Sunday, June 24, 2007

From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0

It has been more than a decade since the advent of the World Wide Web. When it first came out, librarians worried about how this new medium would affect their jobs, some even worried about the possible phasing out of librarians all together. With Web 2.0, there are similar worries about the roles of librarians; however, the anxiety is about how to catch up and adapt such technologies to the workplace.

But take a look at KPMG librarian Hope Bell's The Internet: A New Opportunity for Information Specialists written in 1997, and compare it to University of Saskatchewan librarian Darlene Fichter's Seven Strategies for Marketing in a Web 2.0 World written exactly ten years later. Although the Web has changed quite a bit, the importance of the librarian's role in teaching users how to use the technology has not. Let's take a look at just how things have not changed in 10 years.

(1) Learn about social media (2007) Vs. Get started - Get connected (1997)

(2) Create a Web 2.0 marketing plan (2007) Vs. Network with your organization (1997)

(3) Participate! Join the conversation (2007) Vs. Become an expert (1997)

(4) Be remarkable (2007) Vs. Position yourself as an expert (1997)

(5) Help your library content travel (2007) Vs. Educate and Train your users (1997)

(6) Monitor Engagement and Learn as you go (2007) Vs. Don't Stop (1997)

(7) Be part of the multimedia wave (2007) Vs. The Impact (1997)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Beauty of Google Scholar

Information retrieval is an art, with creativity as a core ingredient. When done right, it is fun. With success, it is fabulously rewarding and an enriching experience. For the past year and a half, my main job has been searching, searching, and more searching. Using different databases my main task has been to cull together large number of documents for systematic literature reviews as well as compiling endless lists of bibliographies.

One of the most difficult tasks has been requests for broken citations – oftentimes, only the author and a date are given. So how to find these? Let me give you a recent example. Find: “Smith, 1992.” On the surface, it seems an impossible task. There are a number of ways to tackle this puzzle: but there’s an easier way. This is where the beauty of Google Scholar comes in.

Step #1: Go to “Advanced Google Search”

Step #2: In the Author box, type in “Smith”

Step #3: In the Date box, enter “1992” to “1992”

Step #4: In Find articles with all of the words, enter: “mental housing”

The final step is the most crucial. Since the domain of the project deals with mental housing, I want to narrow all of my articles to this subject. The beauty is that this works with most subjects. The more terms you can throw out, the more precise the recall. As an “art,” there is always some guesswork involved; nothing is ever guaranteed. But if you’re down and out, and need to find a citation quickly, Google Scholar is extremely effective. I encourage you to try a few searches with a document in hand, and try the above. Check your results and see whether it comes close, or at least within manageable distance. I bet you'll have a fun time regardless.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Why Librarianship?

At dinner today, a fellow colleague asked what are my perceptions of the the profession and the job market. My answer? I am optimistic. While there are the usual problems of budget shrinkages, lower gate counts, competition with bookstores, job cuts (...the list goes on...), this isn't the end. Instead, I am encouraged when I look at our profession from another viewpoint, and less "narrowly" on the traditional concept of librarianship. What do I mean?

Everywhere I see, job ads are popping up with job descriptions that MLIS degree holders possess. Particularly in non-traditional settings, librarians are suited for positions once limited to business, communications, and computer science graduates. Because of the Internet, librarians are partitioned into positions that require unique and specific needs. Instead of a dying breed, librarians are part of a profession that is expanding into different horizons and possibilities. Indeed, physicals walls are crumbling and replaced by virtual ones. Why will we never disappear? I argue four reasons:

(1) Technology – Not just the internet, but social software, “wireless” technology, etc. Librarians are known to be at the forefront of translating technology to users. First it was the OPAC, then the internet, now Web 2.0.

(2) Intelligence – Librarians all have master degrees. The minimum admissions GPA is about at least a B (76%+ above at SLAIS). Librarians are intelligent, well-read, and usually pretty damn creative - all traits for success in the information profession.

(3) Searching – As long as journals and articles exist, there will be databases. As long as databases exist, there will be the need for people to not only search them, but also to train others. With free free search engines, even better.

(4) Management – Librarianship is one of those rare professions where managing is required practically from Day 1. As managers in such positions, these skills are transferable to almost any job. Hence, librarians take heed: it's our time to shine.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Introducing the Web 2.0 Ensemble

The Emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education offers a very nice perspective of Web 2.0. Instead of concepts, it delves straight into the tools and offers a look into the different categories of Web 2.0 tools out there. Here are the 10 categories (including an example of each):

(1) Wikis - Pbwiki

(2) Blogs - Blogger

(3) Podcasting - Youtube

(4) Social Bookmarking -

(5) Social Search Engines - Cha Cha

(6) RSS Feeds - Feedburner

(7) Social Networking Services - Friendster

(8) Reputation-Management Systems - Digg

(9) Instant Messaging and Virtual Meetings - Google Talk

(10) Online Social Gaming - Second Life

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Library as a Conversation

Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation is an excellent read, one definitely worthy of serious consideration for practitioners who want to rethink the way the library will serve patrons in the future. Libraries need to be part of the conversation of its users, rather than trying to be the single point of entry. Conversations are varied in their mode, places, and players - moreover, conversations are intensely personal. This means that the library needs to be a facilitator, and therefore needs to be varied in its mode and access points. In order to do so, libraries must strategize how to use Web 2.0 tools. But to do that, we must first understand the main components of it. Here are what the authors deem as the core concepts of Web 2.0:

(1) Social Networks - The content of a site should comprise user-provided information that attracts members of an ever-expanding network. (example: Facebook)

(2) Wisdom of Crowds - Group judgments are surprisingly accurate, and the aggregation of input is facilitated by the ready availability of social networking sites. (example: eBay, Wikipedia)

(3) Loosely Coupled API's - Short for "Application Programming Interface," API provides a set of instructions (messages) that a programmer can use to communicate between applications, thus allowing programmers to incorporate one piece of software to directly manipulate (code) into another. (example: Google Maps)

(4) Mashups - They are combinations of APIs and data that result in new information resources and services. (example: Calgary Mapped)

(5) Permanent Betas - The idea is that no software is ever truly complete so long as the user community is still commenting upon it, and thus, improving it. (example: Google Labs)

(6) Software Gets Better the More People Use It - Because all social networking sites seek to capitalize on user input, the true value of each site is definted by the number of people it can bring together. (example: Windows Live Messenger)

(7) Folksonomies - It's a classification system created in a bottom-up fashion and with no central coordination. Entirely differing from the traditional classification schemes such as the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress Classifications, folksonomies allow any user to "social tag" whatever phrase they deem necessary for an object. (example: Flickr and Youtube).