Friday, 12 April 2013

Thoughts on Really Useful Library Technology


Really Useful Library Technology (Plenary Session 4, Wednesday 10th April 2013)

Chairing the first session the morning after the night before is never an easy feat, but Ed Pentz did it with aplomb. The plenary was almost full, which was a fantastic turnout considering the “all the fun of the fair” themed conference dinner had the usual free champagne and slap-up dinner in addition to bumper cars, an inflatable laser quest game and sideshow stalls. We also saw the return of (what I believe to be) the infamous UKSG fight. My colleague Vicky and I witnessed a glass being thrown and swiftly decided it was time to go back to our hotels to protect the safety of our cuddly panda and frog proudly won at the hook-a-duck stall. Thankfully it didn’t seem to spoil anyone’s fun, with rumours surfacing on Wednesday morning of librarians stripping down to their underwear to ride the Bucking Bronco.
Ed delivered a brief report on resource discovery tools and mentioned a tender next week (week commencing 15th April) for an exciting May-September project. He said it would be discussed in more detail at the NISO meeting, acknowledged Sarah Price from UKSG for her help with the study and then handed over to the session’s main speakers.
Liam Earney, JISC Collections
First to take the stage was Liam Earney from JISC Collections, with the talk title Maximising the knowledge base – the community-driven initiatives KB+ and GoKb. This talk is one I was particularly interested in as I have a soft spot for JISC, having seen its employees speak regularly since the start of my academic publishing career. After attending a pre-conference webinar on the subject in the run up to the conference I was keen to learn about these initiatives in more detail.
KB+ is a new UK service to fund shared services to capture and present information needed by services for list management, to be made available to all other parties and vendors who need it. This is a step towards addressing the fundamental problem with supply chain data; that nobody seems to be clear about what a library subscribes to. Liam shared an example of a librarian who found that neither his/her sales rep or subscription agent knew what he/she subscribed to, and also claimed that publishers don’t actually know what is on their title lists, tend to hold multiple versions, and are not good at communicating updates. Availability, especially for archival data, is also a significant problem.
For the big four knowledge bases, there is often duplication of effort as there are no distinct differences between them and they are all a big task to update and so institutions are required to manage multiple silos that hold subscription data and don’t share information with each other well (if at all).
The resolution approaches of KB+ aim to: 
·         Share and collaborate with everyone and anyone
·         Reduce the burden on any one element of the supply chain
·         Provide globally relevant information
·         Facilitate national purchases of journal archives
·         Provide context to national and local holdings information
·         Share information with third parties
·         Divide up work to reflect areas of expertise
·         Enrich data by joining it up and providing more useful information
·         Provide OA title level data
·         Ease decision making
·         Allow humans to turn information in to intelligence
·         Share knowledge
·         Communicate and clarify best practice standards
·         Ensure accurate implementation of standards
·         Push responsibility to the publisher
·         Set data free (Ben Showers at UKSG 2012 urged us to let data be promiscuous!)
·         Tidy data before sharing
G      GoKB is similar, and is a US-based community-sourced knowledge base with an open license.
Simon Inger, Renew Training
Simon Inger - whose E-Journals Technology training course I am on the waiting for - was up next, speaking about Library technology in content discovery - evidence from a large-scale user survey. Simon opened by explaining that he spends a lot of time looking at routes to content (discovery channels). But it is hard to know who is doing what: although publishers know where readers are referred to their content platforms form, it is very unusual for them to be able to say who exactly the users are unless they are registered as individuals on the the platform. Librarians can't get access to many/any more statistics than those provided to them by publishers.
The 2012 update of the 2005 and 2008 survey on reader navigation (How Readers Discover Content in Scholarly Journals) took over a year to complete, with the aim of being able to make regional statements about the results. It was mostly filled in by researchers, but some students and lecturers took part too. The survey was disseminated by publishing partners who were selected to achieve a good subject area spread, and was available in the English language only.
Participants were asked about their preference of search engine, devices, resources, apps and publisher website feature. The results can be broken down by region, income, job role, subject area and sector. A full report is available online and questions focused on the immediate past (for example, "think about the last article you looked at") rather than historic recollections from a lengthy period of time.
Some of the headline results were:
  • Life Sciences researchers spend as much time using journal alerts as they do searching.
  • Life Sciences students spend much more time researching than students of other subjects.
  • Undergraduates prefer to use Google as opposed to Google Scholar
  • Medicine and Life Sciences researchers make heavy use of Abstracting & Indexing services
  • Social Scientists use library webpages much more than Physical or Life Scientists
  • Social Scientists use aggregators such as ProQuest much more than Physical or Life Scientists
  • Use of journal alerts has declined in popularity overall
  • Use of journal alerts is growing in Chemistry
  • More users are bookmarking publisher websites and journal homepages than in previous surveys
  • Humanities students and researchers use library search pages more than those from other subject areas do
  • The relative importance of library-purchased discovery resources differs a lot by subject
  • Google Scholar is the most popular search engine for respondents in the Social Sciences, Education and Psychology areas
  • For all other subject areas, Google is more widely used than Google Scholar
  • Physicists use Google more than other Scientists (perhaps because they want more than just academic data)
  • Desktops and laptops are still the most popular devices
  • Interest in tablets is growing quickly in the medical sector
  • Government researchers and academic researchers use smartphones less than other groups
Simon stressed the importance for publishers to understand the differences by subject area and region, and not to assume all users have the same preferences.

As I work for a publisher, I found this plenary one of the best and am keen to drill down in to the results of the Renew Training survey (my employer has purchased this and the head of our Research & Business Intelligence Team has put together some summary graphs for us). The Summary Edition is available here: http://www.renewtraining.com/How-Readers-Discover-Content-in-Scholarly-Journals-summary-edition.pdf

Jennifer Lovatt is an eProduct Manager for Taylor & Francis. This was her second UKSG conference.




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