Downloadable data sets [OCLC]

Following on from my post on Linked data, OCLC have published bibliographic linked data of the most widely held works in WorldCat. The 1gb zip file of rdf data has the potential to be a great research tool for library and information professionals.

Mike Teets, OCLC Vice President for Innovation claims that:

 “This release will make it easier for the wider linked data community—commercial providers, retail organizations, researchers and scholars—to include library information in their workflows.”
Downloadable data sets [OCLC].

This project demonstrates what a valuable source of data libraries can be, and helps place the library at the forefront of the move towards a more semantically linked world wide web.

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Linked Data

A quick addition to my last post on the UK Web Archive. Reading a post on the National Archives blog about linked data raised an interesting question about the value of web archives. A key principle of the Word Wide Web is the idea of hyperlinking. Therefore if we archive a particular site but not any of the pages it links too, are we therefore losing a great deal of the semantic meaning of that website?

The idea of linked data itself is a very interesting theory that we covered as part of the digital information technologies and architectures module at City University London. The main idea behind linked data (sometimes known as the semantic web) is to provide context to information on the web through a Resource Description Framework (RDF). Each RDF contains a subject, relationship and object. An example of a RDF would be:

The context the rdf triple adds to the term ‘raven’ distinguishes it from other uses of the word such as ‘The Raven’, the Edgar Allan Poe story. This video by OCLC explains it better than me but hopefully you can begin to see why this would be valuable. As well as adding context to words, the RDF triples would allow users to explore concepts. For example if you wanted to know more about ravens you could explore the genus corvus.

The practicalities associated with the semantic web mean that for now its uses are going to be pretty limited but the possibilities are definitely interesting.

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UK Web Archive

Following on from my previous post, another article in the August CILIP Update caught my eye. This time it was Public Life Online: A Lasting Legacy, an article written by Maureen Pennock, the digital preservation manager at the British Library. The article gives an account of the UK Web Archive, set up in 2004 to act as a memory institution of digital material. While the National Archives are conducting a similar program, theirs is focused mostly on archiving central government websites. The British Library web archive in contrast is much more far reaching and ambitious in its aims, attempting to archive what are considered to be websites of cultural significance. Currently there are more than 10,000 different websites held in the archive as well as multiple copies of particular sites from different periods, allowing users to see changes over time.

Currently there are restrictions on which websites can be archived. The British Library is unable to crawl sites without the permission of the owner. However the selective nature of the UK Web Archive is probably a strength allowing it to function as a curated archive that says something about the UK online space. The British Library are currently archiving pages that:

  • reflect the diversity of lives, interests and activities throughout the UK;
  • contain research value or are of research interest;
  • feature political, cultural, social and economic events of national interest;
  • demonstrate innovative use of the web.

Quote from UK Archive Blog

This archive of online content certainly provides researchers with a rich source of information. As the article notes, when analytical software is applied to the archive it can show interesting trends such as emerging search terms. Storing multiple instances of a page could also prove useful for showing changing web technologies and website design.

The UK Web Archive is certainly an exciting project and it will be interesting to see how the British Library copes with making the archive accessible and pages findable as the content continues to grow. Looking at the UK Web Archive website, it seems that there is currently an attempt to classify material, allowing users to browse for websites on a particular subject such as medicine and health. This is also coupled with a full text search. Performing a few quick searches I found the search mechanisms to be very effective, allowing for keyword searching within a particular subject.

The archive seems to have been favorably received by the scholarly community as shown by this UK Web Archive blog post, particularly in the arts and humanities or social sciences disciplines.

The UK Web Archive is a great example of digital preservation and some of the unique challenges of dealing with material that is ‘born digital’ such as its constantly changing nature. Presumably there are also complex copyright issues associated with in a project such as this.

The article “Public Life Online: A Lasting Legacy”, by Maureen Pennock featured in the August 2012 edition of CILIP Update and is available to CILIP members at: http://www.cilip.org.uk/publications/update-magazine/pages/default.aspx

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Outsourcing

The article “Finding the Value in Corporate Libraries” is available to CILIP members in the August 2012 edition of CILIP Update available at: http://www.cilip.org.uk/publications/update-magazine/pages/default.aspx

I have just read a very interesting article in the August edition of CILIP Update on outsourcing in the information profession. Rob Corrao and Iain Dunbar of LAC Group, a professional services firm, argue against the fears that many in the information profession feel towards the term ‘outsourcing’ claiming that it can, in actual fact:

“transform knowledge and information managers who may be underused and under-appreciated into integral employees that add visible value to a business”

Having never worked in a commercial information position I do not have any first-hand experience of outsourcing myself. Even so, something about the term ‘outsourcing’ has always had negative connotations, suggesting loss of jobs and devaluation of the profession as a whole. However after reading the article and browsing the LAC Group website I am inclined to think that outsourcing may not necessarily be a bad thing. Firstly the article suggests that outsourcing is not necessarily about removing staff but rather freeing up the time of information professionals through introduction of new technologies or performing routine tasks off site. Interestingly the article noted that:

“managed services can mean leaving staff in-house but under the guidance of LAC where our staff member works as part of the team”

rather than necessarily taking everything off site. The main argument in favour of outsourcing seems to be that it reduces the costs of running an information team and that it frees up time for professionals to perform the task that represent real value to the company.

I do have some reservations as to whether outsourcing is limiting the number of entry level information jobs. With information teams becoming progressively smaller it seems to be very difficult to get a foot in the door. Even so it has been interesting to read another perspective on the issue.

Edit

Further reading on a library/information perspective of outsourcing:

Blog post by The Running Librarian http://www.therunninglibrarian.co.uk/2011/10/outsourcing-offshoring-and-right.html

Outsourcing in Law Firm Libraries by Rachel Pergament, Published on April 1, 1999. An old article but features an interesting case study of Baker and McKenzie. http://www.llrx.com/features/outsourcing.htm

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Introduction

When I decided to revive this blog I suddenly found myself faced with the realisation that I didn’t know what to write about. As the idea of a purely personal blog on my day to day experiences didn’t exactly seem thrilling I have decided to focus my attention on the field of library and information science.

First off a little about me. I am currently in the process of writing my dissertation to complete my masters in information science at City University London. The masters itself was a rewarding experience and hopefully at some point I will write a full account of my experiences and some advice for people thinking of studying library/information science. The dissertation? Well… lets just say its still very much a work in progress. For anyone thats interested, it is a study into social tagging and folksonomies on LibraryThing, looking particularly at what type of information users choose to convey through tags. How am I doing this? Well I’ll tell you! I’m doing it by collecting thousands of tags (I’m up to 1800 at the moment) and manually coding them in a grounded theory esq. approach. When writing my proposal this didn’t sound a particularly tall order, however several months in I’m beginning to regret my choice! Thankfully the data collection stage is nearly over and soon I get to try my hand at a bit of Excel wizardry to try and get some meaningful trends out of all these tags!

Alongside my dissertation I have been actively searching for a job. If collecting thousands of tags was a painful process it has been nothing in comparison to the soul destroying process of trying to find work! Thankfully I have managed to to find a part time job digitising archival material to work alongside the closing stages of my dissertation.

Digitisation is an area I have always had an interest in. While nothing can beat the experience of seeing the original records, the digitisation programs of major institutions such as the British Library and the Library of Congress have produced some fascinating results (see for example the interactive timeline by the British Library). However I am also interested in some of the potential problems associated with digitisation such as changing software and hardware, propitiatory file formats and accessibility. Hopefully this will form discussion points for future blog posts.

Anyway I think that is enough from now, the dissertation beckons…

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CILIP New Professionals Day 2012

A while ago I attended CILIP’s New Professionals Day which brought together a wide range of new information professionals for a day of talks, workshops and networking. Influenced by the day I have (finally!) decided to revive this blog that was originally intended for my masters coursework.

Ned Potter: You already have a brand! Here are 5 ways to influence it…

The day opened with a talk by Ned Potter on personal branding. I must admit I was initially skeptical about this one, expecting to be bombarded with marketing jargon. However I’m happy to say I was wrong! The talk was both engaging and informative and provided an energetic start to the day.

When I think of brand, my mind immediately seems to go to:

 

However these are examples of branding rather than a brand. Your personal brand is about how people perceive you and how you wish to be perceived by others rather than logos and fancy colour schemes. It is important to be aware that we all have a brand whether we like it or not. However the good news is that we have power over this brand.

An important point of the talk was that you do not need to be a super-librarian who blogs, tweets, presents, writes, publishes, organises events and in his spare time fights crime! Rather the best means of creating a personal brand is to focus on the areas and tools that suit your personality and career aspirations. Ned perhaps puts it a little more clearly:

“Ultimately, what gets you the job which pays your wages, is your ideas and the stuff on your CV which is relevant to that particular job. The whole process of building a brand, marketing yourself: that’s a means to the end of getting more opportunities to add exciting and relevant ideas and things on your CV, rather than an end in itself”

Ned Potter

The key is to match your brand to the path you want. Having said that their are certainly steps anyone can take to improve their personal brand. It is now pretty common practice for employers (or anyone one else for that matter) to Google your name. Social media can be used to turn this practice to your advantage. Probably the most important tool in this respect is LinkedIn. A LinkedIn account can act as your personal CV and gives you a professional online presence. Twitter also can be used to build your personal brand. However it is important to think about the tone and content of your tweets in light of how you wish to present yourself.

The most important message of all however was:

Continuing professional development adventures: What? Why? How?

Next up was the first of three workshops. Led by Emma Illingworth the aim of the workshop was to look at what CPD is, why we should be doing it, and how we go about it. My impression of CPD entering into the workshop was mostly of structured forms such as CPD23 and chartership. However the most important thing I took away was that CPD is something can can be done at any time and does not necessarily have to be a structured approach. This also dispelled the myth that CPD requires a significant investment of time and money.

Cyberlibrarians: Information management jobs in the digital age

My second workshop gave a great introduction to some of the IT related roles which may not traditionally be seen as librarian-esq jobs. The workshop was led by Lisa Hutchins and information architect and Richard Hawkins, the online information manager at CILIP.

It was interesting to see the parallels between the work of an information architect and more traditional forms of librarianship as well as hearing about the advantages and challenges of self employment.

A career in corporate libraries: The pitfalls and the profits

My final workshop looked at the role of corporate libraries an area I was especially interested in. I was especially interested in finding out how necessary specialist knowledge such as a law degree is to work in corporate libraries. The consensus seemed to be that the lack of a law degree was not necessarily a barrier to entry into the field as long as you could demonstrate an interest in the law as well as good solid research and information management skills.

Lunch

CILIP put on an amazing spread of burritos for lunch.

How to assemble your New Professional’s Toolkit

Bethan Ruddock’s talk introduced the key ideas of her book The New Professional’s Toolkit.  She argued for a new professionals ‘toolkit’ of networks, mentors, a plan, resources and a voice. As we Ned Potter’s talk the point was that there is not a one size fits all approach. Rather we should aim to use these tools to forge our own path and achieve our own aims.

Social Media

The final talk of the day by Phil Bradley demystified the world of social media. Phil stressed that as information professionals we should be actively engaging with all forms of social media. As one of the primary means of exchanging information, social media is an important tool and we should all be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of various networks.

Pub!

After the final talk many of us headed off to the pub giving us a chance to discuss the day. It’s a testament to all of the speakers and participants that the NPD2012 managed to inspire such lively debate. Overall the New Professionals Day was a hugely beneficial experience. I felt that I learned something from each of the talks and would definitely recommend anyone to attend the next one.

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DITA coursework 2: Web 2.0 and its applications for the library and information profession.

http://aspiringinfopro.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/dita-coursework-2-web-2-0/

According to Tim O’Reilly, the idea of Web 2.0 emerged out of the dot com bubble. He noted that companies that survived the collapse of the technological sector during the 1990’s had in common particular methods, concepts and technologies that allowed them to be cutting-edge compared to their competitors (Aanin-Yost, 2010). There are no hard definitions of Web 2.0 and the term is frequently surrounded by hyperbole and buzzwords. To act as a Launchpad for discussion Collins English Dictionary defines Web 2.0 as:

“the internet viewed as a medium in which interactive experience, in the form of blogs, wikis, forums, etc, plays a more important role than simply accessing information”

This definition certainly highlights one of the central characteristics of Web 2.0: that it is dynamic. Rather than seeing the users of the web as polarised between content producers and content consumers, the technologies that underpin Web 2.0 allow web content to be dynamic, with users playing the role of both producer and consumer. To use a simplistic example of the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, Britannica Online would represent Web 1.0 and Wikipedia Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005). Britannica articles are produced and published in (relatively) static form to be read by web users. Wikipedia in contrast is continually changing and any web user can act as a content producer, adding their own knowledge to an article. The blog is another example of how users are no longer simply consuming information on the web but actively publishing. Blogs are so successful because they provide a user friendly ‘what you see is what you get’ interface, allowing users with no prior experience of html to publish web content. Moreover the diary style format provides something instantly recognisable.

Another defining characteristic of Web 2.0 is that the web acts as a platform. In the world of Web 2.0 it is supposed that most computing activity will occur through the web rather than applications stored on the users pc. In this way the computer becomes less of a platform in itself and more akin to a portal to access the web. While we have yet to see a complete deviation from using computers in a traditional sense, there is certainly a continuing move towards the idea of ‘cloud computing’ as exemplified by the idea of the Google’s Chromebook, a laptop based on an operating system which, rather than using natively installed software, relies upon web applications such as Google Docs (Shiels, 2011).

The final key characteristic of Web 2.0 which has already been touched upon is the idea of collaboration. In What is Web 2.0, O’Reilly talks about the idea of harnessing the collective intelligence of a products user base through feedback, user reviews, and user-crafted social networks and points to how sites such as Amazon, Flickr, and Facebook depend on user participation (Casey and Savastinuk, 2006). Indeed sites such as Facebook provide virtually no content of their own and are completely reliant upon user contribution and collaboration. They are therefore a perfect example of a website which provides a service for others to share information rather than publishing themselves.

So how do Web 2.0 technologies influence the library and information profession? Web 2.0 technologies have certainly caused lively debate amongst library and information professionals. Some have heralded the technologies as vital if libraries are to remain relevant in the modern age. The term ‘library 2.0’, coined by Michael Casey on his blog ‘library crunch’ in 2006 places web 2.0 as central to the work of libraries and librarians (Aqil, Ahmad and Siddique, 2011).

There are numerous examples of Web 2.0 technologies being applied in the library environment. For example the City University Library catalogue features social tagging, allowing users to apply their own keywords to books and items to aid other users.

The concept of the tag as a non-hierarchical form of content description is not new to the information profession who have used concepts such as keyword indexing and subject headings. What makes tagging different however is that it allows users to contribute their own ideas and concepts to the material which may better reflect their information needs forming what is known as a folksonomy (Aqil, Ahmad and Siddique, 2011). Other examples of increasing the participation of users in their library service include the ability to rate and review items and share their favourite items with others through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The principle behind incorporating features such as these is to harness the knowledge of users in order to supplement and improve library services (Casey and Savastinuk, 2006). These techniques are also increasing the interactive nature of library services. Instead of the OPAC functioning as a simple portal to access the library catalogue database it becomes a platform on which users can tailor the way they access and use the libraries information.  It is important to note that in the case of social tagging for example, Web 2.0 technologies are not replacing existing library and information methods such as cataloguing with controlled vocabularies, but are rather being used to complement existing techniques. Moreover it would seem that techniques such as these are not necessarily revolutionising the way in which users interact with libraries. Generally these technologies are ‘tacked’ onto existing OPACs providing a degree of interaction by the user which is always secondary to the primary function of the OPAC.

A more interesting example of the possibilities afforded to libraries in the Web 2.0 environment is the open-source software Scriblio (http://scriblio.net/). Underpinned by WordPress, Scriblio seems closer to realising the ideal of Library 2.0.  The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Library have implemented Scriblio into their SmartCat catalogue describing how it “features Web 2.0 technology, such as faceted searching, interactive tag clouds, user comments and RSS feeds” (http://catalog.ust.hk/catalog/?page_id=2). On an example catalogue entry we can see how they have implemented some of the features of Web 2.0 into a library environment (http://catalog.ust.hk/catalog/archives/836286). For example it offers the ability for users to share a catalogue item over a large number of blogging and social networking sites, the ability to write comments on an item in a similar way to writing comments on a blog and even a QR code providing the title, location and call number on a mobile device. Unlike the City University library catalogue, the fact that Scriblio is built upon WordPress means that the web 2.0 features are much more tightly integrated into the user interface and allow users to play a much more active role in shaping the library service.

Web 2.0 is also providing libraries with a platform to publicise their services. The City University library for example is using twitter to reach out to its student population and provide announcements such as changes to opening hours and new acquisitions. For Casey and Savastinuk one of the great benefits of libraries participating in social networking is that it encourages regular customer feedback preventing what they consider to be a tendency for libraries to “plan, implement and forget”. Some libraries are encouraging feedback from users through means such as instant messaging to provide a digital reference service. Another innovative use of web 2.0 technologies which has potential applications for libraries is the idea of the mash-up. According to Merrill, a mash-up is an interactive web application which draws upon content from external data sources and combines them into a new service (Merrill, 2006). Currently the uses of mash-ups in a library context have not been explored fully and tend to be confined to councils plotting public library locations onto Google Maps for example.

Conclusion

This essay has looked at some of the practical applications of web 2.0 in a library and information setting. To conclude I would like to think more generally about the theoretical implications of web 2.0 on the nature of library and information services. To some degree the concept of Library 2.0 is not a revolution in library and information services but rather an evolution building upon the work that information providers have been performing for years. For example the incorporation of instant messaging into a library service is not necessarily creating a new role for the librarian but rather better allowing them to accomplish the role of reference service in the Web 2.0 age. However there certainly are some paradigmatic shifts brought about by these new technologies as noted by Jack Maness. Library 2.0 is in essence not simply about extending the reach of existing library services but rather about allowing users to have a collaborative input. As Maness states “The biggest change this will lead to is that rather than creating systems and services for patrons, librarians will enable users to create them for themselves” (Maness, 2006). This means librarians will have to relinquish some degree of control over the information contents of their service. I would also argue that there are also a number of areas where we must be cautious. The world of Web 2.0 is rapidly changing. As we have seen with Myspace, it is possible for a web service to very quickly fall out of favour and no longer be relevant. It is important therefore that libraries look long term at the implications of incorporating a site such as Facebook into their library service should that service disappear or be replaced. Another major hurdle when combining web 2.0 with library services, especially in the public library environment is privacy. As Litwin has noted one of the primary features of web 2.0 which makes them so useful is that users are sharing personal information about themselves (Litwin, 2006). It is this personal information that makes it possible to tailor services to meet their needs. However this leads to implications for library services about how they tailor their services to individual needs while at the same time ensuring that users do not inadvertently reveal too much information about themselves.

Aqil, M., Ahmad, P.,  and Siddique, M. (2011), Web 2.0 and Libraries: Facts and Myths, Journal of Library and Information Technology, Vol. 31, No. 5, Sep 2011, pp. 395-400.

Casey, M., and Savastinuk, L., Library 2.0: Service for the Next Generation Library, Available at: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6365200.html

City University London library catalogue, Available at: http://www.city.ac.uk/library/ (accessed: January 07, 2012)

Litwin, R. (2006). The Central Problem of Library 2.0: Privacy, Available from http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=68 (accessed: January 07, 2012)

Maness, Jack M. (2006), Library 2.0 Theory: Web 2.0 and its Implications for Libraries, Available at: http://www.webology.org/2006/v3n2/a25.html (accessed: January 07, 2012)

Merrill, Duane (2006), Mashups: The New Breed of Web Apps, Available at : http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/xml/library/x-mashups/index.html (accessed: January 07, 2012)

O’Reilly, Tim (2005), What is Web 2.0, Available at: http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html (accessed: January 07, 2012)

Shiels, Maggie (2011), Google unveils first Chrome powered laptops, Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13362111 (accessed: January 07, 2012)

SmartCat: about page, Available at: http://catalog.ust.hk/catalog/?page_id=2 (accessed: January 07, 2012)

SmartCat Example Catalogue Entry, Available at: http://catalog.ust.hk/catalog/archives/836286 (accessed: January 07, 2012)

web 2.0 definition. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers.  Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/web 2.0 (accessed: January 07, 2012)

Zanin-Yost, A (2010), Library 2.0: Blogs, Wikis, and RSS to Serve the Library, Library Philosophy and Practice, Sep, 2010

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