Thursday, April 23, 2009
"The 'new normal' is a concept that signals that everything we've taken for granted over the last 20 years is being melted down, re-thought and cast into a new reality. The old rules are broken and new ones must replace them."
Can you guess who "the drivers" of the 'new normal' for academic libraries are? Yep, the economy, our students, and technology. No big surprise there.
For those so inclined to look over the complete report, "ACRL's 2009 Strategic Thinking Guide for Academic Librarians in the New Economy" you can read it here. Ok, so you don't want to read a long involved report. Suggestion: skip to the section on "Driver #3- Technology" and "Strategic Questions for Libraries" (toward the end of the report).
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I looked over this site again. It's nothing new, unfortunately.
Friday, April 17, 2009
It is not a long article, but I picked up some ideas that I think can help us in further customizing MultiSearch:
Comprehensive Search vs. A Few Good Articles
UW Libraries put a "Find It Fast" box on their homepage with the idea that federated search engines do a better job of providing a few articles to start with, rather than being a comprehensive way to search all of the databases. If you really want the best articles, you really need to use subject headings and the specialized search features available by searching databases individually.
Select a Few Databases and Test
With this in mind, the article points out that it is better to set up MultiSearch by being selective, rather than comprehensive. In deciding which databases to include in each subject category, subject specialists suggested a few databases and then tested to see what kind of results came up in sample searches. Some databases provided only problematic results, so they were eliminated from the list, even though they could technically be searched with MultiSearch. UW has over 200 databases, which was whittled down to 46 databases, and finally after testing, they ended up with a dozen databases that consistently provided good results in sample searches.
Default to Title Searching
Serials Solutions sets the default to TITLE search. This seems odd at first (I remember as a Reference team we changed the default to KEYWORD). But TITLE searching works better than KEYWORD searching with federated search engines for two reasons: 1- Time - it takes forever to search the full-text of so many articles and databases. If we are offering MultiSearch as a fast option for a few articles, KEYWORD searching defeats this goal. 2 - if the idea is to get a few good articles, not be be comprehensive, then title searches will offer up a few good results with fewer outliers. Of course, some articles will be missed, if the topic doesn't appear in the title, but the point is not to be thorough, but to provide a few articles that are on topic.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Times change: print no longer default MLA citation style
The Modern Language Association's (MLA) new handbook for academic citations does away with the primacy of print, along with the need to include URLs for Web citations. All hail the rise of the Internet.
In my former life, one in which the sermons of Bishop Lancelet Andrewes seemed inestimably important, the Modern Language Association's Handbook for Writers of Research Papers was my secular citation bible. MLA style reigns supreme in literature and various other humanities, so MLA's recent move to ditch its "print-centric" default style last month has been controversial. And URLs for Web content? They're gone too.
The changes are part of MLA's seventh edition of the Handbook, published last month, whose predictably soporific cover design belies the radical citation changes within. As Inside Higher Ed describes the changes, "print is the default no more" and the new edition suggests "that the medium of publication should be included in each works cited entry."
Even more interesting is the MLA's decision to ditch URLs in citations. URLs "often change, can be specific to a subscriber or a session of use, and can be so long and complex that typing them into a browser is cumbersome and prone to transcription errors," says the book. "Readers are now more likely to find resources on the Web by searching for titles and authors' names than by typing URLs."
The move set off a bloodless internecine war here at Ars, where (in the Harvard crimson corner) editor-in-chief Ken Fisher defended the honor and necessity of the full URL while (in the Carolina blue corner) I applauded the MLA's move on the grounds of aesthetics, ease, and utility. No one else on staff appeared to care.
For those in academics, though, the move is just further evidence of the Web's mainstreaming. Print, for long the superpower, now sees itself reduced to just one more format among others. As archives like Project MUSE and JSTOR continue to digitize old journals and projects like Google Book Search digitize old books, even information that originally appeared in "print" is increasingly accessed through electronic systems, read off of screens, or (rather ironically) printed again by the ream in campus computer labs.