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Wednesday 31 August 2011

Bibliographic analysis for fun and collection development

You know how you get a brand new hammer and suddenly you notice all these nails sticking out?

So I've been working more with Ref2RIS. And in the meantime some of my colleagues and I were talking about analysing researchers' bibliographies for nefarious purposes, and I suddenly realised that doing such a thing might also help me get the handle I desperately need on one of the subject areas I'm attempting to be a liaison librarian for without having had any handover or background in.

And then I realised that, instead of staring glumly at some PhD thesis bibliography and having my eyes glaze over, I could just run it through Ref2RIS, pull all the references into Endnote, and sort by journal title.

It did take me two hours to create the conversion file, but on the other hand I'm getting quicker at that. And then I sorted, and did a quick count, and came up with the following data:

The bibliography for this thesis contained 133 references, of which 1 was a website, 9 were books/reports/manuals, and the bulk of 123 were journal articles from 27 different journals.

16 journals were used for only 1 reference each;
2 journals for 2 references;
2 journals for 3 references;
1 journal for 4;
2 journals for 5;
1 journal for 12;
1 journal for 18;
1 journal for 19;
1 journal for 34 references (over a quarter of the entire bibliography)

I also discovered that this last journal is one that our library doesn't hold.... (We do hold everything that was used 4 or more times; I got bored before checking the less-used journal titles.)

Obviously more research is required
  • to find out if this is a significant gap in our collection or a fluke of this particular thesis; and
  • to figure out if there are any other interesting patterns in usage;
but if the researchers have had the courtesy to all use the same citation style then it should be pretty quick research.

Monday 29 August 2011

New Zealand libraries on Twitter (part 1)

[Edited 30/8 to add some more names and htmlise the @ links. Shall try not to edit further without extreme provocation. :-) ]

I tweeted that I was planning a blogpost about New Zealand libraries on Twitter, but neglected to mention that by "planning" I meant that I have all sorts of cool ideas about it in my head, the extraction of which generally depends on what other cool ideas I come up with in the meantime. This seems a bit unfair, so I decided at least I can blog this much so far, and hopefully having blogged a bit will inspire me to keep going.

So, I have a list of all the New Zealand libraries I've found on Twitter. (If I've missed one out, please let me know!) As of today, these break down to:

(Oh Access! The whole point of me typing this up in a database was so I could rearrange the information and copy/paste it out again! If I'd known you were going to be like this I'd have used Excel! --Hah, found the export function.)

Academic Libraries

Public Libraries
@Ed_Puke_Ariki (I think? or possibly should count as museum, for which I have another more haphazard list.)
[ETA @RotoruaLibrary]

School Libraries

Special Libraries
[ETA @L2_S2S]

Stuff that's awesome but isn't a library communicating with its users

I may remove have removed this last category from my list and will remove it from any further analysis I do.

Not all of these accounts are currently in use. Further analysis to follow in due course.

Friday 26 August 2011

Socialising vs being sociable

A colleague pointed out that, Facebook being a social environment, academic libraries don't really belong. (This post will mischaracterise our conversation terribly. My colleague wasn't arguing that we shouldn't be there; just... there's a reason students laugh when we tell them that we are.)

I pointed to Christchurch MetroInfo's successful Facebook page as a counterexample, but my colleague said that the buses are taking people to their friends and parties. Academic libraries, by and large, aren't involved even this much in students' social lives.

I conceded the point at the time but seeing the examples on these tips for effective Facebook community management crystallised my lingering reservations with the distinction. Getting stains out of your clothes cannot possibly be a more social activity than doing a group research project in the library!

On reflection, I think there is a distinction: between socialising and being sociable. Few students will want their library, bus company, or detergent brand commenting on photos from their latest holiday. But if people find it useful to have a space in which to share bus route suggestions or laundry tips away from their ordinary social groups, then why not study or research tips? And this is the kind of virtual community that a library can, I think, enable.

The question of course is how...

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Links of Interest 23/8/2011 - What Students Don't Know (and bonus marketing)

This has exploded onto the various networks I follow, so it seems a good time to gather some other links with it:

What students don't know gives an overview of findings from an ethnographic study of how students at various Illinois universities research, and is a vital read for anyone in the academic environment working with students.

Related links:
Unrelated links, on marketing:
  • Gavia Libraria writes about all those times people say "So you're a librarian? So... you... shelve books?..." and suggests Representing Ourselves by telling people what we do (in elevator pitch format - she gives examples) rather than waste time attempting to argue about stereotypes.
  • Mr Library Dude collects a bunch of Social Media Ideas & Prizes for Libraries from various libraries.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

On the Humanities and the Innovation Adoption Curve

I've been catching up on my reading and am currently up to:

Herrera, G. (2011). Google Scholar Users and User Behaviors: An Exploratory Study. College & Research Libraries, 72(4), 316-330.

which looks at usage data about Google Scholar cunningly culled from link resolver logs. There's some really interesting stuff, but something they quote in their conclusion made my mind go off on a tangent:
On the other hand, the 2009 Ithaka faculty survey concluded that humanists "have been later and slower to change in many ways than their peers in the sciences, to be sure." --Schonfeld and Housewright, "Faculty Survey 2009," 34.
Which is an observation that comes up time and again, and often it's implied that this is because the humanities are inherently conservative. But is that really the case? Correlation doesn't mean causation.

Could it instead be simply that new technologies are designed by computer scientists for computer scientists? Engineering and physical sciences work similarly enough that they can adapt their usage pretty easily. But the humanities -- a few of us have been doing some mini sessions on scholarly ebooks for faculty, and what we're hearing from faculty is that in the humanities they have completely different kinds of texts which need to be used in completely different kinds of ways, and these ways are not supported by the technology.

So I rather suspect that it's rather less to do with the people than commonly implied, and rather more to do with systematic bias in the technology.

Monday 1 August 2011

The fallacy of "push communication"

It's actually been a while since I've heard people talk of push communication, so maybe I'm a day late and a dollar short on this, but I can't help when I have my epiphanies.

The idea behind push communication (when I heard it, at least) is that instead of waiting for users to come to your website for news, you could push it out to them through, for example, an RSS feed.

Hands up those of you who, when you ask your users to put their hands up if they use an RSS reader, ever get anyone putting a hand up? No, nor do I. And this is the problem: if you're pushing information out to somewhere that people don't visit, you're still asking them to pull it.

Even if you push it right to their email inbox, if they only check their email when their kids mention they've sent photos of their grandkids; or if you're pushing it to their student email account and they only ever check their dotcom-mail if that; you're still not going to be successful.

My phone company pushed an SMS message to my cellphone on the 28th July to say that my account's going to expire next year, my terms and conditions have changed, and I can get a new phone on some special offer until the 31st July. I finally noticed this message on the evening of the 31st July.

I only listen to the radio in the aftermath of natural disasters. I have friends who (by choice) don't even own a TV (I use mine so rarely I forget which buttons on the remote to press). There's no guaranteed way to push your communication to all your users short of accosting them face-to-face, and even then, even if you offer candy, a measurable proportion will still avert their eyes and walk right past you.

Of course RSS is still a handy tool, because it lets you embed the feed in places where hopefully the users will go. We embed ours on the library homepage, some subject guides, and our Facebook page. But that just gets more users, not all. (The most common response when I tell students about our Facebook page is laughter. Sure we've got 900+ followers. But that leaves probably 18,000+ non-followers.) We can communicate all we like through these channels, but the majority of our users -- even when they're motivated to find out which buildings are open to be borrowed from/returned to this week -- still don't know what's going on in the library until they get a library tutorial. (And in the last few weeks the attendance rate at my tutorials is running at about 2/3.)

Long story short, if you want a message to get to all or even most of your users, you're going to have to push hard and you're going to have to push really really smart.