Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The most recent issue of The New Yorker has a Talk of the Town piece called The New Bathroom Wall about, what is in essence, the online equivalent to the graffiti one can read in most library study carols - that is, if the graffiti was realtime and refreshed automatically. The Bored@ network boasts eleven American universities and most of them are named after their respective undergraduate libraries.

I must be bored because I find these sites both sad and yet fascinating.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Towards a teaching philosophy

Along with ruminating about linking and libraries, the other side of my brain is getting a workout as I try to integrate my experience of teaching library skills with the information literacy policies developed at my library into a formalized teaching philosophy. Creating an entire philosophy is a little daunting so I am going to work at it in a piecemeal fashion and write down small grains of thought and see if, in the future, I can build some sort of sand castle out of them.

Here goes.

Students should not be subjected to 'library assignments' but research assignments. These assignments should encourage a student duplicate an expert's research processes as opposed to an idealized 'research ideal'. We should try to avoid prescribing any artificial tasks that we wouldn't perform ourselves when we do research.

Some examples of tasks to avoid:
  • construct a research strategy that results in only five results
  • first consult an encyclopedia to find keywords for your search
  • analyze a research paper that no one else in your class is using

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nitty Gritty Stuff

Now that my maternity leave is over and that I'm back at work, I suspect that my blog is going to become a little bit more focused on the nitty gritty of library technology.

Right now I'm submerging myself into the world of RefWorks once again and am becoming consumed with how I can get it to link in and out of our library's opac and databases and my university's soon to be launched 'learning management system' and 'portal'.

I knew that RefWorks offered a means to 'search' RSS feeds but until today, I wasn't sure why they added this functionality. If you wanted to read RSS feeds, why would you choose to use RefWorks over a free service such as Bloglines or Yahoo? But I now I think I know why.

If you create an RSS feed in a service such as PubMed...
pubmed rss

And add this feed into RefWorks...
refworks rss

You will be able to browse the most recent citations that match your search and add the citations directly into your RefWorks account...
refworks import rss

I'm not sure whether this functionality extends beyond PubMed so I will be investigating further.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A comment on institutional repositories

The following is a comment that I posted today on Free Range Librarian's post on DSpace and Open Source software. Karen's post has spawned a comment thread that had developed into a conversation on the culture of software developers. But I wanted to talk about the whole notion of institutional repositories themselves...


Let's just say that I have reservations about institutional repositories. One reason I have misgivings is due to the fact that institutional repositories have to be *explained* to users why they should be used. No faculty member stumbles upon one and cries Eureka! Furthermore, the benefit of depositing articles belongs to the institution and the "cost" of depositing the article belongs to the researcher.

I read this summary of a DSpace User Group session at Library Web Chic and was most interested in this faculty feedback:
* Access to literature is a non-issue for faculty
* Using alternatives to institutional repositories
* Have their own websites and like using them better
* Subject based repositories (preferred over IR if available)

We also know from other research that more than 70 percent of faculty said they maintain their own collections.

If I'm not mistaken, one of the the promises of open source institutional repositories is that it would allow all the repositories to be searched through some sort of federated search.

So why don't we develop "good" *personal* digital collection software that can be *searched* as an institution? Maybe this time, we would learn from our mistakes and build the interface first.