Journey to Full Text Finder: A Pilgrim’s Progress

I gave this presentation at the recent EDS Conference in London.  EDS stands for EBSCO Discovery Service, a resource discovery interface which allows users to explore a whole library collection from a single search page, rather than multiple catalogues.

Image credits: all British Library public domain unless otherwise stated (images linked to source)

Journey to Full Text Finder: A Pilgrim's Progress (with apologies to John Bunyan)

A pilgrim with staff

I based my presentation on the idea of the migration from the old A-to-Z admin to the new FTF (Full Text Finder) admin as a pilgrim’s journey.

Here are three definitions of a pilgrimage (source: Oxford Dictionaries).   My experience of migrating to FTF has something in common with all three dimensions!

pilgrimage /ˈpɪlɡrɪmɪdʒ/ 1 A pilgrim’s journey; 1.1 A journey to a place of particular interest or significance; 1.2 (chiefly literary) Life viewed as a journey

Let’s consider the origin of the word “pilgrim”… It first appeared in Middle English from the Provençal pelegrin, from Latin peregrinus meaning ‘foreign’, from peregre ‘abroad’, from per– ‘through’ + ager ‘field’… Which brings us neatly back to a familiar aspect of EDS: field [codes].

Slide3

How to prepare for a pilgrimage? Here is St Luke with an ancient laptop 😉

St Luke

To prepare for your pilgrimage, begin with a period of study and reflection, and seek answers to the following questions:

  • What (place you’re aiming for) – destination
  • How (plan) – break down into stages
  • When (particular times) – milestones
  • Where [else] (repercussions) – knock-on effects of the change e.g. linking, user guides, library staff training and expectations, academic staff
  • Who (people) – corral your team: self, colleagues, EBSCO – and keep in touch with them
  • Why (purpose) – improvements to self/system (and because we have to…)

Remember ‘what’ and ‘why’ to guide you when other plans need to change.

Now we have a beautiful plan mapped out!

John Bunyan, The Road From the City of Destruction to the Celestial City (Wikimedia Commons)

What could possibly go wrong?  Unfortunately, the Slough of Despond is also on the map…

Slide8

Testing times – and again, preparation is key.

Slide9

Prepare – parley with your fellow pilgrims. Speak to people at this conference, at any networking opportunity, use the EDS Partners maillist. People are generally more generous at sharing rather than reporting.  Andrew Preater recently wrote about this in the context UX (user experience) work, suggesting reasons such as time, money, culture, competitive edge, external validity, fear of criticism or lack of confidence in the work.  I think all these are true in the discovery environment, and I learn much more from a face-to-face conversation than I could from searching for text-based information on the web.

Contingency – build in extra time, and then some more, and keep your real deadlines private (EBSCO are probably doing this too).

Murphy’s Law decrees that tasks won’t be finished early — especially when you need them to be. Some things will go wrong and take longer.  You just don’t know which ones…

Get involved – learn as much as you can, and watch everything that is going on in the migration project.

Let go – be clear about what you can’t control. Let EBSCO be responsible for their bit.

Have we now reached the Enchanted Ground?

Slide10

It’s the end of one journey, and the beginning of the next chapter, as the migration of data is complete and the phase of testing begins.

  • Checking… everything: databases (screenshot of comparing old/new EDS), authentication… and all this takes time
  • Updating guides
  • Updating staff
  • Update linking, and monitor integration with reading list software (which is itself being upgraded in August)
  • New single search box
  • …At same time as launch of new library website

But there are some positives:

  • At least we will only have 1 authentication system!  From 1st August, we are only using Single Sign-On (no more Classic Athens)
  • Good opportunity to review branding
  • Useful to have site visit from EBSCO

Effect on other areas of library work e.g. serials management, acquisitions decisions – no specific effect of FTF yet, but interoperability of subject content with discovery interface from same/similar vendor is becoming very important.

Alain bringing the Grail

Have we now found the Holy Grail of better search and discovery?  For me, “better” means a closer match between expectations and reality.

I normally present about projects I’ve worked on in the past, and the distance between the event and the present helps me to remember and comment on it calmly.  This time, the move to FTF is still in progress, and I am surrounded by the intense pressure on me to have everything working perfectly. I need to remind myself that I will do everything as well and as fast as I can, but I can’t be responsible for the things beyond my control.

I also find it helpful to remember the broader context around this Holy Grail of library discovery.  Even if the FTF migration all goes to plan, it’s not going to solve all our problems. I sometimes feel that librarians put too much faith in some mystical, expensive technology to transform our students into graduates, our academics into researchers, and our investment in content into KPIs and targets met. So I will leave you with some thoughts on this alchemy…

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

Do we prefer a simple but wrong answer to one that is complex but right?

In the first boom of the book-printing industry in Venice in the 1500s, some thought that more books would bring more learning. But… most people were illiterate.

In the sphere of learning, academia, and information literacy, we believe that more teaching, greater volume of published works, and more complicated discovery technology will bring more learning, more satisfied users, better feedback. But… learning to read and think for yourself is difficult.

What is the limiting factor? Is it tools, or human skills?  If the core of a problem is “humans”, the solution won’t be found elsewhere.

When looking for solutions, we must be be sure to define an appropriate problem.

Black Books season 1, episode 1 “Cooking the Books” (Channel 4)

Thank you to EBSCO staff Seoud, Adam, and Abid, with whom I have been working closely on this project.

For the audience, please take a moment now to note 3 ideas you’ve had during the course of this talk, 3 people you’d like to meet, and 3 questions you’d like to ask – and let’s see if during the course of this conference, we can connect you with people who can help you on your pilgrimage.

Pilgrim’s Path, Holy Island of Lindisfarne (photo by me) – the end of St Cuthbert’s Way long-distance hiking route

Update: find out how I got on in Journey to Full Text Finder – arrival in the Celestial City

Gatekeeping – usertypes and permissions

Adapted from a poster presentation given at an internal event at the University of Sunderland

How old do you have to be to…? [jurisdiction: England & Wales]

Apply to adopt a child / Become a blood donor / Buy fireworks / Choose your own doctor / Claim benefits, and obtain a National Insurance number / Get married (with parental consent) / Get married without parental permission / Go into a bar and order soft drinks / Have a tattoo / If you were adopted, you can see your original birth certificate / Join the armed forces (with consent of parent/s or carer) / Make a will / No longer entitled to free full time education at school / Open your own bank account / Order your own passport / Pawn things in a pawn shop / Play the National Lottery (though not place a bet in a casino or betting shop) / Supervise a learner driver (if held driving licence for same type of vehicle for 3 years) / Vote in local and general elections / Wearing a seatbelt is considered your own personal responsibility

How old do you have to be to…?

Here are the answers – did you get them all correct?

21 Apply to adopt a child / 17 Become a blood donor / 18 Buy fireworks / 16 Choose your own doctor / 16 Claim benefits, and obtain a National Insurance number / 16 Get married (with parental consent) / 18 Get married without parental permission / 14 Go into a bar and order soft drinks / 18 Have a tattoo / 18 If you were adopted, you can see your original birth certificate / 16 Join the armed forces (with consent of parent/s or carer) / 18 Make a will / 19 No longer entitled to free full time education at school / 18 Open your own bank account / 16 Order your own passport / 18 Pawn things in a pawn shop / 16 Play the National Lottery (though not place a bet in a casino or betting shop) / 21 Supervise a learner driver (if held driving licence for same type of vehicle for 3 years) / 18 Vote in local and general elections / 14 Wearing a seatbelt is considered your own personal responsibility

How old do you have to be to… – answers

Are these laws are consistent?  How is this related to the way in which they have developed?

Licences for electronic resources have evolved over time, and inconsistencies can appear because of historical precedent.  Consider the following table, showing a range of resources, and which types of people may access them:

Who do you need to be in order to access

This table is created by consulting the “authorised users” section of the licence for each resource.

Of those who are not current staff or students, it is walk-in users who receive the most generous entitlements.  This is because walk-in users have long been permitted to access print periodicals in academic libraries, and nowadays this is extended to include electronic journals (still within the library only).

The access entitlements of retired staff and “retired students” (i.e. alumni) are different, probably because it is assumed that retired staff will use this access to pursue academic research, whereas many alumni will be working in commercial settings.  If alumni were allowed access to their alma mater‘s academic subscriptions, this could damage the publishers’ income from commercial licences for their information products, so publishers do not permit alumni access for their products.  NB: some publishers allow alumni access for an additional fee, and usually for information resources for which there is no significant revenue from the commercial sector.

I’ve been working on a project to increase the granularity of our Single Sign-On authentication system, so that it can accommodate different types of users, and allow each group to access only the resources within its permission set.  I used this presentation to make the concept of usertypes and permitted resources more tangible, especially for people who don’t work in the e-resources (or indeed library) environment.

Resource discovery and hard-to-reach users

I gave this presentation at the recent EDS Conference in Liverpool.  EDS stands for EBSCO Discovery System, a type of resource discovery interface which allows users to explore a whole library collection from a single search page, rather than multiple catalogues (e.g. for books, e-resources, and special collections).

Find out more about the EDS Conference on the conference site, and from Emma Coonan‘s Storify summary.

EDS and hard-to-reach users

What makes a group hard to reach?

Presentation slide 1Hard-to-reach users fall into 4 broad groups:

  1. Can’t – obstacle such as geography or technology e.g. partner college students and staff; IT/email issues
  2. Won’t – passive non-engagers e.g. students, library staff
  3. Shan’t  – attitude of change-resistance or even hostility e.g. academics, library staff
  4. Last mile, or the last 10%, or the high-hanging fruit – law of diminishing returns.  It’s hard to get everyone on board. Give yourself a break about this group – you can’t force them; you can only provide opportunities for them to engage.

The adoption curvePresentation slide 2

Source: Rogers, E. (2003) Diffusion of innovations, 5th ed. New York: Free Press, p410.

The adoption curve is often applied to technology, but applies to all change.  People respond to innovations in very different ways.  Rogers groups these behaviours as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

User behaviour typesPresentation slide 3

  • Innovators – first to adopt, risk-tolerant, social
  • Early adopters – more selective, highest opinion leadership, and highest social status.  These are the people with influence, not the innovators.
  • Early majority – after a slow start, the innovation is taking hold once this group are on board.  They are seldom opinion leaders, but have above-average social status.
  • Late majority – a sceptical group, with little opinion leadership, and below-average social status.
  • Laggards – these are the last to adopt, as they treasure tradition.
  • Also – leapfroggers! When former resistors upgrade, they will often need to skip several generations in order to reach the most recent technologies.  Maybe you know someone who has never had a home computer, but has a tablet.  Another example is telephone networks in rural areas – landlines were too expensive to set up, but once mobile phones and better reception became commonplace, such communities went directly to having mobile phones, skipping over the landline stage.

StrategiesPresentation slide 4

Use different approaches, and with different groups of people, as the implementation of your resource discovery tool progresses.

Pilot it with the innovators – these people will enjoy testing the system, and will perceive bugs or gaps as challenges to overcome, rather than as flaws of the system.

Nail it with the influencers, whose buy-in you need in order to bring the early majority on board.  This is a time for final tweaks only; the system itself must be reliable by this point.

Scale it with the early majority, and milk it with the late majority.  Do what you can for the laggards, and don’t be too hard on yourself and your marketing efforts if they refuse to join in.

Although the resistance of the laggards is an obvious obstacle, the late majority can also be a difficult group to win over because they tend to be sceptical.  Continuity makes people feel secure (especially in academia), and the late majority may feel stressed if they can see that those around them have adapted and they haven’t.  Furthermore, if they took an entrenched negative view early on, it will be hard for them to change their minds and come on board.

Tailor-made messagesPresentation slide 5

Tailor-made marketing messages are essential for spreading awareness of and engagement with your new discovery tool.

For whom? Consider your audience.  Different messages for different users.  Are you communicating with new students, returning students, academic staff, library staff, other groups?

What?  Sometimes the core message is enough; others may need more detailed or more technical information.  Pitch your message according to how much your target group need to know.  For academics, use flattery – a key academic liaison technique!  This could involve making it clear that interface is primarily for students, or aiming high with detail in the hope that 10% might be retained.  Academics are impressed by someone who knows details, even if they don’t understand them.

When? Don’t just do it once!  Repetition.  Don’t be afraid to do virtually the same thing again and again.  Repetition.  Other factors, not least of all the participants’ willingness to co-operate, and need for your information, will be different each time.  Repetition…

How?  Recycle and repackage your messages.  Use a variety of methods: live presentations, demos, leaflets, videos, screenshots, handouts, webpages – different media appeal to different people.

Don’t give up hope with laggards – one of them may be a leapfrogger!  If you have an academic who resisted the shift from print to electronic journals, a new tool could provide a way for them to appreciate the flexibility of e-journals from a different perspective.

Board the good ship Discover as you embark on your voyage across the Sea of Information!

At today’s Student & Learning Services innovation event, I was presenting about Discover, our resource discovery interface.  I decided to go with a seafaring theme…

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Laptop, map, and parrot ready to roll

When landlubbers came t’see me display, I’d invite them to sit awhile and hear me yarns of adventure on the high seas…  Here be the map:

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As ye set sail on the Sea of Information, trust not the shoddy raft of Google for yer academic research.  Rather, board the good ship Discover and I’ll see yer safely through the choppy waters.

Beware the Login Cliffs, the steepest face of the paywall coast of the Island of Knowledge.  I’ll see you safely past, with Single Sign-On.  

As we reach Search Point, you must choose between the Basic or Advanced route.  Use the Facet Sharks to narrow down your search results.

If the wind is rising and you need to take cover, rest awhile at MyDiscover Cove, a folder where you can store your search results for future reference. 

Carry on to A-to-Z Bay to go directly to the resource or platform you need, or head straight for Full Text Beach.  Beware the Data Pirates, a lawless bunch with scant respect for copyright, or the terms and conditions of our e-resources licenses.

X marks the spot where you will find your treasure chest of knowledge, and you can rest awhile and read.  When you’re ready to set sail again, fish for new citations at Abstract Lake, and these will set you off on a new research adventure…

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Aaaaaaaaaaar, me hearties!

Presenting with Prezi

This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.

Prezi

I began this task with some degree of trepidation, having explored Prezi in the past but failed to make it do what I wanted it to do.

However, now that you can ‘Prezify’ Powerpoint slides, I am finding Prezi much easier to use, and here is the outcome of my recent efforts:

Welcome to St Hugh’s College Library on Prezi

I know I’m still a long way off being a ninja Prezi user, but it has restored my hope that I can learn how to use this, and will definitely have another go with it the next time I’m presenting.

Slideshare

I use Slideshare for stashing presentations I’ve made so that other people can access them (sadly only one on there at the moment).

Highlights from Oxford Social Media Day 2011

Oxford Social Media Day 2011 took place on 8th September.  I live-tweeted the event and you can search for #osm11 on Twitter for all related tweets.

Now that many libraries are using social media, this aim of the day was to be inspired to take it further.  Our  five speakers did an excellent job and here are my top take-home tips.

  • Jo talked about how librarians interact with many different groups of users and stakeholders in our work, and asked us each to prepare a 30-second elevator pitch to market our skills to one of those groups.
  • This was great for practising my skills in “selling” the library and its services to senior management, students or academics.
  • People will infer things from your brand even if you don’t actively manage it.  For the next exercise, we had to think of 3 words or phrases to describe the brand we would like to convey.
  • Use namecheckr  to see if your username is available on a range of social sites
  • It’s important to keep your brand consistent across different social media sites
  • In social media, commitment to community not the tool is important – go to the sites where your users are.

Public library social media policy #osm11

  • Public libraries & museums act 1964 – key legislation relating to how public libraries operate today
  • Some things you don’t know in advance, and can’t predict if a venture will work – you just have to try it out
  • Need qualitative data to assess effectiveness of service delivery
  • Risk aversion makes things difficult (same problem in universities)
  • Use social media for service delivery – go beyond using it simply as an announcement service
  • The worst possible social media strategy: “we want a Facebook/Twitter/whatever page”
  • Libraries can get involved in online forums as well as the main social media sites
  • What would you expect from a public library’s social media presence?

Ideas from the audience: Mumsnet, catch kids young, involve community groups, book clubs, humour

Ideas from people on Twitter: Direct contact with someone who can answer queries, not just referral to an FAQ page (via @stormfilled); Up-to-date info & speedy, personal, informal response to enquiries (via @archelina)

Marketing academic libraries in a web 2 world

View more presentations from Ned Potter
  • Social media gives great opportunity to listen as well as post
  • No one cares about the “how” – focus on benefits not features, outcomes not process (in the words of @radfemburlesque: Don’t say “hey, we have books” – say “hey, we can get you a first / make your 2.1 less work”)
  • Recommended sites for Twitter analysis: Twocation, Tweetstats, Klout. Focus on improving engagement stats rather than how many followers you have
  • Use Facebook to rescue buried treasure – highlight features of the library
  • “One minute on… “ technique for making short and snappy videos. e.g. One minute on e-journals
  • Use focus groups to get useful and honest feedback about your service

Andrew Hood from Lynchpin Analytics on Measuring social media success (presentation available to download)

  • Monitoring vs measurement – translating what we’ve measured into “has it worked?”
  • The monitoring challenge: capture, collate, filter, category, sentiment, classify, trend, risk analysis, respond
  • Risk analysis – or opportunity analysis (turn problem into opportunity?)
  • Don’t report on something if you can’t do anything about it – use metrics for factors you can influence
  • Monitoring tips: set up RSS searches and collate
  • Measuring tips: document KPIs, use Google Analytics, benchmark by traffic source & engagement

Duncan Smith of iCompli on Social network sites: managing risks (presentation available to download)

  • Something defamatory + published = libel. Things previously said in private now published publicly
  • Not allowed to run competitions on Facebook
  • Contempt of court: do not publish anything to do with a court case (esp. imp. for local authorities)
  • Employee use of social networks – employees with access should have ‘basic’ legal training
  • BBC’s guidance/policy docs on social media – managers “should not adopt an overly restrictive approach”
  • You are responsible for moderated comments on your blog because you authorised/published them
  • Good idea to have a “notice and take down” procedure – could be just an email address to contact
  • Data Guidance – good for legal info (subscription resource)

A very thought-provoking day… I find myself dwelling on issues of the last presentation in particular.

I would love to think that most employees are intelligent enough to know what is appropriate use of social media (or ask if they’re not sure) and I worry that too much bureaucracy will extinguish the sparks of imagination and creativity that make social media such a dynamic and fun way to reach out to our users.

I’m pondering how to write a titanium* social media policy that would still have enough oomph to be meaningful and act as a useful tool for staff; while avoiding being just another work-related document that you have to sign to say you have read but then forget about**.

*Low density, lightweight but strong.  See what I did there?
**Examples: equal opportunities policy, smokefree policy, use of IT policy, health and safety policy, fire safety policy (I could go on)… all worthy aims but bogged down by documents that can feel more like a noose than an airbag.

Reflections on ‘the other place’

Earlier this week, Oxford hosted a conference of college librarians from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.  The theme of the day was ‘co-operation, collaboration and competition’: we had speakers on this topic in the morning, followed by a choice of library/archive visits in the afternoon and time for networking.

The college libraries combine providing information for students and academics like a higher education library; within a physical environment which is part museum, part den; and an atmosphere which is generally more permissive and accommodating than the faculty libraries.  I think our college libraries are quite unique in this way, and it is a great help for us to get together to share ideas in a context that recognises our peculiar situations.

At this event, I spoke about my experiences of working at the Bodleian Libraries compared with working in a college library, and where the main areas of co-operation, collaboration and competition are:

The Bodleian Libraries group is a large organisation (some 750 employees, full-time-equivalent) and I enjoyed the big community aspect of working there.  By contrast, working in a college can be quite lonely, and I’m glad that I came to my current role with experience of working in Oxford libraries, so I have professional contacts close by.

On the negative side, because the Bodleian Libraries group is so large and has so many layers of management, the process for making decisions can be cumbersome and slow.  Also, there have recently been many staff changes at a high level in the organisation, which can bring problems such as a lack of continuity and stability if not handled very carefully.

In the college environment, I enjoy the budget freedom that I have from being the head of my department.  There is top-level support for personal and professional development, which I find very encouraging.  When a decision is made, for example at Library Committee, the decision will generally be backed up and not challenged further after it has been made, which is a great spur to getting things done.  Although colleges and their libraries vary considerably in many respects, we can benchmark against each other.  Bodleian Libraries do not really have any comparable organisations (not even Cambridge, as their libraries as less integrated than at Oxford), but it should not be assumed that this means they are automatically the best at everything.

The working environment in a college is much nicer, especially as college staff have a free lunch every day, and tea and coffee are provided in the mornings and afternoons.  We also have all-staff social occasions at least once a year.

However, colleges are very hierarchical places to work, and I find that social differences such as separate common rooms and lunch arrangements for staff of different status reinforce the divisions between us and can act as an obstacle to everyone working together effectively.  It can also take a long time to become accepted in an organisation that is by nature conservative and resistant to change.

Another interesting point is that as a college librarian, you have to be multi-skilled because you need to cover a great range of skills in a very small team.  I think it would be interesting to develop more skills-sharing between colleges, and if anyone wants me to come and show them how to navigate SFX/OUeJournals or MetaLib/OxLIP+ more effectively, I would be glad to!

I have now had three different jobs at the University of Oxford, and I have sometimes been surprised at how low the expectations can be.   Broadly speaking, the expectations seem to be that keeping a service running is sufficient; not improving or developing it.

Before I moved to Oxford, I expected that the libraries here would be leading the way in user education, resource discovery and the use of space in libraries, but I often worry that we are in fact falling behind other UK higher education libraries.

Finally, here are some examples of co-operation, collaboration and competition between the Bodleian Libraries and the colleges:

Cooperation

  • Graduate trainee scheme: trainees from colleges and Bodleian Libraries participate in the scheme together, and there is a mutual benefit to learning about each others’ roles and experiences
  • Most Bodleian staff development and training events are open to college library staff at no cost
  • During the current decant of closed-stack Bodleian items from Oxford to Swindon, the college libraries have helped readers by allowing them to access texts in college libraries when the Bodleian copy is in transit and inaccessible

Collaboration

  • In the summer of 2011, the OLIS library management system is being switched from GEAC Advance to Aleph.  The steering group for this project has Bodleian and college library representation
  • Circulation Forum and Cataloguers’ Forum involve staff from a range of libraries
  • There is a wide variety of skills in our combined staff pool e.g. cataloguing, conservation, management, social media – and we could make even more use of this

Competition

  • E-resources cancellation fees: the fees incurred when college libraries cancel subscriptions to print periodicals are not paid by the colleges but by Bodleian Libraries.  Colleges have made very small contributions to this cost in the past, and discussions are now under way to increase this amount in order that colleges provide a fairer proportion of the total cost
  • Non-Bodleian libraries which use OLIS pay an annual subscription which stayed the same for many years, and an agreement has now been reached to bring this charge up-to-date with current costs and include a proviso for future review
  • The Bodleian has very strict cataloguing standards for adding records to OLIS.  This is because much of their material is in closed stacks, so readers need detailed records in order to judge if the item is what they require, as they cannot browse the shelves; and as a legal deposit library, OLIS catalogue records are regularly exported to other databases so the standard needs to be high as other institutions will be copying these records.  However, this standard is rather over-the-top for a college library such as mine, where students can access the vast majority of our books on open shelves, and are usually looking for items from a reading list, so a simple author and title search will normally suffice.  I would be keen to develop a system whereby I could create simpler catalogue records for items unique to my library, and have a filter applied so that these records are excluded from the exporting pool.

Note: ‘the other place’ is a term used by people at Oxford or Cambridge to describe those at the other; and perhaps from now on, to be used in the same way by people at Bodleian Libraries or colleges!