Speakers' Presentations from RUSA President's Program 2007

from two all four speakers are available!

The first
from Genevieve Bell (Director, User Experience), who is an anthropologist with
Intel, concerns the nature and meaning of libraries with an emphasis on their
significance even as the size of personal digital collections keep growing.

The second
is from Lee Rainie (Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project) whose
research examines how the internet affects families, communities, health care,
education, civic and political life, and work places. His presentation concerns
public policy issues including what kind of internet we develop, the role of
information policy and how our identities are shaped by the internet.

The third
is from Allen Renear (Professor of Library and Information Science at
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) whose provocative contention is
that researchers increasingly use various indexes, bibliographic databases, and
other tools not to find articles, but to avoid reading.

The fourth
is from Wendy Schultz (
Director of Infinite Futures and
Executive Board Member of the Association of Professional Futurists) who argues
for a holistic approach to environmental scanning that encompasses education,
technologies and societal changes

Podcasts of the Program are also available.


Digitization Projects for Local History (RUSA-HS)

The Local History Committee of RUSA's History Section has recently discussed creating a list of digitization projects with content for local history. Librarians could add to the list, refer patrons to the list, and help our committee keep the list current.

All History is Local in a Digital World. Our program at ALA Annual in 2007 launched the content for this blog. Join us in the discussion and development of listing the digital projects.

The program on Sunday, June 24, 2007 had three presentations. Susan L. Malbin, Senior Program Officer, Office of Library Services, Institute of Museum & Library Services was our moderator. The presentations featured:

Nancy Allen (nancy.allen@du.edu), Dean & Director, Penrose Library University of Denver. Her topic was a “Collaborative Digitization Program.” See http://www.cdpheritage.org

Judy Graves (jgrav@loc.gov), Digital Projects Coordinator, Library of Congress. Her topic was “The American Memory and the National Digital Newspaper Project.” See http://memory.loc.gov

Erich Kesse (kesse@ufl.edu), Director of the Digital Library Center, University of Florida. His topic was “Using the Map Interface as a Visual Layer for Research in Local History.” See http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc



A Grand Opening in Second Life

I took the opportunity to attend a lecture and the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the virtual campus of the San Jose State Unviersity's School of Library and Information Science in Second Life yesterday. The campus is very large and impressive (I'm building an album of screenshots here). The commitment by the university to using Second Life to extend their educational program and reach is also quite impressive. The lecture involved a live demonstration of their own virtual environment learning system called SLoodle, which connects Second Life (SL) with Moodle. Because I've been testing out Moodle as a possible alternative to the courseware management system we're using for our RUSA Professional Development Online course, I was very curious about SLoodle.

All avatars present at the lecture were invited to click on a tape recorder on stage and agree (opt in) to being recorded sloodlechatx350.jpgon a transcript generated in SLoodle's chat room. (Good thing I'd already registered!) See the image to the right, it shows Second Life in the background window, with SLoodle open to the chat transcript, with particpant icons to the far right. By typing into chat boxes in either window, the text was shared, meaning that someone could particpate whether they were in Second Life or not, or whether they had “opened” SLoodle. Having used WebCT's chat rooms for the past two years, I could see right away what a wonderful advantage this would be for handling discussions. In the Reference Interview and Readers' Advisory courses, we pair off particpants to roleplay interviews between librarian and information seeker. SLoodle would add another dimension to such activities. (It's also a shortcoming of SL that transcripts aren't automatically generated.)

When I asked about security issues, which have been raised by people I know and trust, I was told that Moodle is being used by a wide range of universities with very few issues. I'll be taking a course from the University of Illinois starting next week that uses SL and Moodle, so I'll ask about their experience with security as well as see from the student perspective how this blending of technologies works.

Interfaces and database-specific features

I've been concerned for a while about how many of our search interfaces handle (or do not handle) the special features of specific databases. For example, I was helping someone with ERIC the other day, and needed to limit the search by educational level. I went to look for the list of mandatory educational level descriptors, and ultimately had to go to our printed ERIC thesaurus to find them listed in a comprehensible fashion. Just to see if there was any good way of figuring this out online, I tried typing “secondary education” (one of those mandatory educational level descriptors) into the online thesaurus in the three versions we have access to see if it would note the hierarchy of these descriptors. Interestingly, “junior high schools,” “high schools,” and “high school equivalency programs,” the narrower terms for “secondary eduation” in the list of the mandatory educational level descriptors, show up only under the list of “related terms”. The scope note for the term “secondary education” does say “Also appears in the list of mandatory educational level Descriptors,” but I couldn’t find such a list in our online versions. And I’m not sure what a user without extensive knowledge of the database structure would make of such a message.

This all seems pretty arcane, and I wonder if there is any way to make this structure clear to most users; through the interface. After all, limiting by educational level is something one often wants to do in this database. Currently, I wonder if they would even suspect that there might be a systematic way to do this. How can we get vendors to build in these special, database-specific features into their interfaces, in ways that make it obvious what is going on, especially when the feature is so important, as it is in this case? Will the development of faceted interfaces help?