Archive | April, 2011

The Lucene Revolution

Lucene Revolution 2011 (San Francisco, CA, May 23-26),the largest conference dedicated to open source search, will bring together developers, thought leaders, and market makers who understand that the search technology they’ve been looking has arrived.  The conference is produced by Lucid Imagination, the commercial entity for Apache Solr/Lucene Open Source Search.  The first two days of the conference are devoted to training on Solr, Lucene, and LucidWorks Enterprise, and the final two days are the conference.

The opening keynote session features two presentations:  “The Once and Future History of Enterprise Search and Open Source”, by Mark Krellenstein, Founder of Lucid Imagination, and “From Publisher To Platform: How The Guardian Embraced the Internet using Content, Search, and Open Source”, by Stephen Dunn, Head of Technology Strategy, Guardian News and Media UK.  The day 2 keynote address, “All Data Big and Small”, is by Stephen O’Grady, Co-founder and Principal Analyst, RedMonk.  A wide variety of presentations on various aspects of open source search are on the program.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Cycling For Libraries

Here is a really fascinating and different approach to a conference!  Cycling For Libraries will be a group of 100 library professionals who will ride their bikes from Copenhagen to Berlin, beginning on May 28 and arriving in time for the 100th Deutsche Bibliothekartag (German Library Conference), which occurs in Berlin on June 7-10 with the theme “Libraries for the Future – Future for the Libraries”.  Over 50 cyclists have already registered, so if you plan to go, you should register very soon.  A library-related theme has been selected for each day for discussion among the cyclists.   Full details of the cycling route, discussion themes, enroute accommodations, etc. are on the website.

I hope that someone will blog or otherwise write an account of their experiences and make it available–in fact, I hope that several people will do it.  Sets of photos on Flickr or a similar service would also be of interest.  (If you will be doing this, please comment on this post with the appropriate URLs.  I’m sure that interest in this event will be high, and it may even be a model for future conferences!)

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


NASIG Program Available

The program for the annual NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group) conference (St. Louis, June 2-5) is available on the conference website.  Below is an extract of an e-mail with further details.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


For the past 25 years, the NASIG Annual Conference has been essential in helping librarians keep up to date with current trends and strategies for the future, practical methods for greater efficiencies in their libraries, and invaluable networking with colleagues and vendors from across the industry. For its 26th conference, NASIG is committed to giving you yet another outstanding experience.

Early Bird registration is open from now until May 5.  Register by 5 p.m. Eastern on May 5, 2011 and be entered into a drawing for $100! Register for the conference at  Hotel reservations information is at If registering more than one guest, please follow the instructions on the website.

We promise you:

  • Vision speakers Adam Bly and Paul Duguid, who will cover the current and future directions, design, and dissemination of scientific information, and what the historical context of the supply chain for books and journals might teach us about the present digital transformation of scholarship.
  • Strategy Sessions that give you the current trends in the profession and real-world strategies that can take your organization into the future.
  • Tactics Sessions where you learn from speakers sharing valuable expertise that gives you practical applications for a better work flow today, and the knowledge to take you confidently into tomorrow.

Three pre-conferences on June 1st – 2nd

  • Serials and RDA:  an Ongoing Relationship
  • Accounting Techniques for Acquisition Librarians
  • Who Ya Gonna Call? Troubleshooting Strategies for E-resources Access Problems

Social and Networking Opportunities


E-Publishing Innovation Forum Program

The EPublishing Innovation Forum 2011 has released its program.  You will find it here. The conference theme is “Innovate – Generate – Monetise: Winning Digital Business Models”.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Online Information Call For Papers

The annual Online Information conference in London is a major event.  If you have any desire to be on the conference program, here is the call for papers.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor




“Never make predictions, especially about the future”; a quotation attributed to Casey Stengell (1891 – 1975) in relation to the game of baseball, but of equal relevance to the knowledge and information industry. Who could have predicted at the start of this year how the social web would be the catalyst for the democracy movements now spreading across the Arab world? Or the ongoing effects of the tsunami in Japan, a technically advanced nation struggling with the unpredictability of its nuclear reactors. Do we really have as much control over information and technology as we would like to believe?

If we’re honest, the answer is probably ‘no’, and as we prepare for another conference that is still some
9 months away it becomes increasingly difficult to identify the impact that new technologies and information services will have on our lives.

What seems reasonably clear is that mobile technology and mobile services (e.g. apps) are gaining traction with users and that innovation in this sector is well established. Once again, AppleTM set the bar with its iPad1 and iPad2. With iPad3 scheduled for release later this year and many other vendors now entering this market we can anticipate some interesting products and services in the year ahead. It will be fascinating to see what effects this has on both our working lives and how we use our leisure time.

Open data continues to dominate the agenda in the public sector; linked data is still an enigma; social networks continue to proliferate; eBooks are opening up new publishing business models. Where is all of this leading for organizations and knowledge/information professionals? As I started off by saying, it’s best not to make predictions, but we can all strive to be better informed, which is what the Online Information Conference is all about.

We want to hear from people and organisations that are using knowledge, information and technology in new and interesting ways. We are looking for exciting, innovative projects and lessons learned from the introduction of Web 2.0 tools and techniques. We want to showcase people and organisations that are leading the way in how we generate, consume and make sense of information in an increasingly complex world.

Do you have a story to tell?

  • Where are we going with apps? Will the closed Apple ecosystem or the open Android market dominate this space?
  • There has been a growing hype over the last few years around open and linked data but what has ‘the semantic web’ actually delivered in terms of value to users and organisations?
  • Are you using mobile technologies to deliver information services in new ways to your users?
  • Social media is now ‘business and usual’ – what strategies and technologies are you using to be creative and add value in your work environment?
  • How are librarians working with end users over social media platforms to design and deliver services together?
  • eBooks have exploded and are changing the way users consume content. What new business models are proving successful? What are the opportunities and challenges to libraries and publishers?
  • What skills and competencies will the information professional of the future possess? How are roles evolving how and how are you staying relevant?

Then why not share it with others?

The Online world is waiting to learn from the pioneers who have made it work.  This is your chance to be seen as one of the leaders – with your story reaching a global audience from over 40 countries.

For information on conference themes, making your submission, review criteria etc  please click on the links in the box below.

I look forward to receiving your proposal.


Stephen Dale
Online Information Conference 2011



Register Now for the SSP Meeting

I recently registered for the annual meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP).  The program looks, as usual, highly relevant and interesting.  The keynote speaker will be Jon Orwant, Director of Engineering, Google Books, and co-author of Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books, and the endnote speaker will be John Palfrey, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Vice Dean, Library and Information Resources; Co-Director, Berkman Center for Internet and Society; and co-Author of Born Digital, Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives.

Click here to register.  I hope to see you in Boston in June, but if you can’t be there, I will be posting an account of the meeting on this blog.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

The Library as a Place for Distance Students

Heidi Steiner (L) and Beth Filar-Williams (R)

A recent poll showed that over 90% of academic libraries are offering courses online or at a distance.  Although distance courses offer  select courses leading to associate degrees, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees, most of the programs seem to be at the associate degree level.

This was an interesting session in which two librarians from differing academic environments–Heidi Steiner from Norwich University and Beth Filar-Williams from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Greensboro–described their experiences with distance education.  Although their environments are quite different, their experiences and the issues they have faced are similar.

About 1/3 of students at Norwich University are distance students.  Norwich is a small private military university with about 1,000 students. Classes are held in 11-week quarters, and the programs are designed to be completed in 18 months.  Many students are deployed overseas, and many of them have slow Internet connections.  Others are retirees who like military history; the concept of an online library is very foreign to them.

The UNC-Greensboro has 17,000 students, about 950 of whom are enrolled in completely online degree programs. Many students pursue a hybrid program, taking some courses online and some physically.  The university wants to increase the online learning programs; distance education has been growing rapidly, with a 120% increase since 2003.  Now, new faculty hires are required to teach at least 1 online class.  Many undergraduates take a class online even though they are on campus, and many are in rural areas where Internet connections are problematic.

The largest challenges in distance education are communication and technology, but others such as geography and resources are also important.

  • Communication in virtual media is less natural and more labor intensive than face to face.  It is difficult to do a reference interview–if it happens at all.  Questions take longer to answer because of the absence of facial expressions and body language.  The personal connection is lost, so there are lots of assumptions and miscommunications.
  • Geographic issues revolve around the impossibility of synchronizing schedules: you can’t be there 24/7.
  • Technology problems are worse in a virtual environment.  It is hard to diagnose tech prob at a distance; firewalls, blocked access, lack of software, compatibility issues, and popup blockers are common difficulties.   User error, such as entering the wrong password, also occurs frequently, and the virtual librarian does not have ability to help as fully as possible.
  • Resource problems are going away because of the rise of online resources, e-books, etc., but e-journals and books don’t always fill the void.  Interlibrary loan is very difficult with remote students.

Despite these issues, expectations are high, and there are ACRL standards for equal services to distance students.

At Norwich, online students use a customized web portal.  Every program has its own specific library homepage.  The platform is coded in Drupal, so it is easy to maintain and customize.  UNC has a large library IT department, making it easy to maintain system.  They run their own library web servers.

At both institutions, e-books are very heavily used by the distance students.  Norwich uses Ebook Library, and UNC has several e-book programs.  However, sometimes students still need access to a print collection.  Norwich  will send books anywhere. They pay postage to send; the student pays for return.  However, they also encourage students to use local resources and to choose research topics that they have resources for.  UNC will mail books to students, and they send a prepaid return label.

It can be difficult to convince online students that there really is a person, not a robot, behind the library services.  Both institutions make significant efforts to help students by including personalized chat, screen sharing, “Ask A Librarian” services, and video clips of the librarians running the system in their services.  Norwich has an interesting approach: a generic librarian is enrolled in every online course, making it easy for students to access the library services.  This has proven to be a big advantage for online students.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor






The Value of Academic Libraries

An Overflow Audience Turned Out to Hear a Summary of the Report on The Value of Academic Libraries

Last year, ACRL commissioned a report on the Value of Academic Libraries, and a summary of the findings was presented to an overflow audience.  The report can be downloaded or purchased as a bound volume from its website.  A podcast of the session is also available.

Mary Ellen Davis

ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen Davis introduced the session by noting that there have been many calls for accountability in higher education.  There has been a fear that “no child left behind” would come to higher education.  Would libraries have a voice if that happened?  Higher education administrators are making difficult choices about where to spend their funds, and the relevance of the academic library is being questioned more than ever.  Libraries have gone from being a core value to being a cost center; one university even sent its library a bill for its costs!  How can we demonstrate relevance and value to the community?  In such an environment, ACRL commissioned a study to look at how to align libraries with institutional outcomes, empower them to carry out their work locally, create shared knowledge, and contribute to higher education assessment.  Libraries have tended to use input and output as measures of value; this won’t be sufficient going forward.  How are we making a difference?  We have to align ourselves with the overall mission of the institute.  What are we trying to achieve?  Did it make a difference?  How are we contributing to the goals and revenue of the institution?

The ACRL Board therefore commissioned a study and selected Megan Oakleaf of Syracuse University to conduct it.  The Board hopes that the resulting report will help librarians educate researchers and administrators on their value.

Megan Oakleaf presented a summary of the report and some of its recommendations.  Its focus is on the value of the library to the parent institution as seen by the stakeholders:  students (both undergraduate and graduate), faculty, staff and administration, parents, and the government.  There are 500 references in the report, including not only those on academic libraries but also school, public, and special libraries (they are ahead of academic libraries and have taken different approaches).  Satisfaction with services and external perceptions of quality were not covered in the study.

We have undervalued our libraries, and many of them need a “help packet” to confront their shrinking budgets and the feeling of being marginalized.  In the past, value has tended to be measured by use statistics, but they are not enough of an indicator.  We must see the big picture.  People are really interested in the outcome of their research and the benefit of their library use.

Today’s paradigm is shifting from collections to service.  What purpose do the collections serve?  What is the benefit, the outcome?  What do libraries enable people to do?  What do they use the information for?  (This is a big “who cares” question).  As a result, the  expectations of funding agencies has shifted, and social, economic outcomes have become more important.  What are we enabling people to do?  What do individual users do?  And what impact does that have?  If you know what people are doing, you can start to determine the impact.

Here are a few of the recommendations of the report:

  • Define the outcomes.  What are the needs and goals of your institutions?  Intersect needs and goals.
  • Use existing data.  Don’t do a new survey.  See if the data that you need exists; people are generally willing to share it.
  • Develop systems to collect data on individual library user behavior while maintaining privacy.  We cannot move forward as rapidly as we would like to unless we know what people are doing.
  • Generate data that plays well with assessment management systems.  Most campus departments are earlier adopters at this than we are.  Organize your data by outcomes so you can easily run a report.


Report Recommendations

The library contributes to a wide range of campus activities, including student enrollment, retention, and success; faculty research productivity, grant proposals and funding; as well as the the institution’s overall reputation and prestige.  It is an important campus function.


Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, ACRL President

ACRL President Lisa Hinchliffe wrapped up the session by issuing challenges to library administrators and professional organizations for actions they could do based on the report.



Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

E-Science–How Can We Teach It?

Michael Fosmire

Michael Fosmire, Purdue University Libraries, followed David Osterbur and said that we must build tools but also the curricula that go with them; in other words, teach students to “fish”.  He quoted the call to action in NSF’s Cyberinfrastructure Vision of the 21st Century Discovery:


A Call to Action

E-science is  not fundamentally new, but it empowers scientists to do things faster and better.  Its limiting factor is how not to lose data or make it unavailable to those people who need it.  It is a social and participatory environment.  Vast amounts of data are being generated, but without curation, organization, and preservation, it is easily lost.

Fosmire participated in a needs assessment consisting of structured interviews of faculty which resulted in 12 core competencies required of e-scientists:

  • Databases and data formats, especially an understanding of relational database principles,
  • Discovery and application of data in repositories, and the ability to import and convert it to a suitable format for further processing,
  • Data management and organization: understanding the life cycle of data and creation of standard operating procedures for processing it,
  • Data conversion and interoperability: ability to migrate data from one format to another, while understanding the risks of doing so,
  • Understanding metadata and the structure and purpose of ontologies to facilitate better sharing,
  • Quality assurance: resolving corruption of data sets,
  • Data curation and re-use: recognizing that data may have purposes other than the original one for which it was intended and understanding that data curation is a complex and often costly process,
  • Cultures of practice:  recognition of the practices, values, and norms of one’s chosen field as well as relevant data standards,
  • Data preservation:  recognition of the benefits and costs,
  • Data analysis:  becomes familiar with the basic analysis tools of the discipline,
  • Data visualization:  understanding the advantages of different types of visualizations, and
  • Ethics:  develops an understanding of intellectual property, privacy, and confidentiality issues and appropriately acknowledges external sources.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


ACRL 2011: E-Science–The Next Step in Information Literacy

David Osterbur

David Osterbur, Head, Public and Access Services at the Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, led off a well attended session on e-science by providing a definition of it.  He said that many people think that e-science is big data with everything archived, but it is better to think of it as networked data-driven science.  In working with e-science, the skills of a librarian are helpful, especially  in knowing how to search and knowing about metadata and how to apply it.

One of the big problems in e-science is proprietary software.  When it is brought in to an organization, one must learn how to use it and must find ways to make data interperable.  Although it takes time and effort to do this as well as some subject expertise, it is not necessary to have a Ph.D. to help researchers find what they need.  The best way to help them is to teach them how to use the resources in the library.  Many scientists don’t know what they have available to them.  A library catalog is an asset to working with e-science because it allows researchers to access the information they need.

Osterbur stressed that science needs to be more open.  A lot of data is available that could be put to good use, but it is not accessible because it is locked up.  Publishers are hurting science by hiding content behind walls, so that data mining is not possible.  Data mining cannot be done using only an abstract.  We must make data open and accessible so that the amount of knowledge that will be generated will increase.  Right now, that is being inhibited.  More open data will help libraries with their collection development activities because they can see what subject areas are hot.

Vivo is an example of a knowledge management  system where faculty members can list their expertise and find collaborators.  Osterbur thought that it might also function as a peer review system which would let universities eliminate commercial publishers by publishing research themselves.  They could gain the same reputation as publishers and make their content all open.  In Osterbur’s opinion, there is no room for profit in scholarly publishing any more.  Such a system might work well for humanities as well as the sciences.  It is time to change things, and we need to do this!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor