“How to compete with Google: Simple Resource Discovery Systems for Libraries”

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all want quick wins or print out longer articles that are never get read. “Power browsing, i.e.
devouring titles, contents...
platforms. This is how commercial organisations such as supermarkets operate. Why are
academic libraries not doing the sam...
Libraries competing with Google
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Libraries competing with Google

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A summary of issues raised at the JISBS workshop 13th November 2008.

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Libraries competing with Google

  1. 1. “How to compete with Google: Simple Resource Discovery Systems for Libraries” th Report on the JIBS User Group Workshop, 13 November 2008 The idea for this workshop was sparked by a recent discussion on the 'lis-infoliteracy' list: Is information literacy training essential for students to get the best out of their library resources or should we just be making our resource discovery systems easier to use? “Compared with academic studies, opinion and anecdotal evidence would have you believe that Internet is the answer to everything - the first port of call for information, communicating with and making friends. Multi- tasking in an electronic environment disguises poor information- seeking skills”. (Martin Wolf, University of Liverpool Lis-infoliteracy email discussion list 2/1/ 2008) The morning was given to papers and the afternoon to demonstrations of ‘one stop shop’ software that showed how HE libraries were competing with Google. The day began with presentations by Maggie Fieldhouse, Lecturer at University College London and Mark Hepworth, Senior Lecturer at the University of Loughborough. Maggie Fieldhouse summarised the findings of the CIBER Report which was commissioned by the British Library and JISC early this year (Information behaviour of the researcher of the future: a CIBER briefing paper (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slais/research/ciber/downloads/) and both the research presented in the CIBER report and Hepworth’s paper concluded that despite all that the internet offered, there was a dire need for information skills training in HE – for both students and academics. The following is a summary of the papers presented by Fieldhouse and Hepworth. The two quotes from the CIBER report indicate the findings of the report: “ We know that younger scholars especially have only a very limited knowledge of the many Library sponsored services that are on offer to them. The problem is one of both raising awareness of this expensive and valuable content and making the interfaces much more standard and easier to use”. “This discussion points to an interesting dilemma, certainly for H.E. librarians, that strikes at the heart of our dual roles as service providers and, increasingly, educators. As service providers we want our electronic services to be as simple to use as possible, minimising the barriers between users and information. As educators, we want students (and academics!) to be able to distinguish critically between different types of information”. (CIBER Report Executive Summary, p. 30) The Cyber report suggests that the information seeking behaviour of library users, including that of researchers and academics has been conditioned by emails and executive summaries, i.e., digested ‘bytes’ of information. Most users view content online for less than two minutes. They
  2. 2. all want quick wins or print out longer articles that are never get read. “Power browsing, i.e. devouring titles, contents, pages, abstracts, horizontal scanning, flicking/channel hopping are the norm” (CIBER, p. 31). Massive choice of content encourages this bouncing behaviour. Users are generally spending longer finding content than reading it. This type of information seeking behaviour has resulted in a trivialisation of information and a false sense of confidence and often results in little deep understanding or learning taking place. What are the implications of this trivialisation of information – especially in the self-directed learning landscape? Could all this be true: Users have a false sense of confidence, a lack of cognitive or metal understanding of the structure of the web, a lack of understanding of how search engines work and an inability to select identify search terms or keywords? Users tend to use of natural language or a random conversational style language which results in an inaccurate list of hits that may not be relevant or useful. And yet there is a blinding trust in what is found on Google. This is how most users come to us when they begin their higher education studies. Many have developed these coping skills – getting by as they have not been taught information literacy skills on how to develop the search capabilities appropriate to the demands of HE and research. They are further in the habit of cutting and pasting and have little notion of the copyright implications of what they are doing. Fieldhouse questioned whether we are heading for a world of ‘eminent’ researchers who rely on information from ‘Wikipedia’ or contacts on ‘Facebook’ or ‘LinkedIn’ rather than ‘Science Direct’ and who write blogs rather than essays. There is little planned research as ‘quick answers to difficult questions’ is the underlying strategy used by most students. Many students do not know or understand the importance of evaluating the information resources they come across. They do not know if the information is from a serious refereed work or may be composed of shallow ideas. The 2002 PEW report (http://www.pewinternet.org) found that 61% of internet users perceive the internet as a library. Huge quantities of information are ignored by web crawlers. Google Scholar may list links to academic sources, but access is denied and users are often asked to pay for material. There is a lack of understanding of how search engines work and the commercial gains these search engines make. Common search failures are a result of spelling mistakes, a poor understanding of their information needs which lead to problems developing search strategies and generating alternative terms such as synonyms, alternative spellings, inability to formulate queries, inability to identify multiple concepts which all result in incorrect or skewed results. The common user experience is too much, too little, not relevant, not knowing where to go and not knowing how systems work, not being familiar with the domain. What resources do academics use and how? Are they entrenched in using a narrow range of tools or are they receptive to new ones? Are we guilty of the same behaviour? These are all interesting questions and ones worth exploring if we want to find out who our users are and how we can gear our service to fit these needs. Fieldhouse suggests that HE libraries should be investing in finding out more about our users’ information seeking behaviours, how they access or want to access library resources, how we can make content easier to use and have systems that are as intuitive to use as Google. We need to address the complexity of search interfaces and the inconsistency of terminology, search functions and refining mechanisms across different
  3. 3. platforms. This is how commercial organisations such as supermarkets operate. Why are academic libraries not doing the same? Both Fieldhouse and Hepworth questioned why Library Management Software (LMS) suppliers have not used the advances in technology and created systems that incorporate Web 2.0 features. This has resulted in libraries purchasing add-on software packages to compete with Google. However, even federated searching is old hat now as it distinguishes between catalogues, electronic journals and other resources. Both speakers (and later the presenters) suggested that the time had come to make a return on investment for the decades spent creating good quality catalogue records because many of the new technologies depend on the ‘richness’ of the record, i.e. the metadata (the richer the descriptions of the information objects, the more that can be extracted). Used in the appropriate way, Web 2.0 features such as tag clouds and faceted classifications allow different views and enable refining, i.e. narrowing down or broadening a search. The afternoon was spent looking at how some university libraries are using Simple Resource Discovery Systems (SRDS) to compete with Google and promote their libraries. The four systems demonstrated were: Exlibris’ PRIMO (University of East Anglia), ENCORE (Glasgow University), ELIN (University of Portsmouth and University of Bath – both require user signon to access their SRDS) and AQUABROWSER (University of Edinburgh). These SRDS use Web 2.0 functionalities so results are listed by relevance, there is no differentiation of media, they allow refinements, use tag clouds, suggest possibilities, spellings, etc. The appendix to this report has a summary of the key points from three of the presentations these products and some screen shots showing how the products are being used in HE libraries in the UK. ELIN has not been included as there were some serious concerns about the lack of support and documentation. Of the SRDS demonstrated in the afternoon, I believe Aquabrowser it is the least expensive and would consider it as it has been proven to work with Webfeat (which Edinburgh have also purchased). However, I expect that the SRDS demonstrated at JIBS will evolve and become more sophisticated. Users should be able to see if an item is available in the library from the top screen (i.e. without having to click on a link) and also to be able to export references into RefWorks/End Note, Zotero, CiteULike, etc. Nazlin Bhimani School Liaison Manager EIS & iWBL November 2008 1

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