I’ve recently been reading posts by Scott Plutchak, Marcus Banks, and Roy Tennant that all more or else touched on the themes of values. Scott Plutchak kicked things off in his posting, The Future is a Playground when he discussed making decisions in difficult budget times. I was happy to see that I too find the Peter Drucker quote, “Planning is an exercise in predicting the future. The odds are you’re going to be wrong more than half the time.” (the paraphrase taken from the T.Scott Blog) … comforting. I like the notion that often times no matter how well prepared that we might make a wrong decision. It seems to take the pressure off. Maybe there often is no one right or one perfect answer.
Marcus Banks posted a reply to this in his blog posting, “Values are More Important than Data or Evidence“(Marcus’ World Blog, July 25, 2009). Marcus Banks says that there is a risk of decision making paralysis when there is not enough good data to support a decision. His solution is to rely on the core values of librarianship. He characterizes these values as, “Partnership; collaboration; innovation; service; respect for privacy; “no information problem is too big to be solved.” At the end of the day it is these values that should guide our decision making process. (not that we shouldn’t strive to gather as much data, evidence, information that we can to aid our decision making process).
Together I find these 2 posts to be comforting. We are at the point in our year when our big licenses are up for renewal. We are trying to figure out how to negotiate our licenses. What should we keep? What can we drop? Which vendor should we favor (if its a choice of leaning towards one offer over another one)? Do we favor the vendor that has been consistently fair and upright? We don’t have good data to steer us one way or another in our decisions, but we do have our values.
So here is where I tie in Roy Tennant’s posting in his Library Journal blog, “Fighting the Losing Battle“. He lays out several questions to ask ourselves when we are facing “losing battles”. (I do have to wonder about the back story on this one). His questions are:
Are you fighting alone? …
Is the issue something that strikes at the very core of your beliefs? …
Is there something more important you could be doing? A fight that you may wish to leave behind is one that takes your time and attention away from something more important. What might this be? Only you can decide. There are times when you get distracted — the only error is to not correct this distraction in a timely fashion.
I don’t know that I’m fighting any battles right now. I do like these questions. They seem to me to apply to other situations at the very least I like the notion of creating a framework or questions that help us tease out or core values or beliefs.
In an odd twist I’m currently watching a re-run of West Wing, where the question of personal values underlies much of the story line. I feel like the universe is sending me a message about being guided by values and using that as my North Star.
It has occured to me that I’ve been sounding a bit cynical about the future of librarianship. This is so far from the truth for me. Despite my postings about the future; I personally feel that there is a bright future for our profession. I have spent the better part of the past couple of days working on annual stats; so my brain is a bit fried. In my diminished state, I have decided to avoid exposition and am going to create a list of reasons why I optimistic about the future of health sciences librarianship (in particular)and some about librarianship in general.
- Translational Research
- Electronic Health Record
- Health Information Technology
- Magnet Nursing Programs
- “Next” Generation Librarians
- Roy Tennant says, “Print is not Dead”
- Attempts to expand tenure review to include publications in non-traditional formats (digital scholarship)
- Social Networking
- Ongoing popularity of public libraries
- Nancy Drew is still alive and well(New York Times, “Nancy Drew’s Granddaughters” July 17, 2009)
Ebsco Acquires Ageline
Ebsco announced today that it has acquired Ageline a database that they describe has having been (past tense) produced by AARP. My question is, will it continue to be free as it has been under AARP. Yes Ebsco had been but one distributor of this product, what happens now that they own the content. Will this once again be an example of something that was free becoming available as a subscription only. I’m also wondering if Ebsco will move towards a monopoly on its distribution as it did when it acquired Cinahl? Time will tell whether this is a feature or a bug.
Ebsco Launches a Federated Search
Last year Ovid announced with much fanfare that they were launching a federated search that promised to solve all of the problems inherent in other federated search products. This year Ebsco is making an announcement that is along the same lines. They claim that, “EBSCOhost Integrated Search takes federated searching to a new level.”
Ebsco describes its benefits saying, “unlike federated search products, true integration is possible with EBSCOhost Integrated Search as libraries can now apply the powerful EBSCOhost search experience to all of their other electronic information resources. ” So Ebsco’s integrated search isn’t a federated search? I remember last year Ovid saying something similar. They said (and I’m pulling this from memory) that they couldn’t be called a federated search because that was a proprietary term owned by some other entity. I’m wondering if that’s why Ebsco is backing away from the term federated search. It does allow them a clever marketing ploy — it provides them the opportunity to distance themselves from federated search products. We were able to see a bit of the Ovid product through their new Nursing product that included a mini-version of the search. To say we were underwhelmed with the Ovid product would be an understatement. I’m skeptical of Ebsco’s claims. Not because of anything having to do with Ebsco but because I understand the complexities of federated (integrated) searching. I also have been down this road before with other vendors. I wish Ebsco well and do fervently hope that their product delivers as promised in an affordable manner.
I also hope that they offer a 100% operational trial. We had this when we purchased WebFeat and being able to set-up a real life trial using our products under our authentication conditions was critical in making our decision. I don’t know that we would be willing to contemplate switching products without being able to conduct a real time real world trial. If Ebsco tries just providing links or access to some facisimilie that they have set-up then I don’t know how we could possibly decide if it would be worth switching from our current product. Overall we are very happy with WebFeat, the only thing I don’t like is that they sell you the statistics module for a (hefty) additional fee. This has always seemed a bit odd to me.
Good luck and Best Wishes Ebsco on your new venture.
Many years ago I started my library career working at Duke University and during my time there David Ferrieo was hired as our library director. I see he is once again in the news having been named U.S. Archivist. Interesting news item here.
The Keynote Address: Sustaining Digital Resources: A View from the Trenches
Kate Wittenberg, Ithaka Project Director Client and Partnership Development
On July 14, 2009 Ithaka released its report, “Ithaka Case Studies in Sustainability“. This report is driven by the question in times of economic difficulties will digital resources that have been funded by grants, “be able to survive and thrive?” This report contains the results of an exploration into, “the steps project leaders have taken to achieve this [sustainability], with special attention paid to their strategies for cost management and revenue generation.” This study was undertaken because it was noticed that often grantees were returning to their funder for additional resources to help keep a project going at the end of the initial grant.
The report came to several conclusions:
- Project leaders should not assume ongoing support
- Definition of sustainability needs to include more than operating costs (need to include things like overhead, ongoing development etc)
- Projects must provide something of value to users (and users must see that value)
- When planning, think about economies of scale through partnerships
- Strategic Planning is critical
- Remember – the world is ever changing
- Projects need dedicated/accountable leadership
- Project plans must be creative, innovative, entrepeneurial
The revenue options… The Ithaka report also includes suggestions for revenue generation (post grant)
- Custom services/consultations
- Author fees
- Endowments, grants, other funding sources
The speaker was really seeking input from the audience and input she did get. Much of the feedback was in the form of personal stories or experiences with grants. Some of the more interesting feedback came in the form of suggesting that Ithaka should also provide input to the funding agencies. Highlights of this feedback came in the form of suggestions that granting agencies need to put fewer limitations on staffing for grants, granting agencies need to allow for more creativity and flexibility in revenue generation (some of the suggestions for revenue are disallowed but some of the funding agents), granting agencies need to provide for more flexibility in how partnerships with host agencies can work.
I have to say that my initial response to the presentation was sort of, ok…. it took them this much time and money to generate these results? A “blog” on the Ithaka sight contained some interesting comments along the same lines as my thinking. Some of these comments include, “Is that it? Well, duh. How much did this report cost / how long did it take?” My thoughts weren’t exactly that harsh, but I was hoping for something a bit more innovative or creative.
I work on a project that started as a grant funded project and was I guess textbook perfect example of self-sustainability (yikes that sounds too self-congratulatory) but we did go on to become self-sustaining. We did it pretty much by having followed many of the guidelines they set out. I found myself thinking, not that the things they came up with were so very obvious, but that they were from my experience, so very correct. I did come away thinking that they weren’t addressing many of the really difficult issues, which are problems stemming from the funding agencies that sort of preclude many of the suggestions stemming from this study. The ideal end game would be for not only libraries to read this report, but for funding agencies to learn about the same challenges.
Creative Commons Attribution
The Ithaka works are licensed under creative commons attribution.
After yesterday’s (heavier than usual) posting about the future of libraries, I had intended to write on something a bit lighter today. When I first started thinking about becoming a librarian, a librarian told me something like, “well if you like books then being a librarian is not the job for you.” I have heard variations on that theme during my whole career. Other librarians proudly talking about the fact that a love of books has nothing to do with being a librarian. I even know librarians who get a bit angry when people say to them something about librarians loving books. So I have to say, I do like books. Love them as a matter of fact. I don’t actually work with books (or anything corporeal for that matter) but I love them. I personally don’t like the digital books (e-books whatever) … call me old fashioned but when I’m at the beach kicking back with a pile of beach reading I really want something paper in my hand. I do, however, follow all things book related. Today’s posting has less to do with librarians but a lot to do with books.
So the irony was not lost on many reports of this happening, but for Amazon’s Kindle owners who had purchased copies of Animal Farm and 1984, they had a sort of futuristic experience when after some sort of dispute with publishers, Amazon just pulled those titles from people’s Kindles. This has sparked no end of debate about how that should have been handled. More importantly it has really highlighted the differences between owning a physical book and “owning” an e-book.
Wall Street Journal – “Buyer’s E-Morse”
There was a really interesting piece in yesterday’s WSJ by Geoffrey Fowler, “Buyer’s E-Morse: Owning Digital Books“. This article raised many many excllent points about the differences between owning a physical book and essentially purchasing (or is it licensing) a digital book. In libraries we have become familiar with the difference between purchasing material and licensing material. Many individual owners might not be so familiar with this new world. Some of the key points in this article
- Lawrence Lessing of Harvard’s Law School is quoted as saying, “Because e-books can interfere with the ability of publishers to make a profit… there is reason to have some legal difference between physical books and e-books. But “the freedoms and privacy that you got in physical space you have to fight for in cyberspace.”
- “Owning an e-book is more akin to licensing a piece of software: access comes with fine-print terms of service, and often digital rights management software to ensure that you abide by the rules. E-books bought from stores run by Amazon, Sony Corp. and Barnes & Noble Inc. often work only on those company’s own designated devices.”
The article highlights how the law will tend to back-up the terms of the license agreements. The article then concludes with a discussion of e-books and public libraries.
I think a lot of times customers won’t think about the terms of the license agreements. They also might not be as concerned about bigger picture concerns like privacy and perpetual access (to name a few). At any rate, I do recommend catching this article in the WSJ. Its nice to hear about these issues not from the librarians perspective, but from the perspective of the book consumer.
Taking Aim at Library Users
It is funny how often themes that I’m thinking about line up in remarkably parallel lines. I had been planning on writing today about a posting by Joseph Esposito on the liblicense listserv about a posting on the e-Book Reader News blog, “U of Chicago Press Takes Aim at Library Users“. In this posting there are a couple of disturbing quotes about library dissatisfaction. U Chicago press is offering book rentals and the blog poster comments that, “The limited 30 day book rental is aimed at dissatisfied library users.” Apparently the press release says (advocating the 30 day rental), “…no more waiting for recalls and interlibrary loan…” The blog poster goes on to say, “What harried undergrad or professor wouldn’t pay a small fee to bypass their library and quickly download an essential book? ” As Joseph Esposito says on the liblicense liserv, “Here again the recurrent theme, the trend toward moving libraries to the periphery of scholarly communications.”
I find myself wondering if this is true, are these new digital offerings pushing libraries to the periphery of scholarly communications? Are publishers really looking to short circuit the library? Is the longstanding tension between publishers and librarians finally coming to a head? I wish I had easy answers, but these aren’t easy questions.
Within the scope of medical librarianship we find ourselves equally marginalized by some of our big vendors. Many of the Point of Care products are either being marketed directly towards clinicians or following the new trend, being marketed directly to hospital IT departments for inclusion in their EHR’s. I have long advocated for the inclusion of library resources in the EHR, but I really do worry about putting packaged (vendor based) products into the EHR and calling that sufficient access to information resources through the EHR.
Christian Science Monitor… Restore the Noble Purpose of Libraries
(posted online July 17, 2009 edition by William Wisner)
Periodically I read postings about how librarians are dooming themselves (or I guess I should say, dooming ourselves). I need to state at the outset that I kind of agree in many instances that librarians are dooming ourselves. I agree with William Wisner when he states in his Christian Science Monitor piece that, “My once gentle profession has prostituted itself, aided by library schools, which, embarrassed even to call their graduates ‘librarians,’ now opt for the sexier term ‘information scientists.’ ” If anyone has been following my blog postings or for anyone who knows me, knows that I vehementally oppose changing the name of our profession away from librarian. I think moving towards anything with the word information in it does indeed weaken our profession. This posting begins with the statement that, “Libraries were once a sacred secular space of silence and reverence – a place where one automatically lowered one’s voice. As a direct heir to the Enlightenment, the establishment of libraries was a testament to the self-evident integrity of mankind, the belief that we all desire to find the truth through knowledge.” The funny thing is that he blames the cessation of silence on computers and embracing technology. Odd – what would he have us do? I work in an entirely digital library. I absolutely believe that there is some material that doesn’t need to be produced in print anymore. I believe that the time has come to embrace new medium for better publishing journals. I believe that librarians need to collaborate with publishers. Here’s the funny thing about noise in libraries. In my parent institution, we have recently created a floor that is entirely a quiet study space. One of our most common requests is for more quiet study space. Even in the context of group study space, our users want that study space to be basically quiet. Also note the emphasis on the word study…. Maybe we (meaning libraries) are being embraced as a physical space mostly because they provide space for study and group projects, but at least we are getting people in the door. Its important to note these students connect libraries and study space … Libraries — studying. Its a good thing, but let’s not kid ourselves. I’m stretching the point quite a bit.
Its a funny line we walk these days. In this piece, Mr. Wisner discusses, the relationship between libraries and knowledge saying, “Modern librarians who prioritize information over knowledge perpetuate a distraction from the real purpose of a library. A library facilitates the patient gathering of knowledge – whose acquisition is superior to almost every other endeavor. Religions have adapted to technology for the most part without being destroyed by it, so why can’t libraries?” When I first started working in libraries back in 1990 we were having discussions about the distinction between Wisdom (the broad most indepth thinking category) — which is comprised of Knowledge — which is comprised of smaller bits called information. Information being the smallest most insignificant piece of the chain. The highest evolved level (if you will) is wisdom. Libraries had long wanted to be houses of knowledge, but suddenly we are embracing information. Its this connection of taking information and turning it into knowledge where libraries should be living and breathing.
Technology in and of itself doesn’t detract from the all important role as knowledge builders (or knowledge bridges). How we use technology is where the distinction becomes important. Technology is only a tool. Its a tool that is here to say, so we can’t ignore it. Is the content of a book less valued because its available electronically. Are scholarly articles any less scholarly because they are published in an Open Access online journal? No! They truly are not.
There is so much gray here and so little black and white. I know that I cringe when librarians embrace Wikipedia. Not because Wikipedia is bad, but because its just a starting place. When I was in school we were taught about the Encyclopedia Brittanica and its limitations. Very rarely would librarians point us to the encyclopedias or any one stop shopping reference texts. The question we were answering would often lend the librarian to point us to different tools. Most often I was pointed to the primary literature. I was taught how to search for pieces of information but more importantly I was taught the importance of not relying on information alone but taking information and turning it into something bigger. Knowledge perhaps??
Requiem for Librarians
Are we witnessing the requiem for libraries and librarians? I hope not. I believe that there are forces on either side of the contiuum that could push our obituaries forward. If we err too much towards reliance on the way things have always been done, we risk obsolesence. If we err too much on the side of embracing all things new (just for the sake of newness) then we risk irrelevance. If we as librarians become just mere information professionals we lose the heart of what we do.
The practices of publishers and vendors are posing big challenges to our authority in the world of scholarly communications. Librarians must learn how to keep a seat at the table (pardon the cliche). For hospital librarians it is imperative to have some sort of voice in the selection of “information resources” for the EHR. I don’t know what we do about publishers who are short circuiting the library to sell direct to end users, except to say that I know of end users who balk at paying even teeny ILL fees, so the money thing is an issue. We also need to think about the value added services that we can provide.
We risk losing our roles as builders of bridges to knowledge if we don’t successfully navigate all of the challenges before us. We should shun the word information professionals. We must show all our constituents (stake holders if you will) that we are indeed the intersection where information meets knowledge. This is what sets us apart from the Internet alone.
I was in a meeting today where we were discussing the results of a survey of point of care products. Not surprisingly, Up to Date, ranked beyond high. One thing led to another and somehow we ended up discussing the use of Wikipedia by Medical Students and how some faculty believe that this is now the only (or at the very least) the primary source of their information. (well that and WebMD). Even if hyperbolic exagerration, it is a disconcering notion. What I found most disconcerting was how most of the librarians in this meeting didn’t seem disturbed by this fact. They felt that as long as the students were taught to evaluate the information then it would be ok. Don’t get me wrong, I think that learning how to evaluate the material is really important. But as a patient I’d like to believe that medical students are relying on something more than just Wikipedia for their medical research.
It was somewhat of a comfort to then come across the news release from NIH about the collaboration between NIH & Wikipedia. According to a posting on softpedia, “Wikipedia intends to limit the amount of health information submitted to the website by regular inexperienced users, and to reference, check and correct any health-related topics with the help of NIH specialists.” A recent article by Michael Laurent and Tom Vickers in the July/August 2009 issue of JAMIA, “Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter?” came to the conclusion that Wikipedia ranked among the first 10 results in 71-85% of search engines and keywords tested. Due to this research and other studies indicating the popularity of Wikipedia, this collaboration seems vitally important.
Although it is too soon to see the outcome of this collaboration, the fact that Wikipedia is used so frequently in health related searches will not change. Anything that can enhance the quality and validity of health related topics online can only be to the good. I’m still not convinced that Wikipedia is the best source for Medical Students to be visiting, but I am convinced that nothing can stop the health consumer from hitting the web for information; therefore any and all measures to both enhance the quality and validity of the highly ranked web sites is vital. At the same time, libraries have got to take a strong lead in educating all users in evaluation skills.
I’m thinking that many of the strategies provided for conducting outreach to campus communities can also be adapted to clinician – librarian collaborations. ARL issued a press release on July 16, 2009 announcing the publication of a, “new guide on outreach to scholarly society leaders to assist libraries in developing positive, supportive relationships with leaders, editors, and members of academic scholarly societies affiliated with their institutions.” They target scholarly societies because, “Libraries and scholarly societies share concerns for identifying high quality research and ensuring that the products of the research process are made available as quickly and widely as possible to advance further research and scholarship.” This sounds similar to the translational research goals alluded to in previous postings.
As we begin discussions on how librarians can support translational research, I’m finding some of the talking points in the ARL document to be particularly useful. Highlights for me include:
- “Librarians understand a range of communication practices and know where to look for models as new expectations and capabilities for sharing scholarship and research evolve
- “Library leaders are employed in engineering radical transformations in their own organizations in the face of emerging communication and content management technologies. There may well be important lessons learned that can be shared.
We are just beginning our dialogs with the NC TraCS Institute, and I’m going to be looking to these ARL librarian – researcher initiatives for ideas and support.
Another Primary Care Project
A new program in Iowa is designed to, “lure doctors to underserved areas”. In a previous posting I highlighted a program in North Carolina to educate 3rd & 4th year medical students in rural settings. In Iowa, the Des Moines University is offering rural medicine scholarships. Iowa is new in creating an AHEC program, only beginning in 2007 (compared to North Carolina which has had an AHEC program since its inception in 1972). The Des Moines Register highlights the creation of an AHEC in Iowa as a positive step towards easing the primary care shortage in rural areas. Once again I’m reminded of how proud I am to be affiliated with the AHEC program. Good luck Iowa!!
Once again the Krafty Librarian and I are on the same wave length, but she was more on the ball with her postings about items of interest to those of us working with collection development/resources management.
Digital (Online) Only Subscriptions
There was a recent posting on the liblisence listserv about 12 Sage journals migrating to online only. The American Chemical Society is likewise announcing a move to online only publishing. The Krafty Librarian wrote an excellent posting about this. She highlights many of the “growing pains” that may be faced in the course of this transition. Since I work in an online only environment, I hadn’t really thought through many of the issues she highlighted.
One of the interesting items in the Ars Technica posting about the ACS move to online only was the idea about the question whether the move to online was pandering to laziness. In its posting the Ars Technica article states, “Spending a day in the library largely meant that other work was set aside for the day. With online content, literature searches can be squeezed in among the frequent but short breaks that occur within experiments. If anything, avoiding a trip to the library allows people to work harder.” Whether researchers are working harder now than in the past will probably be difficult to quantify but one thing is certain, researchers are operating and functioning in different ways.
In the world of academia issues of tenure are intertwined with the online publishing shift. The Sixth Scholarly Communication Symposium held on March 26 was on the topic of Digital Scholarship in the University Tenure and Promotion Process. The Modern Language Association (the other MLA) published, “Guidelines for Evaluating Work with Digital Media in the Modern Languages“. Although not in the arena of sciences or clinical research, this raises interesting questions about working in the digital (or online) world. All of these issues are going to be merging as more journals move to either online only or to having the online version be the authoritative version as in BMJ. I for one am more than ready for a move away from print. It will make my job much easier and will perhaps equalize the playing field for those of “us” (if there is anyone else working in a digital only world) working in the digital only world.
Once Again… Budget and Renewal Time
Again, I’m giving a nod to the Krafty Librarian for her recent posting on the AMA Freezing its subscription prices. For every posting on the liblisence listserv about some publishers deciding to freeze price increases, I get quotes back from my vendors that are indeed reflecting price increases. Some are fairly resonable in light of these difficult times. Like the Krafty Librarian, I am aghast, at those publishers/vendors who are providing quotes that are along the same lines as previous years while at the same time they are telling us that they are committed to working with us during these economic times. One of our vendors came back with a very straight face and said, (something along the lines of) yes we are taking the economy in consideration, that is why we are only giving you an 8% increase. I know, I know, I have posted about this before, but I just can’t get over it. We are also concerned with this particular publisher that if we drop some of the resources that we are subscribing to that they will adjust the prices of the other resources that we get to the end result of the 8% increase that they are seeking. We were practically told this by the sales rep. When we mentioned that we might have to drop one of their resources, he told us that was certainly our decision but that some of the “reasonable” prices he had been able to give us on other packages would then have to be reeavluated. We are indeed between a rock and a hard place. I’ll certainly be relieved once we complete all of our “negotiations” for this renewal cycle.