This article discusses Amazon’s latest effort to increase its social media presence. It’s rather ironic, given that Amazon was an early adopter of social features such as user tagging, reviews and ratings; in fact, Amazon has been one of the models for my research into the use of social features in library catalogues (admittedly, not in the same league as LibraryThing). The article suggests that Amazon has not made full use of these features; yes, clients can post content to the records, but they cannot interact with one another, exchange wish lists, interests, and so forth, which is what I’ve been advocating that library catalogues should allow people to do. Whether such communications will be outsourced, so to speak, via Facebook and Twitter, as is the case with Kindle, remains to be seen.
This article discusses the ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project, a series of ethnographic studies conducted by five U.S. universities, to examine how students view and use their campus libraries. The study suggests that “students rarely ask librarians for help, even when they need it. The idea of a librarian as an academic expert who is available to talk about assignments and hold their hands through the research process is, in fact, foreign to most students. Those who even have the word “librarian” in their vocabularies often think library staff are only good for pointing to different sections of the stacks.”
The study suggests that librarians and faculty may contribute to this perception: “librarians tend to overestimate the research skills of some of their students, which can result in interactions that leave students feeling intimidated and alienated …Some professors make similar assumptions, and fail to require that their students visit with a librarian before embarking on research projects. And both professors and librarians are liable to project an idealistic view of the research process onto students who often are not willing or able to fulfill it.” The article discusses how students tend to turn to their professors for help with searching and evaluating resources; the problem is that professors themselves are “necessarily any more knowledgeable about library resources than their students are.”
The study makes an interesting argument about the need to practice “librarian idealism” with “librarian pragmatism” when it comes to having a clear understanding of the knowledge and skill sets of students (and, perhaps, faculty). Faculty members also have an obligation to be more realistic in their expectations, such as not assuming that students understand what is meant by “scholarly resource” in the creation of their assignments.
The study is based on a small sample, so its general applicability is limited. The academic librarians I speak to appear to have a very clear and realistic understanding of the research skills of undergraduate (at least) students, so I’m not sure I agree entirely with the notion of “librarian idealism” in this regard. I can certainly see where professors’ perceptions of students’ research skills may not reflect reality; how well do the professors’ personal search skills stack up in comparison? I frequently encounter cases where professors search only a very limited set of resources for their research and are unaware of other possibilities and new resources available to them. It’s unfortunate that this post does not provide more tangible recommendations for what librarians and faculty can do to address this situation; I hope that the final report, when released, will provide more specific guidelines.
This article discusses the large 2006 “Tastes, Ties, and Time” project conducted by Harvard researchers that used 1,700 Facebook profiles of university students. This article raises interesting questions and concerns about the use of publicly-available social media data for research. I think the assumption often is that if something is on the Internet, it’s in the public domain, and thus up for grabs, so to speak, and not subject to the approval of ethics boards. As this case suggests, this may not be the case; furthermore, ethics review boards may not be equipped to understand the nuances of Web-based research:” “esearchers must navigate the shifting privacy standards of social networks and their users. And the committees set up to protect research subjects—institutional review boards, or IRB’s—lack experience with Web-based research.”
In the study, “the researchers downloaded each student’s gender, home state, major, political views, network of friends, and romantic tastes. To determine race and ethnicity, they examined photographs and club affiliations. They recorded who appeared in students’ photo albums. And they culled cultural tastes like books, music, and movies.” A suggested rule of thumb is that “If an online community requires a password to enter, then researchers must seek IRB approval to study its members. But some scholars go further, Mr. Halavais says, arguing that researchers should seek approval to study open publishing platforms like blogs and Twitter.” I think that this statement is oversweeping at best. I can understand concerns if you use data that involves personal information, but what if you want to do content analyses of blogs, for example (part of a research project I plan to start); does this mean that you need to get ethics approval? Does this mean that you need ethics approval if you wish to study tagging behaviour in a library catalogue for example, where people must log in to tag? While I am a strong advocate for the protection of privacy, how far can these safeguards go, and at what price to scholarship?
The British Library will be working with Google to digitize over 40 million pages of text ranging from 1700-1870. I can only imagine how chuffed I would have been to have access to digital books when I was completing my Master’s thesis on New France and Quebec, especially since I lacked the funds to peruse some of the original texts in Quebec City. A remarkable opportunity for historians and scholars. Of particular interest is the digitization of Sir Anthony Panizzi’s treatise Of the Processes and Judgements against those accused of High Treason and Membership of Proscribed Sects in the States of Modena, 1823, in the original Italian. I look forward to browsing through the work of the man who played a key role in the development of cataloguing standards.
In a continuation of my research on the use of social media and Web 2.0 applications to organize information, I am presenting several papers this summer. At the Atlantic Provinces Library Association conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador on 17 May 2011, I gave the paper, “The Public Library Catalogue as a Social Space,” co-authored with Laurel Tarulli. On 4 June 2011, I presented the paper, “The Public Library Catalogue as a Social Space: A Case Study of Social Discovery Systems in Two Canadian Public Libraries,” at the Canadian Association for Information Science Conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick. At the same conference, I spoke about “Social Discovery Tools: Cataloguing Meets User Convenience,” on 3 June 2011.
I will present the paper “Social Discovery Systems and User-Generated Metadata,” at the North American Society for Knowledge Organization conference in Toronto on 17 June 2011 and on 5 July 2011 I will be in London, England to present the paper “Faceted Navigation of Social Tagging Applications,” to the International Society for Knowledge Organization.
In addition to reporting on research work, my colleague, Sandra Toze, and I spoke about “Using Social Media to Leverage Corporate Intelligence and Tacit Knowledge,” at sessions organized by the Dalhousie University Centre for Advanced Management Education in Ottawa on 26 April 2011, Toronto on 29 April, and in Halifax on 3 May. On 2 June 2011, on my behalf, Sandra addressed the Maritime Access & Privacy Workshop in Halifax on the topic of “Governance and E-Discovery.”
A survey conducted by Dalhousie University’s School of Information Management and the Read to Me! Nova Scotia Family Literacy Program to gather information on early childhood literacy programs across Canada may be found at:
Congratulations to Dr. Vivian Howard, and MLIS students Deirdre O’Reilly and Naomi Balla-Boudreau for this important work.
The students at the School of Information Management will be hosting the 5th Information without Borders Conference on February 3, 2011, at Dalhousie University. The Conference is a student-led initiative by the School of Information Management at Dalhousie University. This one-day event provides a forum for interdisciplinary discussion on a central topic affecting all professions represented at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Management. This year’s program looks exciting and multidisciplinary, and includes a number of keynote speakers and panels. The theme of this year’s conference is Change Management, which is indeed very timely and relevant to today’s information landscape. A student poster competition will take place during the Conference and a cash prize will be awarded to the winner.