The Scholarly Kitchen

•June 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Here is an interesting blog post on state of Twitterdem.

What is your library worth?

•June 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I was reading American Libraries Direct when I stumbled across this article. Valuing Library Services Calculator. My first thought was “How cool! How can I use this to determine the value of a virtual library?”  This would be great data to show the powers-that-be or to include in an article.  Then I looked at their formula.  It is all based on the cost of the item!  For our library in Second Life, we are using free open-access resources.  Most of the educational tools in Second Life are also free, so our value using this calculator was a whopping $90.  I don’t think so. (I did not take into account classes we will be teaching.)

I have saved this page in my Zotero account (which by the way is free) to look at later.  The answer may be to use their model of assigning retail value to things such as reference or offering a class.  Question is, how do I find the retail value?

Defining a library in Second Life

•June 19, 2009 • 1 Comment

With the advent of the world wide web,  we are struggling to redefine the library or hold onto our traditional library in this changing environ of information overload.  Add to that another complexity of the emerging virtual worlds.  Some claim that the virtual worlds will be the next wave of the internet.  If we haven’t yet developed a widely accepted image of ourselves in Web 2.0, how do we deal with the emerging VEs?  Do we transplant the brick and mortar services and library model to the virtual world, do we need to develop a completely new model, or a combination of the new and the old?

Perhaps we need to begin with a more basic question.  How will virtual worlds redefine the way people perceive, use, and find information?   I am a strong  believer that we need to change the library services to fit the patron, not change the patron to fit our exalted view of the library.  We are after all, just a few, granted a brilliant few, but they are so very many.

One possible method would be to examine how the internet has changed perceptions and assume VEs will do something similar, but you know what they say about assume.  It is still worth examining.  Much of what does happen, if VEs do indeed have an impact, will be built upon the foundation that is the web.

The internet has changed people’s perception of information, and as a consequence, how they want to receive and find information.  For example, thanks to a Tweet by Joe Murphy, I found out about a Handheld Librarian Online Conference. What a fantastic idea!  I plan on attending and seeing how the information from the conference would extrapolate to a virtual world.

The point is, the information came to me via a social network.  I suppose it is relative though.  If you take it down to the base level, the information came to me via ‘word-of-mouth.’ Is that a change in how we find information or simply technology enhancing a system that is as old as speech itself?  Are we too quick to dismiss the old because it is, well, old?

One way the internet has changed users expectations is that they want information to be found intuitively almost as if the search engine knows how to ask the question for them.  I envision the search engine of the future to act as a reference librarian and conduct a reference interview.

SEARCHER types: Chile

ENGINE responds: Do you want the food or the country?

ETC, ETC.

This has been a very long and round-a-bout way of saying that I think before we can begin to truly define a library in a virtual environment, we need to define information in a virtual environment.  How will it be used?  How will it be found? For are the users looking?  As part of our grant, we will conduct a survey which we hope will if not answer some of these questions, at least shed some light on some possible answers.  I will post a link after the survey is approved.

Second Life Amigos Grant

•May 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I received a phone call saying that we (my colleague Jenna Kammer and I) were awarded a grant from the Amigos Library System to conduct some research in Second Life. I was thrilled! This gives additional legitimacy to our involvement in Second Life.

We have three main goals with the project.

  1. Explore what type of library services users want/need in a virtual environment.  How will this redefine ‘traditional’ library services?
  2. How does the virtual environment effect users perception and need of information?
  3. How can we utilize the virtual environment for training amongst our five campus libraries?

It should be an interesting project, and I will post updates as we go along.

Virtual Reference Funding

•May 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I attended a class on virtual reference taught by Katt Tomeson (Second Life name) which is part of a series called Virtual Librarianship sponsored by Alliance Virtual Libraries. One of the areas that Katt discussed was the institutional challenges faced in Second Life.  Local agencies have some difficulty funding Second Life reference because the users are from all over the world, and there is no valid method (or non-intrusive method) for determining if the user is local or otherwise.  This can cause issues if the usage from non-locals causes an increase in the resources needed.

Perhaps as individual libraries, we need to capitalize on the collaboration model that is such a strength for Second Life.  Libraries can join a ‘consortium’ of reference services similar to that provided by the Alliance Virtual Library (AVL).  They would be the natural choice to spearhead such an arrangement as they already collaborate with volunteers from across the world to provide reference services on Info Island.  The difference with this model is that other libraries would then provide AVL funding and/or small amounts of staff time to provide reference services through a consortial contract.  Think of the amount of reference services that could be provided if only 10% of libraries provided one hour of reference service to AVL!

With general reference being covered by AVL, local libraries would then provide reference at their own location for only their unique collections. In the case of New Mexico State University Library, some of our unique collections are New Mexico history and literature, Rio Grande Historical Collection, a unique collection of Mexican papers with articles related to border violence, and Senator Pete Diminici’s papers.  As an academic library, we are thrilled when people from around the world make use of our collection.  It increases our standing and reputation. The local libraries would provide reference for research pertaining to these specialized areas.  General reference questions can be directed to the ‘consortium’ librarians via a teleport link to their reference desk or instant messages.

What are your thoughts regarding virtual reference?

Cloud Computing

•May 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

When I first heard about ‘the cloud’ I was very excited. It would solve the huge problem of being locked to a specific computer to work on a project, or worse, relying on the flash drive which always seemed to be where I was not. However, as the blush of excitement wore off, questions began to emerge.

  1. How secure is my data? Can hackers easily get to it?
  2. How private is my data? Is it going to be mined?
  3. How volatile are the data service centers or ‘the cloud’?  Are they fly-by-night operations?
  4. How do I back-up my data?
  5. What type of access does the government now have to my data?  They don’t seem to have to serve a warrant to me, just a subpoena to the data center which can’t even notify me that they gave the law enforcement access to my data.

The article, Where is the cloud? Geography, economics, environment, and jurisdiction in cloud computing by Jaeger, Grimes, and Simmons, attempts to address some of these questions.  It also raised some that I had not considered such as the eco footprint of data centers.  The authors also talked about the Google Navy in which Google is debating using ships to host their data centers and the piracy of such data centers.  I now have this vision of Google in the middle of the ocean on a Captain Crunch style ship surrounded by VeggieTale Pirates.

Even after all of this, I am still using the cloud.

Why Librarians Should have a Second Life

•May 1, 2009 • 2 Comments

As a colleague of mine, Dr. Mike DeMers said, “Second Life is bleeding edge technology, and you will bleed from it.”  I have certainly taken a few ‘cuts’ from remarks people have made to me about Second Life.  “Why should I have a second life when I can’t deal with my first life?” There are even naysayers within the library world such as notable blogger Tara Robertson.  Why then should librarians use their precious resources and time to invest in such an ephemeral item as a virtual world?  In a vain attempt to be brief, I have limited myself to five reasons.

5. Explore growing technology and how libraries can survive and thrive.  Granted to explore every new Web 2.0 technology would beyond the reach of many, if not all, libraries, but virtual environments have some strong benefits (see below).  Second Life is currently the most prevalent virtual environment used for educational purposes.  Also, if we do not explore growing technologies we will make ourselves irrelevant.  Can we say Google?

4. To utilize the training opportunities.  I have attended lectures by an anthropologist from University of California – Irvine, library conferences, historical presentations, book talks, and worked with colleagues from across the state and country all without leaving the comfort of my easy chair and laptop (of which my cat and I are currently sharing).  Even the U.S. military is exploring how SL can be used to train their soldiers and airman located across the globe.  This cuts down on the travel required which consequently cuts down on the costs of training and lessens our carbon footprint.

3. Promote libraries resources.  Don’t think 2-D and don’t think traditional.  How can we present our unique collections to our users and utilize the capabilites of this environment?  In SL we have the opportunity to turn our unique collections into a museum-like exhibit with information embedded in the pictures or 3-D rendered objects.  I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I shamelessly stole it from Caledon Library.

2. Provide information to users by taking advantage of this unique platform.  This is a partial repeat of #3, but it is important enough to be said again and with a twist. There are some users in Second Life that generate areas that would be impossible to have in real life.  For example, there is a 3-D cell on the Biomedicine Research Lab in which you can actually immerse yourself inside the cell.  You can then click on each item in the cell for information about that item.  How great would it be though if you could also see some information sources (in other words, library resources) when you click on the item?  What a great opportunity for collaboration with a department outside the library.

1. To provide a service to our patrons.  Is not our main mission all about the services we can provide our patrons?  It may be in a very non-traditional manner such as those listed above, but we still owe them that service.  Also, there are users who fare better in a virtual environment than in a real life one.  There are those who would sneer and blame it on web 2.0 technologies such as virtual environments.  This is not always the case. There are those with other reasons be it a physical disability that does not allow them to or makes it difficult for them to leave their house or a developmental disability such as autism in which those users may find face-to-face communication very difficult.  We go out of our way to provide multi-lingual material for our users who do not speak English, so why do we not provide that same service for our users who have other communication barriers?

I will step off of my soap box, and give you a chance to comment.  What other reasons do librarians have to be in Second Life?