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Information Overload & Personal Information Management

I am very excited to present at ALA 2010 Annual Conference LITA BIGWIG Social Software Showcase. The topic I am presenting is Information Overload & Personal Information Management.  I know that it is not anything fancy or something that would satisfy your techno-lust.  But there is a lot to think about libraries and information overload, which has quickly become part of our daily life.  Whether we like it or not, information overload is the everyday reality that all of us including library users, now have to cope with and manage.  The traditional library systems, programs, and services, on the other hand, have been slow in moving towards acknowledging and addressing the new needs of library users who suffer from information fatigue and are ready to “satisfice” as a result.

Curious? Come join the BIGWIG Showcase on Monday, June 28, 2010 from 10:30 am to Noon at the Renaissance Washington Grand BR South/Central.

Mobile Access to Licensed Databases in Medicine and Other Subject Areas

I gave a presentation on the Handheld Librarian Online Conference on Feb. 17, 2010 with the title of “Mobile Access to Licensed Databases in Medicine and Other Subject Areas,” with my colleague, Marissa Ball.  (Unfortunately the archived recording is not available for the public and I can’t even access it…)   We also gave the same presentation in DCLA (Dade County Library Association) Fair  on Mar. 31, 2010.   While we had almost four hundred attendees in the online presentation, we had the audience of a dozen librarians at the local DCLA fair.  We loved having presentations with librarians in a virtual as well as a physical space. The experience was interestingly different.

In the presentation, we focused on the current status of mobile access to licensed databases.  It is worthwhile to look at what is happening in medicine regarding mobile resources because mobile devices were introduced in medicine much earlier than in other areas and are more widely used.  There exist more database vendors in medicine and health sciences that offer mobile resources, and medical and health sciences libraries are more familiar with offering and supporting mobile resources for library users. In medicine, the use of a mobile device and mobile resources also provides unique benefits by bringing up-to-date information at the point of care to help healthcare practitioners to make an informed clinical decision.  Interestingly, however, there seem to be no such unique benefits from using a mobile device or mobile resources in humanities or social sciences that are comparable to those found in medicine.  Hence, the question is if mobile resources and devices will eventually play a unique role in teaching, learning, and research activities in areas that are not practice-based as they are in medicine.  we expressed an optimistic view on this question since mobile devices can allow students to learn, teachers to teach, and researchers to research using mobile devices in a way that is completely different from the way they currently do using desktop computers.

What do you think?  Here are the presentation slides and also a very inspiring presentation by Dr. Ivor Kovic in Mobile Monday in Amsterdam.

Mobile Health by Dr. Ivor Kovic at Mobile Monday in Amsterdam

ALA before and after – My 2010 MidWinter

What happens when you join ALA? I am not sure about other professional organizations. But at least in ALA, nothing happens unless you are awarded with some scholarships, fellowships, internships, etc. I called up and paid my membership fee. A few weeks later, I got the card with my ALA member number printed in the mail. That was it. I could have researched about ALA and gone through documents in the ALA website. But I didn’t. I thought that maybe I would get some kind of quick guidebook. But nope. Somehow I thought something would happen since I joined. But nope. I didn’t just join ALA. I joined LITA. I joined ACRL. I joined NMRT. That’s a lot of groups, that’s quite a bit of investment. Again, nothing happened. (Yes, later on I signed up for a mentoring program at NMRT and met a wonderful mentor. But it took a while for me to figure that out.)

The organizational structure of ALA seems to be quite complicated. During the 2010 midwinter I went to the NMRT membership meeting. NMRT is a Round Table for new members. A place for me to go and learn about ALA, I thought. But it turned out that I wasn’t even aware of the complexity of NMRT’s organizational structure itself. I forgot the exact details, but there were at least 3-4 levels of ranks/tiers. I was also told that ALA has a even more complicated structure. (I still don’t get what ALA council does, for example. Should I?)  It bothers my mind that an organization has to have that many levels to function, to the degree that new members have to attend a membership meeting to just get an idea of how the organization is structured and operates. (Since I didn’t attend, I have no idea. Am I a bad member?)

Anyhow, I took the risk of heading out to my very first ALA conference in Chicago last summer without knowing so much about ALA nor any people in particular. Well, the experience was, shall I say…, mixed. I loved the chance to meet one of my ex-bosses. I hung out with one of my colleagues briefly a couple of times outside the conference. It was nice. But overall it was overwhelming, and there wasn’t as much fun as I would have liked. (Granted I didn’t go to any orientation and membership meetings simply because I didn’t know that they would be helpful. Are they?) I went to a lot of programs and meetings (including many interest groups and discussion groups) that seemed relevant to my work. The experience was informative. I got new ideas and learned quite a bit. But when the conference ended, I sorely realized that I didn’t meet that many people, and I didn’t feel any closer to ALA. I still felt like an outsider. (And this was after I was an ALA member for two years – one year as a student – and I attended an annual.)

Some may object. But I suspect that my experience may pretty much sum up what new ALA members feel, may complain about, and possibly make them leave . There is no welcoming gesture. There is no personal contact. ALA is aloof. It won’t say hi just because you are nearby. It expects you to make a move. ALA is no treasure chest that you get to open when you join. It is more like a playground where you get to go in when you become a member. But you still have to find people to play with and participate in some games to have fun.

(Image from Flickr:

For some other interesting observations about ALA, see Agnostic, Maybe (1), Agnostic, Maybe (2), and Opinions of a Wolf.

I think I am near the entrance of this playground peeking in curiously. But ALA feels slightly closer to me now that I have some faces that I can associate ALA with. At the Midwinter, I actually met people I didn’t know because I marked social events in my schedule. NMRT social was fun. The tweet-up I organized was great because I met lots of librarians with whom I had a chat on Twitter. (Thank you everyone who came!!!)  After Hours social was awesome because we were all sort of drunk, and it was quite late. On the other hand, LITA happy hour was kind of awkward. (Networking dinner was nice though.) The reception for young librarians was interesting, but I wasn’t sure about who was invited on what basis. (Was it for all new members or for all new and young members…?)

I discovered that small groups such as interest groups and discussion groups at ALA are great for new members because they are small in size. There are also so many of these that there is a good chance there is something you may find interesting. If you show enough interests, it may not be terribly difficult to get involved in these groups. I was – to my surprise – drawn into organizing a program for 2010 D.C. annual, which came out of the discussion that took place at the LITA Emerging Technologies Interest Group meeting I attended at the 2009 annual. I am a new member and organizing a program (hard to believe in my mind). Well, this is definitely something exciting. But then,  I may not get a chance to work on a committee I volunteered for in the next 10 years (I actually saw someone tweeted about this) and/or I may not succeed in getting involved at the level of divisions and sections.  (Well, that would be kind of disappointing. Or not, I am not sure…)

For new members’ information, I was also given a great advice at the midwinter that it is a good idea to be active in listservs and online because it gives one something to talk about and connect with others when you actually attend a conference. (But of course, one needs to find out what listservs would be a good fit and how to get on to them first.)

I am not yet sure if I will continue to play in this playground. But I think I will give it a shot. I had more fun in Boston than in Chicago.

Microsoft Surface Table at Libraries

There is this table that has recently fascinated me.  It is Microsoft Surface table.  With both the commercial and the development version, this table looks absolutely fabulous to my librarian eyes.

What is Microsoft Surface table?  Imagine a coffee table whose surface works like an iPhone responsive to touch with its full computing power.

I can see so many applications of this table at a library. I work at a medical library and our students love to use the anatomy software that is loaded on the computers at the library.  For this particular resource in mind, the library has ordered a large screen monitor for library computers.  Medical students absolutely love it.  But as any librarian can testify, today’s students study together.  At libraries, group study rooms are always in a short supply and all the tables tend to be moved in a group by students who want to study together.  Our library provides forty something carrels for each individual medical student.  But students prefer studying as a group in our two group study rooms.

So it is no coincidence that when I saw this MS surface table I immediately came to think about putting anatomy software on it.  Students can not only see clear large anatomical images on the table but also can manipulate them with their hands.  Even more cool is the fact that multiple students can simultaneously interact with the surface. One can zoom, the other can rotate, and another can annotate.

At this year’s ALA conference at Chicago, DOK Library Concept Center‘s in-house application for MS surface table was also shown, making a lot of librarians fall in love with the table and the possibility of providing useful applications for it at a library.

Multitouch Microsoft Surface: Cultural Heritage Browser from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Yesterday I have learned that actually the university of Nevada- Reno-library owns two MS Surface tables and that the library’s application development librarian, Will Kurt, wrote an anatomy flash card application for it.  (He also published his anatomy application codes for everyone’s use.)   A news article from University of Nevada, Reno, reports that these surface tables are in high demand from students. In the first week of the semester, they were used for 70 hours over just seven days at University of Nevada, Reno.

See the demo here:

Some may say, “OK, I see that the table looks cool and maybe good for anatomy and maps etc. But what other use could it have at a library?”  Well, Darien public Library purchased this table in December, 2008 and there the surface table was placed at the library’s children’s room.  In his blog post, John Blyberg talks about the idea of tagging certain picture books, so that when they were placed on the Surface, a video-recording of a story-time with that book would pop up in his blog post.

The surface table can also be used for gaming, music, and probably history, math, physics, and other humanities and sciences.  Just imagine classicists studying old manuscripts on the surface table to decipher the annotations on them!  Applied to medicine, the surface table can do so much more than showing two-dimensional images.   See this video in which the images of a human heart rendered in 3D being studied, annotated, and discussed. Depending on the quality of images and the sophistication of 3D rendering applied, a whole surgery can be recorded and studied.

I see the use of this MS surface table in architecture too, in which 3D image-rendering is common.  Actually any 3D image viewing and analysis would be fantastic on this kind of surface, and the surface would be a wonderful tool for many people to study such images together at the same time.

But guess how much it would cost to get one of these tables?  I asked around today in Twitter and found out that it costs $12,500 + shipping and handling.  Ok, so it won’t be in any near future that libraries can offer these tables for library users.  Will Kurt made a good point saying that these tables are not only heavily used by students but also not extremely expensive compared to some of the online journals and databases that libraries license.   However, the table is still hardware, not part of a library’s collection.  At the current stage, the purchase of this table would also be wise only if a library already has an in-house application developer who can write some custom applications for the table.  So the real costs for a library are even more than the cost of the table itself.  Consequently, not many libraries won’t be able to afford a surface table any time soon.

Still, I can’t stop thinking about all potential applications of this surface table at a library because it can make coming to a library much more fun and useful for students.  Surface computing enables us to use a computer in an environment that is not designed specifically for computing.  Surface computing replaces traditional input devices such as a keyboard and a mouse with our human hands and fingers.  And as a result, it can also accommodate collaboration and group study in a more natural manner.

My undying curiosity also prompted me to find out how a surfacetable is built.  This excellent blog post by Stewart Greenhill shows how to build a home-made surface table with a relatively cheap LCD monitor with the total cost of $500.  There are many youTube videos but this blog post is much more thorough in explaining the mechanism of a surface table.

Now, $500, that’s the price a library can probably afford.

ERM Systems: The Promise and Disappointment

Some conference sessions are just irresistible because of their titles.  For example, “Ultimate Debate: Has Library 2.0 fulfilled its promise?” Right?  I know that “Electronic Resource Management Systems: The Promise and Disappointment” would have been just as irresistible to some librarians.  If you deal with e-resources at work, whether you are cataloging them, acquiring them, setting up access for them, troubleshooting constant issues with them, you will know what I mean.  I can only imagine how many E-resources librarians have been dreaming about the one ultimate ERM system that would do the magic of cleaning up the messy Hydra-like workflow around e-resources and make ERM less of Sisiphus’ labor.

I didn’t have much information in advance about this session and guessed it would be more of a panel discussion.  But actually it consisted of four presentations by librarians who have implemented a ERM system recently.  The ERMS(E-Resources Management System)es covered in the presentations were SerialsSolutions’ 360 Resource Manager, Verde, and Gold Rush.

The presenters were (not by the order of presentation):

  • Apryl Price, Electronic Resources Librarian, Texas A&M University  (Gold Rush)
  • Jeanne Langendorfer, Coordinator of Serials, Bowling Green State University  (SerSol?)
  • Jeannie Downey, Electronic Resources Coordinator, University of Houston Libraries  (Verde?)
  • Betsy Friesen, Technical Services Analyst, University of Minnesota Libraries  (Verde?)

I missed the first presentation about SerialsSolutions’ ERM product.  This was a shame because that is the one I have access to where I work.  But I know even from my limited experience that this product is not only clunky as an ERMS  but also lacks many functionalities that any desirable ERMS should probably have.  I am not going to say I cannot search e-resources in this system by the system’s own identifier nor search any notes that I can attach to e-resources.  There, I said it… whoops.

The two presenters expressed much disappointments about Verde, an ExLibris product, particularly about its complexity and rigidity.  One pointed out that the Verde implementation forced them to fit their workflow around the system rather than fit the system around the workflow.  It was also mentioned that a lot of vocabularies in Verde which come from the ERMI data dictionary were not familiar to the librarians who worked for Verde implementation and that this delayed the implementation process.  One presenter said that her library started Verde implementation two years ago but it was still in testing and not in production.

So, it was a surprise to me that ExLibris is discontinuing Verde development and going for thier new product, URM (University Resource Management) system, instead. I would have liked some discussion about what librarians would like to see ERMS do, but that was not covered much.  My personal opinion is that ERM workflows are very fluid and iterative (also vary from organization to organization) and the tools offered have been failing to capture this aspect.  And probably that is why sometimes a homegrown ERM system works better than a complicated but rigid system offered by various vendors.

The last presentation about Gold Rush was of particular interest to me as it seemed to be the only product whose implementation was relatively easy and smooth.  The cost was also said to be on a less expensive side.  Texas A&M University library implemented it pretty quickly.  Overall, it seemed to be a neat small and simple product.  The presenter pointed out that it doesn’t handle e-books well.  Gold Rush also doesn’t have many features like Verde and is a stand-alone product/a hosted solution, which doesn’t talk to an ILS nor to an Open URL link resolver.  Still, it looked pretty good to me as my library is small and there is no tech-support staff available other than me who will be able to work on the implementation and maintenance of the system.  So, fast implementation and ease of use would be a big plus to me.

I would have liked to hear from libraries that do not currently have a commercial ERMS product about how they manage their e-resources and what kind of system they use.  Also, some discussion and experience about open-source ERMes would have been great such as  CUFTS and Univeristy of Wisconsin-La Crosse ERM.  But it was great to be in the room discussing ERMes with other e-resources librarians.

Academic Librarians and Getting Published

When I was in a MLIS program, I was only vaguely aware of the fact that some academic librarians are appointed as faculty while some are not.  Now that I work at a library where librarians are considered to be faculty (no tenure-track), publishing has become an issue of my interests lately.  So I attended a session designed for folks just like me at 2009 ALA annual. The name of the session was ACRL New Members Discussion Group: “The Publication Process: Getting Published in LIS Journals.”

The session was designed for those librarians who are new at research and publishing in LIS journals.  In order to promote participation in discussion, the presentations were given verbally with/without a handout in a small room.  Partially, this was because of the lack of funding for discussion groups.  But the informal setting and a small number of people around the table made the session much more informative and interesting to both presenters and attendees.  The session provided a wonderful opportunity to gather practical tips and to find encouragement. (In addition, I really loved the fact that in a discussion group there are no committees, no annual membership dues, no officers, and no formality.)

The session consisted of three 10-minute presentations and discussion.

  • Writing to Write: Kickstarting the Publication Process by Emily Drabinski
  • Best Practices for Beginners: Getting Published-From Inspiration to Publication by Lisa Carlucci Thomas & Karen Sobel
  • Targeting Teaching Faculty for Collaborative Publications by Linda Hofschire

Here are a few take-aways from the session I wrote down:

  • To get movitated, use deadlines, generate good ideas, write them down right away, set aside time to write–get up 30 min. early everyday.
  • To become good at writing, write everyday a certain amount in whatever form.
  • To overcome the fear of being published, begin with book reviews and conference proposals and look out for call for proposals.
  • To find topics to write, look at research papers and check out the topics for further study.
  • Network and collaborate with other colleagues.
  • Try to incorporate research into daily work duties sucah as instruction, digitizing, cataloging, etc.
  • You can use data sets used for other research.
  • Bear in mind the tension between topics of your interests and topics that are more easily published.
  • Work with teaching faculty and suggest writing a certain section of a paper such as research method if you gathered and analyzed data.
  • Have a particular journal in mind.
  • Don’t despair if rejected. Revise and send to a different journal.

ALA 2009 sessions attended

Here is the sessions that I have attended at 2009 ALA annual.  I am already forgetting to the order of the sessions and the discussions that took place in each session.  Hopefully, the presentations would be soon posted at ALA Connect so that I can take a look.

I also wish the detailed content and presentations/presenters of each session were available in advance.  That would make it much easier for  attendees to select sessions of their interests.

7/10 Friday

  • Creating Library Web Services: MashUps and APIs
  • E-Resources Management Interest Group

7/11 Saturday

  • ACRL 101
  • ACRL New Members Discussion Group: “The Publication Process: Getting Published in LIS Journals”
  • LITA BIGWIG (Blogs, Interactive Groupware Wikis Interest Group)
  • LITA Emerging Technologies Interest Group

7/12 Sunday

  • Top Technology Trends
  • ACRL Health Sciences Interest Group (HSIG)
  • LITA President’s Program: Make Stories, Tell Stories, Keep Stories

7/13 Monday

  • ERMS: the Promises and Disappointments
  • Social Software Showcase
  • Ultimate Debate: Has Library 2.0 fulfilled its promise?

Why Library Hat?

I am opening this blog right after attending 2009 ALA annual conference in Chicago.  It was my first ALA conference, and I was twittering for fun. From the twittering throughout the conference, I came to learn that an amazing number of awesome librarians are actively twittering and blogging in order to record their thoughts and ideas and share them with others outside of their busy-enough work schedules.  This blog is my attempt to join that community by contributing a little.

I got the name “Library Hat” for my blog from my Twitter post, which received the unexpected honor of Library Journal’s ALA 2009 Monday’s Top Tweets.  I was in the ERMS session when I was posting this tweet using my coolest gadget, iPhone, whose battery was certainly not manufactured to stand up for a conference such as ALA.

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