Tuesday, June 30, 2009

End of Indexes

I believe in Clay Shirky's "Law" : the social software most likely to succeed has “a brutally simple mental model … that’s shared by all users” [Michael Nielson].

I'm going to suggest that, for the average person, the mental model of the library is "free learning materials that I can use because I belong to a particular place or group".

I'm still working through the ramifications if I'm right about our users' collective mindset. Here's one particular consequence I'm giving serious consideration: libraries shouldn't provide indexes anymore. In libraryland lingo, its fulltext or bust and we let discovery happen at the network level.

Friday, June 26, 2009

How much more can be we bear from The Harvard Business Review

This morning I learned from The Distant Librarian that The Harvard Business Review has been"requesting payments of as much as £15k pa from several UK academic business libraries simply for the privilege of making persistent links to HBR articles on reading lists and VLEs."

Let's unpack this astonishing bit of news.

One of the reasons why MPOW subscribed to EBSCO's Business Source Complete was that the product had exclusive access to the Harvard Business Review. This practice of obtaining exclusive access to key titles ultimately places libraries at a disadvantage as they have to spend money on a number of largely redundant databases in order to have access to core titles. And yet, for this privilege, EBSCO has not protected libraries from the pressure tactics of HBRB and have clearly complied with their shakedown for cash. Want to know how the HBR justifies this 'cost recovery'? There is a clause in EBSCO subscribers contracts which states that access to articles within the product is for ‘individual, private study’ rather than for teaching purposes.

What does this episode tell us about about the value of these databases? I think - to simply put it - HBR thinks that they have no value. Print copies of The Harvard Business Review has more value that that title buried within EBSCO. BTW, this is not the first time The Harvard Business Review has used heavy handed tactics to extract more money from readers. Harvard monitors class enrollment vs. actual student orders [of printed HBR case studies] and notifies the instructor if there are discrepancies.

So what can we do? Well, in 2001 Nature Publishing Group established a 3-month embargo of their journal content from online site licences to libraries as a means to protect its individual subscription base. In response, many ivy-league universities cancelled their subscriptions in protest and shortly thereafter, Nature rescinded the embargo:

In a letter to Nature officials, including Philip LoFaso, vice president of the Nature Publishing Group, Harvard University librarian Sidney Verba called Nature's previous license terms a "major diminution" of Nature's value and stated that faculty needs at Harvard would simply not be met "by subscribing to such an inferior version of what might be supplied.

Clearly there is a major diminution in this case as well. Let's hope that libraries - including and especially Harvard - recognize this and act upon it.

Bibliocommons Knowledge

For those of you who are, like myself, following the work of Bibliocommons, I bring to your attention that Knowledge Ontario has recently announced that they will be shortly approaching libraries in Ontario with the opportunity to implement the Bibliocommons interface as part of an early adopters program.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What is a browser? - UPDATED

Quick! Somebody ask 50 students if they know what a browser is!

Do you think more than 8% will know? Because that's the percentage of New Yorkers in Times Square knew in a short survey by Google. [waxy]


I posted the above in the early morning because I thought that this shocking statistic would suggest that libraries have to seriously rethink what we call our online products and services.

But the more I thought about it, the more got to thinking that 8% has got to be a bogus number. If Firefox has a 22% market share then more than 8% of the general population knows enough about web browsers to download the program and use it instead of Internet Explorer.

The larger point that I believe the video was trying to make was that the web experience is the same as the search engine experience. And now Google Chrome, of which the video is actually about, now makes a lot more sense to me.