A review of the Scopus iPhone App

A little while ago I downloaded the new iPhone app from Scopus, called Scopus Alert Lite.  I have finally had a chance to explore it.

A screen shot of the search screen from the Scopus Alerts Lite iPhone App

The app is free, although your institution will need a subscription to Scopus in order for you to use it.  Theoretically, you should be able to register using your Scopus user id and password, plus the email address from the institution that provides your subscription.  This may encourage some users to sign up for an account.  Most of the users I know (faculty and students) don’t realize the benefits of creating a user account with the databases they use.  This simple authentication didn’t work for me, and it took several emails to Scopus support to resolve the issue.  The app does provide a button to contact support if you fail to authenticate, which was how I got in contact with the folks that resolved the problem.

Despite the challenges of registering, I believe that when it works, this is one of the better ways of authenticating subscription content for the iPhone.  You can use it anywhere, you don’t have to be on your campus WiFi network or use VPN (like the ACS app) or go through a proxy server (like some database mobile websites).

The app is rather slow to load, and several times I received an error message asking me to log in again.  Restarting the app seemed to solve the problem.

Because the app is focused on setting up citation and search alerts, not general searching, there are some limitations.

The biggest limitation is that, for any search, you can’t see more than 50 results, although it will tell you how many total results are available.  I think this is a badly needed feature.  I kept feeling like I was being short-changed.  You can change the sorting order of the results list.  The default is by date, but you can also sort by relevancy and citation count.

The second limitation seems to be with author searches.  Scopus.com has a very nice author ID feature, which helps you identify all works by the same individual no matter what permutation of their name each article uses.  The Scopus Alerts iPhone app doesn’t seem to take advantage of this feature.

Affiliation searches are very easy, allowing you to find publications from a particular institution.

For each of the articles found, you can get their citations and references (number of each and item information).  However, the app doesn’t provide links to publisher websites or institutional link resolvers to help you locate the full text (some publishers are providing their own apps for that.)

Unfortunately, alerts don’t transfer between web and iPhone – there is no way to access alerts you have already set up at Scopus.com, and it doesn’t appear that you can get your iPhone alerts on your computer at this time.

I am happy to see this first attempt at an app from Scopus.  Despite some challenges, I think their method of authentication is actually one of the easiest I’ve seen (once you set it up once, you are all set, and you don’t need to re-authenticate each time).  I hope to see some increased functionality in the future, especially access to additional search results.

You can read the complete official description of the iPhone app from Scopus (including an FAQ) on the Scopus website.

SUNY Librarians Association Conference Wrap Up

The SUNY Librarians Association Conference was last week, but only now do I have a chance to write about what I got out of the conference.

Like most SUNYLA conferences, there was a lot of useful stuff and just a few sessions that didn’t really add to my knowledge or provide me with any ideas.

I gave a presentation with two of my colleagues about strategies to reach out to faculty (slides and speaker notes are here) and the conversations afterward (in the session and on the way to lunch) provided a real glimpse at what SUNY libraries are doing, and other possible strategies that we could use.  For example, several libraries provide new faculty with a pot of money to buy books from the library.  The library liaison is responsible for helping the new faculty member spend their money, which provides a great opportunity for the faculty members and the liaison to get to know one another.  Other libraries made it a point of taking new faculty out for coffee, in order to share with them some information about the library, and to determine what their needs might be.  Another library actually provided a competitive grant for established faculty to get a small pot of money to purchase books to support new research directions.

Another excellent presentation was given by Suzanne Bell from the University of Rochester about her institution’s home grown institutional repository, called IR+ (open source, code available here).  One of the things that makes this repository unique is the not visible to the public workspace provided to each faculty member.  This repository doesn’t just serve as a final resting place for documents, but it provides researchers with sharing and version control services, allowing them to collaborate with other researchers (at U of R and other places) more easily.  I really like how this tool attempts to get into the researchers workflow much earlier in the process, rather than just accepting the final output, like most IRs.

This presentation sparked an excellent conversation with some of my colleagues at Geneseo about the possibilities for us to support faculty research, including some of the practical steps we need to take in order to do this.

The last session I attended was a presentation from two librarians about how to do a systemmatic review, a type of review article (kind of) that I was not very familiar with.  They gave a clear explanation of the process.  I wish there had been more time for questions but it was interesting.

Once again, a satisfying conference.  I look forward to next year.

Thoughts on teaching geology

As a write this, my GSCI 100 summer school students are taking their final exam (it isn’t cumulative, in case you are wondering).  The last six weeks represent my first full-course teaching experience since I joined the library world in 2005.

An image of the Marcellus Shale
An outcrop of the Marcellus Shale

It was fun and exhausting.

It was fun to talk about geology again.  I love my job, I love libraries, and I love the quest for information.  But my first love was the natural world, and the study of it through the lens of geology.  My librarian colleagues can attest to my occasional mini lectures on geologic topics (especially when they are trapped in vehicles on the way to conferences), but it was great to share more detail on these topics with a group of students.  I got to talk about climate change and the Marcellus Shale and flooding.  We talked about the recent earthquake that was felt in Western New York and the geology behind other recent earthquakes.

But it was also exhausting.  During summer school, a typical 14 week class is compressed into 6 weeks.  Which means that my preparation time for this class was compressed, too.  Because I haven’t taught an intro geology class in 5 years, and because the student’s textbook was new to me, I had a lot of prep work to do.  Most of my evenings (after my daughter is in bed) have been spent at my kitchen table on my laptop working on lectures and labs for upcoming classes.  Many nights, I have had to stay up late finishing grading or lectures!

Folks have been asking me, “Would you teach it again?”  I’ve said that I might.  Course prep for next time probably wouldn’t be as onerous, and the extra money is nice.  It is a great way to stay in the world of geology, and to share my love of this subject with students.  We’ll see what happens – the geoscience department may not need my help again.

The joys of small conferences

Today and tomorrow I am attending the SUNY Librarians Association Annual Conference, held at SUNY Brockport.  SUNYLA (as it’s known) is one of my favorite conferences, despite my recent call for librarians to stop going to library conference.

First, I get to find out about lots of exciting things that are happening at SUNY Libraries.  We are a pretty smart group of people, and I can learn a lot from my colleagues.  As a plus, the group is dominated by librarians from 2 and 4 year colleges, so the activities that are being presented almost always seem manageable.

Second, I get to see old friends and make new friends from the other campuses.  I find it much easier to meet people at a small conference like this than at the larger ALA or SLA conferences.

Third, it’s a great place to make a presentation to a forgiving audience.  Sometimes I’d like to share information with colleagues, but I don’t feel that what I’m doing is new and unique enough to warrant a major presentation or paper.  The SUNYLA conference is great for this kind of thing.  Plus I get more experience presenting.  This year I’ll give a small presentation about strategies for reaching out to faculty, and a larger presentation about using assessment to evaluate information literacy goals.

It should be fun.

A small collection of resources about the University of California ‘negotiation’ with Nature Publishing Group

This week, the University of California announced a possible boycott by faculty and researchers of Nature Publishing Group.  UC felt they had to act after NPG was proposing a 400% increase in the UC site license subscription cost.  The proposal is for faculty to stop submitting articles to the journal, stop reviewing articles, resign from editorial boards, etc., in addition to canceling subscriptions to NPG journals.

Open Access - one solution to exorbitate journal prices

Official resources about the ongoing issue:

A small selection of commentary by people smarter than me:

Is this the start of something?  I emailed the Chronicle of Higher Education article to the faculty listserv at my institution, and one person actually responded saying ‘thank you’ for sending along the article.  The library is just now formulating plans for an Open Access Week event on Campus – could this raise faculty awareness of some of these issues?

Is this what was needed to bring the problems with the scholarly research and publication economy to light?  Or will all of this be forgotten by the time the fall semester starts?

I guess we’ll find out.

What should my students call me?

During one-shot library instruction session, the issue of what to call the librarian instructor rarely arises.  Now that I’m teaching a geology class again as an instructor, the “what should students call me” question comes up.

Title options for the Royal Opera House website registration form
Title options for the Royal Opera House website registration form

Students often take the path of least resistance – they don’t call me anything.  Emails don’t begin with a salutation and there is rarely a need for them to refer to me by name in class.  I used to give extra credit on quizzes and exams if students could correctly answer the question “What is your instructors name?”  Fewer students than you would think got it right.

So far this summer, the students who call me anything seem to default to “Professor Swoger”.  Is this appropriate?  While I am the instructor for the class, and I certainly like to profess things, none of my official titles contain the words “professor”.  My “budget title” says Senior Assistant Librarian, my “local title” says Visiting Reference Instruction Librarian and the title on my business cards says Science and Technology Librarian.  We don’t use the term librarian as a title in the same way that professor is used.  “Librarian Swoger” sounds a bit odd.

Generally, I don’t correct students if they use the title Professor, but I do correct them if they default to “Dr. Swoger”.  I don’t have a PhD, so that title doesn’t apply.  I also have a sense that Professor also applies to PhD recipients or folks with the appropriate job title.

I’m kind of ambivalent about telling students to use my first name.  Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t.

Of course, I could be Mrs. Swoger, but I always look for my mother-in-law when that is used.  I prefer Ms.

So, when I send my class an email, how should I sign my name at the bottom?  Perhaps I’ll try to be consistent by the time the course ends, or I could follow the lead of my students and just not sign my name at all!

A time for changes

Bringing power to the people
Bringing power to the people

Each summer my library undergoes a lot of change.  In past years we created new classrooms or redesigned old ones.  We have added electrical outlets to our main study areas through a variety of creative methods (see photo at left).  This summer we are expanding the Cafe, rearranging office space, and rearranging (and weeding) our reference collection.

Electricians are busy running power and data cables to new computer stations, campus telephone technicians are trying to restore phone service to our staff as quickly as possible, and lots of panelling is being taken down and reassembled.

This yearly change is vital to our library.  We are never standing still.  We are constantly evaluating the needs of our students and trying to accommodate those needs within our 50 year old library building.

Rearranging and weeding the reference collection is one of the librarians biggest tasks.  We are opening up our reference area by removing some tall shelving, and we need to pair down the collection.   Overall, our print reference collection is getting much less use than it used to, and the students can put this area to better use.  Some reference materials are being reshelved in our circulating collection.  Other reference materials are being removed from the collection entirely (I’m pretty sure a guide to graduate fellowships from 1988 won’t be very useful to our undergraduates anymore).

The renovated space will be more useful to our students, more aesthetically pleasing, and represents our response to our users needs.