Tag Archives: information

Making informed decisions

This, yesterday from Unshelved. Says it all about libraries really. Not just the things in our collection, but the information we provide about research impact, copyright, collection management or just about anything else. We are about providing the information so that our user community (client? patron? customer?) can decide what’s best for them, in their situation. Everytime.

Value added information – in the beginning

Carcassonne cite by lorentey via flickr CC

This semester, in my quest for a postgraduate qualification, I’m doing a subject called Value Added Information Services. Turns out this more or less covers what we do all day every day as LIS professionals, but with a slight twist towards a kind of business advisory service.

Anyway, I’ve chosen to look at the feasibility of setting up a particular kind of holiday business in the south of France. This may be because I constantly have plans to actually visit the south of France – but the lecturer did suggest we choose a topic we are actually interested in as we’re more likely to remain focussed. I am pretty sure there’s enough angles to come up with plenty of information from different sources to turn into a report with some recommendations backed by decent data. I hope so anyway.

One of the things I’ve done as part of looking at marketing and gathering information is set up a Scoopit for the topic – making use of one of the countless information gathering and/or curation tools that are out there.

Watch this space for plenty of pretty pictures of stuff in the south of France. Oh, and maybe some observations about value adding.

Journal or book – does it matter anymore?

Discarded Ideas 02.04.2008 by mskogly via flickr CC

Today I put out on twitter

Does it really matter if students know if their source is a journal or a book? Why/why not? #infolit #crowdsourcing

as this is something that has increasingly had me wondering. This has been prompted in part by a discussion on twitter yesterday about whether as undergraduate students ourselves we ever used the library or contacted a librarian (most of us said no) and partly as a result of a discussion at MPOW about what the journal subscription model may look like in the future. I think both of these discussions are worthy of further investigation and thinking in their own right at another time.

So, back to the point of this post. As stated in the tweet, I was crowd sourcing, looking for some ideas, possible arguments for and against this position & trying to gauge the mood of my potential audience before putting this post out there.

I’m very grateful to my PLN for their responses, including:

still think it’s important because they will need to know for reference formatting. so boring but true

[important for] selecting sources, eg. book provides overview, journal more likely to be orig research…good scholarly practice

journals still regarded as “better” for some subjects

I don’t think it matters if the info is relevant to their topic eg history uses a lot more book references than info science

if trusted source (lecturer) is pushing papers to students distinctions b/w source types not key – all abt content

If students (& by this I am referring mostly to the average UG student, who make up the bulk of the student population at most universities) are given a list of readings or citations to look up, then yes, it’s helpful if they can tell the difference between a journal & a monograph. It certainly makes our job in reference much easier if they know that.

However, my point is slightly different – and here I run into the fact that at times it’s hard to express myself adequately in 140 characters. I think I am really asking “Once having arrived at the source, does it really matter what the source is?”

Let me explain further. At MPOW, we put a great deal of energy into helping academics generate stable links to our online resources.  These links can placed into the Learning Management System (LMS) usually Blackboard or Moodle, and they route students via the library proxy server to land them at their article, e-book, digitized chapter or AV resource without the student having to navigate any of the path along the way – other than to authenticate themselves as our students at some point if they are off campus. So increasingly, students are not being given a list of readings or citations to look for and often their further reading from the subject can occur as a direct hyperlink provided in the document they were originally sent to read.

In my experience, the academics generally like these links and while it’s a slightly complex process to generate them it’s usually a one-off investment of their time. While some are concerned about what they see as the loss of student research skills, the feedback from most is that they want the students to read, absorb & synthesize the material. Many feel that unless it’s made easy for the students, they will just not bother reading it. I have also had academics tell me that the time spent generating these links pays off in terms of less time spent further down the semester track answering emails & phone calls from students who can’t find the citation from a list.

This situation of course causes an instant librarian dilemma! On the one hand, if the link is provided as a ‘click here’ service, without citation data being included then students arrive at the reading with no context whatsoever and this has the potential to bring an information professional out in spots. However, the point of this post is to stop and ask myself ‘why is this so?’

Even when academics attach the hyperlink to an actual citation, aren’t students still just going to click & not notice the context? Many e-records include a copy & paste ‘how to cite this’ – and while I understand that this may not meet the requirements of a particular referencing style, it still means students don’t really need to have context to create a citation for the information they have just used. It might look wrong and the student may lose a few marks for not following instructions, but let’s face it, an academic can still find & check the source document even if it’s formatted in Harvard when they really wanted Chicago or APA.

On the other side of this argument, supporting our academics is my role – and if this link generation makes their lives easier & enables them to help students focus on the skills of critically evaluating the content then isn’t that a good thing? Is this actually a similar argument to the print vs e? Is content king rather than the container?

Increasingly, the publishing gap between monographs & journals is closing. Traditionally journals are more agile, more reflective of current practice, published faster and peer reviewed journals are seen as more authoritative. The different publishing models, rise of open access publishing and the increase in academic blogging are all pushing the boundaries of the traditional model. I’m in no way suggesting we stop helping students understand how to evaluate their sources, I’m just wondering if the model for that is coming to its use-by date. Is the issue of format in publishing becoming irrelevant in that evaluation?

The obvious elephant in the room here is the serious researcher, whether post-grad or academic, as context is bound to be more appropriate or relevant to them, but they are not really who this is about. I think there’s a lot more to say on this topic and some others that float around it in a more or less connected way. Another time perhaps.

Information silos: or where choosing twitter has let me down

News waves by kevin dooley via flickr CC

I’m going to be bold (and controversial?) and say that I think I am generally less informed as a result of my involvement with twitter.

Don’t get me wrong. I love twitter. I love the connection to a professional community of like minded others and the speed and ease of communicating with those folks. I love the constant, never ending flow of information past my door – and the fact that I can dip in and out of that flow to pick out the things that catch my eye. I would find it both difficult and isolating to be without twitter and my personal learning network.

However, as I’ve mentioned before – I miss browsing and now I’ve found that I’m missing out on a range of information because of the way I have chosen to have that information fed to me. I rely increasingly on twitter for that data flow – but of course the people I follow on twitter are folk with similar interests to mine. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be following them. On Facebook, I not only limit myself to family and friends (and the occasional page about one of my personal interests) but now the Facebook news feed changes limits that even further by deciding for me which updates I will see.

What all of this means is that increasingly I am less and less likely to come across information, material or news from outside my silo. Yes, I follow some news and journalists on twitter – but I don’t have twitter open on my desktop all the time and in the vast flood of information it’s easy to miss stuff. I can’t physically spend the time scrolling back through the hours and hours of tweets I missed – it’s just not practical. Examples of things I missed? I didn’t know there’d been a nursing home fire in Quakers Hill this week. I didn’t know about the ‘formals scam’ that meant hundreds of Sydney school kids lost money on booking formals and after parties. I didn’t know there are bushfires happening in WA. Did I need to know these things? Probably not, but I don’t like feeling uninformed about issues that are out there being talked about. Would these things have come across my twitter feed? Undoubtably, but as I said, I’m not connected to twitter 24/7.

The way around this of course, is to add yet more ways of getting information. For example, I could go back to reading the paper (either online or in print, I don’t have a preference), or listening to radio news (I love radio as a medium and it’s my biggest regret about using public transport to work, that I miss out on radio news and current affairs time). At least by browsing the paper, or listening to the whole news broadcast things come across my radar that are otherwise outside my ‘bubble’ and I am forced to at least be aware of the political, social and economic environment that continues to exist around me in spite of my seeming best efforts to pretend that it’s not. My twitter feed is the equivalent of only listening to the news stories that already resonate with or interest me.

Time wise this additional information scan would probably be at the expense of time on twitter. However, if I give up time on twitter I am also giving up the community building and social interaction that comes with the medium – and I don’t really want to give that up.

In addition, there’s the silo-ing that’s being done to me by others – mostly companies that collect my data, my browsing history or my favourite search terms and use that information to package up yet more links, suggestions or results in a similar area. Have a look at this post about personal data life-logging, or this one about giving up Google if you want to explore that further. This is an extension of my self-imposed silos but more importantly and perhaps more dangerous in the longer term, it means increasingly I am given/fed/exposed to information and news feeds that I am comfortable with, from people and organisations I generally agree with or am aligned with. There’s not much in my news feed that is confronting, challenging or makes me sit up and think – it’s a ‘yes men’ situation waiting to happen. Not recommended in business and I would argue similarly dangerous personally.

For heavens sake, twitter even once suggested that I follow @newgradlib because we are similar. Of course we’re similar. It’s me.

 

 

Mapping my PLN

image created using Popplet for iPad

Alisa Howlett, blogging at Flight Path recently wrote a post based on Jeff Utecht’s 5 stages of PLN adoption.  I would echo much of what Alisa has written, so pop over and read it rather than have me repeat it all here.

Essentially, the 5 stages are identified as immersion, evaluation, know it all, perspective and balance.

It’s hard to identify at which stage I find myself – I have been through intense periods of involvement with my PLN and am certainly no longer at immersion. However, neither am I entirely happy with my current involvement with my PLN so I wouldn’t call it balanced.

Possibly ‘perspective’ is where I am at.  I know I can’t possibly see or take in everything my PLN puts out on twitter and I have stopped trying to follow all of it. Sometimes I find myself feeling left out when there appears to be an interesting conversation going on – and it’s apparent I’ve missed the good bits – but mostly I acknowledge that I can’t possibly see, understand, comment on and participate in every conversation. Or even most of them.

Meredith Farkas wrote a great post over at Information wants to be free about the problems associated with keeping up with the news flow on twitter and her preference for blogging as a medium for keeping all the big ideas in one place.  Adopting this philosophy, I still follow a lot of blogs – an RSS feed (I use Google reader) collects them for me and they sit and wait until I’m ready to read them, rather than rush by me in a busy twitter stream.

Between my RSS reader and my diigo bookmarks, I feel like I’ve got some measure of control over the information flow – and hopefully some balance (or at the very least, perspective).

(The image of my PLN and it’s connectivity is from a great little iPad app called Popplet, I found out about that via a blog post from Kathryn Greenhill over at Librarians matter).

Information triage

The loooong weekend is nearly over and I’m starting to think about going back to work tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be the start of week 2 in my new job so I  know there’ll be a lot to think about for the rest of the week as well!

As part of preparation-for-work I’ve been sorting through my RSS feeds this evening, and came across Word Spy’s information triage.  It describes both what we do day by day at work as information professionals (constantly evaluate the information at hand and prioritise for action) and conveniently describes what I’ll be doing with all the new information about my job that I’ll be trying to absorb this week – and add to what I learned last week….

I have a picture forming in my head of what my new role as Outreach Librarian involves, but not enough to blog about it just yet….

Thanks to all my personal learning network or PLN (my non-library family & friends have been publicly asking for fewer TLA’s in my posts….) for the encouragement so far in my #newjob journey!