ScienceOnline 2010

This weekend I am in the Raleigh-Durham area for the Science Online 2010 conference.ScienceOnline2010 Logo

The ScienceOnline 2010 conference is a collection of science writers, bloggers and researchers gathered to discuss the dissemination of scientific information in all its forms online.  Of course, I think one could make the argument that almost all scientific communication is now online.  How many scientific publications aren’t available online?  None come to mind.

More specifically, topics at the conference relate to some of the new forms of communicating science (to the public and among scientists) – blogs, twitter, new forms of scientific journals, software applications and more.

I spend a large part of my time at work teaching undergraduate students about how scientists communicate with each other – teaching them to tell the difference between news stories aimed at the general public and scientific articles, teaching them how a review article is different than a primary research article.

One of the things I struggle with is how we teach students to deal with the new and exciting changes that are developing in science communication.  How can students evaluate a comment on a journal article over at PLoS ONE?  How can they locate a journal article that is available free in an institutional repository but not on the publishers web site?  Where does a blog post about a primary research article (like those at ResearchBlogging.org) fit in with news articles, primary research articles or review articles?

So far I have only attended one workshop and the opening keynote address, both of which have been excellent.  This conference is a great opportunity to discuss some of these issues with other folks who are thinking about the same things – I’m really looking forward to the sessions over the weekend.

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Decreasing budgets and increasing costs – working with faculty to mitigate the damage

Image courtesy of Flickr user ehisforadam
Image courtesy of Flickr user ehisforadam

Like many academic libraries, our library budget has recently been cut.  Last year, we dealt with the cuts by severely cutting our book budget and our student employee budget.  This year, the additional budget cuts made some journal cancellations necessary.  Most of our cuts involve canceling individual print or online subscriptions if we already had access via an aggregator (like ProQuest or Ebsco).  We have (thankfully) been able to almost completely make up our budget gap without loosing access to any content.

As a result of examining our journal subscriptions, the opportunity arose to subscribe to the full text geology resource GeoScienceWorld.  If we canceled individual subscriptions to journals that were available in GeoScienceWorld, we could almost make up the difference.  We would need to cancel a couple of other journals in order to make this feasible.

I thought that the increased content and ease of use provided by GeoScienceWorld made this a good move, and I took the question to the Geosciences department.

I created a list of individual journals we would need to cancel (that would be available GeoScienceWorld).  I created a list of journals that we would gain access to.  I also created a list of suggested cancellations we would have to make in order to make up the difference.  In creating my list of suggested cancellations, I worked hard to minimize the loss of content.

In a meeting with the Geosciences library representative and department chair, they were very receptive to my plan, even suggested some cancellations that I assumed would be ‘off limits’.

Overall, they understood the budget pressures – their departmental budget had also been cut – and they appreciated the fact that this decision was being left (mostly) in their hands.  The department chair was going to bring the information back to the department for a final decision – making sure that all the faculty are in the loop.

I am pleased with the communication between the library and the faculty on this issue, and I will try to use this example as a model in future decisions regarding departmental resources.

Librarians and Open Access – What are we Actually Doing?

ResearchBlogging.org

The librarians I’ve met at workshops, at conferences, and on the web, are generally strong supporters of open access. My impression has always been that our professional philosophy of providing information to our users free of charge (to them) fits very nicely with the philosophy of the open access movement.

Recently, I’ve started to wonder if our actions with regard to open access have any correlation with our professed opinions.

A recent article in the (subscription only) journal College and Research Libraries seems to support the idea that while we talk the talk, we aren’t very good at walking the walk, so to speak.

Kristi L. Palmer, Emily Dill, & Charlene Christie (2009). Where There’s a Will There’s a Way?: Survey of Academic Librarian Attitudes about Open Access College and Research Libraries, 70 (4), 315-335 Issue TOC

In this study, the authors surveyed academic librarians about their attitudes and certain actions regarding open access.

The authors conclude that while librarians believe that libraries should be educating users about open access and encouraging faculty to publish in open-access journals, they aren’t actually engaging in conversations about these activities. Librarians are also hesitant about devoting library resources to support open access.

One significant problem with this study was the failure to examine the publishing actions of librarians.  The actions discussed in the article mainly involved reading about open access and talking about open access with colleagues and faculty.  I was disappointed when reading the article, because to me, publishing in open access journals is one of the highest profile actions a librarian can take in support of open access.

In fact, if librarians are to have any credibility with others when we encourage them to explore open access publishing options, shouldn’t we be publishing in open access journals ourselves?

Symptomatic of the problem seems to be the lack of high-impact open access journals in library and information studies.  Open access journals in librarianship exist – there are 96 listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals website – but many of these service particular countries, specialties or publish infrequently.

This is something that librarians can change – publish in an open access journal, then talk about the experience with your colleagues and the faculty at your institution.  Support your beliefs with measurable action.

UPDATE – A College and Research Libraries Pre-print was posted this morning – The Open Access Availability of Library and Information Science Literature (PDF) – indicating that 27.5% of articles from the top 20 library journals could be found in open access full text online (either on the publishers website or in an institutional repository). So we aren’t publishing in OA journals, and we aren’t self-archiving most of the time either.

Are recent developments in scholarly communication relevant to undergraduates?


SCIENCE!
Originally uploaded by
viscousplatypus

On a weekly basis, a new article or editorial comes out discussing the shifting paradigm of how scientists communicate with one another.  According to many, the journal article – the mainstay of scientific communication – is about to undergo a major metamorphosis as blogs and new journal concepts affect how science is done.  A recent report from the Science Online London 2009 conference exemplifies this.

I am very excited about these changes, and I spend some of my time checking out real-time science blogs like Useful Chemistry, participating on online science networks like Nature Network, and exploring what PLOS ONE has to offer.

But how relevant are all of these new changes to the average undergraduate?  Do they need to know about them?  If they don’t need to know now, will they in the near future?

Most of the writing assignments I’m seeing are still asking students to find traditional scholarly articles as the only sources for their papers.  Most of the faculty at my small undergraduate institution are still very traditional with regard to scholarly communication.  A (very) few faculty still have to be convinced that an online journal is acceptable, and I wrote an email a few months ago explaining that PLOS Medicine is a highly regarded journal.

Until a consensus develops around what is scholarly and what isn’t in the online world, how are undergraduate students (who still need help telling apart a review article and a piece of original research) supposed to navigate these on-going changes?

In the short term, I don’t think that undergraduates need to know a lot about these developments, beyond their own personal interest in science blogs or online science news.  For the time being, a science student can successfully navigate his or her undergraduate education without an awareness of the scientific blogosphere or the concept of open science.

As much as I would love to share my excitement of all of these fascinating changes, I don’t think students need to know about them.  At the moment, I teach students about the basic differences between review articles, primary research articles and news articles.

In the future I will probably talk about blogs and social networks and how to access primary data sets – I’m looking forward to it.

Faculty Outreach


Handshake

Originally uploaded by Aidan Jones

Apparently, our day-long meeting last Tuesday started out as a collection development retreat.  Somewhere in the planning, our collection development librarian realized that we needed to take a step back and talk about how we communicate with faculty in general.  The topic is related to collection development through the library liaison program (or lack there of).

And so, as a result, almost all of the librarians at my library gathered off campus for a full day of discussion about what we are currently doing to reach out to faculty, what we wish we were doing, and what will be possible for us to do in the future.

I am one of the few librarians at my library with a very firm group of “constituents” – the science departments.  We have never had the staff to develop a complete library liaison program and have concentrated our energies on information literacy instruction, rather than hiring subject-specific bibliographers.

In our day-long retreat about faculty outreach, we were able to identify areas where we have been successful at reaching out to faculty (instruction), areas that we need some improvement in (collection development), and areas that we haven’t even dipped our toes in yet (scholarly communication).

After a lot of discussion, we were able to come up with a few goals for faculty outreach for the library as a whole:

  • Organize a faculty luncheon for department chairs, faculty reps, and other interested parties to discuss library issues (especially resources).
  • Improve and update our social networking presence.

We also decided to set a few goals for ourselves.  I wanted to set myself a few modest, concrete goals that I could check off (or not) at the end of the year.

  1. Contact each of my departments about visiting a department meeting for 10 minutes to discuss library resources and services
  2. Meet with Chemistry faculty to talk about changes to our chemistry information literacy program.
  3. Advertise our science-related library workshops to the science faculty

This is in addition to my normal reference, instruction and web design duties.  Perhaps I will write another post at the end of the year to see if I was able to meet my modest faculty outreach goals.

Libraries and mobile devices

Our new mobile web page
Our new mobile web page

Today is the Handheld Librarian conference. You can follow the tweets from the conference.  Around 11am I wish I had registered for it. Looking at all of the tweets about the technical problems, I’m not so disappointed. I am hoping that some of the information will be made available later on, because this is a subject I have been thinking about a lot for my library.

Recently, I created a very basic mobile webpage for our library.  At the moment, it contains three main pieces of information:  library hours, contact information, and links to a (very) few databases with mobile interfaces.

In my search for databases to include on this list, I was surprised by the low number of vendors with such interfaces.  I also wondered exactly how users would use these mobile resources.

In addition, we have been paying attention to what is happening with Kindle eBook readers.  There seems to be a lot of debate about how/if libraries can lend these out or take advantage of the eBook market in anyway.

I am an avid reader of eBooks on my iPhone, through the Kindle reader for iPhone and now the new Barnes and Noble eBook reader.  So far, the Kindle reader is easier to use.

I’m looking forward to seeing what other libraries are doing with mobile devices to provide content and services.

A day in my life as an undergraduate science librarian

I decided to follow along with a librarian blog meme, the “library day in the life“.  Since it is the summer, my day today is much different than a day during the semester.  The most notable difference is the lack of meetings.  Although the summer is a great time to make changes and get projects done, it can be very difficult to pull together all of the interested individuals.

Photo 4

7:55am – Arrive at work, Make tea.  The day can officially start.

8-8:30am – Check email, calendar.  Lots of folks are on vacation this week, which seems to account for my lack of meetings today.  Accept some future meeting invitations, decline others.  Realize that one librarian who had reference desk hours today won’t be here.  Email colleagues to see if we can split her hours.  Wishing Oracle calendar could actually interface with other things (esp. iPhone)

8:30am – Write up a blog post about our switch from SciFinder Client version to SciFinder Web.  Checking to see if appropriate URLs have been added to our proxy server so folks can get to SciFinder off campus.

8:50am – Got distracted by Explored Barnes and Noble’s new eBook reader for iPhone.  I already have the Kindle reader for iPhone, which I love.  I’d like to encourage some competition in the eBook market, though, so I think my next few purchases will be from B&N.

9:00am – First reference shift of the day, substituting for an absent colleague.   With very few students on campus, and even fewer in the library, this is very slow.  One person asked for tape, but no reference questions.

10am – Another hour of reference for absent colleague.  I will have three hours of reference today, one more than usual.

While at the reference desk this morning I manage to:

  • Catch up on a few blogs
  • Chat with our Sys admin to get some ezproxy settings changed for the switch to SciFinder web
  • Resolve a broken link in the blog post I just wrote
  • Smile and wave at a tour group as they point out the research help desk
  • Review a list of action items for a campus wide committee I’m on
  • Figure out why a link won’t work in our Resources by Subject lists
  • Explore possible ways of fixing that link, which is being problemmatic.
  • Finally fix the troublesome link
  • Smile and wave again at another tour group
  • Added google analytics to our new mobile webpages
  • Answered 1 reference question (How to find a copy of Civilization and its Discontents)

11:00am – Make tea, get a snack.

11:10am – Start cleaning desk.  Constant distractions as I stop to look up interesting things from the pieces of paper I should be throwing away or filing.  Some of the interesting things:

  • Math books from the MAA
  • IOP Librarian Forum on Facebook
  • Articles from sample copies of magazines I picked up at SLA 2009 in June
  • Finally figured out how to import our library blog to our library Facebook page. Did the same thing for my own blog on my own Facebook page. Also claimed the vanity URL for our library page.

12:15pm – Read an article about “making chat widgets work for online reference” from Online magazine (not freely available online).  Passed it along to a colleague who is on the committee working to implement web chat here.

12:30pm – Lunch.  Tried to read a Barnes and Noble eBook on my iPhone, but spent 15 minutes trying to “unlock” the book with my credit card number.  Why can’t I just log in to my B&N account?  Kindle reader wins this round.

1pm – Committee Meeting – “Creating a Collaborative Research Center”. I am on a campus committee here to look at ways to increase collaborative research (and the funding for that research).

2pm – Back on the reference desk, updating the Geology subject guideDistracted by Explored the neat search options on Mindat.org.  Finished adding some excellent resources.  Emailed faculty to inform them of the changes and to ask for additional suggestions.

3pm – Finally answered a real reference question just as my reference shift was ending.  Student was looking to see if we had any of the movies she had to watch for an assignment (most were checked out, but one was still available).

3:30pm – Head home.  I’m leaving early on Monday and Tuesday of this week to spend some time with my family.  This helps balance out all the times during the semester where I will stay late.