Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Virtual Library - where to next?

I was going to post about SirsiDynix releasing their Enterprise V1.0 product. I've read the media release and perused the web site at http://www.sirsidynix.com/Solutions/Products/portalsearch.php and I'm still not sure I see anything to get overly excited about. Enterprise is a layer that sits on top of the OPAC (in our case HIP) which provides a few bells & whistles, like faceted results analysis, profiles for specific user groups, some fuzzy searching logic, and a little web2ish content integration (cover images, for example).

It might be attractive to a library with a number of discrete collections, or a consortium, but it seems tied to physical collections and increasingly our collection development revolves around the virtual (ie electronic/digital).

I feel like we can probably stick with our current ILMS for two years before we'd enter a review phase about what we do next. Horizon is now a dead end, if stable, product (after the 7.4.1 upgrade in September). It will continue to be the chief management tool of our physical collections from acquisition to circulation at least until that review.

I think we need to step back and think about how all our resources can best be delivered to our clients and look for tools that allow us to do that, rather than acquiring systems and then trying to figure out how to make them do what we want.

In the last client survey the one area where we lost ground, admittedly not much, was in the 'virtual library' section. Personally I didn't find this a surprise even though I think the resources we provide are better than we have ever provided before. I believe the rapid acquisition of resources and entry points to those resources (think X Search, LearnJCU, Reserve Online, 30000+ ejournals subs, 300+ I&A/FT databases, numerous guides, VISA, LearningFast, remote access, library policies, rules and regs) has swamped an information architecture firmly rooted in a much less virtual information world.

It is time to seriously look at our approach, both in philosophy and technology. I believe we need a more client-centred and client/context-centred approach. I often ponder why we silo-off library materials and services from the rest of the students learning experience. Are we not a key part of the process that creates the perfect graduate? Why aren't our services seamlessly integrated with teaching materials, at the point where they are most relevant. For example why does a student who has logged into LearnJCU and selected a particular subject have to login again to Reserve Online and then enter the subject code to see the readings for the subject? We already know who they are and what subject they're doing. Why aren't the reading lists embedded in the course materials with links directly to the item's full text? I think we should be asking these questions.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Link Resolver statistics and Collection Building : one small step?

I've just been perusing the monthly SFX statistics that I've set up as automatic monthly emails and decided to actually try doing something with the stats rather than just record them. Great job for a Friday.

The particular stats I played with today are the 'Books accessed via SFX ranked by use'. These stats indicate which books were returned in searches (both within Metalib and in the database UIs we've embedded the SFX service) which in turn attracted a client's attention enough to click on 'Find It'. The stats show how many times this this happened for each ISBN.

I reasoned that this data could be a useful indicator of both the titles and subject areas clients are searching for which in turn would aid acquisitions decisions by:
  • Identifying high demand titles not in the collection
  • Highlighting subject areas under represented in the collection
  • Giving liaison librarians an insight into the information needs of their clients
What the report doesn't show is whether we hold the item in any format, so a manual check of the catalogue is required. The only identifying metadata for the title available is ISBN.

I decided to check all the ISBNs that had more than two requests and if they were not part of the JCU collection list the bibliographic details with a link to more information (either from a publisher, vendor or Google Books) which would further aid the decision to purchase or not.

Two side points:
  • About 40% of the requests had no ISBN, making them impossible trace just using the report
  • The clickthrough rates for books are about half what we get for journal articles
It's just a trial to gauge its perceived utility with the liaison librarians and a bunch of improvements could be made. For example, I'd like to either break it into faculties/schools.

I'm about to send it to the liaison librarians to see what they think. Maybe they'll even comment in this blog