Information Retrieval

There is more to discovery than you think ...

From Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog

Colleagues at the University of Minnesota have produced another must-read report on the discoverability of library resources [Splash page, PDF]. Importantly, it provides a framework within which to think about evolving issues and in this way makes a real contribution to our understanding of the environment and ability to plan for change.....Read more here

Curation is the New Search is the New Curation

Curation is the New Search is the New Curation
"The answer, of course, is that we won't -- do them all by hand, that is. Instead, the re-rise of curation is partly about crowd curation -- not one people, but lots of people, whether consciously (lists, etc.) or unconsciously (tweets, etc) -- and partly about hand curation (JetSetter, etc.). We are going to increasingly see nichey services that sell curation as a primary feature, with the primary advantage of being mostly unsullied by content farms, SEO spam, and nonsensical Q&A sites intended to create low-rent versions of Borges' Library of Babylon. The result will be a subset of curated sites that will re-seed a new generation of algorithmic search sites, and the cycle will continue, over and over."

Librarians and Wikipedia

Wikipedia, according to Wikipedia, is "a free, Web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project." But the reference librarians we checked with would want a second source on that.

"Personally, I don't rely on Wikipedia, because of people's ability to go in and edit anybody's text and change the history," says Karen Sharp, senior librarian and webmaster at the Wayne Public Library.

Wikipedia, which comes (according to Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian word "wiki" — "quick" — joined to the "pedia" from "encyclopedia," was launched 10 years ago this Saturday by founders Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger.

Since that time, reportedly 365 million readers have pored over 17 million articles – all written by volunteer contributors – on subjects ranging from Aachen ("spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany") to zymology ("scientific term for fermentation").

Wikipedia has profoundly changed the way most of us gather information. It may have had less effect on the people whose job it is to look things up: reference librarians. Yes, they'll use it sometimes, they told us. But with misgivings, and never as a sole source.

"We use it as a backup," says Sharon Castanteen, director of the Johnson Free Public Library in Hackensack, who has a background in reference. "We'll start with that, get some ideas from it, but we won't trust it 100 percent."

North Jersey has the story.

Ghosts at the Library

What researchers have discovered, from the New York Public Library blog.

Data is snake oil

Data is snake oil
It's because data is powerful but fickle. A lot of theoretically promising approaches don't work because there's so many barriers between spotting a possible relationship and turning it into something useful and actionable. Russell Jurney's post on Agile Data should give you a flavor of how long and hard path from raw data to product usually is. Here's some of the hurdles you'll have to jump:

Nothing at the library?

I currently work at a small liberal arts college in the Midwestern USA where librarians are "embedded" in introductory courses and oversee the information literacy curriculum. Last week one of my colleagues informed me about a response from one of her students that I just have to pass along. The student's comment was that she couldn't find anything at the library about the Industrial Revolution , her other topic was .... wait for it .... Martin Luther and the Reformation. As Joe Friday is often quoted as uttering "Just the facts, ma'am"....

Catalog keyword search hits

  • Industrial Revolution = 142
  • "Martin Luther" = 204
  • "Martin Luther" AND Reformation = 21

Ok, I know that out-of-the-box library catalogs aren't as "innovative", user friendly (or forgiving) as Amazon, Google, and the like, but the difference between what the student claimed and what the "facts" illustrate is too wide a chasm to cross.

Comments like this make me think that we should have a library lock-in, perhaps overnight, and not let the student out until they find something. Heck, it might even become a succesful reality show. It wouldn't be as goofy as Silent Library but it might still be a goodie. Afterall, there could be worse fates.

Sign Up for On-Line Summit--eBook: Libraries at the Tipping Point

Sign up for a day-long virtual conference to be held on Wednesday Sept 29 from 10am - 6pm EDT--eBooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point, a unique online conference that explores the way the digital world is changing books and how these changes are reshaping the way we produce, distribute, and consume them.

This event will offer librarians, technology experts, publishers, and vendors a glimpse into the future of libraries with keynote speeches, special tracks, and an exciting exhibit area. Don’t miss this opportunity to investigate the evolving role of libraries in the twenty-first century!

Librarians and library administrators will learn about current best practices for library eBook collections and explore new and evolving models for eBook content discovery and delivery. Publishers and content creators will learn how to effectively identify and develop the ‘right’ content offerings for each segment of the relatively untapped library eBook market. ebook platform vendors and device manufacturers will learn just what libraries need and want in this rapidly changing environment. It's a party and everyone's invited!!

FOUR SPECIAL TRACKS: -- Read More

Information Isn't Knowledge

Andrew Orlowski at The Register discusses the Wikileaks situation. A key point made is that data alone is useless without contextualization. A key quote from the piece:

The nature of news and journalism hasn't really changed. We want the world explained, the dots joined, and factoids are a poor substitute, no matter how sensational the trappings. We know that information isn't knowledge, and sometimes barely causes a ripple.

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