Friday, 21 August 2015

No Big Splash after dropping the Big Deal

Just read "Leaving the 'Big Deal'... Five Years Later" by Jonathan Nabea & David C. Fowler.
This article describes analysis on cancellation of three Big Deals five years later from two institutions.  Here are some of the conclusions with my commentary:

  1. Demand for the content is not high enough to return to the Big Deal, since ILL requests for content which would have be covered by the Big Deal is about 10% of the downloads previously recorded.  I think the first part of the conclusion may very well be correct, but I don't think that ILL figures after cancellation of an ejournal collection doesn't map directly to real demand.  In fact, in extreme, the difference between the two could be interpreted in the opposite direction: access has dropped to 10% of what demand was previously.  Neither extremes are correct and the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle since neither number is a good measure of actual demand in my opinion.
  2. Savings were significant, particularly considering the size of the overall budgets, annual increases and inflation, and comparing it to the monographs budget.  This is not really an analysis but a statement, but I'm not sure that comparing the money saved with the purchasing power for books is useful.  Journals and books are two separate parts of a library's collection and it's not immediately valuable to say that with all the money we saved buy journals in a specific way, we were able to buy books in a different way.  The article uses this comparison as an illustration only but I'm not sure it's a very useful one.
  3. Dropping the Big Deals gives us more flexibility.  Amen.  I think this is one of the best arguments for doing this.  The most dangerous part of the Big Deal is the lack of flexibility and control a library has when participating in it.  I just wish that flexibility and control could be given a dollar value so we could compare.
Not much analysis was done for this but something's better than nothing, I guess.  I would have expected something about any patron feedback that may be lingering, specific collections picked up since cancellation, changes in usage data for other collections or resources, etc.  What do you think?  Have you gone through any Big Deal cancellations?  What impact have you seen or expect to see?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Better electronic resource trials

Just read "Community organizing for database trial buy-in by patrons" by JJ Pionke.

Good article suggesting some tips on running more successful, or rather, more patron-involved trials of electronic resources.  The typical trial process given in the article is basically what I do with a few "flourishes" added, so I learned a few things that I may try for next time and add to my list of steps:

  1. Listen to the needs of the potentially affected patrons.  Although this seems obvious, I know we all find it hard to seek out the needs instead of just assuming we know them.  And sometimes the needs mentioned are not actual needs.  But understanding them better should be part of the process.
  2. The trial acting as a case study was done in March.  I've tended to have them run whenever the trial requestor suggests or simply as soon as possible.  But there may be some value in running them during either March or November since, at my current institution at least, these are the peak periods of use for electronic resources.  All other things being held equal, this should ensure the most use and therefore the most supported feedback possible.
  3. In the case study, the health librarian running the trial made personal contact with the relevant patrons, including the faculty department head.  I've always thought this should happen more but as eResources Librarian, it's not part of my role.  But I could encourage this and try to make it easier for those subject liaisons who would be doing this.
  4. The article makes the true point that someone who is "one of us" is more likely to be listened to than otherwise.  Again, this is not my current role, and I'm not sure that it's as simple as that, but some aspects of becoming closer to the relevant patron group might be helpful in this and other situations.
  5. The article finally mentions that training, support material, and updating communications followed immediately on the heels of the trial end.  Although this kind of this on my list of things to do, it might be helpful to increase the priority of the timing.
Good article, JJ.  Thanks for the tips!  Anyone else have anything interesting to suggest for running trials?

Monday, 13 July 2015

Library School: What I'd Fix

It's been a while since I graduated from my Master of Librarian and Information Science program (in 2001) but I just read "The future of library education: reflections of a newly educated librarian" from Open Shelf, and it made me think back to my glory days on campus learning to do what I've been doing ever since.  Specifically, I was thinking about what I would have preferred in the program:

A better understanding of what the program and each course was going to focus on: practical skills versus theory.

As it said in the inspirational article above, "library schools could better communicate to students exactly what parts of their education are intended to target" each.  These are professional masters degrees so a certain amount of both is required:  we need to be able to both do the job and know why we're doing it so we can maybe do it better.  It would be ideal if every course, regardless of subject had a clear balance of each.  In my experience, some courses had it and others didn't, and my school seemed to particularly focus on the practical skills when I was yearning for more theory.

More education on the collections management side.

My current position (and previous position, and probably several future positions) is in collections management and other technical services functions.  Sure, I had a reference resources course but having worked with resources, vendors, publishers and all the technology involved, I've found that I've had to learn much of it on the job.  Part of the problem is certainly the fact that electronic resources were still pretty young in 2001, but I don't recall learning anything about the publishing industry, in general or regarding specific players.  Evaluation of resources would have been very useful, even in general principles since they shouldn't have changed that much despite the resources themselves changing.

More information about the details of the library school's focus.

A not-too-recent blog entry stated that "it really does not matter which library school you attend".  I beg to differ.  It might not matter whether you come from a "top rated" school or not (although this article basically says that it's pretty much the only thing that matters in most fields), but there are certainly differences between library schools that, when I was applying and for many years after graduating, I didn't know at all.  But in speaking with colleagues from various institutions, particularly ones that were actually smart enough to look into the matter before handing over the tuition dough, library schools can differ greatly.  Some are best for producing mass quantities of just general librarians, whereas others are more suitable for those looking to continue on with a PhD; some have a great Archivists' program, while others are better for public librarians.  Perhaps this has changed since I was really looking into choosing a school, but, just like with any institution of higher education, marketing yourself as a solution for everyone when you aren't isn't good for you or your students.

Don't worry about making the argument for the program being a good investment or not.

Honestly, this was never really a concern of mine but I see it more and more in higher education.  I'm not sure a Master of Library and Information Science program or the like could be described as a good investment (sometimes yes, sometimes maybesometimes no) but I'm not sure it really matters.  Heading down a career path shouldn't be considered in the same way as sizing up stocks and bonds.  Deciding to take a certain academic or professional program that tends to lead to a certain career is all about whether YOU will be able to at least live with it if not enjoy it.  You don't have to like the company that you're investing in, at least not as much as you're going to have to like the job you may be doing for the rest of your life.

Make it less about books and more about information.

Yes, I know that we all like books (see the first paragraph from "So You've Decided to Go to Library School"), but we shouldn't be basing our choice of a profession on such a stereotypical understand of what librarians do.  Libraries are, and always have been about more than just books.  Yes, we can take advantage of the public's seemingly permanent connection between libraries and books, but if we don't make a bit of a connection with other things, then the second society loses their love affair with the dusty old tomes, we're toast.  In fact, in some libraries, books aren't even the thing the collections budget is spent most on.  I would like to see more focus on the Information part of the MLIS than on the Library part.  Don't get me wrong, I like that it's in the degree name (I don't like the MIS or the, shudder, MI) but I would gladly get rid if it if that's what it took to make our profession a little more respectable.

Ok, so I've had my rant.  What do you think?  What would you change (or not) about librarianship education?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

What I think Canada is.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!  For those of you who don't know, I'm a Canadian and have lived in Canada all my life but for a handful of years living in NJ and working in NYC.  As is typical, I'm, by default, proud of my country but I've hardly experienced the rest of the world so I can hardly compare really.  And, as all Canadians do, I have experienced a pile o' American culture (through TV, movies, books, music, etc.) so I'm heavily influenced by all that despite being part of that culture.

From the Canadian Heritage site on the "History of Canada Day", you can see that Canada Day was originally called Dominion Day, based on the day of the 'creation' of the "Dominion of Canada" by the British North America Act on July 1, 1867.  In a way, Canada Day is Canada's birthday so happy 147th birthday, Canada!

So what does Canada 'mean'?  Well, according to that vignette that Canadians saw on TV (in, what, the eighties?) the word "Canada" comes from a misunderstanding of the Iroquois word, "kanata" or village.  (You can also look here and here.)  But what does the country named Canada mean?  What is different about it?  Well, not much, at least in comparison with the United States.  I would say that, at least in southern Ontario, Canadian culture is much the same as American culture, particularly the US east coast and the midwest.  We're pretty white, quite materialistic, like our franchised restaurants, based primarily on European culture and Britain in particular, reasonably well-off compared to much of the rest of the world, youngish (only 147 years old), and individualistic.  I get the feeling that we're a little more European, socialist, and calm when compared to the US, and we certainly aren't as militaristic or politically active as Americans.  We have plenty and enjoy plenty of British imports like our chocolate/candy bars and TV like Coronation Street.  It's hard for me to compare Canada and Canadians with the rest of the world other than saying we're similar to the US so I'm not going to even try.

The other regions of Canada have some other unique cultures that, although I haven't experienced directly, I am aware of the basics and the stereotypes.  Quebec is francophone which brings with it cultural behaviours related to France, Catholocism, and a feeling of independence when defending against the encroaching anglophone culture from the States and the rest of Canada.  Eastern Canada borrows more from Irish and Scottish culture (as opposed to the English cultural background in Ontario), and IMHO is a little more safe from American influence.  The Prairie Provinces have a lot of similarity with the American Midwest in that they tend to be more rural and conservative.  I would suspect that much of BC is the same except for the more urban Vancouver area which I've been told is similar to the American West Coast.  Vancouver is like Canada's California...  damn hippies.  lol  And the northern territories are also very rural in terms of culture by necessity but also quite influenced by native culture.

(Of course, much of what I've included here is based on very little direct experience of the people or living in the area so please correct me if I've painted incorrect or overly broad strokes on the different regions of Canada.)

I like living in Ontario, Canada.  Weather is a nice mix between snow and cold in the winter (down to about -30 to degrees Celsius, though it does regularly get down to -40 in northern Ontario and probably lower) and pretty hot in the summer (upwards of maybe 30 degrees Celsius).  And we don't tend to have extreme and dangerous weather like tornadoes (although there was a bit of tornado damage a couple months ago in Toronto), hurricanes, floods, tidal waves (we're well inland expect for four of the five largest lakes in the world), landslides, etc.  Cold tends to be the worst weather extreme that we have and that can certainly take its toll in terms of hypothermia, damage to power lines and roads, difficulty in travelling, etc.  But I'd rather have too much cold than, say, earthquakes.

What is Canada to you?  Or, at least, what is YOUR part of Canada to you?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

What I learned at that licensing and collections event I went to

I attended "Thinking OCUL-y: A Licensing and Collections Symposium", a full day conference organized by OCUL (Ontario Council of University Libraries) institution members.  It was held at the beautiful Robarts Library, University of Toronto's main library on campus, in the heart of Toronto, Ontario.

But what did I learn?

  1. The first thing I learned was that I wish I knew more about contract law.  I'm reading and implementing the licenses my Library signs for electronic resources all the time as well as supporting the decisions made to sign them in the first place and, although I think of myself as a smart enough cookie, contracts are not straightforward, understandably so.  There were two great presentations on the "anatomy of a license", one from the perspective of contract law, and one from the perspective of librarians signing them and creating model ones.  Lots of good information, both new and now properly labeled in my mind, but it made clear that there's even more to learn.  I should learn it.
  2. Specifically, we should be requiring some things in our licenses that are not always getting in there.  For example, every license should have "integration" which basically means that the contract itself makes it clear that this is the entire deal, and that other communications are not to be taken as binding unless they're in this one.  Lots of our big ones do but many don't.  We should also be making it clear which legal jurisdiction will apply in case of having to deal with contract problems in court, particularly since we Canadian libraries are working with so many American information vendors.  Jurisdiction is not necessarily clear unless it's written into the contract.  And while we're at it, we should be insisting on WRITTEN contracts instead of going by verbal agreements as we occasionally do for smaller products with smaller companies.
  3. Part of the evaluation process needs to include more consideration of license details.  When asking for information about a potential acquisition, we should ask for a sample license, looking it over to ensure that what we might be paying for is actually in there.  We could also share our licensing requirements and ideals at that point as well, to ensure that the vendor knows what we want right out of the gate.  The more time each party has this information, the easier we can work together.
  4. Local loading is increasingly important but the vendors don't always know what it is or why we want it.  To get it, we libraries need to "sell" the concept of local loading to them, and therefore negotiators needs to understand the issues, players and history of local loading.  Also, typically, the usual vendor sales rep isn't going to know much about the topic or the issues involved so negotiations may need to include the people who do.
  5. Although it involves more work, it's valuable to invite other non-collections librarians and staff into doing collections related work, such as reading/coding license terms for easier access.  It lightens the load of course, but it also increases the amount of expertise to be called upon when doing similar work in the future and it really helps them in their primary responsibilities, regardless of where in the library they are.
This is just a sample of some of the things I gleaned from the various presentations.  But there are still some questions or thoughts that I had left over:
  1. Given those clauses that state that this contract is the "entire agreement", how can addenda be added on to contracts?  This happens all the time with licenses, such as changing or updating the terms of a license at renewal, but I don't think that all these licenses have an "except for addenda" clause.
  2. Is the text of contracts under copyright?  A joke was made that many model licenses copy liberally from each other which suggests that they're not, or that at least no one cares.
  3. Patrons seem to have contradictory opinions on print versus electronic reading.  On the one hand, they typically say that prefer print to electronic for deep reading and that ebooks, for example, are just not easy to read for long periods of time.  This may be true but then they also tend to say that print books are better for quickly skimming or browsing to find key pieces of information.  This suggests to me that they're not really saying that one format is better than the other but rather that THEY have that preference which, taken together, suggests that there's just a preference for print that's probably based in familiarity.  We've all used print books longer that there have even been ebooks so of course we're going to be more comfortable with the former.  That doesn't mean we really think one is better than the other.
  4. Is demand driven acquisition really professional collection development?  The Library's collection is valuable not just because of quantity but because the content has been selected for quality with the particular patron groups in mind.  If we directly link that selection to something outside of the professional work, can we really say that the collection has been professionally selected for quality?  This is more a question of the role of the Librarian in collection development and not a matter of creating the best collection.