I don’t know how well the Ovid enhancements were received across the board, but there was some concern expressed in my blog. IKEA recently changed the font in their catalog. According to an article in our local paper, “Patrons tell IKEA: You’re no longer my type…” (Stephan Nasstrom, News & Observer, accessed 8/31/2009). Apparently IKEA changed its font type in its most recent catalog from Futura to Verdona. This has stirred up a bit of a backlash. At least enough backlash to warrant a fair amount of national press. IKEA is discounting the criticism saying, “I think its mainly experts who have expressed their veiws, people who are interested in fonts. I don’t think the broad public is that interested.” The article ended with a quote from the IKEA Swedish art director, Christoph Comstedt, “I don’t think the average consumer will react…”
Ovid & IKEA both made changes. I believe the changes were probably supported by the changing environments in which they both operate. Although I may not personally like the Ovid enhancements, I understand the reasons behind them.
Other than the big obvious differences (furniture vs. online electronic resources, books, journals, etc).. the difference between the two of them to me is how Ovid and IKEA ostensibly are handling the criticism. Ovid has reached out to me. I haven’t spoken with them in person yet, but I’m assuming they are going to listen to some of my concerns and not just write them off the way IKEA has so very publically discounted the criticism against its change. In a day of rapid and turbulent change, a little bit of customer service can go a long way.
As we update our own sites and online offerings, we need to think about how our changes are going to be received by our audiences and plan to how we are going to respond to the inevitable critiques that are to come. We are planning on releasing updates to our site in January and it will be interesting to see how we handle any critiques that arise out of our upgrades.
So once again Ovid has released “enhancements” to its relatively new Ovid SP platform. Ovid had been wonderfully stable for – like – ever (excuse the 80′s valley girl slang).. then they release the SP platform and its been enhance enhance enhance ever since. The August Enhancements include:
- On the Journal A to Z Page — a search bar and navigational widgets
- Table of Contents Page — search bar for searching within a particular issue — a widgets
I solicited feedback from some of our librarians about these “enhancements” and it wasn’t enthusiasitc (in the interest of full disclosure my email message let it be known that I was having issues with the enhancements).
The concerns shared by a couple of the librarians are about the links into the specific journals through the jumpstarts. Under the “enhanced” version when you link into the journal you now get taken to the table of contents of the current issue of the journal rather than to the easy to find issue list. In the enhanced version, the issue list is now sort of hidden on the side of the page under one of their “widgets”. I need to ask if its possible to change the default so the issue list widget is the main page and the current TOC is on the side “widget”.
My big question for web usability experts is when are continual enhancements to a site, just too much. At which point do the benefits of any enhancements get outweighed by the nuisance factor of the monthly or quarterly changes? I think Ovid is rapidly getting to that point. I think the fact that they feel they need to offer a class is a pretty good hint that they have passed the point of user friendly.
Ovid Enhancement History
August 24, 2009
March 31, 2009
August 2008 – Ovid SP released…
Ok so maybe it hasn’t been a constant stream of enhancements… but they are coming more and more frequently. (initial launch — 7 months —4 months — 2 months) I’m hoping this is the last in this long stream of enhancements.
My dad loved history trivia especially this day in… facts. Its too bad he didn’t live to see the internet in its full glory; he would have loved the easy access to so much trivia. Every now and then as a sort of homage to him; I’ll poke about the web to find what’s happened on today in history. The History Channel (
) has a comprehensive site. Today in history according to the History Channel (August 25, 1835), “the first in a series of six articles announcing the supposed discovery of life on the moon appears in the New York Sun newspaper.” The articles appeared in a newspaper called the New York Sun (not the same paper as today’s New York Sun) were supposedly a reprint from articles that first appeared in the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The issue was that the Edinburgh Journal of Science had stopped publication years earlier. The article was written as a satire and although many readers didn’t recognize it as satire. The series of articles caught the public’s attention and sales increased.
The New York Sun was known as a “penny press” paper which were published to appeal to a wider audience.
So what does all of this have to do with librarianship? Its interesting to note that many of the issues we face today in teaching evaluation and critical thinking skills are not new in the information age. Although at the time, reader’s should have known what type of publication the New York Sun was (equivalent to the Enquirer perhaps … hard to say). When looking at information, stories etc online, its even more difficult at times to judge an article’s authority. The end of this story concluded with the revelation of the story’s imaginary nature. Apparently most reader’s didn’t mind and the readership of the paper didn’t suffer. Does this fall in the same category of ghoswriting or the revelation by Elsevier that certain journals were in reality pr pieces for pharmaceutical companies? Not really, but there are certainly broader lessons that we can reinforce. Or else its just a fun historical footnote.
A Stanford University study into multitasking came to surprising conclusions, “Heavy multitaskers are lousy at multitasking… The more you do it, the worse you get” (Reuters 8/24/2009). The Stanford University study led by Clifford Nass characterizes the results of this as surprising saying, “We were totally shocked.” (AP, “Study finds people who multitask are often bad at it” RANDOLPH E. SCHMID 8/24/2009). The study’s intent was to discover the secret to good multitasking instead, “found broad-based incompetence.” (Reuters)
The San Fransisco Chronicle’s headline for this article reads, “Electronic multitasking is a brain drain“. Their article opens saying, “People who electronically multitask might look efficient, …in fact, their brains aren’t working as well as they could be.” These conclusions came as a surprise because the point of the study was to, “discover what talent is inherent in what they call “chronic media multitaskers.” Are they able to store and organize information better than others? Do they have superior memories?” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Instead they discovered that multitaskers were, well, bad at multitasking.
This was fascinating to me because several years ago when social networking was first coming into great usage we were meeting in the library to discuss how to work with this new generation of library users. At the time there was this implication that we needed to embrace their multitasking ways and ignore the existing learning theory that essentially stated that people can only focus on one thing at a time. Back then (and I’m greatly paraphrasing here) we were told by some sociologists studying the millennials that learning theory was different for their generation. That they were able to multitask, that the problem was one of age. Essentially we were told that we needed to embrace the millenials multitasking behavior because this was a new way of processing information and dealing with the world.
Having a masters degree in education, I was a bit surprised by this, but sort of thought well maybe things have changed. I was a bit relieved to discover that human learning behavior has not evolved quite that quickly. The one finding about this that seems particularly relevant to librarians is that these multitaskers have trouble identifying irrelevant information. Clifford Nass characterizes this saying, “They couldn’t ignore stuff that doesn’t matter. They love stuff that doesn’t matter” (AP Yahoo). As librarians working in the information overloaded world where we seem to thrive on the belief that more information is better, this notion that the new user group (the millenials) particularly those who are high multitaskers have trouble identifying important or relevant information. As a librarian, this tells me, that our role of teaching people to evaluate and identify relevant and quality information is going to be increasingly important.
I don’t think these studies will result in less multitasking, but it does mean that those of us who work with multitaskers need to be aware of the limitations. A question still unresolved is that of causality, do multitasking diminish capacity or are those with tendencies that would make them lousy multitaskers more drawn to it. Stay tuned (metaphorically) to further research on this topic.
I pondered writing about this a few weeks ago when I read an article about Ghostwriting practices at Elsevier involving HRT. You know how it goes, something else arose and I put it to the back of my mind. Today when I read another (several articles) about Ghostwriting; it seemed like a good time to higlight the issue (again).
Charles Grassley (Senator from New York) is moving to legislatively block the practice of medical Ghostwriting. An article in the August 18 New York Times begins saying, “A growing body of evidence suggests that doctors at some of the nation’s top medical schools have been attaching their names and lending their reputations to scientific papers that were drafted by ghostwriters working for drug companies — articles that were carefully calibrated to help the manufacturers sell more products.” (Senator Moves to Block Medical Ghostwriting, Natasha Singer, New York Times, August 18, 2009)
Additional revelations about a program at Glaxco point to a program that was particularly intertwined between the marketing and the research at the company. A particular concern seems to be that the pharmacy reps will often provide articles from peer reviewed journals as evidence of objective research favorable to their products. An AP article by Matthew Perrone describes the marketing nuances of this program: “According to ghostwriting expert Dr. Leemon McHenry, Glaxo’s program was unusually intertwined with its internal sales and marketing department.” (Glaxo Used Ghostwriting Program to Promote Paxil, )
Currently these practices are legal. It once again raises the issue that just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. There are huge ethical issues at stake. It might be asked why librarians should be concerned about this? (I’m not sure why anyone would question that but some might). As librarian/educators, I think we need to constantly need to remind students/readers to be skeptical of articles even appearing in highly ranked peer review journals. We also need to remind OA detractors (or skeptics) that there are ethical issues in play even in the current publishing model. I also think that in a time when there is so much information available online in packaging that is even more difficult to evaluate, that these serve as cautionary tales. As the publishing (librarian) world is grappling with building new models, the time is right to question and highlight the problems in the old models.
A recent posting by Steven Bell on the Designing Better Libraries Blog, “Libraries Can Learn from Wow Providers,” commented upon a recent Knowledge@Wharton report, “Getting to Wow, Consumers Describe What Makes a Great Shopping Experience.” The Wharton study reports on an annual survey of positive shopping experiences. This study points to 5 factors that contribute to a great shopping experience.
Engagement: being polite, genuinely caring and interested in helping, acknowledging and listening.
Executional excellence: patiently explaining and advising, checking stock, helping to find products, having product knowledge and providing unexpected product quality.
Brand Experience: exciting store design and atmosphere, consistently great product quality, making customers feel they’re special and that they always get a deal.
Expediting: being sensitive to customers’ time on long check-out lines, being proactive in helping speed the shopping process.
Problem Recovery: helping resolve and compensate for problems, upgrading quality and ensuring complete satisfaction.
One of the ideas behind this is to create “brand” loyalty (or returning customers).
The posting on the Designing Better Libraries blog expands upon applying this to libraries saying,
Giving library users a better library experience, call it WOW if you like, doesn’t involve cool new technology, an infusion of expensive resources or drawn-out internal debates about service desk consolidation (though that might help). What it does require is a better understanding of user expectations in a shopping experience. At a minimum we can do better by focusing on just two simple things. One, be polite and courteous. Two, be familiar with the products. That’s a start. Quality is also highly rated. This is less within our control but we can do more to emphasize the quality of library research resources.
Creating this kind of experience in a physical library seems intuitive in many instances. Librarians tend to be service oriented, but there are also examples cited in the blog about users being shuffled from one service point to the next or having difficulty gaining eye contact etc. None the less, I believe that for the most part libraries are committed to creating a quality experience, we just might not know how. My questions center around creating this kind of quality experience in a totally digital (or vitual library).
Some ideas for creating Wow Experience in our Online Libraries
- (Quoting the Designing Better Libraries Blog)”We can do more to emphasize the quality of library research resources”
- Build web sites that follow good usability practices and that incorporate feedback from the target user group
- Provide obvious mechanisms to link the users to real librarians
- Provide links to desired services as well as resources
As I re-read the 5 factors, I do think they can be applied to a virtual world. For example,
“Engagement, being polite..”
Create a site that is welcoming
This is huge. I think the ability to guide users through a site to an easy way to get help solving a problem. Either a problem that they are bringing (the research question) or a problem that they encounter while using the virtual service. I know from personal experience that nothing puts me off a web site more than difficulties resolving problems.
Netflix drives me crazy. There are a lot of wonderful things about Netflix, but there is no obvious way to contact a real person to ask a question or describe a problem that isn’t covered under their FAQ’s. This might not be the best example here because Netflix does seem to retain its loyal following.
A final point raised in the Wharton article is interesting for libraries. For the average library “customer” library resources are free, they don’t see the price. For those of us who are trying to maintain our funding or to keep consortium together, there is a second user base (or customer if you will) the funding agent. To them price is certainly a factor. Scott Plutchak touched on this in a blog posting a while back (that I wrote about in my August 10 posting, The Elsevier Apologetic) when he discussed prive versus value. There is an argument to be made that in difficult economic times its all about price, but in a service environment (like libraries museums etc) there isn’t always a tangible price. The Wharton article ends by discussing value saying
While the Great Depression led to an era of penny pinching, today’s economic crisis is leading consumers to focus more on value than price, she adds. “With credit cards and retail and telecom, we are seeing value-based buying…. People are being more scrupulous about where they buy and what they buy. More educated consumers are looking for a better value in everything.”
Its hard to define “value” …. Its hard to define “quality” … It may seem subjective. At the end of the day our customers have choices. There are many digital (online) solutions, those of us working in digital (virtual, online) libraries (and in traditional libraries offering online resources and services) need to work on creating a high quality experience that will make our users want to return to our library as opposed to heading to Google or Wikipedia.
The recent economic downturn has had many ripple effects. At UNC Chapel Hill one was the commission of the Bain Commission report to examine ways to achieve efficiencies at the university. A recent article in our local paper, the News & Observer (on August 17, 2009) outlined the growth of administrative levels in the NC University system. A letter to the editor in today’s paper, “Sources of Swelling,” raised some very interesting potential sources of university bureaucracy. The author highlights increasing concerns for accountability as one cause saying, “accountability, especially important for public universities, have caused universities to staff Offices of Assessment and conduct endless self-studies to determine where money and energies are spent and with what results. A perceived need for relevance has spurred the creation and proliferation of universities’ and colleges’ outreach programs, community engagement and public service.”
In one of those quirks of synergy that seem to weave its way through my blog-land; I have recently been thinking about how much more work I could accomplish if I didn’t have to spend so much time counting things (statistics) and explaining things. I don’t have a great answer to this problem because there is a level of accountability that does need to happen. And there are certain levels of information that need to be quantified and analyzed to guide decision making, but have libraries gone too far in trying to justify our work using some sort of outcomes measurement. Isn’t there some point at which we just trust that we as professionals do know what we are doing and do have a sense when things are working and when things aren’t. The biggest problem here is in figuring out how to get past inertia (the tendency to keep doing things just because they have always been done). Libraries are inherently difficult to quantify our value. In many ways we are like other things of value. How do we measure the value of art or music. How do we measure the value of wisdom and knowledge? I think we need to embrace the notion of libraries as institutions of greater and higher value. Maybe I’ve been inspired by the book about the history of the library, but I think there is something wonderful about the immeasurable value of libraries. The tricky part is how to we embrace that which is noble and lofty — while at the same time remaining accountable to our funding partners and at the same time ensuring that we don’t get dragged down by inertia.
Much of our tendency towards the world of outcomes measurement comes from living within academia and working within the public university system. For other libraries it may be the county, or other parent organization. Setting that level of accountability aside, it seems to me that librarians are from within spinning a lot of wheels building in layer upon layer upon layer of accountability into our own inner workings. Perhaps we need to worry less about outcomes measures and accountability and worry more about doing really amazing work and trusting our professional judgement. Idealistic?? Perhaps but it is an interesting scenario to spin out.
One final question … does the push for accountability squash innovation? (at least in the short term).
The Library: An Illustrated History by Stuart Murray published 2009, “traces the elaborate history of the library from its …beginnings… to some of the greatest contemporary institutions.” (ALA Store). According to a review posted on the Afterworld, ‘The history of libraries is the history of humanity‘ posted by Brad Frenette, “The fact that libraries are still being constructed some 4,000 years after they were first created — and that such huge sums of money are being spent — is at once surprising and reassuring.” In these days when we still periodically have the esoteric debates about which was a greater innovation the printing press or the modern day internet. It is really interesting to add the notion of library as place (which predates the printing) place as an innovation which ought to make the list. We don’t think of the library as something innovative (and given the fact that they are over 4,000 years old it is certainly true that they probably don’t fall within the realm of innovative any more). But if we think about some innovation that has made an eternal impact on the world civilization — libraries really ought to rate at least honorable mention.
We (and I should credit Diana McDuffee here) are advocating thinking of libraries as three parts: space, collections, and services. Once upon a time space/place and collection seemed to be one and the same. The space was a place where the collections lived. In the era of digital (online) collections/resources: the library as space takes on a very different meaning. In the Library:an Illustrated History, Stuart Murray describes the library as being, “essential in terms of education and research; librarians can guide you in ways that Google can’t. And just the feeling of being in a library and holding a book, whether it’s old or new, is a wonderful thing.” Note here that this quote encapsulates the notion of service (librarians as guides) and library as space (feeling of being in a library).
In our current incarnation we forget the wonderful innovation of the library as a lending library (thanks to Benjamin Franklin). In this notion the library was wonderfully revolutionary. A place that was trying to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots. In this sense the library is a place of service. Bridging the education gap. This bridge can come in the form of access to resources or in the services provided by librarians.
As we look to the future we need to remember our past. This book is well worth a browse. Perhaps you can borrow it from your local library.
After having to track down new links for many Joint Commission sites after a major domain name change, I had been thinking about doing a posting on the frustrations of keeping up with links to free resources (it is much easier with our licensed content). Then yesterday our link to the journal Radiology stopped working through our proxy server. They had also made a slight change to their URL construction that was just enough to not show-up in our proxy config. file.
In this context, I came across, a posting, “What’s the average lifespan of a Web page?“. It was nice to read a sort of scientific discussion of this nuisance. The posting pulls together some research about the average lifespan of a URL (and that is a key to the discussion). The ball park figure stemming from the Internet Archive seems to be in the 44 – 75 day range. What is notable is that much of the content might still be available, just the address changes.
Much of what I encounter deals with the changing URL phenomena. A site might change from Cold Fusion (.cfm) to PHP (.php) or Active Server Page (.asp) etc etc etc… Our consumer site, NC Health Info, can well attest to the changeable nature of web sites. They have discovered that automatic link checkers alone can’t address the problem. When I do link checking, it turns out to be a more extensive project than I always imagine because it can take some tedious searching to find new URLs.
I don’t have a good solution to this problem, except to put out a plea for web sites to think carefully before engaging in a redesign that results in change of address. It seems to me that the government sites are notably bad about changing their content addresses. A few years ago the CDC changed its site and it took me days (not full time) to track down all of the new locations for some of the pages.
The interesting point raised in the JISC – PoWR blog is that the web seems to be growing even more transient with the advent of 2.0 technologies. Any existing problem with the life span of web sites and the permanent addressing will only be magnified in the 2.0 world.
As I was writing yesterdays blog about publishing, negotiations, and the future, I started thinking about how this current economic crisis has provided exciting opportunities for change. Librarians like to talk about change and many years one of the key note speakers at MLA is almost always a futurist. The future they describe is most often one filled with change and innovation. As I was doing some research for today’s blog posting (I know hard to believe I actually research this stuff), I came across a posting from June 2009 on the harvardbusiness.org Voices blog. This posting by Bill Taylor on his Practically Radical Blog, “The 10 Questions Every Change Agent Must Answer,” raised some really interesting points. Although this is targeted towards the business community, there were some questions that are equally important for librarians. Some of the questions that resonated for me were:
- ….If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would miss you and why? (or for us… if your library closed tomorrow, who would miss you and why)
- Can your customers live without you?
- Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?
I think this is a really important question for hospital librarians to ponder. As more pressure mounts on hospital librarians, its a good time to think about who the key stake holders are. The why portion of the question is also critical because it helps us think about what we do…. what services and resources we provide.
This question falls along the lines of the preceding one. I like the customer focus of these 2 questions.
If they can, they probably will. The researchers at Gallup have identified a hierarchy of connections between companies and their customers — from confidence to integrity to pride to passion. To test for passion, Gallup asks a simple question: “Can you imagine a world without this product?” One of the make-or-break challenges for change is to become irreplaceable in the eyes of your customers.
We’ve all heard about the need to become life long learners, in order to become change agents we also need to become rapid learners. This can be a scary prospect as the pace of change at times seems to out pace our ability to learn.
These are but 3 questions on his list of 10. What are other questions we need to confront as we focus our efforts on becoming change agents?