Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
SLA's 95th Annual Conference was held June 5 - 9, 2004 in Nashville, Tennessee at the Gaylord Opryland Resort under climate-controlled glass atria covering nine acres of indoor gardens. As three librarians from Cornell University Library's Engineering, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences division, we participated in most of the sessions organized by SLA's Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics (PAM) Division, but among the three of us we also attended numerous general sessions, as well as a ticketed event on "Communication Patterns of Engineers" -- not to mention various social and networking events. What follows is a composite summary of our activities at this year's SLA. A full listing of PAM Division events at 2004 SLA is at http://www.sla.org/division/dpam/pam-bulletin/vol31/no4/dancecard.html.
The Sunday morning Academic Librarians Roundtable provided breakfast and a forum for informal networking around several topics of key importance to the profession. The topic of discussion at one table was information literacy in science and engineering libraries and colleagues from around the country related their institutions' experiences with information literacy instruction. UCLA offers a mandatory Engineering Ethics course taught in the Computer Science department. The library participates in this through a research assignment in which students must find and use a certain number of resources and describe how they went about finding them; the assignment is evaluated jointly by instructors and librarians. The University of Florida is working to introduce information literacy into general education requirements. It will likely be part of an entry-level English course. Librarians experienced with information literacy instruction encouraged colleagues to be persistent in advocating for such programs and a strong library role in them, but at the same time to avoid identifying information literacy exclusively with the library.
Other topics of discussion at the breakfast were open access publishing, scholarly communication, and recruitment to the library profession.
PAM members considered Division business and were oriented to the Division's conference "dance card" at the PAM-wide Roundtable late Sunday morning. After introductions and announcements, members discussed PAM's logo/visual identity and considered proposed new governing documents and recommended practices.
A Sunday afternoon session on Publisher/Librarian Archiving Initiatives featured Vicky Reich (Stanford), Director of LOCKSS, who described the project's role in digital archiving and publishers' collaboration. LOCKSS (which stands for "Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe") is premised on the notion that libraries can only fill their "memory organizational role" with regard to digital content if they serve as repositories of that content, rather than merely leasing access to it. Reich's presentation made clear that LOCKSS is a robust backup system to ensure persistent online access to web-based content -- it is not intended as a comprehensive preservation solution or a means to replicate online services. LOCKSS relies on multiple, distributed "unreliable repositories" and attains robustness through redundancy. LOCKSS uses all open source software and lots of cheap Linux computers in a peer-to-peer environment that audits, compares, coordinates, and repairs individual nodes as necessary. Terry Hulbert of Institute of Physics Publishing discussed IOP's successful collaboration with LOCKSS.
Carol Tenopir (U of Tennessee) and Donald W. King (U of Pittsburgh) taught a ticketed course on Communication Patterns of Engineers on Sunday afternoon. Based on Tenopir and King's book of the same title (published by IEEE and Wiley in 2004), this session shared the rich data the authors collected almost yearly from 1977 to 2003. They discussed the differences between communication patterns and habits of engineers on one hand and scientists on the other (e.g., scientists rely more on the published literature; engineers use interpersonal sources more than written material; engineers make more use of sources offered by their organizations; etc.). The presenters focused mainly on engineers working in industry; very little of their data was tabulated to include much of relevance to engineers in the academy, who follow communication patterns that are somewhat closer to those of the scientist.
The basic premise of Tenopir and King's course was that librarians' biggest contribution is to save time for professional researchers. They demonstrated how corporate libraries can calculate and document their value in these terms, based on the number of clients they serve. The course included a section on Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality types of librarians and engineers, showing that they are well-matched. Both professions have the following types represented most often: ISTJ, INTJ, INTP, ENTJ.
Monday morning kicked off with an Emerging Technologies Roundtable, organized by SLA's Legal Division. Presenters were Thomas Fleming, Director of Information Resources Management at Jeffer, Mangels, Butler and Marmaro LLP; Nathan Grein, Team Coordinator for Content Operations at Thomson Legal and Regulatory, West; and Nathan A. Rosen, Vice-President of the Legal and Compliance Department at Credit Suisse First Boston. Discussion focused on uses of emerging technologies in law practices and law libraries, but broader library applications suggested themselves. Litigation lawyers are using semantic search engines (such as Attenex, Dolphinsearch and Meaningmaster) to search through vast numbers of miscellaneous electronic files for relevant data. These would seem to have great potential for digital libraries and possibly for more user-friendly library catalogs. Wireless technology, PDAs, Blackberry, and blogs were discussed, as were live help via chat and knowledge bases and how they can be applied in answering common reference questions.
Carl S. Ledbetter, Senior Vice President for Engineering/Research and Development at Novell, Inc. was keynote speaker at the Opening General Session on Monday. Ledbetter urged librarians to take seriously user expectations formed by experience with effective and easy-to-use commercial systems such as Google and Amazon. Libraries will need to come to terms with users' low tolerance for systems that are complex and require instruction. Libraries and information systems will need to be redesigned, Ledbetter insisted, in such a way that their use is self-evident. Ledbetter offered a provocative premise for user-centered design: users will not tolerate instructions that are more complicated than "open and use."
SLA's News Division organized an Archiving Update for Monday afternoon (the presentations from this session are posted at the SLA News Division site. Rob Robinson, National Public Radio's library director, described digital archiving efforts at NPR and offered practical advice to colleagues on best practices. Rande Simpson of MerlinOne discussed her company's digital asset management products and experience. Vicky McCargar of the Los Angeles Times offered a sobering look at digital preservation challenges, particularly the fragility of digital media and lack of widely accepted standards for archiving and preservation. McCargar asked attendees to contemplate whether we are "on the verge of a new Dark Age," particularly considering the irretrievability of much data from the 1990s, due to combination of unstable optical storage media and inadequate metadata ("the 1990s are gone," McCargar suggested). Wide adoption of well-defined preservation policies, standards, and disciplined workflow, along with the prioritization of preservation through adequate funding hold out the promise of a period of "Enlightenment" to follow the "Dark Ages." McCargar discussed the role of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model in structuring digital archives.
A Monday afternoon poster session on Teaching Users via the Web -- Web-Based Training and Instruction in the Sciences, organized by SLA's Chemistry Division, provided a useful overview of several instruction projects that address information literacy, scholarly communication processes, etc.
SLA's Pharmaceutical and Health Technology Division organized a session on Internal Marketing. Laura Zick and Sandra Stauffer, both Information Scientists at Eli Lilly, presented on their experience developing an internal marketing plan and lessons they have learned about working together. The marketing plan was developed simultaneously with two other major undertakings: strategic planning and a metrics project. Zick and Stauffer found that the three projects supported each other and this helped them to realize how much of what they were already doing was marketing ("Every interaction is a marketing moment"). A planned approach to marketing helps them to be more efficient; the point of the plan is to allocate scarce resources well. Zick and Stauffer stressed that marketing should not be assigned to one person -- all staff should contribute to the marketing effort. Teamwork is hard but essential; it is important to balance strengths and weaknesses. Team building and communication are critical.
Zick and Stauffer's plan resulted in a tiered approach to library services: some products are provided to all their clients and more customized services are offered only to certain market segments. Many of the details are proprietary.
SLA's Social Science Division organized a Monday afternoon session titled Let Us Save What Remains: Archiving as Though the Future Matters. Eileen Fenton and Carol MacAdam of JSTOR described two new not-for-profit projects: Ithaka and E-Archive. Affiliated with JSTOR, the organization known as Ithaka has as its mission "to accelerate the productive uses of information technologies for the benefit of higher education around the world" and aims to accomplish this by "incubating" and assisting other not-for-profits and other projects in various ways. One Ithaka-supported initiative is the Electronic Archiving Initiative, or E-Archive, of which Eileen Fenton is Executive Director. E-Archive aims to develop a business model to share resources and develop new technologies for born-digital journals and journal-like titles. A pilot group of 10 publishers, including the American Mathematical Society (AMS), are participating.
Tracy Westen (USC) presented on a plan, now in the proposal/research stage, for a comprehensive repository for public policy research. The proposed digital repository would offer free archiving for non-profits working in the area of public policy.
Vicky Reich gave another version of her earlier presentation on LOCKSS in this session, this time including a description of a spin-off project for documents called DOCKSS.
A two-part session titled Survive and Thrive in the Library was organized by the Military Librarians Division. Pat Wagner of Pattern Research urged librarians to think about their work in terms of how it changes the lives of their patrons. This dynamic and entertaining session encouraged participants not to spend their work lives bogged down at the level of immediate tasks, but rather to remain oriented to broader aspirations for their careers and to a better future for library users. Professionals should consider their employer their current client and always be on the lookout for new opportunities.
At the PAM Division Vendor Update on Monday afternoon, Jim Pringle described ISI's new Web Citation Index project; this was followed by a panel discussion on usage statistics. The Web Citation Indexing project builds on web indexing work already being done at ISI for its Current Web Contents and eSearch services. Web Citation Indexing grows out of a collaboration between ISI and NEC Laboratories, whose CiteSeer product performs so-called "autonomous citation indexing" of web-based materials. ISI is working with NEC on the further development of CiteSeer with the goal of using this technology to build a citation index to preprints, proceedings, and other Open Access materials. The "autonomous" CiteSeer results will be curated by ISI editors. The resulting index will be separate from, but linked to, ISI's Web of Science.
Pringle invited participation by PAM Division librarians at three levels: evaluating the evolving service; allowing ISI to use an institutional repository as a test bed; serving on the institutional "pilot participants" advisory team.
Representatives from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), the Institute of Physics (IOP), and ISI described their efforts to provide good user statistics and the difficulties this entails. All were aiming to become compliant with the COUNTER Code of Practice and reported varying degrees of progress. Meeting the costs of moving to COUNTER compliance is considerably more daunting for the not-for-profit publishers.
Tuesday morning began early for the stalwart with a PAM-sponsored viewing of the Transit of Venus. The cosmic event was followed by the PAM Business Meeting and Breakfast. The Division presented two awards: the PAM Division Award and the PAM Achievement Award. The Division Award went to the American Physical Society for its commitment as a publisher to archiving the historical literature of physics and for making electronic backfiles available "at reasonable cost," as well as for the Society's "careful and generous policy on copyright and its continuing support of arXiv in enhancing the dissemination of scholarly information to all." Editor-in-Chief Martin Blume accepted the award. The Achievement Award went to Molly White of the University of Texas for "professional work ... marked by distinction and dedication to librarianship" in mathematics and an outstanding record of service to the PAM Division and its members.
SLA's Science and Technology, Information Technology, and Engineering Divisions organized a session on The Semantic Web: Modeling the New Web with Librarian Input. Presenters were Dav Robertson, Chief Of Library and Information Services Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and John Robert Gardner, Search, Browse, Taxonomy Tech Lead for Portal and Web Services at Sun Microsystems. The speakers ranged over issues of metadata, ontologies, classifiers, XML, etc. Interestingly, the presentations made clear that the Z39.50 concept is still intact and can theoretically be addressed in the future with search and retrieve web services that utilize XML.
A session on Open Access Publishing organized by SLA's Biomedical and Life Sciences Division followed on Tuesday afternoon. David Stern (Yale University Library), David Goodman (Long Island University), and Chuck Hamaker (UNC Charlotte Library) presented. This session offered a mix of status report, trend analysis, and crystal ball gazing. According to the presenters, most of the probable scenarios for the future show conventional journals declining sharply to near extinction by the end of the decade with open access journals and repositories taking over in some combination. An exception is a scenario in which traditional publishers "act rationally in self-preservation," which would ostensibly result in only about a 60% drop in traditional journals. Interestingly, when asked in a survey what percentage of journal titles should survive, different stakeholders answered markedly differently:
The PAM Division's Mathematics Roundtable took place Tuesday afternoon. Terry Ehling, Cornell University Library's Director of Electronic Publishing, gave an update on Project Euclid. Mary Rose Muccie described SIAM's new online journal archive called Locus. Scott Warren of North Carolina State described his subject guides. A roundtable discussion followed. Institutional repositories and digitization were touched on.
The question was raised whether math librarians are providing user instruction; none of the participants provide it. Outreach strategies seem to focus on involvement in departmental activities and -- particularly if the math collection is not housed in the math department -- on maintaining visibility and a presence in the department.
Susan McGlamery of 24/7 Reference and Diane Kresh, Director of Public Service Collections at the Library of Congress presented in a session titled Up All Night: The 24x7 Librarian, which was organized by SLA's Information Technology, Engineering, and Military Librarians Divisions. The speakers described 24/7 Reference, a cooperative effort by public and academic libraries nationwide to provide chat reference around the clock. The session emphasized the importance of doing PR for chat reference.
Leadership and Management Division organized a session on Coaching Employees for Success. Jane Dysart, (Dysart and Jones Associates), Dottie Moon (Pratt and Whitney), and Lynn Berard (Carnegie-Mellon University) presented. A coaching approach to management was proposed as an effective way to help staff transcend customary "comfort zones" at work. This presentation provided practical pointers on coaching techniques, but a stronger case for coaching as an alternative to traditional management approaches or more discussion of contexts in which this approach is preferable would have been welcome.
Bill Ivey, Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts addressed the Closing General Session Wednesday morning. Ivey spoke about cultural heritage as an intangible good, focusing particularly on popular culture like music, television and movies.
The News Division held a session titled Microfilm Digitization -- Is the World Ready for This? This was a panel discussion by researchers at three newspapers -- Linda Lynn of the Daily Oklahoman, Jody Habayeb of the Tampa Tribune, and Barry Arthur of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette -- each at a different stage of a microfilm digitization project. It was interesting to note the differences in perspective between librarians in the newspaper business and academic librarians regarding preservation issues. PDF is "the" standard in the world of business; maybe academics need to accept that reality. Also noteworthy is that for newspaper archives, digital is an added format for access: no one in the hard-nosed newspaper world is considering giving up microfilm. Some papers are in fact doing more microfilming of specialized clip files.
SLA's Information Technology Division held a session titled Is the Thinking Back in Linking? An Update on the Open URL. Speakers Oliver Pesch (EBSCO), Anthea Gotto (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts), Paul Owen (NERAC) gave an informative session on reference linking, DOI, open URL, resolvers, etc.
Wednesday afternoon's Computer Science Roundtable was organized by the Science and Technology and PAM Divisions. Moderator Mitchell Brown of Princeton did an excellent job keeping the discussion moving. Among the topics were DSpace, digital books in the OPAC, and digitization of computer science journals.
Genie Tyburski (Ballard Spahr Andrews and Ingersoll, LLP) and Jenny Kanji (LexisNexis) led attendees through 60 Sites in 60 Minutes in a Wednesday afternoon session by that title organized by SLA's Legal Division. This session is apparently a popular regular feature at SLA -- it was held in a very large room and was very well attended. Tyburski and Kanji highlighted both useful and amusing web sites on a wide variety of topics.
Apart from the public sessions, Steve Rockey, who is beginning a three-year term on the American Mathematical Society Library Committee, attended the PAM Publishers Library Liaison meeting on Sunday afternoon. A "best practices" document was distributed for possible adoption by PAM and possible official PAM correspondence with publishers was discussed.
The Info-Expo Hall was open throughout the most of the conference. More than 300 exhibitors had displays, providing a bustling backdrop for networking with vendors and library colleagues. The PAM Open House in the Division Suite was a quieter retreat where Division members could spend time with colleagues and friends between sessions and after hours.
Downtown Nashville provided unofficial hospitality and entertainment. Recommended BBQ: Jack's; best honky-tonk: Tootsie's Orchard Lounge.