Tuesday, April 16, 2013

JHU: Music to listen to while reading

I love making music mixes, but I've never posted one on this blog. Here is a short playlist of music from, about, or that reminds me of Baltimore.

Friday, April 5, 2013

JHU: It's All Fun and Games

These entries have focused on the services and inner workings at the Eisenhower Library and the larger system of the Sheridan Libraries. I'm going to shift gears a little and take a look at the lighter side of things.

Gadgets! Comfy chairs! A student!

When the library was renovated last year, a lot of thought went into how it would be outfitted. Upon arriving at furniture, the library staff put it to a vote. A series of chairs was presented to the community and the winner of the contest was a 70s-era armchair vaguely reminiscent of Captain Picard's chair on the bridge of the Enterprise. The study cubbies have a more utilitarian desk chair, but these comfortable seats can be found throughout the library.

The U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D
I've put up a picture of the digital screen which can be found in the library, but I have yet to talk about my favorite piece of gadgetry at the library. The wall-mounted projectors can be found in every study room and many of the strangely-shaped collaboration areas as well as on what would otherwise be blank walls (see above. No, not the Enterprise, the first picture). These projectors are available for any student to use with their own laptop or device, and they're often used for intensive projects. They can be found throughout the library as well as in study rooms.

The study rooms are set aside for groups and individual use, and each are outfitted with snazzy screens for the individuals and the projectors in larger collaboration rooms - both rooms have tables, chairs, and outlets. Some study rooms will become occupied for days at a time, and it's even permissible for students to write on the walls in order to work out problems.

The next-most-awesome thing I saw at Eisenhower was their study room. It's filled with tables and natural light, and against the wall is an exhibit by an artist, featuring artifacts displayed in a ginormous curio cabinet that takes up an entire wall. My pictures are pretty limited as I was trying to hide the fact that I was trying to pick my jaw up off the floor and not stare.

The Exhibit

The Graduate Reading Room

Me, the whole time in this room

It was a wonderful visit, and I would like to once again thank the amazing women who took time to speak with me about their library. Thanks to:
  • Margaret Burri, Associate Library Director and Academic Liaison
  • Dawn Hale, Head of Technical Services and Acquisitions
  • Adriane Koenig, Sr. Academic Program Coordinator and Twitter, Blog, and Facebook guru
  • Heidi Herr, Library Liaison for English and Philosophy, Special Collections Outreach Coordinator, and Tumblr guru

JHU: Complementary Services

In Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, there are two families whose "ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood make civil hands unclean." Between the prologue and the ultimate scene of reconciliation there is tragic bloodshed, betrayal, and other such wonderful things which run rampant through the Bard's work. This famous feud between the Montagues and Capulets is echoed in the current library world when it comes to the subject of print and digital. The future of the codex and the topic of content are heated topics at this time, and it seems that everyone has an opinion on which format will "win". At Johns Hopkins, it seems as if they've skipped the immature bloodshed and youthful passion that dominates much of the tragedy and skipped straight to the unrealized future of the young lovers' relationship: difficult compromises, communication, and teamwork.

Star Trek: Voyager's astrometrics lab

Both print and digital content thrives in the Eisenhower library. There are true stacks in the building, reaching for stories into the depths and encircling the heights of the library, and their e-book library consists of about a million items. Some other academic libraries have the feeling of being a step towards a more futuristic version of libraries, but Eisenhower has a feeling of gravity and depth to it which can't be replaced by any amount of smooth information interfaces or Majel Barrett-Roddenberry/Siri hybrids. Prospective purchases may be requested by students, faculty, and librarians, and each request is taken into consideration by the academic liaison. Electronic resources are purchased for as many campuses as is practical, and physical materials not in the building may be requested through interlibrary loan and from the off-site shelving facility.

Seeing this made my day

In order to maximize space, the librarians have reduced the purchasing of print books to about 25% of their total yearly acquisitions. There could be many reasons for a library to not make the jump to exclusively purchasing e-books, the reason given to me by Adriane Koenig (Sr. Academic Program Coordinator) was much simpler: many students still prefer print, and e-books don't always fit the needs of the reader. Different publishers have different rules for how their e-books can be used, and the learning curve of identifying these varying terms can be steep for students and faculty alike. Often it's easier to simply hunt through the stacks to find the trusty olde print copy.

Special Collections at the Eisenhower Library

While terms of use and physical access are both that students have had difficulty accessing their desired e-book, there is another barrier to access: formats. Adriane also noted that there are some "misperceptions surrounding the [electronic] resources, and that may be because there is no standard format." While Kindles may be able to download one type, Nooks download another, and iPads yet another. Apps can be downloaded and some middle ground discovered, but this massive and confusing venn diagram still leaves many out in the cold. On top of this, some e-books may be downloaded to computers, but the software used may not be cross-platform (for PCs, Apples, and *nix systems), which causes even more confusion for those who desire access. The solution the librarians have been tossing around casually is to have a kiosk where students can scan a QR code and print off the corresponding chapters, or tidbits from e-books regardless of format - but even this change of formats may not be allowed under fair use. Overall, their approach to the issue is matter-of-fact and straightforward: Until things are more accessible for our students, both e-books and print will continue to be purchased side by side.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

JHU: The Wires

Let's talk tech. Choosing a library system is a difficult and harrowing task, and determining if or when to change is even harder. Current technology is beginning to move in a direction that favors a more integrated model, and choosing a web-scale discovery (WSD) model is quickly becoming a popular choice. The library's public interface team which includes representatives from all JHU libraries, concluded that seasoned researchers know what they're looking for and how to access it. However many undergraduate students don't know what they're looking for will be overwhelmed by the data and may not know how to compare and measure one source against another, so the team concluded that they needed a public interface tool guiding undergraduates to commonly used resources-- simple is sometimes best.

From Randall Munroe's xkcd.com

For the public interface, the library makes use of a combination of open source projects (Xerxes, Blacklight, Umlaut) implemented to power their public Catalyst search. Behind the scenes they use EBSCOHost to index articles and present an "article search" option to searchers. This proliferation of open source tools and complicated code is all run by dedicated programmers. When it comes to choosing resources, they make a point to vendor presentations and visit conferences in order to make a decision - which they do as a group. It's important to find the right resources for the faculty and students who may need it, and it's also important to be good stewards of your library's resources. Depending on the researcher or faculty member it's not uncommon for them to request a specific resource, so there are special considerations to be made on occasion.
ArticleSearch will undergo evaluation as the semester wears on. The services are measured by usage and feedback by the users - students can pass feedback through their program's liaison (who may have requested the service in the first place), and the library as a whole is measured byLibQual's survey. The baseline data gathered is used in considerations for change rather than ongoing evaluation so as to remove the rose-colored glasses of 'how things could be' and see realistically 'how things are'.

Before purchasing new eresources to make available to the JHU academic community, they have vendor presentations and selectors attend conferences. Also in making a decision, they do as a group. It's important to find the right resources for the faculty and students who may need it, and it's also important to be good stewards of your library's resources. Depending on the researcher or faculty member it's not uncommon for them to request a specific resource, so there are special considerations to be made on occasion. Also selectors often request a trial. If the trial expires without much feedback, the service is let go and life moves on. It was noted by Heidi that "If we don't have something and [the graduate students] need it, they will tell us." If this is the case, the service will be reconsidered the following semester.

LibGuides are used and moderated by the subject librarians and liaisons to complement the classes of the programs. However, as time has gone by, certain collections have warranted their own separate LibGuides independent of the classes which study the materials (Example: Africana studies). Every guide is kept up to date (almost all of them have been updated within the last year), and among the most popular ones is the one concerning e-books - but we'll talk about that more later.