Archive for June, 2011

On Libraries Charging For Ebooks

I tried, o yes I tried not to, but word was there and open and the internal monologue wanted to be released.

Over the interwebs today came an article about Tauranga City Libraries having charges for their eBooks:

City libraries sourcing eBooks

“Tauranga City Libraries is in the final stages of tweaking the software that will enable people to download eBooks for a small fee.”

I read that and was grateful I was sitting down. It’s a joke right? No? Okay….

While I can guess at the arguments for this decision I don’t agree with it. I think it will be a retrograde move that will put eBook use from libraries back rather than forward. I will of course be ecstatic to be wrong!

My principle objection is along the lines of: Since you can buy an ebook for as little as 99cents [ahem and ahem shameless plug], why would you pay for one?  


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One of the areas where I think there could be real potential in a national public library service is in centralisation of some functions, in particular those around stock control.

There could be a single cataloguing team, and then a small number of processing and distribution centres. With a single LMS and bibliographic database a centralised cataloguing team makes sense.  What about local variations I hear you ask? In most cases, and I will probably get in trouble for saying this, I think that “local variation” immerge not from any genuine need for different records, but from under resourced libraries needing to take short cuts in the cataloguing practices. With a centralised team (properly resourced) every record could have the fullest and most accurate record, with the best authority control available. Any genuine local variations could be included on the item records.

Centralised processing and distribution would save on resource, time and money and free up staff time for reader advisory. There are exceptions though; donations and repairs. How those were dealt with would need to be looked at in detail, but I imagine that constituent libraries would want to retain those functions in house.

There is also the potential for centralised services for Human resources, and administration functions. How successful those would be depends on the management/governance structure and the contracts with the local authorities.

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Firstly – apologies both to you the reader brought to us via #blogjune and more longstanding. #blogjune was missed yesterday here on the diligent room, and it was entirely yours truly’s responsibility.

I’m not writing a full post tonight, because I’ve just finished my article for elibrarylife, and while I’d love to explore more of the world of ideas I need to get a good night’s sleep.

The reason’s good – I’m getting to participate in Nethui. So my promise is for an article on the weekend related to that.

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It’s 6.15 pm Sunday night and I am checking the internet to se what’s happening out there. I cruised passed The Room of Infinite Diligence to the tones of Dolly Parton echoing from the Master 4’s room. I will always love you on repeat and very loud as he is supposedly going to sleep. That is competing with Double Share by Nathen Lowell belting out of Master 11’s room for the umpteenth time. Out from the lounge the “herself” is watching the living channel. The computer in the hallway is in a perfect space for all that lovely happy noise to converge. 😆 They are a good crew and it is a happy distraction.

Having spent a large part of the day writing, I am loath to put fingers to the keyboard, yet I have a writing groove on. What to next I think, noticing that there is no post up yet at the DRoom. That’s ok my day is tomorrow I think. Or is it. Quickly I check the schedule and lo, the reason for no post is it is my day! I have written the post I intended to, which deals with potential centralised services for my little group of themed posts on a New Zealand Public Library.

I am thinking that will need a bit of time and consideration, and really I should have written it earlier in the month.  Hence this post. Which is unashamed filler. My second of the month. 😦

So I would like to say a little something about trying to do a post a month, even when sharing the load with other bloggers. It’s very difficult and I respect those who have managed it.  But really sometimes everyday life interferes and you end up with something else.  Which is this. Right now Dolly has been changed to the Wiggles, and I NEED to write some more of my second novel which is now behind schedule. I am very close to finishing the first draft and start editing.  So until Wednesday when my last post is due I will leave you with some gratuitous advertising. Yes I am finishing with some shame less self promotion. My first novel, The Spiral Tattoo, is due out at the end of the coming week, and you can pre-order now!

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I had planned to write something semi-intelligent about the gamut of literacy needs we deal with these days.  However, I’m just holding my head above the water of dealing with Miss4’s chicken pox and my other home responsibilities that it isn’t going to happen.

Suffice it to say that it is beginning to feel like information literacy isn’t the only thing the library is dealing with these days.  When I began in the reference team back in 2001, I think we mostly dealt with information literacy type questions.  Now, we face so much more.  I can remember the arguments ..er..  frank discussions about whether we should be answering questions about Word or not.  Now, the question is “can we have a training session on Word tips and tricks please, to help us at the desk?”  I’m not saying this is good or bad, it’s just how things have changed.

I know that the population at MPOW have very low reading, writing and comprehension rates in some courses.  There are ways this is being addressed.

It does concern me that young people are coming to us with such low rates of literacy.

It also concerns me when newsletters, reports and other communications from my son’s school come home with spelling mistakes, the incorrect use of words like loose, lose, there, their, they’re.  Hmmm… maybe the two are related?

Since Miss4 is ranting about itchiness I shall leave you to discuss this topic amongst yourselves.

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IT Terminology Quiz

As promised, an IT terminology quiz. i planned to do an A-Z type quiz, with multiple choice answers, but it was hard and took me ages, so i only got to M.

Post your scores here, when you’re done, in a comment.

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I recently read the very interesting paper called “Panizzi, Lubetzky, and Google: how the modern web environment is reinventing the theory of cataloguing”

Students would love the library catalogue to be like Google.  The above study compares student use of OPACs and search engines.  Not surprisingly the findings reveal that students prefer searching via search engines than through the catalogue which they find difficult and confusing.

The authors ask, therefore, why descriptive cataloguing no longer seems to work.  They go on to explain the theory behind modern library cataloguing rules.  They then went back to their findings and ask whether “theoretical principles and practices of traditional bibliographic description have any relevance to the needs and behaviour of university students who know how to use search engines” and whether “conventional OPAC  design provides an adequate vehicle for those principles and practices”.
The study was based on observation (through video) and interviews.  The study revealed that students seemed confused at the results of the search on the catalogue but were more confident about the “hit list” on Google.  While the students preferred Google they did respect the organisational qualities of the catalogue:
“The Web is cluttered; the catalogue is organized” even if it wasn’t always helpful.  Students were “unable to derive enough information from the lists of titles or headings to gain any extra understanding.”

Search engines have popularity based rankings meaning that order evolves rather than is imposed.  Google fosters a sense of community which appears friendlier.

The authors conclude that the OPAC’s unpopularity “may not be insurmountable” but that the interface design badly needs some development including “some visualisation techniques to restore the richness of the card catalogue which is lost in the two-dimensional world”.

As a newer cataloguer, I do find some of the authorised headings rather restrictive.  More use of natural language is needed to enable quicker and more satisfying searches.  The proposed move to RDA (Resource Description and Access) does little, in my view, to make the catalogue more user-friendly.  (But RDA is another blog post!)  Evidently, more radical changes are needed for the library catalogue to compare favourably to search engines.

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