web: The Role of Reference
    6. 6. What is Reference?
    7. 7. Reference as intermediary Body of Knowledge Reference: Intermediary
    8. 8. Other Library Resources The student’s world in my day
    9. 9. Is reference dead? More specifically, is “institutionally sponsored reference” dead?
    10. 10. The pessimist’s scorecard  Reference rooms/reference desks  Reference interviews  Reference works in print  Google’s vision
    11. 11. Google’s “no intermediary” Body of Knowledge
    12. 12. The user has moved
    13. 13. The student’s world today Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, other Online Web Resources Library Visible Web >89% of Information Seeking Activity * Library Sites and Databases <4% of Information Seeking Activity * “Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources", OCLC, 2005, question 520, p. 1-17 (PDF, 1.5mb)
    14. 14.  User need is higher than ever  Needed content already exists  The user has simply moved  Technology exists to move with them The optimist’s scorecard
    15. 15. Outlook for reference is better than ever If and only if: 1. Open web players pay attention to libraries 2. We meet users at their point of need 3. Content is provided in context 4. Librarians and vendors collaborate 5. Each step enhances information literacy
    16. 16. How can publishers and aggregators collaborate with open web players to the benefit of libraries and their users? The Tower and the Open Web: The Role of Reference
    17. 17. Casper Grathwohl Vice President and Online and Reference Publisher Oxford University Press
    18. 18. How do students use Wikipedia for course-related research? How today’s college students use Wikipedia for course–related research by Alison J. Head and Michael B. Eisenberg. First Monday, Volume 15, Number 3 - 1 March 2010
    19. 19. OUP Wikipedia-related discovery projects Oxford Islamic Studies Online author linking program •82% increase in traffic from Wikipedia in 3 months
    20. 20. Academic music community Wikipedia project Subject: Wikipedia From: "Charles E. Hamm" <Charles.E.Hamm@DARTMOUTH.EDU> Reply-To: American Musicological Society <AMS- L@LISTSERV.INDIANA.EDU> Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2006 Dear Friends: In recent weeks I've been reading, correcting and adding to entries in Wikipedia, and it's become obvious to me that, in general, music fares poorly in this ambitious project. While there are some excellent entries, particularly on classical genres and composers, it's painfully obvious that many other articles are the work of persons with no background in the disciplined study of music. Also, entries on individual musicologists are shockingly few. No matter what one thinks of Wikipedia, it's here to stay…. Contributing to Wikipedia is not a glamorous job, and since everything is anonymous, it's not an activity that will count towards anyone's tenure or promotion. But it's an important way in which musicologists can have input into an important project that reaches far beyond the bounds of our discipline. Charles Hamm
    21. 21. •[AMS Listserv] Subject: The Wikipedia & a challenge to the discipline (posted on behalf of Scott Warfield); Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2006 I offer the following challenge to all graduate programs in music history, theory, ethnomusicology and related disciplines: whenever possible, make editing and contributing to the Wikipedia a part of your curriculum. Academic music community Wikipedia project
    22. 22. OUP Wikipedia-related discovery projects Music research community Wikipedia project •43% increase in Grove Music Wikipedia traffic in 12 months
    23. 23. Phoebe Ayers Wikimedia Foundation, Trustee University of California at Davis, Librarian
    24. 24. Wikimedia Foundation Wikipedia: Username
    25. 25. Wikimedia’s vision Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment.
    26. 26. 15 million articles… • Free • Volunteer-written • Supported by readers • Neutral, encyclopedic, factual, non-original • No top down editorial control: • Community curated work
    27. 27. Reference librarians and Wikipedia
    28. 28. Adding references
    29. 29. User education
    30. 30. Reference projects
    31. 31. Archive & collection partnerships
    32. 32. Unexpected risks are accounted for, unexpected rewards are discounted. – Liam Wyatt (2010 British Museum “Wikipedian-in-Residence”)
    33. 33. Tapei, Taiwan: Wikimania 2007 Be bold
    34. 34. Jason B. Phillips Librarian for Sociology, Psychology, Gender and Sexuality Studies and American Studies New York University
    35. 35. An example: Recognizing social and cultural arguments
    36. 36. Leveraging reference effectively in the Social Sciences 1. Promote the idea that reference provides the necessary context for Social & Cultural Approaches 2. Librarians must assert their disciplinary knowledge in many aspects of their work
    37. 37. The planned empirical study • Methodology – 15-20 Interviews with Social Sciences Undergraduates at NYU • Questions to Be Answered: – Familiarity with different types of reference resources – Correlating the ability to identify social and cultural arguments with coursework trajectory, information seeking behavior and/or library contact
    38. 38. Michael Sweet CEO Credo Reference
    39. 39. Confidential 46
    40. 40. “…we should begin to expect more from a reference ebook collection than a faithful reproduction of a printed text…” “eReviews: General Reference Sources and Short Takes” Library Journal, 15 October 2010 Challenge
    41. 41. An online reference service provides: • Discovery: Visibility into your library, its resources & access to librarians’ expertise • Context: Overview, summary and vocabulary on a topic from multiple perspectives • Connection: Seamless integration with relevant resources chosen by your library • Innovation: Smart use of technology
    42. 42. Journals and other library databases OPAC and eBook collections
    43. 43. Have you ever heard of EasyBib?
    44. 44. Why EasyBib is relevant: • Free online bibliography tool • Viral among students - used by over 20 million • Nearly 40,000 Facebook fans • Significant source of traffic to WorldCat • Tremendous opportunity to meet users where they are
    45. 45. 19,000 views and 7,000+ clicks to this Wikipedia alternative in October!
    46. 46. Online Reference Services Library Sponsored Resources and Tools Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, other Online Web Resources Information landscape 5 years from today?
    47. 47. Join the conversation: Explore best practices, contribute ideas, hear the latest about student research behavior Together, we can make a difference! Call to action
    48. 48. Session Title Here Thank you