During these times when social networking, web 2.0, and all things technology, technology, technology, its nice to celebrate banned books week.
ALA advertises Banned Books Week as a time to highlight, “the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.” A cornerstone of Banned Books Week is its emphasis not on the book for its own sake, but on the book as a vessel of intellectual freedom saying, “Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.”
As we watch the debate over the Google books settlement we (meaning librarians) can’t help feel that we are on the front lines of a battle over the future of the book. No one yet knows what the implications are for the future of the book. Reading the statement about Banned Books week, I can’t help but wonder if in the future we shouldn’t be celebrating (or examining) some sort of week that celebrates not only the book, but also the notion of access.
I learned today (although have not confirmed via an external third party) that Medlineplus and therefore NC Health Info are no longer linking to Mayo Clinic or familydoctor.org . We linked to these sites in our Patient Information section, so I decided to check out the situation. On the Mayo Clinic site, I definately saw a problem. Although they claim there is a clear distinction between advertising content and editorial content and despite the fact that they claim that they refuse advertising from sites that, “Advertisers and sponsors must not make unsubstantiated health claims or suggest that Mayo Clinic has endorsed a product.” On the dementia page, however, there are links to advertisements from Google Ads for Alzheimer’s or Dementia products including a link to a page that appears to be an “affiliate site”. Its not exactly an affiliate website, because I can’t see where any money changes hands but its along the lines of an affilate web site.
But I digress. The big issue on the Mayo site is that although it does nominally “differentiate” the advertising content. It isn’t entirely clear to the unitiated (my mother for example) where the advertising ends and where the editorial content begins. This isn’t such a big issue if the advertising content is clearly not related to the subject matter of the page (an advertisement for bing for example). With Mayo Clinic placing ads that relate to the disease conditions, the line becomes a bit blurry for people with lower internet browsing literacy.
Although I didn’t find any similar examples on familydoctor.org (I didn’t conduct an exhaustive search). I personally found the advertising to be intrusive. It hurts its useability. Oddly enough the Mayo Clinic website looked overall more professional, but the familydoctor.org site, currently looks like a slick marketing site. (Amazon.doc anyone??). Another issue I had with familydoctor.org is that many of the advertising sites have interactive components and I was a bit concerned about the possibilities of spyware, malware, or other viral ickiness corrupting my computer. I haven’t decided yet, whether I’ll remove our link to familydoctor.doc since it hasn’t (to me) crossed the boundary of including disease related advertisements on corresponding disease information pages. That to me is the clear line in the sand that Mayo Clinic crossed. That and the fact that the disease related advertisements are those odd Google ads which are difficult to differentiate.
Given the large amount of advertising on familydoctor.org; I am a bit concerned that as recently as July it got its HON approval renewed. I guess given the letter of their “code” it might be entitled to their stamp of approval, but I think HON needs to also add a consideration about not only the differentiation between advertising and content, but also about the sheer amount of advertising. Maybe its time for HON to update their Code.
Routledge Publishing (Taylor & Francis) has been sending me links to limited time only free articles. I wasn’t paying overly much attention, but on a whim, I decided to read the article, “Academic Digital Libraries of the Future: An Environment Scan” (Law, Derek (2009). Academic Digital Libraries of the Future: An Environment Scan. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 15 (1), 53-67. Retrieved September 22, 2009, from http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/13614530903069307. Free access for 90 days). This article was an environmental scan focusing on changing users, changing content, and the changing nature of research. This environmental scan draws upon many seminal reports about the future of libraries and universities, and his report of the current status looking towards the future does not break much new ground.
The highlights of the article, are his conclusions about the role for librarians in the future.
In light of expanding hoaxes, spams, virusus, etc… there is a role for libraries as a trusted brand. Derek Brand speculates that this might take the form of working in the areas of, “social networking for research, it should be libraries that create and manage the frameworks which researchers populate with content.” He categorizes this under the rubric of trust metrics.
He sums up his target areas for librarians in the future in his conclusion saying,
It is then possible in the light of this environment scan to highlight the agenda to be prosecuted by libraries and librarians. Of course, there is no universal panacea and the emphases will vary from institution to institution, but it seems certain that these concerns will be at the core of any redefinition of the Library’s role:
Building e-Research collections and contributing to a virtual research environment of born digital material both nationally and internationally;
Importance of kite marking, quality assurance, trust metrics, and relevance ranking;
Managing institutional born digital assets, ensuring their bibliographic integrity and making value added content available;
Training/Information fluency/information literacy;
and Policy and standards advice to institutions
Persuading not just librarians but institutions that this is an agenda to be tackled and resolved will indeed ensure a bright dawning for the libraries of the future.
I have to say that his conclusions about future directions for librarianship mirror some of my own thoughts. I was skeptical at first, but actually this is a thought provoking article that is honestly worth the read (or at least a quick skim).
I was recently speaking to Mark Rodrigues at Ovid about some recent OvidSP enhancements and as we were winding up the conversation he asked me what I thought about the importance of COUNTER compliance. Wow, was I ever glad he asked. I do understand the need to have a stable comparison across different databases from different vendors, but for me (and for many of us in specialized libraries that don’t have many different options) ability for consistent tracking across time is much more important than adherance to whatever new version COUNTER develops. I would rather that vendors keep their statistics stable across time (and even if they try to keep up with the ever changing COUNTER compliance standards, why can’t they keep the basis upon which they have been providing stats for years as an option for selecting our statistics reports). I know I’ve ranted about this in the past, but when vendor’s change the basis upon which they pull stats, it impacts our ability to track stats across time within a database. This across time ability is much more important to me. I wonder if I’m a lone voice in the wilderness on this. Have all librarians jumped on the COUNTER bandwagon, or are there others out their for whom the whole issue of COUNTER compliance is just a non-issue. At any rate to my vendors out there, please please please… if and when you adapt to COUNTER 3 compliance, please keep some semblance of historical foundations so we can still pull our stats in a way that we can measure against our stats before the new standards came into play. And to you COUNTER people, please stop messing with your standards. You’ve established them already, just leave them be. If you want to read the counter argument (please pardon the pun and yes it was intentional), you can read a posting by the Librarian in Black, COUNTER your database stats, baby. She presents the more conventional view on this topic.
We were talking at work today about the high quality of articles in the journal Health Affairs. We were planning to link to a blog posting by Jonathan Oberlander, an associate professor of Social Medicine and Health Policy & Management at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, on the Health Affairs site. At any rate, I digress. In the process of tracking down the URL for this blog, I discovered that the journal Health Affairs which had been included in Ebsco’s Health Business Collection and Academic Search Premier has lost its full text access as of the April 2009 issue. This is the problem of relying on the full text collections that come with databases (especially where the content is not owned by the database distributor as is the case with many of the Ebsco Database collections). The problem with this title is that with the Health Business Collection we really only subscribed to it for access to 2 titles: Harvard Business Review and Health Affairs. With the loss of Health Affairs we’ve really got to question the validity of ongoing subscription to that database. With the status of Harvard Business Review; I wouldn’t be surprised to see that title get dropped soon. I don’t know if these collections really qualify as the “Big Deals” (since they aren’t one publisher’s packages like the LWW High Impact or other collections…) but as the “big deal” publisher packages come into question in light of the current economic challenges another question that needs to be considered is the ongoing availability of important titles within these questions. For those of us doing collection development; we certainly need to weigh the importance of specific titles against any cost savings by only relying on database full text collections for access. Ah yes, the exciting (no wait interesting) challenges of collection development in a virtual (electronic) world.
I have written several times about the future of libraries, and I was hoping to avoid it today, but since CNN has seen fit to write about, “The future of libraries….”. Our library’s intranet blog posted about this article and Michelle Kraft posted about it in her Krafty Librarian blog, “The Future of Libraries…“. The Annoyed Librarian (who I won’t link to here on principle alone) also posted about it. I really agree with much of Michelle Kraft’s posting on the topic especially her conclusion which states
It would be silly to say we aren’t getting more wired and digital, because people are finding information more online these days. But I think it is slightly premature to do what Cushing Academy has done and eliminate all of the books from the library. People (especially students) use what is convenient and frankly right now it isn’t always convenient to get and use everything online. .. However that isn’t an excuse to hide your head in the sand and ignore online access and technology. If your library doesn’t have any online journals, books, or an online catalog, you are no better than those who have abandoned all printed material. Both types of libraries are extremes and living on the extreme you will find your information access limited.
While I am tech minded person and I am the first to start a weeding party in the stacks, I am not ready to say that libraries will be void of all books. There will be less books of course, and online access makes it easier for more people to use the material, I just don’t think the death of the paper printed book is here. Yet.
As always I think its important to think about our future, but I do have to question some of the source material behind the CNN article. Since I manage an entirely digital library. We have no print collection to weed and we don’t even have a physical space to turn over to gaming. I do, however, appreciate the need for physical library space. I find it interesting that despite the fact that CNN reports that libraries are now places of, “loud rooms….” — our Health Sciences Library has many many requests for quiet study space. We recently had the opportunity to turn a defunct computer lab into a public space and we had some comments requesting something a bit less public.
The CNN article quotes Jason Schultz of UC Berkely Law School as describing the role of libraries as being, “places where people can get free information; and they’re community centers for civic debate.” I think he forgot one caveat that we don’t like to acknowledge, but libraries are not only places where people can get just anything free, its where people can get access to evaluated and selected resources. That are selected for whichever audience is their target audience (local community for a public library, undergraduate students for an academic library etc…). This role as selectors may have an increasingly important role in the world where so much information is available for free. The role of selector has merged into the role of evaluator and educator. Librarians roles will evolve into ones of helping people learn how to evaluate and select for themselves appropriate information for their needs. Whether this role takes place online or in a physical space is a matter that is still open to interpretation.
I’m always somewhat amused at how the media much imagine librarians. The end of the CNN article has a section on librarians which begins by saying, “This shift means the role of the librarian — and their look — is also changing.” What do they mean by their “look”? Librarians have a look?? This is news to me, but oh well.
My biggest gripe with the CNN article ( and this is my own soap box )… is that it highlights again those members of our profession who are discussing name changes, “Instead of librarians, they’re “information specialists” or “information scientists.” You can read my past postings about the problems I perceive in changing our name. We are so much more than information professionals and even adding the word scientist at the end of the word information doesn’t add much value. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in the hierarchy information is at the shallow end of the pool. It goes information … knowledge … wisdom. Why in the world do we want to limit ourselves to the information end of this hierarchy.
Oh well, at least these discussions are happening. Despite my previous postings using the word requiem, I personally see a good future for libraries and librarians. Books or no books.
Any recent search for library news stories are filled with stories of budget woes. Since we had a little article in a small local paper, I decided to highlight a sampling of library budget cut stories in the news this week. I tried to find an example of budget impacts at public, academic, and school libraries. I didn’t even include the wide array of stories about libraries cutting hours or closing branches.
(Eric Ferreri, Chapel Hill News, 8/31/2009, accessed 9/2/2009). This is a nice balanced article about journal cuts at the UNC Chapel Hill Libraries. It puts the cancellations in this context saying, “In this era of budget cutting, the university stands to save hundreds of thousands of dollars by ending hundreds of journal subscriptions, some arcane, some outdated, many very, very expensive.”
(George Tibbits, 9/2/2009, accessed 9/2/2009).
An editorial in the Seattle Time, “Seattle is shrewdly minimizing budget pain for library patrons” (Seattle Times 9/2/2009)
This article puts an interesting spin on the Seattle week long library closure saying, “Though frustrating and unpleasant, the one-week shutdown is the simplest approach to meeting the need for reduced library spending in 2009.”
(Craig Gigma, Honolulu Star Bulletin, 9/2/2009)
This article describes a plan by the Friends of the Library of Hawaii to encourage each person who uses the library or who has ever used the library to donate $3. “State Librarian Richard Burns said because of a hiring freeze and a $6 million budget cut, the libraries will run out of money in April. Burns has proposed closing the 51 public libraries two to four additional days a month to meet the shortfall. Because of the hiring freeze, 28 libraries face reduced hours and intermittent closures, Burns said.”
(Don Chaddock, The Folsom Telegraph, 9/2/2009)
This article describes the situation in Folsom Cordova Unified School District in California where due to budget cuts the school district is closing their libraries. When school started this fall, “Parents across the district were greeted with the news of a “reduction in library services” during recent back-to-school nights, but Superintendent Patrick Godwin maintains the libraries will remain open, just without librarians.”
A friend recently posted on her Facebook page asking where she could find good/accurate information about the health care reform debate. This started me to thinking about the role that medical librarians (especially those with a focus on health literacy, consumer health, or health policy) could play in providing this level of information.
We hopped on the H1N1 outbreak immediately. Libraries all over were putting up pages with links to high quality accurate information about the H1N1 outbreak. Now I know that the health care reform debate is an entirely different animal (yikes my high school English teacher would hate that cliche), but aren’t the stakes perhaps equally as high for the health care consumer.
I’ll admit we don’t have a collection of quality, objective, links compiled for our site (and after doing some quick and dirty research this evening I can see why). None the less, here are some library sites (both public, academic, and medical that I found that are addressing this issue).
- Enoch Pratt Free Library: Health Care Reform What You Need to Know
- St. Ambrose University Library: Hot Paper Topcs: Health Care Reform
- Utah Valley University: Library Guides: Health Care Reform
- Douglas County Libraries: Health Care Reform Resources
- University of Montana: What’s New Weblog: Health Care Reform
- University of Washington Health Services Library Information Center: Glossary of Health Care and Health Care Management Terms
- NC Health Info: Health Reform
And that’s all I was able to come up with in a quick search. I have to admit; this was harder than I anticipated. Either very few libraries are putting up links to quality information about the health care debate or I’m a worse searcher than I even imagined. I’m thinking of this experience as a call to action (at least for myself). Note, not one health sciences library appeared in my search. What this tell me is something I have intuitively known to be true. We (meaning health sciences librarians) are much better (or maybe more experienced) at handling the medical side of our life but less facile with the health policy/public health aspect of health care in America.