notes on information organizations

October 1, 2010

the great disconnect: open access in your face

Filed under: change, cultural trends, information access, innovation, librarianship — Frank Cervone @ 8:11 am

For the most part, I agree with Barbara Fister in her recent blog posting The Great Disconnect: Scholars Without Libraries.  Our continuing reluctance to embrace open access publishing is slowly killing our academic enterprises. The cost of journals, which perhaps are an outmoded concept in and of themselves, continues to increase at a pace that is unjustifiable given advances in technology and the rate of inflation.

On the other hand, I’m not sure that articles like this do anything to meaningfully change that dynamic. “Why?” you may ask.

It seems that a great deal of traction in the open access movement is lost by the religious fundamentalist approach that is generally taken.  The basic jist of this argument is that, “I’m right, you’re wrong and implicitly stupid for not seeing it my way. Because of your stupidity, you are destroying western civilization.” While this might be emotionally satisfying to the person making the argument, it doesn’t do anything to advance the argument. We know from many sociological and psychological studies that this type of argument just turns people off and can, in fact, entrench people even further in their current beliefs.

Perhaps a more useful approach would be to demonstrate the benefits of open access and how it benefits both researcher and institution. If these benefits can’t be demonstrated, then perhaps some rethinking needs to be done.

August 4, 2010

no laughing matter – are library websites any better?

Filed under: higher education, information access, librarianship, web site design — Frank Cervone @ 8:18 am

This analysis from Inside Higher Ed about a comic (that has gone viral) on how bad university websites are points out just how disconnected many academic websites are from their user communities. I don’t think there is much to add to the analysis except for considering how disconnected many library websites may be from their user communities. In particular, what are the library equivalents on the left side of the Venn diagram that need to be replaced by library services more representative of those on the right side of the diagram?

A couple of things on the left side come to mind immediately: the welcome from the director, the slide show of empty computer labs, “news” items that are really marketing pieces with no relevance to services or collections. Some of these things should be on the website but just not on the front page. On the right side, many of the items listed for the university site are also valid for the library: calendar/hours, address and phone number, maps, reserve reading lists, direct seemless access to all resources and not just the catalog.

July 28, 2010

where libraries may be able to help the early career researcher

Filed under: information access, librarianship, social network — Frank Cervone @ 11:19 am

Researcher in a laboratoryThere is a short article in the most recent issue of JISC Inform that provides an interesting compliment to my last post. Although the article is not specifically directed at libraries, it points out some possible areas and ways librarians can become more involved in the day-to-day activities of early career faculty members. One of the findings of this study libraries need to consider is that early career researchers don’t use Web 2.0 tools to share their research. Instead they prefer face-to-face interactions and there are many different reasons for this. As these reasons are more sociological than technological, it probably doesn’t make sense to develop tools or systems that don’t cannot address the underlying social issues that are acting as an impediment to Web 2.0 tool use if we expect those tools to actually be used. Additionally, one of the major obstacles for early career researchers that do want to use Web 2.0 tools is that they are often unaware of what e-research tools are available to them.

Some of the recommendations in the report include making tools as intuitive as possible, having tools facilitate (as much as possible) “social” activities appropriate for the specific discipline, making security and data management of research data robust, easy to use, and portable from one institution/organization to another. Librarians can possibly get involved by also developing  “research toolkits” that list available tools, and those otherwise supported by the institution, for specific disciplines.

July 9, 2010

Tablets vs. e-Readers

Filed under: cultural trends, information access — Frank Cervone @ 10:33 am

Tablet PC in useBoth iPads and e-Book readers have received a lot of press lately. In this article from Knowledge@Warton, the authors pose the question will tablets close the book on e-Readers? and make a convincing case for device convergence. What is especially interesting, however, are the comments to the article. Even though e-Readers have only been in existence for a few years, the dedication some people have to their preferred platform is quite amazing and it would appear that the dedication to those devices is clouding their perceptions on how things could change very quickly again.

March 22, 2010

a risk intelligent approach to data and intellectual property

Filed under: digital archiving, information access, management — Frank Cervone @ 1:16 pm

In a recent article from the Deloitte Review, Ted De Zabala explores the issues related to data and intellectual property. While the perspective of the for-profit world is different from that of higher ed, many of the issues related to data retention and intellectual property are not all that different in higher ed.

Many organizations try to safeguard their intellectual property with extensive security and protective measures. These efforts are typically ineffectual and sometimes counterproductive according to research performed by Deloitte Professional Services. As De Zabala says, “the boundaries between company and non-company have blurred…data and information can no longer be readily protected like the gold in Fort Knox, with security measures around the perimeter and the valuables tucked safely inside.” 

Part of the issue is that many organizations fail to distinguish between crucial data and information that is essentially useless in the long-term. Accordingly, in order to move forward in manageable way, an organization has to determine what data has value, what data must truly be protected and what data can be discarded at the appropriate time. Particularly in libraries, we have a problem dealing with this last point.

De Zabala suggests some things we must consider to deal with the issues related to data and intellectual property:

  1. Security and privacy are not technology problems and not the domain of IT alone; the entire organization must be engaged in the day-to-day supervision, administration, and curation of an organization’s data;
  2. Organizations need to understand the depth and scope of the data and intellectual property they have; what value both of these bring to the organization and how they deliver that value;
  3. Recognize that many security issues arise from inadvertant and careless behavior rather than intentional intent;
  4. Rules to address regularatory or legal requirements must taking into consideration the operational needs of the organization;
  5. Using a risk-based approach to data governanace, rather than a purely compliance-drive approach, will help focus efforts on the areas of greatest need and can prevent policy from becoming divorced from practice;
  6. Data shouldn’t be retained “just in case” and data should be disposed of regularly in compliance with any legal or regulatory requirements that apply (of course); and finally
  7. Rethink the value of data that is collected both to minimize liability from hoarding irrelevent data as well as avoiding the mistake of underexploiting data that has significant value. 

The final point of this article, however, may be the most important: successful organizations find that they attain greater profitability and market share (in the case of higher education, perhaps notariety and institutional reputation are better measures) by making their intellectual property more available, witness MIT’s OpencourseWare. I think that most of us in higher ed information organizations understand that; it our job to convince the rest of our organizations as well and divorce that conversation from the issues related to “business” data retention.

March 18, 2010

the end of large scale web sites?

Filed under: information access, web site design — Frank Cervone @ 9:53 pm

Since I’ve been working on my own web site lately, and have significantly scaled down its size, I found this article particularly interesting. In this post by Kent Anderson on the Scholarly Kitchen blog, the author presents the case that large web sites may be a thing of the past. The argument is that with the introduction of  social tools and products like Facebook, Twitter, RSS, blogs and mobile devices, many of the earlier reasons for creating massive web sites may no longer be valid. He points on that “scholarly publishers have site-centric approaches for defensible and rational reasons — institutions buy access to domain sites” however the long-term viability of this model is already questionable. One of the major goals of many library websites is to obfuscate where the content comes from in order to make the content itself more central to the discovery experience. But library web sites are facing the exact same thing as users migrate to tools like Google Scholar and pubget. While Kent does not provide any definitive answers, he does raise a lot of interesting questions.

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