Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Can Libraries Help People Begin Research with Library Resources?

This is the second of several posts summarizing the more interesting or relevant sessions I attended at the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference.

In “The Problem of Where to Start,” Mike Buschman of Proquest discussed problems people encounter in the use of library e-resources and several approaches that libraries can use to help. These findings and recommendations were based on the results of research of academic researchers’ information-seeking behavior, which included, in part, studies described in the Ithaka Report.

Mike summarized the problem this way: researchers don’t know what library resources are available, have a hard time choosing which ones to use, and just don’t know where to start. As a result, they usually don’t begin their research with library resources. At the same time, they still trust libraries and think that the content they offer is more credible than general Web resources. To preserve their role in the research process, Mike indicated that libraries need to provide training in information literacy, market their resources, place access points in context, and use a “unified discovery” service.

Now came what ended up being the primary focus of the session – a description of Summon, a unified discovery tool under development at Serials Solutions. Unlike federated search products, which send user queries out to different databases, Summon indexes library resources from Summon partners (like EBSCO, OCLC and Elsevier) and subscribing libraries (our OPACs for example). A user initiating a search from a library website through Summon can search the index, review relevant results, and access resources in the library’s knowledge base through a single interface. Because one index is searched, some of the problems typically encountered with federated search (such as speed) should be improved.

But Summon may not tackle all problems users face. One of the session attendees, for example, pointed out that the different indexed resources will use different subject taxonomies. And at this point, I think I recall Mike saying that Summon’s index doesn’t include terms found in the entire article text. The response of session attendees was very positive, but a little guarded.

Mike indicated that Summon should become commercially available this summer. People asked about cost. Mike replied that economies of scale should make Summon affordable. I hope so, for libraries of many shapes and sizes.

Here are links to a recent articles on Summon in Library Journal and Information Today. The latter article indicates that the primary target market for Summon is academic libraries and that Summon does not “know enough yet about other libraries.”

--Katie Fearer

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

From Elect. Resources Conference: Sharing the Cost of E-resources

Greetings from the Electronic Resources and Libraries Conference in sunny Los Angeles. As I mentioned to folks at AkLA-J’s recent meeting, I’m planning to post brief summaries of several of the sessions that I found to be most interesting or helpful. I’ll do this over the next week or so.

Annis Lee Adams and Lori Ann Saeki of the University of Hawaii at Manoa presented a session that might be particularly relevant to AK libraries, titled “Sharing the Buck: How Diverse Libraries Came Together to Share Costs and Gain E-resources. “ I apologize to them if I mischaracterize any of what they said.

Annis and Lori described two consortiums. The larger of the two, the Hawaii Library Consortium,, is composed of the state-run public library system, 14 academic libraries, many public school libraries, and a number of private school and special libraries. Its sole purpose is to purchase a general suite of EBSCO databases (like those in the Digital Pipeline). A Board of Directors governs the group. Members share costs and vote on matters based on their FTEs (my notes are sketchy here – there may have been other factors too). The public library system serves as billing agent. Aside from the general suite of EBSCO databases, the differences between the member libraries make it difficult for them to participate in other purchases.

The smaller Medical Libraries Consortium of Hawaii is a less formal group that formed to purchase medical e-resources. As the largest member, the University of Hawaii Health Sciences Library negotiates and signs license agreements, but does circulate them for comment and approval first. Not all members participate in all purchases, but the consortium won’t pursue a joint purchase unless the amount the participants will need to pay will be less than the cost to purchase the resource independently. Subscription prices are allocated based on factors such as FTE and bed count. I was surprised to learn that all but one vendor has agreed to invoice each institution separately. Each participant deals with its own access issues and in most cases captures its own statistics. The a la carte approach to specific purchase decisions has been critical to the consortium’s success.

I’ve been wondering how the Medical Libraries’ Consortium’s approach might translate to Alaska (for any subject area, not just health sciences) or whether some AK libraries might already be doing something similar now.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Singles are people too!

In some churches, there's a joke regarding children who come for their children, that you have about 12 years to get them hooked. In the past, libraries were places for the elite, and children were not served at all. Now, though, I think that the same joke could be used in some public libraries. We bring them in with story hours and craft projects, and hope they'll stay when their tastes move from chapter books to novels and how-to manuals.

Library Hotline (from Dec. 8, 2008, but we won't talk about how behind I am on my reading) highlighted a new campaign of the Chicago Public Library, geared towards single people aged 25-35 with no children:

Centered around the phrase, "Not What You Think," followed by the tag line, "It's Free. It's Easy," the campaign seeks to remind this group how much has changed at the library.
Are you reaching young(ish), single adults in your community? What are you doing that works? Any simple ideas of how to include this group?

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Friday, February 06, 2009

LC Provides Public Domain Lincoln Photos

This image is one of 22 photographs and other portraits that the Library of Congress has posted to their Flickr Commons photo stream. These photos can be used any way you like. For links to more photos and notice of an upcoming Lincoln exhibit please visit the Library of Congress blog at

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