Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interactive location maps for libraries

Thinking of creating interactive maps for your library?

Dynamic 2D map at WSU

"Dynamic mapping provides a customized map display in an online public access catalog for library patrons. After the patron has initiated a search and selected a particular book or other library resource, the patron is given an option to view a dynamic (or interactive) map for the chosen resource.

The dynamic map will display directional information to the patron such as the specific library branch which holds the resource, the floor of the library where the resource will be found, the specific department location, the general location of the shelving range, and a moving image display which shows the searcher which direction to turn as they exit the elevator."-- Interactive directions for holding locations in a Library OPAC.




As the video above shows, this is a very innovative system used at the Wichita State University library. It handles items without LC class, multi-level maps, eresources and many other features (see more demos here).


Dynamic 3D map at NUS Libraries


I seldom post about work at my own library, but will make an exception this time. This is a 3D interactive map offered to our users. It has a host of features including


  • Navigation using mouse, keyboard etc.
  • Programmable orientation tours
  • Links to embedded videos - (e.g. How to use the self-check machine)
  • Search by landmark
  • 3d book search by call number and/or linked from OPAC (experimental)

A couple of videos for you (the new version looks a little different)








The system was done for us by PeekSpy, a company started by students and Alumni of our university. They make innovative use of Google Earth technology, and users can visit the map after installing the plugin in their browsers.

One disadvantage of this is that I believe currently smartphones can't handle this though. You can play with our system life here.


Future possibilities


I can think of many other things to enhance library maps, from somehow linking it to our university's SecondLife community.

It's probably too much to convert it to a full blown virtual world, though I wonder if it is possible to use location sharing/aware services to pinpoint yourself on the map. Imagine, a user contacting you via IM saying he can't find a book, and then you say "let me come to you", and his location is pinpointed on the map. Or find a friend who is meeting you on the map.

Another interesting idea would be to take a leaf from lifestreaming and virtual worlds (video below)





Some interesting ideas


1)Have a LCD screen? On the virtual map clicking on it will play our slides on Slideshare or Youtube videos from our Youtube channel!

2) Book cover displays would be linked to our Flickr accounts.

3) Clicking on the icon of the librarian at the desk, would pull up tweets , or maybe the IM/Skype account.

4)Have a last.fm account, pipe the music into the map.



etc.

So how is your library handling location maps? Please post any interesting examples you are aware of or are working on. For instance there are some campus wide orientation maps that are really innovative.

Am I a librarian blog star?

In case you were wondering, the answer is No. I'm not.

Still, I was looking through my google analytics account and noticed a couple of hits from an unfamiliar site. Clicking on it and I saw this

"School librarians, whether they work small college libraries, large research universities and departments, or elementary schools, need to stay current on the latest in technology innovation, reading lists, the publishing world, ebook trends, special project and lesson ideas, and a lot more. Luckily, you don’t have to think of everything all by yourself. These 100 bloggers serve as excellent reference resources for learning about everything from library technology to young adult fiction." --100 best blogs for School Librarians

Yes, I made it to a blog "Top 100 list"! Not too shabby considering that there were at least 600 library related blogs in 2008 and should be over 1,000 by now according to this comment by Walt crawford. Granted not all are library 2.0 blogs but I'm still pleased.

I also noticed a list of library 2.0 blogs on Postrank by French Librarian Julien Sicot, I adapted it and at the time I checked it was at #20 out of over 60 blogs. A much larger list of close to 600 library/librarian blogs on Postrank, ranks my blog in the 70s.

Measuring online influence in general is still a very much unsettled matter. Postrank uses the 5 "Cs" of engagement. My blog posts tends to get few comments but tends to be bookmarked quite a bit on delicious and its cousins, and as I use Twitter as my main form of announcements of new posts so I get retweeted a bit.

By other measures though such as Technorati Authority (which only measures inbound links from other blogs) or pagerank, this blog is truly pathetic.

Feedburner shows that I have 140 subscribers to my feed, but this is inflated by friendfeed subscribers. Counting only Googlereader and Blogline subscribers and excluding exotic clients like netvibes and other clients that may be bots, I have maybe 40 subscribers for this blog, and 4 email subscribers. So yes this blog is being read but it's not by any means widely read.

So no, I'm not a librarian rock star. Maybe a B or C-list blogger. :)

Thanks anyway for those who have found my blog interesting. Hopefully I can continue to blog about things that you find useful. Feel free to comment on what you like about my blog posts.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Aggregating sources for academic research in a web 2.0 world

Introduction

In this rather long post, I will talk about the different sources one could add to stay on top of one's research area. These include RSS feeds from traditional databases (citation alerts, table of contents of favourite journals), library opac feeds of searches and new additions, book vendor sites (e.g Amazon) book sharing sites (e.g LibraryThing), social bookmarking sites both generic (e.g. Delicious) and research 2.0 sites (e.g. citeulike), Google alerts and more

Next I cover three main types of RSS aggregators one can use including traditional RSS feed readers (e.g. Google reader), Startpages (e.g Netvibes) and lifestreaming services (e.g Friendfeed) that one can use.

Lastly, I mention why I think using RSS aggregators this way is not ideal mainly due to the lack of bibliographic management functions, and that existing services and products like Mendeley, Zotero, 2collab should incorporate RSS aggregation features.


What sources should I monitor?

When I do research, I'm pretty through in the Literature review phase. I'm the one who does the broadest possible search in Google scholar and then ploughs through over 300 results looking for anything relevent.

But thoroughness in terms of going through results is pointless if you look at the wrong places.

In the "old days" it was "easy", you basically setup alerts for your favourite journals/databases and you were done.

Today this isn't sufficient, thanks to the explosion in social networking sites as well as the rise of Science 2.0 and open science models means that the research that you need can be found in blogs and wikis.

More importantly, the rise of web 2.0 services means that more online communities exist, where members rate/recommend/like/comment on books, articles, links. which gives the smart researcher an edge if he is able to leverage on such sources to spot 'hot' research. On the individual level, you can follow or watch research collegues or other researchers in the same area and see what they are reading.


Some like Zotero and Wizfolio are evolutions of traditional bibliographic managers like Endnote and Refmanager. Others like 2collab and Nature Network are services from traditional Journal publishers like Elsevier.


How can one keep track of all these diverse sources? Forunately, pretty much everything can be consumed via a RSS feed (or you can screen scrape (another list of services here) if you are desperate) and the smart thing to do is to put them all together into a RSS reader.

I was just musing over the types of sources you would want to include, and I realized that there were several different possible sources, though you might not add all of them, some might be useful.


Type of sources


Academic databases like Scopus, Web of Science, Open source archives etc.

This would be your traditional sources where you create/setup

1) Keyword search alerts
2) Table of contents for your favorite journals
3) Citation alerts of your papers or very relevant papers


Remember to use this trick to insert the ezproxy stem if needed.






Book/library sources

Many libraries now allow you to run searches in the catalogue and export the results as a RSS feed. Some maintain a "new additions" RSS feed by subject etc. Definitely add this to your stream to keep update with latest books published in your area.

Many of the new generation OPACS, allows you to do tagging, and you or your research colleges could tag the books you are interested in and create a RSS feed for that to import into your stream.

Still chances are most libraries don't have an active enough community doing tagging on their catalogues to be worth tracking tags. However book sharing sites like LibraryThing, GoodReads, Weread, Shelfari might have a sufficient mass of users. I know LibraryThing provides outputs in RSS, is it likely the rest do as well.


You are not limited to your library of course. Try WorldCat (you can create rss feeds from user created lists, and new additions, might be possible for keyword searchs but requires a api key), or OpenLibrary or even Amazon (use built-in API or Yahoopipes)! How about Google books?

Want to catch prepublication books? Maybe try one of the book vendors like Globalbooksinprint, Blackwell Book services etc, not quite sure if they offer RSS feeds though.







Popular blogs

This is somewhat rare, but if you happen to be fortunate enough to be in an area, where there are relevant blogs covering the area (For instance my old research area was on measuring information quality of Wikipedia, and there were 2 or 3 high quality blogs covering research in that area), you would definitely want to include that as a source.

If you are just looking for some general reading rather than something specific, you can use the method here find top blogs and to filter/rank the results using Postrank


Social bookmarking sites - E.g. Delicious, Twine, Diigo or Social media sites like Slideshare, Scribd


The paradigm example would be Delicious.

Two main approaches here, you subscribe to relevant tags, or better yet identify people in your area and subscribe to their bookmarks (and or tags). To do the later, a very crude approach is to search for a link/paper that you feel is very relevant to your research and look at who else is bookmarking it. You can do the same for tags or better yet tag bundles





Once you have done the search you want, you can get the results via RSS



Lifestreaming aggregation sites

As discussed in an earlier post, Lifestreaming aggregators allow users to pull all their activities from various web 2.0 services and or RSS feeds into one centralized area. The paradigm example here is Friendfeed where there is a thriving community of life scientists apparently.

Why is this helpful?

You find a guy who seems to be in your area posting on Delicious. But Delicious is not the sum total of all his activities. He might be doing stuff on twitter, posting documents on Slideshare etc.

If he has a Friendfeed account, and he has thoughtfully added them all into his Friendfeed account you can get one aggregated feed to use into your stream!

Chances are though, you might not want to import his whole lifestream since it will include personal tweets etc. No problem! Friendfeed has the most advanced search I have seen from showing only results from a particular service (e.g. Delicious only) or particular person or if it has a number of "likes" or comments and of course on keywords. See below










Social networking/bookmarking sites for academics. E.g Labmeeting, citeulike, Mendeley, Connotea, 2collab, ResearchGate, Nature Network, Zotero, Wizfolio etc (see list here and here).


The problem with generic social bookmarking sites not designed for research is that most links shared are likely to be non-academic sources. But citeulike and their cousins are designed explictly for academic research, so it solves this problem.

Most of them remind me of old school Citation managers like Endnote, Refmanager but adding social bookmarking and networking options. Zotero in particularly had zero social networking features until 2.0 (currently beta), and they just announced supporting of RSS feeds of public Zotero libraries.


They not only allow you to keep track of citations but also incorporate web 2.0 sharing options.

Keep track of what people in your research area are reading, or what are the most popular articles on an aggregate level. The same advise above applies on finding people to watch, tags to follow.





Others

This could include everything from Google alerts (you can also do it for Google scholar only using these yahoo pipes), real-time searches (Twitter) or aggregators like Social Mention, Samepoint, WhosTalkin? for searching across web 2.0 services. Maybe even wikis (Scirus topic pages ?)





Filtering


Obviously you should customize your rss feed to provide targeted and relevant results, and this is often possible (e.g. RSS generated from results from a powerful Boolean keyword search in Scopus) , but in many cases you can't.

If your RSS aggregator has powerful filtering options (or even recommendation systems), the problem can be lessened, but still you might consider filtering the rss feed first before pushing it into the stream.

There are many options out there, Yahoo! pipes is the most powerful, but you can see some options in lists here , here.




Type of RSS aggregators



There seem to be 3 main classes of such services/software that you can use to aggregate all your sources but unfortunately none of them were designed for the academic researcher in mind, so there are some problems with using them to keep track of research.


1. Traditional RSS feed readers - e.g Google reader, Feed Demon, bloglines


These are traditional rss feed readers. They tend to come in two forms, either web-based or program based.


As they were created back when the sole purpose of RSS was to read blogs, traditionally they tend to be relatively weak on the social sharing aspect (Note: Google reader has being slowly moving improving on this allowing you to "like" or share articles and connect with friends, while Feeddemon has similar etc.)

A sub class of these aggregators allow you to "build" your own newspaper from RSS feeds, essentially these are just RSS feed readers but with more innovative layouts that mimick newspapers (in pdf etc).

Examples include FeedJournal, Feed Chronicle

Of course most modern browsers including Firefox and Internet explorer 7+ as well as email desktop clients like Thunderbird, Outlook 2007 support RSS feeds natively so that is yet another option, though they tend to provide very basic functionality

In addition Firefox has several addons but Feedly (which works with Google reader accounts) is probably one of the best.


There are many more RSS feed readers, see this long list compiled in 2007 and this list in 2009.







2. Startup pages - e.g. Netvibes, Igoogle, Pageflakes

Such services resemble their web-based cousins but allows you to embed not just rss feeds but widgets (e.g. search widgets) as well. They are typically much more flexible in terms of layouts and provide some minimal sharing features.

Some libraries have used these services as sources for research on a general subject (also see my more detailed blog post), but it could obviously be used by an individual with a more specific focus.






3. Lifestream aggregators - e.g Friendfeed


Friendfeed has already being mentioned. As Friendfeed allows you to add unlimited number of rss feeds as well as specific web 2.0 services into your stream it can be used to aggregate rss feeds you are reading as well.

There are in fact some Friendfeed accounts created solely for that purpose. For example this is a Friendfeed account that aggregates Library 2.0 related feeds.





A big plus about using Friendfeed to aggregate your sources is that it clearly has the most powerful search.

On the social front, while it is no Facebook, it does have a very loyal following and was clearly designed to encourage networking (though by no means for academics)

It was the first to allow other users to "like" (as well as comment) on entries and allows you to filter results based on how many "likes" or comments a particular entry has allowing you to spot hot topics.

Friendfeed also allows you to be informed about updates (or update the stream) in myraid ways from email to instant messaging (or to be exported into RSS if you prefer).

Another virtue of Friendfeed is that it implements "Real-time" push technologies if available (e.g for Twitter (details)), compared to just straight RSS which uses the slower polling technique.

There is a ton of similar services around (e.g. http://www.plaxo.com/ etc) but few offer more features than Friendfeed , though I personally feel the layout of Friendfeed is inferior to say Streamy.

If you are tired of Friendfeed type aggregators, have a look at Genwi or some of the "smarter" systems that try to learn what you like , e.g http://www.feeds2.com/ , though personally I'm not a big fan of automated learning/recommendation systems.


Disadvantages

So you have made your choice and you have all your sources aggregated nicely and formated in one place. But there's a catch, as these tools weren't designed in mind for academic research, you will find that there is no way to do citation/bibliographic management!

Want to attach the pdf to an article or save the webpage? Too bad you can't. Want to convert all your sources and cite them in APA style? No can do.

The best you can do it seems is to use a class of services already mentioned - networking/bookmarking sites for academics.

As these were designed from ground up for academic research, they also basically incorporated citation manager features of Endnote, Refmanager etc. They also have the advantage of being geared of allowing profiles to be tailored more academic research, compared to the more generic fields of other social networks.

As they are designed for academic use, they have many powerful features like support for ezproxy, openurl, doi), provide useful analytics, and other little nice touches like allowing you to annotate pdf, full text pdf search (features from Zotero, Wizfolio, Mendeley etc.



So why not use one of these services instead? I think this is where, they have missed the boat, they don't offer RSS aggregation services!

For "discovery", social networking features are fine as it goes, but given that most researchers are not on such specialized networks (I found only 5 relevant papers shared in 2collab - though to be fair it is probably the the best example of such services), the main source of discovery still comes from rss feeds from other sources! (I think some services allows you to search directly some databases and even save searches?)

For now, the hybrid approach would seem to be best. Use one of the RSS feed aggregators above for discovery, then pull them into say Mendeley or Zotero in the usual manner.

So what do you think? Are there social networking sites/services for researchers that help discovery the way I am using RSS feeds for? What types of rss feeds do you add for your research that I didn't mention?


References

Doing science online - About open science models

























Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Does your library have a Firefox add-on collection?

Libraries that are big on Library 2.0 tend to offer a bunch of browser plugins/addons in the effort to reach out to the users who don't feel the need to visit the Library Portal.

They offer custom toolbars, some prefer Libx, others are big on Conduit toolbars. Many progressive libraries are big fans of the firefox addon Zotero for citation management, many more offer opensearch plugins. All of these are available as Firefox add-ons of course.

Even Librarians who just use the standard add-ons, tend to have a list of add-ons that they can't live without and love to recommend these to their patrons.

While submitting new Firefox addons to the official http://addons.mozilla.org web site isn't a particularly new thing, there was no way to group all your favourite add-ons together and offer them in one place.

Until recently that is when Firefox revamped their website, allowing "developers" (all you need to do is register, no programming required!) to offer customized Firefox Add-on collections.

What libraries could do is to upload their unique firefox addons onto the Mozilla addon site and then bundle them together with other useful standard addons as a collection and offer them together to users.

As always I checked to see if any libraries had this idea and indeed some had (It's hard to have a really original idea, librarians are really creative!).

As of writing these collections include the "Law Librarian recommended Add-ons" (University of Wisconsin-Madison) , "Swem Library"(Earl Gregg Swem Library), "Copenhagen Digital Library" , "Recommended for Library staff" (Ada Community Library) .





Of them all, the first is probably the most interesting and many of the ideas here is owed to that collection. They don't have many subscribers yet though.

Managing the collection is quite simple particularly if one uses the Mozilla Firefox Add-on Collector , as you can add to your collection add-ons that are installed in your browswer(See feature list and video demos of creating a collection and setting up a collection that updates based on your installed addons).

Below is a screenshot of how you can select add-ons that have already being installed in your browser to be added to your custom collection.





Users can subscribe to a collection via RSS feed or better yet if they install the Mozilla Firefox Add-on Collector, they will be notified whenever the collection updates.


The last is a interesting feature, particularly if you are offering your own custom add-ons and constantly update them. Do note that add-ons you offer in the collection must be hosted on the Mozilla add-on site, so you will have to submit to them first.

So what can you add to your library collection? Some ideas


Opensearch plugins

I was looking at the Law Librarian recommended Add-ons and to my surprise I noticed that opensearch plugins (known as search engine add-ons in Firefox such as this) could be added to the collection as well.






If your library supports opensearch plugins for your library catalogue and subscribed databases (customized using the necessary ezproxy link), you can submit them to be added on the Firefox add-on site then add them to your collection. See this example


Custom toolbars and search related toolbars

Many libraries offer custom toolbars such as Libx, Conduit toolbars as well as other custom toolbars for download (see examples here, here ). Those can go into your collection.


How about a Book Burro toolbar? Or maybe OCLC's Openurl referrer? Some libraries have add-ons that display availability of items listed on Amazon. You can also add ezproxy related addons

I'm playing with a pilot/experiment WebMynd add-on that includes library catalogue results alongside the default results whenever the user searches Google.com, Yahoo.com etc and that could be added as well.

There are also quite a lot of unique custom made for library add-ons being demoed at various "Library Labs" that could conceivably be added for those libraries.


Citation related addons

Zotero is the obvious choice here. Law Librarian recommended Add-ons collection also includes many interesting Zoterio plugins I was not aware of including Zotero Plugin for MONK Project , SEASR Analytics for Zotero , Zotz .

There are also sticky note/web annotation/scrapbook related add-ons like Diigo which I favour.

Others

There's a ton of other addons you can add to your collection, that can help making research easier or are just so useful you can't leave them out (e.g Adblock, Autopager), see for example this list.

Definitely add greasemonkey if you are offering greasemonkey scripts.


Conclusion

One thing I'm curious about is whether it would be possible or even legal to upload add-ons that are slightly customized. E.g A Zotero add-on
with specific options setup for your institution users (e.g. Openurl resolver settings set to the correct url).

Are there any more libraries creating Firefox Collections? What do you add? I'm interested to hear from you.



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