Current Cites

Current Cites, January 2005

Edited by Roy Tennant

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Terry Huwe, Shirl Kennedy, Leo Robert Klein, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant

Descriptive Metadata Guidelines for RLG Cultural Materials  Menlo Park, CA: Research Libraries Group, January 2005.(http://www.rlg.org/en/page.php?Page_ID=214). - Although this document comes out of RLG's need to describe metadata requirements for participants in such RLG projects as Trove.net and RLG Cultural Materials, they can inform and be used by a wide range of projects that depend on good metadata. The sixty-seven page documents begins with defining terminology, then moves on to guidelines for data fields and structure, data content and values, data formats, and core descriptive fields. It would be unwise to assume that the section on data conversion for RLG Cultural Materials can be skipped if your institution is not a contributor, as this section is a fascinating look at the kinds of metadata transformations that are required to create a sensible union catalog. This document is chock-full of excellent advice, useful examples, and hard-won metadata wisdom. It should be required reading for anyone working with metadata. - RT

VRD 2004 Online Proceedings  Syracuse, NY: Virtual Reference Desk Project, November 2004.(http://www.vrd2004.org/proceedings/). - These are about three dozen of the presentations given at the 2004 Virtual Reference Desk Conference in Cincinnati, OH, November 8-9, 2004. Divided into sections on Management, General, Evaluation and Standards, Technology, Resources, Research and Policy, and Vendor Demonstrations, they are mostly MS PowerPoint slides converted to an HTML presentation. Unfortunately, choices made during this conversion provide unreasonably small screen sizes, which renders screenshots of browser windows (a frequent component of virtual reference presentations) virtually unreadable. Such a decision is inexplicable in the age of broadband, but complaining is unlikely to change anything. Meanwhile, there is a good deal of information that can be extracted from the other slides and there is probably no better way to feel the pulse of virtual reference in libraries today. - RT

Electronic Privacy Information Center. "2004 Privacy Year in ReviewEPIC Alert  (11 January 2005)(http://www.epic.org/alert/EPIC_Alert_yir2004.html). - The Electronic Privacy Information Center has compiled the "Top Ten Privacy Stories of 2004". Read 'em and weep: Foreign Opposition to USA PATRIOT Act; Google Datamines Private Email; Expansion of US-VISIT ("entry-exit border control system"); Death of Airline Passenger Profiling...Maybe; U.S. Medical Records Go Overseas (outsourcing); Data Disclosures--Mission Creep Continues (the IRS, the Census Bureau...); States Pull Out of Mini-Total Information Awareness Project; ID Theft a Growing Problem; Laws Stiffen Penalties; Prevent More Stringent ID Requirements for Voters; California Continues Privacy Reforms. These are important issues, and a paragraph-long discussion of each one provides a basic level of understanding. EPIC also identifies privacy issues to keep an eye on in the coming year, such as national ID cards; renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act; an attack on privacy rules by the telemarketing industry (involving the Do Not Call List); Google's potential for tracking what you read via its new library book digitization project; VoIP privacy issues; "Smart Barcodes, RFID, and Products that Spy"; Internet privacy (some things never change); outsourcing (your personal data now going offshore); centralized voter registration databases (technical expertise is lagging); and the WHOIS directory (which "still lacks basic privacy safeguards"). - SK

Fallows, Deborah. "Search Engine UsersPew Internet & American Life Project  (23 January 2005)(http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Searchengine_users.pdf). - This latest study in the Pew Internet & American Life Project asked people about their search engine attitudes and habits. There is no shortage of contradictions in the findings. Among other things, the study found that just one in six search engine users could tell the difference between unbiased search results and "sponsored" search results. In general, users also had little understanding of how search engines work. Nonetheless, some 92 percent of search engine users expressed confidence in their searching abilities. And -- almost half of the respondents said they would actually stop using search engines if these sites were not clear about how the paid results were displayed. Go figure. Interestingly, some two-thirds of those surveyed said "they could walk away from search engines without upsetting their lives very much." Whereupon they would "return to the traditional ways of finding information." Hmmm... Use the library, perhaps? Call a friend or relative? Approach a colleague in the office break room? Or maybe they would just blow it off altogether. The study found that 33% of searchers "would not bother looking up most or even all of the information they search for if they lacked access to internet search engines." - SK

Ferguson, Charles H.. "What's Next for Google"  Technology Review  108(1)(January 2005): 38-46. - We've heard so much about it lately, the question is more like what isn't next for Google. I'm sure they're hoping that butting heads with Microsoft isn't. However, Charles Ferguson argues that both giants' current development of uber-search systems for search & retrieval from all sources of digital information (the public web, the "dark" web, your intranet, your hard drive, and on) makes a collision highly likely. Part explanation of the technology, part analysis and advice about business strategy, the article resonates with the experience of someone who's walked with the giants and avoided getting stomped: Ferguson co-founded Vermeer Technologies, which released the FrontPage website development application and immediately faced competing technology from Netscape and Microsoft. (He sold to Microsoft for a nice big number.) Those of us who care about control of vital markets will find this quite interesting; those who don't can still use this preview of the tools in our future. Information providers, prepare to adjust yet again. - JR

Foster, Nancy Fried, and Susan  Gibbons. "http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january05/foster/01foster.htmlD-Lib Magazine  11(1)(January 2005)(http://www.dlib.org/). - I've become a fan of the University of Rochester. Well, not the university itself, really, but the library, where they really seem to get it. This article is no exception, as through studying faculty and what is important to them they determine how they can best influence faculty adoption rates of institutional repositories (IRs). What they find is that "It is essential that anything in an IR be absolutely safe and secure. Beyond that, the single most important criterion of an IR's value to our faculty members is that other people find, use, and cite the work that they put into it. Even the most enthusiastic supporters of IRs will soon lose interest if this criterion is not met." The authors then go on to describe how they added another component to their DSpace code to provide personalized views of IR content. However, the key take away here is how they learned to better pitch the IR to faculty -- a lesson that I'm guessing a number of IR projects still need to learn. - RT

Hiller , Steve. "Measure by Measure: Assessing the Viability of the Physical Library"  Bottom Line  17(4)(2004): 126-131. - It's never been part of my job to close a branch library, or to open one for that matter. Part of (surviving) the process however must surely consist in establishing criteria that are acceptable to most, if not all, whether the eventual decision is thumbs up or thumbs down. In this article, we get a little background on the evolution of how they make these decisions at the University of Washington in Seattle. The criteria they use has undergone an evolution even in the past few years as the implications of remote access and changing user study habits become clearer. The author describes four broad categories such as "use" and "facility quality" that they use to evaluate branch library viability. These categories in their turn are broken down into five different measures. Given this metric, the surviving branch libraries, in the words of the author, "will be those that are still dependent on print collections and that provide space that supports student work in a collaborative teaching and learning environment." - LRK

Kilkki, Kalevi. "Sensible Principles for New Networks and ServicesFirst Monday  10(1)(3 January 2005)(http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_1/kilkki/). - The author reviews the development and history of network design over the years since it really hit big, and offers three relatively simple -- but very powerful -- suggestions on how to approach design for the long-term. When you get to the conclusion and read them, you might well say, "Knock me over with a feather" --because they sound like common sense solutions than anyone would think of. In fact, we have learned that network environments, which use many complex technologies that increasingly depend upon one another in cascading relationships, have a tendency to lead designers away from common sense solutions by nature of their very complexity. Kilkki analyzes the reasons for past design failures as a preface to his three-point plan. First he argues that the analysis of customer needs must focus on practical uses that stand a good chance of becoming everyday routines. Second, a new technology or product should be based on well-defined, carefully selected core principles. Third, the real experiences of users must be taken into account continuously, not just at the outset and the nadir of a product lifespan. Obvious stuff, right? Well, the Internet is littered with well-intentioned "bloatware" that fails one or all three of these design principles, so this article is good reading indeed. - TH

O'Harrow, Robert Jr.. "ChoicePoint Finds Wealth in InformationWashington Post (via MSNBC)  (20 January 2005)(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6846357/). - Since 1997, ChoicePoint has morphed into "an all-purpose commercial source of personal information about Americans, with billions of details about their homes, cars, relatives, criminal records and other aspects of their lives." Not only is it awash in corporate and government clients, but it is rapidly becoming "a private intelligence service for national security and law enforcement tasks" -- acquiring companies that make sophisticated data mining tools along the way. Note: "ChoicePoint and other private companies increasingly occupy a special place in homeland security and crime-fighting efforts, in part because they can compile information and use it in ways government officials sometimes cannot because of privacy and information laws." The associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said ChoicePoint is assisting in the creation of "a Scarlet Letter society," since it's virtually impossible now for anyone to shake off even minor past transgressions like bounced checks. ChoicePoint is not the only company in this business. "An entire industry has mushroomed during the past decade because of extraordinary increases in computing power, the expansion of telecommunications networks and the ability of companies like ChoicePoint to gather and make sense of public records, criminal histories and other electronic details that people now routinely leave behind." Read about their role in everything from national security to pre-employment screening at big box retailers. - SK

Quint, Barbara. "Google's Library Project: Questions, Questions, QuestionsInformation Today NewsBreaks and the Weekly News Digest  (27 December 2004)(http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb041227-2.shtml). - Here's an article that you may have missed in the post-Christmas afterglow. Barbara Quint asks a number of questions about Google's gargantuan cooperative digitization project with selected research libraries, and she gets answers from diverse individuals. Some of the most interesting responses are to the question: "What impact could this project have on current digitization projects?" The manager of a digital library project that provides access to over 10 million images says that his and all other digitization projects have suddenly become "small-scale." A research library consortium spokesperson "predicted that the new project could table or even kill current digitization projects at libraries, while the librarians waited to see if their planned projects were necessary or, assuming their content was unique, if Google might someday digitize that content for free." (An unexplored issue is the impact of the Google project on funding agencies' interest in future digitization projects by non-participating libraries.) Can you say paradigm shift? John Berry thinks it's one. If you're feeling a bit queasy from that shift, don't forget that the Internet Archive and ten libraries from around the globe announced shortly after the Google revelation that they would digitize over one million books. - CB

Town, Stephen. "View E-measures: a Comprehensive Waste of Time?"  Vine  34(4): 190-195. - This is the kind of article I love reading. In Vine's special issue devoted to "Library evaluation in practice", the author argues that maintaining stats on the use of e-resources ("e-measures" as he calls them) is a "waste of time". Once past this self-consciously provocative statement, the author makes clear that the numbers only have meaning when their context is fully understood. "Counting," he declares, "is still no substitute for listening." In this respect, he has praise for methods like LibQUAL+ which make satisfaction and experience measures a vital part of overall evaluation. "What we decide to measure in the library e-environment," he warns, "will result in adaptation of our behaviour to maximise the chosen measures. In so doing it will help define what future libraries are and what they do, and demonstrate their priorities." - LRK

Wilder, Stanley. "Information Literacy Makes All the Wrong AssumptionsThe Chronicle of Higher Education  51(18)(7 January 2005): B13. (http://chronicle.com/prm/weekly/v51/i18/18b01301.htm). - Wilder makes an interesting case for why information literacy programs, a staple at many academic libraries, are a bad idea. Wilder cites such problems as students who feel like they don't need any help finding information, and our inability to reach even a fraction of the potential audience with formal instruction. After arguing his case, he then suggests an alternative model for librarians as teachers, stating that "Librarians should use their expertise to deepen students' understanding of the disciplines they study." By pairing discipline-based and situational teaching moments with smarter, more effective and more easily used information systems, "we can create educational programs that reach everyone on our campuses, every time they turn to us." [full disclosure: I'm quoted in the piece] - RT