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Current Issues in Emerging elearning Volume 1 Issue 1 Article Library Portal 2.0: The Social Research Management System Apostolos Koutropoulos University of Massachusetts Boston,
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Current Issues in Emerging elearning Volume 1 Issue 1 Article Library Portal 2.0: The Social Research Management System Apostolos Koutropoulos University of Massachusetts Boston, Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Communication Technology and New Media Commons, Curriculum and Instruction Commons, Instructional Media Design Commons, and the Library and Information Science Commons Recommended Citation Koutropoulos, Apostolos (2014) Library Portal 2.0: The Social Research Management System, Current Issues in Emerging elearning: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 7. Available at: This Article is brought to you for free and open access by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. It has been accepted for inclusion in Current Issues in Emerging elearning by an authorized administrator of ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. For more information, please contact Library Portal 2.0: The Social Research Management System Apostolos Koutropoulos i University of Massachusetts Boston ABSTRACT Library 2.0 (L2) has been discussed in depth in library circles in recent years. This article looks at L2 initiatives and technology implementation with regard to L2 and proposes a reboot, repositioning the library portal as a Social Research Management System (SRMS). This SRMS adheres to the L2 principles of purposeful, user-driven, library services. The SRMS is envisioned as the center of academic research and activity at universities, not as a peripheral tool. Creating a new generation library portal (the SRMS) is a group endeavor, thus by utilizing both on-campus and peer resources, the realization of the faceted, modularized, SRMS can come to fruition. University Website - by Randall Munroe - 64 INTRODUCTION Libraries, both academic and public, are truly a wealth of information, and any college student who doesn t use the library and its resources is really missing out on a lot of useful information, both for work and play. That being said, we, as professionals in the information fields, are not making it that easy to engage our potential customers in part because we provide information in a push manner. Even though the comic strip at the beginning of this article pokes fun at University websites, the critique holds true for University Library portals as well: What we have on our library portal is different from what our patrons 1 expect, and there is, sometimes, only a small overlap between what s offered and what s expected. This is one reason that patrons inexperienced with research take refuge at a Google search when it comes to research. Current library portals expect information to be pulled by our patrons, for patrons to initiate the conversation with the library. However, with the vast amount of information that we have available, and the learning curve required to get the most out of library resources, our inexperienced patrons may be inundated. Thus they turn, instead, to a quicker, easier, and cleaner solution: Google. If the comic at the beginning of this article were more geared toward current library portals, in the left circle we would have information such as a link to the library catalog, a link to interlibrary loan, a link to a listing of all databases and resources that the library has access to, and a link with a staff directory and event calendar. While this isn t an exhaustive listing, in short, the circle would contain links to each and every resource. The circle on the right, however, what patrons expect, would be a singular question: where, and how, can I get a hold of a specific resource? So what s the common ground between what the library portal offers and what patrons are looking for? That would probably be the library s name, and possibly hours of operation. Since the advent of Web 2.0 more than a decade ago, we ve also seen Business 2.0, Education 2.0 and Library 2.0, among many other 2.0 monikers. The problem is that advances in technology are only one part of the equation; we also need a paradigm shift in order to make best of use of the technology available to us; otherwise we are just replicating existing structures in a new medium (McLuhan, 1967) and this isn t necessarily the best use of our technological resources. A good example of this is the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). Libraries did a good job bringing the card catalog to the electronic era, making it keyword and subject searchable, thus adding more functionality to the card catalog, however we have not yet realized the full potential of the catalog, as far as its interaction with new technologies is concerned. There are still many different silos of information in a library that do not speak to one another and don t work with one other, and enhancements to the OPAC, both from a technological and a metadata perspective, have yet to materialize. It s inconceivable that the same group of professionals that gave us classification systems such as Dewey and Library of Congress - ways of collocating similar and related information - cannot take the next logical leap and assist patrons with smart discovery of resources (collocation in the digital age) by utilizing technology that is now well over 10 years old. In this article we ll be looking at what has been done in the world of Library 2.0 and I ll be proposing a new model for a library portal that moves from a 1 Patron is a library term for a user of library services. 65 Yahoo paradigm, that of a web directory, to a Google paradigm, that of the smart web search. LIBRARY 2.0: CURRENT STATE The concept of Library 2.0 has been on librarians radars for better than half a decade. While no unifying definition of Library 2.0 has been distilled, the accepted definition has been constant and purposeful change that empowers library users through participatory user-driven services (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007). This definition is not techno-centric, however a lot of Library 2.0 initiatives have adopted technology for the realization of Library 2.0 projects. In keeping with the going-to-the-where-the-patronsare theme of some Library 2.0 implementations, many libraries have created profiles on social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook and Twitter (Widdows, 2009; Xu, Ouyang and Chu, 2009), as well as starting library blogs (Cohen, 2007; Xu, Ouyang and Chu, 2009; Stephens and Collins, 2007 ). The advice given by some is reminiscent of Nike s motto: just do it, go ahead and implement a presence on these Social Networking Sites; go where your patrons are. Do not focus exclusively on the library website and catalog functionality and expect patrons to come to you (Widdows, 2009). However, this me too approach really dilutes the library s message as an organization. Just because a patron has an SNS profile, it doesn t mean that patron will connect to you or see your message. Just because patrons blog, it doesn t mean that they will read and comment on your library s blog. What s happening here is that we are using new media to replicate old-media functionality. Instead of using the SNS medium to replicate functionality from our existing library portal, we ought to do something transformative with the medium. Another example of old-media translated to new-media is the use of blogs for reader s advisory. This isn t a bad idea per se, but just because you blog it doesn t mean that you will get patrons to read it and participate, especially if that blog is not on your library portal. Other uses of Web 2.0 technologies that are considered to fall under Library 2.0 include wikis which are used as a library intranet, for staff only (Courtney, 2007; Sodt and Summey, 2009). While this use does have its benefits, it doesn t really help the patron to find information in the library and through the library. A better use of a wiki would be to enable patrons to provide user-sourced reader s advisory and reference, thus working with information-savvy and tech-savvy patrons, not against them (Jacso, 2002). Casey and Savastinuk s (2007) recommendation to plan your projects and get buy in from coworkers and current patrons alike is more sage than the just do it mantra. There are other projects however which have looked beyond the me too approach to implementation and have gone a step further. The University of Virginia at Arlington for example worked on a newer concept of an OPAC that is faceted and contains relevancy ranking (Cohen, 2007). While this is great, efforts like this are hampered by old metadata schemes such as Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC), created in the days of punch-card computing, even though improved metadata schemes have been around for a decade now. Simply developing a new OPACs won t be much help because OPAC architecture is only one element in the equation. It is the metadata that reside in the OPAC are the most valuable resource not the OPACs themselves. If these resources and standards differ from library to library it will be difficult to create Library 2.0 services that work across many different types of libraries. 66 Another great project is the effort to bring library resources into the Learning Management System (LMS). An example of such a project is realized at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where library provided up-to-date, customized links to databases and e-journals at the course level (Cohen, 2007). This is a great first step because this system allows librarians to target appropriate resources to specific groups of users in specific courses. We ought to continue along this path, to borough deeper and present patrons with individualized library services, library services on a per-patron basis, not just customized library services on a course level basis. As an example of an open source library effort we ve got the LibX Firefox plugin which allows patrons to search their library s holdings through their browser (Cohen, 2007). While this is certainly a good start, there are two underlying issues. First, the architecture of this plugin assumes that patrons will be using Firefox as their browser. The second issue is that it s just a conduit to the OPAC search at your library, so it is limited by the searching capabilities of your own OPAC. The key here is that we don t just need a library search box in our browsers; instead we need a better library search box. Finally, a great example of OPAC improvement comes from the Jönköping University Library in Sweden. The work done here is much more focused on the backend of the OPAC providing spelling suggestions for searches, finding book images from Amazon, providing forward linking to catalog content, and providing contextual help for patrons (Cohen, 2007). ENTER THE PORTAL (2.0) INTRODUCTION Despite of all of the great work done on Library 2.0 thus far, three things are clear. What s clear from all of the examples above is that the talent, and the will, exists to bring forth the next generation library services, we re just doing it separately and not cooperatively. In the end, if we want to put all of these contributions together we might be creating a franken-service because each individual cog has been created separately and doesn t necessarily fit together with other parts. What we ought to be working toward is a nicely polished and functional library platform, a Social Research Management System if you will. The parts and the talent to put them together are here, but in order to realize this goal we ought to work together to create that user-centered library. First, OPACs need to change so that they both can accommodate additional and different data types regarding their bibliographic entries, and can interface with networks where this information is available. Libraries need to stop fighting the users (Jacso, 2002) and embrace what patrons bring to the table to improve services. Second, we ought to realize that the library portal, the OPAC and our database offerings are not islands, as Daniel Forsman comments (Cohen, 2007), therefore these technologies ought to connect and interface in a meaningful way to the services that our patrons already use. Finally, the library portal needs to change; to move away from the static database-directory model (the old Yahoo model) to a more integrated-search and recommendation model (the Google model). In addition, library websites ought to be modular so that new innovations can be tested independently and released without 67 affecting existing users. Modular library websites would make possible the offering of new features that library patrons could opt-into using. The modus operandi of Library 2.0 up to now seems (mostly) to have been the library where you are (Cohen, 2007; Chad and Miller, 2005; Widdows, 2009; Courtney, 2007), however the medium does limit the message, thus offering library services in Facebook, or in the LMS, may not be the best place to setup shop; a better library portal is a better proposition. This doesn t mean that you abandon outreach efforts, you just can t neglect the library portal altogether. MODULARIZATION Change is difficult. One of the difficult things about changing an organizational website is that there are so many constituencies to please. Typically what you end up with is a library website looks something like what the figure at the beginning of this article mocks; in an attempt to please everyone you please no one. The new library portal ought to be simple and widgetized. 2 At its most basic option you will have a page that operates like a Google search page which consists of a search box and the library s contact information and hours of operation. Patrons could customize their library profile and preferences. Beyond that everything should be controlled by a widget whose placement on the page is customized by the patron. This model offers multiple advantages. First, it keeps with Library 2.0 philosophy of empowering library users. Library users can figure out which modules are relevant to them, and they can activate them and place these modules where they are most personally useful. Second, again in keeping with Library 2.0 philosophy, this modular model allows for constant, non-disruptive, change. By rolling out new features as modules libraries avoid disrupting existing library users practices, and allow for an optin action from the user. Also, by having a modularized architecture, libraries are able to push out some modules as fully tested products, while allowing some beta modules to go out to users who want to try them and provide feedback. Again, this won t affect users who don t want to be impacted by additional functionality. Multiple stakeholders can get their information on the website as a (user-removable) module so all stakeholders can be satisfied without producing a website that inspires parody. Finally, deploying a modular model compensates for the fact that one library can t do it all. For modularized portals, modules can be developed, or co-developed, by fellow librarians in other libraries, by library professionals working for library vendors, by other campus subject-matter-experts such as the computer science department, and by open source enthusiasts alike. This means that, through collective action, everyone benefits. There is precedent for this in other parts of the academic world, such as in LMS including Moodle, Sakai, and Canvas all of which accommodate development through crowd sourcing. A BETTER OPAC 2 A widgetized portal includes widgets, defined by NetLingo The Internet Dictionary as an application that sits on top of a Web site and offers users additional interactive features (widget, n.d.) 68 While the OPAC isn t the heart of the library, it is certainly one vital component. The library s OPAC system contains the records of that library s holdings, such as books and journals, and can tell you if a library owns a specific resource, if it s available for loan, and some basic information about that resource. In essence the OPAC is just one giant read-only database for the patron. Sure there are other redeeming features of integrated library systems (ILS), of which OPACs are a part, features that help librarians manage the back-end of acquisitions and circulation; however the OPAC shouldn t be designed for the librarian, but rather for the patron. We don t write books with authors of the book in mind, but rather with potential readers in mind. Yet what s happening to our OPACs equates to the authorship of a text for the author alone. Our OPACs seem to be designed for librarians, with a one-way information flow and poor searching options. This is part of the reason patrons don t necessarily go to the OPAC but go to sites like Amazon when they are looking for books. Amazon has a better interface and a better search system, which means that clients can find what they are looking for. How does one create a better OPAC? First you need more space for more information, information that comes to you from your patrons. Patrons ought to be able to tag resources available in the OPAC to provide more in-depth descriptions of the resources. Patrons ought to be able to have some way of rating a resource and providing additional metadata. The cataloguing practices of professional librarians ought to be improved through the use of newer, more expansive cataloguing schemas. Combined, these two approaches would result in quality metadata coming from both sides; the professional librarians and the library patrons. This aspect of cataloguing data brings me to a second point: why the duplication? Often cataloguing of resources is not original cataloguing 3, but rather copy-cataloguing 4. Why the duplication of data? Why not focus on creating one central authoritative source of information for all books on WorldCat and then OPACs can link to these authoritative records and create meaningful mashups 5 between the library record, the patron record and data from Web 2.0 services. This would change the current practice to one that relies upon object-oriented information linking among compatible cloud services. ONE SEARCH TO RULE THEM ALL How many search boxes does a library have? There is a search box for each database that the library subscribes to, there is a search box in the OPAC, there is a search box for each online audiobook and ebook provider to which a library subscribes, one for the library portal, another for the LibGuides installation; and of course, let s not forget Google and Google Scholar as well! The point here is that there are just way too many search boxes on a present-day library portal and this makes it easy for the patron to just give it all up and go to Google in the first place. 3 Creating a descriptive record of the resource from scratch. 4 Creating a copy of a record from a service, like WorldCat, and storing it in your local database, perhaps with some modifications that are relevant to local contexts. 5 A mashup is defined by NetLingo The Internet Dictionary as a Web page or application that integrates complementary elements from two or more sources (Mashup, n.d.) 69 Instead of doing what librarians are supposed to do best, finding and organizing knowledge, we re instead asking our users to define what sort of information they want from the onset and then we point them to the right resource. This is the wrong tactic because what library patrons want is one search to examine all possible library holdings. One search for all books, ebooks, audiobooks, journals, articles, FAQs, and so on. Library users don t care if a book is held by your local library branch or if it s something that can be received through interlibrary-loan. If it exists, regardless of whether the library has local access to it, there should be one search to find it, and a single click to order it (if possible), or find it in the library s stacks. Luckily, we re not that far away from this being a reality. WorldCat already allows us to see which libraries have what books. Google Scholar is similar for academic articles, and it also searches Google Books. What n
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