Library Services in an Age of Super-abundant Information

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ALA Midwinter, Readex Breakfast, Denver, CO
Sunday 25 January 2009
By David Seaman
Associate Librarian for Information Management, Dartmouth College

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  • Library as a partner, guide, and ally
  • Library Services in an Age of Super-abundant Information

    1. 1. Readex Breakfast, ALA MidwinterSunday 25 January 2009Denver, CODavid SeamanAssociate Librarian for Information ManagementDartmouth College
    2. 2. David Seaman
    3. 3.  STM departments have embraced digital preprints andarticles and transformed their (inter)disciplines; thehumanities are still often book-bound and solitary. The physicist and the philosopher have never beenfurther apart in working methods and informationarchitecture needs. Students come in with radically different networkhabits and privacy values than faculty. All this is a challenge for libraries: many audiences toserve. New habits and old habits of work and service.
    4. 4.  A constant state of partialattention. Convenience and thepath of least resistance. “Good enough”information retrieval. Impatience at ponderouspace of change andservice innovation. Irritation at the complex,disjointed informationretrieval landscape.David Seaman
    5. 5. David Seaman
    6. 6.  We currently have a super abundance of resourcesaccessed through a complex, disjointed discoverylayer. Filtering of results and personalization of features arepoor or absent.We need much simpler ways to findmuch more relevant information to build much betterknowledge. Next generation services must radically enhanceresource integration and move us on from the isolateddata silos of the present.David Seaman
    7. 7.  Specificity, selectivity, and convenience are often ofmuch higher value than undifferentiated bulk. Customized feeds of information are increasinglynecessary as the available material grows in numberand complexity. We should explore services thatharness staff and faculty expertise – “cannedsearches” designed by experts, for example. The abilities for users to add reviews,recommendations, and “folksonomic” metadatawould be useful.David Seaman
    8. 8.  In a world of growing resources and no more time, andwe ignore convenience at our peril. Most users most ofthe time take the path of least resistance. We make our users work too hard. Embed serviceswhere the users are through widgets and APIs thatallow programmers to bypass an interface and addressservices directly. Forcing users always to go to “destination” web pages –to leave the catalog to go to the ILL, for example – isfrustrating.David Seaman
    9. 9.  We need to be sure we have broken from the“curatorial thinking” of the pre-internet library. Discovery services need to foreground availability –they should answer the basic questions “when can Iget it?” and “what can I do with it?” This may favor a “World Cat Local” approach over thecurrent library catalog, which highlights that which weown or to which we subscribe.David Seaman
    10. 10.  Users trust the library to make good use of user data ifit allows for richer, more personalized services or morerelevant filtering of results. Personalization is not threatening as long as it isoptional and under the user’s control. Treat different communities to different info portals. Services that use knowledge of one’s prior activityand/or one’s membership in a group are of increasingvalue. Such “recommender” services arecommonplace in commercial services such as Amazon.David Seaman
    11. 11. David Seaman
    12. 12.  Discover/gather/create/share -- a good frameworkwithin which to think about library services. Which primitives do we serve and enable? Next generation systems should extend our servicereach beyond “discover.”David Seaman
    13. 13. David SeamanUniversity of Minnesota Library: A Multi-Dimensional Framework for AcademicSupport: A Final Report. http://www.lib.umn.edu/about/mellon/UMN_Multi-dimensional_Framework_Final_Report.pdf
    14. 14.  Eight intangible values (“generatives”) that we buywhen we pay for something that could be free:ImmediacyPersonalizationInterpretationAuthenticityAccessibilityEmbodimentPatronageFindability “It costs nothing to make a pill.We pay for Authenticity andImmediacy in drugs. Someday well pay for Personalization.http://edge.org/3rd_culture/kelly08/kelly08_index.htmlDavid Seaman
    15. 15.  Service design and assessment processes need to bequick, agile, ongoing, and iterative. Next generationsystems must be defined by users and not librarians,which means we must be more sophisticated inuncovering what users need and what they do. Open up beta testing of new features in systems tointerested users. Make it clear that they are trying betareleases. We need to be braver about letting users opt to try newfeatures while we are evaluating them, even when theyhave rough edges .David Seaman
    16. 16. David Seaman
    17. 17. David Seaman
    18. 18.  The next generation library systems need to be nimble,personalized, relevant, and convenient. Our library organization needs to fully embody thesetraits too. The library must get used to competing for attentionthrough ease of use as well as excellence of content. Services should to be accessible from within whateveronline space a user inhabits (iGoogle; Facebook;Blackboard) and on whatever networked device.David Seaman
    19. 19.  Access, Discover, Select, Filter -- Current systemsfocus on the first two at the expense of the second two. The digital library is still a tale of mass andmalleability, but we need much better selection andfiltering services to help us limit the massive result setsthat result from the current generation access tools. Primitives and generatives can be helpfultouchstones to remind us of the needs beyond “find”. It is time now to experiment, innovate, and act.David Seaman
    20. 20. David SeamanAssociate Librarian forInformation ManagementDartmouth CollegeHanover, New Hampshiredavid.seaman@dartmouth.eduDavid Seaman

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