Intuitive interfaces

I think there is a limit to how “intuitive” library resource discovery tools can be.  The more complicated the system behind the interface, the more one needs to know about how it works in order to use it well.  This is different from usability, which is about optimising the match between user intention and means to achieve it.

Do you remember the brief fashion for federated search in the late 2000s?  These interfaces were promoted as a simple way to search multiple databases simultaneously.  However, the reality was that such systems would display results in the order they were returned from the remote servers (rather than ranked by relevance*, as many users expected) and would often display only the first 50 results retrieved, rather than every matching record.  Once users understood what a federated search tool was doing, it often prompted them to return to searching native interfaces separately, where they could at least be more confident that each tool was performing a comprehensive search.

*Relevancy ranking of results – in itself, another concept that once understood, will be discarded in favour of more transparent ranking e.g. publication date.  Relevancy algorithms are often closely guarded secrets, and I understand that they operate on a popularity basis, where articles which are most downloaded or most cited will rank highest in search results.  This may work well for general web searches, but it’s hardly how scholars would want their academic searches to operate, especially as research often involves seeking obscure or niche information which by definition will score poorly on popularity.

#ISEWLib2014 Collection management and e-resources

Main post: #ISEWLib2014 at the University of Helsinki Library

Top tip: use reference lists from dissertations to help inform decisions on which are the most important journals.

Are students satisfied with ebook-only?  Some replies I received on Twitter:

  • daveyp @laurajwilkinson I’d say the stats we’ve got show the answer is increasingly “yes”, despite DRM & iffy vendor platforms
  • MT @daveyp We’ve not crunched stats properly, but seems age is a factor with younger students more likely to have higher usage
  • MT @daveyp average number of ebook platform logins per student per year is growing an at exponential rate for us at the moment
  • .@daveyp That’s what we do [buy e where available, and fewer print copies]. Students say they prefer print, but data suggests they use e if no print alternative
  • MT @ostephens when asked, students still want print but are pragmatic & pref[erence] depends on task, location etc
  • MT @daveyp given increase in [ebook] usage, I think libs should be pushing pub[lisher]s harder for a better user experience

Idea of restricting ebook access to subject groups of students to reduce costs, but higher risk of breach of licence (if the “wrong” students gain access), and reduced opportunity for interdisciplinary work if readers can’t access texts outside their field.

Helsinki Uni Library’s online acquisition proposal form for students & academics to make recommendations.  They also use patron-driven acquisition (PDA) and evidence-based selection (EBS).

We discussed the legal/logistical issues around selling deselected books to students.  I liked the idea of using the money raised to buy plants for the library!

39 Library is the smartphone

“Library is the smartphone, smartphone is the library”

Terkko Navigator – an excellent site.  It’s a single search interface with all the usual info sources, plus library and academic staff profiles, and RSS feeds.  Please will a funding body give @Terkko money to make the system open source so we can all use it?  The journal and database functionality is powered by SFX and MetaLib, the rest is built in-house.  Various journal metrics are displayed alongside journal titles.

Eevaliisa Colb’s presentation on Digital Libraries Now.

The library has a duty to serve the university community and the public community.  Machines are users too! [think libre open access and machine indexing]

Aalto chair – a tool for strategic IT planning:

59 Aalto chair 2

Seat = our service offer; legs = customer-centredness, cooperation, ‘more with less’

‘More with less’: In IT, anything is possible; but we must prioritise – we can’t do everything for everyone.

KITT – Finnish research library statistics database

45 KITT - Finnish research library statistics databaseLayers of authentication for Helsinki Uni e-resources: Shibboleth-type single sign-on is widely used (Haka is the Finnish uni federation), and IP address access too.  As in the UK, there is a mismatch between the potential granularity of SSO and the reality of ‘authorised user’ clauses in most e-resources licences.

“IT should be the servant of library services, not the master”

Importance of informal contact and regular communication between library & IT in working well together.  It was reassuring to learn that many of our e-resources issues are common to all our countries.  For example, licence compliance; especially when tech or Uni business model exceeds imagination of the licence.

Beyond the Blurb – resource discovery services conference

A resource discovery services (RDS) is a type of software that allows a library user to search multiple catalogues from a single search interface.  It is sometimes called “a Google-like search” because the front page is normally simple, with a central search box.

This conference in Bath brought together librarians, library systems people, and systems vendors for an exploration of the issues in selecting, implementing, and operating an RDS.

And here’s that joke again:

A library systems vendor dies and goes to hell.  He’s ushered into the great hall of suffering, where he sees people writhing in torment and smells the sulphurous brimstone and feels the scorch of flames on his face.

He turns to the imp at his side and says “Wait a minute.  This isn’t what I was promised when we made our deal.  Where’s the party?  Where are the beautiful women and the delicious food?  Where’s the music?”

The imp replies, “Back then you were a prospect. Now you’re a client.”

Supporting Evolving Research Needs

My notes from yesterday’s “Supporting Evolving Research Needs” conference organised by ALISS, the Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences.

1. The Systematic Review – is the social sciences librarian involved? If not, why not?

Alan Gomersall, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Evidence & Policy, King’s College London

Alan spoke of his experience of working with academics involved in doing systematic reviews to inform national policy.  He found that the academics only searched one database (Medline) and did not use synonyms or broader/narrower keywords, or related terms, when searching.  He and a colleague wrote a paper about this, to try to find out why the academics’ research skills were so poor.

His paper identified weaknesses in the systematic review process e.g. Academics ignoring all grey literature on the grounds that it wasn’t peer-reviewed.

Home Office guidelines for systematic review focus on synthesis of findings, not search strategies.  Alan’s work shows that key UK information is being systematically excluded in favour of information from the big-name US databases.

Possible points of failure:

  • Uni library fails to invest in appropriate databases
  • Social sciences librarian & academic staff fail to work together
  • Academic’s poor search skills
  • Too much trust placed in WoK, Sociological Abstracts etc
  • Social sciences librarian never leaves confines of the library

Alan encourages everyone to trial/subscribe to Social Policy & Practice, good source of UK info

Further questions

  • Are UK unis ignorant of the many excellent but small social science databases?
  • Are UK database producers failing to market
  • Are UK library schools limiting student training to a few well-know US services which offer discounts for educational purposes e.g. WoK?
  • Influence of Campbell Collaboration and refusal  by many US databases to accept grey literature

Social sciences librarians must engage with their academics!

Evidence Network site – option to sign up for Alan’s free bimonthly newsletter

Miggie Pickton argues for librarians to be involved in systematic reviews and included in research bids

Centre for Research & Dissemination at York Uni – set good standard

2. What did I do wrong?”a project to support independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism

Helen Hathaway, Liaison Team Manager Science and Information Skills Coordinator,  University of Reading Library

Panic, stress, anxiety, confusion – lots of emotional issues about plagiarism and referencing

Does TurnItIn help with academic practice/referencing? Mixed answers.  May sensitise students to good practice.  Some academics report that it fails to detect plagiarism.

Referen©ite, Uni of Auckland – student voice videos give perspectives on importance of correct referencing e.g. Shows respect to predecessors’ ideas

Uni of Reading have developed re-purposeable resources toolkit – “Academic integrity toolkit”.  Aimed at academics.  It’s meant to be bites iced and incorporated into teaching, not just given out to students for them to read (/ignore).  Considering publishing it as an Open Educational Resource.  For now, guest access to their Blackboard can be arranged.  Contact details here.

Results of research

  • Crucial to go beyond formatting and show role of correct referencing in academic writing
  • Many students failed to engage with skills training
  • Students report lack of consistency and difficulty in finding guidance
  • Implications of alternative academic cultures and experiences (international students)

3. Supporting the Research data management [RDM] process – a guide for Librarians

John Southall, LSE Data Librarian

Digital media formats aren’t future-proof, and researchers have trouble referring back to their notices from 5, 10 years ago if they can no longer open files, or no longer have appropriate disk drive

Strengths of digital media are that it is easily stored, produces perfect copies, great potential for sharing and re-use

RDM includes docs, spreadsheets, research notebooks/codebooks, questionnaires, transcripts, audio, images, videotapes.  A lot of data is generated before any paper is drafted.

UK Data Archive – best practice for creating, preparing, storing and sharing data

Research data objects are acquired or generated during the research process.  Includes protocols and methodologies

Common themes in RDM:

  • Storage and preservation issues
  • Metadata
  • Research ethics (of data creation, of sharing)
  • Data management plan and planning

Other resources:

Not just compliance.  Consider what you would do if you lost your research data tomorrow…

Contact details for John

4. Identifiers for Researchers and Data: Increasing Attribution and Discovery

John Kaye, Lead Curator Digital Social Science, British Library

ODIN = ORCiD (Open Research Contributor iD) and DataCite Interoperability Network

Identifiers such as DOIs uniquely identify research objects.  DOIs assigned by DataCite and CrossRef.  I think the difference is that DataCite makes DOIs for things that aren’t articles, whereas CrossRef assigns DOIs for articles.  ARK = archival research key, a URL to create a persistent identifier.

ImpactStory – view impact of your work using traditional citation metrics and social citations.  Log in using ORCiD details.  See also this introduction to using ImpactStory.

5. Sharing information literacy teaching materials openly: Experiences of the CoPILOT project

Nancy Graham, Subject Advisor (Medicine), University of Birmingham and Dr Jane Secker, Copyright and Digital Literacy Advisor, LSE

OER = open educational resources.  Like CC licence for resources you’ve created.  OER Commons.  OERs are complementary to Open Access, MOOCs, RDM

DELILA = developing educators learning and information literatures for accreditation.  Cross-institutional project to adapt digital and IL [information literacy] resources to OER.

Project CoPILOT – funded by JISC/HEA and aimed to develop a strategy to promote international sharing.  Project is a sub-group of CILIP IL Group.

Mailing list:


Twitter: @CoPILOT2013

CoPILOT – like crowdsourcing of IL materials, gateway of links to sites where materials are hosted.  Good use of tags will be important.

6. Supporting research by becoming a researcher

Miggie Pickton, Research Support Librarian, Northampton University

Miggie’s slides from this presentation

My notes from a similar presentation at Umbrella 2011.  Contact details for Miggie.

Copyright fight: Authors Guild v. HathiTrust

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer! This summary is written in good faith and any errors are my own (let me know and I’ll correct ’em).  Carry on…

HathiTrust is a collaborative project between a number of university libraries and other institutions to establish a repository to digitise (archive) and share access to their collections.

The HathiTrust collection includes both public domain and in-copyright content from a variety of sources, including Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and partner institution projects.

Public domain content from HathiTrust is publicly accessible, and in-copyright content is accessible to authenticated users.

The main aims of digitisation projects like HathiTrust include ensuring long-term preservation of the materials (waiting until the works pass into the public domain often means the opportunity for scanning them in good condition has passed); making the content of books and journals more discoverable; opening up library content to students and others with print disabilities; and ensuring the continued relevance of the book culture in an increasingly digital age (list taken from the Committee on Institutional Co-operation, a HathiTrust partner).

The Authors Guild Lawsuit

(surely that should be Authors’ Guild? #pedant)

In September 2011, the Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors, the Union Des Écrivaines et des Écrivains Québécois (UNEQ), and eight individual authors filed a lawsuit against HathiTrust and a number of American universities, citing gross copyright violation.

In October 2012, a federal court ruled against the Authors Guild, finding that HathiTrust’s use of books scanned by Google was fair use under US law.

The HathiTrust repository contains over 10.5 million scanned books, most of which were created as part of the Google Books project.  Of these, about 31% are in the public domain, meaning that the remaining 69% are still in copyright.

Some of the main issues in the case were:

  1. The storage of scanned book images and text files for preservation purposes
  2. Indexing the full-text of the files for search purposes (though the search results show only where search terms appear in the catalogued items and do not allow the full text of the item to be read)
  3. Format-shifting to make works accessible to users with disabilities (e.g. creating a digital copy of a work that can be read by a person with visual impairment using screen reading software, even if digitising the work for other reasons is not permitted)

Main outcomes of the case for information professionals

Sections 107 and 108 of the US Copyright Act

Section 108 of the US Copyright Act allows libraries to make copies (within limits) for preservation and research.  It includes an explicit statement preserving the application of fair use:

Nothing in this section . . . in any way affects the right of fair use as provided by section 107.

The copyright owners argued that because one specific statute (108) applies to libraries, the general statute on fair use (107) cannot apply.  The court ruled that libraries may apply Section 108 and Section 107 on fair use: section 108 on library privileges doesn’t limit the scope of fair use (section 107).

Search indexing

Although the defendants argued that creating copies for preservation is “transformative,” the court did not agree.

Maintaining text files for searching is a transformative use, because the copies serve an entirely different purpose from the original works, but as the files were only for search and not for full-text access, no copyrighted content was accessible.

Search indexing is a transformative use, and it is a fair use.


American educational institution are mandated to serve needs under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Section 121 of the US Copyright Act permits an “authorized entity” to make formats of certain works available to persons who are visually impaired.  An “authorized entity” is one that has a “primary mission” to serve those needs.  The court decided that although libraries and universities have many functions, they do have a “primary mission” to serve those needs.

There is no conflict of interest with commercial use, as there is no market for scanning and making materials available to people who are print-disabled, nor is one likely to develop.

Access for people who are print-disabled is a transformative use, and it is a fair use.

Commercial use

The court decided that the HathiTrust partner libraries weren’t making materials available for commercial use, even though they partnered with Google to carry out the scanning.

This is important for UK copyright holders whose works in US libraries have been digitised via Google Books or similar projects.

See this summary from Columbia University on “Effect on the Market for the Works”:

  • For noncommercial uses, the plaintiff must show “by a preponderance of the evidence that some meaningful likelihood of future harm exists.”
  • The court rejected the argument of lost sales, finding that sales of books would have not served text searches or access for persons who are print disabled.
  • The court found that the copies in HathiTrust were not a security risk, noting the evidence presented about the security measures in place.
  • The court also found assertions of future licensing revenue to be “conjecture” without evidence of some actual harm.
  • In broad terms, the court also ruled that copyright owners “cannot preempt a transformative market” and uses that are in a “transformative market” do not cause a loss of license revnue.
  • The projected high cost of any possible license market would also be cost prohibitive for an initiative such as HathiTrust, and it may not be possible at all given the numerous works and the need to locate copyright owners.
  • Regarding the needs of the print-disabled, the evidence showed that they are a “tiny minority” and a market to allow them access to millions of books “is consequently almost impossible to fathom.”

Digitisation projects such as those carried out by HathiTrust and its partner universities are non-commercial.

Other reports and opinions on the case

United States District Court, Southern District of New York: The Authors Guild, Inc., et al., against Hathitrust, et al. 11 CV 6351 (HB) Opinion & Order

The Chronicle of Higher Education – Judge Hands HathiTrust Digital Repository a Win in Fair-Use Case

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services Copyright Advisory Service –  Court Rules on HathiTrust and Fair Use

Copyright Librarian – Author’s Guild v Hathi Trust: A Win for Copyright’s Public Interest Purpose

HathiTrust – Information about the Authors Guild Lawsuit

The Michigan Daily – ‘U’ wins copyright lawsuit against Hathitrust digitalization project

Wired – Judge Says Fair Use Protects Universities in Book-Scanning Project